Kenya Safari Guide from USA

Updated February 2019.

If you’re planning for an unforgettable safari of the year. This full Kenya safari guide will make sure your travel is convenient.

There is now a direct flight from the US to Kenya as Kenya Airways began a daily non-stop route from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on October 28th. The airline is expected to utilize its state of the art Boeing 787 Dreamliner which has a capacity of 234 passengers.

This route marks a major milestone in Kenya’s aviation industry as it is the first direct long-haul flight connecting the two countries. Travelers to and from will find their journey much simpler and faster as the flight runs with a 15 hours duration eastbound and 14 hours westbound.

Direct: Kenya Airways
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It is undeniable that Kenya is one of the most breathtaking places on Earth. It features a stunning diversity of eye candies — from beautiful beaches to snow-capped mountains to arid deserts to vibrant cities. In fact, the World Economic Forum hailed Kenya as the 15th Most Naturally Beautiful Country in the World on its 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report.

With more than 82,000 American tourists each year and an anticipated increase in American visitors in the coming years, it is just relevant to create a guide for visitors coming from the Land of the Free.

Full Kenya Safari Guide

Why Kenya over other safari destinations?
Why Americans should travel to Kenya at least once in their lifetime?
Pre- and Post-safari activities
How to get there from the US
Requirements for Entry
Medical recommendations
Top safaris
Recommended safari for family
Recommended safari for honeymoon
Recommended safari for adventure

Why Kenya over other safari destinations?

Kenya is among the top safari destinations in the world. But compared to its closest rivals including South Africa and Tanzania, Kenya has more advantages. In contrast to South Africa, Kenya offers a more authentic National Geographic feels.

Its landscape, wildlife, and less modern infrastructure makes it more of the “real Africa.” As to comparing it with Tanzania, Kenya is indubitably more accessible and easier to fly into. Its main airport, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), is one of the busiest airports in Africa, garnering millions of visitors each year.

It also receives more flights from all over the world – UK and Europe, Middle East, Asia, Oceania and finally, North America.

Why Americans should travel to Kenya at least once in their lifetime?

There are countless of reasons why Kenya is a must-visit for everyone across the globe. To Americans, specifically, here are 4 reasons why:

1. Great Wildebeest Migration

The main highlight to any East African safari experience, the Great Wildebeest Migration is an astounding animal movement of over two million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles in their search for better grazing during dry season.

The movement goes on all year-round but there are major events that really draw visitors in like the river crossing in June to October wherein the migrant herds struggle their way through the river in their feat against gigantic Nile crocodiles, hippos and other predators like lions, cheetahs, hyenas and leopards.

Truly, this is one of Earth’s greatest spectacles and officially one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders.

2. Best times to visit coincide with American holidays or school breaks

Although wildlife viewing is excellent any time of the year, some events just make any safari experience extraordinary. Hence, the best time to visit Kenya is between June and October for the Mara river crossing. These months are also the driest seasons which means vegetation is sparse and animals congregate around water holes and so, wildlife viewing is easier.

Kenya safari guide - why americans should travel to kenya at least once in their lifetime

In America, June to October is summer break and start of Autumn season. This is the perfect time to get away from the usual summer trips and head to an exotic country with so much to offer – the wild side, the beach and even some city life.

3. Exotic cuisine

Kenya has a lot of delicious, unique dishes that should not be missed. Among the most popular ones are pilau, matoke, Kenyan Chapati, maharagwe, ugali, sukuma wiki, nyama chama and mandazi.

In fact, Kenya has been known to be one of the most outstanding food destinations in Africa and maybe even the world. Because of its very diverse culture, its food scene has long been the subject of praise. So if you want exotic flavors with an international taste to it, Kenya is an ideal place to sate your cravings.

4. Availability and affordability of flights

There are several flights from the US to Nairobi in Kenya and even to Mombasa. Prices are also relatively cheaper since competition is huge. More information will be discussed later on in this post.

Pre- & Post-safari activities

Aside from the staple safari activities such as game driving, boat rides, bird watching, and walking safaris, there are also many other things you can do in Kenya.

