NEW! Kenya - Big Game and Birding

A classic safari including the Maasai Mara

  • 03 Nov - 11 Nov 2019
Max Group Size12
Duration8 Days
£3995 PP, £325 single supplement.
Deposit £800

Kenya has the second highest bird list for any African country, and a magnificent heritage of big game. On this holiday we focus on both big game and birding, and our itinerary is ideal both for birders and those with a general interest in African wildlife.Birdlife is amazing, and big game, reptiles and amphibians will be plentiful, including some special rare species which could be easily missed without expert guidance.

Big game should include many key mammals including African Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, African Elephant, Hippopotamus, Nile Crocodile, Giraffe (both Maasai and Rothschild's), Zebra, Warthog, Cape Buffalo, White Rhino and Black Rhino. This holiday 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. Your birdlist should easily exceeed 250 species, as habitats and birds change quickly over short distances, and you will be accompanied by extremely knowledgeable guides, showing you a great deal of wildlife in dramatic landscapes.

We visit key sites including Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivaisha, and the famous Nairobi National Park, though perhaps the highlight will be our visit to the Maasai Mara, Kenya's most famous National Reserve. Named in honour of the Maasai people (the ancestral inhabitants of the area), this place is globally famous for its exceptional population of Lion, Leopard and Cheetah, and the annual migration of Zebra, Thomson's Gazelle and Wildebeest to and from the Serengeti every year.


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 ‘In February 2018 I returned to Kenya to work with excellent local guides and organise the huge potential into new Heatherlea holidays. I visited many of the places and hotels in person, birding with our excellent local guide Washington. Without trying too hard we saw well over 200 birds in just four days, plus around 30 species of mammal and reptile including Rock Hyrax, a personal favourite! It was easy to find new birds virtually everywhere we went, though many specialities certainly needed local knowledge. The hotels, food and service were to a very high standard, and I was pleased to see new tarmac roads in key places. Kenya is more than ready for us, and with our Leader Pete Cosgrove supported by the superb service of Washington and his team, I'm sure Heatherlea clients will love these holidays.'

Day 1: Sunday 3rd November 2019        LONDON TO NAIROBI

Depart London Heathrow in late afternoon flying Kenya Airways to Nairobi, arriving the following morning.

Day 2: Monday 4th November         ARRIVAL AND NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK  
Early morning arrival in Nairobi, where we will meet our local guide, and transfer directly to nearby Nairobi National Park. This small but excellent National Park, Kenya’s oldest, is located just 7 kilometres from the edge of Nairobi, 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.

Day 3: Tuesday 5th November          LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK 
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. We continue to Lake Nakuru, enjoying big game as we transfer to our lodge for lunch and an afternoon rest (with optional birding)! Later in the afternoon, we enjoy a game drive in the park.  
This park is famed as a birdwatchers’ paradise, and indeed was the first national park in Africa to be set up with an avian conservation objective. Up to a million Lesser Flamingos have been recorded here, though numbers are now lower. 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 and Montane Nightjar. The park is also a great sanctuary for both White and Black Rhino, and African Lion, Leopard and Cape Buffalo may be encountered as we move around. Other mammals will be seen, especially herds of grazing Common Zebra and endangered Rothschild’s Giraffe. Travel today 168kms (2.5hrs). Overnight for two nights at Nakuru - Sopa Lodge

Day 4: Wednesday 6th November           LAKE NAKURU NATIONAL PARK 
Today we enjoy an early morning game drive to the Baboon Cliff, scouting for birds and mammals including extraordinary Rock Hyrax, nearest living relative of the Elephant (though rather smaller!). After breakfast, we enjoy the local birding and exceptional scenic views around our lodge. After lunch, we make another birding and game drive, with spectacular White Rhino our key target, plus anything we may have missed earlier.  

Day 5: Thursday 7th November          LAKE NAIVASHA - MAASAI MARA 
We leave Nakuru early, and visit the lakeshore at the famous Lake Naivasha. Local birding includes Goliath Heron, Diederik Cuckoo, Lilac-breasted Roller, White-fronted Bee-eater, Yellow-billed Duck and African Fish Eagle, and mammals include Common Zebra, Nile Hippo, Defassa Waterbuck and Maasai Giraffe. A boat ride on Lake Naivasha will help us reach more species in the middle of the lake, with great views of shorebirds and more.  

We take lunch at a local lodge and enjoy the birds and mammals around the compound. We then drive to the Maasai Mara cruising through the Rift Valley, arriving late afternoon. Total travel today 220km (5.5hrs). We enjoy three nights in the impressive Masai Mara - Sopa Lodge.  



Days 6 & 7: Friday 8th & Saturday 9th November         MAASAI MARA NATIONAL RESERVE
The Maasai Mara is a breathtaking savannah punctuated by scattered shrubs and meandering river courses. We enjoy the panoramic spectacle of Africa's top nature reserve, as wandering Wildebeest march across the plains like an army headed to the battlefield, accompanied by other herbivores including Zebra, Cape Eland and gazelles. On their trail, resident and roaming predators keep track of this moving buffet! The top niche is held by African Lion, while Cheetah and Leopard prefer a lower profile. When these cats make a kill, flocks of scavenging vultures soon move in to take a share. At the river itself, Nile Crocodile lie in wait for the ruminants which dare to cross, and many Hippos laze in the shallows. Everywhere you turn, there will be amazing game to enjoy, including African Elephant, Common Warthog, Banded Mongoose, Thompson's Gazelle, Topi, Cape Buffalo and Maasai Giraffe. Birding will also be busy as we make several transects across this vast savannah. Likely species include Southern Ground-Hornbill, Rufous-bellied Heron, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Square-tailed Nightjar, Dusky Nightjar, Schalow’s Turaco, Grey-crested Helmetshrike, Red-necked Spurfowl, Red-winged Francolin, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Rufous-chested Swallow, Lappet-faced Vulture, Short-toed Snake-Eagle, Whiteheaded Vulture, Ruppell’s Vulture, Secretarybird, Grey Kestrel, Temminck’s Courser, Rosybreasted Longclaw, Green-capped Eremomela, Black Coucal, African Quailfinch, Kori Bustard, Bush Pipit, White-tailed Lark, Flappet Lark, Singing Bush Lark, Athi Short-toed Lark, Rufous-tailed Weaver, Grey-capped Social Weaver, Karamoja Apalis, Black-backed Cisticola, Long-tailed Cisticola, Pale Wren-Warbler, Usambiro Barbet, Familiar Chat, Sooty Chat, Wattled Plover, Woolly-necked Stork, Saddle-billed Stork and Magpie Shrike. 

The next two days will see us enjoy game drives in the Mara, enjoying the birds and big game of this beautiful place. We shall keep an eye for mammals including Savannah Elephant, African Lion, Cape Buffalo, Cheetah and Leopard. We take lunchtime breaks and take some rest in the heat of the day. Nights in the Mara - Sopa Lodge.  

Day 8: Sunday 10th November           NAIROBI 
Today we return by road to Nairobi, with birding on the way. We make strategic stopovers to add more bird species to our list, arriving in good time to take a break and relax at the comfortable Eka Hotel. Total travel today 250km (5hrs). 

Day 9: Monday 11th November          NAIROBI TO LONDON
After an early breakfast, we make the short airport transfer for the flights home. 

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).

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

Other birding and wildlife holidays in Kenya

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).

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The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248