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DAY 1 Sun 29 Jan 2023: LONDON - NAIROBI
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly from London Heathrow in late afternoon flying Kenya Airways to Nairobi, arriving the following morning.
DAY 2 Mon 30 Jan: NAIROBI
Early morning arrival in Nairobi, and we are met by our local guide and transfer directly to the nearby Nairobi National Park, where we take a boxed breakfast at the gate. This small but excellent National Park, Kenya’s oldest, is just 7 kilometres from Nairobi city centre, and extends right into the city itself. Among many possibilities we may see Ostrich, Secretary Bird, African Water Rail, Spotted Thick-knee, Black-winged Plover, African Finfoot, Pangani Longclaw, Jackson’s Widowbird, Kori Bustard, Hartlaub’s Bustard, Saddle-billed Stork, African Yellow White-eye, Common Nightingale, Ruppell’s Robin-chat, Northern Pied Babbler, White-tailed Lark, Rufous-naped Lark, Somali Short-toed Lark, Red-throated Tit, Speke’s Weaver, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Martial Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, African Quail-finch, Zebra Waxbill, Harlequin Quail, Lappet-faced Vulture, Violet Wood-hoopoe, Nairobi Pipit, Grassland Pipit, Siffling Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola and Desert Cisticola. A list of between 70 and 100 species is very possible by lunchtime! The park also hosts good numbers of big game, and we should see many Common Zebra, Cape Buffalo, Maasai Giraffe, Warthog, and several species of antelope including Impala, Waterbuck, Hartebeest and Wildebeest. Lions and Black Rhino are present here, albeit in small numbers. Watching Giraffe and Ostrich with tower blocks in the distance behind is a wonderful if slightly surreal experience, and the wealth of birding and big game make this an important place to visit.
During our rest stop in the Park we visit the important ivory-burning area, where the Kenyan Government makes a strong and highly visible stance against the ivory trade.
After our picnic lunch taken inside the Park, we drive to our hotel (close at hand), and relax for the remainder of the afternoon after a long day. Dinner and birdlist are our priorities in the evening! Overnight Eka Hotel, Nairobi.
DAY 3 Tues 31 Jan: NAIROBI TO NAIVASHA
We drive away from Kenya's busy capital, stopping en-route at a good birding site, Manguo Swamp. This roadside location is at elevation, so already the birdlife is changing, and new species will be found almost immediately. The wetlands hold herons, ducks and waders, there may be pipits and wagtails at the edges, and in the surrounding bushes sunbirds, weavers, greenbuls and many more will keep our birdlist moving. A little further along the road, we divert through tea plantations (Kenya Tea is highly recommended!), driving to our primary birding destination of the day, Gatamaiyu Forest. This is a pristine highland wet forest that forms the eastern edge of the great 'Aberdare Ranges' Forest. An idyllic birding location, which we will probably have to ourselves, we can wander around birding as we go. A huge variety of birds inhabit the mature trees and bushes, and with sunbirds visiting the blooms and raptors, shrikes and many more passing through or overhead, this is a wonderful birding place! Possible species include Hartlaub’s Turaco, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Brown Woodland Warbler, Abbott's Starling, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Brown-chested Alethe, African Hill Babbler, Hunter’s Cisticola, Green-headed Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, Olive Sunbird, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Bar-tailed Trogon, White-browed Crombec, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, African Olive Pigeon, Mountain Buzzard and Olive Ibis. Monkeys and squirrels may also be seen. We spend the late morning birding here in the forest, and have a picnic lunch followed by more birding before we head to Lake Naivasha. Travelling 100km (2hrs).
At Naivasha we stay in a very good quality hotel, with private views in the direction of the Lake. Giraffe, Zebra, Hippo and antelope including Waterbuck, Thompson's Gazelle and perhaps Cape Buffalo are often visible from your room. We make the most of this idyllic location by staying at Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge for three nights.
DAY 4 Wed 1 Feb: LAKE NAIVASHA
Local birding today, as we seek more savannah and bushland birds. Lake Navasha is a wonderful freshwater lake alive with birds and Hippos. The wetland and scrub woodland surrounding the lake is excellent for passerines and we also visit the lake edge where many shorebirds can be seen. We take one and possibly two boat rides to see many waterbirds we will have not seen elsewhere. Expected species include Mosque Swallow, Lyne’s Cisticola, Chestnut Sparrow, Abyssinian Wheatear, Nyanza Swift, Mottled Swift, White-fronted Bee-eater, Mocking Cliff Chat, Bearded Woodpecker, Plain-backed Pipit, Giant Kingfisher, Grey-backed Fiscal, Grey-crested Helmet-Shrike, Brimstone Canary, Cape Teal, Pied Avocet, Black Heron, Goliath Heron, Lesser Flamingo, Maccoa Duck, Great White Pelican, Common Greenshank, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Hilderbrandt’s Francolin, Arrow-marked Babbler, Black-lored Babbler, African Fish Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Osprey, Hybrid Lovebird, Red-throated Wryneck, Golden-breasted Bunting, Buff-bellied Warbler, Grey Crowned Crane, Black Cuckoo and African Hoopoe. Mammals including Cape Buffalo, Maasai Giraffe, Common Zebra, Nile Hippo and White-bearded Wildebeest are common here.
