Meru National Park

The most underrated and wildest of Kenya’s major safari destinations, Meru National Park extends across 340 square miles of lush grassland in the eastern rain shadow of snow-capped Mount Kenya. Wildlife is plentiful, but animals tend to be shyer than they are in more popular reserves, as well as having a lot more vegetation to hide in. Meru is not ideal for first-time visitors to Africa hoping to tick the Big Five in the shortest possible space if time, but it will appeal greatly to repeat safarigoers seeking a genuine wilderness experience. 

Discover  Meru National Park

All the Big Five are present. Elephant and buffalo are pretty certain to be seen, but lion and leopard are less easy to locate in the tall grass. Reintroduced black and white rhino are restricted to (and quite often encountered in) a large densely-bushed drive-through enclosure near the main entrance gate.

Other wildlife includes Burchell’s zebra, hippo, Coke’s hartebeest, waterbuck and bushbuck. The reticulated giraffe, with its neat geometrically-marked coat, is very common. Northern specials such as Grevy’s zebra, Beisa oryx, lesser kudu and gerenuk are present but far less numerous than in Samburu-Buffalo Springs-Shaba. 

Birdlife includes a variety of colorful rollers, starlings and bee-eaters. Northern dry-country specials include Somali ostrich and vulturine guineafowl. Hinde’s babbler, a very localized Kenyan endemic, occurs in thickets along the Murera River.

Meru is where Joy and George Adamson released Elsa, the hand-raised lion of Born Free fame, into the wild in 1958. Elsa’s Grave, alongside the Ura River, is a popular pilgrimage side for fans of the Adamsons’ work. The more remote set of rapids known as Adamson’s Falls can be visited on the Tana River, Kenya’s largest waterway, on the park’s southern boundary.

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