NEW! Kenya - Birding the Rift Valley

An exciting holiday focused on birding with big game too!

Prices:£3995 PP, £325 single supplement. Deposit £800. 2020 prices TBC.
Dates:3 Feb - 12 Feb 2019, 2 Feb - 11 Feb 2020
Guides Pete Cosgrove
More Info





Kenya has the second highest bird list for any African country with over 1000 species (around one tenth of the world’s birds) and you stand a good chance of seeing over 300 on this exciting short holiday.  We focus primarily on birding, with a secondary focus on big game, spending our time in the Rift Valley, and visiting key sites including Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivaisha, Lake Baringo and the famous Nairobi National Park. Big game are almost incidental, requiring little direct effort, and we should see many key mammals including Giraffe (both Maasai and Rothschild's), Zebra, Warthog, Cape Buffalo, White Rhino and Black Rhino. This holiday does not by any means cover all the wildlife of Kenya, but offers a big selection in a relatively short visit, and is designed to give a memorable experience full of wildlife and wild places in a wonderful country. Habitats and birds change quickly over short distances, and with the help of extremely knowledgeable local guides, you have the opportunity to see a great deal in dramatic landscapes. The opportunity to extend your stay and visit the Masai Mara at the end of the trip is also available. Details can be found below.

This holiday is ideal for the birder inexperienced in Kenya, and also for those with a general interest in African wildlife. The thought that you are tucked up safe in your cabin while giraffes and zebras roam the grounds outside during the small hours is a great experience! This is an easy paced trip involving very little walking, and much of the time you will be inside vehicles so we can get close to wildlife. 

A unique aspect of wildlife watching in Kenya is our proximity to most animals and birds. Many are remarkably approachable and due to the open nature of most habitats, you can expect to see animals and birds very close up. You will often find yourself with the difficult decision of choosing between your binoculars or your camera! In general, photographic opportunities are exceptional, with the exciting combination of being close to wildlife and enjoying exceptional light. Kenya is truly a magical place and we must warn you that it casts a spell over many visitors who return time and time again.


Kevin Shaw says ...

'I visited Kenya in February 2018, partly to renew my acquaintance with the wonderful wildlife, but also to work out the detail for this holiday, visiting most of the places and hotels in person. Birding with Washington was really enjoyable, and without trying too hard we racked up a list of well over 200 birds in just four days, and I also saw around 30 species of mammal and reptile including Rock Hyrax, a personal favourite! I was particularly impressed with the constant flow of birds; it was easy to find new species virtually everywhere we went, though many specialities certainly needed local knowledge. The hotels, food and service were all very good, and I was pleased that new tarmac roads had been built in key places since my last visit over a decade earlier. Kenya is more than ready for birding visitors, and with our Leader supported by the superb service of Washington and his team, I'm sure Heatherlea clients will love this holiday.' 




DAY 1   Sun Feb 3:    LONDON - NAIROBI
Depart London Heathrow in late afternoon flying Kenya Airways to Nairobi, arriving the following morning.

DAY 2   Mon Feb 4:      NAIROBI
Early morning arrival in Nairobi, where we will be met by our local guide and transfer directly to the nearby Nairobi National Park. This small but excellent National Park, Kenya’s oldest, is located just 7 kilometres from the edge of Nairobi city centre, and extends right into the city itself. Among many possibilities we may see Ostrich, Secretary Bird, African Water Rail, Spotted Thick-knee, Black-winged Plover, African Finfoot, Pangani Longclaw, Jackson’s Widowbird, Kori Bustard, Hartlaub’s Bustard, Saddle-billed Stork, African Yellow White-eye, Common Nightingale, Ruppell’s Robin-chat, Northern Pied Babbler, White-tailed Lark, Rufous-naped Lark, Somali Short-toed Lark, Red-throated Tit, Speke’s Weaver, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Martial Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, African Quail-finch, Zebra Waxbill, Harlequin Quail, Lappet-faced Vulture, Violet Wood-hoopoe, Nairobi Pipit, Grassland Pipit, Siffling Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola and Desert Cisticola. A list of between 70 and 100 species is very possible by lunchtime! The park also hosts good numbers of big game, and we should see many Common Zebra, Cape Buffalo, Maasai Giraffe, Warthog, and several species of antelope including Impala, Waterbuck, Hartebeest and Wildebeest. Lions and Black Rhino are present here, albeit in small numbers. 


