Our Modern High-Speed Train from Nairobi to Mombasa

Traveling in comfort on Kenya’s swift Express train to the coast is like taking a ride through history. Rail travel, especially this route, has a special place in the hearts of Kenyans. The introduction of trains brought Kenya into the modern age, improving commerce and the lives of its people, creating towns along its route and even the capital of Nairobi.

A ride on the state-of-the-art Madaraka Express is just the latest development of Kenyans’ love affair with its trains. For visitors and safari-goers, this modern rail experience will whisk you from Nairobi to the balmy Kenya coast in record time, even passing through two national parks along the way.

Imagine relaxing in air-conditioned comfort as you gaze through the train’s large windows at the passing landscapes… but not just any fields. You’ll be traveling through the historic Tsavo East and West National Parks, with the opportunity to spot elephants, giraffes, and even big cats like lions and cheetahs! What an unspoiled way to travel on your African safari.

A Speedy Solution

Built with the assistance of the Chinese Government, the modern standard gauge railway (SGR) replaced its historic predecessor, the sometimes unreliable “Lunatic Express”, the colonial-era train built by the British in the 19th century.

Madaraka’ means ‘freedom’ in Swahili, and it was with that intent this newest rail line was created, moving passengers from the capital to the coast at speeds of 120 km/h (75 mph), reaching its destination in about 6 hours. Compare that to the 16 to 20 hours of its predecessor.

The 3.8 billion dollar railway offers every contemporary amenity, from wide comfortable seats with charging stations to free WiFi to a convenient buffet car offering snacks and sandwiches. Plus, there are dedicated and secure areas for your luggage. 

A Train Safari?

The Madaraka Express may be the easiest way to reach the coast or the capital while still enjoying the heartland of Kenya and its wildlife. But there’s another way to incorporate the speedy train into your safari adventure.

At Africa Kenya Safaris, you can adventure out with us in our 4 x 4 Jeeps to the great wildlife parks like the Masai Mara, Amboseli, or Tsavo, and then finish up on the Express, headed to the coast. There are several convenient stations near the parks.

Your safari will continue in air-conditioned comfort as you traverse through the Tsavo Parks, on the lookout for the many elephants and other animals roaming these stately plains. The train’s route is elevated for safety and gives you an even more commanding view of the savannah, and its great population of animals.

Arriving in Mombasa, the train glides to a stop at the modern station that features restaurants, shops, and lounges. One of our drivers can meet you there and bring you to your hotel or resort.

What a far cry from the original colonial train that brought Kenya into the 20th century.

Salt Lick Safari Lodge in Tsavo West National Park

The Lunatic Express Was Foretold

The old train was the brainchild of the British as they constructed their domination of Africa in the 19th century. But the train’s emergence had even older and more mystical origins.

It was foretold by a Kamba medicine woman named Syokimau who prophesied the days when a long iron snake belching fire and smoke would slither from the Indian Ocean and wander across the plains. Syokimau spoke of foreigners with red wiry hair who would bring the snake and with it tremendous change, plundering cattle and destroying the land.

And so it came it be, though not without incredible challenges. At an incredible projected cost of 5 million pounds, work began in 1896. From the start, the native people, the wildlife, and the rugged terrain created almost insurmountable obstacles for the British engineers and the 32,000 Indian workers who were brought in to build the railway. 

Accidents, disease, and attacks by lions and the local tribal people took a heavy toll during the almost five years of construction, in which 2,500 workers lost their lives. But finally, in 1899 the newly named Uganda Railway reached the tiny village of Nyrobi (later Nairobi) and train service began.

Kenya’s Lifeline

Though slow and a bit rickety, the line was called the Uganda Railway, also the Permanent Way… and sometimes disparagingly, the Lunatic Express. Nevertheless, it became the main artery for transport across the country. Along its route settlements popped up, trade increased and the railway fed the needs of a growing country. And as the country grew so did Nairobi, soon to become the capital of the nation.

Many of the Indian workers who labored to build the railway, about 7,000, decided to make Kenya their home and formed the beginnings of the country’s Indian community.

However, by the turn of the 21st century, the railway had grown dilapidated and travel times to the coast actually increased. A new more modern rail line was needed, capable of moving passengers and freight at higher speeds and more reliably throughout the inland country and to the coast.

Thus, the standard gauge Madaraka Express was born.

On-Time And Online

Completed in about two and a half years, the Madaraka Express began its freight service on May 30th, 2017, with passenger service starting the following day.

