Runners will delight in this 10-day experience of Kenya, featuring three nights in the small town of Iten, the "Home of Champions." You'll also go on safari in the country's leading wildlife reserve at Masai Mara, ending your stay with the coastal charm of Diani Beach. Spend an afternoon watching Olympic medalists and elite marathoners train at Kamariny Stadium, take a hot air balloon flight over the Mara River, and swim in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.

Highlights

  • Hone your long-distance running skills alongside world-class athletes in Iten
  • Spot exotic wildlife in the stunning Masai Mara National Reserve
  • Relax on the white-sand and swim in the Indian Ocean at popular Diani Beach

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Nairobi Nairobi
Day 2 Fly from Nairobi to Eldoret, Transfer to Iten Iten
Day 3 Athletic Training in Iten (Day 1) Iten
Day 4 Athletic Training in Iten (Day 2) Iten
Day 5 Iten to Masai Mara National Reserve Masai Mara
Day 6 Explore Masai Mara Masai Mara
Day 7 Fly from Masai Mara to Diani Beach Diani Beach
Days 8-9 Free Day in Diani Beach Diani Beach
Day 10 Depart Diani  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Nairobi

A view of the city buildings in Nairobi
A view of the city buildings in Nairobi

Welcome to Kenya! This East African country is home to diverse wildlife, spectacular lakes, savannahs, mountainous regions, the famous Great Rift Valley that holds a volcanic crater mountain and to crown it all the home to the world's greatest marathon gold medal holders.

After arriving at Jomo Kenyatta Airport, your driver will transport you to your hotel in Nairobi. You can spend the afternoon and evening resting or use the time to explore the bustling central hub of Kenya by visiting one of the city's famous flea markets or eating out at an authentic Kenyan restaurant. If you're feeling ambitious, you might like to see how the cute baby elephant and giraffe orphans are cared for at their respective orphanages. There are also several museums worth checking out, like the impressive National Museum or the Railway Museum.

Day 2: Fly from Nairobi to Eldoret, Transfer to Iten

Great Rift Valley landscape
Great Rift Valley landscape

From the hotel this morning, you'll transfer to the Wilson airport for the one-hour domestic flight to Eldoret, the 5th largest city in Kenya, meeting your guide thereafter to drive another hour to Iten. A remote small town, Iten is best-known for being the center of Kenyan middle- and long-distance running, producing the world's best distance runners where it all began with the "Godfather of Kenyan running" brother Colm O'Connel. A missionary and high school principal, brother O'Connel noticed his students had a knack for running and soon began a training camp to foster their talents.

After checking into your accommodation, you'll sit down for lunch followed by a tour of the High Altitude Training Center ("HATC"). Founded in 2000 by multiple world champion, Lornah Kiplagat, the HATC is equipped with all the modern amenities needed for a successful training camp and draws both elite and recreational runners from across the globe to train. Take the afternoon to familiarize yourself with the facility. You can swim a few laps in the 82-foot (25 m) swimming pool or lift weights in the gym, or simply relax as you adjust to the altitude (7,874 ft / 2,400 m). 

Driving distance (Eldoret to Iten): 22 miles (35 km)

Day 3: Athletic Training in Iten (Day 1)

Future gold medalists use Iten's trails to perfect their running talent
Future gold medalists use Iten's trails to perfect their running talent

Rising before the crack of dawn, you'll gear up and head out to begin your first of possibly a couple of daily runs alongside groups of Kenyans outfitted in track jackets and spandex. Most athletes complete up to three runs per day, a training load that easily reaches a daily total of 20 to 30 miles (32-48 km).

In the afternoon, you can visit Kamariny Stadium to watch athletes complete intervals at a dizzying clip. A dirt track located next to the local primary school, you'll likely have the pleasure of picking out the Olympic medalists and championship marathoners who work out side by side with their more anonymous countrymen.

Day 4: Athletic Training in Iten (Day 2)

Improve your skills from Kenyan professionals
Improve your skills from Kenyan professionals

Visiting Iten is on the bucket list for many distance runners and after your second day of training at the HATC, you'll be able to take in the pleasure of crossing that item off your list. Begin the day with an early-morning run, taking advantage of the altitude, the tranquil environment, ideal climate, and great trails to upgrade and hone your running skills. What's more, you'll continue to be immersed in the HATC's training culture, exposed to the mental elements of training that equally contributes to athletes' success, like being disciplined, determined, and having a positive attitude.

If you have time in the afternoon, consider visiting a nearby village to discover more of the Rift Valley province. Try ugali, a filling meal made from cornmeal, millet, or sorghum, and the Kalenjins' staple food. Like many other Kenyan tribes, Kalenjins often use their bare hands to eat ugali, which may be served with cooked green vegetables like kale. And if you're daring, sip mursik, a popular Kalenjin beverage of fermented whole milk, straight from the special gourd its traditionally stored in.

