Road trips allow you to experience the magic of Kenya from the luxury of a safari vehicle. They allow you to travel from the country’s bustling city streets into its calm and quaint villages. The best road trips in Kenya take you through roadsides littered with picturesque landscapes, grazing animals, and colorful people.
And the best part, day trips in Kenya are affordable. For instance, Nairobi based travel agencies such as AjKenyasafaris.com and MasaiMarasafari.in offer road trip packages for as low as $30 per person in a small group of 8 people. But which are the best road trips to take in Kenya?
Nairobi to Sarova Shaba in Samburu
- Distance: 355 Kilometers
- Duration: 5Hrs
- Routes: Nairobi – Nyeri – Nanyuki – Isiolo – Samburu
Kenya’s northern frontier is largely unexplored, mainly due to its long distances from Nairobi and the unforgiving terrains. Well, that’s exactly how road trippers love it. A trip to Samburu is long and winding, with plenty of picturesque scenes to glimpse along the way.
You’ll begin your journey along the Thika Superhighway and proceed to Thika town. There isn’t so much to see along this stretch in terms of landscapes, but that suddenly changes as you approach Thika town. From Thika, you’ll drive along the Kenol – Sagana – Karatina road on your way to Nyeri town. The peaks of Mount Kilimambogo protruding into the horizon are not to be missed. And as you arrive in Nyeri, you’ll be treated to the imposing sights of the iconic Mount Kenya.
Drive on to Nanyuki as you marvel at the numerous ranches that lie along the way, then enter Isiolo town. Here, you can make a stopover before doing the final stretch, which is short but challenging.
Sarova Shaba is located in the middle of a volcanic desert. However, as you approach the lodge, the scenery immediately changes into lush greenery, thanks to the presence of an oasis and many natural springs flowing through the lodge, some of which are part of the Ewaso Nyiro River. The main activities here include game drives, swimming, and board games.
Nairobi to iKweta Safari Camp in Meru National Park
- Distance: 280 kilometers
- Duration: 5Hours
- Routes: Nairobi – Thika – Nyeri – Nanyuki – Meru
This is the excellent Kenya safari from Nairobi for anyone looking to conquer the northeastern regions of Kenya. The journey follows the same paths as the Nairobi – Samburu road trip. But instead of driving to Isiolo from Nanyuki this time, you’ll drive to Meru, a distance of 77 kilometers from Nanyuki town.
Meru National Park is located east of Meru town, and the iKweta Safari Camp lies right within the park. You’ll mostly plan your tours around the park from this camp.
Like most game parks in Kenya, Meru National Park teems with a vast collection of wildlife. It’s one of the best parks to sight Africa’s Big 5 – lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, and rhinos (both the eastern black rhinoceros and the southern white rhinoceros). Other animals you can see within the park include the Grévy’s zebra, cheetahs, hippopotamuses and more.
And game drives aren’t the only attraction at the park, as you can also tour the Adamson’s Falls, as well as view Mount Kenya and the Tana River from a distance.
A road trip to Meru National Park is also one that’s punctuated by the nostalgic memories of conservationists George and Joy Adamson, the duo that gave theirs all towards raising Elsa the Lioness. The park was actually the setting for the sensational book and movie by Joy Adamson, titled Born Free. After your eventful day, retreat to iKWETA Safari Camp for a taste of delicious bush meals.
Nairobi to Tortilis Safari Camp in Amboseli National Park
- Distance: 232 Kilometers
- Duration: 4 ½ Hours
- Routes: Nairobi – Emali – Amboseli
There’s something unique about the Nairobi – Amboseli road trip.
You’ll likely exit Nairobi along Mombasa Road, where you’ll drive all the way to Emali. Some of the highlights as you leave Nairobi include the bustling Maasai Market located at Uchumi Capital Center and the Nairobi National Park that’s visible from a distance.
However, it’s from Emali that your sightseeing tours actually begin. The 90-kilometers stretch features stunning landscapes and lush vegetation. As you enter Amboseli, you’ll be welcomed by the park’s iconic wildlife – the African elephants.
