For those seeking the top Kenya safari animals, there is a diverse range of national parks and game reserves – adventures here are teeming with wild animals and phenomenal landscapes. Kenya is home if more than 25,000 animal species- it’s one of the original safari destinations with good reason!
What kind of animals will you see on a Kenya safari? While there is a diverse range of wildlife that can be encountered, over the years we’ve found favorites among both ourselves and our guests.
Our favorites include:
- African Elephant
- African Lion
- African Rhino
- Line-breasted Roller
- African Leopard
- African Cape Buffalo
Whatever type of wildlife viewing you seek, we can help you find the best Kenya wildlife safari tour for your specific needs. Need help planning your Kenya safari? Just shoot on over to our Kenya Safari and Tours page and click the green button that says Help Me Plan My Trip.
Here is more about the most popular safari animals in Kenya.
The largest land mammal on the planet, African mammals are slightly larger than Asian Elephants. Seeing elephants is usually part of every traveler’s bucket list when planning to go on safari. It’s easy to understand why witnessing these massive creatures in their natural environment is so memorable. Considered a vulnerable species, with its population on the rise, they are more numerous in Botswana although you will find your fair share in Kenya.
Known as the symbol of Africa, the powerful big cat is a top predator in their natural environment. One of the most significant roles the play in the animal kingdom is that they establish a balance for numbers of other animals, especially herbivores like zebra and wildebeest. This not only helps with maintaining a healthy population, but also protecting the grasslands and surrounding plains. Extinct in 26 African countries, the African Lion currently lives in Eastern and Southern Africa. They are the world’s most social felines.
Divided into two species, the black rhino and the white rhino are one of Africa’s most treasured animals. Fortunately, their numbers have both equally grown in the past couple of years due to a variety of highly effective conservation efforts. Both black and rhino have increased in population in recent years thanks to conversation efforts. These armored giants are like tanks on legs.
Recognized as the fastest mammal on land, the cheetah can reach speeds of 60 miles an hour within 3 seconds. This is faster than most automobiles! Seeing them in action while on safari is always a special treat for our guests as the athletic demonstration they provide is mesmerizing to watch. Found mainly in open grasslands and bushy areas, they often come close to the vehicles and in the past have even posed for picture perfect moments like above.
Descendants from an Old World bird family, these beauties are stable in population. Being the national bird of Kenya, spotting what many claim as one of the most beautiful birds in the world is always a welcomed sight while on safari. With its pastel plumage and striking appearance, they are often photographed by some of Africa’s top photographers resulting in vibrant images that capture the true essence of their beauty.
This elusive creature varies in size and color. As a species that continues to be under threat, the African leopards have found refuge in several reserves throughout Africa. Closely related to lions, tigers, and jaguars these big cats won’t be seen frequently on the ground. Being strong climbers, they spend most of their time high up in the trees even when stalking prey and for eating. With their distinctive spots and majestic demeanor accompanied by a perfect backdrop, seeing them in their natural state is always memorable. The leopard is common in many of the African national parks, but it’s a master of disguise. It’s very hard to spot. You might be lucky and see one hiding in a tree, tail flicking, observing his surroundings calmly.
The world’s largest bird, although flightless are frequently found throughout Africa’s plains and woodlands. With a restricted diet of berries, insects, and small reptiles they are known for their zig-zag chasing patterns that often result in plenty of laughs due to their awkward nature. Fun fact: while not exactly a roar, males have a boisterous warning call that can sound like a lion heard from miles away. Another extremely fast-running animal, the Maasai ostrich is the fastest running biped on Earth. A flightless animal with three stomachs, the ostrich also carries the distinction of having the largest eye of any species.
African Cape Buffalo
Part of the “Big Five” and distinguished by their stature and unique horns, the African Cape Buffalo always tops the lists as one of the animals our guests want to see while on safari. Being herbivores, they are frequently found grazing in the open grasslands and are hard to miss. Despite being known for their aggressive behavior, they aren’t territorial creatures. This allows you to witness them in their natural habitat at a safe distance without any issues. These bovines can weigh up to 1,900 pounds and span 11 feet long. They are four times stronger than an ox.
Known for being continuously on the move, these animals are often sighted during the Great Migration as they seek new areas of grass and water. If you’ve been doing research on planning a safari, you’ll frequently find photos of them crossing the Mara River which results in stunning imagery. Nothing really captures the size of the animal kingdom then witnessing a couple hundred thousand wildebeest on the search for greener pastures. These members of the antelope family are also known for their odd-looking appearance.
Being a personal favorite, there’s more than meets the eye with these water loving animals. The Greeks named them the “river horse” and seeing how they spend 16 hours a day submerged in rivers and lakes, it proves more than accurate. While the image of their eyes and nostrils hovering above water frequently comes to mind, many are surprised when they leave the water at sunset to travel overland to graze. What is even more astounding is they often can travel up to six miles in a night, along single-file pathways, to consume some 80 pounds of grass. These large, water-loving animals can weigh up to 4,400 pounds. They can mostly be found in protected areas.
Kenya Safari Animal Tours
It is no surprise why Kenya is East Africa’s most popular tourist destination. Kenya’s the home of several national parks and reserves where you can find the above-listed animals, including Nairobi National Park, Lake Nakuru National Park, Maasai Mara, Amboseli National Park, and Tsavo East National Park.
You may be asking yourself when the best time is to visit. July to September is the most popular period overall, as it is ideal for game-viewing, with early September almost certain to coincide with the annual wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara. October, November and March are the months with the clearest seas for snorkeling and diving.
While April and May are known to be part of the wet season, this shouldn’t deter your travel plans: the rains usually come only in short afternoon or evening cloudbursts, and the landscape is strikingly green and fresh even if the skies may be cloudy.
Here are some of our most popular Kenya tours with a focus on wildlife viewing:
Classic Kenya Safari
The allure of Kenya is legendary, and this 8-day safari captures its true essence. Experience the wonders of Samburu; discover the magic of Ol Pejeta, and be awed by the finest wildlife viewing in the world in the Masai Mara. Learn More
Elephant Orphanage Safari
A scheduled departure safari that visits Amboseli National Park, Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru National Park and Masai Mara National Reserve with options to visit Mt Longonot or Crescent Island. Learn More
Highlights of Kenya Safari
A private or group safari that visits Amboseli National Park, Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru National Park and Masai Mara National Reserve with options to visit Mt Longonot or Crescent Island. Learn More
Private Highlights of Kenya Safari & Zanzibar Island Villa
A private safari to Amboseli, Lake Nakuru and Masai Mara ending with a private villa on the beach in Zanzibar. Learn More
Get Help Planning Your Trip
If you are interested in joining us in Africa, please don’t hesitate to contact our team of experts here. With the philosophy, “take memories; leave only footprints,” our priority is to protect and preserve each unique destination for its people, wildlife, and future travelers by finding meaningful ways to reduce our environmental footprint. When you embark on a tour of Kenya with Odyssey Safaris, you get insights and wildlife interactions that turn your once-in-a-lifetime journey into a truly one-of-a-kind vacation experience.