Day 1 Nairobi
Arrived in Nairobi in pouring rain, where we were taken to the Jacaranda hotel for our first night. En route we had our first sightings of numerous Black Kites and nesting Marabou Storks along the central reservation. On arrival at the hotel, we saw a pair of Hadada Ibis during a welcome reception and were offered an additional afternoon excursion to Karen Blixen's house (from Out of Africa) and a giraffe sanctuary at the cost of 2500 shillings (its about 125 shillings to the pound).
I think everyone came on this excursion. The grounds of the house were beautifully kept and I was able to spot numerous sunbirds, and weavers. At the time we went, all of the jacaranda trees were in bloom, with the most beautiful shade of lilac flowers. Because of the rains, Kenya was a lot greener than I had expected it to be.
Inside the house was rather dark but quite informative for those with an interest in Karen’s life. At the giraffe sanctuary we had a lovely time feeding the Rothschilds giraffes (a subspecies of the common, or Masai, Giraffe). There was also a small family of warthogs in amongst the giraffe enclosure.
In the evening some of the group opted to have dinner at the “Carnivore” restaurant in Nairobi, where I understand you can sample some of the “bush meat” such as ostrich, crocodile etc. I think the cost of this was 2000 shillings. We opted to eat at the hotel. The meals at the Jacaranda were in addition to our package and IIRC were about 1350 for lunch and the same for dinner, meals being buffet style. Sunbirds, olive thrush, sacred ibis, black-headed heron and red winged starling were also spotted on this first day.
All in all it was nice filler for what would otherwise have been a wasted day. Having said this, some of us felt that, since we arrived so early into Nairobi, we would have preferred to have driven straight to Treetops, rather than have this stopover in Nairobi. Something to consider for next time perhaps.
Day 2 Treetops
After breakfast we drove to the Outspan Hotel arriving around lunchtime. After having lunch there, overlooking the beautiful garden, a quick bit of birding around the grounds resulted in montaine white eye, variable sunbird, eastern violet backed sunbird, white browed robin chat and tambourine dove. A pair of yellow-billed storks also flew over.
We left most of our luggage there and took an overnight bag up to Treetops. The fenced entrance to the Aberdare National Park looks like something out of Jurassic Park, only the gate is smaller! As we drove the distance up to the lodge, we had our first sightings of bushbuck and waterbuck. A family of olive baboons was foraging around the water hole when we arrived. At Treetops they put out food for the birds so you can get really close to the Baglafecht Weavers and Blue-eared Glossy Starlings.
We were offered an additional game drive at a cost of (IIRC) 1500 shillings. This was well worth doing, as we were treated to the sight of a family of elephants, coloured a deep rust from the soil on a forested mountainside; it was just magical! On our way back we turned a corner to find a pair of spotted hyenas who proceeded to take an interest in a warthog down by a waterhole! We were also treated the sight of a Hamerkop, a strange looking bird with a head, not surprisingly, reminiscent of a hammer and a silvery-checked Hornbill.
On arrival back at Treetops it transpired that a lone Elephant had decided to visit the waterhole along with Waterbuck, Bushbuck and Cape Buffalo. The Buffalo was a grumpy old thing and kept trying to see off everything else that got close. Other birds sighted that afternoon included African Black Duck, Yellow-billed Duck, Abdim’s Stork, Blacksmith Lapwing, and red-billed Teal.
After dinner we retired to the observation deck for a well-deserved glass of vino. That evening we were treated to the sight of first the hyenas, then a black rhino visiting the waterhole. We had expected that rhino to put the cantankerous buffalo in his place, but much to our disappointment, the rhino was seen off by the buffalo instead! A couple of us also spotted a White-tailed Mongoose skulking around the back of the lodge and there was also a Scrub Hare pottering around. Just as the majority of us had decided to turn in for the night, we were buzzed four times. The family of elephants had decided to visit us, including one tiny baby! Unfortunately it was dark by then so the photos didn’t come out very well.
Day 3 Lake Naivasha
We were woken early and it was a dull and miserable start to the day. I managed to fit in a final bit of birding from the balcony where I saw a pair of grey crowned cranes, a glossy ibis, Red-knobbed Coot and Black Crake. More surprisingly there was also a coypu on the island in the middle of the waterhole. This is an introduced species, as they were in the UK.
After breakfast back at the Outspan Hotel we then drove on to Lake Naivasha. At Naivasha we were given the option of a boat ride on the lake (cost 1500 shillings) which all of us decided to do. We were treated to the sight of hippos, which the resident cormorants were using as floating islands. There were huge flocks of flamingos, pelicans, egrets and spoonbills. A flock of whiskered terns was also flying over the boat. The trip took us to Crescent Island where we saw our first wildebeest, zebra and an eland. We were also able to see an African Fish Eagle and a huge Goliath Heron.
