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The vast landscape of Kenya offer different regions where the diverse wildlife of the country can be seen. In the early 20th century, Kenya was considered to be the safari destination, but mismanagement lead to the decline of many of the parks. In recent years, however, this has changed a lot and now almost 30% of the country is under conservation manangement.
Kenya has many different game parks and reserves but the following are some of the most well-known and often visited:
Aberdare National Park
Encompassing the high ranges of the Aberdare Mountain Range, this 766 km² park is one of the oldest preserves in the country. While it is inside the mountain range, it covers a wide range of landscapes from deep valleys, moors, bamboo forests and dense rainforests. It is where one of the highest waterfalls, the Gura Falls can be found and the peaks rise up to almost 4 300 metres into the heavens.
The park offers visitors the chance to see many of the usual African animals that make eastern African their home. There are also healtyh numbers of lions, leopards and baboons in the park making for common sightings of these animals. A few rhinoceros also call the park home and you may be lucky enough to see one or two of them during your visit. There is also the chance that you may spot one of the rare melanistic leopards that range in the higher areas of the park or even the rare antelope that is only found in this region; the bongo.
Amboseli National Park
At the centre of an ecosystem that stretches over 8 000 km² is a small 392 km² reserve that is one of Kenya's most popular destinations. Resting at the foot of the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilomanjaro, this reserve hosts beautiful scenery and a nice variety of animals for visitors who want a taste of Africa.
The park is mixture of fertile swamps and dried up river beds that become the main attraction for herds of animals that come seeking water in the dry season. When the rains come, the water flows and the swamps teem with even more life. The park is host to a number of the Big 5, but is famous for allowing visitors to get up close and personal with the free rangin elephants that call the park their home. It is also one of the few places in the world where avid birdwatchers can spot the rate Taveta Gold Weaver.
Masai Mara Game Reserve
Probably one of the most famous and popular game reserves in Kenya, this 1 510 sqare kilometre are is home to a wide array of wildlife. It is, in many aspects, the northern continuation of the Serengeti that lies to the south in Tanzania.
The Masai Mara, like its southern neighbour, is mostly open grassland with trees dotting the landscape or clumping together in little oases of shade. The western edge of the park is more swampy and is a powerful attraction for the animals that make their home here. Ironiacly, few visitors to the park visit this area and miss out on some incredible game viewing opportunities.
A diverse array of animals call the Masai Mara their home and amongst them are a number of the Big 5. Lions are abundant with nearly 30 large prides prowling the area. Leopards, and their faster cousin, the cheetah, are also often spotted by casual visitors. Elephants roam in large herds and the rhinoceros population has increased over the past few years.
Aside from the variety of game on offer, the Masai Mara is also famous for the annual migration from July to September. Visitors that get the timing right are privy to the incredible sight of millions of animals thundering across the savannah in their search for greener pastures.
Meru National Park
In the shadow of Mount Kenya lies a lush, remote area where animals are allowed to roam free as the wind blows. This park of 870 km² is watered by five major rivers and even in the dry season it is still a lush paradise for the animals that call it home. Protected by wide buffer zones on all sides, the Meru National Park gives the animals that call it home a great degree of freedom.
While many of the Big 5 call it home, the Meru is known for its large herds of Cape buffalo. Here you can find some of the largest herds of this species in Africa. The rivers create lush swamps and the high rainfall lead to tall grass that can make spotting game difficult. But, for the dedicated adventurer, the chance to see elephants, hippos, black rhinoceros, leopards, lions and a number of rare antelope, make all the trouble worthwhile.
Mount Kenya National Park
The slopes of Mount Kenya may seem barren but there a lot of life can be found amongst the rocky crags and tough vegetation that cling to life here. The 715 km² area around the mountain is a protected area and can be divided into three particualar zones. The rocky peak of Mount Kenya (5 199 metres) is actually an eroded volcanic plug where only the hardy can survive. A little further down in the alpine zone one finds the characterstic giant vegetation where wildlife already take advantage of the remote location and the slopes are covered in lush forests where all manner of game flourish.
Most visitors will stick to the forested area and will be blessed with the opportunity to see elephants, buffalos and lions amongst the varied wildlife. The chance to see one of the rare melanistic leopards or bongo antelopes is also there for the dedicated visitor.
Climbing to the summit of Mount Kenya requires rock climbing skills and the equipment to go with it, but most visitors should be able to tackle the hike to point Lenana at 4 985 metres above sea level. The view is worth the trek.
Lake Nakuru National Park
Established in 1961, this small park's, of 168 km², main attraction is thr large lake. The massive shallow, alkaline lake lies on the bed of the Great Rift Valley. For most of the year the waters are little more than shrinking lake bed, but when the rains comes the are transforms into a magnificent spectacle that you are unlikely to find in other places in the world.
When the lake fills, flocks of flamingoes gather to feed on the abundant algae that grows in the lake. They come in their thousands turning the air pink with their presence. Alongside them are other birds as well. The area is a magnet for birds migratigng from the cold weather of the northern hemisphere.
The park is also host to many other animals including lions and buffalo. The rhinoceros sanctuary in the park is also home to both black and white rhinoceros where dedicated conservationists are working hard to ensure the survival of these threatened species.
Nairobi National Park
Established in 1946, this is Kenya's first national park and also one of the most unique parks in the world. Literally bordering the bustling Kenyan capital of Nairobi, the park is likely one of the only places where a visitor can see prides of lions, long-necked giraffes, black rhinoceros and many other African game animals against a skyline dominated by civilisation.
The park is mainly made up of open savannah with some forests in the highlands and a broad river that cuts its way through the park. The park is open on its southern end and borders the Kitengela conservation area, allowing the animals the freedom to migrate away. Despite the close presence of humanity, the animals return annually during the dry season. When the rains come, many of the animals move away again, yet many remain.
Samburu National Reserve
This game reserve is known as one of the few places where visitors can see some of the animals that are not usually found south of the equator. The 165 km² area is mainly semi-desert plains dotted with palm groves and thick forestes. The area and the animals depend on the Ewaso Ngiro River for the diversity of animals that are found here.
The park boasts being home to the three big cats of Africa (the lion, the leopard and the cheetah) as well as herds of elephant and buffalo. Amongst the anismals you are not likely to see further south are the Beisa oryx, the reticulated giraffe and Grevy's zebra.
Tsavo East and West Game Reserve
Although often considered to be two different parks due to the A109 road bisecting the park, the Tsavo East and Tsavo West game reserve are, in reality, a single location. Together covering almost 20 000 km², it is one of the largest game reserves in the world. The two 'regions' of the park offer different attractions for visitors, but have very similar wildlife that can be found in either region.
The Tsavo as a whole has been said to be the very image of the traditional African bush. It is primarily arid, thorny scrubland, savannah and rocky outcroppings. Tsavo West is especially known as a premier rock climbing destination that offers some epic views of the surrounding areas. The park offers walking safaries that allow visitors an unparalleled experience in seeing the diverse wildlife that call the area their home. The park is home to the Big 5 and it is one of the few places in Kenya where there are large enough numbers of black rhinoceroses to almost guarantee a sighting.