26 Days Birdwatching Safari In Kenya

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All about the 26 Days Birdwatching Safari in Kenya.

Covering Magadi Road, Thika Samburu Game Reserve, Mt.Kenya, Lake Nakuru, Lake Baringo, Kongelai Escarpment, Saiwa Swamp, Kakamega Forest, Busia, Kisumu, Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Lake Naivasha, Kinangop Plateau, Gatamaiyu Forest, Tsavo West, Lake Jipe, Taita Hills, Tsavo East, Arabuko Sokoke Forest, Mida Creek, & Shimba Hills

Day 1. Magadi road

Today you will be picked up from the hotel and head southwest of Nairobi for some great birding along the Magadi road, from Kona Baridi all the way to the saline lake. The lake occupies the lowest level of the vast rift valley depression, approximately 100 km2 and its bed consists almost entirely of solid or semisolid soda; crispy caked crust, dyeing the waters vivid pink. If time allows we will make a brief tour of the Olorgesaille pre-historic site worldly renowned as the “factory of stone tools” and the only place in the world with the largest number of hand axes and representing some of the first camping places of early man. Some of the highlights we expect from this hot and dry area include the Lynne’s, Tiny Cisticola, Straw-tailed Whydah, Fire-fronted Bishop, Black-throated Barbet, Blue-capped Cordon-bleu, Southern Grosbeak-Canary, Grey-wren Warbler, Cut-throat Finch and the Grey-headed Silverbill among others.

Day 2. Nairobi—Mt Kenya

We will leave the busy Nairobi and head towards Mt. Kenya region meandering through the fertile farmlands of the Central Highlands with some few stopovers along the way like the Blue-Post at Thika and other sections. Some of the special species we will look for include the African Crowned Eagle, Trumpeter Hornbill, Olive-grey Greenbul, the endemic Hinde’s Babbler, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Montane Nightjar, Moustached-green Tinkerbird, Eastern bronze-naped Pigeon, Grey-headed Negrofinch, Northern/Eastern double-colored Sunbird, Montane Oriole and also the endemic Jackson’s Francolin among others.

Day 3 and 4. Shaba National Reserve-Buffalo-Samburu Game Reserve

After our morning breakfast we will leave the cool climate of central highlands and head northwards to Shaba National Reserve which is adjacent to Samburu Game Reserve. The adjoining reserves lie on the edge of the dry zone of northern Kenya and are scenically some of the most attractive reserves in the country. The diversity of habitats makes for a very rich avifauna, ranging from the huge Somali Ostrich to tiny Pygmy Batis. Amongst array of birds here include the endemic William’s Lark, Red-necked Falcon, Bateleur Eagle, Brown Snake-eagle, Egyptian Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Rosy-patched Bush-shrike, Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Little Bee-eater, African Orange-bellied Parrot, Red-winged, Pink-breasted, Singing Bush Lark, Blue-naped, White-headed Mousebird, Magpie, Bristle-crowned Starling and Golden-palm Weavers.

Day 5. Samburu-Sweetwater’s

We will leave in the morning with a short game drive checking out anything we might have left out while driving to Sweetwater’s, Ol Pejeta Conservancy. One of the highlights at the Sweetwater’s will be a visit to the Chimpanzee sanctuary, a charming haven established by Jane Goodall Institute to provide sanctuary to orphaned Chimps and refuge to over 40 endangered Black Rhinos. Here we will look out for the near-endemic Jackson’s Widowbird, Red-collared/Long-tailed Widowbird, Temminck’s Courser, Black-winged Plover, Long-billed/Plain-backed Pipit/Grassland, Abyssinian Scimitarbill and a good number of raptors among others.

Day 6. Sweetwater’s-Lake Nakuru National Park

After breakfast we will drive to Lake Nakuru National Park with a brief stopover at an old quarry to check out not so common Mackinder’s Eagle-owl, a split from the Cape Eagle-owl. Also we may have a chance to see a good number of sunbirds including the Golden-winged Sunbird, Red-winged Starling and the Rock Martins. We will check in for lunch at the lodge before our afternoon game drive exploring the premium park. The lake often holds spectacular concentrations of Lesser Flamingos and small numbers of Greater Flamingos. It has become world famous for these birds, who visit the lake to feed on the blue-green algae that forms on the lake bed. They move back and forth, feeding and occasionally and spectacularly taking to flight, filling the sky over the lake with color. We hope to see the Greater and Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Broad-billed Roller, Schalow’s Wheatear, Winding/Red-faced/Zitting Cisticola, Mocking Cliff Chat, Arrow-marked Babbler, Mottled/Nyanza/Horus Swift, Coqui Francolin, Ruppell’s long-tailed Starling, African Thrush, Verreaux’s Eagle-owl, Long-crested Eagle and the Black cuckoo-shrike among others.

