Welcome to Kenya’s capital city. An awaiting tour director accompanies us to the Kenya Comfort Hotel where our rooms are ready and waiting. Overnight at the at the same hotel.
Take a tour of central Nairobi, taking in old colonial architecture and the brightly colored crowds to get a feel for Africa. The city’s best attraction is the National Museum, home to most of the great prehistoric finds made by the Leakey family in East Africa, from Ethiopia to the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. It also has sections on wildlife, art, geology, local history and a Snake Park. West of the city, the suburb of Karen is named after Karen Blixen, author of “Out of Africa”. Her house is now the Karen Blixen Museum, complete with a garden and tea house, it tells the history of the famous author. Also in Karen is the African Butterfly Research Institute, a large magical greenhouse alive with native butterflies. South of Nairobi, in Langata, are a number of the city’s best attractions. At the Giraffe Centre, you’ll have the option of hand-feeding the rare Rothschild giraffes, plus embarking upon a nature walk with 160 species of bird. The Sheldrick Animal Orphanage cares for young, orphaned elephants. After lunch visit the Bomas of Kenya — a living open-air museum of the tribes of Kenya, including regular dance performances. Return to your Hotel for dinner and overnight. The name Nairobi is derived from the Maasai word for cool waters, which the Maasai people gave to a water hole known as Ewaso Nyiro. In modern times, the sprawling, cosmopolitan city of Nairobi combines the first-world glamour of reflecting-glass skyscraper buildings with abject developing-world poverty. It originated in 1899 from a handful of shacks that marked the end of the railhead during the building of the Uganda railway. Due to big game hunting bringing tourists from Britain, the city expanded dramatically in the early 1900’s. A large number of British nationals settled in the area, prompting more growth and this angered both the Maasai and Kikuyu people, as they were losing hunting ground due to the expansion of the city limits. The friction increased and, eventually led to the Mau Mau uprising, which saw Jomo Kenyatta, the future president jailed. Kenya was granted independence from Britain in 1963, with Nairobi as the capital. Apart from being Kenya’s capital and the main centre of government and commerce, Nairobi is the most significant city in East Africa and an important player on the pan-African stage. It is the diplomatic base for many counties in Africa, with its broad spectrum of international embassies and headquarters for the United Nations, multi-national companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and press correspondents. It is also the center of the growing safari business of East Africa. Overnight at Kenya Comfort Hotel.
Driving distance: 95km Journey to Lake Naivasha, one of the Great Rift Valley fresh water lakes. Drive through the town of Naivasha before continuing along the lakeshore passing the greenhouses that grow roses for the lucrative export market. We visit Elsamere, the former home of the author of “Born Free”, Joy Adamson, and now a museum dedicated to the famous conservationist. It also serves as a field study center and is one of Kenya’s premier environmental education centers. After lunch at our Lodge, we take a boat trip to Crescent Island, a private game sanctuary, with zebra, wildebeest, gazelle, Vervet monkeys, hares, genet cats, waterbuck and giraffe. Crescent Island is one of the few places in Africa where people can wander on foot among herds of grazing mammals since there are no predators on the island. Late afternoon free time, wander around or just relax by the lake, spotting resident bird populations including Ibis, Lovebirds, Fish Eagle and Hoopoe, as well as the Black and White Colobus monkey. The name Naivasha comes from the Maasai “Nai’posha”, which means “rough water”, though Lake Naivasha is general calm in the morning, the best time for spotting hippos, crocodiles, and birdlife. A freshwater lake, Lake Naivasha is currently about 20km long and 15km wide, but the lake levels have fluctuated enormously over the years. In the early 1880s during the time of Joseph Thompson’s travels, it was reduced to a swamp, while in the 1920s lake levels were about eight meters higher than at present. Surrounded by forests of the yellow barked Acacia Xanthophlea, known as the yellow fever tree, Lake Naivasha has a fairy-tale beauty to it, which is rarely matched. Abound prolific birdlife from majestic fish eagles and waterfowl to tiny malachite kingfishers, is known as a world-class birding destination, and is an international Ramsar site. Between 1937 and 1950 this beautiful, peaceful lake was used as a landing place for plane passengers destined for Nairobi. The flying boat from London would land on the lake where the Lake Naivasha Country Club now stands, and travelers would board a bus for Nairobi. Today the lovely lake, with its cool climate, has become a retreat for Nairobi residents and tourists looking for peace. Because the lake is fresh water and the surrounding soil fertile, this is a major production area for fruit and vegetables and, more recently, vineyards. Many animals call the area home; giraffes wander among the acacia, buffalo wallow in the swamps and colobus monkeys call from the treetops while the Lakes large hippo population sleeps the day out in the shallows. Overnight at the Taphe Guest Resort.
