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Perfect 5 Day Kenya Safari Itinerary & Costs (6 unique Itineraries)

I had high expectations of Kenya, a country that’s touted as one of the best places in the world to go on safari. Over my lifetime, I’ve watched countless wildlife documentaries set in Kenya and built up a picture in my head of a magical untouched wilderness.

I’ll be honest, I was worried that Kenya wouldn’t meet my expectations. But, would you believe me if I told you that it actually exceeded them?

Lioness in Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Lioness in Amboseli National Park

I’ve had some of my best ever wildlife encounters in Kenya, from watching four cheetah cubs frolic about in the grass to witnessing a leopard feed right beside our vehicle on a freshly-caught gazelle.

Kenya houses a variety of national parks and reserves, each with something different to offer. The Masai Mara is renowned for its high density of big cats whereas Amboseli is home to some of the largest African elephant herds in the world.

With so much to see, you may be wondering if a 5 day safari is enough. Whilst you can easily fill out a 7-10 day Kenya safari itinerary, a 5 day safari is enough to see some of Kenya’s highlights. Within 5 days, you will have plenty of opportunities to witness some spectacular wildlife sightings.

In this article I’m going to walk you through my six favourite unique 5 day Kenya safari itineraries. I’ve put these itineraries together based on my own personal experiences whilst also considering distances between different locations so that you can spend as much time as possible on safari.

I’ll also give you an idea of how much each safari costs as well as recommendations on the best time to visit in order to get the most out of each itinerary. I’ll also give you some tips on how to make your safari run as smoothly as possible.

Plan Your Safari Adventure

Save time and ensure an incredible experience from the local safari companies I use to organise my own trips.

I’m here to make booking your perfect safari quick, easy and risk-free. It takes less than 1 minute to fill out the form and in under 48 hours you will receive multiple, no-obligation proposals from my favourite local tour operators with glowing online reviews.

Me on safari, taking photos of some resting lions

Six different 5 Day Kenya Safari Itineraries

I’ve put together six different exciting safari itinerary options below.

These itineraries have been designed to help maximise your time on safari with the goal of seeing as much wildlife as possible. They focus on exploring two or three different parks thoroughly rather than ticking locations of a list.

The parks in Kenya are quite spread out and cannot all be visited within a 5 day safari. If you want to visit four or more parks then I’d consider a 7-10 day itinerary instead.

Family of elephants in Amboseli National Park
Family of elephants in Amboseli National Park

Option 1:

5 Day Kenya Highlights Safari Itinerary

My two favourite places to go on safari in Kenya are the Masai Mara National Reserve and Amboseli National Park. Both destinations are fantastic for wildlife viewing and between them you can see all of the Big Five (elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards and buffalos)!

Visiting these two parks allows you to see the most wildlife. However, the distance between the two is great which means there is a day of lengthy travelling between them in the middle of this itinerary. If this drive is too arduous for you, there’s always the option to fly between the two.

Female cheetah known as Nashipai in the Masai Mara National Reserve
Female cheetah known as Nashipai in the Masai Mara National Reserve

Quick Facts

Average driving time: 4 hours per day

Best times of year: The long dry season between June and the end of September as well as the short dry season between December and the end of February.

Itinerary Map for Kenya Highlights Safari Itinerary

5 Day Kenya Highlights Itinerary Map
Map: © OpenStreetMap

Day By Day Breakdown for Kenya Highlights Safari Itinerary

Day 1: Masai Mara National Reserve

Driving time (excluding game drives): 6 hours

You’ll kick-start your itinerary by journeying to Kenya’s most famous reserve. The Masai Mara National Reserve is renowned for its high density of big cats.

Additionally, it’s the setting of the annual wildebeest migration where millions of wildebeest cross the crocodile-infested Mara River in order to reach greener pastures.

Itinerary

This morning you will leave the energetic city of Nairobi and drive west into Kenya’s countryside. I’d recommend leaving early, around 7am or 8am so you can arrive in the Mara Mara in time for lunch.

On your 6 hour drive to the Masai Mara, you will have the opportunity to stop at the Rift Valley Viewpoint where you can admire panoramic views of the famous Great Rift Valley which stretches from Jordan to Mozambique.

You will have a second stop in the town of Narok, the last large town before the Masai Mara.

You’ll have a lovely hot lunch at your lodge in the Masai Mara before setting out on your first game drive of the trip. 

About the Masai Mara National Reserve

The Masai Mara sits atop the border with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and is part of the wider Serengeti ecosystem. Together the two parks host the annual wildebeest migration, the largest mammal migration on earth.

Kenya hosts arguably the most anticipated part of the migration, the famous Mara River crossing, where millions of wildebeests risk their lives crossing the treacherous river that’s teeming with hungry crocodiles.

The migration takes place in Kenya between mid-July and mid-September.

The Masai Mara is also known for its high density of predators. Lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas can all be found in the reserve. If you’re keen to see leopards and cheetahs, the Masai Mara is the best place to see them in Kenya.

Leopard enjoying a freshly-caught gazelle in the Masai Mara
Leopard enjoying a freshly-caught gazelle in the Masai Mara
Tips for Your Afternoon Safari in the Masai Mara National Reserve

The afternoon is a great time to go on safari as it’s not as hot as in the middle of the day which means that the animals are more active. As evening approaches you’re more likely to see predators on the move.

I’d recommend staying on your game drive until the gates close at 6pm. Not only are the animals active at this time but the lighting is great for photos.

When on safari, it’s best to wear light neutral clothing. Dark colours such as navy blue and black attract tsetse flies which have a nasty bite. Wearing bright colours could be startling for the animals so neutrals are recommended.

Where to Spend the Night

Most lodges and tented camps are based near the town of Talek which is just outside the Masai Mara’s Talek Gate. This is a great location to stay as it’s just a short drive from your lodge to the gate.

There are a handful of lodges within the Masai Mara itself. These are however more expensive. If you have the budget for it however, I would recommend staying within the park as it allows you to go on safari before everyone else.

My Personal Experience in the Masai Mara National Reserve

I managed to view all of the Big Five within the Masai Mara. I encountered more lions than I can count and saw three groups of lions on separate kills. I witnessed a beautiful female leopard feed on a recently-killed gazelle just inches from our vehicle, stumbled across a rare black rhino and came across seven individual cheetahs, including four playful cubs.

The Masai Mara really really is a wildlife lover’s dream!

Grant gazelle in the Masai Mara
Grant gazelle in the Masai Mara

Day 2: Masai Mara National Reserve

Driving time (excluding game drives): 0 hours

Today you have the opportunity to go on a full-day safari within the Masai Mara, maximising your chance of spotting the Big Five.

Itinerary

Wake up early so that you can depart for your safari as early as possible. You’ll ideally want to be at the gate at 6am so I recommend taking a picnic breakfast which you can eat within the reserve.

You’ll have to let your guide know about your plans to have a picnic breakfast and lunch beforehand so that the lodge has time to prepare it for you and so your guide can be ready to depart promptly in the morning. Let them know the day before, before the kitchen closes for the night.

Arriving in the reserve early gives you the maximum opportunity to try to find big cats, which are most active in the morning. This is the time of day when you are most likely to witness a hunt.

You’ll be able to enjoy your picnic breakfast in a scenic spot within the reserve at some point in the morning.

Your safari will commence and can last as long as you like. If you have the stamina I’d personally recommend having a full-day game drive and returning to your lodge shortly before the gate closes at 6pm. This means you’ll also have a picnic lunch within the park.

However, if you’d rather pace yourself, you can return to your lodge in the afternoon and enjoy a hot lunch there.

I wouldn’t recommend having two safaris broken up by lunch at your lodge as you have to pay each time you enter the park so this will double your costs for the day.

Yawning lion in the Masai Mara
Yawning lion in the Masai Mara
Tips for Your Full-Day Safari in the Masai Mara National Reserve

Mornings in East Africa can be quite chilly so you’ll want to layer up for your safari to avoid getting cold. In contrast, the middle of the day can get quite hot. I like to wear a vest-top, shirt and then jumper over the top. I can then take layers off as the day gets hotter.

Even when it’s cloudy, you can get pretty sunburnt on safari. Therefore I recommend wearing high factor sunscreen and applying it several times throughout the day.

You’ll also want to bring insect repellent with you. Like with the sunscreen, apply it before your safari and then you can top it up as required throughout the day.

Where to Spend the Night

Spend another night in your lodge or tented camp either within the Masai Mara or near the gate.

Male cheetah patrolling his territory in the Masai Mara
Male cheetah patrolling his territory in the Masai Mara

Day 3: Masai Mara to Amboseli National Park

Driving time (excluding game drives): 9 hours

Today you’ll leave the Masai Mara and journey to Amboseli National Park. The distance between the two locations is just under 500km and by road will take around 9 hours to complete.

If you decide to drive between the two then the journey will take up most of your day.

Alternatively, you can fly between the two destinations. Flights from Ol Kiombo Airstrip (the closest airstrip to Talek) run daily and typically take around 3.5 hours including a layover in Nairobi.

Flights cost around $400 per person and will involve you re-entering the Masai Mara again (additional $100-$200 per person depending on whether you visit in low or peak season) so this method of transport can get pretty pricey. Still, if you have the budget, I would recommend it so that you can enjoy more time on safari.

The below itinerary assumes you are travelling by road.

Itinerary

Leave your lodge in the Masai Mara no later than 8am.

The drive ahead of you will take roughly 9 hours excluding any stop-offs so you want to allow ample time for delays, whether that’s due to enjoying a leisurely picnic lunch or heavy traffic. You also want to avoid driving after dark as driving at night is far less safe than driving in the daytime; leaving at 8am reduces the likelihood of this.

You should arrive in Amboseli around 5pm.

Tips for Your Drive from Masai Mara to Amboseli

The drive between the two destinations is mostly on smooth tarred roads.

