This trip proved to be one well suited to those who enjoy the travelling aspect of a holiday rather than spending 2 weeks on a holiday resort. There was a lot of road (or dirt track) to be driven on this itinerary, with locations being at some distance between each other, however travel seeming lighter than it was due to the eye opening landscapes and scenes we travelled through.


During the tour we travelled from Nairobi to Naivasha; Naivasha to the Masai Mara; Masai Mara back to Nairobi for a conservation visit; Nairobi to Tsavo national park (east and west); Tsavo N.P to Watamu; then Watamu to Diani Beach, and all in 2 weeks. Here is what we got up to...


Naivasha


Our first couple days were spent in a guest house set right on the edge of Lake Naivasha. Dea, the ownwer and one of the warmest and most welcoming people you could ever meet, opened her beautiful family home as a guest house in 2010, just 2 years after losing her husband and closing their well established seed farming business. The house is amazing, as are the gardens which stretch all the way to the waters edge and attract a plethora of bird life.

 

Deas .1           Deas.2

 

Deas.3           Deas.4


During our time at Naivasha we took a boat ride on Lake and a hike up and around the crater of Mount Longonont. The boat ride on the lake was beautiful, as I just mentioned the bird life here is astonishing, and out on the water it was even better; pied and giant kingfishers diving into the water, pelicans cruising by, cormorants fishing, spoonbills and heron on the shores of the lake, and fish eagle swooping down to grab the fish our boat drivers were throwing out for them. This was the perfect welcome to Kenya.

 

Naivasha Boating.1           Naivasha Boating.2

 

Naivasha Boating.3           Naivasha Boating.4


Mount Longonont was also a great day out. The hike took us around 6 hours in total, and in parts it was pretty challenging when having to scramble up and down some fairly steep parts of the track. From the craters edge of this extinct volcano are views of Lake Naivasha and the Great Rift Valley, and down in the bottom of the crater lies dense unspoiled woodland. The main wildlife attractions include buffalo, eland, bushbuck, common zebra, giraffe, Grants and Thomsons gazelle, and many bird species.

 

Longonont.1            Longonont.2

 

Longonont.4           Longonont.3


Masai Mara


The camp we stayed at whilst exploring the Masai Mara was set in a remote location quite literally on the banks of the Mara river, and was a relatively short drive along a very rugged track to the gates of the reserve.


The accommodation was very plush safari tents, with the worlds’ comfiest beds, en-suite bathrooms with a shower, and an outdoor bath on a private veranda. Each night our butlers would drop the mosquito nets over our beds, pop in a hot water bottle, and fasten up the tents ready for us to retire after dinner and a few beers around the camp fire. The camp was completely open, meaning there are no fences to keep dangerous wildlife out, and the drive to the park gates was beautiful and wild. On the way to the gates we would see the likes of elephant, hippo, giraffe, buffalo, vulture, the odd secretary bird and wooly necked stork to name a few.

 

mara-timbo-camp-tent 2 Custom           Mara timbo camp tent 3 Custom

 

Mara Elephant     Mara Buzzard     Mara Juv Giraffe

 

Once through the gates games drives were awesome, the Masai Mara is a truly special place with some amazing scenery and wildlife. Our Drivers Peter and Peter were with us for the duration of the trip and were wonderful; they are Kenyan born and bred and very knowledgeable on the country and its wild inhabitants. Rules on the Masai Mara are different to Kruger National Park in South Africa; there you must stick to the tracks, here our drivers could go off road. This is great when you see an animal like lion or black rhino from afar, you can get in much closer to have a better look and take some great snaps.


A few of our guests also went on a hot air balloon trip, they set out at sunrise, observed wildlife from an areal perspective, then landed out in the wild and were served a champagne breakfast in style.


We had some amazing sightings during our time on the Mara; 2 lionesses with cubs, a loan male with a kill, a black rhino with a calf, 2 servals within 10 minutes of each other, ostrich courting, a secretary bird catch and eat a mouse, hyena eating a hippo carcass directly across the river from camp, and exactly what we went there to see: the wildebeest migration and river crossing. These are just a few of the awesome spectacles we witnessed.

 

Lioness and cubs           Mara Serval

 

Wildebeest crossing           Secretary Bird.2 Custom


Nairobi (David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)


After the Mara we headed back to Nairobi for a night so we could visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT). The trust was founded in 1977 by Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E, in honor of her late husband and founding Warden of Tsavo East National Park, David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE. The trust today is the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world, and one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa. The work carried out here is astounding. There were 23 orphans residing there when we visited, all in for different reasons but mainly due to poaching, and the staff are so dedicated that they actually sleep in the stables with the young ele’s.