A tiny, but beautiful, malachite kingfisher visited one of the ponds whilst we were having lunch. Some of us also decided to take an optional guided nature walk for 700 shillings each, where we saw Common Drongo, Black-lored babbler, Ruppel’s Starling, Gabar Goshawk, Stuhlman’s Starling, Superb Starling, the gorgeous Scarlet-chested Sunbird and Lilac-breasted Roller.
Day 4 Masai Mara
Up early once again to start our journey down to the Masai Mara. We stopped en route at one of the many gift shops, this one being uniquely placed right on the Equator. It was interesting to spend a few moments watching an experiment demonstrating the coriolis effect at work.
So we arrived at the Mara Simba lodge around lunchtime. The lodge overlooks a river in which hippos and crocodiles reside. Baboons and banded mongoose are common around the lodge. We were offered a trip to a Masai Village prior to our first inclusive game drive. Two of us didn't go (I wasn't feeling too good and Helen had already done a similar excursion on her last trip). So we were told we would be collected at 16.00. 16.00 came round and no one turned up. We were understandably concerned and asked Reception at Mara Simba to radio our bus driver to find out what was going on.
Finally, James our driver came to get us at about 16.20. It turned out that the rest of the group would have gone on without us, direct from the village, had we not taken the initiative. We were very upset and confused as to why we could have been forgotten about in this way. Due to the village trip overrunning, our first game drive was cut short and our bus was one of the unfortunate ones to miss the leopard.
However, we did manage to see lions right next to the minibus (including a big male who was sleeping, got up, had a stretch then decided better of it and went back to sleep again). We were also delighted to see a cheetah and five tiny cubs, and we got quite close to them. We also saw some more hyenas, as well as elephants, Masai Giraffes and the usual Wildebeest, Thompson’s Gazelle, Impala and Zebra. Other birds of note were Bateuler, Southern Ground Hornbill, African Paradise Flycatcher, Chin-spot Batis, Woodland Kingfisher and Grey Headed Kingfisher.
Day 5 Masai Mara
The next morning I opted for a hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara, which was absolutely amazing. We generally stayed low enough to see the animals and the weather was perfect. We set down on the other side of the Mara River where we were in sight of the border with Tanzania. Then they drove us to where a champagne breakfast had been laid out for us, within sight of a herd of elephants. It was simply magical.
In the afternoon we took another game drive where we got great views of a Secretary bird, Common Ostrich, hyena and the lions again. We also drove by a kill in which there were three different types of vulture (Ruppell’s, White-backed and Lappet-faced) and Marabou Storks feeding. Around the lodge we saw some large Nile Monitors and a slender mongoose.
Day 6 Masai Mara to Mombasa
The hot air balloon ride coincided with one of our included game drives. Somak put on an additional game drive for everyone on the Saturday morning before we flew out, but we had to pay extra for this. I personally think that it would have been a nice gesture if Somak could have counted this as one of our included drives and thus waived the fee for this for those of us who did the balloon ride and missed the other included one. The cost was 2000 shillings. This time we saw a Black Rhino as well as another Cheetah. Oh and of course the lions again!
We then flew back from the Masai Mara to Nairobi after calling in at the “Duty Free Shop” and making sure there were no wildebeest on the runway.
We arrived at the Southern Palms beach Resort at about 22.30. Unfortunately our group broke the system at this hotel, since it is clearly set up to cater for couples. All of the rooms had double beds and smaller day beds, and we found that none of these beds were made up. It was about 2 am before the bedding arrived for the other beds and this was the last thing we needed after long hours of travelling. The bedding was woefully inadequate for the day bed and being right under the air conditioning unit made for several uncomfortable nights’ sleep.
Day 7 Mombasa
There is a problem with arriving on a Saturday night in that our rep wasn’t around on the Sunday, which quite frankly is the time that you need him most to get the rest of your excursions sorted out. Anyway, we spent Sunday getting diving organised and did a skills tune up in the pool. There are a number of different monkeys around Mombasa, Black and White Colobus, Sykes and Black-faced Vervets. I also saw a number of different geckos (one even dropped in for dinner) and an Agama lizard.
Day 8 Mombasa
We spent the morning diving a couple of local reefs. The first reef was called Dzinani and was nothing really special, however, we saw loads of cushion stars, a juvenile blue ribbon eel, a nice Lionfish and a blue spotted stingray.
The second reef we dived was much nicer. Called Galu, it was absolutely full of Green and Hawksbill turtles. I also got a bit of a surprise while ascending on the line, I turned to face a large spotted Burrfish (porcupine fish)! Other fish of note were the Powder Blue tangs.