During our rest stop in the Park we will visit the important ivory-burning area, where the Kenyan Government makes a strong and highly visible stance against the ivory trade.



Watching Giraffes and Ostriches with tower blocks in the distance behind is a wonderful if slightly surreal experience, and the wealth of birding and big game in this Park makes it an important place to visit. After our picnic lunch taken inside the Park, we drive to our hotel (which is close to hand), and take the opportunity to relax for the remainder of the afternoon after a long day. Dinner and birdlist are our priorities in the evening! Overnight Eka Hotel, Nairobi.

We drive away from Kenya's busy capital city, stopping en route towards Lake Naivasha at a good birding site, Manguo Swamp. This roadside location is at elevation, so already the birdlife is changing, and new species will be found almost immediately. The wetlands hold herons, ducks and waders, there may be pipits and wagtails at the edges, and in the surrounding bushes sunbirds, weavers, greenbuls and many more will keep our birdlist moving. A little further along the road, we divert through tea plantations (Kenya Tea is highly recommended!), driving to our primary birding destination of the day, Gatamaiyu Forest. This is a pristine highland wet forest that forms the eastern edge of the great 'Aberdare Ranges' Forest. An idyllic birding location, which we will probably have to ourselves, we can wander through the large visitor reception area birding as we go. A huge variety of birds inhabit the mature trees and bushes, and with sunbirds visiting the blooms and raptors, shrikes and many more passing through or overhead, this is a wonderful birding place! Possible species include Hartlaub’s Turaco, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Brown Woodland Warbler, Abbott's Starling, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Brown-chested Alethe, African Hill Babbler, Hunter’s Cisticola, Green-headed Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, Olive Sunbird, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Bar-tailed Trogon, White-browed Crombec, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, African Olive Pigeon, Mountain Buzzard and Olive Ibis. Monkeys and squirrels may also be seen. We spend the late morning birding here in the forest, and have a picnic lunch followed by more birding before we head to Lake Naivasha. Travelling 100km (2hrs).

At Naivasha, we stay in a beautiful private place known as 'Elsamere', the former home of Joy and George Adamson, famous for their work in Kenya with lions, and authors of the popular 'Born Free' books and films. Now converted to welcome guests, this hotel and conservation centre is set beautifully against the Lake in private grounds, with top quality birding immediately in the vicinity, and excellent accommodation and food, in a setting which immediately conjures a convincing picture of 'old Africa'. On arrival we may be greeted by beautiful Black -and-white Colobus Monkeys, and in the evenings, Maasai Giraffe and Zebra stroll into the grounds to graze. Hippo can also be present, and a security team member will escort you safely to your lodge after dinner. We make the most of this idyllic location by staying overnight at Elsamere Conservation Centre and Lodge, Lake Naivasha for three nights.



DAY 4   Wed Feb 6:       LAKE NAIVASHA
Local birding today, as we seek more savannah and bushland birds. The wetland and scrub woodland surrounding the lake is excellent for passerines and we should see several new species. We also visit the lake shore, at some good beach points, where many shorebirds can be seen. Lake Navasha is a wonderful freshwater lake alive with birds and Hippos. In the afternoon, we take one and quite possibly two boat rides to see many waterbirds we will have not seen elsewhere. Expected species include Mosque Swallow, Lyne’s Cisticola, Chestnut Sparrow, Abyssinian Wheatear, Nyanza Swift, Mottled Swift, White-fronted Bee-eater, Mocking Cliff Chat, Bearded Woodpecker, Plain-backed Pipit, Giant Kingfisher, Grey-backed Fiscal, Grey-crested Helmet-Shrike, Brimstone Canary, Cape Teal, Pied Avocet, Black Heron, Goliath Heron, Lesser Flamingo, Maccoa Duck, Great White Pelican, Common Greenshank, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Hilderbrandt’s Francolin, Arrow-marked Babbler, Black-lored Babbler, African Fish Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Osprey, Hybrid Lovebird, Red-throated Wryneck, Golden-breasted Bunting, Buff-bellied Warbler, Grey Crowned Crane, Black Cuckoo and African Hoopoe. Mammals such as Cape Buffalo, Maasai Giraffe, Common Zebra, Nile Hippo and White-bearded Wildebeest are common here.