We had raised a lot of money for conservation before we embarked on our Kenyan adventure, and a large portion of that money went towards sponsoring the orphans. All our guests adopted / fostered an elephant, and some had the chance to get up close and personal with these beautiful and majestic creatures.
Spending time with the young elephants and getting mauled by them was an overwhelming experience, and hearing how flatulent they were was childishly amusing; however the experience was hard hitting for some and really brought out people’s emotions. Although the trust is carrying out such fantastic work by rescuing and rehabilitating these relatively defenseless babies, it was easy for the delight on our guests’ faces to be tipped to a look of sorrow when they thought about what these orphans had been through before arriving here. It was, however, a great visit and experience, and everybody left with conservation in the forefront of their minds and a real sense of satisfaction that we had played part in helping one of earths’ most extraordinary animals.

 

DWST.1           DWST.2

 

DWST.3           DWST.4


Tsavo National Park 


Tsavo is notably different from the Masai Mara in both size and scenery, and also has some wildlife that doesn’t occur on the Mara. Tsavo East and Tsavo West comprise one of the largest national parks in the world covering a massive 4% (13,745 sq km) of Kenya’s total land area. During our time  at Tsavo we stayed at another tented camp where the accommodation and location was yet again amazing. The camp was located right on the banks of the Galana River, where access is gained only by dingy crossing. This alone was a mini adventure in itself, with the adrenaline induced anticipation of bumping into hippo or crocodile whilst crossing.

The camp was breathtakingly beautiful and a place of absolute tranquility. The luxury safari tents, fantastic food, great swimming pool with views of the yatta plateau as a back drop, well stocked bar and roaring camp fires all added up to a very relaxing stay.

 

Tsavo camp.1           Tsavo camp.2

 

Tsavo camp.3           Tsavo camp.4

 

On our first evening we climbed onto the roofs of the camps Land Rovers and took a drive to the top of the Yatta Plataeu. From the top the views were magnificent as we drank beers and G & T’s, and witnessed one the most stunning sunsets’ u could imagine.

 

Yatta Plataeu.1           Yatta Plataeu.2

 

Yatta Plataeu.3           Yatta Plataeu.4


The park is home to a recorded 500 species of birds including tawny eagle and batelure, plus most of the larger African mammals; huge herds of dust-red elephants, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, pods of hippo, waterbuck, lesser kudu, gerenuk, topi and hartebeest. During our time in Tsavo we spotted all of the above and more, plus a very exciting and welcome surprise...


On our second morning in Tsavo east, we set out early as we did every morning, poked our heads out of the top of our safari vans with binoculars and cameras poised, and scanned the area for anything that moved. The bush is pretty dense in the areas around Tsavo Safari Camp so anything you spotted was relatively close by. Within half an hour we had spotted a small herd of elephant, a few warthog, plenty Kirk’s dik-dik, a couple of batelure, and around 10-15 other species of bird. We turned a corner and there, about 10-12 meters ahead of us, a pack of 6-8 African wild dogs crossed the track.

 

Tsavo Wild Dog           Tsavo ele herd

 

Tsavo tawny eagle.2           Tsavo gazelle rutting


We were all elated, these beautiful and awesome predators have been battered by human persecution and habitat fragmentation, and numbers throughout Africa are rapidly declining. Once widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa in 39 countries, wild dogs today have pretty much disappeared in 15, with no more than 3,000–5,500 remaining in the wild. The IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) regard African wild dogs as a high-priority species for wildlife conservation, hence our excitement!

          
Watamu


Watamu is very different to the Mara and Tsavo, here you are on the eastern coastline of Kenya and in easy reach of scuba excursions and the Arabuko Sokoke forest. We stayed on a fairly large all inclusive resort situated right on the beach, with 3 restaurants, 2 pools, 2 bars, and they ran their own scuba excursions which some of our guests took advantage of and had a great time. They spotted moray eel, mud skipper, sea cucumber, sea slug, sea urchins, spider crab, hermit crab, sand crab, ghost crab, trumpeter fish, clown fish, rays, turtle and numerous corals.

 

turtle-bay-beach-club -1320134405 Custom           Turtle bay pool Custom


The hotel also supports local conservation projects, one in particular being The Local Ocean Trusts flagship marine protection programme: Watamu Turtle Watch. Prior to organising the trip we had chosen Watamu Turtle Watch as one of the conservation projects we would sponsor, so had planned to visit their rehabilitation centre, make a donation and help with some of their work. This was a great morning out; they conducted a short but very interesting presentation, gave us a tour of the rehabilitation centre, then as luck would have it we were invited to help relocate a clutch of eggs which had been laid below the level of high tide and was at risk of being flooded and destroyed.

