Image by Harshil Gudka

Tana River, Ishaqbini, Meru NP, Samburu NR, Laikipia, Ol Pejeta & Aberdares NP, Kenya

Kenya's Neglected North

£12,995 pp sharing

At a Glance

Dates: August 18th - September 6th, 2022

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

Prices: £12,995 pp sharing (with a £1,595 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 four reserves in seven nights, revealing the wildlife highlights of each area. The jewel in the crown of Northern Kenya must be Samburu Game Reserve, a wildlife destination of great standing and perhaps the finest reserve for Leopard sightings in all of East Africa. Herds of Bush Elephant descend on the Ewaso Ngiro River each evening, and visitors may also encounter Lion, Cheetah and even African Wild Dog. Samburu is particularly special, though, as it is home to a number of dry-country species hardly ever seen elsewhere on the safari circuit, including Gerenuk, Beisa Oryx, Desert Warthog, Reticulated Giraffe, Grevy's Zebra and Somali Ostrich.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a conservation success story, largely due to the hard work of NGO Fauna and Flora International. This conservancy is famed for hosting the last two Northern White Rhinos in the world, under 24/7 armed guard, as well as a sanctuary for Chimpanzees. Elsewhere in the reserve, the conservancy has the highest predator population in Kenya outside of the Mara, and guests can expect to bump into Leopard, Lion, Cheetah, African Wild Dog and even Striped Hyena. 

Aberdare NP is a real departure from the rest of Kenya, situated at a higher altitude and different biome. Dense forest and rough terrain make game-viewing challenging, but the scenery spectacular. Bush Elephant are usually well-seen, and there are remaining populations of Lion, African Wild Dog and Bongo here.

Tana River 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. Elsewhere the chance to see both maned rat and even mountain bongo must make this one of the most complete itineraries on the continent.

Itinerary

Day One

Nairobi

On arrival into Nairobi, you will be met by your Pictus Safaris representative and transferred to your tented camp in Nairobi National Park. This is a great spot for a first evening drive, if you arrive in good time, with lion, leopard, cheetah and rhino all well-seen, but we are sure your priority will be a well-earned rest after your inbound flight.

Day Two

Tana River

This morning you will be transferred to Wilson Airport for your two-hour flight to the remote Tana River. On your arrival, a camp will have been prepared for - a rare luxury in a location as remote as this. The key quarry this afternoon will be two primates endemic to this special region - the Tana River mangabey and Tana River red colobus. After locating these species, a night drive may reveal a rich tapestry of unusual species, including bushpig and Kenya coast galago.

Days Three to Four

Tana River Primate Reserve & Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy

It is a vanishingly rare privilege to spend these two days exploring both the primate reserve and the nearby Ishaqbini Hirola Sanctuary. The former, whilst most commonly visited to view the two endemic primate species, also offers the chance to view a host of other primates, including several species of galago. In addition, bushpig and Harvey's duiker are well-seen in the thick vegetation. The Hirola conservancy is the best place to see hirola in their native range, but also offers excellent night drives (we saw caracal very well on our last visit), and the chance to see one of the most little-known populations of wild dog on the continent.

Day Five

Meru NP

Today's drive is a real adventure, taking us across a swathe of Northern Kenya, offering views of this arid environment rarely afforded to visitors to Kenya. Our destination is no less special, with the impressive Meru NP only visited by those with a real commitment to exploring this wonderful country. We aim to arrive before nightfall today, with an evening drive arranged only if time allows. The 'big game' here is often sensational, even if predators are a little shy, and there are booming populations of elephant and rhino to be seen. A real highlight, though, is our stunning lodge at Elsa's Kopje.

Day Six

Meru NP

Our day 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 Seven

Samburu NR

After a morning game drive, we then head on to the reserve that, for many, is the highlight of their stay in Kenya. Samburu National Reserve is truly the gateway to Kenya's arid north, home to both a rich variety of big game species, but also a number of dry-country species. It is perhaps best-known for its leopard-viewing, which can be world-class, and it is these elusive felines we will seek most determinedly before our return to our lodge this evening.

Days Eight to Nine

Samburu NR

Our next two days will allow us a deep and prolonged exploration of the wonderful Samburu. The Special Five, so-called as they are more easily seen here than many other locations on the safari circuit, comprises reticulated giraffe, Grevy's zebra, Somali ostrich, Beisa oryx and gerenuk, and we will spend some time locating these unusual species. Our other primary targets, besides the leopards for which Samburu are famed, will be wild dog, cheetah and lion.

