Filming in Kenya

Are you a media company, brand, ad agency or production company looking for film or photography production support or shooting crew for Filming in Kenya? Contact us for trusted fixers, producers, directors, DoPs, videographers, photographers, and full shooting crews tailored for the specific needs of your project.

Filming in Kenya

For an introduction to shooting in Kenya see below notes on film locations, permits, when to shoot, unique local stories, costs, tax incentives, crews, talent, equipment, communications, art department, studios, post facilities, visas and work permits for filming, transport, film-friendly accommodation, and safety advice.

Kenya Film Locations

Kenya is located in East Africa on the Indian Ocean. It is blessed with a diversity of film locations including bustling city streets, British colonial architecture, snow-capped mountains, rainforests, waterfalls, lakes, savannah, deserts, fishing villages, beautiful beaches, and wildlife parks.

Agricultural film locations include plantations of tea, coffee, cut flowers, sugarcane, corn, potatoes, bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes, mangoes, pineapples, and wheat. Kenya is the third largest producer of tea in the world. Fishing boats are available for filming. Industrial locations include steel mills, petroleum refineries, and factories that produce agricultural products, and textile. Energy locations include thermal power plants, hydroelectric dams, solar and wind farms. Kenya has hosted productions including Sense8 (2015-2018), The Constant Gardener (2005), Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003), Survivor: Africa (2001), and Out of Africa (1985).

Film locations can be divided into the following provinces:

Nairobi

Nairobi is the capital and the main entry point by air into Kenya. The city is a major African economic center and a hub for filming across East Africa. Nairobi has a busy business district, industrial neighborhoods, urban slums, parks, colonial houses, and wildlife parks. Film locations of note include the Nairobi National Museum, National Archives, Nairobi Railway Museum, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Jamia Mosque, Ngong Racecourse, Nairobi Arboretum, Uhuru Park, and Karura Forest Reserve. Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi.

The Constant Gardener (2005) filmed in Lord Errol Restaurant, Royal Nairobi Club, Kenyatta Hospital, and Langata Cemetery. Dandora is the county’s largest garbage dump. Located on the outskirts of the city, Karen Blixen Museum has a well preserved colonial era farmhouse. Nairobi National Park offers photographers shots of wildlife such as giraffes, rhinos, lions, cheetahs, ostriches, zebras, wildebeest, and buffalo roaming the savannah with a modern city skyline backdrop. Just outside of the park you can find Giraffe Manor, as well as The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which is home to orphaned elephants, giraffes, and rhinos.

Central Region

Just north of Nairobi, Kenya’s high hill country is home to mountain peaks, spectacular waterfalls, remote alpine moors, tea and coffee plantations. Mount Kenya National Park is home to rare species of animals as well as spectacular lakes, mineral springs, deep forests, and snow-capped mountains. Mount Kenya is Kenya’s highest peak, and Africa’s second highest. Aberdare National Park’s picturesque forested ravines and open moorland are home to rhinos, lions, leopards, elephants, wild dogs, buffaloes, baboons, monkeys, and a diversity of birdlife. The Treetops Hotel and Arc Lodge are interesting hotels in the park. Mount Longonot National Park is home to the extinct volcano of Mount Longonot. A dense forest lies within the crater of the mountain. The park has sweeping views of the Rift Valley. Wildlife of note includes zebras, giraffes, gazelle, and buffaloes.
Meru National Park is knowns for its jungles, rivers, swamps, grasslands, and termite cathedrals. The park is home to elephants, rhinos, hippos, lions, leopards, cheetahs, and zebras.

Mwea National Reserve is a savannah ecosystem home to Acacia and Baobab trees, and a diversity of African wildlife such as elephants, crocodiles, giraffes, zebras, buffaloes, leopards, jackals, baboons, and a diversity of water birds. Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park is a mountain forest known for its abundant birdlife. Dedan Kimathi University Wildlife Conservancy is located in this region. Ngare Ndare Forest has an interesting canopy walk and is home to buffaloes, elephants, lions, leopards, and rhinos. Waterfalls of note in this region include Nyahururu Falls, and Fourteen Falls. Kiambethu Tea Farm is a picturesque film location a short drive from Nairobi.