  • City/Day tours: Visit Karen Blixen Museum, David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, Giraffe Manor, Bomas of Kenya, Kiambethu Farm at Limuru, Kazuri Beads Women, Ruins of Gedi
  • Visit Masai Market: This is available every Sunday of the week
  • Beach trip: Mombasa (e.g. Diani Beach, Watamu Beach, Bamburi, Malindi)
  • Bars and Restaurants in Nairobi: Because Kenya is not all about the wildlife. In fact, it’s capital city Nairobi features some of the coolest clubs and lounges. If you’re not into loud music and dancing, you can just go to jazz music lounges and chill with your favorite drink in hand.
  • Exciting add-ons: hot air balloon, picnics, mountain treks, cultural visits/tours

Kenya safari guide - Hot air balloon in Masai Mara, Kenya

How to get there from the US

The most common point of entry for a safari in Kenya is Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya and one of Africa’s biggest transport hubs, through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO). Another common gateway is Moi International Airport (MBA) in Mombasa which is often used for those coming for a business or those wanting to visit the Kenyan coast first.

  • Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) – More or less an hour away from the city center (depending on the traffic situation), Jomo Kenyatta International Airport caters to over 4.4 million passengers per annum.
  • Moi International Airport (MBA) – Moi is the second largest airport in the country, gaining about 1 million passengers each year.
  • Wilson Airport (WIL) – WIL is a domestic airport located just 6 kilometers south of Nairobi that serves mostly light aircraft and small airlines. It is also usually used for flights to Tanzania.

Since a plethora of airlines from different parts of the world fly into and out of Kenya, competition is very strong. The prices remain relatively cheaper. From the US, the average flight cost to Nairobi is about $700. Of course, the costs will greatly depend on factors like the season of travel, promotional fares and how early you booked your flight. Flight duration will also vary if you are taking a non-stop or connecting flight…

Here are the ways to get to Kenya from North America. The regional division is based on US Census Bureau Regions and Divisions. West covers mountain and pacific states, and midwest covers northwest and northeast central states.

East CoastWestMidwestSouth
Air fare and flight duration shown are just estimates and can vary from time to time. Flights may be direct one-stop or multiple-stops.

ORIGIN by STATE AIRPORT CODE AIRPORT COST ESTIMATED DURATION AVAILABLE AIRLINES
District of Columbia IAD $740 16h 25m Turkish, United, Swiss, Emirates, Etihad, Multiple
New Jersey EWD $7540 17h 10m Ethiopian, SWISS, Multiple
Maryland BWI $755 19h 40m Delta, United, Air Canada, British Airways, Major Airline, American Airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways
Massachusetts BOS $860 18h 35m Delta, Turkish Airlines, SWISS, Lufthansa, Brussels Airlines, British Airways, Emirates Ethiopian Air
Pennsylvania PHL $900 17h 20m Delta, Lufthansa, British Airways, Qatar Airways
Air fare and flight duration shown are just estimates and can vary from time to time. Flights may be direct one-stop or multiple-stops.

ORIGIN by STATE AIRPORT CODE AIRPORT COST ESTIMATED DURATION AVAILABLE AIRLINES
Washinton SEA $885 20h 20m Delta, SWISS, Lufthansa, British Airways, Emirates, Ethiopian Air
Oregon PDX $955 21h 50m Delta, Qatar Airways, Lufthansa, British Airways
Colorado DEN $960 21h 40m Delta, Air Canada, United, American Airlines, British Airlines, Lufthansa
Nevada LAS $975 20h 55m Delta, Etihad Airways, British Airways, Qatar Airways
California LAX $980 20h 55m Ethiopian Air, Delta, SWISS , Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa
Utah SLC $985 21h 30m Delta, British Airways, Qatar Airways
Arizona PHX $1130 22h 30m Delta, SWISS, British Airways, Ethiopian Air, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Major Airline, Emirates
Air fare and flight duration shown are just estimates and can vary from time to time. Flights may be direct one-stop or multiple-stops.

