Tuesday 29th August -
Thursday 7th September 2017
Leader: Chris Galvin
Group Size Limit: 5
Day 1 The tour starts at Nairobi International Airport early this morning. From here we will transfer to Nairobi's Wilson Domestic Airport and take a flight to the Masai Mara, our base for the next six nights. Our stay will be centred on one of the conservancies to the north of the Masai Mara. Throughout this tour, the tented camps we use are more 'luxury lodge under canvas'. With a modern touch added to the very comfortable conditions, they bring out the spirit, although not the conditions, of the big game safaris of the early twentieth century. A major advantage of using the conservancies is that we have the ability to go off road and there is a very low ratio of bed nights to the acreage of the conservancies. This ensures that most of the time we will have more exclusive access to the large animals. This area offers some of the best predator photography in the whole of Africa with the large numbers of Lions, Cheetahs and Leopards. We should arrive on the Mara in time to take an afternoon safari.
Days 2-6 We will spend five days exploring the Masai Mara, with its abundance of large mammals and diverse birdlife. Our daily routine here will start with a morning safari, during which breakfasts are taken al fresco on the plains, usually under the shade of a flat-topped acacia, whilst watching the herds and often in the company of a Topi, the Mara’s most diligent predator spotter, perched up on a termite mound. After lunch there will be some time to relax before going out for the afternoon drive to look for some of the Moniko pride of lions. This is a very large and successful pride owing to the high density of plains animals in the area. We have the option to either have full and complete days out in the field when both breakfast and lunch can be served out on the savannah or we can return to camp for lunch.Big cats are a very prominent feature of the Masai Mara and also include Cheetahs and Leopards, both of which are fairly straightforward to find here.
We are definitely at 'Predator Central' here and there can be few, if any wildlife spectacles anywhere in the world, that can rival the tension, drama and emotion of a Mara crossing. As many as a million wildebeest and 200,000 zebra attempt this epic journey each year. Watching as thousands of wildebeest and zebra gather at a crossing point you can almost feel the pressure build on the animals at the front as they consider the right time to attempt to cross the dangerous waters of the crocodile-infested Mara River. It is, however, a time of plenty for the gigantic Nile Crocodiles that live in the river and lie in wait as hundreds of thousands of animals head north from the Serengeti Plains to feed on the lush Mara grasslands. The foaming waters, noise and drama of a Mara crossing has to be experienced to be believed and offers dramatic action photo opportunities.
Travelling in purpose-built Land cruisers with open sides and roofs and specially built platforms for been bags and/or attaching photographic heads, we will be able to get up close to photogenic cubs, males and even spend time with lions on a kill.
Day 7 Today we will take a flight from the Masai Mara, via Nairobi, to the small town of Nanyuki, at the foot of the towering Mount Kenya in the central highlands and straddling the equator. The drive to our camp, our base for the next three nights has some excellent mammal viewing on the way, and we should have our first sightings of Black Rhino before we reach our lodgings. We should arrive at the camp in time for lunch with some time to unpack and relax before embarking on our first afternoon safari. We return back to our camp for dinner before embarking on a night drive.
Days 8–9 Our time at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy will be spent exploring its 90,000 acres of plains grassland with early morning, afternoon and optional night drives following a similar routine to our time at the Masai Mara. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy holds two packs of African Wild Dogs and they can be highly mobile unless there is an active den, but with three days available we should be able to locate one of the packs. Wild dogs are usually high on the photographers wanted list and there is even a good chance that we will encounter them during the first drive! With Lion, Cheetah, Spotted Hyena and Black-backed Jackal, as well as plenty of large herbivores, there will be no shortage of photogenic species. Nestled at the foothills of the Aberdare Hills and in the shadow of Mount Kenya the reserve is also home to some species that typically inhabit the drier areas of Northern Kenya, such as the endangered Grevy’s Zebra, Beisa Oryx and Reticulated Giraffe. The Conservancy was set up to protect the Black Rhinoceros and has perhaps the highest density of Black Rhino in Kenya. White Rhino is also present here but in smaller numbers. Within the Conservancy there is a dedicated boma that is home to the last remaining Northern White Rhino in Africa, which is now extinct in the wild. The early morning light here is superb and makes for some great landscape shots as the sun rises from behind the highest of the six peaks of Mount Kenya. This is the best time to be out and about, not only for the magnificent wildlife, but also if you want to shoot landscapes and/or silhouette shots as Mount Kenya is swathed in a blanket of cloud from mid-morning onwards. To maximise the photo opportunities during the best light of the day, breakfast is served out on the plains whilst keeping an eye for large predators. Being situated on the equator with the sun directly overhead the light is harsh during the middle of the day and it makes sense to return to camp for lunch. Laikipia has no wildebeest but has lots of other large mammals to photograph such as the range-restricted Jackson’s Hartebeest, Burchell’s Zebra, Grant’s Gazelle, Steinbuck and large herds of Impala. Apart from the fantastic mammal selection on offer, Laikipia has some amazing birdlife. The enigmatic Secretarybird strides the plain as well as the enormous Kori Bustard. Being a private conservancy, Ol Pejeta also allows night drives, which offer photographic opportunities for some of the nocturnal species such as Bat-eared Fox, White-tailed Mongoose, Zorilla and, with luck, we will find an Aardwolf or Striped Hyena, or if very lucky even an Aardvark. As most of the large predators hunt at night the plains animals tend to behave differently in the dark and are usually closer together than during the daytime resulting in the formation of large herds. Hyenas are also on the move and will often trail the Cheetah and Lions and attempt to steal their prey. The spotlight used during night drives is fitted with a red filter to minimise disturbance of the animals.
Day 10 After our early morning game drive we return back to camp for lunch and to collect our bags before driving south to Nairobi Airport, where the tour will end this afternoon.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The tented camps are of a very good standard throughout and are wonderfully situated. Main roads are mostly good or reasonable (but there are also plenty of rough tracks in the sanctuaries and some ‘off-road’ driving). Safari transport is by Toyota 4WD with large opening roof hatches and we will have a maximum of 5 group members in our vehicle.
Walking etc: The walking effort is easy throughout. Walking is restricted to a few specified areas in the national park/game reserves. This is of little hindrance and indeed we can approach many large birds and mammals far more closely in a vehicle than we could on foot.
Climate: Most days will be warm or hot, dry and sunny, but overcast conditions are fairly frequent and there may well be some rain.
These are confirmed prices
Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike many tour operators who are still showing prices based on hugely higher and very outdated pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assurred that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is a significant recovery by the Pound you will receive the benefit by way of a price reduction.
Tour Price: £5490, €6480, $7190 Nairobi/Nairobi.
Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Single Room Supplement: £810, €955, $1060.
Deposit: £1000, €1200, $1300.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
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