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Tourism is so crucial in Kenya that it has become the second-largest source of foreign income after agriculture. This is not a surprise considering the number of Kenya national parks and nature reserves in the country. The protected areas in Kenya, which include the iconic Maasai Mara National Park, are one of the best-maintained in Africa.
Although the country has an extensive cultural heritage and sandy beaches along the Swahili coast, wildlife tourism is undoubtedly the country’s wild card. In this article, we are taking a closer look at the best national parks to visit in Kenya.
Kenya National Parks Map
The Kenya National Parks Map below highlights the 24 national parks,15 national reserves, 6 marine parks, and private conservancies the national parks the Kenya wildlife service maintains and is optimum for an African safari.
List of Kenya National Parks
- Masai Mara National Park
- Chyulu Hills National Park
- Nairobi National Park
- Aberdare National Park
- Lake Nakuru National Park
- Tsavo East National Park
- Amboseli National Park
- Meru National Park
- Hell’s Gate National Park
- Ruma National Park
Masai Mara National Park and National Reserve
Masai Mara is Kenya’s most famous park, and it is for the right reasons. Not only is it known for having some of the highest concentrations of the big five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo) in Africa, but it also witnesses the phenomenal Great Migration. Sharing a border with Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Masai Mara receives a massive seasonal wildebeest migration.
Chyulu Hills National Park and Game Reserve
Chyulu Hills is a prehistoric volcanic mountain in Southern Kenya. The rugged terrain consists of rivers that seasonally flood and feed the surrounding plains, which helps the growth of indigenous montane forests and nutritious grassland.
The area has a large population of mammals, including all of the big five, cheetahs, giraffe, and various antelopes. The park is also famous for a large number of poisonous snakes, which you can track on guided tours.
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Nairobi National Park
A list of Kenya’s national parks can never be complete without the mention of Kenya’s first national park. Established in 1946, Nairobi National Park is the oldest in the country and the closest to the country’s capital.
The park is so close to Nairobi that you can see it from the city’s skyscrapers on a clear day. Although the proximity of the park to the city is a topic of debate, the park still boasts a large variety of animals such as lion, African leopard, elephant, cheetah, eastern black rhino, cape buffalo, coke’s hartebeest, hippo, giraffe, zebra, and baboon.
Aberdare National Park
Established in 1950 in central Kenya, Aberdare National Park is one of the oldest protected areas in the country. Although the park has steep terrain and a wide range of altitudes, its abundant water sources give life to rainforests and bamboo forests in the lowland.
As a result, a large variety of animals congregate, including the big five, wild dogs, side-striped jackal, many species of monkey, and rare species like the African golden cat and the bongo.
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Lake Nakuru National Park
The national park engulfs Lake Nakuru, which is one of the soda lakes found in the East Africa Rift Valley region. The lake is Kenya’s oasis for birdlife, especially flamingos that feed on the algae concentration in the water.
The park boasts a conservation facility with almost 100 rhinoceros species containing both East African and Southern White rhinos. It is also a prime protection area for pythons, and Rothschild’s giraffe, the most endangered type of giraffe.
Tsavo East National Park
Occupying almost 8700 square miles (14000 square kilometers), Tsavo East is one of the largest national parks in Kenya. Although it is in a semi-arid climate zone, the Tsavo River running through the park provides sufficient water resources for the wildlife.
The park has some famous landscapes such as the Yatta Plateau that was formed by the world’s longest lava flow, the Mudanda Rock, and Aruba Dam. The park has an extensive list of animals, but the highlight is the distinct Tsavo Lion population, which consists of 675 lions without a mane. Be sure to check out its counterpart, Tsavo West, for a higher chance of spotting the big five.
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Amboseli National Park
Due to its proximity to Nairobi and the abundant wildlife, Amboseli is the second most famous national park in Kenya after Masaai Mara. The landscape ranging from semi-arid dry lake beds to wet swamps attracted a wide variety of animals.
The highlight of the park is the elephant population, which was not only studied in the past by a lot of scientists but also featured in many documentaries. Besides the diverse wildlife, the park attracts tourists with the local Maasai people, whose villages you can visit via guided tours.
Meru National Park
This national park in central Kenya gained fame as the park where two conservationists George Adamson and Joy Adamson raised a lioness called Elsa. The lioness became an orphan as a tiny cub and was initially adopted and half-domesticated. The Adamsons later released her in Meru and trained her to live in the wild. Elsa became famous in the best-selling book Born Free.
The park has one of the highest rainfalls in the country, which created a pleasant habitat for a variety of wild animals. Be sure to keep that in mind as you create your packing list. The park also has breathtaking views of Mount Kenya and the Tana River.
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Hell’s Gate National Park
Despite its intimidating name, Hell’s Gate National Park is one of the most valuable protected areas in Kenya. The name comes from dramatic cliffs with narrow breaks formed by prehistoric volcanic activity.
The park is one of the most popular in the country for a few reasons. Being northwest of Lake Naivasha near Nairobi makes it easily accessible. The park is known for the variety of herbivores and predators, as well as being one of the few national parks in Kenya that offers hiking, mountain biking, and even motorcycling.
Ruma National Park
The southwest of Kenya, where Tanzania and Zambia borders meet, is the only region in the country with the rare roan antelopes. That is why Ruma National Park has a special place amongst the parks in Kenya.
With only 40 roans left, the species is slowly becoming extinct. The park has other game species, including African leopards, eastern black rhinos, cape buffalos, Rothschild’s giraffes, hartebeests, hyenas, and over 400 bird species.
To Summarize the National Parks and Reserves in Kenya
In this article, we tried to mention the most distinguished national parks in Kenya, but there are many more in the country with lots of hidden gems. The bottom line is that Kenya is a top safari destination for every tourist and an outstanding country to go on an African Photo Safari.
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Kenya National Parks FAQ
There are currently 54 national parks in Kenya.
Maasai Mara National Park
Tsavo East National Park (13747 square km)
Nairobi National Park
For foreigners, the adult fee is USD 50 and half the price for children.