Kenya is unlike the other big game safari destinations due to its high volume, mass market approach to tourism. Home of the safari and beach 'package holiday', Kenya is widely recognised in the industry for poor game viewing simply due to the sheer volume of tourists that seem impossible to avoid.
However, there are some great lodges and authentic game viewing in even the busiest parks, and Laikipia, Lewa, the Matthews Range and Samburu are all worthwhile areas off the beaten track. In a nutshell, you have to be very careful when you travel here; much of Kenya is incredibly busy. But design your holiday well, include the best parts of the Masai Mara, and there are holidays to be taken in Kenya that can compete with virtually anywhere.
A brief background to Kenya and its tourismWith a population of approximately 40 million, Kenya is the powerhouse of East and central Africa and one of Africa's wealthiest countries. The booming tourism industry is backed up by the fact that Nairobi is viewed as the commercial hub of the entire region and the economy has substantial links overseas due to impressive exporting of flowers, coffee and tea. The tourism industry is nevertheless the main source of the economy with the service sector accounting for approximately 65% of GDP. Kenya's tourism history is fascinating. Safari destinations everywhere owe much to Kenya - either learning from its mistakes or copying its model for world class tourism. President Roosevelt's hunting safari brought Kenya and the concept of wildlife safaris to the attention of the world. Over the years Westerners settled, attracted by the playboy lifestyle of the hunters or the potential of great farming, and today many of these farms have been converted into private safari ranches. The creation of parks such as the Masai Mara, Amboseli and Tsavo has guaranteed large areas of the country are reserved for big game safari. While Kenya can be criticised for its commercial, mass market approach to tourism, credit must go to a country that can provide a quality product for an affordable price. It is important to remember that without Kenya being so successful in this market many of the other 'safari countries' would not have the exclusivity and authenticity that make them so successful.
How to make the most of Kenya and avoid the crowdsThe key to a good Kenya experience is to stay off the beaten track and keep time in busy areas to a minimum. The north of the country, specifically Lake Turkana, the Mathews Range, Laikipia, Lewa, and areas of Samburu are all top class destinations with few crowds and some good lodges to avoid the crowds. Avoid busy southern areas; Mombasa is the hive of all 'package' holidays to the country and its close proximity to Tsavo means that we do not offer any safaris to this park. Amboseli is the second busiest park in terms of tourist volume after the Mara, and certainly you cannot avoid the crowds here. If you must be here, then Tortilis is the best and only camp we recommend; it is a great location for the photos of elephants in front of Kilimanjaro which we believe is the only reason to be here! The Masai Mara is where you need to be most careful. It is remarkable that the Mara, with over ten times as many visitors per day and a game viewing area a fifth the size of Tanzania's Serengeti, can still offer an authentic safari to rival its neighbour. In all honesty, (and somewhat bizarrely!), testament has to go to Kenya's parks board for such successful management! Camps such as Alex Walkers Serian, Ngare Serian and &Beyonds Bataleur Camp are located in the Greater Mara, outside the actual Masai Mara National Reserve. They have private game viewing areas and can dip into the Mara itself if they choose. Inside the park itself it gets more difficult to find areas away from the crowds but Naibor and Rekero camps are two of Kenya's best camps and the very best of what is on offer. Serian also runs fly-camping trips with mobile camps set up on the banks of the Mara, in private areas.
There is no better way to get the perfect trip than to speak us over the phone, or if possible to come into our offices in London for a private presentation on the countries and lodges you are considering travelling to. If not possible then our extensive lodge library and video library will guide you