Day 7. Lake Nakuru-Baringo

Today we will drive further North-West to Lake Baringo, a dry rocky country area clothed in acacia woodland that holds very special arid bird species both nocturnal and diurnal. We will explore the lake shore, the surrounding woodland and the sheer cliffs that rise up suddenly to the west of the lake, and also some drier country away from the lake itself. We hope to find the rare Star-spotted Nightjar, Slender-tailed Nightjar, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Greyish Eagle-owl, Heuglin’s Courser, African Skimmer, Woodland Kingfisher, Black-headed Plover, Bristle-crowned Starling, Northern White-faced Scops-owl, African Scops-owl, Brown-tailed Rock chat and Beautiful Sunbird.

Day 8. Baringo-Kitale

After having our early morning breakfast we will explore the surrounding areas for one or two special species that we may have left out before embarking on our journey to Kitale. Once there we will check in at our hotel and have lunch then later drive to the smallest national park in Kenya, Saiwa Swamp which is only 3km2. The park was created as a habitat for the Sitatunga, a rare aquatic antelope and also as a preserve for the not-so common De Brazza’s monkey. Highlights will include the Luhder’s Bush-shrike, Double-toothed Barbet, Brown-capped Weaver, Ross’s Turaco and the dazzling Snowy-headed Robin-chat.

Day 9. Kitale-Kongelai Escarpment

Today we will cover the Kongelai Escarpment, a rugged area of cliffs and dry scrub that holds quite a good number of specialties which include the Eastern Plantain-eater, Yellow-billed Shrike, Bronze-tailed Starling, Lesser Blue-eared Starling, White-crested Turaco, Heuglin’s masked Weaver, Little Weaver, Green-backed Eremomela, Western Black-headed Batis and the Foxy Cisticola.

Day 10. Kitale-Busia-Kakamega

Early morning we will carry our picnic/box lunches and try our luck for the elusive Spotted Creeper, if time allows, before driving South West to the Busia grasslands that consist of a chain of grassland patches surrounded by intensively cultivated lands, primarily maize and sugarcane. The grasslands are under immediate and intense threat from expanding agricultural activities. Some of the targeted species include the Blue Swallow, Blue-headed/Senegal Coucal, Green Crombec, Black Bishop, Bar-breasted/Black-bellied Firefinch, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Fawn-breasted/Black-crowned Waxbill, Marsh Widowbird and the Rock Pratincole. Overnight at a resort in Kakamega.

Day 11 and 12. Kakamega forest

Kakamega Forest is the only true rainforest remaining in Kenya and is a superb place to go birding. It was once an extension of the vast Guinea-Congolian rainforest and is rich in species found nowhere else in Kenya. Most birding is along the main road through the reserve and along various side roads and well-used paths, though there is a good network of trails behind the lodge that is home to many species of the forest interior. Some of the specialties here include Uganda Woodland Warbler, Chapin’s Flycatcher, the globally endangered Turner’s Eremomela, Black-faced Rufous-Warbler, the majestic Great Blue Turaco, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Grey-green Bushshrike, Pink-footed Puffback, Rosy-patched Bushshrike, White-spotted Flufftail, Bar-tailed Trogon, Equatorial Akalat, Black and White casqued Hornbill, Square-tailed Drongo, Grey-headed Negrofinch, African Broadbill, Grey Parrot, African Blue Flycatcher, Makinnon’s Fiscal, Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye, Brown-throated Wattle-eye and Jameson’s Wattle-eye.

Day 13. Kakamega-Kisumu

After having our breakfast we will drive to Kisumu which is a city on the north-eastern shores of Lake Victoria where our ‘Lunatic Train’ railway line construction stopped, in 1901. Some of the specialties expected to find here include the Papyrus Gonolek, Black-headed Gonolek, White-winged warbler, Greater swamp Warbler, Swamp Flycatcher, Copper Sunbird, Red-chested Sunbird, Northern brown-throated Weaver, Jackson’s Golden-backed Weaver, Yellow-backed Weaver, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Black-winged Bishop, Black-billed Barbet, Water Thicknee and the elusive Marsh Owl, if we are lucky enough.

