Kenya is one of the top safari destinations in the world and is full of wildlife and diverse landscapes. There is everything from mountains and savannah to deserts and tropical beaches, Kenya really does have it all. It’s an amazing place to visit and over a 10-day trip, you will certainly see some of it’s most beautiful parts. Here is a recommended 10-day itinerary for Kenya, it is quite a safari based Itinerary and you might want to tag on a few extra days at the beach when you’re done.
Getting To Nairobi
Flying into Nairobi is easy, there are direct flights from Europe and all the major Middle Eastern Hubs. Once you land in Nairobi, you will need to get a visa on arrival unless you have already got one. Be sure to print out the visa form before you arrive and have it filled out to avoid any cues. The fee is $50 USD, is payable in cash and gets you a 3-month visa.
Once you have got your visa and collected your luggage, it is worth changing any money at the airport, as it takes ages at the banks. You’ll also have a chance to buy a local sim card, which I highly recommend, Safaricom is a good option.
What To Bring With You
Here is a packing list of things that will make your trip to Kenya more comfortable. You may ask why now, but once you have read through the itinerary, it’ll make sense.
- A head torch
- Walking boots
- A warm sleeping bag
- Baby wipes
- Clothes for warm and cold weather.
When To Go
As a rule, the best time to be in Kenya is between November and April, and July and October, in the dry season. This will make getting around much easier as the roads get bad in the rains and it will make for a sunny, dry holiday rather than a wet-cloudy one.
Your Tour Guides
It is possible to hire a car and self-drive this itinerary if you would like to. Car hire in Kenya is not cheap though, especially for the 4×4 vehicles that you will need. The roads aren’t the easiest to navigate but if you have driven in the developing world before you’ll be fine.
I would recommend organizing transportation with your tour guides for each of your stays. This will make life much easier and let you relax and enjoy your journey.
Day 1: Nairobi to Amboseli National Park
Leaving the airport, its time to head to Amboseli and stay at Tortilis Camp. They will have organized a transfer from the airport to Amboseli for you and your driver will be waiting outside the arrivals terminal to pick you up and take you there.
The drive from the airport to Amboseli is around four and a half hours long and takes you south towards the Tanzanian border. The roads are pretty good and you’ll get to be in amongst the true hustle and bustle of African streets. As you approach the park you will slowly start seeing Kilimanjaro appearing in the distance and the excitement of safari will begin to set in.
Arrive at Tortilis and spend the rest of the day relaxing and taking everything in, maybe have a nap and catch up from your jetlag. If you have time, you could squeeze in an evening game drive. If not, enjoy the sunset with a cold Tusker beer on your private balcony before having a delicious dinner. Head to bed early as your game drives will start early in the morning and breakfast is served from 6 am.
Day 2-4: Amboseli
For the next two days, you’ll be heading out for morning and afternoon game drives to explore the wonders of Amboseli and visit a local Masai Manyatta. You are usually away from camp from around 7 am – 12 pm, then it’s back for lunch and out again from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm. This is because the animals try to find shelter during the hottest part of the day and are hard to see, so your best chances are in the morning or evening.
Amboseli National Park sits in south Kenya, close to the Tanzanian border. It is one of the most famous national parks in Kenya, and you may have seen some of the iconic pictures of its plains with Mt Kilimanjaro in the background. It’s hugely popular thanks to its amazing views, proximity to Nairobi and its abundance of elephants. Inside Amboseli, there are five main ecosystems to discover, including the dried-up bed of Lake Amboseli, wetlands, woodlands, sulfur springs and savannah.
The views of Mt Kilimanjaro are amazing but the mountain has a bigger role to play. Mt Kilimanjaro is home to glaciers that keep Amboseli alive. As the glaciers slowly melt, the water trickles down the mountain into lush green swamps and eventually finds its way to Amboseli. In the park, it creates dense, reedy and swampy oases that the life in the park would die without.
While you are there, you have a chance to see the famous big five plus a lot more. The park is home to over 600 species of bird and you may also bump into leopard, cheetah, wild dogs, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, lion, crocodile, mongoose, hyrax, dik-dik, lesser kudu, nocturnal porcupine and of course elephants.
Amboseli has long been known as ‘the land of giants’ thanks to its large population of famous elephants. It has some of the biggest bull elephants in Kenya and is one of the best parks to go to if you want to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures.
The elephants of Amboseli have a history with humans and it’s a positive one. The Amboseli Elephant Research Project has been doing research on elephants in Amboseli for decades which has taught the elephants that interacting with humans is positive and nothing to be worried about. The elephants won’t shy away from a vehicle or if they see a strange human because they have learned there is nothing to fear. This means you can get very close to some of these giants and have incredible;e encounters with large family groups, baby elephants and even huge bulls.
