A Complete Guide to the Wild Animals That Live in Kenya, Africa

From the mighty African elephant to the extravagant pink flamingo, Kenya’s savannahs are home to some of the world’s most remarkable wildlife.

wildlife in kenya

Known for its expansive and exceptional array of wildlife and the outstanding natural beauty, Kenya is considered one of the best safari destinations in Africa. Rich in biodiversity, there are over 25,000 recorded species of wild animals that live in Kenya, Africa, either roaming the plains, soaring through the air or burrowing underneath the earth. Thanks to the sheer variety of wildlife, there’s no better way to experience the majesty of the animal kingdom than on a safari through Africa’s sunlit savannahs. However you choose to find them, here is a selection of the most remarkable wild animals that live in Kenya, Africa.

What Are the ‘Big Five’ Animals in Kenya?

The ‘Big Five’ are animals found in Kenya and elsewhere in Eastern Africa. From the majestic lion to the brawny rhinoceros, the ‘Big Five’ include some of the most dangerous animals in Kenya, alongside rare and endangered species native to the region. For those wondering what animals are found in Kenya’s safaris, here’s some key information on Africa’s famous ‘Big Five’: 

African elephant

A baby elephant running in the grass

As the largest land animal on earth, few experiences rival seeing the mighty African elephant as it slowly stomps across Kenya's savannahs. Known for their distinctive, large ears and long trunks, African elephants are highly adaptable and can be found across the continent, from the savannahs of the Maasai Mara to the forests of Aberdare National Park. You’ll marvel at the sheer scale of these magnificent beasts, which live on a diet purely made up of grasses, leaves, fruits and other plants. African elephants are one of the most distinctive wild animals in Kenya, with no safari experience being complete without an unforgettable encounter with one of these remarkable creatures.


A lioness lounges on a boulder

With their striking appearance, fearsome roar, and status as the apex predator, lions are considered some of the mightiest wildlife you’ll see in Kenya. Living in ‘prides’ of up to 50 members, there’s no sight more breathtaking than witnessing a pack of lions as they stalk their prey across Kenya’s plains. Found all across the African savannah, you’ll never forget the first time you experience nature's most feared hunter stalking in the wild.


A leopard walking across the savannah

Known for their elusive nature and spotted coats, the leopard is challenging to spot in the wild, particularly since they are most active at night. However, with the help of expert guides and trackers, you could potentially encounter one of Africa's most lethal hunters on a safari of Kenya’s National Parks and Reserves. For travelers with a keen eye, spotting a prowling leopard is one of the most uniquely rewarding experiences you can hope to enjoy on a Kenyan safari.

Cape buffalo

An African buffalo surrounded by its herd

Cape buffaloes, also called African buffaloes, are one of the most iconic wild animals in Kenya. Large and robust, you won't struggle to spot a herd of Cape buffalo as they thunder across the savannah in search of food and water. You can recognise them from their distinctive curved horns, which they use to defend themselves against predators like lions and hyenas. Travelers can find the Cape buffalo living near water sources like lakes and rivers, particularly during the dry season when water is more scarce. In this season, you can see millions of Cape buffalo as they traverse the plains of Africa on the Great Wildebeest Migration.


A black rhino walking

Known for its horns and armour-like skin, the rhinoceros is one of the most famous and endangered animals in Kenya. Since they can weigh up to 6,600lbs, you may be surprised to hear that the mighty rhino lives exclusively on a diet of grasses, leaves and branches. On safari, visitors can find two species of rhinoceros, the white rhino and the black rhino, which can both be seen in several national parks in Kenya, including the Maasai Mara, Tsavo and Aberdare National Park. Being largely solitary animals, the rhino is hard to come by, but encountering one of these mighty beasts makes for one of the most amazing sights you could experience on a Kenyan safari.

Our Africa Travel Specialist Meg Shepro offers her advice on the best Kenyan locations to spot these mighty creatures:

“The game viewing in Laikipia is phenomenal due to extreme conservation efforts and anti-poaching canine units in the area making it one of the country’s best locations to spot Black and White Rhino.”

What Other Wild Animals Live in Kenya?

Two zebras by the river

Aside from the ‘Big Five’, there are a plethora of wild animals in Kenya. Each with their own behaviors, diets and environments, the country’s animal populations are both immense and spectacular. While every animal in Kenya is different, each plays an important role in Africa’s diverse ecozystem and contributes to making Kenya one of the best safari destinations in the world. 


Found all across the plains of Kenya, you’ll be able to spot these herbivorous mammals from their unique black and white stripes, designed to help them blend together and avoid being singled off by predators. As zebras are social animals, you’ll find them living in small family groups called harems, often by water sources or freely roaming the savannah.


With their slender frames and powerful legs, the spotted cheetah is the fastest animal in the world, able to run at speeds up to 75 mph in short bursts - blink twice and you’ll miss them. Being solitary animals, it's rare to spot a cheetah while on safari. That’s why we recommend private safaris with an expert guide, so you have a better chance at seeing one of nature's sneakiest predators in the wild.


Found towering above the savannah, giraffes truly are Kenya’s gentle giants. Using their long, spotted necks, giraffes live off a diet of leaves plucked from the tops of trees. Giraffes are found in several of Kenya’s national parks and reserves, including Amboseli and Tsavo, with plenty of opportunities to see them during your visit. While you may have encountered these magnificent creatures in wildlife parks, there’s nothing comparable to witnessing them roaming the wilds freely.


