Image by Harshil Gudka

Sibiloi NP, Marsabit NP, Shaba NR, Meru NP, Arawale NR, Ishaqbini, Tana River PR & Arabuko-Sokoke, Kenya

Kenya's Neglected North

£8,250 pp sharing

At a Glance

Dates: October 5th - October 20th, 2023

Extension: We do not currently offer any extensions to this itinerary.

Prices: £8,250 pp sharing (with a £250 single supplement)​, excluding international flights.

In a sentence: Escape the crowds and see a different side of Kenya in this trip revealing the highlights of Kenya's quiet northern reaches.

Overview

Kenya is probably the single biggest destination country for safaris in Africa, and with good reason. The natural riches of this beautiful country run deep, ranging from the incredible spectacle of the migration in the Masai Mara to the arid savannas of Ishaqbini towards the Somali border. Most visitors head south from Nairobi, fixated on the Mara and its surrounding conservancies, but those 'in the know' instead look north. Here, crowds are rare and the wildlife is hugely rewarding.

This tour takes in some of the most remote and spectacular areas of Kenya. Sibiloi National Park is sometimes referred to as 'the cradle of mankind' owing to its remarkable history of revealing archaeological finds, including an intact skull of Homo habilis found by Dr Richard Leaky. The park is arguably one of the most stunning and under-appreciated in the world, situated on the east bank of the mighty Lake Turkana (sometimes referred to as the Jade Sea due to its odd greenish hue), and replete with fossils, petrified forest, huge crocodiles and rare birdlife.

Marsabit is similarly rarely-visited, but offers a completely different experience from Sibiloi. Lush grassland around crater lakes replaces the arid, inhospitable plains of Sibiloi. Marsabit is well-known as one of the very few remaining places where 'big tusker' elephants abound, protected from the ravages of ivory poaching by the sheer isolation of this beautiful park.

Shaba is often overlooked in favour of the more famous reserves with which it is contiguous - most notably Samburu and Buffalo Springs. Whilst Shaba may lack the game densities of these reserves, it is arguably even more scenic and spectacular, and can also boast superb game-viewing on its day. Four of the 'Big Five' can be seen here, alongside a remarkable supporting cast of dry-country species.

Tana River, Arawale and Meru NP offer an exclusive and superb insight into the very remotest corners of Kenya, filled with both big game and rare and elusive smaller mammals, including endemic primates and the hugely secretive naked mole-rat. To end the tour, a combination of relaxing on the coast and the endemic species of the coastal forest of Arabuko-Sokoke is a superb way to bookend a unique and remarkable wildlife holiday.

Itinerary

Day One

Nairobi/Lodwar

On arrival into Nairobi, you will be met by your Pictus Safaris representative and assisted with your transfer to your domestic flight with Fly540 to the remote northern town of Lodwar. Here, we transfer to our local hotel, where this is a pre-tour briefing before dinner.

Day Two

Central Island NP/Sibiloi NP

Early this morning we take to the iconic Lake Turkana by boat - this vast lake is one of the most wondrous natural spectacles in the world, but its isolation means very few visitors ever make it here. After two and a half hours we reach one of Turkana's hidden secrets, Central Island National Park. Emerging from the other-worldly green waters (which lend Turkana it's alternative name of the Jade Sea), this island is actively volcanic, with jet-black beaches and three crater lakes. This small island supports one of the highest crocodile densities in the world, and each April the island teems with young crocodiles who hatch here. There is also abundant birdlife, including flamingos and several other species drawn to the crater lakes.

After several hours on the island, we continue our journey east by boat for another two and a half hours, taking us to the epicentre of Sibiloi National Park - Koobi Fora. We will have ample time to explore this area over the next few days, but today we will transfer to our basic bandas at Alia Bay for dinner. Thereafter, we will head out on a night drive, seeking out some of the rare nocturnal species that persist here against all odds - with luck we may spot species such as striped hyena or even cheetah.

Day Three

Sibiloi NP

Our full day today is dedicated to exploring the wondrous landscapes of Sibiloi. This morning we will head out on a game drive, aiming to locate some of the wildlife that lives here on the banks of Late Turkana. Zebra, Grant's gazelle, topi, Beisa oryx and greater kudu can all be seen here, with lion, leopard, striped hyena and cheetah very rarely making an appearance.

After lunch, we head to the highlight of the park, Koobi Fora. This is the spiritual home of palaeontology and anthropology in Africa, with numerous hugely exciting discoveries having been made here. We will have a chance to learn about the history and discoveries that have been made here over the course of several decades today, and we will visit the Koobi Fora museum also. After returning to the bandas for dinner, we will head out for a final night drive in Sibiloi.

Day Four

Marsabit NP

Our full day is spent on the road today, taking us south to the stunning Marsabit National Park. The journey is long, but will be well worth it as we arrive at our Lake Paradise campsite in time for dinner. A night drive tonight will aim to reveal much of the game here, including buffalo, elephant, leopard and, occasionally, wild dog.

