Kenya Wildlife Safari
Birding and Nature Tours with Naturalist Journeys
Aug. 27 - Sept. 7, 2013
For those that love nature, there is no equal experience to that of an African wildlife safari. Naturalist Journeys owner and senior guide, Peg Abbott, hesitates to name her favorite wildlife and birding tour, but knows firmly that if she had just one nature tour left to go on, it would be a Kenya wildlife safari. That is saying a lot for thirty-plus years of nature and adventure travel on seven continents.
What makes a Kenya wildlife safari so special is best described in the multi-faceted superlatives of the country: abundant wildlife, sublime scenery, and the chance to see hundreds of large, colorful bird species along with the iconic mammals of the region: lions, leopards, elephants, rhino, cheetah, and yes – warthogs! What is less obvious ahead of a Kenya wildlife safari, but so memorable afterwards, is the amazing hospitality of Kenyan people and their respect for nature and embrace of ecotourism expressed in a rich heritage of wildlife safari tourism.
Naturalist Journeys is fortunate to have a strong partnership with expert guide Preston Mutinda, of Preston’s Birding and Wildlife Safaris, a trusted partner for three decades. Preston is one of the few gold-rated guides for Kenya, and on safari, his deep respect for Kenya’s nature and wildlife, for the Kenyan people, and for his guests is unparalleled.
Peg Abbott, owner of Naturalist Journeys, personally escorts our Kenya Wildlife Safari, adding her years of expertise to Preston’s. This is the journey of a lifetime. Please call or email and she’ll be happy to discuss the Kenya Wildlife Safari itinerary with you in detail.
Tues., Aug. 27* Arrival in Nairobi, Kenya
After a long flight, our local guide and host Preston Mutinda has chosen a hotel for us that is a real treat as the start of our Kenya Wildlife Safari. You will be met at the airport, and transferred to lovely, modern accommodations with a view of Nairobi National Park. Enjoy views of native animals in the distance as you unpack, and from the patio of the restaurant, bar or swimming pool. This hotel is just minutes from the airport and away from hustle and bustle of the city. As people arrive at varying hours, plan on purchasing meals this first night as you choose from the hotel’s excellent restaurant, or its casual patio bar. Jetlag is real; some may just go to bed….
We can recommend flights if you wish to travel with other members of our Kenya birding and wildlife tour. There is also the option to arrive one night earlier (additional cost) to rest up from travels. If several choose to do this, we can offer optional activities which would include a chance to see Daphne Sheldrake’s Elephant Orphanage late morning as they feed the elephants, followed by lunch and a visit to the Karen Blixen home.
Accommodations: Ole-Sereni Hotel, Nairobi.
Wed., Aug. 28 Mt. Kenya National Park
This morning we start with a safari minutes away at Nairobi National Park. While the park is fenced and close to a major city of Africa, it’s extraordinary to see animals living very much in the wild, with a suite of predators, a fascinating mix of habitats, and a chance to see endangered Black Rhino, here where they can be guarded. We always find a few special species in Nairobi National Park, and it’s a great way to check out your cameras, and get accustomed to safari life. It also is a wonderful place to bird, with beauties such as Crowned Cranes close at hand.
After lunch, we leave Nairobi, driving north towards Mt. Kenya and our accommodations at Mountain Lodge. We arrive in time to settle in and start watching wildlife come in to a waterhole, which is visible at several levels of the lodge. It’s an amazing experience to watch troops of Baboons, Bushbucks, Buffaloes and even Elephants at such close range.
This venerable lodge is one we’ve stayed at on all our Kenya journeys. With its view of spectacular Mt. Kenya, its location in lovely forest with trails, and its ambiance are hard to equal. The lodge works hard at maintaining a light ecological footprint in its prime location within Mt. Kenya National Park. African Buffalos are often at the waterhole, as are groups of elephant, often some with very new youngsters at their side. Bushbuck and Waterbuck approach carefully, always alert for dangers of lions and other predators. Close to the lodge, Spotted Genets often come in after dark, and guests must be careful not to invite Sykes Monkeys into your room by leaving a window open!