The new train service has been fast, safe, secure, and scenic – a big departure from the days of billowing steam engines crossing questionable wooden trestle bridges. Today you can book your tickets online and pay with your cell phone.

The railway has since expanded and now services thirteen destinations. Three trains depart each day, simultaneously from Nairobi and Mombasa at 8:00 am, 3:00 pm, and 10:00 pm. This last, the Night Train, is a dedicated express, skipping all local stops along its route, and can reach the other side of the country in about five hours.

With stops at Emali, Mtito Andei & Voi

Nairobi to Mombasa Schedule (InterCounty)

Nairobi (Intercounty)Emali (Near Amboseli)Mtito Andei (Tsavo West)Voi (Tsavo East)Mombasa

Nairobi to Mombasa Schedule (Express)

Nairobi (Express)Emali (Near Amboseli)Mtito Andei (Tsavo West)Voi (Tsavo East)Mombasa
3:00pm (Afternoon Train)6:48pm8:30pm
10:00pm (Night Train)3:35 am

Mombasa to Nairobi Schedule (InterCounty)

MombasaVoi (Tsavo East)Mtito Andei (Tsavo West)Emali (Near Amboseli)Nairobi


Mombasa to Nairobi Schedule (Express)

Mombasa (Express)Emali (Near Amboseli)Mtito Andei (Tsavo West)Voi (Tsavo East)Nairobi
3:00pm (Afternoon Train)4:36pm8:18pm
10:00pm (Night Train)3:35 am


Africa Kenya Safaris offers adventurous journeys to all of Kenya’s most spectacular wildlife parks, with options of continuing to the coast on our modern Madarka Express train. So come ride into the future while traveling through the land and wildlife that has always made Africa so special.

Africa beach holidays, Diani beach, Diani sea resort - Africa Kenya Safaris
Elephants seen on an East African safari with Africa Kenya Safaris

Three-Day Safaris

If you don’t have a lot of time but want to get a taste of the safari life, try one of these excursions before heading off to the beach. Tsavo East and Tsavo West are big parks with lots of big game to discover – lions, leopards, elephants and so much more. Amboseli Park guarantees the majesty of world-famous Mt. Kilimanjaro and numerous sightings of great free-ranging elephants.

Four and Five-Day Safaris

You’ll have more time to explore the parks and settle into that safari rhythm on these longer tours. In addition to Tsavo East, Tsavo West, and Amboseli, your choices expand to include Kenya’s most popular park, Masai Mara. The reserve is thick with the big cats and thousands of herding wildebeests and zebras during the Great Migration

Six, Seven & Nine-Day Safaris

These safaris are enough time to become a seasoned safari-goer. You’ll have plenty of time to visit three or even four parks on this extended safari excursion. Your choices of parks to explore include Tsavo East, Tsavo West, Amboseli, the Masai Mara, and two additional reserves – Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru – home to immense birdlife, rhinos, and even sailing safaris.


Elephants at Amboseli National Park Kenya - Africa Kenya Safaris. Photo credits @renahartenberger on Instagram
Elephants wallowing in mud at David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage Nairobi Kenya


Africa Kenya Safaris offers you full and half-day excursions & trips from Nairobi

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Explore our multi-day Kenya safari adventures ranging from 2 - 12 days from Nairobi - Africa's safari capital

Salt Lick Safari Lodge in Tsavo West National Park


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Leopard in Tsavo West National Park


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From the amazing wildlife in the vast savannah to beautiful beaches, Kenya & Tanzania are destinations you won’t want to miss on your tour to Africa.

Buy experiences, not things.....

From the amazing wildlife in the vast savannah to beautiful beaches, Kenya & Tanzania are destinations you won’t want to miss on your tour to Africa.

You came to Africa to live an experience – to see the lions, leopards, and great marching elephants up close. You’re here to take in the sweep of the painted landscapes, and the immediacy of the local people and their cultures. You traveled all this way for the unusual, the dramatic, and the exotic.

And that’s what we strive to give you throughout your African safari with us.

Want to explore even further to enhance your adventure? We can help you dig deeper into our magical world of safari and discover more personal and emotional activities to fully immerse you in your safari journey.

Just call, WhatsApp, email us or fill online enquiry form  and one of our friendly travel advisors will have you on the road to adventure – your own personalized safari.

©Photo & video credits: Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Governors Camps Collection, Mara Predator Project & Ewaso Lions

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