Day Five

Marsabit NP

Marsabit is truly one of the finest national parks in all of East Africa. Our morning and evening game drives, focussed on the iconic three crater lakes in the park, may reveal species as diverse as giraffe, Grevy's zebra and even lion. We will dedicate significant time to the famous 'big tuskers' that call the park home - any time spent in the presence of these gentle and majestic giants is a real privilege. We will overnight at our lovely and privately-catered campsite.

Day Six

Shaba NR

Our full day today is again spent travelling through this magical and beautiful country. We will arrive at our excellent lodge by nightfall and we may head out on a night drive depending on local permissions tonight.

Day Seven

Shaba NR

Shaba is contiguous with the world-famous Samburu and Buffalo Springs, but is itself rarely visited. This is partly because of fewer accommodation options and a perception that the game-viewing is less productive here. Whilst it is true that the wildlife here is less habituated than in the busier Samburu, the wildlife is no less special. Lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog and many other predators call the reserve home, and our morning and evening game drives will focus on these species. However, the dry-country species here also well worth a mention, with unusual species such as lesser kudu, gerenuk and desert warthog being frequently encountered here.

Day Eight

Meru NP

After a final morning game drive in Shaba, we use the heat of the day to transfer across to the one of the 'trendiest' safari destinations in Africa, Meru National Park. We base ourselves out of basic bandas here, making this exclusive destination a little more accessible, and we will head out on afternoon and night drives tonight. The park offers excellent general game-viewing, and is one of the best places in Kenya to see both black and white rhino. Predator sightings are not guaranteed, but cheetah, leopard and lion can make an appearance at any moment.

Days Nine to Ten

Meru NP

Our days will be structured around morning and evening game drives in Meru. One of our key targets here is unlikely, but a hugely unusual species - the naked mole-rat. This bizarre animal is better seen here than anywhere else in the world, although some patience is always required. When not seeking out this wonderful animal, we will be sure to spend much time marvelling at this pristine landscape and the big game it supports.

Day Eleven

Arawale NR

We spend much of today on the road, arriving at the little-visited Arawale by late afternoon. Arawale is hardly ever visited due to a history of insecurity, but it is one of the last ecosystems with any wildlife in this part of Kenya, and we are proud to be playing our part in opening it up to ecotourism. Our evening and night drive will focus on rare wildlife that still persists here, including hirola, reticulated giraffe, Somali lesser galago, African wild dog and coastal topi. We camp in the reserve tonight.

Day Twelve

Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy

We drive out of Arawale this morning, reaching the nearby Ishaqbini Conservancy in time for lunch. This remarkable conservancy is a shining light for community-based conservation in this corner of Kenya, and supports a rich diversity of life. The conservancy was set up specifically to protect the beautiful hirola, the fastest antelope on earth, and we will focus on this spectacular animal this afternoon. After dark, we stand a great chance of encountering rarities including caracal and African wild dog.

Day Thirteen

Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy

Our full day will be sent exploring Ishaqbini today. Hirola are always a key target here, but we may glimpse wild dog, cheetah, caracal an a range of smaller mammals on our morning, evening and night drives.

Day Fourteen

Tana River Primate Reserve

After a final morning drive in Ishaqbini, we make the short drive across to the Tana River Primate Reserve, where we spend the afternoon. The draw here is undoubtedly the presence of the range-restricted Tana River mangabey and Tana River red colobus, and we will spend several hours seeking out these beautiful primates today. As we search, keep an eye out for bushpig and Harvey's duiker that feed in the undergrowth of the reserve. A night drive will focus on galagos tonight, with several unusual species possible. 

Day Fifteen

Arabuko-Sokoke

This morning we transfer to the coastal town of Watamu, where we glimpse the Indian Ocean for the first time on this tour. You may choose to relax on the beach this afternoon, but for those still in need of a wildlife fix we will head to the nearby forest of Arabuko-Sokoke. This lovely coastal forest supports rare mammals, including Sokoke dog mongoose and golden-rumped sengi, as well as a remarkable diversity of birdlife, and this forest rarely disappoints. Our last evening is spent in Watamu.

Day Sixteen

Tour End

This morning we have the chance to head out onto the Indian Ocean to seek out humpback dolphin, before we are transferred to Malindi Airport for homeward flights.

Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.

Dates and Prices

This tour will run in October 2023, aiming to take advantage of the dry season when wildlife populations congregate around water sources. The tour will run from October 5th to October 20th.

The cost of this trip is £8,250 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals, accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. All drinks, apart from premium brands, are included. We regret that we must levy a single supplement of £250 for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £3,300 plus any single supplement must be paid.

Flights and Visas

Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Nairobi at the end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. We strongly recommend booking flights leaving Nairobi after 15.00 on your return to avoid disruption to your plans.

British nationals do require a visa to enter Kenya. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Details of the process of obtaining a tourist visa for Kenya will be provided to you upon booking, but generally visas can be acquired upon arrival in Nairobi for a fee of $50 in cash. 

Weather and What to Bring

The weather in Northern Kenya in October is hot and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 36 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 25 degrees Celsius.

A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.

Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars.

Safety and Security

 Northern Kenya does see occasional bouts of violence, often as a result of incursions into the area from nearby Somalia. We may need to make changes to this itinerary to ensure that all clients are safe throughout the tour, but we fully expect the tour to go ahead without encountering any security issues.

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