In addition to mammals, we find some wonderful birds in the forests, and from the rooftop deck of our lodge. Birdlife International lists 55 trigger species for the area, including Mountain Buzzards, beautiful Hartlaub’s Turacos, Abyssinian Owls, Bar-tailed Trogons, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters, six species of sunbirds, and others.
What is this place like? We find a good description on Mountain Lodge’s website: “Raised on stilts above the forest canopy, a timbered drawbridge leads from the forest and up on to the wooden ‘decks' of the lodge. Inside, the impression of having boarded a ship is perpetuated by a combination of log paneled walls, timbered game-viewing decks and winding stairs leading to a selection of snugly comfortable, cabin-styled rooms.”
Accommodations: Mountain Lodge, Mt. Kenya National Park (B,L,D, both days)
Thurs., Aug. 29 Mount Kenya
Knock, knock. It’s time to wake up in your tree-top lodge for something special has been sighted at the waterhole! We meet for coffee atop on the roof-top viewing area, watching sunrise on Mt. Kenya and a grand array of birds.
After breakfast, we join the lodge’s excellent naturalist for a walk in the forest nearby. Walk a comfortable trail under a lush canopy, literally teaming with birds, and sometimes sightings of mammals, particularly squirrels and monkeys. Our focus is on natural history here, for at this location we are in a habitat totally different than any other we visit on the journey, so species seen here, particularly the birds, are not likely encountered again. However, if anyone is interested in a more rigorous walk at higher elevations on Mount Kenya, that may be possible this day with guides from the lodge, but we need to know this preference from you on booking, and there may be additional cost.
We spend the last hours of the day back up on the deck, watching as some of the larger hornbills come in to roost. Sounds of the forest are special, and with luck we may see both Sykes and Black and White Colobus troops of monkeys, or on pathways, the very smallest antelope we’ll encounter, the Suni. Beautiful flowering trees bring small colorful songbirds almost to arm’s reach and the effect is very much like that of a New World Canopy Tower.
Accommodations: Mountain Lodge, Mt. Kenya National Park (B,L,D, both days)
Fri., Aug. 30 Drive to Samburu and Larsen’s Camp
We then drive north, passing the Equator, to arid lands along the Uaso Nyiro River, to one of our favorite wildlife viewing areas in all of Kenya. The landscape has immense artistic appeal, with spreading palms, rugged and isolated mountain ranges, and several species of wildlife adapted to dry conditions that we will not see again, among these Beisa Oryx, Gerenuk, and Grevy’s Zebras. It is an area that we have excellent opportunity to see predators, including all the large cats. Along the river we have a chance to see rare Palm Nut Vultures, and throughout our days a good variety of hawks and eagles.
Enjoy lunch, settle into your very nicely appointed safari tents (with private bath) and in the afternoon, we venture out for our first safari! Our participants last year described days here as an “animal infusion”. Peg says if she had three days left in life, she’d like to spend it at Larsen’s Camp.
Dinner is a lovely affair here at the lodge, graciously served, often in an outdoor setting.
Enjoy sunset, and the night sounds as you drift off to sleep.
Accommodations at Larsen’s Camp (B,L,D)
Sat., Aug. 31 and Sun., Sept. 1 Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Parks
We have two full days for safaris in Samburu National Park and adjacent Buffalo Springs National Park. We typically go out early ahead of breakfast for a short drive, when wildlife is very active and predators may be on kills made the night previous. We return for a delightful breakfast served on the deck by the river, then go back out for much of the morning. After lunch we take a break for siesta, swimming, combing through photos, etc. Then about 3PM we go out until sunset (about 6PM). There are many areas to explore and so many animals to see!