 

Watamu Turtles.1            Watamu Turtles.2

 

Watamu Turtles.7           Watamu Turtles.4 Custom


We were taken to a point on the beach where it was evident by tracks left by a turtle that a clutch had been laid in a precarious location. We then had to locate exactly where the clutch was, carefully exhume the eggs, then relocate them as close as possible to the original nest site but in a safe position. It was great to be involved in such an important task; we relocated 79 eggs in total, which according to statistics, means there could be 1 more turtle that will make it to adulthood and reproduce.

 

Watamu Turtles.5           Watamu Turtles.6

 

Watamu Turtles.8           Watamu Turtles.9 Custom


As well as participating in scuba diving and rescuing turtle eggs, we had planned an excursion doing some hardcore birding with a local man named David Ngala. David had worked for Kenya Wildlife Services for 30 years, had won numerous awards for his conservation efforts including a Disney Award, and knew the Arabuko Sokoke Forest and its avian residents like the back of his hand. We told David we wanted to find the Sokoke scops owl and wood owl, he smiled and said he'd try his best. He firstly went off into the forest on his own, returned after 15 minutes or so, and told us to follow him. The forest was dense, very dense, he spotted and identified every bird that moved when the rest of us could hardly see where we were going, then after a while he stopped, pointed into a tree, and sure enough there was 2 Sokoke scops owls roosting. This guy was amazing, once we had got back out onto the track he made us aware of wood owl calling, so we got the play back equipment out and played the wood owls call through the forest. Within 3-5 minutes we had 2 wood owl flying over us and landing in the trees above us trying to work out what was going on. It really was fantastic. As a thank you to David we used some of the money we raised for conservation to buy him some new equipment to aid his work.

 

Arabuko.4           Arabuko.5


The following day some of the group wanted to visit Gede ruins, the remains of a 12th century Swahili trading town which had been completely abandoned in the 17th century. It was a remarkable place, the ruined architecture was both beautiful and haunting, and its only modern day inhabitants were the resident Sykes monkeys and birds.

 

Gede ruins.1           Gede ruins.2

 

Gede ruins.3              Gede ruins.5


Diani Beach


Our residence in Diani Beach was a complex of 4 cottages and 2 villas of varying sizes and capacity. The cottages we stayed in were amazing, constructed mainly from wood with thatched rooves, lovely bedrooms with en-suit bathrooms and a private open sided, open plan sitting area. There was also a bar/dining area, and a pool with a pool bar and water slide. The founder of Forest Dream was also one of the founders of the Diani Colobus Trust, the 4th conservation project we had chosen to support with this trip.

 

Diani forest dream mongoose cottage Custom           Diani forest dream cottage interior Custom  

 

  Diani forest dream pool 3 Custom


As well as the rehabilitation of injured and captive monkeys, the Trust also built and installed ‘colobridges’; rope ladder style bridges put up at intervals along the main road through Diani Beach giving monkeys safe crossing points in their fragmented habitat. The money we donated to Diani colobus conservation funded the building of 2 colobridges, one of which we a helped to build and put in place.

 

Diani Colobus.1           Diani Colobus.2

 

Diani Colobus.3           Diani Colobus.4


We also ran a day trip out to Shimba Hills game reserve. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t so great, it was raining on and off so the wildlife spotting was a little slow at first, however the scenery didn't fail to be beautiful. We spotted the likes of elephant, buffalo, impala, giraffe, and we also spotted the rare sable antelope, the main target species we had set out to see here. We also spotted a palm nut vulture which we hadn’t seen anywhere else on the trip.

 

Shimba hills track           Shimba hills palm nut vulture

 

Shimba hills Sable Antelope           Shimba hills scenery


We made our way to Sheldrick Falls where we took a short but steep hike with a park ranger as protection, and luckily the rain stopped and the sun came out for the duration of the hike. The falls were lovely, and we took full advantage of the crocodile free pool and took a dip and ultra-power shower in the waterfall.

 

Shimba hills sheldrick falls 1           Shimba hills sheldrick falls 3

 

Shimba hills sheldrick falls 4           Shimba hills sheldrick falls 2

 

The trip as a whole was a huge success, every one of our guests felt that they had really experienced Kenya and made a difference to Kenyan wildlife conservation with the money they had raised and work they participated in. We look forward to seeing you on our 2014 Kenyan Wildlife Extravaganza.

Species Count for the 2013 Kenyan Wildlife Extravaganza:
54 mammal species
200 bird species

Please view our gallery below of the wonderful wildlife of Kenya.


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