You’ll have the opportunity to stop on the journey for food and to use the restroom. Not every restroom is equipped with toilet paper so I recommend bringing some just in case.

I’d recommend bringing a neck pillow for the drive if you plan on sleeping and make sure your electronic devices have pre-downloaded audiobooks and music ready for you to listen to on your drive.

Where to Spend the Night

You’ll spend the night either near the gate to Amboseli National Park or within the park itself. If you are staying outside the park, ensure you’re in a lodge or tented camp near Amboseli’s Kimana Gate which is to the east of the park. This is the best gate to be based near as it’s close to where Amboseli’s elephants make their daily migration into the park.

Massive bull elephant in Amboseli National Park
Massive bull elephant in Amboseli National Park

Day 4: Amboseli

Driving time (excluding game drives): 0

Today you have the entire day to experience the magic of Amboseli National park!

Itinerary

Enter the park no later than 6:30am. This is important as between 6:30am and 7am Amboseli’s elephant herds journey from the forests below Mount Kilimanjaro to the swamp in the centre of the national park. Watching them make this journey is truly awe-inspiring as they pretty much surround you as they cross the road.

The elephants spend most of the day lounging in the swamp so if you want to view them up-close and in action, you’ll need to see them either early in the morning or in the evening when they leave the swamp.

Whilst the elephants are making their daily migration, they pass in front of Kilimanjaro, allowing for some stunning images of Amboseli’s two iconic giants within one frame.

After spending time marvelling at Amboseli’s elephants, you will continue your game drive within the park.

Amboseli operates by giving out a 24 hour pass which means you can enter and leave the park as many times as you like within the 24 hour period. Therefore you can either opt to have a picnic lunch within the park or return to your lodge for a hot lunch.

As Amboseli is a relatively small park, you can easily return to your lodge for a hot lunch. Additionally, Amboseli can get pretty hot in the middle of the day so wildlife viewing isn’t always fantastic around lunch time.

If you do decide to stay for a picnic lunch, your tour guide will take you to Observation Hill, a picnic site atop a hill with panoramic views of Amboseli National Park.

The late afternoon and evening is another fantastic time for a game drive in Amboseli. At around 5pm the great herds of elephants journey back to the forests below Kilimanjaro, giving you the opportunity to witness them on the move, crossing the road.

Leave Amboseli around 6pm, when the park closes, and venture back to your lodge for dinner.

A pair of fish eagles in Amboseli National Park
A pair of fish eagles in Amboseli National Park
About Amboseli National Park

Amboseli National Park is located in southern Kenya, just above the border with Tanzania. Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, towers over the park, providing a breathtaking backdrop.

The park is famous for being the last stronghold for Africa’s big tuskers, elephants with tusks so long that they nearly touch the floor. It’s a haven for African elephants, housing some of the biggest herds in the world.

In the dry season Amboseli is relatively barren apart from the swamps in the heart of the park. The swirling red dust makes Amboseli feel atmospheric.

The swamps provide a permanent water source for animals meaning that wildlife can be viewed in large numbers year-round.

Tips for Your Full-Day Safari in Amboseli National Park

It’s up to you whether you want to spend the full day in the park or if you want to return to your lodge at lunchtime for a hot meal. Both options will give you a good experience.

In order to make the most of your time in Amboseli, arriving in the park before 6:30am and leaving after 5:30pm is essential so that you can see the most wildlife. Not only do you see the large elephant herds on the move at these times but sunrise and sunset are also the best times to see predators in action. Lions, cheetahs and hyenas can be found in Amboseli.

Wear plenty of sunscreen for your safari and be sure to bring the bottle with you so that you can top-up accordingly.

Amboseli is one of the hotter safari locations in Kenya so you’ll want to dress for its hotter temperatures. Wear lightweight clothing made of materials such as linen.

Ella McKendrick on Observation Hill in Amboseli National Park
Me on Observation Hill in Amboseli. My outfit is a lightweight linen shirt, some shorts and a sunhat
Where to Spend the Night

You’ll spend another night in your lodge or tented camp near Amboseli National Park.

My Experience in Amboseli National Park

I had some of my absolute favourite safari experiences in Amboseli!

Witnessing Amboseli’s huge elephant herds cross the road just metres from your vehicle really is a jaw-dropping experience. Additionally, the sheer scale of elephants crossing is something to marvel at.

Although Amboseli isn’t particularly famous for its predators, I had some incredible big cat sightings in this park as well. Amboseli has a couple of resident lion prides. I spent a couple of hours with one of the prides, watching cubs of various ages frolic about and squabble over their mother’s milk – one of the cutest wildlife sightings I’ve had to date!

Another highlight for me was witnessing a female cheetah chase and successfully catch a Thomson gazelle. This is the first successful big cat hunt that I’ve seen and it didn’t disappoint. After gorging herself on most of the kill, a hyena came in and polished off the scraps.

Before I visited Amboseli a number of people told me that it was little more than elephants. I can tell you they’re wrong. When on safari there’s always something going on and you never know what sightings lie in store.

Baby elephant having a drink in Amboseli National Park
Baby elephant having a drink in Amboseli National Park

Day 5: Amboseli to Nairobi

Driving time (excluding game drives): 5 hours

Today you’ll leave Amboseli and journey back to Nairobi. Once in Nairobi, you’ll have the chance to explore more of the city.

Itinerary

Nairobi is between 4 and 5 hours away from Amboseli depending on the traffic. I’d recommend setting off no later than 8am so that you can be back in Nairobi in time for some lunch.

The drive to Nairobi involves journeying on smooth tarred roads. The majority of the highway is single carriageway so traffic can build up quite easily. Journeying earlier in the day increases your chances of skipping the traffic.

Once in Nairobi you can enjoy some lunch at one of the city’s restaurants. Nairobi has an array of fabulous restaurants. My absolute favourite is the Talisman Restaurant in Karen which serves Asian-inspired cuisine including sushi.

You then have the afternoon to explore Nairobi. Below are some of my best recommendations.

Best Things to Do in Nairobi

There’s a number of incredible things that you can do in Nairobi, from visiting one of Nairobi’s well-regarded wildlife sanctuaries to meandering through one of the city’s sprawling markets.

1. The Giraffe Centre

Located just 20 kilometres outside the heart of Nairobi is the Giraffe Centre, a sanctuary dedicated to the conservation of the rare Rothschild giraffe, whose numbers had plummeted to a mere 120 in recent years.

The sanctuary has introduced numerous breeding pairs into various parks across the country, including Lake Nakuru National Park, Mwea National Reserve, Ruma National Park, and Nasalot National Reserve.

Thanks to the efforts of the sanctuary, the number of Rothschild giraffes has surged from 120 to over 300 individuals.

Visiting the Giraffe Centre not only supports a worthy cause but also provides an enjoyable experience.

You can visit the Giraffe Centre and get the opportunity to meet and feed the resident giraffes. A visit typically takes between 1 and 2 hours.

Upon your arrival at the centre, you’ll receive a coconut shell filled with pellets that the giraffes absolutely love. You’ll then have the chance to feed these pellets to some of the sanctuary’s resident giraffes.

Ella McKendrick feeding a giraffe at the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi
Me feeding a giraffe at the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi
2. David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

The David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage focuses on rescuing baby elephants from across Kenya, often victims of poaching or human-wildlife conflicts, with the ultimate goal of nurturing them and reintroducing them to the wild.

The orphanage boasts a commendable track record of successfully releasing numerous elephants back into their natural habitat.

Additionally, the trust actively contributes to anti-poaching efforts by funding units across Kenya. But that’s not all – in a bid to address the challenges of drought, the trust has also played a pivotal role in establishing permanent water sources in national parks to prevent wildlife from dying of dehydration in periods of drought.

A visit to the elephant orphanage, situated in Nairobi National Park, unveils the heartwarming spectacle of the daily feeding ritual for the baby elephants, scheduled between 11 am and 12 pm.

However, it’s important to note that advance booking is mandatory for this experience, and all necessary information can be conveniently accessed on the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s website.

3. Nairobi National Park

If you’re not done with safaris just yet, Nairobi has its very own national park which sits just below the city’s Central Business District.

Nairobi National Park is the only national park that borders a capital city and is one of the smallest parks in the whole of Africa, making it easy to explore in an afternoon.

Visiting the national park provides you with the unique experience of seeing wildlife in front of towering skyscrapers.

The park is home to all of the Big Five (lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalos).

Zebras in Nairobi National Park with the city in the background
Zebras in Nairobi National Park with the city in the background
Tips for Visiting Nairobi

I really loved my time in Nairobi. However, you should always be cautious when exploring large cities.

Like when visiting any major city, be mindful of your belongings and don’t display your valuables. I’d recommend wearing a bum bag / fanny pack which is harder for people to access and only go out with essentials (phone, passport and not huge amounts of cash).

I’d also avoid going out after dark as this is when both crime and car accidents are most likely to occur.

Most neighbourhoods in Nairobi are generally safe. There are however a few to avoid such as Eastleigh and Kibera.

Uber and Uber Eats are available in Nairobi which makes travelling and ordering takeaways very easy. I’d recommend using Uber over taxis as the rates are agreed upon before booking whereas taxis can change their rates.

Where to Spend the Night

There are a number of hotels and guesthouses available in Nairobi. I personally like booking Airbnbs. There are a number of highly rated Airbnbs available across Nairobi.

I’d recommend staying in Karen as it’s one of the nicest districts in Nairobi.

My Experience in Nairobi

I had a very positive experience in Nairobi. The city is very easy to get around due to the sheer amount of Ubers that are available and Uber Eats makes it easy to order meals or even food shopping right to your doorstep.

I personally felt safe in Nairobi. Everyone I met was extremely friendly and everywhere has high security. I didn’t however go out at night and opted to stay in Nairobi’s safer neighbourhoods.

