Arrive in Nairobi any time and make your way to the joining point hotel. Upon arrival look for information on your trip on the hotel bulletin board regarding the meeting time and briefing to be held on day two. Take today to wander the streets of central Nairobi, taking in old colonial architecture and the brightly coloured crowds to get a feel for Africa. The city’s best attraction is the National Museum, home to most of the great prehistoric finds made by the Leakey family in East Africa, from Ethiopia to the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. It also has sections on wildlife, art, geology, local history and a snake park. West of the city, the suburb of Karen is named after Karen Blixen, author of “Out of Africa”. Her house is now the Karen Blixen Museum, complete with a garden and tea house, it tells the history of the famous author. Also in Karen is the African Butterfly Research Institute , a large magical greenhouse alive with native butterflies. South of Nairobi, in Langata, are a number of the city's best attractions. At the Giraffe Centre, you'll have the option of hand-feeding the rare Rothschild giraffes, plus embarking upon a nature walk with 160 species of bird. The Sheldrick Animal Orphanage cares for young, orphaned elephants. The Bomas of Kenya is a living open-air museum of the tribes of Kenya, including regular dance performances. The Nairobi National Park is just south of the city, and covers 114 sq km. It has over 400 bird species of and populations lions, leopards, and one of the country’s few thriving populations of black rhino. The name Nairobi is derived from the Masai word for cool waters, which the Masai people gave to a water hole known as Ewaso Nyirobi. In modern times, the sprawling, cosmopolitan city of Nairobi combines the first-world glamour of reflecting-glass skyscraper buildings with abject developing-world poverty. It originated in 1899 from a handful of shacks that marked the end of the railhead during the building of the Uganda railway. Due to big game hunting bringing tourists from Britain, the city expanded dramatically in the early 1900’s. A large number of British nationals settled in the area, prompting more growth and this angered both the Masai and Kikuyu people, as they were losing hunting ground due to the expansion of the city limits. The friction increased and, eventually led to the Mau Mau uprising, which saw Jomo Kenyatta, the future president jailed. Kenya was granted independence from Britain in 1963, with Nairobi as the capital. Apart from being Kenya’s capital and the main centre of government and commerce, Nairobi is the most significant city in East Africa and an important player on the pan-African stage. It is the diplomatic base for many counties in Africa, with its broad spectrum of international embassies and headquarters for the United Nations, multi-national companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and press correspondents. It’s also the center of the growing safari business of East Africa.
For the next five days we have the opportunity to make a difference and experience life in the outskirts of Nairobi, where lives have been dramatically impacted by poverty, unemployment and HIV/AIDS. Volunteers get involved various community projects namely Limuru children centre, Mukeu special unit school and In His Image Baby Rescue Centre. As the volunteers time is relatively short we initially place them in one focal project to ensure as much continuity and consistency as is possible and then have optional projects for day 6 and 7. On Fridays, some different activities are included: Every 1st Friday is Fundraiser Friday-volunteers fundraise at a near-by shopping mall to raise money for a food program in a local volunteer project. Every 2nd Friday the volunteers will go to 1 of 2 schools (schools catering for the underprivileged children in our rural slums) to prepare and hand out food to the children and have a fun/sports afternoon with them. There are over a million orphans in Kenya mainly due to AIDS, from which only 5% get any kind of support. There is a huge need for assistance in orphanages and children's homes. We will visit an orphanage in Limuru, home to children that come from different backgrounds and that have been affected by disability, abuse, poverty or illness. These children are in desperate need of love and attention. Many of them are developmentally delayed and need extra attention in order to promote their development. The orphanage offers opportunities for us to become involved in daily activities including helping with teaching and organizing activities to promote the well being of the children. Another important role for volunteers is to assist the caregivers in their daily task of maintaining the home and cooking food while the children are at school. We may also be needed to do practical work, such as painting or building, in order to improve the orphanage and making it a better home for the children. No experience necessary.
On Sunday morning you have an opportunity to help out at HALF WAY HOME which is a baby rescue centre which is particularly understaffed on a Sunday. And with between 14 – 18 babies the caregiver are desperate for an extra pair of hands. Head back to Nairobi and explore the city while you wait to meet up with your safari group. A brief departure meeting will be held in the hotel reception area in evening. Upon arrival look for information from your tour leader on the hotel bulletin board regarding the meeting time.
Approximate Distance: 365 km Estimated Travel Time: 7-8 hrs This morning we depart Nairobi and drive north through the farmlands of the Kikuyu people, passing Mount Kenya, Africa's second highest mountain (5199m), on our way to the Samburu Game Reserve. Samburu is a wildlife haven to many species rarely found elsewhere. We enjoy an afternoon game drive in search of the northern species of game that are not seen south of the equator, such as the Reticulated Giraffe, Grevy's Zebra, Beisa oryx and Somali ostrich. On day 3, we spend a full day game viewing in search of the "Big 5" - elephant, lion, rhino, leopard, and buffalo - in addition to another creature of the area - the long-necked gerenuk (meaning giraffe neck), a graceful antelope that stands upright on its hind legs to feed on tall bushes. The Samburu National Reserve, situated on the banks of Uaso Nyiro River (meaning brown water), is located in the Samburu district of the Rift Valley province, approximately 350 km north of Nairobi. With an area of 188 km sq, Samburu National Reserve was established in 1948 as part of the enormous Marsabit National Reserve. This region is referred to as the Northern Frontier District because of the war in the 1960's and early 70's with the Somali people. The reserve offers good views of nearby Mount Koitogor and Mount Ololokwe, and thanks to its proximity to the Uaso Nyiro river, a vast variety of animals consider the area encompassed by the reserve their home territory. There are over 50 species of wild animals in the reserve, including the “Big 5”. With roughly 450 indigenous bird species in the reserve, and many aquatic species in the Uaso Nyiro River, this reserve is one of the most diverse in Kenya. It also has a wonderful mixture of acacia, riverine forest, thorn trees and grassland vegetation. The local population of the neighbouring communities are of the Samburu tribe, a clan of the Masai people. Historically nomadic people, the Samburu live in a tradition largely untouched to modern development.