We find time one day to visit Elsamere Conservation Centre and Lodge for lunch and birding. This beautiful private place is the former home of Joy and George Adamson, famous for their work in Kenya with lions, and authors of the popular 'Born Free' books and films. Now converted to a hotel and conservation centre, Elsamere is set beautifully against the Lake in private grounds, with top quality birding in the grounds, and excellent accommodation and food in a setting which immediately conjures a convincing picture of 'old Africa'. On arrival we may be greeted by beautiful Black -and-white Colobus Monkeys, and in the evening, Maasai Giraffe, Hippo and Zebra often wander into the grounds to graze.
DAY 5 Thurs 2 Feb: KINANGOP GRASSLANDS and ABERDARE NATIONAL PARK
We leave early for a day trip visit to this highland region, where much of the day will be spent in Aberdare National Park. This Park runs the expanse of a majestic mountain range on the eastern edge of the Rift Valley. and has a great stretch of alpine moorland vegetation, mainly above 3000m. This great landscape has led to the park’s nickname, “The Majestic Moorland”. There is a thick tropical forest, with deep ravines and dissecting riverine gorges. At certain areas, these rivers form majestic waterfalls, a wonderful sight. Home to many of Kenya’s endemic birds, this area promises to be very rewarding. Expected species include Aberdare Cisticola (endemic), Mountain Yellow Warbler, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Brown Woodland Warbler, Abbott's Starling, Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, Moorland Chat, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Red-fronted Parrot, Yellow-crowned Canary, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, African Olive Pigeon, Jackson’s Francolin, Mountain Buzzard and Olive Ibis. Many other animals occupy this beautiful place and mammals including African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Mountain Bongo, and Giant Forest Hog can be found.
Later in the afternoon, we drive through the Kinangop plateau to find more special birds among the grasslands and wetlands. Expected species here include Black-winged Plover, Red-throated Wryneck, Common Quail, Hunter’s Cisticola, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Long-tailed Widowbird, Jackson’s Widowbird, Angola Swallow, Montane Nightjar, Sharpe’s Longclaw (endemic), Mountain Buzzard, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Red-throated Pipit, Black-tailed Godwit, African Snipe and Lesser Jacana. Travelling 65kms, two hours, some unpaved road.
DAY 6 Fri 3 Feb: LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK
After a final walk around the grounds and breakfast, we head north to Lake Nakuru National Park. Lake Nakuru is one of Africa’s famous Rift Valley soda lakes, at times holding up to a million Greater Flamingo, a sight which has been described as "the most fabulous bird spectacle in the world". In modern times there are fewer flamingos here than previously due to rising water levels, though we should still see them in reasonable numbers. The Lake has many attractions, not least White Rhino, Cape Buffalo, and other mammals including herds of grazing Common Zebra and endangered Rothschild’s Giraffe. Hippos, Reedbuck, Waterbuck, Black Rhino, Rothschild's Giraffe, Lion, Leopard, Spotted Hyena and Bushbuck are present too. Between the lake and the cliffs in the west, large pythons inhabit the dense woodland, and can sometimes be seen crossing the roads or dangling from trees.
Despite its flamingo-focused reputation, there are many other avian attractions including pelicans, ducks, ibises, storks and a good range of waders on the shore. The area is full of large raptors, including dozens of Tawny and Steppe Eagles, and more than 400 bird species have been seen. The lake is surrounded by woodland, which holds many birds and animals not seen elsewhere on our trip. It is particularly good for bee-eaters and rollers, with new species of each likely. Other birds include Woolly-necked Stork, Arrow-marked Babbler, Little Rock-Thrush, Mocking Cliff Chat, White-browed Robin-Chat, Reed Cormorant, Pink-backed Pelican, Pied Avocet, Kittlitz's Plover, Blacksmith Plover, Coqui Francolin, Hildebrandt's Francolin, Black Cuckoo, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, African Cuckoo, Grey-crested Helmetshrike, Cape Teal, Brimstone Canary, Hottentot Teal, Red-billed Teal, Dusky and Montane Nightjar. Palearctic water migrants are abundant, including Kittlitz's Plover, Little Stint, Common Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper. We make a couple of drives in this wonderful place, one to see White Rhino, another to a beautiful and breathtaking viewpoint, where we might find strange Rock Hyrax and Olive Baboon, while enjoying fascinating birding virtually non-stop. Travelling 80kms (1.5hrs). One night at Nakuru- Sopa Lodge.
DAY 7 Sat 4 Feb: LAKE NAKURU - LAKE BARINGO
After breakfast we drive north, crossing the Equator to reach a special place, Lake Baringo, birding on the way and arriving for lunch. Baringo is a beautiful freahwater lake in the northern Rift Valley region, in the middle of beautiful scrubland, and supporting a great ecosystem. This area hosts some of the most unique birds of Kenya. The owls here are very special, and this is one of the few places in Kenya where you can find up to six owl species within a five km square. The area also hosts some great dryland nightjar species and we shall keep an eye open for these, with our main target being Slender-tailed Nightjar. We shall bird several hotspots here on foot, using our vehicle to move from one to the next. We also scan local bushes, lakeshores and cliffs for new birds.