Lioness having a drink in Amboseli National Park
Lioness having a drink in Amboseli National Park

Costs

For this itinerary you can expect the cost for a private safari for two people to start at around $360 per person per day.

This price covers park fees, hotels, all meals, vehicle and guide hire, fuel and drinking water for the duration of your safari.

The bulk of any safari cost comes from the park fees. The second highest cost is the hotel which typically includes full board.

I want to give you an idea of the cost breakdown below.

The cost to enter the Masai Mara is $100 + 18% tax per person per day from January to June and $200 + 18% tax per person per day from July to December. Amboseli’s park fees are slightly lower at $80 + 15% tax per person per day from April to June and $100 + 18% tax per person per day for the rest of the year.

Based on this itinerary for 2 people, the park fees alone will be $300 per person when visiting in the first half of the year or $1,000 per person when visiting in the second half of the year.

For a budget hotel near the Masai Mara you would be looking at a minimum of $100 per night per room. However, for a hotel that’s in a prime location near the gate you can realistically expect to pay more.

You then have your vehicle and guide hire to pay for.

Due to the high cost of the park fees, local tour companies don’t typically make much profit on the safaris – around 10% – 15% and much of this is offset against the special trade prices they receive for accommodation, so they end up working out very cost effective.

Recommended Booking Options For This 5 Day Kenya Itinerary

Private Safari

Most popular & best experience – typical prices start from $360 per person per day.

Visit safarisbyella.com for free quotes from trustworthy local tour companies I use to book my own trips.

Ella Mckendrick on safari with lions
Me photographing lions

Group (Shared) Camping Safari

Good for budget or solo travellers – from $330 per person per day.

My recommended Kenya tour operators only provide private safaris, however, I’ve listed the best group options for the most similar itinerary available, on Safari Bookings below.

There are no group tours that follow this exact itinerary but there are some that follow a similar itinerary that includes either Lake Naivasha or Lake Nakuru. However, there are no budget options available. The group tours listed below are mid-range.

Click the links below to request quotes for the group safari options on the safari bookings website.

5-Day Group Safari to Masai Mara, Amboseli and Lake Naivasha Option 1

5-Day Group Safari to Masai Mara, Amboseli and Lake Naivasha Option 2

5-Day Group Safari to Masai Mara, Amboseli and Lake Nakuru Option 2

Jump back to the table of contents to select another 5 day itinerary to view or keep scrolling to read the next itinerary.

A pair of grey crowned cranes in Masai Mara
A pair of grey crowned cranes in Masai Mara

Option 2:

5 Day Eastern Circuit Highlights Itinerary

Kenya’s safari destinations can be split into three different circuits: the eastern, northern and western circuits. Selecting a circuit would be preferable above the above 5 day Kenya highlights safari option if you wanted to cut-down on driving time.

The eastern circuit is made up of the Masai Mara, Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru. It’s arguably the most popular 5 day itinerary as it includes Kenya’s flagship park and doesn’t include too much driving.

On this itinerary you will get to spend two nights in the Masai Mara as well as a night in Lake Naivasha and a night in Lake Nakuru.

The combination of these three parks will give you the opportunity to potentially spot all of the Big Five.

A giraffe with its baby in the Masai Mara
A giraffe with its baby in the Masai Mara

Quick Facts

Average driving time: 3.3 hours per day

Best times of year: The long dry season between June and the end of September as well as the short dry season between December and the end of February.

Itinerary Map for 5 Day Eastern Circuit Highlights 

5 Day Kenya Eastern Circuit Itinerary

Day By Day Breakdown for 5 Day Eastern Circuit Highlights

Day 1: Masai Mara National Reserve

Driving time (excluding game drives): 6 hours

You’ll kick-start your itinerary by visiting Kenya’s most famous reserve – the Masai Mara. It’s one of the best places in the country to view Kenya’s big cats.

Itinerary

You’ll leave Nairobi in the morning, ideally between 7am and 8am and journey to the Masai Mara. The drive will take around 6 hours and can be broken-up by a couple of stops on the way, including to the Rift Valley Viewpoint.

You should arrive at your lodge in the Masai Mara in time for a hot lunch at around 2pm.

You then have 2 options for your afternoon. You can go on an afternoon game drive within the reserve. The late afternoon is one of the best times to try to catch predators in action. I’d recommend staying in the reserve until it closes at 6pm.

Alternatively, you can visit a nearby local Maasai tribe and learn about their culture.

As you have to pay an entrance fee each time you enter the Masai Mara, visiting the Maasai tribe would be the most cost-effective option if you’re on a tight budget.

You can then return to your lodge for some dinner.

Hyena feeding on a topi whilst surrounded by vultures in the Masai Mara
Hyena feeding on a topi whilst surrounded by vultures in the Masai Mara
About the Masai Mara

The Masai Mara is one of the largest game reserves in Kenya, stretching for 1,510 square kilometres (580 square miles).

It’s named in honour of the Maasai tribe who call the area surrounding the reserve their home. Additionally ‘Mara’ means spotted in the Maasai language, a description of the plains which are spotted with the occasional acacia tree.

The Masai Mara houses an extremely high density of big cats, especially lions. Therefore it’s one of the best places in the country to catch a glimpse of them.

The Masai Mara also houses the great wildebeest migration between mid-July and mid-September. Visitors can expect to see large numbers of them dotting the plains and if you’re lucky, you can even witness them crossing the treacherous Mara River.

Tips for Visiting the Masai Mara

The Masai Mara hosts tsetse flies which give a nasty bite. To avoid getting bitten it’s advisable to wear light coloured clothing. Blacks and navy blues attract the pesky flies. Also wear insect repellent and remember to top it up throughout the day.

The best time to go on safari is either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The cooler temperatures make animals more active, particularly the Masai Mara’s predators.

Where to Spend the Night

I’d recommend spending the night in a lodge or tented camp that’s either within the Masai Mara itself or very close to one of the gates.

Talek is a great area as it’s very close to the Talek Gate and you can find a number of lodges here.

The lodges in the reserve itself are luxury lodges so if you are going on a budget or mid-range safari, Talek is a great option.

Female cheetah known as Nashipai in the Masai Mara
Female cheetah known as Nashipai in the Masai Mara

Day 2: Masai Mara National Reserve

Driving time (excluding game drives): 0 hours

Today you have a full day to go on safari in the Masai Mara.

Itinerary

Start the day bright and early. You’ll want to start your safari so you can be at the gate to the reserve at 6am. By entering early, you are increasing the chances of seeing the Masai Mara’s predators on the move.

Today you’ll be going on a full-day safari. As a result, you’ll want to arrange with your guide and lodge the night before to have a picnic breakfast and lunch for your safari.

You can stay on safari as long as you like. I’d recommend staying until the gates close at 6pm but you can leave early if you’re feeling tired.

You’ll then have a nice hot dinner at your lodge.

Tips for Your Full-Day Safari in the Masai Mara

You’ll want to bring sunscreen and insect repellent with you on your safari so that you can top-up accordingly. Even in cloudy weather you should wear high factor sunscreen.

Remember to wear light-coloured clothing so that you don’t avoid the biting tsetse fly.

I’d also recommend wearing a number of layers for your safari. The early mornings can be cold so you’ll want to wrap up warm. Then as the day gets warmer you can discard layers. I tend to wear a vest top, shirt and jumper.

Where to Spend the Night

Spend another night near the Masai Mara National Reserve.

My Experience Visiting the Masai Mara

The Masai Mara definitely lives up to its reputation as being one of the best safari destinations in the world.

On my Masai Mara safari I was able to view all of the Big Five (lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos and buffalos).

A highlight for me was witnessing a leopard enjoy a freshly-caught impala just inches away from our vehicle. I also witnessed a huge male lion feast on a buffalo right beside the road. Another magical moment was encountering a mother cheetah and her four energetic little cubs.

Here we are having a picnic lunch within the Masai Mara
Here we are having a picnic lunch within the Masai Mara

Day 3: Lake Naivasha

Driving time (excluding game drives): 5 hours

Lake Naivasha is a large freshwater lake that is known for its high density of hippos. It’s a great place to go on a boat safari.

Itinerary

Aim to set-off from your lodge near the Masai Mara at around 8am.

After around 5 hours on the road you should arrive at Lake Naivasha in time for some lunch. You can enjoy lunch either at your lodge or at a picnic site.

For the afternoon you can take to the lake in a boat. This is a great opportunity to see hippos up close as well as an array of birdlife.

You can opt for a walking safari on Crescent Island which lies within the lake. Here you can see a number of herbivores including zebras, gazelles and giraffes.

About Lake Naivasha

Lake Naivasha is the highest lake within the rift valley, sitting at 1884m above sea level. The lake is 13km in length but is only 5 metres deep.

Lake Naivasha is a bird lover’s dream, housing 400 different species including flamingos, eagles and much more.

Where to Spend the Night

There are a number of lodges near the southern shores of Lake Naivasha where you can spend the night.

Hippos in the Serengeti
Pod of hippos in the lake

Day 4: Lake Nakuru

Driving time (excluding game drives): 2 hours

Not far to the north of Lake Naivasha lies another lake: Lake Nakuru. This soda lake is famous for its high concentration of flamingos and for being a sanctuary for both black and white rhinos.

Itinerary

Depart from Lake Naivasha at around 8m in order to arrive at Lake Nakuru by mid-morning.

You can then go on a walking safari in Lake Nakuru National Park before enjoying a picnic lunch.

For the afternoon, go on a game drive in Lake Nakuru National Park. This is a great opportunity to try to spot the park’s famous residents, namely the protected black and white rhinos.

You’ll then have dinner at your lodge.

About Lake Nakuru National Park

Lake Nakuru is a saltwater lake within the Rift Valley. The high salt content attracts over a million flamingos to the lake each year as it’s the perfect place for them to feed on blue-green algae, a meal that makes their feathers pink in colour.

