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The Eco-resorts Birding Safari

An introductory safari in Kenya.

Hornbill Safaris with Eco-resorts.Hornbill Level

Number of days: 12 nights/13 days

Regions: Kakamega Forest, Lake Baringo, Lake Nakuru, Watamu

Activities: Bird Watching, Game Walks

Accommodation: Macushla House, Lake Nakuru Lodge, Lake Baringo Club, Hemingways

Departure date: Upon Request

East Africa is probably the best place in the world for bird watching. There are over 1,250 species recorded; compare this with approximately 250 in Great Britain and 850 in Canada, United States and Mexico combined!

Kenya’s huge variety of environments, including snow on the higher mountains, cool lush forests, open temperate plains, lowland tropical forests, mangrove swamps and seashores, is one of the reasons for the abundance of bird life.

This safari will take you through several of these environments, including visits to the soda lake and acacia woods of Lake Nakuru, the rain forests of Kakamega, the cliffs and savannahs of Lake Baringo and the coastal seashores, mangroves and forest of Watamu.

Your guide, James Kiptoo, is a local expert on birds. Kip will act as your guide throughout your safari, providing information about Kenya’s birds, their habits and their behaviour.

Hornbill Safaris with Eco-resorts.

Day 1
On arrival at the Nairobi International airport, you will be met by your safari representative and transferred to Macushla House. There are over 50 different bird species found in the hotel grounds alone!

Macushla, located in the suburb of Langata, gives a quiet, peaceful stopover in this busy city area. With six spacious bedrooms, two lounges, a private study, bar, pool and dining room, Macushla caters for both business and holiday travelers. A delicious range of fresh, home cooked meals, served throughout the day, provide fine dining at your convenience. Located close to the Giraffe Manor, Karen Blixen Museum, Nairobi National Park and the Animal Orphanage, Macushla is the perfect place to start your safari adventure.

Day 2
After breakfast, you’ll be collected by your driver/guide and private vehicle to drive to the Great Rift Valley and Lake Nakuru National Park. Arriving in time to check-in at the Lake Nakuru Lodge, a delightful, small lodge with beautiful views, friendly, staff and comfortable rooms with full ensuite facilities, you'll enjoy stunning views over this alkaline lake with its famous flamingos. Enjoy lunch and an afternoon drive in the Park before dinner and overnight at the lodge.

Notable game within the lake area is hippo, leopard and of course the diverse bird life. Both black and white rhino are now resident in the sanctuary and Rothschild giraffe, buffalo, impala, eland, warthog, Mountain Reedbuck, klipspringers and Black and White Colobus Monkeys are all plentiful

Created in 1961 as a bird sanctuary, Nakuru has expanded to its current size of approximately 200 square km, including the soda lake itself, the western cliff edge escarpment and a sizable area of open savannah to the south.

Nakuru is most famous for its concentrations of both Greater and Lesser Flamingo who feed upon the blue green algae with which the lake abounds. Depending upon the concentration of the algae, there may be up to 2 million flamingos in the area, turning the entire lakeshore a dusky pink.

With over 400 varieties of birds to spot, you’ll never be bored at Nakuru. In the European winter the park becomes an important feeding ground for migrant waders such as the Little stints, Curlew sandpipers, Marsh sandpipers and Greenshanks. Large numbers of Pelicans can also be seen on the southern and eastern shores.

Verreaux Eagles can be seen around the updrafts on the western escarpment and other commonly spotted birds of prey include Long crested eagles, Augur buzzards, Harrier eagles, Fish eagles, Gabar goshawks and Harrier hawks.

The woodlands also harbour many more species including the African hoopoes, Grey-headed kingfishers and Red-chested cuckoos.

Other species easily spotted within the park are Hamerkops, Ducks, Geese, Falcons, Rollers, Shrikes, Sunbirds, Weavers and Starlings.

After a day of bird and game viewing, return to your lodge for dinner and overnight.

Day 3
Spend a full day exploring the Nakuru National park with your guide. You should be able to spot at least 150 species of bird in this one day, and if lucky, you may reach over 200 species. All meals and overnight at the lodge.

Day 4
Leaving the Rift Valley behind today, you drive over the Mau Escarpment to the fertile plains of the western part of Kenya, close to Lake Victoria. Here you explore the Kakamega Forest Reserve, the last remaining remnant of tropical rain forest in Kenya.

A part of the Congo-West African equatorial rainforest, the 45 square km reserve is bordered on all sides by fertile farmlands, making this small area a refuge for a huge number of animals, insects and plants.

The Forest itself is incredibly diverse, with over 125 species of trees, orchids, creepers and bushes. The high forest canopy shades the ground, preventing thick undergrowth from forming. Walking is surprisingly easy and one of the best ways to explore the Forest as the animal, bird and insect life is small, but truly spectacular.