Driving distance: 70km After breakfast, depart Naivasha for Nakuru, arriving before midday. In the afternoon we take a game drive following the lakeshore in our search of leopard, black and white rhino, lion, buffalo, impala, Thompson gazelle and warthog, before returning to our hotel. Kenya’s fourth largest town and the capital of the Rift Valley province, Nakuru, meaning “dusty place” in the Maasai language, is a cheerful and vibrant agricultural town with a variety of colorful local markets. We camp outside of the town itself, at the edge of Lake Nakuru National Park, the area’s principal highlight and best natural attraction. Lake Nakuru National Park began in 1961 as a small protected territory, only encompassing the famous lake of the same name, and the surrounding mountainous vicinity. Now it has been extended to include a large part of the area’s grassland savannahs and woodland slopes, and covers an area of roughly 188 km sq. Lake Nakuru itself is one of the Rift Valley soda lakes. The alkaline lake’s abundance of algae attracts the large quantity of flamingos, estimated into the millions that famously line the shore. The surface of the shallow lake is often hardly recognizable due to the continually shifting mass of pink. There are two types of flamingo species: the lesser flamingo can be distinguished by its deep red carmine bill and pink plumage unlike the greater flamingo, which has a bill with a black tip. However, flamingos are not the only avian attraction, also present are two large fish-eating birds, pelicans and cormorants. The park is rich in other birdlife, including grebes, white winged black, stilts, avocets, ducks, and in the European winter, the migrant waders. The park has recently been enlarged partly to provide the sanctuary for the black rhino. This undertaking has necessitated a fence – to keep out poachers rather than to restrict the movement of wildlife. The park now has more than 25 rhinos, one of the largest concentrations in the country, so the chances of spotting these survivors are better than in other parks. There are also a number of Rothschild’s giraffe, again trans-located for safety from western Kenya beginning in 1977. Numerous other mammals can be seen, including zebra, impala, gazelle, waterbuck, lion, warthog, bushbuck, many buffalo, and even at times leopard. Overnight at Hotel Waterbuck
Driving distance: 150kms After an early breakfast, board your safari vans and head towards the western part of the country, through the high-altitude town of Eldoret, stopping for a picnic lunch en route. Arrive to the Kakamega forest late afternoon to early evening. The Kakamega National Reserve, situated in Kenya’s Western Province, at the northern end of the Kakamega Forest, covers an area of 36 sq km. At an elevation of between 1500 m and 1600 m, this reserve sits along the northeastern edge of the Lake Victoria basin, and from its eastern edge rises the partially forested Nandi Escarpment that runs along the western edge of the Rift Valley. With its virgin tropical rainforest, the larger Kakamega Forest (238 sq km) is generally considered the eastern-most remnant of the lowland Congolean rainforest of Central Africa. The dense vegetation and gigantic indigenous trees are spectacular, and one of a kind in Kenya. Throughout the forest are a series of grassy glades, varying in character, some being open grass and others having a considerable number of trees or shrubs. A number of streams and small creeks run through the reserve. The forest hosts about 160 tree and shrub species, many of Congolean lowland forest affinities, including a number of endemic plant species, mostly ferns and orchids. In addition, it is home to a huge variety of birds (more than 360 species recorded). Casqued hornbills and Ross’s touracos and Great Blue touracos are all found here. It is the only place apart from Mt Elgon where the rare De Brazza’s monkey can be observed. Other monkey species found here are the Blue monkey, red-tailed monkey, the black and white Colobus, and the butterfly monkey. In the late afternoon (time permitting), go for a guided walk with one of the resident guides, learning about the ecology and importance of this rare and fantastic forest. Overnight at Mago Resort.
Enjoy a morning walk in the rainforest accompanied by the local ranger/guide, returning to camp late morning. Spend the afternoon at your leisure; take some time to yourself while listening to the sounds of the forest (and maybe the rain-fall!), or go for another walk in the rainforest, or learn about the K.E.E.P.,(Kakamega Environmental Education Project), which has a tree nursery program and a butterfly garden among its many initiatives. Overnight at Mago Resort.
Driving distance: 50km Take another early morning optional walk in the forest with the ranger/guide before departing this magical place. En route to Kisumu, make a stop at the ‘Crying Stone’ and learn the local legend of this natural phenomenon. This big rock, sacred to the locals, is said to be “crying” because it ‘produces’ water on a few special days of the year. The locals believe the stone to be a blessing to them, as it is said to be able to cure many diseases. You will arrive in the lively city of Kisumu midday, where you can explore the town, visit Kisumu’s vibrant and bustling market, squeeze in a visit to the local museum, visit the impala sanctuary, or take a boat trip on Lake Victoria, to try your luck at hippo spotting and bird watching. Kisumu literally means a place of barter or trade, and comes from the local word “sumo”. Set 24 km south of the Equator, Kisumu has warmer temperatures than Kakamega, because it lies below the hills on the shores on Lake Victoria. A port city in western Kenya with population nearing 400,000, Kisumu is the third largest city in Kenya and capital of the Nyanza Province. In 1901 it became the administration centre of the area with the completion of the railway line from Mombasa. Although trade stagnated in the 1980s and 90s, it is again growing around oil exports. Lake Victoria ferries have operated from the port linking the railway to Mwanza, Bukoba, Entebbe, Port Bell and Jinja. Interestingly, most people in Kisumu are trilingual. Apart from English, they are also fluent in the national language of Swahili and the local tongue of the Luo tribe, Kenya’s 2nd largest tribe to which 90% of Kisumu residents belong. Overnight at Imperial Hotel or Sunset Hotel or Mountain view Hotel.