Lake Nakuru is surrounded by a national park. Unlike many parks and reserves in Kenya, Lake Nakuru National Park is enclosed by 3 metre-high fencing which was erected to help protect the species that reside in the park.

You can find four of the Big Five in Lake Nakuru: lions, leopards, rhinos and buffalos.

Lake Nakuru National Park is one of the best places in Kenya to see both the black rhino and white rhino. Within the park is a sanctuary which introduced its first 2 rhinos to the park in 1984. Today the park has over 150 rhinos.

Within the park you can also find the rare Rothschild giraffe, another species that was re-introduced after experiencing a devastating country-wide decline.

Where to Spend the Night

There are a number of lodges where you can spend the night either within Lake Nakuru National Park itself or within nearby Nakuru town.

A black rhino in Kenya
A black rhino in Kenya

Day 5: Lake Nakuru to Nairobi

Driving time (excluding game drives): 3.5 hours

Today you’ll journey back to Nairobi. You can then spend the afternoon exploring this lively city. There’s a plethora of things to do here, some of my favourites include visiting The Giraffe Centre and Nairobi National Park.

Itinerary

Leave Lake Nakuru at around 9am or 10am so that you can arrive in Nairobi in time for some lunch.

There are a number of delicious restaurants within the city. My favourite restaurant can be found in the Karen region and is called Talisman Restaurant. It’s one of the highest rated reviews in the city and serves Asian-inspired cuisine.

This afternoon you can spend your time in Nairobi as you wish. Perhaps that’s spending a couple of hours with the giraffes at The Giraffe Centre or going on one last safari in Nairobi National Park.

Tips for Visiting Nairobi

I loved my time exploring Nairobi! There’s so much to see here and everyone I encountered in the city was extremely friendly.

However, as with any visit to a bustling city it’s wise to be vigilant about your belongings and avoid conspicuous displays of valuables. I suggest using a bum bag or fanny pack, which is more secure and only venturing out with essentials such as your phone, passport, and a small amount of cash.

Additionally, it’s advisable to refrain from going out after dark, as this is when both criminal activities and traffic accidents are more likely to occur.

Where to Spend the Night

There are a number of hotels and Airbnbs where you can spend the night in Nairobi. I personally prefer Airbnbs as they are slightly cheaper and I love the personal touches you get with them.

When choosing a hotel or guesthouse, opt for one in a safe neighbourhood such as Karen.

Lioness in the Masai Mara
Lioness in the Masai Mara

Costs

This itinerary will be a similar cost to the first itinerary as the park fees are similar. You are still visiting Masai Mara which has the highest park fees. Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru are cheaper to visit but as you will be visiting parks on all days apart from the final day (for itinerary 1 there was a day of driving), the costs end up being similar.

For this itinerary you can expect the cost for a private safari for two people to start at around $350 per person per day.

You can reduce this cost by not going on a game drive in the Masai Mara on the first day and opting to visit a Maasai village instead. This will save you paying for park fees for that afternoon which cost $100 + 18% tax per person between January and June and $200 + 18% tax per person between July and December.

The bulk of the safari cost is made up by the park fees.

Recommended Booking Options For This 5 Day Kenya Itinerary

Private Safari

Most popular & best experience – typical prices start from $330 per person per day.

Visit safarisbyella.com for free quotes from trustworthy local tour companies I use to book my own trips.

Ella Mckendrick with lions in Serengeti

Group (Shared) Camping Safari

Good for budget or solo travellers – from $130 per person per day.

My recommended Kenya tour operators only provide private safaris, however, I’ve listed the best group options for the most similar itinerary available, on Safari Bookings below.

Click the links below to request quotes for the group safari options on the safari bookings website.

5-Day Group Camping Eastern Circuit Safari Itinerary

5-Day Group Budget Eastern Circuit Safari Itinerary Option 1

5-Day Group Budget Eastern Circuit Safari Itinerary Option 2

Jump back to the table of contents to select another 5 day itinerary to view or keep scrolling to read the next itinerary.

Buffalo in Masai Mara National Reserve
Buffalo in Masai Mara National Reserve

Option 3:

5 Day Western Circuit Highlights 

The Western Circuit takes you to the best national parks in the south west of Kenya.

Amboseli National Park, renowned for its huge population of elephants, will be your first stop.

You’ll then visit Tsavo West National Park, part of Tsavo, the largest national park in Kenya. This park is known for its mountainous landscape and is a great place to spot black rhinos.

The itinerary ends back in Nairobi.

Elephant having fun in the mud in Amboseli National Park
Elephant having fun in the mud in Amboseli National Park

Quick Facts

Average driving time: 3 hours per day

Best times of year: The long dry season between June and the end of September.

Itinerary Map for 5 Day Western Circuit Highlights

5 Day Kenya Western Circuit Itinerary Map

Day By Day Breakdown for 5 Day Western Circuit Highlights

Day 1: Amboseli National Park

Driving time (excluding game drives): 5 hours

You’ll kick-start your 5 day itinerary by visiting my favourite national park in Kenya, Amboseli.

Amboseli is home to some of the largest herds of elephants in the world. Additionally, it’s one of the best places to get a view of Mount Kilimanjaro.

You can view many other animals in Amboseli too, including lions, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras and much more.

Itinerary

Leave Nairobi at around 8am. The earlier you leave, the less likely you are to get caught-up in traffic.

The journey will take roughly 5 hours although this time can fluctuate depending on traffic. Much of the drive involves journeying down a single-lane highway so your journey time is heavily dependent on how busy the road is.

You should arrive in Amboseli around lunchtime. I’d recommend having a hot lunch at your lodge.

For the afternoon you will go on your first game drive. Be sure to stay in the national park right until it closes at 6pm. This is because at around 5pm the large elephant herds are on the move and cross the road in the park to journey towards the forests below Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s one of the best times to view the elephants.

After your game drive, return for some dinner at your lodge.

About Amboseli National Park

Originally a game reserve, Amboseli was established as a national park in 1974 and was later declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991.

Amboseli is one of the more popular national parks in Kenya. Visitors are drawn by the unique landscape, which is towered over by Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as the park’s resident elephant herds.

The park is surrounded by the Masai tribe who are to thank for the park’s high density of elephants. Their presence in the area has deterred poachers as the Masai have a fearsome reputation and thus allowed elephants to thrive.

Large bull elephant in Amboseli National Park
Large bull elephant in Amboseli National Park
Tips for Visiting Amboseli National Park

The best times to see Amboseli’s elephants are early in the morning and late in the afternoon. This is when they journey to and from the swamp within the heart of the park. In the middle of the day, they relax in the swamp and sightings aren’t as good.

Amboseli National Park can get pretty hot. Daytime temperatures are typically between 20°C and 30°C. You’ll therefore want to wear light clothing that keeps you cool.

Wear plenty of high factor sunscreen and insect repellent for your safari.

If catching a glimpse of Kilimanjaro is important to you then you’ll want to visit Amboseli within the long dry season, between June and late-September, when there are less clouds. Viewing the mountain is never guaranteed but you will certainly increase your chances by visiting at this time of year.

Where to Spend the Night

There are a small number of lodges within Amboseli National Park. You can either spend the night here or in one of the many lodges which are just outside Amboseli’s Kimana Gate.

Kimana Gate is the closest gate to where the elephants typically cross to and from the swamps so this is the best gate to be located near.

My Experience in Amboseli National Park

I’ve had some of my best safari experiences in Amboseli National Park!

Witnessing the huge herds of elephants cross the road to and from the swamp is truly magical. It’s crazy how close to the vehicles they can get and seeing so many of them at once really is a sight to behold.

Elephants are not the only residents that you can hope to encounter. I was delighted to stumble across a pride of lions with very young cubs. Watching the cubs play filled me with joy.

I also witnessed three cheetah hunts in Amboseli, two of which were successful.

Giraffe in Amboseli National Park
Giraffe in Amboseli National Park

Day 2: Amboseli National Park

Driving time (excluding game drives): 0

Today you have a full day to explore Amboseli National Park.

Itinerary

Rise early in order to start your game drive at 6am, when the park gates open. Entering early gives you the highest chances of witnessing the elephants cross over to the swamp.

You’ll then meander through the park, keeping an eye out for Amboseli’s varied inhabitants.

At lunchtime you will stop at Observation Hill, the only area within the park where you can leave the vehicle. You can enjoy your picnic lunch at the top of the hill where you will have wonderful uninterrupted views of Amboseli National Park.

Amboseli issues 24 hour passes for the park so you’ll end your safari at the same time that you entered the previous day which will be around 3pm.

You can then spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing at your lodge.

Tips for Your Full-Day Game Drive in Amboseli

In order to get the most out of your safari, you’ll need to bring a picnic lunch with you. You’ll just need to let your guide know the night before so that he can inform the lodge.

Bring plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent with you so you can keep applying both throughout the day.

You’ll want to bring a cap or sunhat with you as it can get pretty hot and sunny.

Where to Spend the Night

You’ll spend another night in or near Amboseli National Park.

Lioness with a young cub in Amboseli National Park
Lioness with a young cub in Amboseli National Park

Day 3: Tsavo West National Park

Driving time (excluding game drives): 4 hours

Today you’ll move to another of Kenya’s beautiful national parks.

Tsavo West is one of the largest national parks in Kenya. When combined with Tsavo East, the two make up the biggest park in the country. In Tsavo West you can find all of the Big Five (elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and buffalos).

Itinerary

It’s around a 4 hour drive to Tsavo West so I recommend setting off early. Leaving Amboseli at 8am allows you to arrive at Tsavo West at lunchtime.

You can enjoy either a picnic lunch in a scenic lunch spot or have a hot lunch at your lodge in Tsavo West.

After lunch you will go on an afternoon game drive within the national park.

About

Tsavo West is an extremely diverse park when it comes to terrain. It has mountains, forests, grasslands, caves and volcanic springs.