Larsen’s Tented Camp, located on the banks of the Uaso Nyiro River is one of our all-time favorite lodges. Wildlife and birds are so prolific on the grounds that it’s hard to peel yourself away for a game drive! Here the rhythm of safari life kicks in – early game drive, back for breakfast, morning game drive, back for lunch, rest-nap-photograph in camp- late afternoon game drive, sundowners, dinner, night sounds and stories by the fire…
In this arid, northern part of Kenya, we find a host of new mammals. Grevy’s Zebra, Gerenuk, and Beisa Orynx are signatures of this beautiful landscape. Grant’s Gazelles, Reticulated Giraffes and three cats: lion, leopard and cheetah are often seen. One year we found and got photos of a highly secretive Caracal here!
The bird life of this area is also grand, with sightings of Somali Ostrich, Grey-headed and other kingfishers, and ever-present, colorful Lilac-breasted Rollers. Birdlife International lists over 60 trigger species here, including Vulturine Guineafowl, Somali Bee-eater, Rosy-patched Bush-shrike, Pringle’s Puffback, several larks, Somali Crombec, several starlings, sunbirds, and social-weavers, and more. This is an excellent place to observe Kenya’s impressive large eagles, and most of its guild of vultures, including rare Egyptian Vulture, one that is able to open Ostrich eggs!
Our camp is small, just 20 tents, and its grounds invite relaxation. Troops of Baboons may visit the river, birds abound. Delicious meals are served in a variety of atmospheres, on the river bank under a canopy of fig trees, on the river front deck, by the camp fire, or on the tree deck overlooking a water hole.
With three nights here, we have ample time to explore, and to pamper ourselves a bit with some relaxation inherent to safari. There is a small but refreshing swimming pool, and you can even book a massage on a private deck by the pool, with animals in view!
Accommodations: Larsen's Camp, Samburu Game Reserve. (B,L,D, all days)
Mon., Sept. 2 Flight to Masai Mara / Wildlife Safari and Lodgings at a Perfect Perch for the Path of Migration
We have chosen an award-winning lodge that blends in with its environment, perched right above a major path for wildebeest migration. This tour is timed for us to be here at the prime weeks, and we have five nights here. Today, in what is Kenya’s most fabulous wildlife area, we will have ARRIVED. We fly from an airfield about an hour and a half from Samburu, and take a mid-morning flight. It’s a fantastic overview of the Mara, a chance to assess what is going on with the huge herds from the air, and wonderful to avoid a long, hot, dusty traverse by road to southern Kenya to get there.
In addition to the drama of migration, quite a spectacle as predators come in to prey on the wildebeest as they try to cross a major river, we have so many animals to observe. Cheetahs are elusive, and often stay away from such activity. We’ll network with other guides, and visit them on their ridge top terrain. Spotted Hyenas are quite common, often found in groups of over a dozen animals, very efficient at cleaning up a kill. Zebras are here throughout the year, the arrival of wildebeest actually take some pressure off them as predators veer to the big herds. The landscape of the Mara is vast, and we fill our days exploring.
On one of our days we have lunch at Governor’s Camp, a lodge we often use at other times of year. It has large shade trees on the grounds that attract colorful turacos and other birds, so after lunch we take some time to look around. Marshes near here are a great place to scan for a pride of Mara’s lions quite acclimated to being observed. Coming and going we enjoy sweeping views of the African plains and a chance for prime game viewing.
Accommodations: Mara Serena Safari Lodge, above the wildebeest crossing, Masai Mara (B,L,D)
Tues. - Fri., Sept. 3-6 Amazing full days at Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara is considered to be Africa’s premier reserve. There is simply no place like it on Earth! The Mara is situated in southwest Kenya, adjacent to Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park Reserve. In August, the action is here!
While we spend a lot of time for observation and photography associated with the wildebeest and their crossing, their interactions with each other and predators, we travel about the Mara as well. We often find a hard-working cheetah with her young, surveying herds of Thompson’s Gazelles. Topi, a beautiful antelope are numerous here; they stand regally on termite mounds.
The Mara itself is some 600 square miles, and it is nested in a much larger ecosystem between the Great Rift Valley escarpments to the vast reaches of the Serengeti. Long-term African Lion and Spotted Hyena work has been done here, as well as extended observation on packs of Wild Dogs, which are extremely rare now due to distemper outbreaks and other canine disease.