Day Ten

Laikipia Plateau

It is a shorter drive across to Laikipia Wilderness Camp this morning, an exclusive camp nestled on a hillside in the depths of the Laikipia Plateau. This sensational property boasts excellent views across to Mt Kenya, as well as an impressive diversity of wildlife. The real stars here are the African Wild Dogs that are present in good numbers - until recently, Laikipia Wilderness was the only area in Kenya where sightings were reliable. Excitingly, there are now also known to be melanistic Leopards here, although sightings are exceedingly rare. We will have the chance to enjoy afternoon and night game drives here today, before enjoying a wonderful meal at this sensational camp.

Days Eleven to Twelve

Laikipia Plateau

We have two full days to enjoy using Laikipia Wilderness as our base, with morning, evening and night drives, and walks, a great way of exploring this special area. Whilst our primary focus here will be spending time, even on foot, with wild dogs, the game-viewing here is mesmerising. Striped hyena, aardvark and zorilla in particular are regularly seen, making this a must-visit property for many mammal-watchers.

Day Thirteen

Ol Pejeta

After a final morning walk from Laikipia Wilderness this morning, it is a short drive across the plateau to the world-famous Ol Pejeta in time for lunch. This afternoon, we will visit the last two northern white rhinos on earth, who live under 24/7 armed guard in the conservancy - this is always a humbling and emotional experience. Thereafter, an evening game drive allows us to sample the area with the second highest predator density in Kenya (behind the Masai Mara) - particular targets are striped hyena and cheetah, but the possibility are almost limitless here.

Day Fourteen

Ol Pejeta

Our full day in Ol Pejeta will be structured around morning, afternoon and evening game drives. Depending on the interests of the group, we may seek out large towers of reticulated giraffe, the single herd of Grevy's zebra on the conservancy, or continue our focus on predators - the choice is ours!

Day Fifteen

Nanyuki

After our last morning drive in Ol Pejeta, we today make a highly unusual stop - at a fish farm. The Trout Tree Restaurant, a small and unassuming property, is transformed by night into the habitat of one of the most elusive mammals in Africa - the maned rat. Hardly ever seen, this bizarre rodent is the only mammal known to coat itself in poison to ward off predators. What an amazing animal! With luck we will glimpse this creature in the wee hours as it busies itself along the streams running through the property.

Day Sixteen

Aberdare NP

After breakfast, we will drive across to Aberdares NP, a startling contrast to the reserves we have visited so far. At comparatively high altitude, the dense forests of this area are home to Lion, Leopard, African Wild Dog, African Golden Cat, Bush Elephant and the elusive Bongo, although sightings of most species are rarely encountered. Our afternoon will be spent overlooking the waterhole at our accommodation (The Ark Lodge), where herds of Bush Elephant often drink. If desired, we can arrange for you to be alerted through the evening and night should any wildlife come down to the floodlit waterhole in the hours of darkness.

Days Seventeen to Nineteen

Aberdare NP

Three full days is, admittedly, an unusually long time to spend in the Aberdares, with most visitors spending one night here at the most. However, our elusive primary quarry, the isolated and beautiful mountain bongo, is not easily seen. Each morning and evening we will stake out areas known to be frequented by these rarest of antelope, with a good chance of a sighting. When not patiently waiting for these animals, we will spend our days either relaxing at our lodge or seeking out other residents of the park. All of the 'Big Five' are present, if rarely seen, but we may also spot unusual species including forest hog and black-fronted duiker. With a huge dose of luck, we may even locate a golden cat patrolling the forest roads.

 

Day Twenty

Tour end

We will today transfer back to Nairobi where the tour will end - we recommend flights leaving Nairobi after 13.00.

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 August 2022, aiming to take advantage of the dry season when wildlife populations congregate around water sources. The tour will run from August 18th to September 6th.

The cost of this trip is £12,995 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals (except in Nairobi), accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. All drinks, apart from premium brands, are included. We regret that we must levy a single supplement of £1,595 for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £3,995 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 Kenya in August is mild and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 31 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 14 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

This tour does not visit any areas with security concerns at present.

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