If you spend enough time exploring the country’s rivers, lakes or swamps, you’ll likely stumble across the mighty hippo. With their barrel-shaped bodies and gaping mouths, the hippo makes for a formidable sight. You’ll find them active mainly at night, living in ‘pods’ that range in size from a small group to a collection of over 100. If you’re eager to see one of these mighty animals for yourself, visit one of Kenya’s waterfronts to experience pods of hippos as they bathe and relax in the warm waters.


Perhaps one of the most eye-catching wild animals that live in Kenya, the long-legged, pink-feathered flamingo is found in lakes across the Great Rift Valley, such as Lake Nakuru, Lake Bogoria and Lake Magadi. Here you’ll find them feeding on pigment-rich algae and small crustaceans that give them their distinctive pink coloring. Known to live in large flocks that can number in the thousands, there are few sights anywhere in Africa that can beat experiencing a sea of pink flamingos as they take flight across Kenya’s sprawling plains.

Rare and Endangered Animals in Kenya

A Somali Ostrich sitting in the grass

Due to a range of natural and man-made threats, there are a considerable number of rare, endangered animals in Kenya, despite the best efforts of conservationists. Whether from habitat destruction, climate change or poaching, the animal ecozystem is under threat, with many species now classified as critically endangered or entirely extinct.

Some of these include the critically endangered Black Rhinoceros, poached close to extinction for its horn, believed to hold medicinal properties. Another example is one of the most unique native animals in Kenya: the Grevy’s Zebra, whose population has declined by 50% over the last 20 years. With countless other examples of endangered animals living in Kenya, there has never been a more critical time to protect Africa’s wildlife population.

However, thanks to the ongoing work of conservationists and Kenya’s government, many rare and endangered animals in Kenya are protected by law, with conservation programs, anti-poaching initiatives, and habitat restoration efforts put in place to save these species from extinction.

With much of Kenya’s diverse wildlife found in its northern regions, Travel Specialist Meg Shepro explains what rare animals you can also hope to encounter:

“Northern Kenya is also home to the “Special Northern Five”, five species only found in Northern Kenya. They are; The Grevy’s Zebra, Long-necked Gerenuk (my favorite!), Reticulated Giraffe, Somali Ostrich and the Beisa Oryx”

What Animals Are in Kenya Safaris?

A safari jeep and giraffes

If you’re considering traversing across the African savannah, guided by a local expert, you may be wondering what wild animals are found on safaris in Kenya. Some of the most commonly seen animals include African elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo, zebras, rhinoceroses, giraffes and more.

With their helpful knowledge of animal behavior and robust understanding of the local environment, exploring Kenya’s plains with a safari expert is the best way to experience the animals that live in Kenya. Able to share their understanding of African wildlife, whisk you to the best viewing spots, and answer any questions you may have, our local experts will ensure your safari experience is one to remember for a lifetime.

The Great Wildebeest Migration

A large group of wildebeest running toward the river

Perhaps the best time to see animals in Kenya is during the annual Great Wildebeest Migration. One of the most spectacular wildlife events anywhere in the world, between July and October over 1.5 million wildebeest journey across the plains of Africa, from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

In search of food and water, the animals make the precarious expedition across Kenya’s sprawling savannahs, facing adversity from every corner. Whether it be fending off some of the most dangerous animals in Kenya or traversing the crocodile and hippo-filled Mara River, their journey is among the most perilous and dramatic in the animal kingdom and is considered to be one of the seven natural wonders in Africa.

During these months, you can experience the migration while on some of Africa’s best safaris, exploring the grassy plains of Tanzania, the open savannahs of Kenya or even an exceptional combination of the two. Undoubtedly, an African adventure witnessing some of the most resilient wild animals that live in Kenya as they risk all to survive makes for an experience to remember a lifetime.

The Best Time to See Animals in Kenya

While there is no ‘bad’ time to visit Kenya, when you should plan your visit depends entirely on the experience you wish to have. There are two main seasons in Kenya: rainy and dry. From April to June and November to December, the country experiences its rainy seasons, where visitors can enjoy the arid landscape transforming into a lush green paradise. These seasons are also the best time to visit Kenya for activities like birdwatching, with the warm African rains drawing migratory birds from all over the continent to Kenya’s lakes and rivers.

However, for those looking for the best time to see animals in Kenya, the dry seasons, between June to September and December to February, create the perfect environment to enjoy the very best of Africa’s diverse wildlife population. During the dry season, wildlife concentrates around water sources, making it much easier to encounter animals in Kenya, including the ‘Big Five’. 

Whatever the season, Scott Dunn offers some of the best tours, accommodations and things to do in Kenya, perfect whether you’re on your honeymoon, traveling with teens or bringing the whole family along.

Meet Our Kenyan Travel Specialists

With Scott Dunn, you can be sure that your bespoke Kenyan safari experience will be unforgettable. Whether exploring the vast plains of Laikipia and Maasai Mara or traversing the culturally rich Samburu region, spend your African adventure in undisturbed comfort and luxury.

However you plan on spending your time in Kenya, craft your bespoke Kenyan vacation package with Scott Dunn’s experienced travel experts today.

Call us on 858 523 9000 to start planning your holiday

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