Birding is legendary in the Mara, and in-between mammal sightings one can find dozens of species! Over 500 species have been recorded, with 53 birds of prey and Secretary Birds among them. Some of the memorable species include colorful Saddle-billed Storks, African Openbill Storks, Lappet-faced Vultures, Tawny and Martial eagles, Kori Bustards, Meyer’s Parrots, Verreaux’s Eagle Owls, Malachite and African Pygmy Kingfishers, Chinspot Batis, Fork-tailed Drongos, Beautiful Sunbirds, Golden-breasted Buntings and so many more!
While in the Mara, we can arrange a hot-air balloon ride for you (additional cost). This is timed so you see sunrise while drifting over the plains, filled at this time of year with wildlife, pretty wonderful!
Accommodations: Mara Serena Safari Lodge, above the wildebeest crossing, Masai Mara (B,L,D)
Sat., Sept. 7 Flight Masai Mara / Nairobi / Return Flights or Great Rift Valley Extension
It will not be easy to tear ourselves away from here! After breakfast we go to the airstrip to make connections to Nairobi. Those continuing on to our extension, will be welcomed by our great team of drivers to drive a few hours west to Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. For those returning home, you can rest up at the Ole Serena hotel until your connections to return flights to USA. Others will have lunch, then head to Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, known for its geology, thermal features, flamingoes, and for fabulous birding and big mammals (such as Leopards) at Lake Nakuru National Park. (B,L)
Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, Spectacular Scenery, Wildlife and Thermal Features!
September 7-11, 2013
Sat., Sept. 7 Drive to Lake Nakuru National Park / Flamingo Hill Camp
We have lunch back at Ole Serena hotel, and say good-bye to those that have to leave us to return home. For the rest of us we head out through Nairobi ahead of rush hour traffic, and find ourselves once again in a peaceful, lush agricultural region as we descend into Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. Our accommodations are in Lake Nakuru National Park. The food here is lovely and we are right in the midst of wildlife. Fabulous Yellow-fever Acacia trees line the roads here, making for beautiful photography. We drive through the park en route to our lodgings, arriving at sunset to a very restful place.
Accommodations: Flamingo Hill Lodge (D)
Sun., Sept. 8 Lake Nakuru National Park
After the Mara one could say, “What else is there?” But we find Nakuru so completely different, with its section of forests, vast wetlands where wildlife roams – it’s just a delight to have time here.
The Great Rift Valley is a stunning geologic feature and extensive agricultural area of Kenya. Lake Nakuru is a large alkaline lake, surrounded by woodland and grassland. Lake Nakuru National Park is famous for Hippos and astounding numbers of Lesser Flamingos. It is one of Kenya’s earliest-established parks, and today is one of its Rhino Sanctuaries, with both Black and White rhinos occurring. Rothschild’s Giraffes, plentiful Waterbucks, and warthogs are here, along with a great variety of wildlife in the upland areas. The lake and wetlands team with species including Pied Kingfishers, Hammerkops, African Fish Eagles and rarer Goliath Herons. Over 450 birds species have been recorded, and Birdlife International lists over 30 trigger species, including Little and Black-necked grebes, African Spoonbills, Great White Pelicans, Lesser Kestrels, Hempich’s Hornbills, Grey-crested Helmet-shrikes, Bronzed and Golden-winged Sunbirds and Purple Grenadiers.
Mammal viewing is equally good at Lake Nakuru National Park. Preston so artfully places us at the right spot for wildlife action, light for our images, and truly memorable times. At Nakuru, we have another chance to see White Rhinos, and to observe the extraordinary tree-climbing lions found here. Leopards have delighted our groups in previous years.
Our tented camp here is an intimate one, with just 25 tents. We have electricity, lovely furnishings and textiles, and wonderful food and service, all while being as close to nature as possible.
