Kenya is one of Africa’s most spectacular and varied countries, from the plains of the Maasai Mara, home to the vast herds of the Serengeti migration, to Mount Kenya, second-highest peak in Africa at 17,000 feet; from the arid but beautiful scenery of Samburu and Buffalo Springs, to the snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro towering over Amboseli National Park. This itinerary is broken into three parts to encompass as much as possible of this wildlife-packed country. It is timed to coincide with the peak of migration in the Maasai Mara, and we spend a week here enjoying the spectacular wildlife, and hoping to catch the herds of wildebeest and zebra as they cross the rivers, dodging the hungry jaws of Nile crocodiles, and hoping to escape the lions, leopards, cheetah and hyaenas which take advantage of this time of bounty.
From the Maasai Mara we move into central Kenya, visiting the wonderful Ark-like lodge on Mount Kenya, from where we can watch animals, including elephants and buffaloes, coming into a flood-lit waterhole. We continue our journey northwards to Meru National Park, home to Born Free writers, Joy and George Adamson, and then to Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves, two of Kenya’s most scenically stunning areas. From here we visit one of the private concessions on the Laikipia Plateau. This huge area has been protected by a combination of private farmers and local communities, and is a wonderful example of how private organisations can protect wildlife and the ecosystem. The Rift Valley lakes of Nakuru and Naivasha are our last stops on this part of the tour: home to vast flocks of flamingos, pelicans and other waterbirds, as well as healthy populations of black and white rhinoceros. The final part of the tour takes us to south-east Kenya, and to the National Parks of Tsavo East, Tsavo West and Amboseli.
Maasai Mara itinerary:
Day 1; August 26th
Arrive in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, and transfer to the Maasai Mara Game Reserve to start our adventure. Located in south-western Kenya, bordering the Serengeti National Park, the Maasai Mara is Kenya’s finest wildlife sanctuary. The wildlife is abundant and the rolling grasslands ensure that animals are never out of sight. Between July and October, when the great wildebeest migration is in the Mara, the experienced is unparalleled. After exhausting the grazing in Tanzania’s northern Serengeti, a large number of wildebeest and zebra move into the Mara drawn by the sweet grass raised by the long rains of April and May. It is estimated that more than half a million wildebeest enter the Mara and are joined by another 100,000 from the Loita Hills east of the Mara. Driving in the midst of these great herds is a truly memorable experience. The Maasai people live within this migration area with their stock but centuries of close association with the wildlife have resulted in an almost symbiotic relationship where wildlife and people live in peace with one another.
Days 2 to 6; August 27th to 31st
We have 6 days to explore the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, one of Africa’s most iconic wildlife areas. This itinerary is timed so that the greatest numbers of migratory herds of wildebeest and zebra are present in the Mara, the northern extent of the Serengeti system. Hopefully we will be lucky enough to see groups of wildebeest and zebra crossing the rivers, running the gauntlet of crocodiles and other predators.
The Mara is home to the Big 5: lion, leopard, African buffalo, elephant and rhino, as well as a host of supporting wildlife. Apart from the better-known species some rarer species can also be found, such as roan antelope, bat-eared fox and topi. The Maasai Mara is also a haven for cats and other predators, with large prides of lion, families of cheetah (last time I was in the Mara we spent time watching a mother and her six full-grown cubs!), as well as good numbers of leopard, hyaena and jackal.
Each day we explore different areas of the Mara, choosing whether to go out early morning and late afternoon, or whether to take a picnic lunch and spend all day in the Reserve. We stay in a luxurious tented camp on the banks of the seasonal Olare Orok River in the heart of the Mara. With only a handful of tents, set miles from any other lodge, this is truly the best way to experience this spectacular wildlife area.
Day 7; September 1st
Today we say goodbye to the Maasai Mara and drive back to Nairobi. We stay tonight in one of Nairobi’s most famous lodges, Giraffe Manor, a gorgeous converted manor house where hand-reared giraffes wander the grounds, sticking their heads through the bedroom windows in search of breakfast! Giraffe Manor is the only place in the world where you can enjoy the breathtaking experience of feeding and photographing giraffe over the breakfast table. The Manor is surrounded by 140 acres of indigenous forest on the outskirts of Nairobi. As well as the giraffe, the property is also home to many species of birds, large families of warthogs and the elusive bushbuck.
Day 8; September 2nd
After a relaxed breakfast with the giraffes either transfer to the airport for your flight home, or continue with the main tour.
Day 01, September 2nd
We arrive in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, and transfer to our gorgeous lodge in the leafy district of Karen. This evening we meet for our Welcome Dinner.
Day 02, September 3rd
The name “Nairobi” comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to “cold water,” the Maasai name of the Nairobi River, which in turn lent its name to the city. Founded by the British in 1899 as a simple rail depot on the railway linking Mombasa to Uganda, the town quickly grew to become the capital of British East Africa in 1907, and eventually the capital of a free Kenyan republic in 1963. After breakfast we begin our adventure, visiting the highlights of the beautiful Karen area of Nairobi, including the Giraffe Centre (where orphaned giraffes are rehabilitated for release into the wild) and the Karen Blixen Museum (home of the author of Out of Africa).