The park is also home to a wide range of wildlife. You can view all of the Big Five here as well as giraffes, cheetahs, hyenas and more. The park also houses a number of critically endangered species such as Grevy’s zebra, wild dogs and black rhinos.

Tsavo is famous for the notorious man-eaters of Tsavo, two lions who killed dozens of railway workers in 1898.

One of the highlights of Tsavo West National Park is Mzima Springs, an oasis of four pools in the western part of the park. The water comes in from underground streams from the Chyulu Hills. A large number of hippos call this oasis home.

Tips for Visiting Tsavo West National Park

Like with all safaris, remember to wear light neutral colours to avoid attracting tsetse flies. Blacks and navy blues should be avoided.

Bring plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent on game drives with you so that you can reapply where necessary.

Where to Spend the Night

There are a number of lodges surrounding Tsavo West where you can spend the night.

Leopard in a tree in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Majestic leopard resting in a tree

Day 4: Tsavo West National Park

Driving time (excluding game drives): 0 hours

Today you will spend the full day on safari in Tsavo West National Park.

Itinerary

This morning you will leave on a full-day safari within the national park. I recommend entering the park at 6am when the park opens.

You’ll then spend the morning searching for Tsavo West’s many animals.

I’d recommend having a picnic-lunch part-way through your safari instead of returning to your lodge for lunch due to the vast size of Tsavo West. This enables you to journey deeper into the park.

Tsavo West has 24 hour passes so you will leave the national park in the early afternoon, giving you some time to rest at your lodge.

Tips for Your Full-Day Game Drive in Tsavo West

As you’ll be having a picnic lunch for your day in Tsavo you’ll need to let your guide know the day before so he can place the order with your lodge.

Bring sunscreen, insect repellent and a cap or hat for your game drive.

Where to Spend the Night

You’ll spend another night near Tsavo West National Park

Male lion in Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Male lion

Day 5: Tsavo West to Nairobi

Driving time (excluding game drives): 6.5 hours

Today you’ll leave Tsavo West and journey back to Nairobi in time for some lunch in the city. You can then spend the afternoon either exploring Nairobi or relaxing.

Itinerary

This morning you’ll depart from Tsavo West and journey back to Nairobi. I’d recommend leaving at 7am or 7:30am so that you can be back in Nairobi in time for some lunch.

There are a number of delicious eateries in Nairobi for you to enjoy. My personal favourite is Talisman Restaurant in Karen. It serves a range of Asian-inspired dishes and the setting is lovely.

You can spend the afternoon as you wish. This may be exploring or simply relaxing. If you opt to explore, a visit to the Giraffe Centre or even an afternoon safari in Nairobi National Park are great options.

Tips for Visiting Nairobi

Nairobi is a bustling capital and like with any major cities, you have to be careful about your belongings. I’d recommend only going out with minimal valuables and cash. These are best kept in a fanny pack or bum bag. Also don’t put any valuables on display.

I’d avoid going out at night as the roads can get quite hectic and this is also when crime is most likely to occur.

You can use Uber to easily get around the city and Uber Eats is a great option if you want to order a delivery service.

I personally really enjoyed my time in Nairobi!

Where to Spend the Night

There are a number of hotels and Airbnbs available in Nairobi. I always personally prefer Airbnbs as they are often cheaper and I love the personal touches you get. There are a number of highly-rated Airbnbs available in Nairobi. I’d recommend booking one in one of Nairobi’s nicer areas such as Karen.

Sunset in Amboseli National Park
Beautiful sunset in Amboseli National Park

Costs

This itinerary is slightly cheaper than the previous two itineraries as you won’t be visiting the Masai Mara, the most expensive safari destination in Kenya.

For this itinerary for two people you can expect to spend around $270 per person per day. This cost will be less if you are travelling in a larger group.

This price assumes booking with a local safari company. The costs will be higher if you opt for mid-range and budget accommodation levels.

It costs $100 + 18% tax per person per 24 hour period to visit Amboseli National Park. Park fees are similar for Tsavo West National Park.

Recommended Booking Options For This 5 Day Kenya Itinerary

Private Safari

Most popular & best experience – typical prices start from $270 per person per day.

Visit safarisbyella.com for free quotes from trustworthy local tour companies I use to book my own trips.

Ella Mckendrick with lions in Serengeti

Group (Shared) Camping Safari

Good for budget or solo travellers – from $270 per person per day.

My recommended Kenya tour operators only provide private safaris, however, I’ve listed the best group options for the most similar itinerary available, on Safari Bookings below.

Click the links below to request quotes for the group safari options on the safari bookings website.

5-Day Group Budget Western Circuit Itinerary

Jump back to the table of contents to select another 5 day itinerary to view or keep scrolling to read the next itinerary.

Zebra in Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Option 4:

5 Day Northern Circuit Highlights

Northern Kenya is very different from the rest of the country. Here you can find many rare species of animals such as Grevy zebra, Somali ostrich, Reticulated giraffe, gerenuk and the Beisa oryx.

The Northern Circuit isn’t anywhere near as popular as the Eastern and Western Circuits but in my opinion it’s extremely underrated. The fact that it’s not as popular is a big plus point as it means the parks and reserves that you visit won’t be as busy.

Kenya’s Northern Circuit visits Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the largest black rhino sanctuary on earth. This conservancy is also home to the world’s two last remaining northern white rhinos.

Next on this 5 day itinerary is Samburu National Reserve, home to the Special Five listed above. The reserve also houses all big cats (lions, leopards and cheetahs) as well as over 350 species of bird.

You’ll then visit Lake Nakuru, one of the best places to see both the black and white rhino.

Finally you’ll visit Lake Naivasha, a great place to see hippos up-close.

cheetah in Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Female cheetah resting after a successful hunt

Quick Facts

Average driving time: 3.5 hours per day

Best times of year: The long dry season between June and the end of September as well as the short dry season between December and the end of February.

Itinerary Map for 5 Day Northern Circuit Highlights

5 Day Kenya Northern Circuit Itinerary

Day By Day Breakdown for 5 Day Northern Circuit Highlights

Day 1: Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Driving time (excluding game drives): 4.5 hours

You’ll kick-start your itinerary by visiting Ol Pejeta Conservancy, home to the world’s two last remaining northern white rhinos.

Itinerary

Today you’ll leave Nairobi and journey to Ol Pejeta Conservancy which is around 4.5 hours north of Nairobi, in the foothills of Mount Kenya.

I’d recommend leaving Nairobi at around 8am so that you can arrive in Ol Pejeta in time for a hot lunch at your lodge.

After lunch you will go on a game drive in Ol Pejeta Conservancy. This is one of the best places in the world to see black rhinos and white rhinos. You can also expect to see elephants and giraffes here. Request to drive through the endangered species enclosure as this is where you can find the last remaining northern white rhinos.

Alternatively, you can go on a walking or horse riding safari. 

You’ll return to your lodge after your game drive for some dinner.

Rhino in Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Rhino in Ol Pejeta Conservancy
About Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Ol Pejeta is a 36,400-hectare non-profit conservancy that’s renowned as the best places to see rhinos in Kenya.

The conservancy has a 283-hectare endangered species enclosure that’s fenced to protect the animals within it from poachers. It’s here where you can find the world’s last remaining northern white rhinos as well as the rare Grevy’s zebra and Jackson’s wildebeest.

Ol Pejeta also has a chimpanzee sanctuary that you can visit. This is the only place where you can view chimpanzees in Kenya.

The conservancy has fitted its resident lions with radio collars so that rangers are able to track their whereabouts and ensure that they don’t leave the protection of the conservancy. You can join a ranger to track the lions either in the morning between 6:30am and 8:30am or in the evening between 3:30pm and 5:30pm.

Ol Pejeta is unique in that cattle farming has been built into its conservation plan, strategically being grazed throughout the conservancy in order to benefit the land and provide employment.

Tips for Visiting Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Ol Pejeta offers a range of activities for visitors. When you’re staying here for a mere 24 hours, it can be hard to decide what to do. My top recommendation would be to visit the endangered species enclosure to catch a glimpse of the last remaining northern white rhinos. This is the only place in the world where you can see them.

Where to Spend the Night

There are several lodges either within the conservancy itself or just outside it.

Rhinos in Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Rhinos in Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Day 2: Ol Pejeta Conservancy & Samburu National Reserve

Driving time (excluding game drives): 3 hours

You’ll spend the morning in Ol Pejeta and then journey to Samburu National Reserve in the afternoon.

Itinerary

You’ll spend the morning either on a morning game drive, horse riding safari, visiting the chimpanzee sanctuary or tracking lions with one of Ol Pejeta’s rangers. This is entirely down to your personal preference.

You’ll then enjoy some lunch in Ol Pejeta before moving to your next destination.

Samburu National Reserve is around a 3 hour drive north from Ol Pejeta.

You’ll arrive in Samburu National Reserve in the late afternoon. You will then spend the evening relaxing at your lodge.

About Samburu National Reserve

Nestled on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river, Samburu is famous for housing Kenya’s ‘Special Five’: Grevy zebra, Somali ostrich, Reticulated giraffe, gerenuk and the Beisa oryx, some of which are endangered.

Additionally, Samburu is one of the few places in Kenya where you have the opportunity to spot the extremely rare African wild dog. It’s also touted as one of the best places in the country to spot leopards.

One of the animals that is most abundant in Samburu is the African elephant.

The reserve is named after the Samburu tribe, nomadic pastoralists who live in the region.

Samburu is one of the two regions where Joy Adamson, the author of ‘Born Free’ raised Elsa the lioness.

Where to Spend the Night

There are a handful of lodges within or near to Samburu National Reserve where you can spend the night. There aren’t however many budget options available.

Rare Grevy zebra in Samburu National Reserve
Rare Grevy zebra in Samburu National Reserve

Day 3: Samburu National Reserve

Driving time (excluding game drives): 0

Today you’ll embark on a full-day game drive within Samburu National Park.

