Those on the group flights depart today for your overnight flight to Nairobi.
Those on the group flights will be met on arrival at the airport on arrival and transferred to the hotel in Nairobi. Those not on the group flights will join us at the hotel.
The Kenyan capital stands at an altitude of 1670m above sea level on an elevated plain at the heart of the country, surrounded by fertile land that yields coffee and maize. Our leader will give us a tour briefing in the morning, before we head off to visit Sheldricks Elephant Orphanage and the giraffe centre. These are conservation projects where we get to view the animals in close proximity and learn about them and their plight in the modern world. The David Sheldricks Wildlife Trust was set up in 1977 in Memory of David Sheldricks, who was a founding warden of the Tsavo East National Park. The Trust takes in and cares for orphaned elephants and rhinos, who are ultimately released back into the wild. You can meet our very own sponsored elephant orphan, named Shukuru. Shukuru arrived at the Trust after being found by a herdsman trapped down a manhole when she was only a few days old! Having been rescued and taken to the nursery in Nairobi she has since settled in well and now enjoys playing games and taking mudbaths with all the other orphans. It is possible to sponsor your own elephant; you can then add an extra dimension to your visit by meeting your own orphan and following its progress - a charming addition to any family!
This morning we travel to Naro Moru (approx. 2½hrs drive) on the watershed between the Tana and Ewaso Nyiro river basins. Our accommodation is located beside a trout stream in excellent bird watching country. The afternoon is free to relax in the lodge's pretty gardens and of course its pool. We will see views of Mount Kenya, Africa's second highest mountain, covered in a variety of ecosystems (5200m). Some three and a half million years old, it was once a live volcano. Now the peaks are permanently covered with snow and glaciers.
Kenya's Central Highlands boast a number of game ranches that have been instrumental in saving the highly endangered black rhino. Today we visit the privately-owned Sweetwaters Rhino Sanctuary to learn about its breeding programme and witness its remarkable success with our own eyes. Between 1970 and 1990 Kenya's rhino population was drastically reduced as a result of extensive poaching, to the point where this noble creature has been facing extinction in recent years. The demand for rhino horn to use in traditional Chinese medicine or for making ornamental dagger handles in the Middle East still threatens the rhinos' survival. Only now are the first tentative signs of recovery being seen as reared animals from high security sanctuaries such as this are used to restock national parks. We'll see the tame (well, relatively tame?!) rhino that goes by the name of Max, and delve into the world of the primate when we visit a chimpanzee sanctuary. We will also take a game drive through the reserve.
This morning we drive 250km (approx. 4-5 hours) on good roads to Lake Nakuru, arriving in time for lunch. The alkaline waters of this lake once supported an extremely large colony of flamingos - reckoned to be anything up to two million strong! Over the course of the year the lake changes size considerably, shrinking to its minimum in March at the end of the dry season, bringing changes in the type of birdlife and wildlife that inhabit this area and what we will see on our visit. Changes in water level and chemical concentration caused the permanent population of flamingos to move elsewhere in the 1970s - they now reappear periodically, but never stay for long. The lush area around the lake is well known for its bird life. In the afternoon, we will enjoy a game drive around the shore of the lake and look for the white rhinos that can usually be found around the shores.
This morning we take a game drive. There's a lot of wildlife to see on the salty mudflats and wooded hills around Lake Nakuru, including giraffe, hippo, black and white rhino (both of which have been reintroduced), buffalo, warthog, zebra, various species of antelope and the ubiquitous waterbuck. Due to the relative absence of predators, and the consequent low risk, waterbuck and impala thrive here, giving one meaning of Nakuru's name - 'the place of the waterbuck. ' However there is just a chance that we'll see lion and the extremely elusive leopard. Later we drive to Lake Naivasha. Afternoon wind and storms can cause the lake to become suddenly rough and produce high waves. For this reason, the local Maasai christened the lake Nai'posha meaning 'rough water', which the British later misspelt as Naivasha. The waters of the lake draw a great range of game; giraffes wander among the acacia, buffalo wallow in the swamps and colobus monkeys call from the treetops while the lake's large hippo population while away the day in the shallows.
Day 7 - 8
Our destination today is the finest of Kenya's reserves, the Masai Mara (150km, approx. 5 hours drive). The Mara is effectively a northern extension of the Serengeti, the most famous of neighbouring Tanzania's national parks, which lies just across the border. Animals, of course, recognise no border and immense herds of blue wildebeest migrate across the savannah driven by the innate urge to find new grazing land on which to feed when the rest of the plains dry up. They arrive here each July/August; then in October start to head south again! At these times the plains teem with animals on the move, and the photographic opportunities are unrivalled. We should arrive at our lodge in time for lunch, followed by an afternoon game drive. We'll explore the extensive grassy plains where elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, and various gazelles (with attendant predators of lion, cheetah, jackal and hyena) can be seen.
The following day we take a game drive in the early morning, return to camp for a leisurely brunch, then have some free time to relax before setting off again in the afternoon. We will also get to meet the local Maasai warriors and they will teach us about their life and culture, even showing us how to throw a spear - careful mum, stand well clear please! This is invariably one of the highlights of the trip as we spend the day walking with our Maasai guides. The Maasai are probably the best known of Kenya's tribal peoples - largely due to their highly photogenic appearance. The young males in particular wear a striking costume of bright red cloth, with a cape slung from one shoulder, beads and jewellery, and carry a spear, sword and club. Originally nomadic herders, the Maasai used to live on a diet of fresh and curdled milk. Live cattle represent wealth, so much energy was devoted to cattle raiding. They have a fearsome reputation as warriors and hunters, but in the face of immense pressure are gradually - if reluctantly - starting to accept a more settled lifestyle.
After one last early morning game drive, we set off late morning to re-cross the plains of the Mara and climb the Rift Valley's eastern wall past Mount Suswa to make our way back to Nairobi (300km approx. 6 hours drive). En route there may be opportunities to stop and make some final purchases. Once back in Nairobi we have time to go for dinner (not included) in a local restaurant and reflect on the enjoyable trip.
The trip ends here for those not on the group flights. Those travelling on our group flights will be transferred to the airport in time to check in for your overnight flight home.
Please note - It is necessary to leave the Masai Mara in the morning in order to get to Nairobi in daylight, as travelling after dark is not allowed.
The group flight will arrive into London today.