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Day 1: Sunday 7 June - London - Nairobi
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we depart London Heathrow on a late afternoon flight with Kenya Airways to Nairobi, arriving the following morning.
Day 2: Monday 8 June - Nairobi National Park
The tour begins in Nairobi, where we will be received by our local guides and head directly to Nairobi National Park for great birding straight away. This is Kenya’s oldest National Park and is located just 7 kilometres from the edge of the city centre, indeed, this is Kenya’s capital birding location with over 500 species recorded. Among those we could see on our very first morning are 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. The park hosts several mammal species too, including Zebra, Cape Buffalo, Maasai Giraffe and a wide range of antelope species. A brilliant start to our holiday!
During our rest stop in the Park we enjoy a picnic lunch adding more birds to our list. We visit the important ivory-burning area, where the Kenyan Government makes a strong and highly visible stance against the ivory trade. Later, we head to our hotel, check in and relax during the heat of the afternoon after a very busy day. Driving today is 15km (30min) and we overnight in Nairobi at the Eka Hotel.
Days 3 and 4: Tuesday 9 and Wednesday 10 June - Tsavo West NP
Tsavo West National Park in southern Kenya is home to a superb array of wildlife, and for the next few days we will enjoy great birding and game based from Ngulia Lodge. Driving 270km (5 hrs) we will see lots of great wildlife on the way to Tsavo. Potential species in the National Park include Harlequin Quail, Two-banded Courser, Scaly Chatterer, Friedman’s Lark, Red-winged Lark, Three-streaked Tchagra, Black-headed Plover, Spotted Thick-knee, Golden-breasted Starling, Shelley’s Starling, Magpie Starling, Jameson’s Firefinch, Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit, Acacia Tit, Pygmy Batis, Black-headed Batis, Tsavo Sunbird, Blue-capped Cordon-Bleu, Somali Bunting, Tiny Cisticola, Pale Prinia and Eastern Paradise Whydah. Raptors in the area include Tawny, Martial and Lesser Spotted Eagle plus many more, and we may see Donaldson-Smith’s and Sombre Nightjar roosting by day or on the wing after dark.
A planned visit to the Mzima Springs, a superb wetland habitat, will give us the chance to do some birding on foot. Depending on the weather, we may also choose to visit the Lake Jipe area, where we scan the wetland and adjacent grassland for more localised species. There will also be mammals including Lion, Lesser Kudu, Leopard and the “Red Elephants” of Tsavo.
Days 5 and 6: Thursday 11 and Friday 12 June - Amboseli National Park
From Tsavo, we head west 125km (3.5hrs) to Amboseli, located on the Tanzanian border in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. This scenic park is graced by mighty Savannah Elephants and is home to the longest and most famous elephant research program in the World. The mammals here are as good as anywhere in Kenya with Lion, Cheetah, Common Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Maasai Giraffe and Nile Hippo all possible and we shall take our time to enjoy them on drives in the National Park.
Local birds should include Saddle-billed Stork, African Fish Eagle, White-backed Vulture, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Greater Kestrel, Fischer’s Sparrow-Lark, Cardinal Quelea, White-bellied Canary, Red-headed Weaver, Taveta Golden Weaver, Speckle-fronted Weaver, White-bellied Go-away-bird, African Jacana, Kittlitz’s Plover, Red-billed Teal, Lesser Flamingo and Greater Flamingo, Lilac-breasted Roller, Ashy Cisticola, Desert Cisticola, Winding Cisticola and Taita Fiscal. Our base for two nights will be the Sentrim Lodge.
Day 7: Saturday 13 June - Amboseli to Arusha
Crossing into Tanzania, we head towards Arusha driving 210km (4.5hrs). Mount Kilimanjaro will be behind us, and as we travel a new peak emerges ahead, Mount Meru, a dormant volcano rising to just under 15000 ft. Enjoying great birding on the way, this journey can produce many new species including White-headed Mousebird, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and Foxy Lark. Rare Gerenuk antelope may also be seen feeding along the road, sometimes alongside local Kirk’s Dik-dik. Overnight in Arusha at Planet Lodge.
