From your first glimpse of lions prowling the sweeping savannahs to antelope bounding through cool rainforests, from the birds and baboons filling the tropical jungle to the dolphins leaping about you in a dazzling marine reserve, these national parks are a life-sustaining marvel and a source of awe for all who visit.

The Great Migration

It’s the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth, and you can witness this massive yearly migration of millions of animals seeking +sustenance and survival at the great parks of the Masai Mara and Serengeti. See the cycles of life play out as thundering herds of wildebeests cross the Mara River some falling prey to the submerged crocodiles below.

There are so many ways to view the wildlife in these national parks. You’ve probably seen pictures of game drives and walking safaris, but how about a biking safari past the grazing zebra at Hell’s Gate Park or a safari on horseback, riding past the rhinos at Lake Naivasha Park?

Not all the parks lend themselves to traditional safaris or wildlife viewing. For a different experience try hiking up the extinct volcano of Mt. Longonot National Park or taking in the glaciers and mountains lakes with a climb up Mt. Kenya National Park – the second highest mountain in Africa.

Moving in the opposite direction you can snorkel or dive amidst dolphins, turtles and shimmering sea life at Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park. This aquatic preserve lies near many of Kenya’s coastal resorts for a quick getaway.

But if the sight of fish swimming in crystal cold lakes and streams is more to your liking, then a visit to Aberdare National Park is a must. This paradise of waterfalls, cool mountain breezes and thick rainforest is the opposite of what most people picture as the typical African park.

Endangered but Protected

We travelers love discovering the wildlife in these wonderful preserves, but the parks also play an integral part in protecting the animals, especially the endangered ones.

At Ol Pejeta Wildlife Sanctuary the rhinos are shielded, safe from poaching so their numbers will increase. Located here as well, the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary takes in orphaned and wounded chimps. It’s the only place in Kenya where you can enjoy the antics of these intelligent creatures.

Another haven for rhinos is at the sanctuary in Tsavo West National Park. Some 80 of these endangered animals are protected in this park, one of the largest and oldest in Kenya.

The Birds

Everyone comes to the parks to see the lions and the rest of Africa’s “Big Five” but the birdlife here can be equally stunning. At Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya and Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania, get ready to be dazzled by the sight of thousands, and sometimes millions, of bright fuchsia flamingoes feeding at the alkaline lakes. And they are usually accompanied by great flocks of pelicans, cormorants, storks and herons. In fact, all the parks host hundreds of bird species.

The Overlooked Ones

There are so many parks in Kenya and Tanzania that visitors tend to overlook some of the out-of-the-way reserves. But that would be a mistake for two reasons: These parks also feature a great bounty of wildlife and… they are virtually empty of other visitors. It’s just you and the wildlife.

Meru National Park is such a spot. There’s jungle, rivers, rolling green hills and all the wildlife they support in this untamed and beautiful park. This is where Joy Adamson, of “Born Free” fame released Elsa the lioness back into the wild.

The big overlooked surprise in Tanzania is Tarangire National Park. You may see more elephants (3,000 during the peak season) and lions (over 700) than in some of the big-name parks.

And if it’s elephants you desire, then a visit to Amboseli National Park is in order. The park is small, and the herds are numerous, so you are guaranteed sightings of these wonderful pachyderms

The People

No journey to Africa’s parks would be complete without meeting the people who’ve inhabited and lived off these lands for hundreds of years. At Samburu National Park, you can visit a village, meet the Samburu people, and learn about their lives and culture.

Opportunities for similar exchanges with the Maasai people at their villages bordering Serengeti Park and Masai Mara will also be a chance to see and feel authentic Africa up close.

From the moonscape summit of Mt. Kenya to the undersea kaleidoscope of Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park to the millions of hooves moving to an ancient call over the Serengeti, you’ll get to experience all the wonders these national parks will bring to your life.

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