Hearing an African Fish-Eagle calling above our tents at Island Camp, watching Elephants drinking at midday from our private veranda at Samburu, and hearing Lion and Hyaena by night at Kichwa Tembo -- are all memories from our recent scouting tour of the tented camps of Kenya.
Although not entirely based in tented camps (who would really want to be in a tent in Nairobi?!) this new Wild Kenya: A Tented Camp Safari itinerary takes us to some of the wildest and most unspoiled areas of Kenya to stay in three of the best-known tented camps. These facilities are all permanent camps, with walk-in tents on raised platforms. They have proper beds, chairs, a writing desk, and wardrobe, and all have private attached bathrooms with shower, washbasin, and toilet. The advantage of these camps is that they are smaller than many of the lodges, with less crowded dining rooms and a more intimate wildlife experience. They offer a real opportunity to hear (and then see) both birds and mammals that inhabit the surrounding habitats at night; we found African Scops-Owl, African Wood-Owl, Common Genet, Brown Greater Galago, Tree Hyrax, and Leopard in this way during our scouting trip.
When not at the tented camps, we will stay at these lodgings: the Ole Sereni Hotel in Nairobi, a modern hotel only 20 minutes from the airport that overlooks Nairobi National Park with a wealth of birds and mammals right outside the bar and dining room; Mountain Lodge, a small retreat in the forest at Mt. Kenya, where the attractions are a floodlit waterhole and saltlick; Naro Moru River Lodge for one night to break our journey as we head to the Great Rift Valley; and one night at Lake Nakuru Lodge, where the alkaline lake can attract more than one million Lesser Flamingos and the surrounding woodland and grassland are home to rhino and the endangered Rothschild's Giraffe.
However, it is the tented camps on this tour that should prove to be the group favorites, with two nights at Island Camp and three nights each at Samburu Intrepids and Kichwa Tembo camps. Island Camp sits on Ol Kokwe Island in the middle of Lake Baringo. More than 500 species of birds have been recorded around the lake (which was formerly Terry's home), and we're sure to see most of the specialties of this area as we explore the lava cliffs, the acacia bush country, and the lakeshore itself. Samburu Intrepids Camp is in the Samburu Game Reserve in northern Kenya. Set amongst huge acacia and doum palm trees on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, it's in a sharp contrast to the arid bushland just 200 meters away. Grevy's Zebra, Beisa Oryx, and Gerenuk are just a few of the special mammals here, while birds vary from giant Somali Ostrich to tiny crombecs and penduline-tits. Guineafowl, raptors, bustards, sandgrouse, mousebirds, hornbills, bushshrikes, starlings, sunbirds, and weavers are all common throughout the reserve. Finally we'll fly to and from Kichwa Tembo in the famed Masai Mara Game Reserve. There, on the plains that have become so famous from numerous wildlife documentaries, we'll travel by specially adapted 4x4 Landcruisers as we discover Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, hundreds of hippos in the Mara River, perhaps a Black Rhino, and a wealth of buffalo, zebra, antelopes and gazelles. Birding highlights should include Saddle-billed Stork amongst a wide variety of waterbirds in the oxbow lakes, with Secretary-bird and Southern Ground-Hornbill on the plains, perhaps up to five species of vultures at a Lion kill, Schalow's and Ross's turacos in the forest, Silverbird in the acacia scrub, and colorful Red-cheeked Cordon-bleus and Purple Grenadiers in the grasslands.
Our first Wild Kenya; A Tented Camp Safari is scheduled for July, 2018 (see dates at right), and is limited to just six participants plus guide Terry Stevenson and his driver-guide John Ngige. It should be a fabulous adventure.
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