Prior to the COVID Pandemic, Kenya was ranked as Africa’s leading tourist destination by the World Travel Awards (WTA) but questions still linger among some potential safari-goers whether Kenya is safe to travel. In my few years being a tour guide, I have personally experienced that Kenya is a very safe place to visit as a tourist but then I was born here and perhaps you think I am biased. In this blog, I will clearly elaborate using evidence to help you make an informed decision as someone considering a visit to Kenya.
Some background about Kenya’s Security Situation:
Kenya has had a few terrorist attacks in the past, most notably by Al-Shabaab in 2019 at DusitD2 Complex. The attack resulted in the death of 21 people and many more injured. Since then, there have been increased security measures across Kenya that are constantly monitored and enforced.
The government also launched Operation Linda Boni to combat terrorism in the coastal region and it has been quite successful. The security forces have also increased patrols at international airports and tourist destinations. Furthermore, the police actively monitor email scams and are very transparent in their efforts to curb any criminal activities.
Is it safe to go to Kenya on safari?
Yes, it is absolutely safe to go on a safari in Kenya. The Kenyan government has tightened security measures, both at home and abroad, making it one of the safest countries to travel to in Africa. Tourists are rarely targeted by criminal activity and all major tourist destinations have been provided with robust protection from any potential terrorist threat. In addition, the tourism industry has also taken steps to ensure the safety of their customers by providing additional security measures such as ensuring their staff are properly trained and qualified in safari safety. So if you are looking for a safari experience with peace of mind, then Kenya is the perfect destination.
What makes Kenya safe for tourists?
Kenya’s commitment to safeguarding tourists:
In 2021, international arrivals in Kenya generated revenue of 146.5 billion Kenyan shillings (KSh), which is approximately 1.3 billion U.S. dollars according to Statista. com. The government is aware of the importance of tourism to its economy, and as such, it has taken steps to ensure that tourists feel safe in the country. It has also implemented a number of measures to guarantee tourist safety including increasing security at its airports, deploying police officers to tourist destinations, and providing additional security for hotels.
Excellent Tourist Infrastructure:
Kenya also has excellent tourist infrastructure, which makes it a safe destination for travelers. The country is home to many five-star hotels, resorts, and lodges that offer luxurious accommodations with unparalleled levels of safety and security. In addition, there is an abundance of activities available to tourists such as wildlife safaris, cultural tours, beach holidays, and much more. All of these activities are well-regulated by the government and managed safely, meaning that tourists can go on a tour without having to worry about their safety.
No cases of terrorists targeting tourists:
There have been no reported cases of terrorists targeting tourists in Kenya. In fact, the terrorist attacks that have occurred have mainly targeted military and government facilities rather than civilians and tourists. This has made Kenya a very safe destination for travelers as it is highly unlikely that they will be targeted.
Internal conflicts among communities do not target tourists:
In Northern Kenya, there are sometimes conflicts between different communities, such as the Pokot, Samburu and Turkana. These internal disputes however rarely affect tourists so it is generally a safe place to visit. Additionally, the Kenyan government has implemented measures to ensure that tourist destinations remain unaffected by these conflicts.
We have driven through a rebel checkpoint and since I was with three foreign tourists, the rebels only asked for water and left us to be on our way.
Evidence of Kenya being a safe destination:
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) recently published a report stating that Kenya had the second-highest security score among African countries in 2020. This statement was further confirmed by Transparency International, a global anti-corruption organization that declared Kenya as one of the safest destinations in Africa.
The Kenyan government has also implemented measures to ensure the safety and well-being of tourists. The most significant measure is the requirement for tourists to get a visa before entering Kenya. This ensures that only legitimate travelers are allowed in and makes it easier to keep track of them during their stay.
In addition, there are also numerous private security firms that offer their services to tourists. These companies provide 24/7 security monitoring, armed guards, and medical assistance in case of an emergency.
Security Concerns to be aware of When on a Kenyan Safari:
Although Kenya is generally a safe country, there have been reports of theft and robberies in the past. It is therefore important for tourists to always be aware of their surroundings and take extra precautions when traveling around the country. Tourists should also avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuable items with them as these can make them easy targets for criminals.
In November 2022, there were increased cases of knife attacks at Nairobi’s CBD and the government deployed the General Service Unit of the military to control the situation. As a tourist, I encourage you to avoid visiting any crowded places, especially in big cities such as Nairobi or Mombasa. You should also travel with a friend as most attacks targeted sole individuals walking by themselves in dark alleys.
While there have been no reported cases of terrorist attacks targeting tourists in Kenya, it is important to remain vigilant and stay informed about the political situation in the country. Tourists should avoid public demonstrations and rallies that could potentially turn violent, as well as any other areas considered unsafe by local authorities.
Kenya has some presence in Somalia trying to fight Alshabab and the terrorist group has been unhappy with Kenya’s involvement in Somalia’s affairs. With support from Western governments such as the US, the Kenyan government has significantly improved its security measures in order to protect its citizens and tourists alike.
Unsafe Places to avoid traveling to in Kenya:
Tana River is a region in the Eastern part of Kenya and it has been the site of many inter-ethnic clashes over the years. Although these clashes are rarely directed toward tourists, it is still highly advisable to avoid traveling to this area since it can be dangerous.
Kilifi, Lamu and Malindi region:
Due to the risk of kidnapping, it is not recommended to visit the Kilifi, Lamu, and Malindi regions. Tourists should be aware of their surroundings at all times and avoid traveling alone or in small groups in these areas. Additionally, it is best to only use reliable and licensed tour operators when visiting this region.
