Budget safaris in Kenya

Kenya aces it when it comes to safaris. It’s got the wildlife and, as it’s been in safari tourism longer than any other country in East or Southern Africa, it’s also got the infrastructure: the accommodation, the expert guides and the sheer choice of vacations, from four-day breaks to full-on fortnights; tailormade itineraries to small group trips; culturally comprehensive tours that introduce you to local communities and wildlife-centric extravaganzas that will have you eyeballing East Africa’s big beasts before you can say ‘cheetah’. Consequently, and also pleasingly for anyone with Out of Africa tastes but a Butlin’s budget, it does well-priced, budget safaris brilliantly.
Happily, the only thing a budget safari in Kenya doesn’t scrimp on is the experiences. Itineraries include a good spread of locations, so you’ll likely move between three or four parks in just a single week, but not at the expense of fully enjoying each. There will be full days in key locations such as the Masai Mara, so you can do several game drives, and also plenty of time to meet local people, too – a true highlight of any trip to Kenya. Meeting Kikuyu, Maasai and Samburu communities provides essential human context to any safari in Kenya, whether budget or big bucks. And when it comes to spotting wildlife – well, the local elephants don’t care if you’re staying in a luxury lodge or a simple campsite. They don’t judge.
So, a really well planned budget Kenya safari might take you from seeing the Great Migration in the Masai Mara, to marvelling at a pink sea of flamingos on Lake Nakuru, to spotting Samburu’s unusual species, found in few other places – think Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe. Alternatively, it might take in the Mara and Lake Nakuru National Park again, but then dip south to visit Amboseli National Park and Tsavo West and East, near the border with Tanzania. Lion, leopard and cheetah are present throughout Kenya but while they are a constant, the landscapes are not. Amboseli has iconic Mount Kilimanjaro as a dramatic backdrop, while the lakes of the Rift Valley are a watery contrast to the semi arid landscapes of Tsavo East National Park.

How can you have a budget safari in Kenya?

Of course, one person’s idea of a budget vacation is another person’s blow out, but suffice to say that in Kenya, you can go big then go home – there are vacations that will relieve your bank account of well over £5,000 ($7,000) for a seven day safari, with luxury accommodation, swimming pools, spas and a sprinkling of chandeliers – or you can steer towards something much, much more affordable. So, how does Kenya do it?

Partly, it’s down to geography. Kenya is blessed with superb national parks, sprinkled liberally throughout the country in all but the far north, and each one hopping with wildlife, including the Big Five. Many of these parks lie in convenient clusters, within a relatively short driving distance of each other. Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha are only about three hours’ drive apart, with Hell’s Gate National Park just 45 minutes on from Naivasha. Down in the south, Amboseli, and Tsavo West and East form another reasonably compact cluster. This abundance of wildlife hotspots in close proximity is the ace in Kenya’s pack when it comes to offering a budget safari. You can easily visit four or five parks in just seven days, with no costly domestic flights, without feeling rushed, and without shelling out on a full fortnight’s break that, inevitably, costs more.

Two-center Kenya vacations

Restricting your trip to seven days limits the spend, restricting it to four days limits it even further. We don’t recommend flying all the way to Kenya from Europe, the USA or wherever you live to spend just four days here. We can no longer ignore the fact that aviation emissions play a huge role in climate change and until decarbonised air travel is a reality, we advocate flying less, and taking fewer but longer vacations that require a flight. But, if you are in Kenya for a beach break or in neighbouring Tanzania and want to include a short Kenya safari, too, these well planned trips are purse-friendly options that typically focus on one or two parks: the Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru, or Amboseli and Tsavo.

Our top Budget safari Vacation

Kenya small group safari, 7 days

Kenya small group safari, 7 days

'Born Free' country, Lake Nakuru & Masai Mara

From £1450 7 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2023: 12 Jun, 19 Jun, 26 Jun, 3 Jul, 10 Jul, 17 Jul, 24 Jul, 31 Jul, 7 Aug, 14 Aug, 21 Aug, 28 Aug, 4 Sep, 11 Sep, 18 Sep, 25 Sep, 2 Oct, 9 Oct, 16 Oct, 23 Oct, 6 Nov, 13 Nov, 20 Nov, 27 Nov, 4 Dec, 11 Dec, 18 Dec, 25 Dec
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Budget safari or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Small group and tailor made budget Kenya safaris

The great value small group tours that tootle economically around Kenya are another cost effective option. Sharing the skills of one driver and guide between a group of 12 people naturally keeps costs down, and the best value tours make further savings by using campsites rather than lodges, crunching the costs but increasing the time on vacation, typically to two weeks. So long as you can hack sleeping under canvas every night for a fortnight, this is a brilliant, bargain way to see a lot of Kenya; some tours take in Tanzania’s northern parks, too – the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater – for even greater variety. Other small group tours increase the comfort by using lodges, and will depart with no more than six people and as few as two, but keep the cost competitive by squeezing the trip duration to just a week.
Don’t rule out a tailor made tour, either – these can be really competitive. Again, stick to a week to stop the price from springing away from you like a startled impala, and then design the vacation to include reasonably priced lodges or tented camps rather than expensive, luxury accommodation. On either a small group or tailor made option, the quality of the guiding will be just as professional and expert as on a much more expensive vacation, with local guides opening your eyes to the wildlife around you through their tracking skills, local knowledge and passion.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Sergey Pesterev] [Top box: Sam Power] [Lake Nakuru: Kandukuru Nagarjun] [Camp: Regina Hart]