Depart Kisumu to head deep into the more traditional side of Kenya. Arrive in the town of Kendu Bay before noon. Here you will stop to have lunch, and as well will be able to help your tour leader gather some goods to take to the homestays. Kendu Bay itself is a small, rural town located on the shores of Lake Victoria, where fishing is the main economic activity. There is a small volcanic lake (Simbi Nyaima) in the area; listen to the myths behind its formation. Continue up the rough roads above Kendu Bay to the village that you will call home for the next 2 nights. You’ll have the opportunity to visit the local potter, and learn about the traditional way of life. On Day 11 go on a guided walk through the village to visit the local school to see more of the community. Try to strike up a conversation with the locals and enjoy their hospitality. Enjoy the home-made meals and see firsthand how the Luo tribesmen live. Overnight at Summer Bay Hotel.
Note: Electricity lines and plumbing have yet to reach Kendu Bay
Approaching Kericho, you will experience breathtaking views of the vast rolling hills covered by the tea plantations that are the economic backbone of the local economy. Scattered among the tea plantations are neatly arranged housing complexes for the tea “pluckers” who roughly every 17 days picked the tea leaves on a rotational basis. Good pickers can collect up to 100kg of leaves a day! Kericho takes its name from the Maasai chief Ole Kericho, who was killed by the Gusii people in the 18th century. Kericho is a clean, beautiful city in the wet highlands of western Rift Valley, and is the tea capital Kenya. Kenya is the world’s 3rd largest tea exporter (after India and Sri lanka), while tea accounts for 20-30% of the country’s export income. The people in this area are predominantly and historically of the Kipsigis group of the Kalenjin tribe, one of Kenya’s larger tribes. Overnight at The Kericho tea Hotel or Kimugu River Lodge
We depart early today for the world famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve. With its vast open plains and distinctive flat-topped acacia trees, no visit to Kenya would be complete without a visit here! In the afternoon we will arrive in the area, and get settled at our permanent tented camp, our base for our time here. Then we make our way into the reserve for an afternoon game viewing drive, with excellent chances of seeing the “Big 5” – lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino. Day 12 starts with an early morning game drive, since the best time to spot wildlife is in the early hours of the morning. The day continues with more game viewing as you criss-cross the rolling hills of the African savannah. You will also have a chance to try the optional balloon safari, in addition to stopping at a Maasai village to learn about, and interact with, the local Maasai people. The Maasai Mara (also spelled Maasai Mara) is a game reserve in south-western Kenya, which is effectively the northern continuation of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Named for the Masai tribes people, who are the traditional inhabitants of the area, and the Mara River, which divides it, the reserve is famous for its exceptional population of game and the annual migration of the wildebeest every September and October, a migration so immense to be called the Great Migration. Thousands of wildebeest die in the crossing due to crocodile attacks. The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving an immensity of herbivores: some 1,300,000 wildebeest, 360,000 Thomson’s gazelle, and 191,000 zebra. With an area of 1510 km sq., the Maasai Mara is not the largest game park or reserve in Kenya, but it is probably the most famous. The entire area of the park is nestled within the enormous Great Rift Valley that extends from the Mediterranean Sea to Mozambique. The terrain of the reserve is primarily open grassland, with clusters of the distinctive acacia tree in the south-east region. The western border is the Esoit Oloololo Escarpment of the Rift Valley, and wildlife tends to be most concentrated here, as the swampy ground means that access to water is always good. The easternmost border is 224 km from Nairobi. The Maasai Mara is perhaps most famous for its lions, though the other members of the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhinoceros) are as well found. This said, the population of black rhinoceros is severely threatened, with a population of only 37 recorded in 2000. Hippopotami are found in large groups in the Maasai Mara and Talek Rivers, and many cheetahs, zebra, impala, gazelles, hartebeest, warthog, ostrich, topi, the Masai giraffe, among other mammals, all consider the “Mara” their home territory. As well, the large Roan antelope and the nocturnal bat-eared fox, rarely present elsewhere in Kenya, can be seen within the reserve borders. Like in the Serengeti in Tanzania, the wildebeest are the dominant inhabitant of the Maasai Mara, and their numbers are estimated in the millions. Around July of each year these animals migrate in a vast ensemble north from the Serengeti plains in search of fresh pasture, and return to the south around October. These numerous migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by a block of hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena. The Maasai Mara is also a major research centre for the spotted hyena. Additionally, over 450 species of birdlife have been identified in the park, including vulture, marabou, secretary bird, hornbill, crowned crane, ostrich, long-crested eagle, and pygmy falcon. Overnight at Enchoro Camp or Mara Sidai Camp
Driving distance: 285km This morning we make our last game drive in the Maasai Mara before heading back to Nairobi. In Nairobi you have an opportunity to buy some lovely local handicrafts, or exchange some photographs with your group in the late afternoon, before enjoying your last safari evening together. After Dinner transfer to the Airport for your onward flight back home. Dayrooms at the New Stanley Hotel