Meru National Park

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Meru National Park

Meru National Park occupies 870km² (870,000 hectares) of central Kenya, some 220 miles/ 300 km northeast of Nairobi and offering views of snow-capped Mount Kenya on the distant western horizon.

The Park lies at an altitude of between 1,000-3,400 Ft above sea level and is located in Meru Country in Kenya’s Eastern Province below the eastern slopes of Nyambene Hills.

 Meru National Park lies 85 km east of Meru town. It is managed by the Kenya wildlife service on behalf of the Central Government. The park is also called Elsa’s Country and is described as a “complete wilderness” is a beautiful paradise that has attracted visitors from all corners of the globe.

The park forms a vital part of the much larger Meru Conservation Area, which centres around the Tana River system and protects nearly 5,000km² (five million hectares). Meru covers habitats that range from lush green vegetation on rich volcanic soils to semi-arid scrublands and open plains. The park also offers dense riverine forests of Doum and Raffia palm.

In addition to the Meru National Park, the complex of protected areas includes Bisanadi, Rahole, and Mwingi (formerly Kitui North) National Reserves and the massive Kora National Park. The result is one of Kenya’s most extensive protected spaces, second only to the Tsavo ecosystem in size.

Meru National Park 807km2 (87,000 hectares)
Kora National Park 1,787km2 (178,700 hectares)
Bisanadi National Reserve 606km2 (60,600 hectares)
Mwingi National Reserve 745 km2 (74,500 hectares)
Rahole National Reserve 870km2 (87,000 hectares)

Straddling the equator, Meru National Park is bisected by 13 rivers and numerous mountain-fed streams, making it a green paradise compared to the dry savannah of Kenya. The many permanent rivers that flow through Meru, including the major Rojerwero and Ura Rivers, are part of the Tana River basin and define the landscape of the park. 

The Tana River that marks Meru National Park’s southern boundary is Kenya’s longest river, flowing from the Aberdare Mountain Range and fed by springs from Mount Kenya, before winding a sinuous path to the Indian Ocean. 

These waterways are fed by springs in the Nyambeni Mountains and flow in parallel, creating the impression that the park is made up of a series of islands. Beneath a thick fringe of riverine forest, hippos and crocodiles lurk in the dark waters.

Like many of Africa’s protected areas, Meru’s story is one of triumphs and tragedies. The park gained international renown during the 1960s when the adventures of George and Joy Adamson and their hand-raised lioness Elsa made first literary and then cinematic history.

The Adamsons raised Elsa from a cub, and Joy documented their experiences in a series of novels, the Born Free series. Elsa was eventually released into Meru National Park to live wild, and her final resting place is marked by a small gravesite on the park’s southern boundary. The park’s popularity skyrocketed when the eponymous film was produced, and visitors flocked to explore the famous setting.

Tragedy struck during the 1980s as poaching and unrest tore through much of Kenya. Both Joy and George were murdered in separate incidents, and the region’s wildlife was decimated. The park fell into disrepair, and the flood of tourists slowed to a trickle before drying up almost entirely.

Hope came some 20 years later when concerted conservation work by the Kenyan Wildlife Service, the French Development Agency and the International Fund for Animal Welfare set in motion the painstaking process of returning the park to its former glory.

The infrastructure was repaired with a substantial cash donation, and security and anti-poaching measures were put in place.

Meru National Park

Meru National Park Wildlife | Animals & Bird

Meru National Park is known for its fauna and its natural beauty. There are many swamps and rivers, but also a lot of forests and mountains. Many species of wild animals do live in this park as well.

The park’s reintroduced rhinos – black and white – are restricted to a smaller, fenced sanctuary where they can be best protected. However, this does little to detract from the wildness of the experience – the 84km² (8,400 hectares) enclosure section is perfectly sized to ensure that eager tourists have to work for their sightings!

This park is home to big herds of lions, wild dogs, buffalos, crocodiles, and hippos near and in the river. Besides buffalos and lions, also two other members of the famous Big Five do live in Meru National Park: the African bush elephant and African leopard.

You also have a chance to find cheetahs, Bohor reedbucks, reticulated giraffes (Endangered), eastern black rhinoceros, eland,  southern white rhinoceros, Grevy’s zebra (Endangered), and different species of antelopes, like the Kude, Oryx, Grant’s gazelles (though not Thomson’s) and Impalas. The park is also home to Somali ostrich, Günther’s and Kirk’s dik-diks, Beisa oryx, gerenuk, common zebra, reticulated giraffe, gerenuks, and both greater and lesser kudu.

Fishing for Barbus and catfish is permitted at campsites and along the Tana River.

Meru Rhino Sanctuary: One of Meru’s biggest draws is its successful rhino sanctuary. This secure area within the park, beside the western boundary near the main gate, now covers a substantial 80km².  Protected by fencing that allows free movement to smaller animals, and by numerous rangers, the 40-odd white rhinos are doing well – although the 20-odd black rhinos tend to suffer from tsetse flies.

