TIPs for planning a cheap safari in Kenya. Masai Mara. Nairobi.

 If you are planning a safari trip in Kenya, these tips can help you saving money. Keep in mind this:
  • Budget safaris in Kenya are not really cheap. They can´t be, cause game parks fees  are expensive, 50-80 $/pp (24 hours). Then had accommodation (outside the parks, 10 $/pp minimum, cause inside it´s 30$/pp/night camping!), transport, food, car fees (4$/day more)... That´s why a safari tour is Kenya nowdays is high in price, even if you go on your own car. True, offer in Nairobi is big, hundred of safari companies.
    Our Self-drive safari in South Africa
  • Nairobi is the main place to book. With Jomo Kenyatta International Airport just 20 km east its center, famous protected areas 150-300 km from Nairobi, Arusha (Tanzania) just 270 km south with Kilimanjaro and other world famous parks around. Nairobi is not only the capital of Kenya but also an important tourist hub in Africa. The main place to book a safari tour in Kenya.. 
  • How much cost a budget safari tour from Nairobi? Prices in Nairobi are more o less fixed, starting from 120 $/pp/day and usually based in a 3 days/2 nights tour and it will be hard to make the price lower. Final price usually depends of the parks where you are going (most of the budget tours just go to Masai Mara area, adding maybe Nakuru too), the quality of service (transport, room, food, etc.), season of the year and if more people have already booked the tour (this will give you the opportunity to bargain more with the agency). Usually, each person of your group will have paid a different price, just ask them, depending of your negatiation skills. Try a few companies in Nairobi, bargain. With a "budget" tour in Kenya, you will probably travel in a open-roof van for 9 passengers (no jeep), have a basic room in a camp outside the main gates.
  • Tanzania, Kenya or other Africa countries for a budget safari? It seems that budget safari tours in Tanzania, from Arusha heading to Ngorongoro, Serengeti and other surrounding parks are a bit more expensive, for 150 $/pp/day and people complain more about the service in Tanznia than in Kenya. But, if looking for something really cheap and have more freedom, head to southern Africa: game park fees are much lower (10-20 $ in average), good maps, easy and cheap to rent a car in South Africa and travel around neighbor countries like Botswana and Namibia, wonderful camps (with pools).We loved so much being the explorers, discover by ourselves the animals (no jeeps, no tours, no radios, no navigation, fantastic!). This is what we did and in average it cost us 30$/pp/day, self-drive with freedom (even around 10h game driving).
  • What about booking my Kenya budget safari online? Better in advance or in Nairobi? Nairobi is quite different than Arusha. Nairobi is too big, unsafe, and there´s no special street with all the safari compnaies. So it can be harder and get more tired to find your tour! Negotiating at the airport (there are always guys around) can be more expensive. So, our recomendation is to do some online searching in advance, to have an idea of which place to go once in Nairobi, negotiate and book. Always check before about the company, references, ask questions and conditions. Same if booking online, keep in touch with the contact, and specially agree about how much money you need to pay in advance. 
    • Can I get to Kenya park gates by public transport? Depends where but most of the time, yes you can! You can reach Nairobi NP, Nakuru NP, even main gates of Masai Mara and Tsavo NP by matatu! Same for Hell´s Gate NP. Good news for independent low-cost travellers!!! And there are even a few affordable camps around the gates or cheap lodges in close towns! Then you will need a car inside the game parks, but you can always negotiate in the camps for a game drive! Hald independent-organised way to visit parks!
      Our Self-drive safari in Namibia
    • Rent a car and do self-drive safaris in Kenya?. It´s not too usual to rent a car in Kenya but prices are getting down. You can get a sedan small car for 50 $/day and a bit more for a 4WD. Check! It can be interesting if you are a group (at least 4), sharing the costs and having more freedom than on an organised tour. For sure you´ll do longer game drives! Remember that costs will be: rental+petrol (around 1$/l)+car fee in park 400 Sh (4 $) + person fee in park+accommodation (you should be able to camp for 10-15$/pp/night in tourists camps outside the park... even to get a cheaper room in small towns) + food. Anyway... not many independent travellers head to game parks in Kenya or Tanzania...or Eastern Africa... it´s even hard to get a map!

