With more than 1,100 species of birds, Kenya is a paradise for birdwatchers. This 14-day itinerary will take you through some of the country's most beautiful landscapes to see a wide variety of birds in their natural habitats. Begin with a free day in Nairobi before transferring to Samburu Reserve for your first guided safari. Then you'll take a birdwatching hike up Mount Kenya, tour the Elsamere Conservation Center, and see hundreds of flamingoes at Lake Elmenteita. End your trip with multiple days in the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Highlights

  • Tour a pineapple farm outside of Samburu Reserve
  • Enjoy various birding expeditions around Kenya
  • Hike around Mount Kenya, Africa's second-highest mountain
  • See zebras and giraffes up close on a bicycle safari
  • Take a thrilling ride across the savanna in a hot air balloon

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Nairobi Nairobi
Day 2 Transfer to Samburu Reserve Samburu Reserve
Day 3 Explore Samburu Reserve Samburu Reserve
Day 4 Birdwatching Expedition in the Reserve Samburu Reserve
Day 5 Enjoy a Birding Trek at Mount Kenya Nanyuki
Day 6 Hike and Birdwatch Around Lake Naivasha  Naivasha
Day 7 Visit the Elsamere Conservation Center Naivasha
Day 8 Explore Hell's Gate National Park Naivasha
Day 9 See Lake Elementaita and Transfer to Nakuru Nakuru
Day 10 Discover Lake Nakuru Park Nakuru
Day 11 Travel to Maasai Mara National Reserve Maasai Mara
Day 12 Go on a Safari in the Maasai Mara Maasai Mara
Day 13 Continue the Adventure in the Reserve Maasai Mara
Day 14 Depart via Nairobi   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Nairobi

Aerial view of Nairobi
A view of Nairobi on a sunny day

Welcome to Kenya! You'll begin the trip in Nairobi, where you can spend the afternoon and evening resting. Alternatively, use the time to explore the bustling capital city by visiting one of its famous flea markets. If you're feeling ambitious, you might like to see how baby elephants and giraffes are cared for at their respective orphanages. There are also several museums worth checking out, like the impressive National Museum or the Railway Museum. In the evening, you can go out to dinner at one of the many great restaurants in the city to sample Kenyan cuisine.

Day 2: Transfer to Samburu Reserve

African Crowned eagle
An African crowned eagle in flight

A driver will pick you up early in the morning for a drive through the magnificent central highlands to Samburu Reserve. On the way, there will be opportunities to stop and take in some of the beautiful landscapes, enjoy a hot cup of coffee, and tour one of the many pineapple farms before stopping at the equator marker. 

When you arrive in Samburu in the afternoon, you can drop your bags at the lodge and begin birdwatching and exploring the park on your own before returning to your camp in the early evening. If you'd like, you can book a guide who can show you where certain species nest and feed.

Day 3: Explore Samburu Reserve

Secretary Bird
A secretary bird in the wild

You will have a full day to explore the famous Samburu Reserve and all the wildlife it has to offer. The reserve is known as the setting for the bestselling book and award-winning movie Born Free. Samburu offers a world-class birding experience where you can see species like the Somali ostrich, guineafowl, hunter’s sunbird, and William’s lark. If you'd like to go on a hike to see other animals, you may also be able to see long-necked antelopes, giraffe, zebra, oryx, striped hyena, and more.

Day 4: Birdwatching Expedition in the Reserve

Vulturine guineafowl
The vibrant colors of a vulturine guineafowl

After breakfast, you'll pack up your picnic lunch, a pair of binoculars, and a camera for a full day of birdwatching. There have been more than 390 bird species recorded in the Samburu and Buffalo Springs national reserves. The reserves protect a variety of habitats like the arid acacia savanna, scrub, and lush forest along the Uaso Nyiro River. On today's expedition, you will likely see a number of northeast African dry-country species shared with Ethiopia and Somalia, such as the vulturine guineafowl, Somali bee-eater, and the golden-breasted starling.

Day 5: Enjoy a Birding Trek at Mount Kenya

A birdwatcher on a Mount Kenya trail
A birdwatcher on a Mount Kenya trail

After breakfast this morning, you will depart for a guided birding trip around Mount Kenya, the second-highest mountain in Africa. The forests surrounding this famous mountain are home to many unique species of birds like the lesser kestrel, Jackson’s widowbird, Abbott's starling, Jackson’s francolin, Hunter’s cisticola, the crowned eagle, African grass owl, and the Cape eagle-owl.

After your trek, your driver will take you to your hotel in Nanyuki for the evening. After you check in, you can head out to explore the town's markets and restaurants.

Day 6: Hike and Birdwatch Around Lake Naivasha 

Malachite kingfisher
A malachite kingfisher perches on a branch

This morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and drive you to Naivasha, an important birding area. This region is a popular destination for nature lovers, as there are over 400 recorded bird species in forests around Lake Naivasha. The cliffs of nearby Hell’s Gate National Park are an important nesting area for many raptor species.

The highlight of today's birding trek will be the many waterbirds you can see, including African fish eagles, goliath heron, jacanas, malachite kingfishers, Red-knobbed coots, spoonbills, little grebe, rare Maccoa ducks, African darters, and saddle-billed storks.

