One of the most incredible wildlife-viewing destinations in the world, there is an incredible density of spectacular national parks in Kenya – many of which are among the finest in the world.

Kenya is home to the “Big Five” and it’s beautiful national parks provide every variation of landscape you could ask for, with savannah grasslands, acacia woodlands, mighty rivers and majestic mountains. Each of these national parks has a its own unique attraction, from The Great Migration to the origins of The Lion King.

How many national parks are in Kenya?

Officially, there are 25 national parks in Kenya. However that number is more than double when you include national ‘reserves’ and marine parks.

Here are the 10 best national parks in Kenya:

Masai Mara National Park

The Masai Mara is widely considered as the greatest national park in the world. It is one of the most visited wildlife reserves and is the stage on which the famous ‘great migration’ plays out. Visitors come from all reaches of the world to experience the ‘new world wonder’, that sees millions of zebra and wildebeest migrating across the Mara river. Such a spectacle is seen nowhere else on earth.

Wildebeest in the Masai Mara National Park

The Masai Mara is one of the most abundant national parks in Kenya, and boasts exceptional wildlife viewing all-year-round. The national reserve is photographer’s paradise with a plethora of elephant, buffalo, giraffe and of course the iconic big cats – who can always be found scowling the plains during the migration. There are also more than 450 bird known species in the Masai Mara.

The Mara River is home to some of the largest nile crocodiles in Africa, who share the water with large pods of hippo.

This portion of East Africa is a stronghold for Maasai tribes, an ancient culture famous for their fierce warriors -once expected to hunt and kill lions in order to prove their strength and manhood. Easily recognisable for their iconic red robes and beads, Maasai tribesmen also offer cultural tours.

Amboseli National Park

Another marvel in East Africa, Amboseli National Park is a haven for elephants. It is home to the largest remaining bull elephants on the continent. These ginormous individuals, known as ‘Tuskers’ are world-famous for their age and colossal tusks.

The park is centred around ‘Observation Hill’ which offers incredible views of the plains below. Large breeding herds of elephants and giraffe can readily be seen grazing against the backdrop Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest free standing mountain in the world (which actually lies within Tanzania borders).

the top 10 national parks in kenya
Elephant herd walking through a grassland in front of Mount Kilimanjaro

As if the elephants weren’t enough, Amboseli is one of the best places in the world for bird watching with more than 400 species of birds and 47 species of raptors. The abundance of birdlife is thanks to the presence of a vast network of swamp ecosystems, fed by an endless underground water supply, that filters through expanses of volcanic rock from Kilimanjaro’s ice cap. The water funnels its way into two clear-water springs at the heart of the park.

Maasai tribes live around the park, and besides their cattle, Amboseli is home to more than 50 mammal species including: hippo, cheetah, leopard, lion, rhino and buffalo and more.

Lake Nakuru National Park

Famous for its large flocks of bright pink flamingos, Lake Nakuru is a birder’s paradise. The lake is filled with a variety of algae that attracts flamingos in their millions. Other bird species to be seen around the lake are the pied kingfisher, African fish eagle, and the Goliath Heron.

Aside from the birds, Lake Nakuru hosts a broad range of large mammal species including white rhino, baboon, warthog, cheetah and giraffe.

Flamingos in Lake Nakuru

A somewhat new addition to the list of national parks of Kenya, Lake Nakuru recently expanded its borders to aid conservation efforts of the endangered black rhino.

A two-hour drive from Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, makes it an ideal destination for a day trip. The Rift Valley escarpment along with the expansive lake and its surrounding patchy grassland make up the landscape.

The river around the lake hosts hippo, crocodile, waterbuck, both black and white rhino, eland, impala and plenty of birds with seasonal waterfalls appearing as well. The forested area, near the designated camp site, is where to find lions – up in the trees.

Tsavo West National Park

Known as the land of lava and man-eaters, Tsavo West is one of the lesser-known national parks in Kenya, made up of beautifully rugged landscape. The total conservancy is approximately 22,000 square kilometres and home to all of the ‘Big Five‘.

The park’s vast savannah ecosystem consists of open grasslands, scrubland, acacia woodland as well as belts of riverine and rocky outcrops. The famous ‘Poachers Lookout’ viewpoint allows visitors an incredible window to watch the incredible herds grazing on the plains below.

the top 10 national parks in kenya
Yawning lion in Tsavo East National Park

The park offers guests the opportunity to watch elephants bathe alongside hippos and crocs from an underwater glass tank – a completely unique experience!

The Mzima springs are an incredible sight, as fifty million gallons of crystal clear water gush out from under parched lava rock. Other notable attractions in the park include: the Shetani Lava Flow, Lake Jipe and, of course, the animals!

Tsavo West boasts some of the most spectacular wildlife-viewing of any game reserve in Africa. Notable species include: elephant, rhino, hippo, lion, cheetah, leopard and buffalo. The park also offers a large variety of bird species including the threatened corncrake and near threatened Basra Reed Warbler.