We leave early for a day trip visit to this highland region, where much of the day will be spent in Aberdare National Park. This Park runs the expanse of a majestic mountain range on the eastern edge of the Rift Valley. and has a great stretch of alpine moorland vegetation, mainly above 3,000m. This great landscape has led to the park’s nick-name:- “The Majestic Moorland”. There is a thick tropical forest, with deep ravines and dissecting riverine gorges. At certain areas, these rivers form majestic waterfalls, a wonderful sight. Home to many of Kenya’s endemic birds, this area promises to be very rewarding. Expected species include Aberdare Cisticola, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Brown Woodland Warbler, Abbott's Starling, Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, Moorland Chat, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Red-fronted Parrot, Yellow-crowned Canary, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, African Olive Pigeon, Jackson’s Francolin, Mountain Buzzard and Olive Ibis. Many other animals occupy this beautiful place and mammals including African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Mountain Bongo, and Giant Forest Hog can be expected.


Later in the afternoon, we drive through the Kinangop plateau to find more special birds. We will bird the grasslands, and also wetlands highland water birds. Expected species here include Black-winged Plover, Red-throated Wryneck, Common Quail, Hunter’s Cisticola, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Long-tailed Widowbird, Jackson’s Widowbird, Angola Swallow, Montane Nightjar, Sharpe’s Longclaw (endemic), Mountain Buzzard, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Red-throated Pipit, Black-tailed Godwit, African Snipe and Lesser Jacana. Travelling 65kms, two hours, some unpaved road.

After a final walk around the grounds and breakfast, we say farewell to Elsamere, heading north to Lake Nakuru National Park. Lake Nakuru is one of Africa’s famous Rift Valley soda lakes, at times holding up to a million Lesser and Greater Flamingos, a sight which has been described as "the most fabulous bird spectacle in the world". In modern times there are fewer flamingoes here than previously, though we should still see them in reasonable numbers. The Lake has many other attractions, not least of which are endangered White Rhino, dangerous Cape Buffalo, and other mammals including herds of grazing Common Zebra and endangered Rothschild’s Giraffe. Hippos, reedbuck, waterbuck, black rhino, giraffe, lion, leopard, and bushbuck are present too. Between the lake and the cliffs in the west, large pythons inhabit the dense woodland, and can sometimes be seen crossing the roads or dangling from trees.

Despite its flamingo-focused reputation, there are many other avian attractions such as pelicans, ducks, ibises, storks and waders on the shore. The area is full of large raptors, including dozens of Tawny and Steppe Eagles, and more than 400 species of birds have been seen in the park. The lake is surrounded by woodland, which holds many birds and animals not seen elsewhere on our trip. It is particularly good for bee-eaters and rollers, with new species of each likely. Other birds include Woolly-necked Stork, Arrow-marked Babbler, Little Rock-Thrush, Mocking Cliff Chat, White-browed Robin-Chat, Reed Cormorant, Pink-backed Pelican, Pied Avocet, Kittlitz's Plover, Blacksmith Plover, Coqui Francolin, Hildebrandt's Francolin, Black Cuckoo, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, African Cuckoo, Grey-crested Helmetshrike, Cape Teal, Brimstone Canary, Hottentot Teal, Red-billed Teal, Dusky Nightjar, Montane Nightjar; with Palearctic water migrants being abundant, including Little Stint, Common Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper. We make a couple of drives in this wonderful place, once to see White Rhino, and the other drive to a beautiful and breathtaking viewpoint, where we might find strange Rock Hyrax and Olive Baboon, while enjoying birding virtually non-stop. Travelling 80kms (1.5hrs). One night at Nakuru- Sopa Lodge.