    We didn´t visit any national park in Kenya as we found it too expensive compared with Southern Africa and also there it´s easier to visit by your own (we don´t like organised tours so much).
    But here´s some information we got while travelling in Kenya and hope it will help you!

       MASAI MARA and other Kenya NP: some information and references    

    Masai-Mara is the most famous game area of Kenya, for sure. Crowded cause not too big, with many reserves to get a bit confused, entrance fee in all is 80$/pp/day

    Expect to be surrounded by many jeeps in the most visited Masai Mara National Reserve. All jeeps nowdays have radios and you can´t imagine the traffic jams around lions! Nakuru National Park (also 80$/pp/day fee) is highly visited cause close to Nairobi (once famous for its flamingos... not many left) and so does Nairobi National Park (50 $/pp/day). 

    Amboseli National Park (80$/pp/day) is famous for the Kilimanjaro views with wild life around (you don´t find that in Tanzania side, populated). Aberdare National Park north of Nairobi is less visited (65 $) and so does the huge Tsavo (East, West, 75$) between Nairobi and Mombasa. And other remote parks and private reserves.


    All the protectes areas have a fee of 80$/pp/24 hours and 400 sh/24 hours (around 4 $) for a small car.
    Fee is "reduced", 70$, if staying in lodges and camps inside, but no discount if camping areas!
    Campsite fees: 30-40 $/pp/night + night security rangers 4.000 sh (400 $!!!).

    Hard to be an independent and low-cost visitor inside the gates! Fortunatly, also outside the gates there´s accommodation, not that expensive.
    Information is often confused about fees, areas, gates, access, transport, transit... not easy to check if you are inside or outside which protected area. They want to make it hard without a safari tour company! Good luck with your search! Try to enquire well if travelling on your own, not to pay double fees!

    TIPS for Masai Mara if on a tight budget and not wanting to join a tour from Nairobi:

    - Head to Narok (matatus from Nairobi, Nakuru, etc.).
    - Get to Sekenani Gate or Talek Gate, there are matatus from Narok (500sh-5$, 3-4h).
    - Sleep in the Sekenani camps or Talek camps (outside gates): there are a few affordable ones. Camping will be the cheapest option, for around 700 sh/pp/night (7$). Bring food from town and cook.
    - Join a game drive from the camps: there are vehicles, leaving everyday, to visit the protected areas. There will be more travellers to share with... and shouln´t cost more than 25 $/pp/day if you are a group... Plus the entrance fee of 80$/pp/24 hours.
    This will be cheaper than joining a tour from Nairobi!

    • Masai Mara is not a national park, not managed by KWS. In fact, it´s divided in different reserves, public and private, each one with an entrance fee (political and economic divisions in Masai land!). Even if the extension of protected areas is really small! Serengeti National Park, south of the Mara River, is the Tanzania side,much bigger.
    • Public areas are (single protected area with two autonomous managment):
      •  Masai Mara National Reserve (managed by Narok County Council), the most visited area. Sekenani gate is where the headquarters are, Talek Gate is the other important gate.
      • Mara Triangle (managed by Mara Conservancy), northwest of Mara river, less visited.
    • Other private reserves and conservancies: Lemek, Olare Orok, Mara North, Nuboisho, Ol Kynyei.

