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Kenya - 28th November - 21st December 2011

Published by Joseph Mwangi (natureswonderlandsafaris AT gmail.com)

Participants: Peter Nickless, Roger Dodds, and others

Myself (Peter Nickless) and Roger Dodds had looked at a Birding Trip to Kenya for some time to add a few specialities to our World Lists and also to hopefully see a few Mammals we had missed on previous trips to Africa (notably Cheetah & Wild Dog). We decided on a trip of approximately 3 weeks.

After looking at a number of options I arranged with Joseph Mwangi of Nature's Wonderland Safaris (www.natureswonderlandsafaris.com email address info@natureswonderlandsafaris.com) to quote for, then arrange the trip for us quoting species we would like to see etc. We were joined on the trip by 2 American Birders which helped to keep the costs down to $ 4819 each for the 23day itinerary. This gave a considerable saving against similar length trips and itineraries from some other Companies. The roughly 3 weeks we had available although allowing for a comprehensive trip was not enough to cover all of Kenya. We decided to leave the Far North hoping to see a number of more Northerly Species such as Somali Ostrich and Somali Courser in Tsavo East NP

Basic Itinerary:

Checklists of Birds and Other Wildlife itemises species seen and sites where the specialities were seen

28/11.......Overnight Flight with Kenya Airways from Heathrow to Nairobi

29/11.......Picked up from Airport and spent majority of day in Nairobi NP. O/n Boulevard Hotel

30/11.......Lake Magadi for Chestnut-banded Plover +birding en-route O/n Boulevard Hotel

1/12.........Drive North to Mount Kenya via Thika Sewage Lagoons,Blue Posts Hotel. O/n Castle Forest Lodge

2/12........Morning in Mountain Area before birding to foothills O/n Naro Moru River Lodge

3/12........Drive across Solio Plains, Mackinder's Eagle Owl site, Aberdare Mountains. O/n Lake Naivasha Resort

4/12........Rift Valley Lakes to Lake Nakuru. O/n Flamingo Hills Tented Camp

5/12........Lake Nakuru until lunchtime then to Lake Baringo area. O/n Lake Baringo Country Club

6/12........Morning and Noon walks with local birding guide, cliffs/scrub O/n Lake Baringo Country Club

7/12........West side of Rift Valley through Kerio Valley to Kakamega Forest O/n Rondo Retreat

8/12.........Kakamega Forest all day O/n Rondo Retreat

9/12.........Kakamega Forest and area towards Uganda border O/n Rondo Retreat

10/12.......Kakamega Forest via Lake Victoria to Masai Mara National Reserve. O/n Fairmount Mara Safari Club

11/12.......Early walk at Fairmount Mara Safari Club, Masai Mara all day. O/n Kichwa Tembo Camp

12/12...... Game/Birding drives morning and afternoon Masai Mara O/n Kichwa Tembo Camp

13/12......Drove through Masai Mara and to Nairobi pm O/n Boulevard Hotel

14/12.......Nairobi to Tsavo East via Hunter's Lodge. Tsavo East pm. O/n Aruba Ashnil Lodge

15/12.......All day driving through Eastern part of Park to Coast. O/n Watamu Turtle Bay Beach Hotel

16/12.......Early am Sokoke Forest/ Mida Creek . Lunch at Hotel. PM Mida Creek to Sokoke Forest for late afternoon/evening O/n Watamu Turtle Bay Beach Hotel

17/12........Morning in Sokoke Forest and surrounding areas. Afternoon to Sabaki River Mouth. O/n Watamu Turtle Bay Beach Hotel

18/12........Malindi to Tsavo West via Sagala Lodge O/n Ziwani Tented Camp

19/12.......Tsavo West, Lake Jipe to Taita NP O/n Taita Saltlick Lodge

19/12.......Taita Saltlick Lodge, 3 hours in Taita Hills for specialities to Nairobi for late evening flight

Choosing Natures Wonderful Safaris was a bit of a gamble as we could not find any independent trip reports to give us reassurance. With Joseph's help, we were able to personalise the tour so we decided to take a chance. It turned out to be an inspired choice, because Joseph was a guide is excellent and as for arranging the itinerary/accommodation it was second to none. He was well supported by Wilfred, our excellent/considerate driver throughout, who is also a very good birder and superb game spotter. The use of local Guides at a number of sites including Mackinder's Owl, Lake Baringo, Kakamega, Sokoke Forest and Taita Hills turned out to be most productive. Their local knowledge proved to invaluable for finding some of the Specialities and most worked very hard to get us their local Goodies. Special thanks to David in Sokoke Forest who was outstanding both in knowledge and enthusiasm and helped us see the difficult East Coast Akalat and African Barred Owlet as well as the endemic Sokoke Scops Owl and Sokoke Pipit.

Naturally we missed a few species. Heavy and unusual rains prior to and during the first week of our trip (late afternoons) meant that some species normally “guaranteed” such as Rock Pratincole weren't available because of swollen rivers. A detour had to be made because of heavy rain and an impassable road in the Aberdares which probably cost a few species. African Skimmer was just nowhere to be found at its possible sites and Black Duck although found was not at the usual river sites. Taita Thrush and Taita Apalis were missed on the final day. This was the one weakness in the Itinerary. The 3 hours we had available proved to be insufficient to find these specialities and a day in this area would have given a more realistic chance. A Lovebird we saw near Malindi we considered to be a hybrid. On the positive side the rains had encouraged plenty of growth such that all Weavers, Widowbirds etc were in their full breeding regalia and
some birds were easier than at other times.

Overall the trip was a major success,certainly amongst and possibly the best Birding trip we have been on when you consider species seen, standard of accommodation and organisation. A group total 630 bird species and large numbers of other Wildlife seen. The planning of the itinerary, all the accommodation was very good throughout and I would thoroughly recommend Joseph and his team to organise any birding trip to the Region.