This is the land that spawned the safari, drawing such luminaries as Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway. But they were here for the trophies to hang on their walls. After the war came the change in emphasis to using the camera and making safaris more accessible to others. Some would say that it went too far with too many tourists around a pride of lion or any other spectacle. But the truth is that Kenya is huge, the wildlife abundant and the safari experience can be as individual and as private as it ever was.
It is the most popular country for first time “Africa” visitors but it is also a favoured destination for the seasoned safari hand. It lends itself to the “Bush and Beach” holiday and is very popular with honeymooners.
For this suggested itinerary you have the option of being driven between locations or taking light aircraft flights. Or perhaps a mixture of both.
Day 1: Nairobi
Arrive in the capital, Nairobi. Visit the National Park, the only one in the world in a city boundary, which has all of the plains animals and the Big 5 apart from elephant. Consider a trip to Karen Blixen Museum (colonial past), the Elephant Orphanage, the National Museum of Kenya and Snake Park.
2 nights Nairobi
Day 3: Samburu National Park
Today drive north to Samburu National Park. Alternatively catch a small plane for a quick flight to the Park. Samburu is fascinating in that it is on the edge of two types of terrain – the dry semi desert of the Northern Frontier District and the lusher country around Mount Kenya. Because of this, it is home to some rare and different animals, such as Grevy’s Zebra, Gerenuk and Reticulated Giraffe. The Uaso Nyiro River runs through the Park supporting the wildlife and home to pods of hippo and good sized crocodiles.
2 nights Samburu
Day 5: Mount Kenya/Aberdare Mountains
Drive back to Mount Kenya or Aberdare Mountains for a different type of wildlife experience. Hopefully Mount Kenya will be clear making an excellent backdrop for your photos. The afternoon and evening will be spent checking the wildlife that comes out of the forest to drink and feed in the open area. After a good meal you can either continue watching the floodlit waterhole or retire to bed and ask the night watchman to give you a knock if something you particularly want to see (leopard, wild bush pig or elephant for example).
1 night Mount Kenya
Day 6: Rift Valley
Today you will drive in to the Rift Valley with your destination being a lodge close to Lake Nakuru National Park or Lake Elementaita. The lakes here are famous for the number of greater and lesser flamingos feeding around their edge at different times of the year. Lake Nakuru has another 450 species of birds in the Park, this is a bird enthusiast’s dream. However there are plenty of mammal species to be found here, with good numbers of white rhino and the much more rare black rhino.
1 night Rift Valley
Day 7: Masai Mara
On to the world famous Masai Mara with its open plains and riverine woods. At the right time of the year, the plains are teeming with wildebeest and zebra as they migrate from one part of the Serengeti to the Mara and back again. If you are here for the migration, you will have the chance of watching the hectic and traumatic river crossing by the ungulates. You have a great chance of seeing the big cats here and also good numbers of elephant. Over 450 species of birds have been recorded here with almost 60 raptors included in this number. A wonderful way of seeing the wildlife here is to take an early morning balloon ride across the plains and finish the experience with a champagne breakfast when you land.
2 nights at Masai Mara
Day 9: Amboseli
Amboseli is the second most popular Park in Kenya after the Masai Mara and is at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro making for the perfect backdrop for your animal photos. The rain and snow melt from the Mountain, and then permeate down to Amboseli into five swamps, two of which are now protected in the National Park. This water source is relied upon by the wild animals of the Park. All of the Big 5 are found here (although the number of rhino is much depleted due to poaching) as are good numbers of the plains animals.
Take morning and late afternoon game drives out over the plains through the Acacia forests and in to the swamps looking for those animals that are high on your wish list. Ensure you drive to the top of Observation Hill which gives you an excellent view of the Park. Take time to look at the bird life here which is prolific, colourful and in abundance. As the Park is within the Masai homeland, you will have the opportunity to visit them in their manyata and learn about their nomadic way of living.
2 nights Amboseli
Day 11: Tsavo West
Your trip today takes you in to Tsavo West National Park and you will be able to see wildlife along most of the journey. Tsavo East and West National Parks account for 4% of Kenya’s landmass and are not as busy as some of the other Parks in Kenya. However the amount and diversity of wildlife and birds (over 500 species have been recorded here) are second to none.
Tsavo West is a mixture of plains, wooded grassland, mountains and riverine forests. There is also the spectacular volcanic mountain range of the Chyulu Hills which are well worth a visit. The Park is huge and your game drives will take you to these different areas. All of the Big 5 are represented here and the elephants are renowned for their red/brown colour. This is from their taking dust baths in the very red soil.
Drive to the top of Poacher’s Lookout for an all round viewpoint and ensure that you see the crystal clear water at Mzima Springs. Here you have the opportunity to go in to an underwater viewing chamber to see the tilapia fish and, if you are lucky, hippo walking along the bottom of the spring.
2 nights Tsavo West
Day 13: Beach
Now down to the Indian Ocean and time to relax on a silver sand beach in warm sea water. You can be as active or as lazy as you like here. For those wanting to see places, then Fort Jesus in Mombasa, the Gedi Ruins and Shimba Hills National Park are well worth considering. The water activities include snorkelling, diving, sailing and deep sea fishing.
4 nights Beach
Day 17: Depart Kenya
Today depart Kenya for the onward or homeward journey.
Peter growing up in Kenya – Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis
Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis
Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis
Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis