Spice Kenya Safari and Beach 2006

Published by Joanna Dale (jodale22 AT hotmail.com)

Participants: Jo Dale, Helen Dale, members of Spice UK


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.

Species Lists

List of Mammals

Olive Baboon
Black and White Colobus Monkey (two subspecies mountain and coastal).
Black-faced Vervet Monkey
Sykes Monkey
Defassa Waterbuck
Thompson’s Gazelle
Grant’s Gazelle
Bush Duiker
Common Zebra
Masai Giraffe
African Elephant
Black Rhino
Scrub Hare
Spotted Dolphin
White-tailed Mongoose
Banded Mongoose
Slender Mongoose
Mountain Bat
Fruit bat (sp.)
Insect eating bat (sp.)
Spotted Hyena

(Others saw Leopard, Bat-eared Fox and Silver-backed Jackal)

List of birds


Marabou Stork
Sacred Ibis
Black Kite
House swift
Pied Crow
Red-winged Starling
Black-headed Weaver
European Swift
Feral Pigeon
Hadada Ibis
Black-necked Weaver
Baglafecht Weaver
Olive Thrush
Purple-banded Sunbird
White Crested Helmet Shrike
Common Bulbul
Crimson-rumped Waxbill
Wattled Starling
Cattle Egret
Tropical Boubou
Collared Sunbird
Helmeted Guineafowl
Common Fiscal
Streaky Seedeater
Amethyst Sunbird
White Stork
Black-headed Heron
Speckled Mousebird
Chestnut Sparrow
Grey Heron


White Browed Robin Chat
Montaine White Eye
Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird
Tambourine Dove
Yellow-billed stork
Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling
African Black Duck
Abdim’s stork
Egyptian Goose
Red-billed Teal
Blacksmith Lapwing
Cinnamon-chested Beeeater
Silvery-cheeked Hornbill
Common Stonechat
Southern Black Flycatcher
Yellow-billed Duck
Grey Crowned Crane
Speckled Pigeon
Red-knobbed Coot
African Pied wagtail
Black Crake
Common Sandpiper
Glossy Ibis
Brown-backed Woodpecker
Montaine Oriole
Red-billed firefinch
Red-headed Waxbill
Speke’s Weaver
Snowy-headed Robin Chat
Hildebrandt’s Starling
Superb Starling
Verreaux Eagle

Lake Naivasha

Little Egret
African Spoonbill
Lesser Flamingo
Whiskered Tern
Pink-backed pelican
White Pelican
Little Grebe
African Fish Eagle
Black winged Stilt
Goliath Heron
Great Cormorant
Long-tailed Cormorant
Grey-headed Gull
Great White Egret
Spur-winged Lapwing
Grey-backed Fiscal
Arrow-marked Babbler
Malachite Kingfisher
Ring-necked Dove
Tree Warbler
Common Drongo
Ruppel’s Starling
Gabar Goshawk
Stuhlmann’s Starling
Lilac-breasted Roller
Black-lored Babbler
Sand Martin
Hotentot Teal
Crowned Plover
Senegal Lapwing
Ringed Plover
Marsh Sandpiper
Little Stint
Green Wood Hoopoe
Green-backed Cameroptera
Scarlet-chested sunbird

Masai Mara

Striated Heron
Southern Ground Hornbill
Martial Eagle
African Paradise Flycatcher
Little Beeeater
Yellow-necked Spurfowl
Ruppel’s Vulture
Northern Anteater Chat
Common Ostrich
Magpie Shrike
Yellow-billed Oxpecker
House Sparrow
Yellow-fronted Canary
Fulvous Whistling Duck
Secretary Bird
African White-backed Vulture
Imperial Eagle
Lesser Kestrel
Black-chested Snake-eagle
Kori Bustard
Chin-spot Batis
Speckle-fronted Weaver
Red-billed Quela
Laughing Dove
Purple Grenadier
Woodland Kingfisher
Grey-headed Kingfisher
Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
Spotted Flycatcher
Lappet-faced Vulture
Chestnut-naped Francolin
African Green Pigeon
Wire-tailed Swallow
Common House Martin
Rufous-naped Lark
Red-billed Oxpecker
Cape Rook
Slate-coloured Boubou
Lanner Falcon


Dickinson’s Kestrel
Sooty Gull
Common Tern
Forbes-Watson’s Swift
Red-cheeked Cordon Bleu
Golden Palm Weaver
African Pied Kingfisher
Black Saw Wing
Little Swift.