After breakfast we drive north, crossing the Equator to reach a special place, Lake Baringo, birding on the way and arriving for lunch. Baringo is a beautiful freahwater lake in the northern Rift Valley region, in the middle of beautiful scrubland, and supporting a great ecosystem. This area hosts some of the most unique birds of Kenya. The owls here are very special, and this is one of the few places in Kenya where you can find up to six owl species within a five km square. The area also hosts some great dryland nightjar species and we shall keep an eye open for these, with our main target being Slender-tailed Nightjar. We shall bird several hotspots here on foot, using our vehicle to move from one to the next. We also scan local bushes, lakeshores and cliffs for new birds.



During our stay, we search for specialities including both Spotted and Greyish Eagle-Owl, Northern White-faced Scops Owl, Shikra, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Verreaux’s Eagle, Slender-tailed Nightjar, Donaldson-Smith’s Nightjar, Heuglin’s Courser, Blue-capped Cordon-bleu, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Black-throated Barbet, Brubru, Grey-headed Bushshrike, Somali Fiscal, Three-streaked Tchagra, Spotted Thick-knee, Senegal Thick-knee, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Nubian Woodpecker, Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Little Weaver, Jackson’s Golden-backed Weaver, Northern Masked Weaver, White-billed Buffalo-Weaver, White-bellied Canary, Beautiful Sunbird, Black-headed Plover, Jackson’s Hornbill, Yellow-billed Hornbill, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Northern Red Bishop, Brown-tailed Rock Chat, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Somali Sparrow and Bristle-crowned Starling, among many others. We relax at the Lodge until late-afternoon, and then resume birding around the local area, targeting nightjars and owls using the expert knowledge of our local guides. Overnight at Tumbili Cliff Lodge for two nights.

DAY 8     Sun Feb 10:   LAKE BARINGO
We take a boat ride at daybreak, with the possibility of many iconic African birds including African Fish Eagle, Goliath Heron and Giant Kingfisher. After breakfast we enjoy birding around the woodlands and lake until lunch, returning to hotel for lunch and the chance to relax, followed by another walk for owls and nightjars, perhaps to find species missed the previous day. 

We return south along the Rift Valley a distance of around 160kms (about three hours direct travel) to Nairobi with birding on the way and lunch at Lake Elmenteita, where we should add more to our burgeoning birdlist. We arrive back to the comfortable Eka Hotel for our final night.

DAY 10    Tues Feb 12:  NAIROBI - LONDON
We take breakfast at our hotel, and then an airport transfer for the flight home.


Add a Masai Mara experience to your ‘Birding the Rift Valley’ holiday in Feb 2019! The Masai Mara is one of world’s most famous conservation areas, made even more famous by the numerous films shot in the area. Enjoy a huge array of big game across the plains, from the vast herds of herbivores to the iconic big-cat predators, Lion, Leopard and Cheetah. This is a very exciting short trip to this wonderful destination! Price from £1250pp, single supp £150pp, availability on application. Please note the extension will be led by local guides only.

We enjoy an early breakfast at our hotel, then depart for the Masai Mara. There will be a stop-over at the Great Rift Valley View Point, where our guide takes a few minutes to help you learn about this great natural spectacle. We arrive at the Masai Mara lodge in time for lunch, relax around camp, then enjoy an afternoon game drive until sunset, tracking big game, antelopes and much more. Travel today will be around 240 km, taking around 5.5 hrs, with washroom breaks enroute. We stay overnight for three nights in Mara- Sentrim Lodge. 

DAY 11 and 12     Wed Feb 13 and Thurs Feb 14:      MASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE
Described by many as the top reserve in Kenya, this area has much to offer, including African Lion, Leopard, Savannah Elephant, Black Rhino and Cape Buffalo, often known as the ‘Big Five’, herds of grazing mammals, and amazing birdlife. The magical Annual Wildebeest Migration is also a spectacle that has made the area very famous. Game drives will likely be busy as we take several transects across this vast savannah. We spend time in the reserve exploring the different habitats, with different wildlife in each section of the reserve. 

We take several game drives in the Mara, enjoying the big game of this beautiful place. We shall keep an eye for mammals, with Elephant, Lion, Cape Buffalo, Hippopotamus, Nile Crocodile, Cheetah and Leopard among our key targets. We take leisurely lunch breaks each day to rest at the lodge. 

