Those on the group flights will be met on arrival at the airport this morning after your overnight flight 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 you drive 250 km (approx. 4-5 hours) on good roads to Lake Nakuru, arriving in time for lunch. We will pitch tents alongside glistening Lake Nakuru then head out on an afternoon game drive. Fringed by acacia trees, Nakuru Lake is transformed into a shimmering pink haze as hundreds of flamingos descend upon it. Keep an eye out for other wildlife - the savanna area also boasts a wide variety of animals including giraffes and lions. The alkaline waters of this lake once supported an extremely large colony of flamingos - reckoned to be 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, changing the type of birdlife and wildlife that inhabit this area, and what you will see on your 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, you 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. Accommodation: Camping with Facilities
Day 3 - 4
Encounter friendly locals on a village visit before reaching Lake Naivasha - a birdwatcher's paradise with floating islands of papyrus reeds. 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. Spend the next two nights in simply but neatly furnished. Cottages by the lake and explore this beautiful area independently. Accommodation: Naivasha Country Lodge Cottages (2 nights)
You depart Lake Naivasha making a short stop in the town to do a spot of food shopping, taking our lunch break en route to our camp site at Loita Hills (220 km, approx. 5-6 hours). Today's drive crosses the Great Rift Valley, Africa's immense and spectacular great divide, and takes us into the remote region of Loita Hills, home of the traditional Maasai people. Here you visit the Maasai, known for their vibrant red dress and elaborate jewellery, and gain an insight into the culture and ancient ways of this proud East African Community. After setting up our tents, it is time to meet our Maasai hosts as you receive a fascinating talk offering insights into this remarkable and ancient culture from a local elder. Enjoy being shown around a traditional Maasai home and cattle enclosures, and you may even have the opportunity to participate in the milking of the precious cattle. The local Maasai warriors will even show you how to throw a spear - careful mum, stand well clear please! This is invariably one of the highlights of the trip. 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. Accommodation: Camping with Facilities
Day 6 - 7
Your destination today is the finest of Kenya's reserves, the Masai Mara (150 km, approximately 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. They arrive here each July and 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. You should arrive at your lodge in time for lunch. Then jump into 4x4's for an afternoon Game Drive. You'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 next day wake before dawn to start our morning game drive when the sun comes up, one of the times of the day when most animals tend to be more active. After what is hopefully an exciting morning's drive you return to camp for lunch and to relax during the heat of the day. You set off again in the afternoon and expect to return to camp around sunset. However, depending on wildlife movements, you may on occasion do a full day's game drive and in this instance you'll stop en-route for a picnic lunch. Explore this diverse environment and view a multitude of wildlife. Spend an entire day on a wildlife spotting quest in the reserve and take brunch/lunch by the side of the Mara River - a great chance to spot crocs and hippos. Accommodation: Tented Camp (2 nights)
After one last early morning game drive, you 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 your 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 you 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 the group flights transfer 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.