Day 14, 15 and 16. Kisumu-Maasai Mara National Reserve

Today we leave Kisumu and head southwards, explore the famous Maasai Mara, Kenya’s richest wildlife reserve which at any time of year offers a wonderful wildlife spectacle. These great grasslands are a natural northwards extension of the Serengeti plains and as we near the Mara we shall see the first herds of antelopes. This is probably the best place in Kenya for seeing carnivores and we can expect to enjoy some marvelously close encounters with Lions, perhaps watching a pride snoozing under some bushes whilst the cubs play amongst the Lionesses. The reserve is well known for its spectacular Serengeti-Mara Wildebeest migration that occur between late June and early September each year. Other mammals of interest include the large herds of Elephants, towering Maasai Giraffe, graceful Cheetahs, elusive and shy Leopard, hulking Spotted Hyena and the basking Hippos along the rivers. Birdlife here is equally rich and some of the highlights include Usambiro Barbet, Long-tailed Cisticola, Rock-loving Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola, Familiar Chat, Rosy-breasted Longclaw, White-naped Raven, Rufous-bellied Heron, Yellow-fronted Canary, Wattled Plover, Pale Wren Warbler, Black-backed Puffback, Coqui Francolin, Red-necked Francolin, Woodland Kingfisher, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Grey Kestrel, Brown Snake-eagle, Black-chested Snake-eagle, Dark chanting Goshawk, Greater Kestrel, Lappet-faced Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Ruppell’s griffon Vulture, Rufous-chested Swallow, Hildebrandt’s Starling, Violet-backed Starling, Red-billed Oxpecker, Yellow-billed Oxpecker and the Southern ground Hornbill.

Day 17. Maasai Mara-Lake Naivasha

After breakfast we drive eastwards to Lake Naivasha a fresh water lake outside the town of Naivasha, Nakuru County. The lake has a surface area of 139 km², and is surrounded by a swamp which covers an area of 64 square km, but this can vary largely depending on rainfall. It is situated at an altitude of 1,884 meters (6,180 ft.).The lake has an average depth of 6 m (20 ft.), with the deepest area being at Crescent Island, at a maximum depth of 30 m (100 ft.) The lake is home to a variety of types of wildlife including over 400 different species of bird and a sizeable population of hippos. The fish community in the lake has been highly variable over time, influenced by changes in climate, fishing effort and the introduction of invasive species. Some of the birds we will look out for include the Goliath Heron, Purple Heron, Great white Pelican, Pink-backed Pelican, Lesser Moorhen, Giant Kingfisher, Southern Pochard and African marsh Harrier, White-fronted Bee-eater, Fischer’s Lovebird, Green-backed Honeyguide and the Arrow-marked Babbler.

Day 18. Naivasha-Nairobi

Early morning after breakfast we will have an exhilarating boat ride to look for any species we might have missed the previous day before driving to Kinangop plateau. This highland plateau consist of grassland, tussock bogs and swampy valleys. However much of the plateau is being rapidly converted to small-scale cultivation. Our main target will be the endemic Sharpe’s Longclaw whose population is declining rapidly due to its habitat lose. Other highlights include the near-endemic Jackson’s Widowbird, range-restricted Long-tailed Widowbird, near-endemic Hunter’s Cisticola, Levaillant’s Cisticola and the Red-throated Wryneck. If time allows we will make a brief stop along the way to Nairobi at a small wetland to look for the elusive Maccoa Duck, White-backed Duck and the Fulvous whistling Duck among others.

Day 19 and 20. Nairobi-Tsavo West National Park

Leave early from Nairobi, drive southeast to Tsavo West National Park, with birding stopover along the way, the first one at Lukenya hills, about 30km from Nairobi. Interesting bird species expected are: Red throated Tit (Endemic to Kenya and Tanzania) Brubru, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Vonder Decken’s Hornbill, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, African Hoopoe, Lilac breasted Roller, Blue-naped Mousebird, and White browed Coucal. If time allows we can make one more stop over before getting to Tsavo West National Park for one or two special birds. The park covers an area of 9065 km2, is more mountainous and wetter than its counterpart, Tsavo East, with swamps, Lake Jipe and the Mzima Springs. It is known for its rich bird life and also large mammals. Some of the bird species we will look for include the Tsavo, Beautiful, Hunter’s and Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird, Lesser grey, Isabelline, Red-backed Shrike and Northern White-crowned Shrike, Kori, Buff-crested, Black-bellied and Hartlaub’s Bustard, Thrush Nightingale, Marsh, Olive-tree, Upcher’s and Barred Warbler, Hildebrandt’s, Ruppell’s, Magpie and Golden-breasted Starling, Black-headed Plover, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Golden Pipit and the elusive Friedmann’s Lark.