Accommodations: Flamingo Camp, Lake Nakuru National Park. (B,L,D, both days)
Mon., Sept. 9 Lake Bogoria Nature Reserve
Today we leave Nakuru and spend some time at Lake Baringo en route to Lake Bogoria, perched higher in the rift valley. We have lunch at Lake Bogoria Lodge, and then enjoy the afternoon to explore Lake Bogoria National Reserve, best known for its Greater and Lesser flamingoes but also home to mammals such as Greater Kudu. Some of the birds include Dierderik and Klaas’s cuckoos Red-and-Yellow Barbets, Black-headed Plover, Purple, Black-headed, Gray and Goliath herons, Silverbirds, Dark-chanting Goshawks, Little, Lesser Masked, and Chestnut weavers, and Jackson’s Golden Weavers. African Fish Eagles call and soar above ducks, grebes, sandpipers and more. Mammals include Klipspringers, Rock Hyraxes, Buffaloes, Common Zebras, Olive Baboons, Warthogs, Caracals, Spotted Hyenas, Impalas, Grant’s Gazelles, Dik-diks, and Yellow-winged Bats.
This area is a rich one for birds. Between here and Bogoria, in the days to follow, we hope to find massive numbers of flamingoes, colorful Saddlebill Storks, Giant Kingfishers and more.
Wildlife abounds, but part of the interest here are thermal features of the Great Rift Valley. The familiar smell of sulfur, known to many from Yellowstone National Park, seems quite haunting in this expansive landscape. At times, in arid, shallow lakes, the numbers of flamingoes can number in the millions.
We return to the comforts of our lodge, to dine and greet the evening, with luck, one full of stars.
Accommodations: Lake Bogoria Lodge (B,L,D)
Tues., Sept. 10 Lake Bogoria / Baringo Cliffs
This morning we rise early to be at the Lake Baringo Cliffs when birds and wildlife are active. This is one of Kenya’s true birding hotspots, and we hope to see Cliff chat, Brown-tailed Rock Chat, Violet-backed Starling, Magpie Starling, Bristle-crowned Starling, White-billed Buffalo Weaver, Little Weaver, Blue-capped Cordon Blue, Hempich’s and Jackson’s Hornbill, White-faced Scops Owl, Verreaux’s Eagle, Beautiful Sunbird, and a variety of barbets, brownbuls, crombecs and many other species. Mammals like the cliff-loving Klipspringer can also be found.
We take a picnic breakfast, and mid-morning venture out into the lake in boats to explore and see wildlife that uses the productive margin of land and water. Lake Baringo is perhaps Kenya’s best spot for birding, and after many days of safari it’s really nice to walk around, spend time in woods, and along lakeshores. It is a big lake, some 50 square miles. We should see plenty of Hippos, Crocodiles, Waterbucks, and hopefully, Goliath Herons (yes, they are HUGE and deserve their name).
Our final night in Kenya, time to celebrate seeing so much in such a short time!
Accommodations: Lake Bogoria Lodge (B,L,D)
Wed., Sept. 11 Return to Nairobi / Evening departures / or, continue to South Africa’s Cape Town for our South Africa extension
Our Guide: Preston Mutinda
Naturalist Journeys’ owner Peg Abbott has been a friend and colleague of Preston’s since her first Africa adventure in 1992. He is by far the top wildlife spotter she has encountered in thirty years of guiding, and he is a generous, knowledgeable, fun person to travel with; one that can keep us safe, find key species and share knowledge of Kenya’s history, ecology and culture with us as we travel. He has selected a trusted colleague in Uganda for seeing gorillas and birding there, and will accompany the group.
Preston Mutinda was born in Eastern Kenya in the tribe Kamba. He is a highly-accomplished guide, being one of only a handful of Gold-rated guides in Kenya. His easy manners, good sense of humor, competency, and flexibility are highly prized.
Preston dreamed of venturing into Wildlife protection when he was a young boy. That dream came true when he graduated from Kenya Utalii [tourism] College in 1978. He has a Diploma in Safari guiding and Ornithology. He worked for East African Ornithological Safaris and Origins Safaris for many years.