Itinerary

Wake up early to depart for your safari at 6am, when the reserve opens.

Your entry permit to Samburu is valid for 24 hours and permits multiple entry so you may wish to return to your lodge at lunch-time for a hot lunch before going out on an afternoon game drive.

Alternatively, you may wish to bring a picnic lunch with you which you can eat at a scenic picnic site within the park. I’d personally recommend this option so you have as much time as possible on safari.

Continue your safari into the evening. The reserve closes at 6pm so I recommend finishing your game drive just before the gate closes.

Tips for Visiting Samburu National Reserve

Being towards the north of Kenya, Samburu can get pretty hot. Therefore you’ll want to wear lightweight clothing. Despite this, the mornings can get a bit chilly so I’d recommend layering up for your day. I like to wear a vest top covered by a linen shirt covered by a fleece or jumper.

Wear plenty of high factor sunscreen for your safari as well as insect repellent. I recommend taking both with you for your game drive so that you can re-apply as necessary throughout the day.

Where to Spend the Night

You’ll spend another night in Samburu National Reserve.

Reticulated giraffe
Reticulated giraffe

Day 4: Lake Nakuru

Driving time (excluding game drives): 6 hours

This morning you will leave Samburu and journey to Lake Nakuru which is famous for its high concentration of flamingos as well as being a safe haven for white rhinos.

Itinerary

This morning you’ll depart from Samburu. I’d recommend leaving between 7am and 8am so that you can arrive at Lake Nakuru in time for lunch. You can either have a hot lunch at your lodge or picnic lunch at a pretty picnic spot.

After lunch you will go on a game drive in Lake Nakuru National Park. You can expect to see white rhinos, giraffes, zebras and buffalos within this park. Lions and leopards are also present but aren’t as common.

After your game drive you will have dinner at your lodge.

About Lake Nakuru

Lake Nakuru National Park houses the first ever rhino sanctuary in Kenya. Both white and black rhinos can be found here and over 100 individuals can be encountered within the park.

Lake Nakuru has only four of the Big Five, elephants not being present. It’s a haven for bird lovers, providing refuge for over 400 species, including both lesser and greater flamingos who are drawn to Lake Nakuru due to the high salt content.

Lake Nakuru National Park is located within the Great Rift Valley and the lake sits at 1,754 metres above sea level. There have been issues in recent years with the lake’s water levels increasing at alarming rates. In 2013 this caused the lake’s resident flamingos to migrate to Lake Bogoria and over 600 houses in the nearby town of Nakuru have since flooded. Erratic weather as a result of climate change is to blame.

Nakuru means ‘dusty place’ in the local Maasai language.

Where to Spend the Night

There are a number of lodges both on the outskirts of Lake Nakuru National Park and within the neighbouring town of Nakuru. Additionally, there are a couple of lodges within the park itself.

Rhinos on Safari Ant's Hill & Nest in South Africa
White rhinos are abundant in Lake Nakuru

Day 5: Lake Naivasha and Nairobi

Driving time (excluding game drives): 2 hours to Lake Naivasha followed by 2 hours to Nairobi

This morning you will journey to Lake Naivasha which is a mere 2 hours south from Lake Nakuru. You’ll then journey back to Nairobi in the afternoon.

Itinerary

This morning you’ll depart from Lake Nakuru National Park and journey to nearby Lake Naivasha. The drive takes around 2 hours.

I recommend setting off around 8am so that you’ll arrive in Lake Naivasha by mid-morning.

Once at Lake Naivasha you can take to the lake in a boat and enjoy a boat safari. You’ll get to admire hippos up-close and spot a variety of species of birds.

Within the lake is an island known as Crescend Island. You’ll have the opportunity to moor here and go on a walking safari on the island. Crescent Island is home to a number of herbivores including giraffes, zebras, gazelles, impalas and more.

Have lunch on the banks of Lake Naivasha before heading back to Nairobi. It’s around a 2 hour drive to Nairobi. You should arrive by mid-afternoon.

About Lake Naivasha

Lake Naivasha is a large freshwater lake in the Great Rift Valley. The lake is home to a large number of hippos and is popular with birdlife. Like Lake Nakuru, lake Naivasha has expanded in recent years, the surface area increasing from 139 square kilometres to 198 square kilometres within 10 years.

The lake depth is typically around 6 metres in depth. However the deepest part of the lake is beside Crescent Island and drops to 30 metres in depth.

Where to Spend the Night

Spend the night in Nairobi. There are a number of hotels and Aibnbs available in the capital city.

Yawning Hippo in Central Serengeti
Yawning hippo

Costs

This itinerary for 2 people costs around $300 per person per day. Whilst the northern parks aren’t as expensive as the southern parks, the accommodation options are more pricey in the north, especially around Samburu.

Prices assume working with a small local safari company and will vary depending on the level of accommodation chosen and number of people sharing the safari truck.

Recommended Booking Options For This 5 Day Kenya Itinerary

Private Safari

Most popular & best experience – typical prices start from $330 per person per day.

Visit safarisbyella.com for free quotes from trustworthy local tour companies I use to book my own trips.

Ella Mckendrick with lions in Serengeti

Group (Shared) Camping Safari

There are no group safaris offered for this itinerary.

Jump back to the table of contents to select another 5 day itinerary to view or keep scrolling to read the next itinerary.

Lioness with a young cub in Amboseli National Park
Lioness with a young cub in Amboseli National Park

Option 5:

Ultimate 5 Day Masai Mara Safari Itinerary

If you’d rather spend your time in one safari location for your 5 day Kenya itinerary then you really can’t go wrong with the Masai Mara. The reserve is so large that you can easily spend a couple of weeks here.

The Masai Mara is the best place to see Kenya’s big cats. Additionally it has a healthy population of elephants, giraffes, zebras and much more. If you’re lucky, you can even spot a black rhino here.

This itinerary has the least amount of driving as you will be basing yourself for 4 nights in the same location.

By cutting down on driving time, you can spend more time on game drives which increases your chances of wildlife sightings. This itinerary is therefore great for wildlife enthusiasts or photographers.

Leopard with a gazelle kill in the Masai Mara
Leopard with a gazelle kill in the Masai Mara

Quick Facts

Average driving time: 2.4 hours per day

Best times of year: Between June and the end of February.

Itinerary Map for Ultimate 5 Day Masai Mara Safari Itinerary

5 Day Kenya Masai Mara Itinerary

Day By Day Breakdown for Ultimate 5 Day Masai Mara Safari Itinerary

Day 1: Masai Mara National Reserve or Maasai Village

Driving time (excluding game drives): 6 hours

Today you will journey from Nairobi city to the Masai Mara National Reserve. This will take all morning.

For the afternoon you can either go on your first game drive within the Masai Mara or visit a Maasai boma.

Itinerary

This morning you’ll depart from Nairobi and journey west to the Masai Mara. I’d recommend leaving around 8am so you can arrive at your lodge around lunchtime, in time for a hot lunch.

On the 6 hour drive you’ll have the opportunity to stop at the Rift Valley viewpoint as well as in Narok town, the last major town before the Masai Mara.

You’ll have lunch around 2pm at your lodge.

This afternoon you can either go on an afternoon game drive or visit a nearby Maasai village.

If you opt for the game drive, I’d recommend staying out until the park closes at 6pm. The late afternoon is a great time to spot predators on the move as it’s cooler at this time of day.

Alternatively, you can visit a nearby Maasai boma and learn about the Maasai tribe and their culture. Typically on a visit to the tribe you will witness traditional song and dance, get a tour of the boma and visit a Maasai house.

About the Maasai Tribe

The Maasai tribe can be found across Kenya and northern Kenya. They are famous for their colourful robes known as shukas as well as their traditional jumping dance. The men jump to show their strength and the men who jump the highest are most favourable amongst the women.

The Maasai have a reputation for being fearsome warriors. The men carry spears and used to have to kill lions as a form of initiation into manhood. These days the killing of lions is forbidden and instead the Maasai have a huge part to play in the conservation of the Masai Mara.

The Maasai now live in harmony with nature. Losing livestock to predators is still a concern for the tribe. However, conserving the wildlife is in the tribe’s best interest as the wildlife brings in a huge source of income for the tribe as they are employed by local safari lodges.

Maasai warriors in Kenya
Maasai warriors in Kenya
Tips for Visiting the Maasai Tribe

The Maasai dress conservatively so although it isn’t strictly necessary I’d always encourage you to do the same. This simply means wearing long trousers rather than shorts.

It’s always polite to ask the Maasai if they are happy having their photographs taken. They are typically more than willing but it’s always nice to ask them first.

The Maasai are extremely proud of their culture so I’d recommend showing an interest by asking them questions.

Whilst it isn’t mandatory, tipping is generally encouraged throughout Eastern Africa. I’d therefore recommend that you tip your Maasai guide at the end of your visit.

Every Maasai boma has a market where you can purchase souvenirs. Don’t feel any pressure to purchase anything here if you don’t want to. If you are interested however, the Maasai expect you to negotiate.

Where to Spend the Night

The Talek region is a great place to base yourself for your visit to the Masai Mara. It’s a relatively central location and is close to two different gates to the Mara.

Within the Talek region there is a vast range of lodges and tented camps for you to stay at.

Alternatively, there are a handful of lodges within the reserve itself. These are typically more expensive but if you have the budget, I’d recommend it as it saves you time travelling to and from the gates in the morning and evening.

My Experience Visiting the Maasai Tribe

I’ve visited a number of Maasai villages over the years. My favourite boma that I’ve visited is a boma close to the Talek River in the Masai Mara. You can view its exact location here.

The tribe was extremely friendly and welcoming.

Whilst the tribe follow a lot of traditions, they are becoming more modernised. You’ll notice that some tribe members have mobile phones for example. This doesn’t mean that the tribe is just putting on a show for tourists but is more of a sign of how their culture is gradually changing so that they can adapt to the modern world.

