National parks in Kenya

Eight percent of Kenya is officially set aside for the preservation of its natural resources and animals. This is done through national reserves, which include 28 areas on land and six marine ones, or national parks, of which there are 23 on land and four marine. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is in charge of managing the national parks, which are complete sanctuaries with no allowed human occupancy other than lodging facilities. Local councils overseeing national reserves typically have laxer policies on human encroachment. In addition to these officially designated areas, community wildlife conservancies and private sanctuaries—where private operators collaborate with the local community to conserve wildlife and the environment while providing landowners with direct revenue from tourism—are becoming an increasingly important part of the conservation effort.

With the exception of Lake Nakuru National Park, Aberdare National Park, and the northern portion of Nairobi National Park, most parks and reserves are unfenced. Although animals tend to stay inside the bounds, especially during the dry season when cattle outside compete for water, wildlife is free to come and go. Private visitors are welcome to any of the parks and reserves (but commercial overland vehicles registered abroad are not permitted entry).Only a few parks—Nairobi National Park being the one partial exception—have transportation available at the gate for anyone without their own vehicle. These parks are substantially developed for tourism, with graded trails, signposts, and lodges. You will typically need to take an organised safari if you don’t have your own transportation.

To make sure you leave the park and the animals just as you found them, it’s crucial to keep in mind a few basic truths. Animal abuse disrupts the rhythms of feeding, breeding, and reproduction. Moreover, having too many cars around wildlife not only makes it uncomfortable for you but also stresses the animals. It is completely forbidden to gather firewood or harvest any plants while camping. Consistently utilise an ashtray when you smoke. Every year, countless bush fires are started by cigarette.

Park charges

Park and reserve entrance fees are priced in US dollars and can be paid in US dollars (optimal method), pounds, euros, or Kenya shillings (which are frequently converted at unfavourable rates). It is crucial to know exactly how long you expect to stay as you are charged upon arrival. They charge per person for a 24-hour visit. Your arrival time will be shown on your ticket. You are only permitted to re-enter the park once per 24 hours, so you are free to depart in the evening and come back in the morning.

Independent tourists enter most parks and reserves at the gate and pay with cash only. They are then issued a printed ticket. Nevertheless, a pre-loaded smartcard known as a Safari Card is required for admission to the eight most well-known national parks. At several Points of Issue and Points of Sale (POIPOS), you can get a temporary Safari Card by presenting identification. You must be older than 18 because under-18 cards have fees. After obtaining your Safari Card, you load it with credit—either with cash or a Visa or MasterCard credit card—to cover entry costs (per person and per vehicle) and any applicable camping fees. The exact amount depends on which park or parks you’re visiting and how long you want to stay. Your Safari Card can be used to enter any Safari Card park at any entrance if you have enough credit. If you wish to visit a Safari Card park again, you will need to go to a POIPOS to obtain a new card because unused credit is not refundable and must be turned in at park entrance. The goal of the entire system, despite its seeming complexity, is to prevent big sums of money from being held at the gates. All of this is taken care of and paid for on your behalf if you’re visiting the parks on a scheduled safari. However, autonomous travel does necessitate some preparation and may provide challenges for last-minute schedule modifications. Thankfully, it appears that most gates have sufficient flexibility in the system to handle independent visitors who arrive with the intention of paying with cash. You can typically convince KWS rangers to let you pass through the park to a gate where you can correct your status if your plan has gone poorly or if you’re entering through a small gate. Similarly, you can normally settle the remaining amount at the time of departure if you choose to stay an extra day. Be aware that you will probably be charged the whole 24-hour rate (which for a group may easily exceed $300) if you are late, even by a few minutes. The gate you leave via is more likely to forgive the excess cost if you notify the rangers in advance, so it’s a good idea to let them know if you will be legitimately delayed due to an unavoidable circumstance (like a vehicle breakdown). However, since they monitor the time, don’t expect to use this strategy to go on an additional game drive or remain for lunch.

The cost of parking for non-residents is $20 to $80.The costs for residents of Kenya and East Africa range from Ksh350 to Ksh 1200.Anybody over three but under eighteen is subject to children’s fees, which are typically half that of the adult rate. In addition to the entry fees per person, there are automobile fees: a car with fewer than six seats costs Ksh350, and a vehicle with six to twelve seats, such as a minibus, costs Ksh1200.Unless you are travelling to the parks in your own car, your safari operator will once again be covering this.

Revenue in the national reserves—Maasai Mara, Samburu, Buffalo Springs, and Shaba—is managed by rangers who work for the local county governments rather than KWS. Similar to national park fees, the costs are only valid for 24-hour periods. Only at the gates or airstrips upon arrival do transactions occur.


The two rainy seasons, which might vary greatly, occur in most parks: April and May for more intense rainfall, and November or December for more intense ones. When the grasses are low and animals are clustered near water during the dry season, you’ll generally see more of them. Deep in the bush, the game usually moves on once the rains stop and fill the seasonal drinking spots. Furthermore, wildlife drives may be hampered if your trip falls during a period of heavy rain. You may also have to deal with mud and stalled cars. In return, you can save a tonne of money in lodges and tented camps during the off-peak months if your plans call for upscale lodging. Between March and mid-June, most places cut their tariffs by anything from one-third to half. Additionally, the weather for taking pictures can be ideal during the rainy season when the sun is shining. If your travel budget is very tight and you don’t have access to a car or a tour, you might be lucky enough to hitch a ride at one of the busier park gates with people travelling in private vehicles.

Getting around the parks

However, this is not a common option and you might have to wait a very long time, even at a popular park. Furthermore, you will not be picked up for free by safari operators who have paying customers on board. In addition, you still need to arrange your lodging while you’re within the park. The two gates that are most recommended to try are Mtito Andei Gate in Tsavo West National Park and Voi Gate in Tsavo East National Park. As an alternative, make reservations for game drives at one of the safari lodges or camps located outside the park boundaries. In order to go on game drives with nearby car owners or inexpensive tented camps that are situated just outside the reserve, you can alternatively take public transport to the Talek or Sekenani gates of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

In the parks, a 4WD vehicle is practically required whether you’re driving alone or hiring a car with a driver. There are no paved roads within the park; most car rental companies need 4WD to access them, and rangers guarding the gates might not let you through with a 2WD vehicle, particularly during rainy seasons. It’s not advisable to try to reverse down a slope covered in boulders in Tsavo West or spend the night stuck in the mud of the Maasai Mara. Anyhow, on a typical park route, a regular saloon will be shook to pieces.

Recognise that driving off designated roads can cause significant harm to fragile ecosystems. Even seemingly unnoticeable distractions can cause years of damage to delicate, root-connected grasslands by dispersing dust, eradicating the lowest reaches of vegetation, and impeding the life cycles and migrations of insects and smaller animals, which in turn disturbs the lives of their predators.

This is particularly evident in the ecologically vulnerable areas of Maasai Mara and Amboseli. If you have a driver, ask him to follow the designated dirt roads and trails only (granted, it might be difficult to tell if you are following a legal route or just the tyre marks of those who have broken the law). Respect the official top speed limit, which is often 30 km/h, as shown at the gates. In Kenyan parks and reserves, driving at night between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. is prohibited without the warden’s permission.