Day 21. Taita Hills

After our morning breakfast we will drive to Taita Hills where birding will be done entirely on foot. The hills are known for their moist forests with a unique fauna and flora. More than 20 endemic species of African violets (e.g., Streptocarpus teitensis) occur exclusively in that region. Known endemic bird species are the Taita Thrush (Turdus helleri) Taita Apalis (Apalis fuscigularis) and the Taita White-eye (Zosterops silvanus). The Taita falcon (Falco fasciinucha) and the Taita fiscal (Lanius dorsalis) were first discovered at the hills but occur elsewhere, too. We will also be looking for Lemon Dove, Striped Pipit, Stripe-cheeked, and Placid Greenbuls, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler and Orange ground Thrush.

Day 22. Tsavo East National Park

Today we will drive down to one of the oldest and largest African safari parks in Kenya, which was established in 1948 and covers 11,747 km², although not all of the park is open to the public. It is a natural area of flat, dry plains, with thorny bushes and swampy marshland near the river. Some of the birds we will look for include the bizarre-looking Vulturine Guineafowl, Scaly Chatterer, Fire-fronted Bishop, Golden Pipit, Somali Courser, Somali Ostrich, Somali Bee eater, Harlequin Quail, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Bateleur, White-backed Vulture, Fischer’s Sparrow-Lark, Grey Wren-warbler, Abyssinian White-eye, Cut-throat Finch, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Namaqua and Laughing Doves, Red-winged Lark, Red-naped Bush-shrike, Orange-bellied Parrot, Pringle’s Puffback, Somali Tit, Somali Long-billed Crombec, Tiny Cisticola and the Somali Bunting among others.

Day 23. Tsavo East-Malindi

After breakfast we will have a birding session/ game drive in the morning while heading south eastwards to a small coastal town in Kenya, north of Mombasa and about 15km south of Malindi. Watamu is a beautiful and peaceful village on the Kenya Coast, nestled between pristine beaches and lush tropical forest. Since it was first settled as a remote Swahili outpost at Gedi, this area has remained a haven of peace and tranquility and is still one of the coast’s most undeveloped and natural areas.  Known for its unique, relaxed and laid back way of life, Watamu welcomes visitors seeking to chill out, explore and enjoy the wonders that it has to offer.

Day 24. Malindi (Arabuko Sokoke-Mida Creek)

After our morning breakfast we proceed to the largest and most intact coastal forest in East Africa, the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve. It is a 420 km2 coastal forest with 20% of Kenya’s bird species, 30% butterfly species and at least 24 rare and endemic bird, mammal and butterfly species. There are over 270 species of birds recorded in this forest including several rare and endemic species like the Clarke’s Weaver and Sokoke Scop’s Owl. Other special birds we expect to observe include Amani Sunbird, East Coast Akalat, Sokoke Pipit, Spotted Ground Thrush, Mombasa Woodpecker, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Retz’s and Chestnut-fronted Helmet-shrikes, Yellow-bellied, Fischer’s and Tiny Greenbuls, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle and Bohm’s Spinetail. Later we leave the forest and head to Mida Creek, a broadwater tidal creek surrounded by extensive mangroves and lined with palms. This 32km2 creek has wide, healthy beds of seagrass and coral, home to many species of fish and feeding sea turtles, while in the mangroves smaller streams and inlets provide a refuge for crabs and birdlife. Here we hope to see the Crab plover, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Greater & Lesser Sandplover, Terek sandpiper, Mangrove Kingfisher, Whimbrel and Eurasian Curlew among others.

Day 25. Shimba hills

Early morning we will drive down to the south coast all the way to Shimba Hills National Reserve, a sanctuary for the endangered Sable Antelope. The Shimba Hills are a dissected plateau that ascends steeply from the coastal plains, some 50 km south-west of Mombasa and 15km from the coast. The reserve is an area of coastal rainforest, woodland and grassland. Here we hope to see the Green, Brown-breasted and White-eared Barbet, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Fischer’s Turaco, Green Tinkerbird, Eastern Nicator, Southern Banded Snake-eagle, Crested Guineafowl, Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird, Black-bellied Starling and the Green-headed Oriole among others.

Day 26. Shimba-Mombasa airport

We will have an early morning game drive to check out what we might have missed the previous day then head back to our lodge for breakfast. Later on you will be transferred to Mombasa Airport for your local flight to Nairobi JKIA in time for your international departure flight. End of safari!


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