If you love the outdoors then Kenya is definitely one of the best places in Africa to explore. With its vast and diverse range of animals and some of the most stunning scenery in the world, Kenya is undoubtedly breathtaking. If you want to explore Kenya then take the time to check out its national parks. There are 24 national parks in Kenya and they all offer a unique experience. However, we’ve decided to pick out the most beautiful national parks in Kenya for you. Let’s take a look at them!
1. Maasai Mara National Park
First on our list is the Maasai Mara National Park which is often known simply as The Mara. Maasai Mara is named after the Maasai people and is located in Narok where it adjoins the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Maasai Mara has some stunning sights, but undoubtedly the best is the Great Migration which occurs between July and October every year. The Great Migration consists of millions of animals, such as wildebeest, gazelle, zebra, and impala. The migration begins in the Serengeti and moves in a clockwise direction to Masaai Mara.
Maasai Mara is also home to the “Big Five” — African bush elephants, leopards, lions, buffalo, and rhinos — as well as numerous other animals. It is considered to be one of the best safari destinations in the world and offers game drives, nature walks, hot air balloon trips, and horseback safaris.
2. Tsavo National Parks (East and West)
Next, we have the Tsavo National Parks — both East and West. These parks join each other and feature stunning scenery, such as lava flows, hot springs, mountains, and vast grasslands. Tsavo West is a black rhino sanctuary but is also home to elephants, cheetahs, lions, zebras, and approximately 600 species of birds. Both parks have a diverse range of flora and fauna though, including several species which are rare or endangered.
3. Amboseli National Park
The Amboseli National Park is located in Kajiado County and features a series of swamps which are some of the best places to see water birds in Kenya. Amboseli is a birdwatcher’s paradise with kingfishers, pelicans, cranes, storks, and flamingos all gathering in its unique habitats. However, there are also plenty of other animals to see too as it has a world-famous population of elephants. Huge herds can be seen drinking at the swamps and then roaming freely across the park. Amboseli also offers stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro from several places in the park, including Observation Hill. Observation Hill is the highest viewpoint in the national park and provides an unrivaled view of the breathtaking scenery.
4. Aberdare National Park
If you’re looking for steep, forest ravines and picturesque waterfalls then the Aberdare National Park is definitely the one for you. Located in the heart of the Aberdare Range, this national park covers elevations from 6,600 to 13,000 feet. There’s a wide range of stunning animals to see too — including elephants, leopards, lions, bongos, monkeys, rhinos, and hundreds of different birds. There are several places to stay in Aberdare, including the famous Treetops Hotel.
5. Lake Nakuru National Park
Next, we have Lake Nakuru National Park which is located around Lake Nakuru. The park is famous for the thousands of flamingoes that nest along the shores of the lake, with Baboon Cliff being one of the best places to view them. The park is also home to populations of both black rhinos and white rhinos. Lake Nakuru National Park also features approximately 550 species of plants, including one of the biggest euphorbia forests in Africa. There are several campsites and lodges within the park so that you can stay over and fully explore the area.
6. Hell’s Gate National Park
Despite its name, Hell’s Gate National Park is definitely another beautiful national park in Kenya. The park’s name actually comes from a narrow break in the cliffs. Although Hell’s Gate is only a small national park it is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including buffaloes, zebras, gazelle, baboons, and more than 100 species of birds. It is also the site of much geothermal activity, so don’t be surprised when you see huge plumes of steam. There’s plenty to do in Hell’s Gate National Park too, with activities including mountain biking, rock climbing, and hiking.
7. Mount Kenya National Park
Home to its namesake, the second tallest mountain in Kenya, Mount Kenya National Park is a place with breathtaking scenery. From picturesque lakes and stunning glaciers to the rugged beauty of the mountains, it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the country. Mount Kenya National Park spans 276 square miles and offers hiking, camping, cave exploring, mountain climbing, and of course wildlife watching. It is home to several rare and endangered species of animals, as well as 11 species of plants that are endemic to the area.
8. Nairobi National Park
Just four miles south of Nairobi is the Nairobi National Park which was established in 1946. Nairobi National Park consists mainly of open grass plains and is home to a wide variety of animals, including lions, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, and cheetahs. Although conflicts arose between humans and animals as Nairobi grew, the national park is now considered to be one of the major attractions for people visiting the city.
9. Meru National Park
One of the most famous national parks in Kenya is the Meru National Park which is the place where George and Joyce Adamson raised Elsa the lioness, the story which was then depicted in a book and the movie Born Free. In fact, Elsa is buried in Meru and Joy’s ashes are scattered with her. Lions aside, you can see a variety of animals, including more than 400 species of birds. If you plan on staying over then there are numerous campsites in the park, as well as some self-catering cottages.
10. Central Island National Park
Also known as Crocodile Island, Central Island is an island in the middle of Lake Turkana. It is a volcanic island and features black lava beaches. It also has many small craters and three are filled with water to form small lakes. Central Island National Park is home to the largest population of Nile crocodiles in the world. The island also has several venomous snakes, such as puff adders and cobras, as well as hippos, bats, and flamingoes. There’s also a campsite on the island for visitors who want to stay the night.
11. Ruma National Park
Located in Nyanza Province, Ruma National Park was initially established as the Lambwe Valley Game Reserve. However, it is now often called the “Last Retreat of the Roan Antelope” as it is home to the only indigenous population of these endangered animals. It is also one of the few places in Kenya to see the rare blue swallow. When it comes to the scenery Ruma does not disappoint, with huge jagged cliffs, stunning river valleys, woodlands, and open savannahs.
12. Chyulu Hills National Park
The Chyulu Hills National Park in the southeastern region of Kenya is the place to be if you fancy exploring rolling hills as well as rugged mountains. Spanning 286 square miles and featuring a vast mountain range, Chyulu Hills is the perfect place for nature lovers. It is home to elephants, giraffes, buffalo, and leopards, as well as many species of birds and reptiles. Chyulu Hills has plenty of activities on offer, including horse riding, hiking, mountain climbing, and camping. It can be accessed by road or by air as there are two airstrips within the park boundaries.
13. Mount Longonot National Park
Finally, we come to Mount Longonot National Park which is located in the Rift Valley. Its namesake — an extinct volcano — is the main attraction, rising to 9,108 feet. The national park was set up to protect the mountain and the area surrounding it. The top of the mountain features a large crater with a thick forest within it. Several trails climb up to the summit and circumnavigate the rim. Parts of the trail are steep and challenging, but the breathtaking views from the top are worth it. If hiking and climbing aren’t your thing then you can explore the park on a mountain bike or simply enjoy the sight of some of the stunning wildlife that live in the park.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Michel VIARD
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