I personally advocate for visiting at least one Maasai boma during your visit. Tourism is what keeps their culture alive as it gives them valuable income.

Maasai warrior with his cattle in Kenya
Maasai warrior with his cattle

Day 2-4: Masai Mara Full-Day Game Drives

Driving time (excluding game drives): 0 hours

For days 2, 3 and 4 of your itinerary you’ll be able to go on as many game drives as you wish within the Masai Mara National Reserve.

I’d recommend entering the reserve just once each day as you have to pay every time you enter the reserve. Each game drive can be as long as you like whether that’s full-day drives, morning drives or afternoon drives.

Itinerary

In order to get the most out of your visit to the Masai Mara National Reserve you may wish to go on full-day game drives for these three days.

I’d recommend arriving at the entrance gates at 6am as this is when they open. Being in the reserve at sunrise increases your chances of seeing the Masa Mara’s predators on the move as this is when they’re most active.

Leaving for such early safaris means that you’ll need to take a picnic breakfast with you. You’ll just need to let your guide know this the night before so they can inform the lodge.

Additionally, if you’re planning on being in the reserve all day you’ll need a picnic lunch.

Arrive back from your game drive in the evening and enjoy a well-earned hot dinner at your lodge.

About the Masai Mara

The Masai Mara National Reserve is one of the most famous safari destinations in the world. It’s particularly famous for its high concentration of big cats. Lions, cheetahs and leopards can all be found in high numbers within the reserve.

The Masai Mara also hosts the great wildebeest migration between mid-July and mid-September each year. When visiting the Masai Mara during this time you can expect to see millions of wildebeest and zebras grazing throughout the reserve. You can also witness them crossing the crocodile-infested Mara River.

The Big Five (lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos and buffalos) all call the Masai Mara home. Rhinos are the hardest to spot as they prefer to spend their time in dense swathes of forest.

More than 570 species of bird can be viewed in the Masai Mara.

Male lion from Topi pride in the Masai Mara
Male lion from Topi pride in the Masai Mara
Tips for Visiting the Masai Mara

The Masai Mara is one of the more expensive destinations to visit in Kenya. The reserve charges you $100 + 18% tax per person per entry between January and June and $200 + 15% tax per person per entry between July and December.

To keep costs under control I’d recommend entering the reserve just once per day. This likely means that you’ll need to bring a picnic lunch and breakfast with you that will have been prepared by your lodge.

Each permit is valid for 12 hours meaning that you can go on full-day safaris from 6am to 6pm.

The Masai Mara has biting tsetse flies so wear light-coloured clothing to avoid attracting them. Tsetse flies love dark colours such as black and navy blue. Also wear insect repellant.

Bring plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent with you on your game drives so you can reapply where necessary.

Where to Spend the Night

Spend the nights in a lodge or tented camp either within the reserve itself or very close to the gate. Talek is a great location as it has a range of lodges and is only a short drive from the gate.

My Experience Visiting the Masai Mara

I spent 6 days in the Masai Mara on safari and in this time managed to view all of the Big Five. I was glad that I allowed a number of days within the reserve as some animals are elusive and so it takes patience to view them, like the leopard and black rhino.

Elephants, lions, giraffes and buffalos are abundant so there’s a good chance you can see these animals each day, like I did.

Some of my top sightings included stumbling across a mother cheetah and her four young cubs on a number of occasions, watching a huge male lion beside a buffalo kill and finding a leopard eating a young gazelle just inches away from the road.

The Masai Mara provided me with some of my top wildlife sightings and I can’t wait to return again soon.

Young hyena resting in the Masai Mara
Young hyena resting in the Masai Mara

Day 5: Back to Nairobi

Driving time (excluding game drives): 6 hours

Today you will leave the Masai Mara and journey back to Nairobi.

Itinerary

Today you have the opportunity to take it easy. You can have a leisurely breakfast and leave your lodge in your own time.

Alternatively you can plan to leave your lodge at 8am in order to arrive in Nairobi in time for lunch.

If you opt to leave early and have an afternoon in Nairobi then you’ll have some time to explore the city.

One of my favourite things to do is to visit The Giraffe Centre, where you have the chance to hand-feed some of the sanctuary’s resident giraffes. A visit only takes an hour or two.

About Nairobi

Nairobi is a sprawling colourful city. There are a number of fabulous restaurants within the city such as Talisman Restaurant in Karen and Carnivore Restaurant in southern Nairobi.

There’s also an abundance of things to do here such as visiting The Giraffe Centre, Elephant Orphanage, Nairobi National Park and much more.

Tips for Visiting Nairobi

Nairobi is a wonderful city and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.

Still, when you visit a large city you need to be cautious about your belongings. Don’t walk around with any valuables on display and don’t take excessive items out with you – just bring what you need. I’d recommend bringing a bum bag or fanny pack to store your valuables like your phone and passport when out and about.

Avoid going out after dark. This applies for both walking around and driving as not only is crime more likely to occur at night but so are car accidents.

There are a couple of neighbourhoods in Nairobi to avoid such as Kibera and Eastleigh.

In terms of getting around, Uber is a great choice. Ubers are reasonably priced and very frequent.

Uber Eats is available if you want to order a takeaway or even have shopping delivered to your doorstep.

Where to Spend the Night

There are an array of hotels and Airbnbs in Nairobi where you can spend the night.

Cheetah cubs in the Masai Mara
Cheetah cubs in the Masai Mara

Costs

This itinerary is the most expensive out of all of the options. For two people you can expect to pay $360 per person per day. 

The costs are largely as a result of the Masai Mara park fees which are $100 + 18% tax per person per entry between January and June and $200 + 18% tax per person per entry between July and December.

Prices assume working with a small local safari company and will vary depending on the level of accommodation chosen and number of people sharing the safari truck.

Recommended Booking Options For This 5 Day Kenya Itinerary

Private Safari

Most popular & best experience – typical prices start from $360 per person per day.

Visit safarisbyella.com for free quotes from trustworthy local tour companies I use to book my own trips.

Ella Mckendrick with lions in Serengeti

Group (Shared) Camping Safari

There are no group safaris available for this itinerary.

Jump back to the table of contents to select another 5 day itinerary to view or keep scrolling to read the next itinerary.

Me having a picnic lunch on safari in the Masai Mara, Kenya
Me having a picnic lunch on safari

Option 6:

5 Day Safari & Beach Itinerary

This 5 day itinerary includes some time spent on safari as well as some time on one of the best beaches in Kenya. It’s perfect for those who like to have some time to unwind in paradise at the end of their safari.

The itinerary starts by visiting Amboseli National Park, arguably the best national park in Kenya. Here you can view huge herds of elephants and, if you’re lucky, fantastic views of Kilimanjaro.

You’ll then journey to Tsavo West National Park, home to the Big Five (elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards and rhinos).

Finally, you’ll visit Diani Beach which is often referred to as the best beach in Kenya. The waters are crystal clear and perfect for snorkelling.

Elephant and her calf crossing the road in Amboseli National Park
Elephant and her calf crossing the road in Amboseli National Park

Quick Facts

Average driving time: – hours per day

Best times of year: The long dry season between June and the end of September as well as the short dry season between December and the end of February.

Itinerary Map for 5 Day Safari & Beach Itinerary

5 Day Kenya Safari and Beach Itinerary

Day By Day Breakdown for 5 Day Safari & Beach Itinerary

Day 1: Amboseli National Park

Driving time (excluding game drives): 5 hours

This itinerary starts by leaving Nairobi and visiting Amboseli National Park which is a 5 hour drive south east from the city.

Itinerary

You’ll depart from Nairobi at around 8am and drive to Amboseli National Park. The drive will take around 5 hours but can fluctuate depending on how busy the roads are. The main highway between the two locations is single-carriageway which means that traffic jams are common.

You’ll arrive at Amboseli National Park in time for some lunch at your lodge.

After lunch, you’ll go on an afternoon game drive within the park. The late afternoon is a great time to go on safari in Amboseli as at around 5pm the park’s elephants make their way from the heart of the park to the forests below Kilimanjaro. You’ll get to witness them cross the road which is a magical sight.

Your game drive will end when the gates to the park close at 6pm.

You can then have dinner at your lodge.

About Amboseli National Park

Amboseli National Park is home to some of the largest herds of African elephants in the world. There are few places on earth which have as high a density of elephants. Not only that, but Amboseli’s elephants have unusually large tusks, some nearly touching the ground.

Amboseli is also popular because of the views of Kilimanjaro that you can get. The largest mountain in Africa towers over the park.

In the centre of Amboseli is a large swamp which provides a permanent water source for the wildlife. This year-round supply of water is what keeps animal numbers high throughout the year.

Two young male elephants sparring in Amboseli National Park
Two young male elephants sparring in Amboseli National Park
Tips for Visiting Amboseli National Park

The best time to go on safari in Amboseli is early in the morning and late in the afternoon. This is because the elephants are on the move at these times and can be viewed up-close. They typically start crossing the main road through Amboseli to reach the swamps between 6:30am and 7am and then return at around 5pm.

It can get pretty hot when on safari in Amboseli so I’d recommend wearing lightweight breathable clothing. The mornings in contrast can be quite cold so you’ll need to wear a couple of layers.

Wear high-factor sunscreen and insect repellent for your game drives and bring them with you on your safari so you can top-up throughout the day.

Where to Spend the Night

There are a couple of lodges within the park which is an ideal location to base yourself.

Just outside Amboseli’s eastern Kimana Gate is also a good location. There are a number of lodges and tented camps here, ranging from budget to luxury. This is a great place to stay as it’s close to the area where the elephants cross into Amboseli.

My Experience Visiting Amboseli National Park

I had an incredible couple of days on safari in Amboseli. Seeing so many elephants marching across the savannah is a sight that will stay with me forever. It’s also incredible how close they get to the vehicles.