Day 7: Visit the Elsamere Conservation Center

A giraffe on the grounds of the Elsamere Conservation Center
A giraffe on the grounds of the Elsamere Conservation Center

Today's activity is an extensive tour of the former home of author, artist, and naturalist Joy Adamson. Born Free, her 1960 bestseller, describes her experiences raising an orphaned lion cub named Elsa and eventually releasing her back into the wild. The site of her former home is now the Elsamere Conservation Center, which houses a small museum dedicated to Adamson and her husband George, and a dedicated center for the care of injured and endangered local species.

After your tour, you can participate in additional activities, like a trek to Oloiden Lake to see flamingoes, an excursion to Crescent Island, or a tour of a nearby flower farm.

Day 8: Explore Hell's Gate National Park

Hell's Gate National Park
Abundant vegetation at Hell's Gate National Park

You'll discover the beauty of Hell's Gate National Park today. You can choose between a guided trek or a bicycle ride, and you will be able to see plenty more birds and big game like zebras, giraffes, impalas, and warthogs roaming the savanna. You will also go to natural hot springs, observe geothermal activity, explore the famous gorge, and photograph plenty of majestic cliffs.

Day 9: See Lake Elementaita and Transfer to Nakuru

Flamingoes on Lake Elmenteita
Flamingoes on Lake Elmenteita

Today, you'll be driven to Lake Elmenteita (also spelled Lake Elementaita), one of Kenya's soda lakes. A soda lake or alkaline lake has a high concentration of carbonate salts, and Lake Elmenteita contains a mineral that can be mined as sodium carbonate. Soda lakes are the most highly productive aquatic environments in the world due to their unlimited supply of dissolved carbon dioxide.

Lake Elmenteita is quite shallow, which helps make it an important habitat for many migratory and native birds. You'll be able to see lesser flamingos and white pelicans, and 450 other species of birds inside the lake's protected Soysambu Conservancy area. Spend the entire day trekking around the area with a local naturalist to learn more about the local wildlife. 

Day 10: Discover Lake Nakuru National Park

A rhino and flamingoes on Lake Nakuru
A rhino and flamingoes on Lake Nakuru

Bring your binoculars to Lake Nakuru National Park today for more trekking and exploration. It's a great birding destination with more than 500 recorded species of birds. Lake Nakuru is another biodiverse soda lake, and it is one of the best places in Kenya to see the striking, long-tailed widowbird. Other common species in the area include the greater Blue-eared starling, Speke's weaver, Hottentot teal, and the greater flamingo. Rarer birds of prey established in the area include Verreaux's eagle-owl and the long-crested eagle, and there are also some larger animals around, like rhinos, buffalo, zebra, and antelope. 

Go with a guide in an all-terrain vehicle for a safari tour or spend your day trekking and bird-watching on your own — it's up to you!

Day 11: Travel to Maasai Mara National Reserve

Two giraffes in Maasai Mara
Two giraffes in Maasai Mara

After breakfast, it's time to head to Maasai Mara National Reserve. Your route will take you through fields of wheat and picturesque farms until you arrive in the reserve, where you will see a vast swath of gently rolling savanna bordering the Serengeti. This reserve is one of the premier safari locations in East Africa due to its large numbers of lions, cheetahs, elephants, buffalos, wildebeests, and other large game animals. You will take a nature walk with an experienced local Maasai guide and learn about the species in the area and the unique plants.

Day 12: Go on a Safari in the Maasai Mara

An air balloon on safari
An air balloon ride over the reserve

There are a few options for how to spend your day in Maasai Mara. If you'd like to visit the Mara River, you can pack a picnic lunch and take a safari drive to see crocodiles, wildebeest, zebra, and more. There are more than 450 species of birds on the reserve, so you will have plenty of opportunities to see striking birds like the rosy-throated long claw, magpie shrike, and Schalow's turaco. 

For an incredibly unique experience, you can book a safari on a hot air balloon. You will be picked up from your lodge early in the morning and transferred to the launch site. Here you will meet your pilot, receive a briefing and watch the inflation of your balloon. At dawn, your balloon will take off, rising with the sun, and you will float in whichever direction the winds take you. Your pilot can precisely control the altitude of your balloon which offers a unique perspective and great photographic opportunities of the wildlife below.

Day 13: Continue the Adventure in the Reserve

Verreaux's eagle in Masai Mara
A Verreaux's eagle in the Maasai Mara

You can choose how to spend your last full day in Maasai Mara. If you haven't yet taken a safari drive, now's the time. The sheer diversity of wildlife in the park means that going for a game drive is a great way to spot different species up-close or witness unique interactions, like hunting. Alternatively, you could focus on birdwatching, or combine the two.

Day 14: Depart via Nairobi 

An impala on the outskirts of Nairobi
An impala on the outskirts of Nairobi

It's time to say goodbye to Kenya! After an early breakfast, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to the airport in Nairobi in order to catch your international flight back home.

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Map

Map of Kenya Birdwatching & Safari Trip - 14 Days
Map of Kenya Birdwatching & Safari Trip - 14 Days