ORIGIN by STATE AIRPORT CODE AIRPORT COST ESTIMATED DURATION AVAILABLE AIRLINES
Illinois ORD $900 17h 50m United, Delta, Turkish Airlines, British Airways, SWISS, Etihad Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa, Ethiopian Air, Qatar Airways
Ohio CMH $935 19h 50m Qatar Airways, Emirates, Delta, British Airways, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa
Michigan DTW $1050 18h 24m Delta, British Airways, United, Qatar Airways, lufthansa, Air France, Emirates, American Airlines, Turkish Airlines
Minnesota MSP $1135 18h 7m United, Delta, British Airways, Qatar Airways, Major Airline
Indiana IND $1160 20h 4m United, Delta, Qatar Airways, British Airways, Lufthansa, SWISS
Missouri MCI $1165 20h 29m United, Delta, Qatar Airways, British Airways, Lufthansa, SWISS
Nebraska OMA $1185 20h 26m Emirates, United, Delta, British
Wisconsin MKE $1985 20h 20m Delta
Air fare and flight duration shown are just estimates and can vary from time to time. Flights may be direct one-stop or multiple-stops.

ORIGIN by STATE AIRPORT CODE AIRPORT COST ESTIMATED DURATION AVAILABLE AIRLINES
Florida MIA, TPA, FLL $765 18h 20m Turkish Airlines, Air Canada, Delta, United, Emirates, American Airlines, Qatar Airways, British Airways
Texas HOU, IAH $780 20h 20m Delta, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, SWISS, Lufthansa
North Carolina RDU, CLT $860 19h 50m United, Delta, Air Canada, Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, Qatar Airways
Georgia ATL $1075 18h 30m Delta, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways
Oklahoma OKC $1170 21h American Airlines, United
Tennessee BNA $1185 20h 25m United, Air France

From Nairobi or Mombasa, you can either drive or fly to the park or game reserve for your safari or you can do both. If you’re planning to visit Masai Mara first, know that the road can be very bumpy, long and unmarked, and the location is remote. Due to this, many travelers opt to catch a charter flight. Other parks can be easily reached by road.

As part of an all-in package, most tour operators arrange your tour from pick-up at the airport to further transportation to the reserves and other attractions.

Requirements for Entry

For travelers with US passports, here is the list of important documents for a visit to Kenya:

VISA

Every visitor needs to have a valid physical or electronic tourist visa approved by the Kenya Department of Immigration. This document must be presented to the Immigration Officer prior to entry.

  • E-Visas, which can be obtained through the official Kenya e-Visa website, can be single-entry, transit or courtesy visas. Single-entry visas are valid for 90 days before you travel. Upon arrival at your port of entry, present your printed e-Visa to the officer. Immigration may issue a stay period of 90 days or less, but you can renew your visa and extend your stay for up to 90 days more at the immigration headquarters in Nairobi.
  • Visas on Arrival are single-entry or transit visas that you can obtain upon arrival at the airport in Nairobi or Mombasa. You don’t have to worry about bringing a photograph as they can take your photo there as well as your fingerprints.
  • Transit visas are for those who are in a connecting flight to another destination but are staying in Kenya for 72 hours or less. With a transit visa, the traveler may leave the airport within the said duration.
  • East African tourist visas are multiple entry visas valid for travels to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. This type of visa can be obtained at the embassy in Kenya (if you start your trip in Kenya), the embassy in Uganda (if you start in Uganda) or online via Rwanda e-website (if you start in Rwanda).
  • Kenyan multiple entry tourist visas can only be obtained at official Kenyan High Commissions or Embassies. In the US, the Embassy of Kenya is in Washington DC. You can also find consulates in Los Angeles and New York.

VISA FEES (as of April 2018)

  • Single entry: $51
  • Multiple entries: $101
  • Transit: $21
  • East African: $101

PASSPORT

Passports must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry and must have at least two blank pages upon arrival in Kenya. Children may have their own passport with a photo or be included in the passport of their parent.

Medical recommendations

There has been a lot of questions regarding medical certificates and immunizations. Naturally, all travelers are encouraged to have up-to-date routine immunizations. Other recommendations are:

YELLOW FEVER IMMUNIZATION

In some areas of Kenya, Aedis aegypti (the vector for yellow fever) is present. However, if you come from the United States, you are not required to obtain a certificate (See the list of countries with risk of YFV transmission) especially if your itinerary is limited to the following areas:

  • Nairobi
  • Mombasa
  • Northeastern Province
  • Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, Malindi, and Tanariver in the Coast Province

ANTI-MALARIA TABLETS

Malaria is present in all areas in Kenya even in safari parks. It is best to talk to your doctor on what medicines/precautions is best for you.

