Traveller question: I am traveling to Kenya and will be there from July 1-7. Looking for an economical way to see the best attractions and see a lot of culture.
Aashish Gupta answered
July is one of the best seasons to visit Kenya. Rainfall is at its lowest, especially in the temperate Rift Valley and Central Highlands, and temperatures are at their most comfortable. You'll also be there in time for the annual Wildebeest migration that runs from June to October, when thousands of animals streaming into the Masai Mara National Reserve from the Serengeti.
The main attractions are of course, the National Parks, and one week is just about enough time to visit the best two or three parks. Since you're short on time, the best way to experience the culture is through the eating with the locals wherever you go.
Days 1 & 2: Samburu National Reserve
From Nairobi, head north to the Samburu National Reserve for a couple of nights at one of the lodges on the banks of the Ewaso Ng'iro River, where most of the game is concentrated. Animals include giraffes, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, buffalos, lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas, and more than 365 types of birds. Look out for species here not seen farther south, such as Grevy's zebra, Somali ostrich, and gerenuk, an unusual antelope that can reach up the trees on its hind legs.
Day 3: Aberdares National Park
Arrive by afternoon. At night, stay up to watch the game activities over the floodlit waterholes. This park is unusual in that it lies above 21,000m (68,880 ft.) and so has a more alpine feel, with mountains, streams, valleys, and moorland.
Day 4: Lake Nakuru National Park
After another morning game drive, your safari will head to Nakuru. Situated just a stone's throw from the town, the attractive Lake Nakuru National Park surrounds the lake of the same name, which is a haven for the pink lesser flamingo as well as hippo. Other species include various antelope, giraffe, zebra, lion, rhino, and leopard (which can actually be spotted during daylight hours in the arms of the giant yellow acacia trees near the entrance). Enjoy the great views from the park's rocky escarpments and ridges. Accommodation can be found at several lodges and campsites.
Days 5 & 6: Masai Mara Game Reserve
You will spend at least 2 nights in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya's most famous park with an extraordinary density of animals, including the Big Five. In July, it's also the scene of the Migration, when hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, plus smaller numbers of zebra and antelope, arrive in search of fresh grazing from Tanzania's Serengeti National park to the south. The predators follow the herds, so this is the best time to witness plenty of animal action, especially if you get the opportunity to see the wildebeest cross the Mara River, where they have to dodge crocodiles, too. There are dozens of places to stay, from hotel-style lodges to tented camps.
Day 7: Nairobi
After an early morning game drive, you'll head back to Nairobi, a 6-hour drive away.
Travelling in Kenya can cost as much or as little as you like, depending on what kind of standards you’re happy with. In general, staying in small hotels with a decent level of comfort, eating the occasional Western meal, using matatus and taxis, taking in the odd museum, and treating yourself to a beer in the evening should cost around KSh3500 per day. Budget travellers could get this down to as little as KSh1000 by foregoing private bathrooms, eating in Kenyan canteens, walking or taking local buses and skipping the booze. Accommodation is the biggest single expense, and staying in Nairobi or on the coast will push costs up sharply.
On top of this, you’ll probably want to allow some extra cash for more expensive tourist activities such as trekking, ballooning and other excursions. The biggest outlay will be visiting the national parks, whether on a safari or independently.
(1000 KSh = around USD 12)
These are of course, my initial thoughts. Depending on your specific preferences and exact budget, I can help you finalize the itinerary, choose the right accommodation, the right safari operators, and everything else.