The country's forgotten national park – Meru was once one of the most popular of all Kenya safari parks.

But during the 1980s, when Kenya was going through a rough political patch and instability overwhelmed some parts of the country, Meru turned into a hotbed of poaching.

Security and stability have long since returned to both the country and Meru, but yet somehow this national park never again found its former fame. But for those in the know—and that now includes you—Meru National Park is safari gold.

Ostrich meru national park kenya

Ostrich in Meru National Park

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Meru National Park wildlife

There’s a lot of variety in this park including all of the famed Big Five (though actually finding a leopard among the often dense vegetation can be a real challenge).

Lions are seen with increasing frequency, as are cheetahs and there are sizable elephant herds. There are also around 40 rhinos (both black and white).

But the animal the park is most known for are buffalo. There are huge numbers of these grumpy, dangerous cattle including the biggest herds of buffalo in Kenya. There are also plenty of antelope and zebra and over 300 bird species.

Despite this animal abundance the thick vegetation means that wildlife can be harder to spot here than in parks with more open vegetation.

Meru National Park highlights


Meru is a park to take slowly and savour every peaceful moment. Of all the country’s main parks and reserves, Meru is by far the least visited and this means that very often you might have this huge tract of wildlife-filled Africa almost completely to yourself.


This is a very diverse park, both in landscapes and wildlife. Straddling the zone between the wet, cool and richly vegetated central highlands and the more desiccated north of Kenya means that there’s a variety of habitats here and a niche for a large range of creatures. In fact, it’s said that there are more animal species here than in the Masai Mara.


The scenery here leaves a lasting memory. There are huge stands of doum palms, dense riverine forests, wide open plains, scrubby acacia woodlands and a network of thirteen rivers and innumerous streams, pools and swamps. And the whole thing is backed by rocky outcrop mountains with big views.

Rhino sanctuary

The rhino sanctuary is a park within a park, Meru is home to a healthy population of both black and white rhinos who are kept in an enormous fenced off (and heavily guarded) reserve within the park.

Most of these rhinos have been translocated from other parts of the country and it’s one place where rhino sightings are highly likely and often from very close quarters.

When to visit Meru National Park

The park sits slightly within the rain shadow of Mt Kenya and can be visited year round, though the wildlife is harder to spot among the long grass, during the April-May and November wet seasons.

How to get to Meru National Park

There are daily flights from Nairobi Wilson airport to Meru with Air Kenya ( and Safari Link ( These often go via the town of Nanyuki. There are sometimes connecting flights onto Samburu.

By car it’s a five hour drive (excluding traffic congestion delays around Nairobi) via Embu. The road is in good condition all the way and the scenery makes the drive a joy.

About the author

Safari in Meru National Park

Stuart Butler

Stuart is an award-winning travel journalist covering safari, trekking and conservation in Africa for the Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, BBC, Bradt Travel Guides, amongst many others. He is the author of Walking With The Maasai, a journey through some of Kenya's lesser-visited Maasai lands.

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