Day 5: Iten to Masai Mara National Reserve

Giraffe and stunning Masai Mara landscape
Giraffe and stunning Masai Mara landscape

In the morning, you'll meet your driver and depart for the jewel of Kenya's parks, the illustrious Masai Mara National Reserve. One of Kenya’s best wildlife reserves, you'll arrive in the late afternoon after a long-haul drive over narrow, bumpy roads to settle into your hotel before heading out for your first glimpse of freely roaming game animals.

The park is an extension of the vast Serengeti Ecosystem which is known for some of the most spectacular game migrations in the world. Every year, over a million animals including wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle migrate from the Serengeti in northern Tanzania across the Mara River and into Kenya in search of fresh feeding grounds. The migration takes place between late June and September. During this crossing, hundreds of animals are swept away by the fast-moving Mara River while others are killed by African crocodiles—meaning only the fittest make it into Kenya.

Driving time (Iten to Masai Mara): 7-8 hours

Day 6: Explore Masai Mara

Early morning hot air balloon ride in Masai Mara
Early morning hot air balloon ride in Masai Mara

Due to the thriving wildlife activity, a second full day in the park with a visit to the critical life-sustaining Masai River will offer you the opportunity to witness more of the wild animal's natural behavior. This can include a lion killing, a cheetah chase, or the serene activities of elephants grazing and birds building nests. 

You will be back at the hotel in time for lunch with the afternoon free for you to enjoy at the lodge or explore more of the park.

Alternatively, there's an exciting and unique option to consider: a one-hour hot air balloon ride. You'll be transferred from your lodge at around 5:00 am to the launch site where you'll meet your pilot and receive a briefing as the balloon is inflated. You'll then climb into the basket of your personal hot air balloon for an epic flight over Masai Mara, taking in the breathtaking vistas made that much more spectacular with the rising sun.

The balloon will carry you in the direction of the morning's wind. Your pilot can precisely control the altitude of the aircraft: sometimes flying at treetop height or much lower, offering unique perspectives of the park and great photographic opportunities of the wildlife below. From here, you'll return to the lodge in time for breakfast and then have the afternoon to head out into the park for further exploration.

Day 7: Fly from Masai Mara to Diani Beach

Transfer from Masai Mara to Dinai Beach
Transfer from Masai Mara to Diani Beach

Today begins with a quick transfer to the Masai Mara airstrip for your three-hour flight east to Diani Beach, a stunning resort town on the Indian Ocean coast. Flanked by extensive stretches of flawless white-sand beach and hemmed in by lush forest, Diani Beach is a magnet for a diverse crowd of holidaymakers, from families to backpackers, watersport enthusiasts to party people. The beach runs from the Kongo River in the north to an old baobab tree at Galu beach in the south. 

After checking into your hotel just beyond the tree line, you'll likely want to stretch your legs and discover paradise for yourself.  Roll up your pant legs and take a stroll in the shallows of the crystalline waters or, better yet, slip into your swimsuit and take the rest of the afternoon to swim and bathe in the ocean and under the warm African sun.

Days 8-9: Free Day in Diani Beach

Stunning Diani Beach
Stunning Diani Beach

Today you'll have the whole day to discover Diani Beach at your own pace. A sunseeker's paradise, there are a host of water-related activities to choose between as well as plenty of restaurants to try and sights to see if the sun, sea, and surf become tiring.

Start the morning with a quiet stroll along the beach or set up camp for a proper lie out, taking advantage of the ideal beach conditions: stretches of dazzling white-sand beach, crystal-clear shallows interspersed with rising sandbars, perfect for wading. When you're ready to mix things up, go for a dip or snorkel to see some of the stellar underwater life, though if luck is on your side, you might spot wild dolphins. The more adventurous might like to try kitesurfing, rent a jet ski, or make arrangements to go scuba diving.

For a bit of culture, you'll want to check out Kaya Kinondo, a forest revered by the Digo people and the only sacred forest open to tourists. You'll enjoy a guided-nature walk through the small grove, stepping over chunks of ancient coral and tangled roots as you discover medicinal plants and an ancient tree waiting to take on your fears and worries. Further north, there's the 16th-century Kongo Mosque, Diani's last surviving relic of the ancient Swahili civilizations that once controlled the coast. Consider bringing a packed lunch with you to enjoy a picnic under the baobab trees that are clustered here.

Elsewhere, you can join a tour and see injured or orphaned colobus, Sykes', and vervet monkeys undergoing rehabilitation (into the wild) at the Colobus Conservation Center. Aiming to protect the Angolan black-and-white colobus monkey who's species is in decline, you'll likely also have a chance to spot them crossing the road using the ingenious rope ladders that the center installed.

Day 10: Depart Diani

The blindingly white sand beach of Diani
The blindingly white sand beach of Diani

Depending on your departure details, you can enjoy one last morning soaking in Africa's long-standing top-rated beach scene. And when it's time, you'll check out of your hotel and catch your domestic flight back to Nairobi and in time for your onward journey.

Map

Map of Running Experience in Kenya: Iten, Masai Mara, & Diani Beach - 10 Days
Map of Running Experience in Kenya: Iten, Masai Mara, & Diani Beach - 10 Days