Approximate Distance: 348 km Estimated Travel Time: 7-8 hrs Descend into the Great Rift Valley enjoying stunning views of the escarpment on the way. Lake Nakuru is a shallow soda lake, renowned for its huge concentration of flamingos and over 460 species of birds. On day 11, embark on a safari within Lake Nakuru National Park, in search of the resident black and white rhino, buffalo, impala, and the elusive leopard. Kenya's fourth largest town and the capital of the Rift Valley province, Nakuru, meaning “dusty place” in the Masai language, is a cheerful and vibrant agricultural town with a variety of coulourful local markets. We camp outside of the town itself, at the edge of Lake Nakuru National Park, the area’s principal highlight and best natural attraction. Lake Nakuru National Park began in 1961 as a small protected territory, only encompassing the famous lake of the same name, and the surrounding mountainous vicinity. Now it has been extended to include a large part of the area’s grassland savannahs and woodland slopes, and covers an area of roughly 188 km sq. Lake Nakuru itself is one of the Rift Valley soda lakes. The alkaline lake's abundance of algae attracts the large quantity of flamingos, estimated into the millions, that famously line the shore. The surface of the shallow lake is often hardly recognizable due to the continually shifting mass of pink. There are two types of flamingo species: the Lesser flamingo can be distinguished by its deep red carmine bill and pink plumage unlike the greater flamigo, which has a bill with a black tip. But flamingos are not the only avian attraction, also present are two large fish-eating birds, pelicans and cormorants. The park is rich in other birdlife, including grebes, white winged black, stilts, avocets, ducks, and in the European winter, the migrant waders. The park has recently been enlarged partly to provide the sanctuary for the black rhino. This undertaking has necessitated a fence - to keep out poachers rather than to restrict the movement of wildlife. The park now has more than 25 rhinos, one of the largest concentrations in the country, so the chances of spotting these survivors are better than in other parks. There are also a number of Rothschild's giraffe, again translocated for safety from western Kenya beginning in 1977. Numerous other mammals can be seen, including zebra, impala, gazelle, waterbuck, lion, warthog, bushbuck, many buffalo, and even at times leopard.
Approximate Distance: 368 km Estimated Travel Time: 7-8 hrs After breakfast, we depart for the world famous Masai Mara Game Reserve. With its vast open plains and distinctive flat-topped acacia trees, no visit to Kenya would be complete without a visit here! In the afternoon we will arrive in the area, and get settled at our permenant tented camp, our base for our time here. Then we make our way into the reserve for an afternoon game viewing drive, with excellent chances of seeing the "Big 5" - lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino. Day 7 starts with an early morning game drive, since the best time to spot wildlife is in the early hours of the morning. The day continues with more game viewing as you criss-cross the rolling hills of the African savannah. You will also have a chance to try the optional balloon safari, in addition to stopping at a Masai village to learn about, and interact with, the local Masai people. The Masai Mara (also spelled Maasai Mara) is a game reserve in south-western Kenya, which is effectively the northern continuation of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Named for the Masai tribes people, who are the traditional inhabitants of the area, and the Mara River, which divides it, the reserve is famous for its exceptional population of game and the annual migration of the wildebeest every September and October, a migration so immense to be called the Great Migration. Thousands of wildebeest die in the crossing due to crocodile attacks. The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving an immensity of herbivores: some 1,300,000 wildebeest, 360,000 Thomson's gazelle, and 191,000 zebra. With an area of 1510 km sq., the Masai Mara is not the largest game park or reserve in Kenya, but it is probably the most famous. The entire area of the park is nestled within the enormous Great Rift Valley that extends from the Mediterranean Sea to Mozambique. The terrain of the reserve is primarily open grassland, with clusters of the distinctive acacia tree in the south-east region. The western border is the Esoit Oloololo Escarpment of the Rift Valley, and wildlife tends to be most concentrated here, as the swampy ground means that access to water is always good. The easternmost border is 224 km from Nairobi. The Masai Mara is perhaps most famous for its lions, though the other members of the "Big Five" (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhinoceros) are as well found. This said, the population of black rhinoceros is severely threatened, with a population of only 37 recorded in 2000. Hippopotami are found in large groups in the Masai Mara and Talek Rivers, and many cheetah, zebra, impala, gazelles, hartebeest, warthog, ostrich, topi, the Masai giraffe, among other mammals, all consider the “Mara” their home territory. As well, the large Roan antelope and the nocturnal bat-eared fox, rarely present elsewhere in Kenya, can be seen within the reserve borders. Like in the Serengeti in Tanzania, the wildebeest are the dominant inhabitant of the Masai Mara, and their numbers are estimated in the millions. Around July of each year these animals migrate in a vast ensemble north from the Serengeti plains in search of fresh pasture, and return to the south around October. These numerous migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by a block of hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena. The Masai Mara is a also major research centre for the spotted hyena. Additionally, over 450 species of birdlife have been identified in the park, including vulture, marabou, secretary bird, hornbill, crowned crane, ostrich, long-crested eagle, and pygmy falcon.
Approximate Distance: 285 km Estimated Travel Time: 7-8hrs This morning we make our last game drive in the Masai Mara before heading back to Nairobi. In Nairobi you have an opportunity to buy some lovely local handicrafts, or exchange some photographs with your group in the late afternoon, before enjoying your last safari evening together.