List of Reptiles

Yellow-headed dwarf day gecko
Nile Monitor
Nile Crocodile
House Gecko
Striped Skink
White-headed Dwarf Gecko
Agama lizard
Green Sea Turtle
Hawksbill Turtle.

List of fish

Giant Moray
Blue Ribbon Eel
Blue-spotted Stingray
Common Lionfish
Powder-blue Surgeonfish
Moorish Idol
Club-nosed Trevally
Shadow Trevally
Golden Trevally
Dusky Sweetlips
Black-spotted Sweetlips
Diagonal Line Sweetlips
Schooling Bannerfish
Allard’s Anemonefish
White-margin Unicornfish
Scythe Triggerfish
Variegated Lizardfish
Black-blotched Lizardfish
Leaf Scorpionfish
Bronze Soldierfish
Bigscale Soldierfish
Scarlet Soldierfish
Blackfin Squirrelfish
Bloodspot Squirrelfish
Pink Squirrelfish
Brown-banded Pipefish
Indian Ocean Crocodile fish
Raggy Scorpionfish
Spotfin Lionfish
Threadfin Anthias
African Basslet
Peacock Grouper
Coral Grouper
Greasy Grouper
Marbled Coral Grouper
Lighthead Dottyback
Freckled Hawkfish
Black-banded Cardinalfish
Ring-tailed Cardinalfish
Gold Belly Cardinalfish
White Saddled Cardinalfish
Striped Blanquillo
Black Snapper
Bluelined Snapper
Blackline Snapper
Bridled Spinecheek
Orangefin Emperor
Indian Goatfish
Rosey Goatfish
Schwenk’s Sweeper
Highfin Rudderfish
Lined Butterflyfish
Saddleback Butterflyfish
Blackbacked Butterflyfish
Threadfin Butterflyfish
Zanzibar Butterflyfish
Yellow Head Butterflyfish
Raccoon Butterflyfish
Speckled Butterflyfish
Somali Butterflyfish
Redfin Butterflyfish
Chevroned Butterflyfish
Meyer's Butterflyfish
African Pygmy Angelfish
Many Spined Angelfish
Dusky Angelfish
Regal Angelfish
Emperor Angelfish
Blue-ring Angelfish
Semi-circle Angelfish
Indopacific Seargent
Scissortail Seargent
Skunk Amemonefish
Brighteye Damsel
Dick’s Damsel
Johnston Damsel
Black Axil Chromis
Blacktail Chromis
Ternate Chromis
Two-tone Chromis
Buff Chromis
Bronze Reef Chromis
Two-spot Demoiselle
Grey Demoiselle
Humbug Dascyllus
Three Spot Dascyllus
Black Damsel
Yellow tail Damsel
African Demoiselle
Sulphur Damsel
Fusilier Damsel
Lyre-tailed Hogfish
Saddleback Hogfish
Bandcheek Wrasse
Snooty Wrasse
Slingjaw Wrasse
Queen Coris
Checkerboard Wrasse
Adorned Wrasse
Indian Ocean Bird Wrasse
Bicolour Cleaner Wrasse
Blue-streaked Cleaner Wrasse
Redlip Parrotfish
Greenbelly Parrotfish
Greenlip Parrotfish
Spotted Sandperch
Nebulous Sandperch
Yellow-bar Sandperch
Fire Dartfish
Citron Gobie
Ringtail Surgeonfish
Thompson’s Surgeonfish
Lietenant Surgeonfish
Dusky Surgeonfish
Orange-spined Unicornfish
Bluespine Unicornfish
Forktail Rabbitfish
Moses Sole
Red-tooth Trigger
Half Moon Trigger
Moustache Trigger
Broom Filefish
Spotted Trunkfish
Black-Saddled Toby
Spotted Burrfish