Rift Valley

Rift Valley province is located in the west of the country. Maasai Mara National Reserve is home to the red-cloaked Maasai people, the ancestral inhabitants of the region. Each year from July to October the Great Migration takes place with thousands of wildebeest, zebra, and Thomson’s gazelle travelling to and from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Lions, leopards, and cheetahs lie in wait.

Amboseli National Park has views of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. Amboseli is one the best places to film large herds of elephants up close. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) filmed Amboseli National Park. Hell’s Gate National Park is home to lions, leopards, cheetahs, and birdlife such as vultures, eagles, and buzzards. Rimoi National Reserve is home to herds of elephants. Saiwa Swamp National Park is a small park that is home to the Sitatunga, a rare aquatic antelope. Lake Turkana is the world’s largest permanent desert lake. The area is known for its hominin fossil finds. Central Island National Park is located in the lake. The Constant Gardener (2005) filmed in Lake Turkana.

Lake Magadi is a pink lake that was filmed for the The Constant Gardener (2005). Lake Nakuru National Park, Lake Bogoria National Reserve, Lake Naivasha, and Lake Elementaita, are home to thousands of pink flamingos. Menengai Crater is a spectacular film location in the Rift Valley. The High Altitude Training Centre is located in Iten. Lokichogio Airport featured in The Constant Gardener (2005).

Nyanza

Nyanza province is located in the southwest of the country. This part of Kenya is best known for Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake. Ndere Island National Park on Lake Victoria is known for its birdlife. The densely populated Migingo island is a small fishing village in Lake Victoria. The Lake Victoria port city of Kisumu is known for Kisumu Impala Sanctuary, Kisumu Main Market, Kisumu Museum, and Dunga Beach. Kit Mikayi featured in Lupita Ny’ongo’s Vogue USA shoot. Ruma National Park is home to roan antelopes, rhinos, giraffes, buffaloes, baboons, hyenas, honey badgers, and a diversity of birdlife.

Western

Western province is also located in the southwest of the country. Mt Elgon National Park is known for its cliffs, caves, waterfalls, gorges, mesas, calderas, hot springs, and mountain forests. Kitum Cave is a giant salt lick visited by animals in the night. Kakamega Forest National Reserve is a rainforest ecosystem that is home to a diversity of birdlife.

Eastern

Eastern province is located east of Nairobi. Shaba National Game Reserve is a rugged, hilly landscape, that is home to lions, zebras, giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, gazelles, and ostriches. Survivor: Africa (2001), and Out of Africa (1985) filmed in Shaba National Game Reserve. Samburu National Reserve and Buffalo Springs National Reserve border one another in the dry landscape of North Central Kenya. Wildlife of note include elephants, giraffes, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, zebras, buffalo, and ostriches. The Samburu people live in this area. Tsavo East National Park is one of the oldest and largest parks in Kenya. The park’s landscape of semi-arid grasslands and savanna is home to lions, rhinos, buffaloes, elephants, leopards, and a diversity of birdlife. The neighbouring Tsavo West National Park is wetter and more mountainous. Mzima Springs is known for its hippo and crocodile populations. Other wildlife includes rhinos, buffaloes, elephants, leopards, and lions.

Sibiloi National Park is known for its hominin fossils. Bisanadi National Reserve is home to lions, elephants, cheetahs, rhinos, buffaloes, and a diversity of birdlife. Masinga Dam is located in Eastern province.

North Eastern

North Eastern province is located in the northeast of the country on the Indian Ocean. Malka Mari National Park is home to giraffes, crocodiles, hyenas, antelopes, vultures, and zebras. Boni National Reserve is a coastal forest that is home to wildlife such as hippos, warthogs, buffaloes, topis, and waterbucks. Arawale National Reserve is home to hirolas, zebras, wild dogs, and cheetahs.

Coast

Coast province is located in the southeast of the country on the Indian Ocean. Mombasa is Kenya’s oldest and second largest city. Mombasa Port is East Africa’s busiest container port. The Old Town architecture has a mix of Arab, Asian, Portuguese and British influences. Fort Jesus is on old Portuguese colonial fort. Pembe Za Ndovu are giant elephant tusks located on Moi Avenue. Other film locations of note include the Market Hall, Haller Park, Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve, and Nguuni Nature Sanctuary. Beautiful beaches just north of the city include Nyali Beach, Bamburi Beach, and Shanzu Beach. Beautiful beaches just south of the city include Diani Beach, and Tiwi Beach.

