5 Species Of Animals Which Are On The Red List Kenya National Parks – The Top Five

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Kenya National Parks – The Top Five

Ask most African travel enthusiasts and they will readily tell you that Kenya is the true home of the African safari. To this day, the country’s wildlife and magnificent scenery continue to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. This is despite growing competition from countries such as Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia and Zambia.

Of course the wildlife safaris are Kenya’s biggest draw, so in this article, I write about what, in my opinion, are five of the best national parks and game reserves in Kenya.

1. Masai Mara game reserve

Certainly, no other Kenyan game reserve or national park can rival the Maasai Mara in terms of fame and popularity. I can attribute much of this fame to the annual wildebeest migration between the Mara and the neighboring Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. This great migration takes place between June and September, and remains the main attraction for tourists in the Mara.

But that doesn’t mean migration is all Mara has to offer. In fact, you can travel to the reserve almost any time of the year, and still have a great safari experience. The reserve has a large concentration of animals including the big five. Sometimes it can be difficult to spot rhinos and leopards in the Mara, but you can be sure to see plenty of elephants, lions and buffalo throughout the year.

When is a trip to the Mara not for you?

If you don’t like tourist crowds, you may not enjoy the Mara during the wildlife migration season. Usually, there are few regulations on the number of people allowed in the reserve at any one time. The only limiting factor is the available accommodation and bed space in Masai Mara lodges. While on the game drives during the migration, you will often have to share the best game viewing spots with many other tour vans. Unfortunately, the migration season is also the best season for spotting wildlife.

2. Amboseli National Reserve

For a long time, Amboseli National Reserve has remained the second most popular national park in Kenya, after Masai Mara. The ever-present backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro in the background makes Amboseli the ideal destination for wildlife photography. All the big five are present in the reserve. However, the large herds of large roaming elephants are what most define Amboseli.

In 2009, Amboseli experienced one of its worst droughts. Many animals died in the process, especially herbivores, greatly affecting the balance between predators and their prey. So much so that the Kenya Wildlife Service had to relocate some zebras and wildebeests from other parks in an attempt to redress the imbalance.

3. Lake Nakuru National Park

As its name suggests, this national park is centered around Lake Nakuru in the Rift Valley. The lake hosts hundreds of species of birds, the most famous being flamingos. These waterfowl cover the surface of the lake, giving it a pink carpet-like appearance when viewed from a distance. If there is a paradise for bird watchers in Kenya, it is Lake Nakuru National Park.

Apart from being a birdwatching haven, Lake Nakuru national park is also a sanctuary for the endangered black and white rhinoceros. In Lake Nakuru, you also have the best chance of spotting leopards, which are usually very elusive animals. Other animals that you are sure to see include several species of gazelles, hyrax, lions, monkeys, monkeys and baboons among others.

4. Samburu Game Reserve

Samburu Game Reserve and neighboring Buffalo Springs and Shaba Game Reserves are best known for unique animals that you won’t find in any other Kenyan game park. These include zebra, reticulated giraffe, kudu, Somali ostrich and gerenuk. This is in addition to numerous lions, elephants, beisa oryx, cheetahs and leopards.

If you want to enjoy exclusive tranquility during a safari in Kenya, the Samburu game reserve is a good choice. Perhaps because of the dramatic dry terrain, Samburu does not have as many visitors as Mara, Amboseli and Lake Nakuru. However, it is a veritable wildlife and birdwatching haven. From time to time, the game reserve remains closed to tourists due to insecurity in neighboring regions (see this story). Recently, tourists had to be evacuated from lodges in the Samburu Game Reserve due to flooding (see story). But overall, Samburu remains an ideal destination especially if you want to avoid the crowds.

5. Tsavo National Park

I have included Tsavo in this list because, firstly, it is the largest national park in Kenya, and secondly, it is the best destination when you want to enjoy a short wildlife safari while on a beach holiday on the Kenyan coast. Due to its size, Tsavo is divided into two units: Tsavo East and Tsavo West. Tsavo is perhaps most popular for its maneless wild lions, those of “Tsavo Man Eating” fame. Tsavo is also home to large herds of red-skinned elephants, black rhinos, leopards, giraffes, hippos and hundreds of other species of animals.

Once upon a time, Tsavo’s elephant and black rhino populations were highly threatened by poachers. However, the Kenyan government responded through the Kenya Wildlife Service, and today, the threat of poaching is not as bad as it was in the 1980s.

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