All of them are monitored around the clock and are well habituated to visitors, so sightings can be very good, and you should have time to take pictures at close range.

Over 400 species of birds have been recorded in Meru National Park, with everything from wetland birds to grass and woodland specials. Pel’s fishing owls lurk beneath the canopies of the dense river trees, and recent sightings of threatened Hinde’s babblers in the park had birders aflutter.

Other birds of particular interest include African finfoots, red-necked falcons, three-banded coursers, Somali bee-eaters, golden palm weavers, Boran cisticolas, and black-billed wood hoopoes.

The threatened Jungle Babbler, which has a very restricted range in central Kenya, has recently been documented, near Kindani and Nyati Camps in the southwest part of the park. Meru has one of the eight species of Kenya Mountains Endemic Bird Area and fifty-nine of the 94 Somali-Masai biome species that occur in Kenya.

Regionally threatened species recorded here, include the Martial Eagle, African Finfoot (an Intra-African migrant),  Grant’s Woodhoopoe, and the Saddle-billed Stork which is known to breed in this area.

The Best Time to Visit Meru National Park

Though Meru is open throughout the year, the best wildlife viewing occurs during the long dry season from June until September. Like much of East Africa, the park experiences two rainy seasons: the long rains from March until May and the short rains in October and November.

The long grasses during the rainy season can make it difficult to see animals, and elephants often move out of the park along ancient migratory paths to the north. Given its Equatorial position, daytime temperatures vary little throughout the year, and the days in Meru are usually hot and often dry.

A visit to Meru National Park is best combined with the nearby attractions. These include Mt Kenya National Park, Lewa Down, Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba Reserve, Sweet Waters game sanctuary.

Meru National Park

Meru National Park Highlights & Activities

There are several other activities in and around Meru National Park for those with spare time. These include:

* Picnics and sundowners are organized with the local hotels

* Camping: There are several campsites in Meru National Park

* Fishing for Barbus and catfish is permitted at campsites and along the Tana River

* Nature walks or bush walks: Walking safaris offer the perfect opportunity to take in the scenery at a more sedate pace

* Bird Watching: Meru National Park has over 300 species of birds recorded. Game and bird watching are best undertaken at dawn or at dusk

* Elsa’s Grave: Elsa was the lioness of the born free fame. Elsa was raised by George Adamson, a game warden, and his wife Joy. Elsa was born in January 1956 and died on January 24, 1961.

* Rhino Sanctuary: One of Meru’s biggest draws is its successful rhino sanctuary. This secure area within the park, beside the western boundary near the main gate, now covers a substantial 80km².  The Rhinos are monitored around the clock and are well habituated to visitors, so sightings can be very good, and you should have time to take pictures at close range

* Scenic safaris to enjoy the beautiful scenery and landscape – scroll through or view the dense vegetation, forests, and savannahs with long grass, rivers, swamps, and uninterrupted view of Mt Kenya

* Game viewing in Meru National Park is excellent and includes four of the big five – elephants, lions, and leopards. Others include buffaloes Lesser Kudu, duiker, Dik Dik, buffalo, reticulated giraffes (Endangered), black and white rhinos, Grevy’s zebra (Endangered), eland, Oryx, Impalas, buffaloes. Black and white Rhinos (Endangered).

Aquatic life includes hippos and crocodiles. During the gamedrive, you may visit Swamps in the park-like Mughwango, Mulika, Bwatherongi, Mururi, and Leopard Rock. Animals congregate in the swamps during the dry season. There are a total of 14 permanent rivers and numerous streams including Murera, Rojowero, Kiolu, Ura, and Bwatherongi. Tana River forms its southern boundary.

* Cultural centers: Meru cultural center outside Murera gate and Malka (Boran) cultural center outside Bisanadi Gate. Aside from the Meru people, other communities bordering the park are Kamba, the Borana, and Orma pastoralists.

A visit to the Park is not only about the big five experience but also a good opportunity to meet and interact with these communities, and learn about their culture with long traditions of conservation. Always bear in mind that without their sacrifice, there would be no Meru National Park

* Pippa’s Grave: Pipa was a cheetah brought up by Joy Adamson. Pippa and her cub were darlings to Joy. According to Kenya Wildlife Service records, Pippa was born in 1964 and died on October 7, 1969. Joy’s ashes were also scattered on her grave. 

* Adamson Falls: A trip to Adamson Falls, where the Tana River is forced through a narrow rock valley, is a popular attraction. The 50 meters high waterfall was named after the prominent conservationists Adamson Gorge and Joy Adamson who were the first to settle in the park.  It takes around 2 to 3 hours to hike to the falls depending on the guest’s physical ability.

Elsa’s Grave: Elsa is the Beloved Lioness made famous in the award-winning movie BORN FREE and the best-selling book was written by Joy Adamson with the same title. She was only 5 years old. Elsa – Born January 1956, passed away January 1961. Elsa is buried in Meru National Park in Kenya, East Africa. Visitors to Meru can visit her grave to pay their respects.