For additional information and specific recommendations on vaccinations and other health precautions, visit the CDC’s Travelers’ Health website.

Top Safaris

Unofficially the “Safari Center of the world”, Kenya boasts of many safari parks and game reserves that promise an ultimate adventure for any type of traveler — solo backpackers, couples, families, luxury travelers and adventure seekers. This list rounds up 5 of the most sough-after tours in the country:

extensive kenya safari. lion in the masai mara13 Days Kenya Extensive Safari

Perfect for all kinds of traveler whether you’re traveling solo, as a family or as a couple.

This tour takes you to the most popular and most breathtaking spots in Kenya – from the world-renowned Masai Mara which is home of the Great Wildebeest Migration to the mysteriously stunning Lakes Nakuru and Naivasha to the iconic Amboseli and even to the remote Samburu National Reserve.

In 13 days, you will be able to “see it all” and have a never-to-forget classic safari experience.

elephants in kenya

6 Days Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru and Amboseli Safari

Indubitably a top Masai Mara safari combined with a visit to some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife parks: Lake Nakuru and Amboseli National Park.

Maasai Mara is known for almost guaranteed sightings of the Big 5: Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo, and Rhino.

It is also popular for the annual migration of zebra and wildebeests while Amboseli is known for the large herds of elephants and most especially with its stunning view of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and Lake Nakuru is known for its massive flamingo population.

giraffe in nairobi1 Day Nairobi City Tour

If you are only on a stopover or if you are planning to explore Kenya’s capital city, this full-day city tour is just perfect!

You will be able to see firsthand the most beautiful sights and attractions in the city plus you will be able to experience authentic wildlife amidst the bustling metropolitan.

If you have kids in tow, this is also a great itinerary as you get ample of opportunities to have safe and close encounters with animals like giraffes – not to mention being able to eat lunch with their long necks peering over the french windows!

zebras in kenya3 Days 2 nights Samburu Fly-In Premium Safari

Samburu Fly-in safaris are perfect for visitors who have limited time or would simply like to add a few nights to an existing trip.

This is also the best way to discover the not-so-common attractions in Kenya and experience its wilder side.

Samburu National Reserve features unexploited parched vegetation, some palm groves, and dense forests and a plethora of wildlife including uncommon species like Grevy’s zebra, Beisa oryx, long-necked gerenuk antelope and reticulated giraffe.

RECOMMENDED FAMILY SAFARI:

kenya family safari6 Days Tour OlPejeta, Aberdares, Lake Nakuru and Maasai Mara Family Safari

Specially designed for families on a safari, this tour covers magnificent ranch visits that promise remarkable views of the gorgeous Mount Kenya; a comfortable accommodation at a popular tented camp that is floodlit by night and surrounded with a lot of animals all the time; and of course an excursion to explore one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in Africa, the Masai Mara Game Reserve.

RECOMMENDED HONEYMOON SAFARI:

romantic sunset in kenyaKenya Safari and Beach Honeymoon in Mombasa

One of the most sought-after African vacations is a combination of bush and beach: first, you go on exciting safari game drives to experience the wild and then you cap off your vacation with a well-deserved relaxation at some of the world’s most stunning beaches.

What would be more remarkable than that? This tour is perfect for couples and honeymooners: intimate, luxurious, unforgettable.

RECOMMENDED ADVENTURE SAFARI:

2 days 1 night Baringo and Bogoria Camping Safari5 days Mt. Kenya Hike Sirimon – Chogoria Route

For travelers who are adventurous and would like a good exercise, this tour offers a chance to step foot on the summit of Africa’s second highest peak.

On its 5-day journey up, travelers will be assured a spectacular view of Kenya down to the magnificent snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro.

 

We do well in customizing tours so if you want a tailored itinerary specially designed for you and your travel mates, you are very welcome to send us a message of your dream safari: TAILOR-MADE SAFARIS.

There you go, a full list of Kenya safari guide for our American travelers. We also have Kenya safari guide for Canadian travelers, check it out here.

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