Amboseli is famous for hosting Africa’s largest concentration of free-ranging elephants and is the perfect place to encounter these gentle giants in their raw elements. And just like the Masai Mara National Park, Amboseli teems with many other animal and bird species. Examples include zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, etc.
After your wildlife sightseeing tours, you can drive to the Observation Hill, which is a vantage point from where you can observe the towering peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro. You can then retreat to Tortilis Safari Camp for a perfect sundowner, after which you’ll be treated to delicious bush meals.
Nairobi to the Siana Conservancy in Masai Mara
- Distance: 260 Kilometers
- Duration: 5Hours
- Routes: Nairobi – Mai Mahiu – Narok – Masai Mara
Maasai Mara is Kenya’s defining game park. And while game drives are the main activity at the park, there are many other things to do, including hot air balloon rides, safari walks, camping, to mention but a few.
But Masai Mara is so expansive that you cannot possibly explore it in a day. Masaimarasafari.in has identified hotspots in the park where you’ll get a great view of all the action. And apart from the Mara River and the Mara Intrepids, another popular spot the company recommends is Siana Conservancy.
Your trip to Siana will pass through a couple of interesting places, including the Mai Mahiu viewpoint, where you can make a stopover to behold the grandeur of the Great Rift Valley. You’ll then proceed to Narok town before exiting the highway and taking the Narok-Sekenani road. Then, drive towards the eastern side of the Masai Mara to the Siana Group Ranch, where the conservancy is located.
As you approach the conservancy, you’ll be greeted by the sights and sounds of elephants, impalas, and lots of endemic birds, such as the Grey-crowned crane. Masai morans, adorned in full regalia, will facilitate your tours around the conservancy. And when night falls, you can retreat to your lodge, have dinner and then go on night game drives. Some of the animals you’ll sight at night include impalas, kestrels, and African scops owl.
Ideally, plan a 3 day Masai Mara safari to get a quick introduction to the wonders of the Mara. If budget and time are not a constraint, a 4 day Masai Mara safari from Nairobi works the best. It allows you enough time to take in all the wonders of the Mara at a relaxed pace.
Nairobi to Lake Nakuru
- Distance: 170 kilometers
- Duration: 3 ½ Hours
- Routes: Nairobi – Naivasha – Nakuru
Nairobi – Nakuru road trip is a special recommendation for travelers who’re looking to unlock the gems that lie in western Kenya. And while Nakuru is nestled about halfway between Nairobi and the western outposts of the country, this road trip isn’t short of exciting things to do and places to go.
One of the greatest highlights is Naivasha town, located around 120 kilometers from Nairobi. As you drive through the town, you’ll be enticed by the beautiful sights of Lake Naivasha, which is one of the freshwater lakes on the floor of the Rift Valley. Just a few kilometers away lies another lake, Lake Elementaita. But the main action is at Lake Nakuru, which is a bird’s paradise.
Lake Nakuru is famous for its large flocks of pink flamingos, which makes it the best spot to go on an Easter road trip in Kenya. The lake is also part of Lake Nakuru National Park, a designated World Heritage Site. Besides the beautiful flamingos, you can also see numerous other animals here, such as hippos, impalas, warthogs, Rothschild giraffes, etc.
The Baboon cliff, which is situated within the park is an excellent spot to perch yourself and enjoy the sweeping views of the lush greenery around the park, as well as the Menengai Crater.
Being a leading safari destination in Africa, there are definitely more road trip ideas in Kenya that you can explore. However, the ones we’ve reviewed here should feature in your itinerary, as they follow some of the country’s less-traveled paths. If your plan is to go for game drives, opt to use a safari land cruiser or safari van with a pop up roof for optimal game viewing. However, if your plan is to explore Nairobi, Mombasa, or Naivasha, smaller vehicles such as the Nissan Note, Toyota Harrier, Mazda CX-5, Suzuki Alto, Honda Fit or the Toyota Vitz are okay.