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Kenya Safari: From Hyenas to Humpback Whales

Named a 2014 National Geographic Traveler "Tour of a Lifetime," our two-week Kenya travel program combines peak wildlife viewing on land with opportunities to snorkel and see whales along the coast, and gives an insider's look at local conservation efforts.

Overview

  • Our 2018 departure will be guided by naturalist Jaymi Heimbuch, an acclaimed environmental writer and conservation photographer who will offer one-on-one photography instruction during the trip.
  • Our departure is timed to match the peak of wildebeest migration in the Mara, and includes opportunities to see Africa's "Big Five" (lions, elephants, cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros)
  • We'll visit the idyllic eco-tourism haven of Watamu along the coast for opportunities to snorkel, see migrating humpback whales, and learn about ocean conservation efforts.

Our reinvention of the "classic" safari takes you on an unforgettable journey to Kenya to see animal migrations on land and at sea. This unique trip was named one of National Geographic Traveler's "50 Tours of a Lifetime" in 2014.

Our program provides a quality nature experience, beginning with visits to Kenya's most prominent National Parks during the height of the migration season, and ending up snorkeling and whale watching along Kenya's beautiful coast.

Our educational, conservation-focused itinerary also includes visits with community conservation leaders and artists—including members of the Ocean Sole program and of the mobile medical clinic, Community Health Africa Trust (CHAT)—giving travelers an insider's look at unique ways to connect waste management and health care to modern conservation efforts in Kenya.

This program is designed to create a life-changing experience allowing the traveler to come away with not just pretty pictures, but also first-hand exposure to how local community needs and ingenuity play a role in modern day conservation of predators and marine resources in Kenya.

Wildlife Highlights

When it comes to wildlife, this trip has it all! Our safari is timed to coincide with the great wildebeest migration, an annual ritual of nature in which more than 1.5 million wildebeest migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya in search of greener pastures. We will also have opportunities to see all of the "Big Five"—African lions, African leopards, African elephants, cape buffalo, and rhinoceros—as well as cheetahs, hippos, and many rare or endangered species such as Rothschild's giraffes, African wild dogs, Grevy's zebras, and many more. We can also see many unique birds like Secretarybirds, Bee Eaters, Flamingos, Ostriches, and others.

Once we reach the coast, our focus is to see migrating humpback whales, and we also snorkel at colorful coral reefs that feature lionfish, sea turtles, and many other tropical marine species.

Trip Dates & Cost

2018: July 20 – August 2. $7,650 per person + $850 in park fees.*

2019: July 20 - August 2. $7,900 per person + $850 in park fees.*

* Single supplement fee $1,990. Trip prices do not include international airfare. Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.

Photos
Naturalist

Jaymi Heimbuch is an environmental news writer for Mother Nature Network and a conservation photojournalist. Her work has appeared in print and online publications worldwide. Jaymi is a member of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) and is an Affiliate with the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP). She is also the author of the award-winning book The Ethiopian Wolf: Hope at the Edge of Extinction. Jaymi has always had a profound interest in wildlife and the natural world. Learn more about Jaymi at jaymiheimbuch.com.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival - Nairobi
Upon arrival in Nairobi you will be met at the airport and transferred to our comfortable hotel, the Fairview Hotel.

Day 2: Nairobi
A full day in Nairobi we make stops at the Giraffe Centre and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to learn about their conservation and wildlife rehabilitation programs and meet the endangered animals they care for. After that we will visit the artists who create flip-flop animals for Ocean Sole an “trash to cash” business based in Karen a suburb of Nairobi.

Day 3: Nairobi - Laikipia Plateau (by road)
Leaving Nairobi, we continue on to the Laikipia Plateau. Laikipia has the largest concentrations of game in all of East Africa that are not inside a park boundary. During game drives we encounter abundant wildlife, often without another vehicle in sight. A wild yet romantic haven, Laikipia shelters not only the Big Five but also a variety of rare and endangered species, including African wild dogs, Grevy's zebras and rhino. Overnight at El Karama Eco Lodge.

Day 4: Laikipia
Morning and afternoon game drives in the Laikipia Plateau. Overnight at El Karama Eco Lodge.

Day 5: Laikipia
In the morning we leave for a full day visit to Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary opened in 1993 when Sweetwaters, the Kenya Wildlife Services, and the Jane Goodall Institute established a facility to receive and provide sanctuary and housing to chimps orphaned at a young age by the bush-meat trade. Overnight at El Karama Eco Lodge.

Day 6: Laikipia - Maasai Mara National Reserve
Maasai Mara National Reserve is a large game reserve in southwestern Kenya. It is named after the Maasai people (the traditional inhabitants of the area and their description of the area when looked at from afar: "Mara," which is Maa (Maasai language) for "spotted," an apt description for the circles of trees, scrub, savanna, and cloud shadows that mark the area. It is famous for its exceptional population of big cats, game, and the migration of zebra, Thomson's gazelle, and wildebeest from the Serengeti every year from July to October, a migration so immense that it is called the Great Migration. The Mara has been called the Kingdom of Lions and these regal and powerful hunters dominate these grasslands. Cheetahs are also a common sight in the Mara, as are hyena and smaller predators such as jackals. Overnight at Ilkeliani Camp.

Day 7: Maasai Mara National Reserve
Morning and afternoon game drives will take us through some of the most spectacular savanna ecosystems East Africa has to offer, with one of the densest concentrations of animal life on the planet. Overnight at Ilkeliani Camp.

Day 8: Maasai Mara National Reserve
Full day game drive. Overnight at Ilkeliani Camp.

Day 9: Maasai Mara National Reserve
Morning and afternoon game drives. Overnight at Ilkeliani Camp.

Day 10: Maasai Mara - Malindi - Watamu
Today we make our way to the coastal village of Watamu, fronted by wide white beaches. This tranquil village is home to several well established resorts, and many private guesthouses scattered through the forest along the deserted shore. At Watamu a Marine National Park has been established, offering an ideal day trip for snorkelers. Oceanic Society partners with the Watamu Marine Association and while we are here we will learn about their marine mammal projects and meet artists who work with their community recycling programs. Accommodation: Lonno Lodge.

Day 11: Watamu
Morning excursion for dolphin viewing, afternoon snorkeling excursion. Accommodation: Lonno Lodge.

Day 12: Watamu
In Watamu we will visit and interact with local artists who are receiving international attention for their use of beach collected marine debris in art and consumer products. This is helping to bring attention to the problem of marine pollution and help support a community conservation recycling effort (run through the Watamu Marine Association) that benefits local womens' groups, and marine turtle and marine mammal conservation efforts. All of these efforts are also promoted and enhanced by ecotourism groups that come to the region and support their programs. We will also enjoy a dugout canoe tour and dinner at Mangrove Crab Shack. Accommodation: Lonno Lodge.

Day 13: Watamu
Giriama Cultural Village Tour on Kirepwe Island. Accommodation: Lonno Lodge.

Day 14: Watamu - Malindi - Nairobi (fly home)
Final dinner at Tamambo, departure.

Accommodations

Throughout our trip we stay in comfortable hotels, eco lodges, tented camps, and conservancies that have been carefully selected for their security, quality, access to nature, and commitment to local conservation efforts. These include Fairview Hotel, El Karama Eco Lodge, Mara Engai, and Lonno Lodge. Year to year these choices may vary depending on availability and new options that develop. The lodges in the above sample itinerary are the ones we utilize most frequently. On booking we will confirm if there is any variation expected for a specific year.

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