    • Migrations in Masai Mara & Serengeti: no borders and no fences for wild animals! Famous for the Mara River crossing, with thousand of wildbeests.
      July and august is the up north migration season and October the down south route. These are the important dates to know. So depending of what month of the year, animals will more abundant in Kenya or in Tanzania. Keep this well in mind! Summer gets really very crowded of tourists, expect even higher prices. The Sand River Gate (Tanzania border, to Serengeti) is usually closed to visitors.
    • Narok is the main access town to Masai Mara area, 90 km northeast of Masai Mara principal gates, and almost 200 km west of Nairobi. The road between Nakuru and Narok is in bad conditions (every year, floodings), but OK for 2WD (many sfari companies use normal 2WD vans).There´s public transport from Narok to Sekenani gate and Talek gate, cause also small villages (matatus, around 500 sh, but it can take 3-4 hours to do the 90 km!).
    • Flights to Masai Mara: there are at least 8 small airstrips! Mainly small flights from Nairobi, expensive (around 300 $ return).
    • You need a car: to visit the protected areas. Many safari companies use normal vans, 2WD, so maybe a normal sedan car could be enough too, at least in dry season! Sure, much better with a 4x4. If you want to visit on your own, it´s possible: rent a car and do self-driving visit! 
    • You can hire a car+driver at the camps (inside and outside the gates). Outside, they should cost around 100-150 $/day, depending of number of passengers (usually 6 passengers). It can be interesting if you form a group to share the cost.
    • Accommodation outside gates: mostly at Sekenani and Talek Gates, these are probably the best places to stay if you are on a tight budget. 
    - Outside Sekenani Gate: there are a few not too expensive camps, at least 4 camps,  like Mara Explorers, Mara Springs Safari Camp. Camping with your own tent is the cheapest option, around  700 sh/pp. For a tented room, you will pay at least 1.500-3.000 sh/pp (shared or self-contained). 
    - Outside Talek Gate: a few camps also not too expensive, with similar prices. Aruba Mara Camp, RiverSide Camp, Crocodile Camp.

     -  Outside other gates, accommodation is usually expensive and so does inside the protected areas!
    NOTE: Bad news for Masai Mara in 2015. According to local newspapers that we read in may 2015 while travelling in Kenya, Masai Mara area is suffering a big drought. The Mara river levels are really low and some animals are dying. So maybe this year the famous river crossing will not be so impressive.


    The biggest city in East Africa, but don´t expect to much of it, like often in Africa cities. And mot many things to see as a tourist. Just an arrival/departure point and the place to negotiate your safari tour in Kenya (if joining one).
    The center is quite compact, just a few avenues and streets. Good highways around but terrible traffic jams in the center. 
    You find everything you need in Nairobi. Many embassies there. A lot of big supermarkets everywhere around! Food, lodges for any budget.

    "Nairobbery": always be carefull if walking around, the city has a bad reputation. Our couchsurfing host told us that many surfers got stolen. Luckly , we had no problems, even transfering in the center and taking public buses during the day. But don´t bring expensive valuables and don´t get out at night.

    Public Transport in Nairobi:

    Many matatus and local buses all over the big city. The main station (stage) is in the city center.

    Expect traffic jam to get inside/outside at rush hours (7:00-9:00 and 16:30-19:30 weekdays). 
    Just ask the drivers to find your vehicle.

    We travelled by public buses and vans in Nairobi and had no problem, safe during day light! 

    Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by public transport
    20 km east of the center, access via Mombasa Rd (off road, 4 km north).
    A few companies have direct buses to the airport from the city center (60 Sh).  
    Or transfer: there are many local buses and matatus along Mombasa Road (30 sh) and then take an airport bus for the last 4 km (25 Sh).
    A taxi to the airport will cost around 1.500-2.000 sh. 

    Couchsurfing in Nairobi:

    A big community at first glance, but always double check. 
    There are many local people who work in safari agencies and will for sure try to sell you something. You will read negative references of some hosts in Nairobi. A few surfers got stolen while doing CS in Nairobi! Please take precautions, don´t let any valuables! 
    Also a few active foreigners hosts in Nairobi.

    We stayed with Prateek (India), nice experience. Thanks!

    Don´t expect wilderness, it´s just south of Nairobi´s center.
    Entrance fee: 50$/pp/day. 
    Good point: you can visit it by taxi! 
    We didn´t go!


    1. Nice post.This is a very good trip under low budget.It provides a lots of fun and experience.I was very thankful to you.

    2. Its was really good job if someone is planning to go to visit Nairobi then definitely he/she want Cheap Nairobi Flights.

    3. Great post with really exciting things about Holiday Plan. I want to try all these choices of yours. Thanks for sharing this one.
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    4. very interesting,good job and thanks for sharing such a good blog.
      Planning A Trip To Kenya


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