Amboseli is in Masai land and while staying there you will interact with Masai culture, in fact, your guide will most likely be a Masai. Historically, it is thought that the Masai were Nilotic and migrated south from the region into what is now Kenya and Tanzania. They are a beautiful, interesting tribe and their life revolves around their cattle, mainly cows. Cows are priority number one and come before anything else in their lives. The Masai men are very proud of their herds and a good herd is a sign of affluence.
While you’re in Amboseli, you will get the chance to visit a Manyatta, a Masai Village. Just be sure to organize it with the lodge. The village is made up of several huts made from cow dung walls and thatched roofs. While visiting, you’ll be invited to walk around the village, learn about the culture and interact with all the people who live there. It’s a fun, heartwarming experience, the Masai and are very sweet and always interested in a conversation. A great way to start a conversation is to ask one of the men how the have protected their heard from attacks from predators, you’re likely to get some jawdropping stories.
Day 4: Amboseli to Mt Kenya
After an early breakfast, you’ll hop in your transfer vehicle and drive to Nairobi Wilson Airport to get a plane to Nanyuki. These flights are easily booked online. Once you land in Nanyuki, you’ll be met by a member of the African Ascents team who will be your guides for hiking around Mt Kenya. They are excellent guides and are very helpful.
You’ll be taken to your accommodation and your guides will discuss the hike with you. They will go through the route, the altitude and answer anything you would like to know. Enjoy a lovely dinner overlooking Mt Kenya and prepare for your 4-day hike that begins early in the morning.
Day 5-8: Hiking Up Mt Kenya
Early in the morning of day 5, the African Ascents team will collect you and then it’s a short drive to get inside Mt Kenya National Park. Once you have paid your entry fees, the team offloads everything and it’s time to begin your 3-day hike to the top of Mt Kenya, and then it’s one day to get back down. You’ll be camping most of the way and walking an average of around 7-8 hours per day.
Mt Kenya is a volcano but has not been active for a few million years and is now the second-highest mountain in Africa. The mountain is full of amazingly craggy slopes and deep valleys that were formed by ice caps, glaciers and years of erosion. Today there are still 11 glaciers on the mountain but it is thought that it will be iceless in the next 30 years.
There are three peaks on Mt Kenya, all of which you can summit. Lenana at 16,355ft is the easiest to get up and requires no technical climbing, just some solid fitness. Whereas, Batian at 17,057 ft and Nelion at 17,021 ft, both require technical skills and a lot of fitness.
Mt Kenya is inside its own national park and consists of a national park zone and a forestry zone. It encompasses 276 square miles in total. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and it home to a loy of wildlife, some of which is endemic to Kenya. While walking around Mt Kenya, you could bump into ion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, zebra, the endangered bongo and up to 340 species of bird.
The area was not only made a national park to protect the wildlife but also to protect the water. Mt Kenya’s water catchment provides drinking water for over 2 million Kenyans. There are four different tribes that live around the base of Mt Kenya and they are all as happy and sweet as the next. The Kenya beautiful have a love of life and laughter that is infectious. They are very welcoming, smiley and helpful. The Gikuyu tribe think of the mountain as gods throne on earth and build homes with their front doors facing it.
Mt Kenya was first climbed in 1899 and today there are several routes to hike up, each one with its unique characteristics. Hiking is one of the most popular activities on the mountain but you can also go fly fishing, wildlife viewing, and bird watching while you’re hiking.
You will need to be fit and healthy to walk up the mountain and be ok with altitude. You will have had some time to get used to the altitude and your guides will have planned the route so that you slowly get used to each increase on your way up.
There are a few different routes up the mountain the one I recommend is the Chogoria route. It has a lot less traffic making it much more peaceful and there is a lot more wildlife to see. The route is also more gradual making it a perfect way to slowly acclimatize to the altitude.
Chogoria is on the eastern side and your first day will be a walk to Lake Ellis. You’ll meander past rivers seeing buffalo, zebra and more until you get to Lake Ellis to camp for the night. Lake Ellis is full of trout, you can even squeeze in an evening fish if you want to and feast on some fresh trout for dinner.
From Lake Ellis, you walk up again to Lake Michealson. Lake Michaelson is one of the most beautiful locations on Mt Kenya and it is at the head of the Gorges Valley. It is surrounded by sheer rock walls on each side and sits inside a dramatic natural amphitheater. It is truly mesmerizing and you can also cast a line for a fish or two there also.
On day three, you’ll move from Lake Michaelson up to the base camp where you’ll prepare for your summit. You can summit either of the three peaks on this route and be sure to have confirmed which one you wish to do with your guides before you set off on day one.