DAY 13      Fri Feb 15:      MASAI MARA TO NAIROBI
On this day we  enjoy an early morning game drive before breakfast, before departing for Nairobi. We make a few stops for wildlife, washrooms and lunch, arriving back at our comfortable Nairobi hotel in late afternoon. We have dinner and stay overnight in the comfortable Eka Hotel once more.   

DAY 14      Sat Feb 16:     FLIGHTS HOME
Today we have an early breakfast at our hotel, and then take a private airport transfer for the flight home.

Trip Information

Accommodation is in excellent and friendy hotels and lodges, often located in areas with expansive views. Rooms are comfortable, clean and attractive with en-suite bathrooms. The hotel in Nairobi has been selected for its easy access to both the Airport and Nairobi National Park, other hotels have been chosen for their location, accommodation and food, which are universally very good, and often exceptional.

Food is usually plentiful. Breakfasts offer a good choice, with tea, coffee, juice, fruits, pancakes, egg of your choice and other things depending on location. Lunches are taken at hotels or somewhere in the bush depending on the day’s plan. Evening meals are at the accommodation with a full dinner. Vegetarian and other diets are always available.

Walking is easy throughout, but restricted in the national parks and game reserves.  This is no hindrance, as we will be safe and able to get up very close to many animals and birds. It is also important for safety reasons to stay close to if not inside the vehicle – remember we are not top of the food chain here!

Travel is by comfortable minibus, and all clients have a window seat. Tarmac roads make travelling much easier these days, though there are some 'marram' roads, which are both rough and dusty. Sometimes the wildlife we want to see is at the end of a dusty road! Roads around National Parks are likewise unmade, though we travel slowly here to maximise our chances of birding and game.

Weather will be warm to hot most days although it can sometimes be cool, especially at altitude and in the early mornings. You will probably experience 'dry heat', though rain is certainly possible. Most sites selected for this holiday are close to water and so should hold plenty of wildlife at the time of year we are visiting.

Insects There are very few biting insects at this time of the year, but general precautions are advised. Before travelling consult your doctor about suitable anti-malarial medication, and on arrival take adequate precautions against mosquito bites although you may not encounter mosquitos.

Clothing We recommend a mixture of light and warm clothing as temperatures will vary from place to place. Gloves and hat are advised especially when at altitude. Please bring waterproof clothing, it hopefully won't be needed but rain is possible at any time, even in the dry season.

What's included in your holiday price:

Price includes return scheduled flight from London – Nairobi, airport taxes, baggage up to 20kg, hand luggage to 5kg, in-flight meal, airport transfers, the services of your Heatherlea leader and professional local guide, ground transportation, accommodation and meals including breakfast and lunch, evening meal and water during the day. Also included are boat rides, park entrance fees and walk fees. Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included subject to terms and conditions.


The Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi

by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe is included in your holiday price. One copy per room booked.

What's not included in your holiday price:

Travel to and from the airport before and after the holiday, baggage above 20kg, incidental tips, drinks with meals, expenses of a personal nature and personal insurance.


Pete Cosgrove
Pete is a highly experienced leader and very well-travelled overseas birder, with an interest in Africa and Kenya in particular. Of all our local guides, he is the one most noted for finding rarities and spreading the news!


Washington Wachira
Washington has a taste for everything in nature, from the small to the big and everything in between. He is an experienced Safari Guide and was awarded the African Sustainable Tourism Fellowship Award in 2016. Washington is a member of the Kakamega Rainforest Tour Guides Association, and has led many birding trips and expeditions across the whole of East Africa. He is a passionate author, and has taken part in many bird related research and conservation projects.  He is also an experienced nature photographer and his photos have been featured in many international books and magazines.

Wilson Tiren
Wilson was born in Kenya, and is one of the leading authorities on bird identification and distribution in the Baringo region. Wilson enjoys birding just as he enjoys leading birding tours, and brings vast experience in bird spotting and identification. He has taken part in expeditions to many other parts of Kenya, and his interests span to other aspects of flora and fauna. Wilson is a passionate nature photographer and his passion and jovial mood in the field has made him a clients’ favourite.

Either Washington or Wilson will be our local Guide.

       Washington and Wilson

Why choose Heatherlea for your African wildlife holiday?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 25 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).


Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248