I can’t tell you how many elephants I saw. There were numerous herds made up of elephants of different ages. I even saw a tiny baby that was only a couple of weeks old. In contrast, I also saw some huge bull elephants!

Amboseli is also home to a number of predators. Lions, cheetahs and hyenas can be found here. I saw three individual cheetahs and witnessed each one of them hunt. I also saw a pride of lions with very young cubs which was an extremely heart-warming sight.

Male cheetah on the hunt in Amboseli National Park
Male cheetah on the hunt in Amboseli National Park

Day 2: Amboseli National Park & Tsavo West National Park

Driving time (excluding game drives): 4 hours

Today you’ll have a morning safari in Amboseli before journeying to Tsavo West National Park after lunch.

Itinerary

Embark on an early morning game drive in Amboseli National Park. Aim to enter the park gates between 6am and 6:30am. You’ll then be in time to witness the elephants make their way to the swaps in the centre of the park.

You will then continue your safari, looking for Amboseli’s other residents. Giraffes, zebras, baboons and gazelles are some of the many animals you can expect to encounter.

Enjoy a picnic lunch at Observation Hill where you can sit with sweeping views over the park.

You’ll then leave Amboseli National Park and make the 4 hour journey east to Tsavo West National Park.

You’ll arrive at your lodge in Tsavo West by late afternoon, in time for a nice hot dinner.

About Tsavo West National Park

Tsavo West National Park along with Tsavo East National Park make-up Tsavo National Park, the biggest national park in Kenya, spanning 22,812 square kilometres. The two parks are divided up by the highway between Nairobi and Mombasa as well as a railway line.

You can find the Big Five in Tsavo West (lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalos) as well as cheetahs, hyenas, giraffes, zebras and more.

Tsavo is home to the world’s only ‘red elephants’. Don’t be fooled, they may look red in appearance but beneath the dust and mud they look just like regular elephants. It’s Tsavo’s distinctive red sand which gives them their russet colour.

Tsavo West has a varied topography. You can find grasslands, forests, hillocks, fresh water springs and much more.

Where to Spend the Night

Spend the night in a lodge or tented camp either within Tsavo West National Park or just outside it.

Lone giraffe in Tarangire National park
A giraffe and an impala

Day 3: Tsavo West National Park

Driving time (excluding game drives): 0 hours

Today you have the full day to explore Tsavo West National Park.

Itinerary

Depart early for your full-day game drive. I’d recommend entering the park at 6am when the gate opens.

Take a picnic breakfast and lunch with you so that you can have maximum time on safari. You’ll just need to let your guide know this the night before so that they can make arrangements with your lodge.

You’ll meander through the park for the duration of the day, looking-out for Tsavo’s residents.

Finish your game drive at 6pm when the park gates close.

You’ll then return to your lodge for some dinner.

Tips for Visiting Tsavo West National Park

It can get pretty hot when on safari in Tsavo West so wear lightweight breathable clothing as well as a cap or sunhat.

Apply plenty of high-factor sunscreen and insect repellent before your safari and bring the tubes with you so that you can reapply throughout the day.

Unlike many parks which can be visited year-round, I’d strictly visit Tsavo West in the dry season as the roads are prone to flooding. The best time to visit is between June and the end of September.

Where to Spend the Night

Spend another night in a lodge either within Tsavo West or on the outskirts of the park.

Eland in Tarangire National Park
A beautiful eland, the biggest antelope in Africa

Day 4: Diani Beach

Driving time (excluding game drives): 6 hours

Today you will journey to Diani Beach for an afternoon of relaxation.

Itinerary

Depart from your lodge in Tsavo West between 7am and 8am. This enables you to arrive in Diani around lunchtime.

The drive takes roughly 6 hours but can vary depending on the traffic. This is one of the reasons that I recommend setting off early – so you can beat the queues.

Once in Diani, you can have a relaxing meal in one of the many beach-front restaurants. Nomad Beach Bar & Restaurant is one of the highest-rated restaurants on this stretch of coast.

You can then spend the afternoon unwinding. There are a number of coral reefs for you to snorkel on. The best beach is called Nomad Beach and is in front of Nomad Beach Bar.

Alternatively you may simply wish to relax on the beach and have a relaxing swim in the ocean.

About Diani Beach

Famed for its white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters, Diani Beach was voted as the best beach destination in Africa for 5 years in a row since 2015.

The beach stretches for a whopping 17 kilometres, from the Kongo River in the north to Galu Beach in the south.

There’s a variety of things to do in Diani, including stand-up paddleboarding, kite surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving and even skydiving.

Where to Spend the Night

There are a number of hotels and guesthouses in Diani, including many on the beachfront itself.

Diani Beach on Kenya's coast
Diani Beach on Kenya’s coast

Day 5: Back to Nairobi

Driving time (excluding game drives): 10 hours or 1 hour flight

Today you will leave Diani and journey back to Nairobi. It’s a lengthy drive back so I’d instead recommend flying back to Nairobi which is much shorter.

Itinerary

If you’re driving to Nairobi then you’ll need to leave Diani early in the morning, around 7am. The driving time is greatly affected by how busy the roads are as the majority of the journey is on a single-lane highway that’s extremely popular with large cargo trucks departing from Mombasa sea-port.

Leaving earlier gives you an opportunity to miss some of the traffic. It also increases your chances of arriving in Nairobi before dark. I’d always recommend avoiding driving at night where possible.

The more efficient option would be to take a flight back to Nairobi. There’s an airport just outside of Diani called Ukunda Airport. Direct flights run between Ukunda Airport and both Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport, Nairobi’s two airports.

Flights take just over an hour and cost between $45 and $70 per person.

There are several flights per day so you could take a morning flight and then explore Nairobi or you may wish to take an afternoon flight and thus have a morning in Diani.

Where to Spend the Night

Spend the night in Nairobi. There are a number of hotels and Airbnbs available.

Zebras grazing in the Masai Mara at sunrise
Zebras grazing at sunrise

Costs

The cost for this itinerary for two people will start at around $300 per person per day, assuming that you drive between Diani and Nairobi. The cost will be more if you go with the option of flying back to Nairobi.

Prices assume working with a small local safari company and will vary depending on the level of accommodation chosen and number of people sharing the safari truck.

Recommended Booking Options For This 5 Day Kenya Itinerary

Private Safari

Most popular & best experience – typical prices start from $300 per person per day.

Visit safarisbyella.com for free quotes from trustworthy local tour companies I use to book my own trips.

Ella Mckendrick with lions in Serengeti

Group (Shared) Camping Safari

There are no group safaris available for this itinerary.

Is 5 Days Enough in Kenya?

Yes, 5 days is enough to visit some amazing safari destinations in Kenya and have the chance of seeing some incredible wildlife sightings.

Whilst 5 days is technically enough time, a 7 – 10 day Kenya itinerary would be the optimum amount of time if you want to really immerse yourself in the wildlife and culture of the country.

If you wanted to incorporate Kenya and neighbouring Tanzania into one safari, whilst that’s technically possible in 5 days, you would ideally need 7 – 10 days to visit both countries.

How to Book a 5 day Safari Itinerary in Kenya?

I personally like to book my African safaris through local tour operators. I find this gives the best combination of good value for money whilst still providing an exceptional experience.

Whilst it is possible to book a safari by yourself, there are a lot of components involved and variables to consider. Given the savings between DIY safaris and safaris organised by local tour operators are extremely minimal, I don’t think it’s worth the hassle.

The third option would be to book through an international travel agency. This is by far the most expensive option and often the international companies outsource the safaris to local tour operators anyway, so essentially you’re having the same experience as if you’d just gone straight to a local operator but are paying a lot more for it.

Weighing up all options, booking through a local safari company is the best option, in my opinion. However, not all safari operators are created equal. I’ve had experiences with a variety of different tour operators and have learnt a lot about what to look for.

You can get quotes from the local tour companies I use to book my own trips and who I highly recommend on safarisbyella.com

Private vs Group Kenya 5 day Safaris

Private safaris are by far the most popular option. The flexibility to completely customise your itinerary makes this option preferable for most travellers.

With private safaris you have control over everything: which lodges you stay at, which parks and reserves you visit, what times you set off for drives including game drives, how long you stay at sightings and which sightings to prioritise.

With group safaris all of these things are fixed.

With private safaris you also tend to get better quality vehicles and more knowledgeable guides. As a result, you are more likely to have a better safari experience.

You can request quotes for private safaris from the local tour operators I use on safarisbyella.com

Group safaris involve joining a pre-scheduled trip which has a certain number of slots available. You will be joining other travellers which is quite nice if you are travelling to meet people or as a solo traveller.

Group safaris are cheaper than private safaris and typically cost between $180 and $250 per person per day for budget camping safaris. The cost saving is particularly noticeable if you are a solo traveller.

Do note that group safaris are aimed more towards budget travellers so accommodation options will be budget and not always have the best facilities.

If you’d like to consider a group safari, here are my recommended 5-day group safari options.

How Much Does a 5 day Kenya Safari Itinerary Cost?

For a budget private safaris with two adults in low season (January to June), the costs start from $260 per person per day (full board but excluding external flights, visas, tips, alcohol) so that would equate to $1,300 per person for a 5 day safari. In high season this will go up to $300 per person per day.

For a mid-range private safari for two adults in low season prices start at around $350 per person per day which equates to $1,250 for the 5 days. In high season this will go up to$450 per person per day.

A pair of lions in the Masai Mara
A pair of lions in the Masai Mara

Final Thoughts

Kenya is a fantastic destination for a first-time safari. It has a range of national parks and reserves, each unique and teeming with life.

With so much to see and do at each destination included in these itineraries, you really can’t go wrong with any of the 5 day itineraries above!

If you’re still undecided about which African destination to go on safari, you may be interested in my 5 day Tanzania itineraries

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