Day 8: Sunday 14 June - Lake Manyara
After breakfast we drive 120km (2.5hrs) to Lake Manyara, a pristine soda lake in the Rift Valley. Local Baobab trees illuminate the journey, and we may make a stop by the roadside to take photos and try the magical “Baobab tree hug”. At Lake Manyara, Greater and Lesser Flamingos are plentiful, feeding in the soda waters. Other birds include Yellow-billed Stork, Goliath Heron, Great White Pelican, Grey Kestrel, Martial Eagle, Crowned Eagle, Purple-crested Turaco, Crested Guineafowl, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Grey-olive Greenbul, Slate-coloured Boubou and Hildebrandt’s Starling. Local game of interest includes the famous “tree-climbing Lions” of the area. We stay for two nights at Tloma Lodge in Karatu.
Day 9: Monday 15 June - Ngorongoro Highlands and Crater
Today we visit the magical region of Ngorongoro, just 20km (30 mins) from our Lodge. Here we will visit the large and scenic crater, located about 2000m above sea level, falling to a depth of 600m. A truly unique location, the crater is nestled in a pristine natural forest, full of beautiful indigenous trees, and boasts incredible views. We begin birdwatching in the high forest around it's rim, where expected species include Hunter’s Cisticola, Golden-winged Sunbird, Eastern Double-collared Sunbird, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Bar-throated Apalis, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Brown Woodland Warbler, Southern Citril, Thick-billed Seedeater, Brown Parisoma, African Olive Pigeon, Brown-backed Woodpecker, Waller’s Starling, White-naped Raven, White-headed Barbet and Schalow’s Turaco.
Descending inside the majestic Ngorongoro Crater, rightly labelled as one of the wonders of Africa, we will encounter new wildlife. Herds of wild animals may be present, and we look out for the local African Lion, Cheetah, Savannah Elephant, Black Rhino, African Golden Wolf, Nile Hippo, Wildebeest and various Gazelles. Special birds include Hildebrandt’s Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Lyne’s Cisticola, Pied Avocet, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Black-bellied Bustard, Kori Bustard, Secretary Bird, Rosy-breasted Longclaw, Flappet Lark, both Lesser and Greater Flamingo, Chestnut-banded Plover and Rufous-tailed Weaver.
Day 10: Tuesday 16 June - Tarangire National Park
We visit a lesser explored gem today, the fantastic Tarangire National Park, where we can look forward to Acacia woodlands full of birds. Birding highlights in this quiet area could include Yellow-collared Lovebird, Woodland Kingfisher, Double-banded Courser, White-headed Buffalo-Weaver, Coqui Francolin, Pygmy Falcon, Brown Snake Eagle, Black Cuckoo, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Great Painted Snipe, Mottled Spinetail, Southern Ground Hornbill, Meyer’s Parrot, Bearded Woodpecker, Southern Red Bishop, Knob-billed Duck, Banded Parisoma, Miombo Wren-warbler, Green Woodhoopoe, Brubru, Magpie Shrike, Red and Yellow Barbet, Rufous-tailed Weaver and Ashy Starling. Big game should be encountered too, with African Elephant, Banded Mongoose, Cape Buffalo and Cheetah among the many possibilities. We stay at the excellent Tarangire Safari Lodge for one night.
Day 11: Wednesday 17 June - Tarangire to Arusha
We have the entire morning to look for unseen species in the amazing Tarangire ecosystem before exiting the National Park and returning to Arusha. A more relaxing day, but still with great birding en route with some dedicated roadside stops which can produce good birds. Overnight in Arusha at Planet Lodge.
Day 12: Thursday 18 June - Nairobi Plains
Leaving Arusha via nearby drylands, we spend the morning searching for the rare Beesley’s Lark. Species occurring in this same area include Abyssinian Wheatear, Banded Parisoma, Tiny Cisticola, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Red-throated Tit, Short-tailed Lark, Foxy Lark, Athi Short-toed Lark and White-headed Mousebird. Continuing to Nairobi, we shall return to Eka Hotel with time to reflect on the great moments of our tour.
DAY 13: Friday 19 June - Departure
After breakfast, we transfer to the airport for our return flight to the UK.