Preston expanded his passion for leading safaris when he started a Safari company called Preston’s Birding & Wildlife Safaris one of the top leaders in the safari industry. [www.prestonsafaris.com]. It specializes in customized adventures appealing to all budgets where he is the Safari Director. Preston has travelled extensively in seventeen USA states doing Wildlife presentations. In 2001 he received a scholarship for a 4 months internship at Brukner Nature Center [www.bruknernaturecenter.com] with the help of Troy Rotary club in Ohio State. When he returned he started a Community Center called Mutinda Wildlife Education Center with support from Troy Rotary Club and many friends from USA. He has over 150 students in that nature and birding club, actively learning about wildlife and nature.
The long experience he has in Safari guiding has reinforced a lifelong commitment to Wildlife Conservation. He is also currently an Alternate Director of Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association.
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OF THE JOURNEY
Cost of the journey (Main Tour) is $7095.00, per person, double occupancy from Nairobi, based on double occupancy. This cost includes all accommodations, most meals as specified in the itinerary, professional guide services, round-trip flight within Kenya to and from the Mara, park and program entrance fees and miscellaneous program expenses. Cost of the Lake Nakuru / Great Rift Valley extension is $1895.00, double occupancy, from Nairobi. Many tours do not include internal flights or park fees; we do so for your convenience and planning.
Tour cost does not include: round-trip transportation from your home city to Nairobi, optional activities such as a hot air balloon ride, items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone charges, maid gratuities or beverages from the bar. Single supplement, as available, is $1195.00. Single supplement for the extension is $390.00.
Optional early arrival to include hotel, breakfast and lunch, the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage visit, and Karen Blixen home $378.00. Minimum number for tour is 4, maximum 11.
Group Size: Maximum of 12, minimum of 6 persons. Tour and Extension prices are based on 6 persons, with fewer than 6 a small group surcharge (typically $100-$300) may apply.
Our safari vehicles will primarily be in minibuses with a special pop-top, an adaption for wildlife viewing. We plan on a maximum of 6 per vehicle, so that all participants can have a window seat, and allow for everyone to stand up and photograph through the open roof. We will confirm the first group of six, and then go with a second vehicle and guide, once we have 9 participants.
Guides: Preston Mutinda, with Peg Abbott of Naturalist Journeys joining with the second safari vehicle, typically with 9 or more clients.
Plan to arrive in Nairobi on August 27th at a time convenient for you. Our host company staff will meet all arriving flights. If you arrive early in the morning and would like to check in to rest, we can book the room a night early for you (depending on time, this may be an additional cost). Please note, we plan to offer an excursion this day for those arriving the night previous, to include the Elephant Orphanage, lunch and a visit to the Karen Blixen home. We’ve found it’s very nice to get there a night ahead and rest up, if your time and budget allow. Departures if doing the main tour only is at your convenience on Sept. 7th, and September 11th if on the extension. On both departure days, we time return to Nairobi for late-afternoon or evening flights out only. If you need to take a morning flight, we can book an additional night for you in Nairobi at Ole Serena, close to the airport. Do remember you have to be at the airport about 2 1/2 to 3 hours ahead of your scheduled flight.
Naturalist Journeys, LLC is an equal opportunity service provider and committed to the goal of ensuring equal opportunity for all in employment and program delivery.
Photos by Peg Abbott and Alex Vargo, all rights reserved. Please ask for specific photo use and credit.
Naturalist Journeys LLC, a top birding and nature tour company, offers specialty small group travel to many of the best nature destinations worldwide. Naturalist Journeys’ expert guides have decades of experience leading guided nature and birding tours as well as travel photography tours, all with a focus on responsible travel and eco-tourism. Naturalist Journeys also offer Utah hiking adventure tours and adventure travel in national parks and wildlife reserves ranging from in-depth Alaska wildlife tours to guided Texas and Florida birding tours. Costa Rica nature and birding tours are among our top-rated as are our Panama nature tours and African wildlife safari tours. Our many repeat clients enjoy dependable and diverse holidays on Galapagos nature tours, Arctic and Antarctica nature cruises, and birding and wildlife tours from Arizona to the Amazon and beyond.