Kenya Safari: A Magical Adventure With the Big Five

Kenya safari

From the endless Maasai Mara to the Samburu National Reserve and the Great Rift Valley, Kenya offers a magical adventure safari and a chance to meet with the Big Five almost face to face.

Many stunning documentaries have been produced of the sweeping and endless savannah plains of the Maasai Mara where more than a million wild African animals rule. Also known as Masai Mara or The Mara by the locals, this massive game reserve is situated in Narok County, Kenya. The reserve runs contiguously with the famous Serengeti National Park of Tanzania.

Kenya safari
A giraffe stands proudly in the Maasai Mara

The reserve was named in honor of the ancestral Maasai people, well known for their startling and traditional red clothing. The word “Mara” means “spotted” in the Maasai language and was added to describe the vast scrubs and savanna, covered with cloud shadows and could also apply to some of its residents, including the haughty giraffe pictured above.

Kenya safari
Maasai people perform a welcoming dance.

Most famous for its vast population of leopards, lions and cheetah, the area also sees the annual migration of Thomson’s gazelle, wildebeest and zebra to and from the neighboring Serengeti National Park each year between July and October, which has been dubbed the Great Migration. To experience this migration is one of the best Kenya safari experiences ever.

Kenya safari
River crossing during the Great Migration in Kenya

The Samburu National Reserve, located in Samburu County, is nestled on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river, just across from the Buffalo Springs National Reserve and is perfect for a Kenya safari. Located around 350 kms (217 mi) from the capital, Nairobi. The river provides much needed water to the animals living in the area and is one of two locations made famous by George and Joy Adamson of the tale Elsa the Lioness in the best-selling book and award winning film “Born Free.”

Kenya safari
Male and female lion in Kenya

Another famous tale coming from Samburu is that of Kamunyak, the lioness well known for adopting oryx calves. Kamunyak (meaning “Blessed One”) is known to have adopted at least six oryx calves. She fought off fellow lions and other predators who tried to eat her charges and suffered starvation, as she could not leave the calves to hunt for food. The last sighting of Kamunyak was back in February 2004 and despite searching for her, she has not been seen since.

The story of this famous lion only serves to make the adventure of a Kenya safari just that much more magical, while watching the Big Five in their natural element.

Kenya Safari
Black rhino in the Masai Mara

Sometimes scenes on a Kenya safari can be a tad little gruesome, but nature will always provide food for its wildlife and sometimes there are challenges, as can be seen with this daring black-backed jackal and hyena, facing off over who gets dinner.

Kenya safari
Black-backed jackal and hyena face off over dinner.

Next on a Kenya safari is the Great Rift Valley. This continuous valley runs approximately 6,000 kms (3,700 mi) from the northern Jordan Rift Valley in Asia, right through to Mozambique in south eastern Africa. The portion that runs through Kenya is at its deepest north of Nairobi.

The area has shallow lakes with a high mineral content known as the Soda Lakes, one of which is Lake Nakuru, famous for its many fascinating and colorful flamingos. These sometimes comical looking birds make for a fascinating Kenya safari experience. Much more diverse wildlife lives in the area including the endangered white rhino.

Kenya Safari
Colorful flamingos on Lake Nakuru in Kenya

Whichever adventure is undertaken, a Kenya safari offers a magical experience where the Big Five, consisting of African lion, elephant and leopard, Cape buffalo and white and black rhinoceros, can be seen and photographed in their natural habitat on the endless plains of Africa.

By Anne Sewell


Nations Online Project Kenya

Africa Odyssey

Kenya Tourist Board


Elephants in Masai Mara at sunset CC BY 2.0 Christopher Michel

Giraffe in Masai Mara CC BY 2.0 Chadica

Masai dancers CC BY-NC 2.0 Aftab Uzzaman

Great Migration CC BY-ND 2.0 Murray Isbister

Lions CC BY-SA 2.0 Gabriel White

Black rhino CC BY 2.0 Julian Mason

Black-backed jackal and hyena and Lake Nakuru flamingos CC BY-NC 2.0 Roger Smith



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