The evening’s entertainment consisted of Snake show, where we got to handle chameleons, green spaghetti snakes (grass snakes) and a large rock python. I love reptiles and one of the guys offered to give me a snake! Not sure how I would have got it back through customs though!
Day 9 Mombasa
We didn’t dive Tuesday as Helen didn’t feel too good, however, we did go on a bush tour in the afternoon where we saw Black and White Colobus, visited the snake park and saw green mamba, boomslang, cobra and handled a semi venomous snake. We also went to a local village and tasted the fruit of the baobab tree, very lemony.
Day 10 Mombasa
On Wednesday we elected to do an excursion to the Kisite Marine Park. Called the Pillipipa trip, because of the restaurant at which we had lunch, this consisted on a ride out on a dhow to see schools of spotted dolphin followed by two very nice dives (or snorkelling depending on the option chosen. We did the diving option, which was $150).
The first dive we did was a place called Pink Reef. This was a lot prettier than Dzinani and Galu and is so called because of the pink corals. There are some very unusual things to see including blue ribbon eel, leaf scorpion fish (including som bright pink specimens).
The second dive we did was in the Kisite marine park and was not as beautiful as pink reef. We did see some nice nudibranchs, a crocodile fish and a blue spotted stingray though.
We then finished the day by having lunch at the Pillipipa. This restaurant overlooks the bay and is amazing! They bring the food out in baskets and present them by way of a song. They then announce each dish in turn, saying what it’s made of. The mangrove crab is delicious and I don’t usually like crab! The fish is also delicious.
Day 11 Mombasa
Thursday we were back in the Kisite Marine park, this time doing a trip called the Dolphin Dhow. This starts very much like the Pillipipa trip, but then once all the other boats have left the dolphins, they get you into a smaller motorboat and get you as close as they can to the dolphins. You then jump in the water and swim for all its worth to try and catch a glimpse of the dolphins before they swim off. At one point I had them right beside me in the water. On another go, they were mating about 5 metres underneath me. It was fantastic!
The food is similar to the Pillipipa but served on the boat, which gives you more time to snorkel a local reef after the madness of the dolphins. On the way back we stopped off at Shimoni cave, which is full of fruit bats and other insect eating bats. It was used during the slave trade.
That evening we had the joys of a fashion show in which Val and Zoe did their catwalk bit, which was amusing.
Day 12 Mombasa
Helen had bruised her ribs getting in and out of the boat so decided to take it easy. Meanwhile I decided to do a couple more dives in the morning. The first site was called Mwanaza. There were some interesting critters on this dive, including a Mantis shrimp, long legged spiny lobster and moray eels. The guides also pointed out some tiger cowries.
On the second dive at Kinondo we saw some more of the leaf scorpion fish and some really nice nudibranchs. There were also some very large groupers and big angelfish.
Day 13 Mombasa
We checked out of the hotel early and spent the morning on a city tour of Mombasa. We took in the sights of a woodcarvers workshop, the tusks and Fort Jesus. The rest of the group met us at a city centre hotel and we flew home that evening.
List of Mammals
Black and White Colobus Monkey (two subspecies mountain and coastal).
Black-faced Vervet Monkey
Fruit bat (sp.)
Insect eating bat (sp.)
(Others saw Leopard, Bat-eared Fox and Silver-backed Jackal)
List of birds
White Crested Helmet Shrike
White Browed Robin Chat
Montaine White Eye
Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird
Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling
African Black Duck
Southern Black Flycatcher
Grey Crowned Crane
African Pied wagtail
Snowy-headed Robin Chat
African Fish Eagle
Black winged Stilt
Great White Egret
Green Wood Hoopoe
Southern Ground Hornbill
African Paradise Flycatcher
Northern Anteater Chat
Fulvous Whistling Duck
African White-backed Vulture
Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
African Green Pigeon
Common House Martin
Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu
Golden Palm Weaver
African Pied Kingfisher
Black Saw Wing
List of Reptiles
Yellow-headed dwarf day gecko
White-headed Dwarf Gecko
Green Sea Turtle
List of fish
Blue Ribbon Eel
Diagonal Line Sweetlips
Indian Ocean Crocodile fish
Marbled Coral Grouper
Gold Belly Cardinalfish
White Saddled Cardinalfish
Yellow Head Butterflyfish
African Pygmy Angelfish
Many Spined Angelfish
Black Axil Chromis
Bronze Reef Chromis
Three Spot Dascyllus
Yellow tail Damsel
Indian Ocean Bird Wrasse
Bicolour Cleaner Wrasse
Blue-streaked Cleaner Wrasse
Half Moon Trigger