Lamu Island is an impressive film location known for its winding alleyways, historic mosques, Arab houses, and traditional Dhows sailing around the area. Settlements of note include Lamu Town, Shela, Matondoni, and Kipungani. Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park and Reserve, Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve, Kiunga Marine National Reserve, and Malindi Marine National Park are known for their colourful coral reefs and diversity of sea life. Shimba Hills National Reserve is a landscape of coastal rainforest, woodland and grassland that is know for its plant diversity. Wildlife includes a range of birdlife and butterflies. Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary is located next to Shimba Hills National Reserve.

Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve is home to elephants, buffaloes, civets, caracals, monkeys, baboons, and bushbabies. Kora National Park is home to caracals, cheetahs, genets, elephants, hippos, hyenas, leopards, lions, servals, and wildcats. Dodori National Reserve is home to elephants, lions, buffaloes, and topis. Tana River Primate National Reserve is home to the endangered red colobus monkey and mangabey. The Ruins of Gedi are a Swahili archaeological site.

Kenya Film Location Permits

Kenya Film License. A filming license must be obtained through a local, registered production service provider and issued by the Department of Film Services (DFS). The cost varies depending on the type of production and number of shoot days. A film license can take anywhere from 1 to 3 days to process. Once this is processed our Kenyan fixer / service producer can go ahead and arrange all other permits.

Kenya Location Permits. Location permits are issued by the various regional and local government bodies. These usually take from 1-7 days to permit depending on the complexity of the shoot. More remote locations may require the producer / fixer to travel to the specific county to negotiate permission in person. There are very few set fees for locations so a good fixer / producer is essential. Shooting in the Nairobi business district or on city streets requires an additional permit. Shutting city streets requires at least 2 weeks to permit, inform the public and arrange police assistance. Additional clearances may be required by NEMA (Environment), CID (National Security) and other government agencies should you wish to film in sensitive zones and / or use explosives, fireworks, etc. Note, drone filming is not permitted in Kenya. Please contact us for location specific information.

Best time for filming in Kenya

Kenya sits on the equator so it’s never really too hot or too cold in Nairobi. The long rains come in March and April and the short rains come in October and November. Best to avoid planning any shoot during the rainy season if the script is weather specific. The long rains can be very intense with power outages and travel delays common during that time. The Great Migration is best photographed in the late dry season when animals congregate around water sources. For monthly weather statistics please see here.
Kenyan festivals and events of interest to filmmakers and photographers include:
• Lake Turkana Festival in May / June.
• Maulidi Festival in May / June on Lamu Island.
• International Camel Derby Festival in August just outside of Maralal.
• Mombasa Carnival in November.
• Lamu Cultural Festival in November.

Kenya is a predominately Christian country, so those holidays are observed. Public holidays may affect timing, availability and costs. See here for public holiday dates in Kenya. Unique Local Stories Brands are looking for local stories that match their brand narrative. Our local teams are a great lead for sourcing those unique stories and characters. If you are looking for stories for your next shoot, send us your brief and we will pitch you ideas. If you have a unique story you would like to pitch to a brand anywhere in the world, pitch us your idea. We have well-established processes to ensure that your ideas are properly seen and protected.

Costs & Tax Incentives

Costs. Kenya is a relatively cost efficient place to film a diversity of African looks, especially for larger shoots that require an established local film infrastructure. Overall, local costs are comparable to Tanzania. Our Kenyan service producer / fixer will negotiate local deals and provide the appropriate level of production support to match every budget. Tax Incentives. Currently Kenya does not offer any incentives. However, there are some production service providers who are registered EPZ companies and this allows them to waive the 16% VAT applicable to all other service providers. It should be noted that, given enough lead time, most service providers can negotiate with local authorities and suppliers to minimize tax.