During our stay, we search for specialities including both Spotted and Greyish Eagle-Owl, Northern White-faced Scops Owl, Shikra, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Verreaux’s Eagle, Slender-tailed Nightjar, Donaldson-Smith’s Nightjar, Heuglin’s Courser, Blue-capped Cordon-bleu, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Black-throated Barbet, Brubru, Grey-headed Bushshrike, Somali Fiscal, Three-streaked Tchagra, Spotted Thick-knee, Senegal Thick-knee, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Nubian Woodpecker, Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Little Weaver, Jackson’s Golden-backed Weaver, Northern Masked Weaver, White-billed Buffalo-Weaver, White-bellied Canary, Beautiful Sunbird, Black-headed Plover, Jackson’s Hornbill, Yellow-billed Hornbill, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Northern Red Bishop, Brown-tailed Rock Chat, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Somali Sparrow and Bristle-crowned Starling, among many others. We relax at the Lodge until late-afternoon, and then resume birding around the local area, targeting nightjars and owls using the expert knowledge of our local guides. Two nights at Baringo Soi Lodge for two nights.
DAY 8 Sun 5 Feb: LAKE BARINGO
We take a boat ride at daybreak, with the possibility of many iconic African birds including African Fish Eagle, Goliath Heron and Giant Kingfisher. After breakfast we enjoy birding around the woodlands and lake until lunch, returning to hotel for lunch and the chance to relax, followed by another walk for owls and nightjars, perhaps to find species missed the previous day.
DAY 9 Mon 6 Feb: LAKE BARINGO - NAIROBI
We return south along the Rift Valley a distance of around 160kms (about three hours direct travel) to Nairobi with birding on the way and lunch at Lake Elmenteita, where we should add more to our burgeoning birdlist. We arrive back to the comfortable Eka Hotel for one more night.
DAY 10 Tues 7 Feb: NAIROBI - LONDON
We take breakfast at our hotel, and then an airport transfer for the flight home.
MASAI MARA OPTIONAL EXTENSION
Add this wonderful experience to your holiday! The world famous Masai Mara conservation area holds iconic larger predators Lion, Leopard and Cheetah, herds of herbivores including impressive numbers of Common Zebra and Giraffe, and African Elephant in good numbers.
This is a very exciting short trip to this wonderful destination, price for 2023 TBC. By staying for three nights, we can thoroughly explore the area in reach of our hotel, to do justice to the spectacle.
It makes good sense to add this extension given you are already in Kenya, and most of your travel costs are already invested. As an extra benefit, your UK Guide Pete Cosgrove will remain with the party to lead this part of the tour. Minimum four participants.
DAY 10 Tues 7 Feb: NAIROBI - MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE
We enjoy an early breakfast at our hotel, then depart for Masai Mara. Road travel is much improved in recent years, though the road is unmade in long sections, partly to discourage casual tourists from reaching the Mara. This is important, as tourist numbers here are already approaching capacity. Travel today will be around 240 km, and the transfer takes around 5.5 hrs, with washroom breaks enroute. We arrive at our hotel in time for lunch, relax around camp, then enjoy an afternoon game drive until sunset, seeking big game, antelopes and much more. We stay overnight for three nights in Mara-Sentrim Lodge.
DAY 11 and 12 Wed 8 Feb and Thurs 9 Feb: MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE
Famously described as the top reserve in Kenya, the Masai Mara is simply breathtaking. The open plains roll in all directions, and the abundance of wildlife in unparalleled. This area has much to offer, including African Lion, Leopard and Cheetah, and these top predators will be among our main targets. You should see African Elephant in good numbers, herds of grazing herbivores include Wildebeest, Cape Buffalo, Impala, Topi, Eland, Thompson's Gazelle and impressive numbers of Common Zebra and Giraffe, there are Black-backed Jackal and Hyena on the plains, Hippo and Nile Crocodile in the river pools, and Black Rhino are present in small numbers. Amazing birdlife includes Secretary Bird, Ground-hornbills, raptors including eagle species and Augur Buzzard, and many passerines including larks, finches, whydahs, starlings and weavers, many of which will be new to the tour. Game drives will likely be packed with excitement as we take transects across the vast savannah, keeping in close contact with the ground network of driver/guides who report outstanding sightings minute-by-minute.
One day we have a long time in the field and take a packed lunch to the Mara River, where Hippo and Nile Crocodile can be expected, another day we take a leisurely lunch break at the hotel between early and late-afternoon game drives.
DAY 13 Fri 10 Feb: MASAI MARA TO NAIROBI
Today we enjoy a farewell early morning game drive before breakfast, before departing for Nairobi. We make stops for wildlife, washrooms and lunch, arriving back at our comfortable Nairobi hotel in late afternoon. We have dinner and stay overnight in the comfortable Eka Hotel once more.
DAY 14 Sat 11 Feb: NAIROBI - LONDON
Today we have an early breakfast at our hotel, and then take a private airport transfer for the flight home.