The coast of Kenya:
The coastal areas of Kenya have been known to have high crime rates due to their isolated location. Tourists should be aware of potential danger and avoid traveling alone in these areas.
Kenya-Somali border region:
The State Department has an active warning for tourists against traveling to the Wajir, Garissa, and Mandera regions due to the risk of kidnapping.
9 Kenya Safe Safari Locations:
1. Maasai Mara National Reserve: This national reserve is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Kenya and is home to some of the world’s most prolific wildlife species. The park has been well managed by the government and tourists are safe from any possible harm.
2. Amboseli National Park: Amboseli National Park is a beautiful and peaceful park located in the Rift Valley Region of Kenya. The park is home to elephants, giraffes, lions and many other animals. It has also been managed very well by the government, making it one of the safest areas for tourists in Kenya.
3. Lake Naivasha: Lake Naivasha is situated in the Great Rift Valley and is home to a variety of birds, hippos and other wildlife. It is a very peaceful place that can be enjoyed by tourists who want to relax and enjoy nature.
4.Lake Nakuru: Lake Nakuru is one of the few alkaline lakes in the world and is home to a variety of wildlife species. Tourists can enjoy boat rides, camping and bird watching here without any risk.
5. Hell’s Gate National Park: This park has some of the most dramatic scenery in Kenya with cliffs and gorges formed by volcanic activity. Tourists can safely enjoy activities such as rock climbing, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing in the park with no risk to their safety.
6. Mount Kenya National Park: Located near Nairobi, this is one of the most popular parks in Kenya for tourists to visit. The park has been well managed by the government and is a safe place for tourists.
7. Tsavo East National Park: This park is home to the world’s largest elephants, black rhinos and lions. There are regular patrols by the Kenya Wildlife Service in this area making it very safe for visitors.
8. Nairobi National Park: This park is near the city of Nairobi and is one of the few parks in the world within the capital city. It is well managed by the government and very safe to visit.
9. Lake Elementaita: This lake is home to a variety of bird species, and tourists can enjoy activities such as game drives, boat rides, and camping here without any risk.
What to do in case of a security incident:
In case you experience an adverse security situation, call the Tourism Helpline or use 911/999/112 to call the police or use 999 to call an ambulance and fire services.
Kenya has a hotline/telephone number that is staffed 24 hours a day. The phone number operated by the Ministry of Tourism is +254(020)604767 and as listed by the Global Destinations website and on the 2018 Lonely Planet Guide. I think Kenya is perhaps the only country in East Africa to set up a Tourist Police unit as explained on the Kenya Police website here. This goes to show you how the Kenyan government takes the security of its visitors seriously.
Below are the duties of the Tourist Police Unit in Kenya as stipulated in Section 24 of the National Police Service Act, 2011:
- Protection of tourist‘s life and property
- Provide security and safety to tourists
- Handle and receive inquiries, claims and complaints by tourists
- Investigate tourists related crimes and prosecute offenders
- Patrol beaches, hotels and tourist circuits street/roads used by tourists with a view of averting attacks on them
- Provide escorts to tourists
- Protect tourist from harassment by beach operators, parking boys and hawkers.
- To offer general advice and guidance to tourists
- Assist tourists during cultural festivals.
The snapshot below has more emergency contacts you can utilize in case you’re in trouble or have issues while on a safari here;
Some helpful tips to note when calling:
Being foreign and speaking English with a different accent can make it difficult for some people to understand you – including the police. Although this isn’t always the case, I recommend having a Kenyan nearby – such as your driver – who can explain what exactly your trouble is and ask accordingly on your behalf of you.
Also, if you have trouble understanding the accent of your designated guide or driver, feel free to request a fluent-speaking guide.
How safe is Kenya safari?
Kenya is generally a safe country to visit and go on safaris, but it’s important to take extra precautions when traveling in the country. There have been reports of theft and robberies in some areas, so tourists should always be aware of their surroundings and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuable items with them. It is also advised to travel with a friend rather than alone, and to use reliable and licensed tour operators when visiting certain regions.
Is it safe to travel to Kenya in 2023?
Yes, it is safe to travel to Kenya in 2023. The Kenyan government has implemented heightened security measures across the country due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and there have been no reported cases of terrorist attacks targeting tourists in the country. However, it is important to remain vigilant and stay informed about any potential dangers or risks before traveling to Kenya.
Are there safe places to visit in Kenya?
Yes, there are many safe places to visit in Kenya. Popular tourist destinations such as Nairobi, the Masai Mara National Reserve, and the central Kenya region including the Aberdares and Mt. Kenya region. You should always follow their guide’s safety instructions and remain aware of their surroundings when visiting these areas. It is best to avoid traveling alone or in small groups in isolated areas with a high risk of crime. Additionally, you should take extra precautions when visiting the Tana River region and the Kenyan coastal areas.
Are there any warnings for tourists when traveling to Kenya?
Yes, tourists should be aware of potential dangers before traveling to Kenya. The State Department has an active warning against travelers going to Wajir, Garissa and Mandera regions due to the risk of kidnapping. Additionally, tourists should always be aware of their surroundings and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuable items with them. It is also advised to travel with a friend rather than alone, and to use reliable and licensed tour operators when visiting certain regions. Lastly, it is important to stay up-to-date about any potential risks or dangers before traveling to Kenya.