Film Crew & Talent

Crews. Kenya has a small but good pool of professional internationally experienced directors, directors of photography and stills photographers most of whom have their own gear. Crews are very capable, professional and experienced in servicing visiting productions. Kenyan crews are non-union and speak fluent English. There is enough depth to crew several shoots. For most projects it’s unnecessary to bring in heads of department from abroad. Contact us if you are looking for a Nairobi based director, DP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, or any other film crew for your shoot in Kenya. Talent day rates and buyouts are negotiable. English and Swahili are the official languages. Kenya is an ethnically diverse country. It is home to 42 different tribes including the famous Maasai. The Kikuyu are the largest ethnic group. Other sizable ethnic groups include the Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo, Kamba, Somalis, Kisii, Mijikenda, and Meru people. Kenya has a wide variety of professional talent. Some Arab and Caucasian background roles can also be found.

Kenya Film Equipment

Equipment. Kenya houses all of the modern grip and gaffer equipment you would find in any major production center. Aerial rigs are not typically housed in Kenya so they would need to come in from Europe, Dubai, India or South Africa. Camera equipment including RED Epic, Scarlet, multiple HD kits and lenses are available locally.

Kenya is not an ATA carnet country but importing equipment is very simple. Our Kenyan fixer / producer will require a final equipment list with serial numbers, replacement value, etc. at least 72 hours in advance of arrival for clearing. Their Kenya-based clearing agent will temporarily import your items and ensure that they are cleared once you depart Kenya. There is a clearing bond that is required costing roughly USD500 or around 1% of the value of your equipment. Please note, customs at all Kenyan airports are well versed in recent camera technology, so it would be unwise to gamble and assume a 5D would go unnoticed at the airport.

Communication. We organize local cell phones and online communications to help you avoid the high roaming costs of calling to and from Africa. Communication is key. Our agility and global experience allows us to customise the right communications systems for every shoot. Web posted casting, scouting, and videoconferencing.

For clients that are unable to attend set we offer a virtual video village solution. This dedicated and secure high-resolution video streaming platform allows clients from one or multiple timezones to view setups without compromise and to participate in real-time with the team on set. Separate systems can be set up for the discrete conversations that are required to make a job run right. Working remotely with our local teams reduces your content production costs, turnaround times, carbon footprint, and risks associated with unpredictable global events.

Art Department, Studios, Backlots, & Post Production

Art department and set construction. There are some very qualified art department heads of department in Nairobi. There are many skilled craftsmen in Kenya who can deliver tremendous set builds given enough lead time. Studios and Backlots. No backlots at present with some basic studios in Nairobi. Film Studios have recently partnered with MNET to build state-of-the-art facilities for filming. Post Production. Best to post abroad.

Visas & Work Permits

Foreign crew typically enter Kenya on a tourist visa which most nationalities can pick up on arrival. Alternatively crew can apply online for visas in advance. Visas are valid for up to 90 days. Proof of yellow fever vaccination may be asked for on entry to Kenya. The Kenyan fixer / service producer will organize Special Passes for each visiting crew member which will serve as temporary work permits. These take approximately two weeks to a month to process so the applications must be filed well in advance of crew arrival. Kenya has an agreement with Tanzania and Uganda to waiver visa re-entry fees if travelling between the three countries. Similarly, obtaining an East Africa Visa allows travel multiple entry travel between Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

Transport & Accommodation

Transportation Infrastructure. Major roads are paved. Once you leave Nairobi the quality of many roads deteriorates which can drastically affect travel times especially during the wet season. Our Kenyan producer / fixer organizes safe and reliable 4WD vehicles. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is the main entry point by air. Several major international airlines fly to Nairobi and we can organize local flights when necessary.

Final Notes

Safety. See here for up to date travel advice. Vaccinations may be required depending on where you are filming. See here for more information. Down Time. Try traditional dishes such as kaimati, kuku wa kupaka, mukimo, kachumbari, irio, mutura, githeri, wali wa kukaanga, ugali, and nyama choma. Check out the Carnivore Restaurant, and Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant. Projects. For an example of TV commercials, stills campaigns, online content, corporate videos, virtual reality 360 content, feature films, TV series and documentaries shot in Kenya.

Hire Kenya Production Support & Shooting Crew

If you are looking for a film or photographic production service company, line producer or fixer for your shoot in Kenya, please contact us. If you are looking for a shooting crew for your shoot in Kenya, such as a director, DoP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, please contact us. We are able to provide you with answers, references and bids quickly.