Once you have summitted it’s a quick walk back down that only takes a day.
This route is by far the most relaxed and gives you the best chance of seeing wildlife as you go. Buffalo, elephant, eland, zebra, duiker, and leopards are often seen.
Once you’re back down, it’s off to chill at your accommodation for the rest of the day. Enjoy a restful night and be ready for your last day before heading back to Nairobi to get your flight home.
Day 9: Hells Gate
On day 9 its time to visit Hell’s Gate National Park and you’ll be sticking with your African Ascents team. They’ll pick you up after an early breakfast and drive you over to the Park which will take about 3 hours. Once you arrive, there is a whole host of activities to do in the park which I’ll take you through. Be sure to mention to your guides which ones you’re most interested in and be aware you might want to take it easy after your Mt Kenya climb.
Once you’ve finished your day it’s off to stay at Fishermans Camp on Lake Naivasha. Enjoy a cold beer while watching the sunset and have a beautiful dinner around a fire before packing to return to Nairobi in the morning.
About Hell’s Gate
Hell’s Gate is a special park for a number of reasons, the most famous of which are, its geothermal activity and the fact you’re allowed to walk or cycle around it unguided. It’s quite magical to be in a safari park without a car or armed guide, you feel very connected to it rather than being stuck in a car.
The park gets its name from a narrow break in its cliffs and is full of hot springs, a couple of extinct volcanoes and some geothermal power stations. It’s home to a stunning range of wildlife but don’t be worried about being outside of the safety of the car, predators such as lion, leopard, and cheetah are very rare. You’ll be able to walk and/or cycle around buffalo, zebra, giraffe, eland, hartebeest, Thomson’s gazelle, and baboons. Be wary of the baboons as then can be a little cheeky.
Klipspringer antelope and Chandler’s mountain reedbuck are also found inside the park but their signtings are rare.
If you just want to take it easy, you can spend the day cruising around the park in the car looking for wildlife. If you still have some energy you can take to the paths by foot or by bike to get more of an immersive experience. I would highly recommend not being in the car as it’s not often you get a chance to walk around with wild animals on safari.
If you want to cycle there are lots of places to hire a bike from. Your guides from African Ascents will most likely organize this for you but in case you need the information, you can hire bikes at the Elsa gate to the park and a few kilometers down the road from the Elsa gate, which will be cheaper.
There are some beautiful walks to do and of the best is the hike through Hells Gate Gorge which takes around 1-2 hours. It is quite easy to get lost in the gorge and it’s advisable to stick with your guide. The walk takes you through changing rock formations, red cliffs and ends at a viewpoint with breathtaking scenes over the savannah. Once you’re done it’s also a short walk to the hot springs from there.
You might be done with climbing mountains by now but there’s an option to hike up one of the two volcanos in the park to catch some amazing views.
There’s some great rock climbing in Hell’s Gate Gorge and your guides from African Ascent swill know all about it. There are two ancient volcanic plugs known as Fischers Tower and Central Tower.
Fischers tower is a free-standing rock about 40 meters high with 6 different climbing routes on it. It has bolted anchors points and there is even a local guide waiting there ready with ropes, shoes, and harnesses. Once you’ve geared up they’ll happily belay you up the rock. The rock is solid and the routes offer fun climbing for all abilities. Once you’re at the top, the views are jaw-dropping with a 360 degree look out over the area and there is a solid anchor point for your descent back down.
There are a lot more climbing options in the gorge at the main wall, at Fischers cracks and are suitable for all abilities. Your guides will happily take you up them. If you’re into climbing then this is highly recommended.
Take A Dip In The Hot Springs
What better way to relax all your muscles after the last few days than with a soak in a natural hot spring. Inside the park is a place called Olkaria, the largest geothermal spa of it’s kind in Africa. Sit back, relax, open a beer and think about everything you have seen in the last nine days, and remember, it’s not over yet.
When you’re finished, it’s time to head over to Lake Naivasha where you’ll spend your final night. It’s only a 30-minute drive from the park and is a giant crater lake surrounded by acacia forests, full of hippos, bass, and giraffes wandering around its edges. It’s the perfect place to end your trip and enjoy our final evening.
Day 10 Lake Naivasha to Nairobi
Wake up early on your last day to enjoy your final views of the Lake and take a taxi to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to catch your flight home. The drive is around 2.5-hours and a taxi will be arranged by your hotel.
There are 10 days in Kenya for you. By the end of this itinerary, you’ll feel inspired and probably a little tired after living life to the maximum. You would have seen a huge range of Kenya’s environments, come face to face with giants and climbed the second highest mountain in Africa. What’s not to love. This route can be done in a more relaxed way with day trips into Mt Kenya rather than a summit, and that is easily changed with your guides.