Day 03; September 4th
Today we drive north out of Nairobi to Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest peak. Our destination is a rustic lodge on the flanks of Mountain Kenya surrounded by dense rainforest that comes alive at dusk. The lodge overlooks a waterhole which presents a constant ballet of wildlife with elephant, buffalo and waterbuck being regular sights as night falls. Watching the fascinating interplay of the animals as they arrive to drink, bathe, spar and forage around the water hole is a sight to behold. There is also a secret viewing hide by the water’s edge from where we can experience the awesome thrill of being only metres away from some of the most massive beasts on earth.
Day 04; September 6th
This morning we drive further up Mount Kenya, to explore the upper reaches of the mountain, looking for endemic birds and mammals. There are superb views over the surrounding countryside, although the summit is often cloaked in mist. The glaciers here are something of a geographical marvel, being just 16 km south of the equator.
Day 05; September 6th
Today we continue our journey north to Meru National Park, an especially beautiful area of Kenya. Meru encompasses a wide variety of landscapes and habitats, from woodlands on the slopes of the Nyambeni Mountain range to wide open plains with riverbanks dotted with doum palms. The Park straddles the equator and is bisected by 13 rivers and numerous mountain-fed streams. It is home to a large number of mammals, including Grevy’s zebra, elephant, eland, bushpig, lion, cheetah, leopard, reticulated giraffe, bohor reedbuck, lesser kudu, hartebeest and buffalo. The Park is famous as the setting for Joy Adamson’s book “Born Free” — the story of the Adamson’s life and research amongst lion and cheetah. “Elsa” the lioness was the most well-known and her grave is marked here.
Day 06; September 7th
We have a full day to explore Meru National Park, visiting different areas of the Park in our search for its wildlife. Large prides of lion can be seen, and some of Kenya’s largest herds of buffalo, while the rivers abound with hippo and crocodile. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded including Peter’s finfoot which inhabits the Murera and Ura Rivers, Pel’s fishing owl, as well as a variety of kingfishers, rollers, bee-eaters, starlings and weaver species.
Day 07; September 8th
After an early morning game drive in Meru National Park we continue our drive northwards to Samburu Game Reserve, and its neighbour, Buffalo Springs National Reserve. The two sanctuaries comprise an area of 385 sq kms on the hot and arid fringes of the vast northern region of Kenya. These reserves are within the lands of the colourful Samburu pastoralists, relatives of the famed Maasai, and shelter a wide variety of wildlife. This afternoon we take a game drive.
Day 08; September 9th
Today we take safari drives in both Samburu and Buffalo Springs reserves, enjoying the different landscapes and wildlife. The reserves are home to a number of wildlife species rarely found elsewhere in Kenya, including gerenuk, Beisa oryx, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe and Somali ostrich. Samburu is also a good area to find leopard. Relief in this dramatic, sun-burned landscape comes from the Uaso Nyiro River, fringed by doum palms and riverine forest. Here herds of elephants seek shade and refreshment, and it is not uncommon to find both crocodile and elephants sharing the same sand bank, as impala and baboons come down to drink. The river is the perfect stage for an endless pageant of wildlife.
Days 09, 10 & 11; September 10th, 11th & 12th
After breakfast we continue our journey to a spectacular lodge in a private wildlife concession on the Laikipia Plateau. The Laikipia area is part of an ancient lava plain covered with red dirt, thorn scrub, broken volcanic rock, dried riverbeds, steep hills and rocky outcroppings. Unusual for this arid area of Northern Kenya, Laikipia has a permanent water supply, the Ewaso Ngiro River. This permanent water flow provides an oasis for the many elephant, hippo, and crocodile that abound in this area. The region is also home to a variety of wildlife, and is a great area for spotting the big cats: leopard, lion and cheetah. The mix of woodland and grassland, with riverine forest and swampland creates a home to a wide variety of bird life as well as mammals. We have three days here to fully explore the Laikipia and all its wonders.
Day 12; September 13th
Bidding farewell to the Laikipia Plateau, we drive to Lake Nakuru National Park. Nakuru is one of the alkaline Rift Valley Lakes, and is a fantastic bird sanctuary, its shores populated by large flocks of flamingos and pelicans, as well as a sanctuary for both black and white rhinos. The Park covers the lake and a strip of land around the northern, eastern and western shores, while southward the Park extends to Makalia Falls, which defines the south limit. The shores are surrounded by swamps that during the driest seasons disappear to give rise to huge white salt crusts. The riverine forest opens up southwards into a bush and acacia tree savannah, while the eastern and western shores are framed by ridges covered in magnificent Euphorbia forests offering splendid lookouts over the lake.
