The word safari comes from Swahili: it means ‘journey’, which in turn came from the Arabic سفر (safar), which means ‘a journey’. If you were to travel to Kenya without going on safari, it would be like going on a journey with your eyes closed.

The first white people who arrived here were hunters. They went of safari to hunt for wild animals, and Kenya was the best place to do so. These days a safari is a game drive through a nature reserve, where you only look for wild animals to admire them.

Meeting an elephant.
Meeting an elephant. Greg Marshall

Safaris often start early in the morning. There are different reasons for that. First of all, it’s still quite cool and so many animals are up and about looking for food. Secondly, it’s possible you might still see some nocturnal animals, as well as animals that have just woken up.

There is also much better light to take photos, because the bright midday sun does not result in great pictures. And when it gets too hot, most animals find a cool place to hide, so you’re less likely to see them. And all the predators only hunt when it’s cool, so you won’t see them either.

A safari can take place in an open jeep, with lots of space to look around and take photos, or you can be in a closed jeep where you can take photos out of the opening in the roof. The drivers are very skilled at spotting animals, and they’ll search the plains, trees and shrubs to find them for you.

Some safaris also include a special spotter, who will sit at the front of the jeep and will also look down at the sand to look for animal footprints. Especially those of predators such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, African wild dogs and hyenas.

Zebras in Maasai Mara in Kenya.
Zebras in Maasai Mara in Kenya. Corno van den Berg

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is a world-famous safari destination. This is because you can see many different animals here, including the Big Five: lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo. But also many other animals that you would normally only see in a zoo.

Of course there are other options for a safari: there’s Tsavo East NP (famous for its eliphants), Lake Nakuru NP (lots of flamingos, which in turn attract other animals), Amboseli NP (lots of big game such as elephants, buffalo and giraffes), and the relatively unknown Shaba National Reserve (zebras and the rare William’s lark).