Over 400 of Kenya’s 1000 butterfly species may be found here. Several animals, such as the bush-tailed porcupine, giant water shrew and hammer-headed fruit bat, are found nowhere else in the country. Colobus and blue monkeys cavort in the trees and shy duikers peer out from the occasional bush.

In Kakamega you’ll stay at the Rondo Retreat, a small, privately owned group of cottages deep in the heart of the reserve. Unlike many areas of East Africa, it is safe to walk in Kakamega due to the lack of large predators. There are abundant walking and hiking trails that spread out through the forest from the lodge.

As the only forest of its kind in the country, there are many bird species, which may be found here, and nowhere else in the country. Keep your spotting eyes open for species such as the Grey parrot, Great blue turaco, Ross’s turaco, red-chested owlet, African broadbill and wattle-bill.

Enjoy an afternoon walk near the lodge, dinner and overnight at the Retreat.

Days 5 and 6
Walking and driving through the forests, you’ll explore all the forest habitats, from the high canopies to the mossy ground. There are a tremendous variety of bird species, ranging through various sizes. Watch for the Giant Plantain Eater or the small, Dusky tit.

Birds of prey to look for include the Banded snake eagle and the Crowned eagle. Hornbills to be found are the Black and white casqued hornbill and the Crowned hornbill. Look out for the Paradise flycatcher, Emerald cuckoo, Lemon dove and Yellow white-eye.

Other often-spotted species include the Blue shouldered robin chat, Green pigeon, Scarce swift, Bearded woodpecker, Green sunbird and Nariner’s Trogon.

All meals and overnights at the Rondo Retreat.

Day 8
Leave the forests of Kakamega behind as you return to the Rift Valley, this time to the fresh water of Lake Baringo. Here you will stay at the Lake Baringo Club, which specializes in bird watching.

The colony of Goliath herons attracts many ornithologists, but this is just one of the over 400 species to be found in the area.

Baringo offers bird walks, boat rides and game drives-a great deal of variety! Home to a great number of hippo, caution should be paid if walking on the lakeshore!

Baringo is located in the middle of a very, dry, arid savannah plain and the fresh water of the lake is a huge draw to a myriad of birds as well as the water birds who are permanent residents of the lake shores.

Enjoy a walk along the cliff edges this afternoon before dinner and overnight at the Club.

Days 8 and 9
Using boats, vehicles and your feet, explore the Baringo lakeshores, islands and surrounding plains. Watch for the huge colonies of Weavers in the acacia trees, including buffalo weavers and white-headed weavers.

Tawny eagles, Martial eagles, Wahlberg eagles and others nest in the treetops and feed off the small mammals, dry country game and birds such as the abundant Guinea fowl and Francolins that come to the lake to drink.

Blacksmith plovers nest on sand bars and huge flocks of Sand grouse come to bathe and quench their thirst. Queleas, hornbills, Secretary birds and Black crested snake eagles may also be found in the area.

Malachite kingfishers, White throated bee-eaters and various Barbets are all easily spotted as are Variable and Collared sunbirds.

Black headed herons, purple herons, Yellow-billed storks, Sacred ibis, Red-billed duck, Cape teal and other water birds are all found in abundance and there are always new species being recorded.

All meals and overnight at the Baringo Club.

Day 10
Leaving the Rift Valley behind you, drive to Nairobi and take your short 75 minute flight to the Indian Ocean and the coastal resort area of Watamu.

Watamu is a small village located on the Kenyan coast, approximately 120 km north of Mombasa and 25 km south of Malindi. The area has developed an international reputation for its white-sand, reef-protected beaches, which line the Watamu National Marine Park.

Established in 1968 as Kenya's first Marine Park, Watamu has developed into one of the world's best snorkeling and dive spots. The Marine Park boasts over 600 species of fish in just 10 square km, although the reserve area itself spreads out over more than 32 square km in total.

It is virtually impossible to snorkel in Watamu without seeing at least a few dozen species inside the main reef; divers outside the fringe reef stand an excellent chance of viewing the magnificent whale shark and Manta rays that are seasonal visitors.

If underwater exploring is not your style, not to worry! From windsurfing to dolphin watching boat trips, gentle walks to explore the rock pools or simply lying on the beach, the Watamu beach offers something for everyone.

In addition to the Marine Park itself, Watamu is within 10 km of two other special natural reserves, Mida Creek and Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, and one fascinating site of archeological interest, Gede Ruins.

You will be collected from the airport and taken to the resort hotel of Hemingway’s, located directly on the beach. Enjoy an evening of sharing stories and counting up your species list before dinner and overnight at Hemingway’s.

Day 11
Today you’ll have an early start as you head in to the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. The Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is East Africa's largest remaining area (420 square km) of indigenous coastal forest. The Forest contains six species of globally threatened bird, three of which, the Sokoke Scops Owl, Sokoke Pipit and Clarke’s Weaver, are found nowhere else in the world.