Day 13; September 14th
Lake Naivasha is a beautiful freshwater lake, fringed by thick papyrus. Much of the lake is surrounded by forests of the yellow-barked Acacia xanthophlea, known as the yellow fever tree. These forests abound with bird life, while the waters of the lake draw a range of game to its shores. Giraffe wander among the acacia trees, buffalo wallow in the swamps, and black-and-white colobus monkeys move through the treetops, while the large hippo population sleep the days out in the shallows. Hell’s Gate National Park lies alongside the lake, and makes for a wonderful contrast. This Park was named for its massive red-tinged cliffs framing a geothermically active interior of steam vents and bubbling springs. The park is home to a profusion of plains game and birdlife.
Day 14; September 15th
Today we return to Nairobi to the airport for our flight home, or continue on the extension to Tsavo East National Park.
Tsavo and Amboseli extension:
Day 1; September 15th
This morning we drive south to Tsavo East National Park, one of Kenya’s oldest national parks. With its sister reserve, Tsavo West National Park, it protects 21,000 square kilometres, and is one of the world’s large wildlife sanctuaries. Practically all of Kenya’s wildlife is represented in the two Tsavos, but the animal for which the Tsavo East is best known is the elephant, with big “tuskers” being frequently seen. Lion are often encountered on game drives, and the Park is famous for its historical lions that developed man-eating habits during the construction of the railroad at the end of the 19th Century. The rare lesser kudu is also common. Birdlife is spectacular in the Park with numerous species of sunbirds, hornbills, parrots, weavers, starlings, bustards and birds of prey present in great numbers.
Our comfortable lodge is perched on top of a steep hill, overlooking the Tsavo East plains that extend as far as the undulating terrain of the Yatta Plateau. Below the lodge are three water holes which attract herds of elephant and buffalo, as well as a host of other wildlife, and provides a wonderful spectacle.
Day 2; September 16th
After an early morning game drive we transfer to Tsavo West National Park. Tsavo West contains a diversity of habitats and wildlife set against a beautiful mountainous backdrop, with open plains alternating with savannah and semi-desert scrub, acacia woodlands and rocky ridges. Our lodge was the first ever built in a Kenyan National Park, built in the lee of Mount Kilimanjaro, adjacent to a teeming water hole that is visited daily by vast herds of elephant, buffalo and plains game.
Day 3; September 17th
We have all day to explore this beautiful National Park, visiting different areas in our search for wildlife. Belts of riverine vegetation and palm thickets protect the crystal-clear waters of Mzima Springs, one of the highlights of the Park, where water filtered underground from the Chyulu Hills gushes from underneath a lava ridge into a series of clear pools. An underwater observation chamber allows views of hippo, fish and crocodile as they move through the pools. We also look for some of the park’s prolific birdlife, which includes an incredible 600 species.
Day 4; September 18th
This morning we drive to Amboseli National Park, driving past the picturesque Chyulu Hills. Amboseli is best known for its unrivalled views of Kilimanjaro and for its elephant population, with over 1000 elephants in the Park eco-system, including some impressively tusked bulls drawn to a series of large, lush swamplands. We stay at a stunning tented camp situated just outside the Park in one of Amboseli’s few remaining areas of unspoilt woodland, framed against the majestic backdrop of Africa’s highest mountain, snow-capped Kilimanjaro.
Day 5; September 19th
Amboseli provides the classic Hollywood image of Africa. Set in rolling savannah it is dwarfed by the presence of the pink-tinged, snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro which, at 5,896 metres, is the highest free-standing mountain in the world and topped by one fifth of all the ice in Africa. Against this magnificent backdrop roam vast herds of elephant accompanied by a kaleidoscope of other beasts: lion, buffalo, cheetah, giraffe, baboon, gazelle, hippo and wildebeest to name but a few. There are also over 400 species of birds. We have a full day to enjoy the wildlife of this beautiful reserve.
Day 6; September 20th
After a morning safari we drive back to Nairobi, arriving at our spectacular lodge in time for lunch.
Day 7; September 21st
Today we bid a sad farewell to Kenya, and transfer to the airport for our flights home.
- All accommodation
- All transfers and transportation, including transfers to and from the airport for the designated group flight at the start and end of the tour
- All park entrance fees
- All meals during the tour
- Drinking water
- Services of Holly Faithfull and local guides throughout
- Tips for local guides, porters etc
- International air fare to and from Nairobi
- Beverages, other than drinking water
- Items of a personal nature, such as phone calls, laundry etc
- Airport departure tax
- Trip cancellation or interruption insurance
What is the trip like?
Kenya is an easy place to travel, with just normal good health necessary. Flexibility, sense of humour, and open-mindedness are always required. Wildlife viewing takes place mainly during safari drives. Accommodations range from comfortable hotels to luxurious lodges, all with private bathrooms, electricity, hot/cold water. There is quite a bit of driving on this trip as it is the best way to get around and to see the country. Roads vary from excellent 2-lane paved roads to rough, backcountry roads. Rough road driving is compensated for by the beautiful scenery.
The temperature in Kenya does not change drastically with the seasons since it is located on the Equator. Altitude is the main factor determining temperature. Lowland areas are warmer, while the temperatures on Mount Kenya can be chilly. We are visiting during the dry season, but rain can be expected at any time of the year.