How to get to Meru National Park - Kenya

Driving from Nairobi to Meru National Park:
The park is linked to Nairobi by all whether roads via Murera gate. There are three routes:

a). The other access is via Embu to Ura Gate (120 km), 290 km from Nairobi
b). From Nairobi (348 km), via Nyeri – Nanyuki – Meru – Mau – Murera Gate via all-weather road
c). From Nairobi (348 km), via Embu – Meru –  Mau – Murera gate via all-weather roads. The junction to the park is before you reach Mau town

Meru National Park Gates include: Murera, Bisanadi, Ura, Kinna

Airstrip: The park has a total of 16 airstrips. However, only 5 (Kinna, Mulika (next to Meru Mulika Lodge), Elsa’s Kopje airstrip, Masanduku, and Murera) are mostly used. Mughwango Airstrip (private airstrip) is a 5 min drive from Elsa’s Kopje lodge.

Currently, there are daily flights that depart from Nairobi Wilson Airport into the park. Every airstrip has a gate to facilitate visitor entry.

Meru National Park Hotels

Meru National Park Accommodation

Accommodations in Meru National Park vary from the most basic camping to the most luxurious world-class lodges to cater to the diverse needs of the visitors. Accommodation comprises Safari Lodges, Town Hotels, Tented Camps, campsites, and Kenya Wildlife Service bandas (huts).

Luxury accommodation includes Rhino River Camp, Leopard Rock Lodge, Elsa’s Kopje Lodge, and Meru Mulika Lodge.

Mid-range facilities located outside Meru National Park include Ikweta Safari Camp and Murera River Camp.

Budget Facilities in Meru National Park include Bwatherongi Bandas, Kinna Bandas, and Murera Bandas owned by Kenya Wildlife Service.

Campsites/Camping: There are numerous campsites throughout the park. Special Campsites include Kampi Baridi; Kitanga; Makutano; Rojoweru; Mugunga; Ken Mare and Kanjoo. These ones have no facilities and prior booking is required. Public campsites with showers are available at Bwatherongi Bandas.

Accommodation in Meru Town: Those visiting Meru National Park can overnight in Meru Town. Meru is a small agricultural town on the slopes of Mt. Kenya and is approximately 85 km from Murera Gate.

Accommodations in Meru Town include Meru Three Steers, Alba Hotel, Meru Slopes Hotel, Meru Elsa Hotel, Pig & Whistle Hotel, Blue Towers, Gatimene Palm Springs, Nevada Palace Hotel, White Star Hotel, Hotel Royal Prince and Brown Rock Hotel, etc.

Places of interest within Meru Town

Meru town is an agricultural centre.  Tourism is not prevalent thus if you desire a hassle-free cool place, you can use it as a base to explore the slopes of Mt. Kenya and Laikipia. The town is surrounded by agricultural farmlands. Wheat and horticulture plantations occupy the Timau region adjacent to Lewa Conservancy.

An interested visitor with intentions to mingle with the locals can sample the following:-

Rukunga’s private museum. Visit the King Muhuru.

Lake Nkunga picnic site can be visited with the arrangement.

The Njuri Ncheke (Council of elders) headquarters at Nciru to learn how justice was dispensed in the old days among the locals.

Swimming is available at the Golf Club and Fred’s Academy and Thiiri Center. The pool at the Golf Club is good but its rarely used

The Gakoromone open-air market for stocking up and chatting with the locals. Just carry loose change to use in the market and be careful of pick-pockets.

Bisanadi National Reserve: To the East park lies Bisanadi National Reserve. It is located at the border of Meru and the Borana people. Opened in 1979 it occupies an area of 606Km². It is accessible by 4WD vehicles and is ideal for camping. There is an airstrip at Korbessa.

Meru Museum: Formerly a District Commissioner’s Office was built in 1916. The Museum is ethnographic exhibiting the Culture of the local people. On display are various tools, artifacts, local geology, stuffed mammals, and birds. Besides the museum has a traditional homestead, a crocodile and snake pit, and various herbs.

Kora National Park: Across the Tana River covering an area of 1,787 square kilometers. It is in Kora National park that George Adamson was murdered in his camp. Kora is full of Inselbergs, rocky outcrops covered with vegetation that seem to appear randomly above the plains.

Mammal life includes elephants, Lesser Kudu, wild dogs, striped and spotted hyenas, leopards, and cheetahs. 21 species of fish have been recorded, with 500 species of insect, 33 molluscs, and 40 reptiles.

2022 Meru National Park Entrance Fees

Citizen/ Resident Rate Per Person Per Day

Non-Resident Rate Per Person Per Day

Adult 500 Kenya Shillings 60 US Dollars
Child 215 Kenya Shillings 20 US Dollars


* Child refers to persons from three years but below 11 years
* Resident refers to persons of other nationalities residing in Kenya with valid documentation from the Kenyan government
* Citizen – A native or inhabitant of East Africa Countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan) with valid identification documents or passport
* Daily – Fee paid for a single entry to a national park, national reserve, or sanctuary and which shall be valid for no longer than twenty-four hours

Meru National Park

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