Other rare species found in the forest are the Amani sunbird, African pitta, Fisher’s turaco, Southern-banded harrier eagles, Retz helmet shrike and the Thick-billed cuckoo.

There are of course many other species within the forest, including the Plain-backed sunbird, Mouse-coloured sunbird, Little purple-banded sunbird, Palmnut vulture and various weavers.

Whilst taking the time to spot the many other birds in the area, most of your time on this day and evening will be spent trying to ensure that you spot the ‘Sokoke Six’, which are the Scops Owl, Sokoke Pipit, Amani Sunbird, Clarke’s Weaver, East Coast akalat and Spotted ground thrush.

Rare mammals are also present, including the golden-rumped elephant shrew, bushy-tailed mongoose and Ader's duiker. Rarely seen but also found in the Forest are elephant, buffalo, leopard and hyena and over 260 species of butterflies. The Forest itself is made up from Cynometra, which forms thick forest and thickets on the red compact soils of the Western area, and the more open, shady trees of the Brachystegia woodland on the Eastern side.

Enjoy dinner at the hotel before you night forest visit to spot the Sokoke Scops Owl and then return for overnight at Hemingway’s.

Day 12
Today you spend on the water, in Mida Creek. The Mida Creek reserve is formed of extensive mangrove forests, warm shallow waters and large areas of mud flats at low tide. This area hosts not only many local birds, such as Greater flamingo, Yellow-billed stork, Great white egret and Malachite kingfisher, but is also the winter home of many migrants such as the Crab plover, Curlew sandpiper, Whimbrel and Sanderling. The osprey and African fish eagle are often overhead.

In the mangroves, you’ll find the brilliant flash of the Carmine bee-eater and flocks of white Ibis. Ringed plovers, Turnstones, Oyster-catchers and Greenshanks are all common migrants, spending the European winter in the warmth of the southern hemisphere.

Local birds are also common, Grey herons feed in shallow pools and Roseate terns set up breeding colonies on the nearby Whale island; Mangrove Kingfishers, night herons, and the strange Black heron, with its peculiar feeding habit of bringing its wings up over its head to shade the water, may all be found in abundance.

You’ll have the chance to walk on the mud flats as well as take a boat ride to meander up the mangrove creeks searching for those little flashes of colour that indicate something interesting.

Dinner and overnight at Hemingway’s.

Day 13
Today you’ll have the chance to relax, take a walk on the beach and spend time with Kip going through your species list and asking questions regarding the birds and wildlife that you’ve seen during your trip.

After lunch, transfer to the airport for the flight to Nairobi and your onward connection back home.

Hornbill Safaris with Eco-resorts.

Includes: All transfers, accommodation, meals, water in vehicle, private vehicle and expert driver/guide, park fees and local taxes and photography instruction.

Excludes: International airfares, visas, drinks, personal purchases and tips.

Contact Melinda Rees for more information on this safari.

Hornbill Safaris with Eco-resorts.

Why travel with us? Because Eco-resorts is changing the world-one journey at a time.

Animals and people both need land. Ecotourism provides an alternative income for the people, leaving space for the migratory animals. Eco-resorts actively supports the villages and projects that are protecting East Africa's environment and culture.

We develop self-help eco-projects, which promote wildlife conservation. We also educate both our consumers and our partner camps with two free ezines. We use renewable energy products, reduce paper and plastic consumption in our office and have left the natural vegetation unscathed, resulting in duiker and monitor lizards visiting the office!

We donate 10% of all post-tax profits to fund community and/or conservation projects. Community projects are operated with the local villagers as the operators and managers; Eco-resorts provides advice and guidance when requested, but abides by local beliefs and traditions.

Our current projects include:

- The Children of the Rising Sun Orphanage, which provides accommodation, meals, medicine and schooling for 28 street-children. Our goal is to have a vocational job-training center operational at the home, for the kids and local villagers.

- The Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve, the last remaining tract of coastal lowland forest in Kenya, which provides the only refuge for several endemic birds and mammals, such as the golden-rumped elephant shrew and the Sokoke Pippet. Designated as one of Conservation International's 26 global bio-diversity hotspots (www.conservation.org) and surrounded on all sides by an ever increasing human population, the Forest is in danger of disappearing as trees are cut for carvings, land cleared for subsistence farming and animals trapped for food.

Eco-resorts hopes to ensure that the local villagers become the greatest supporters of the Forest. One of the many projects in the Forest trains the local villagers to breed forest butterfly species for export to the live butterfly market.

With two local butterfly farms already in operation, over 400 people in the area bordering the Forest now have an income that relies upon the continued health of the Forest. Our goal is to employ another 100 people.

Please contact melinda@eco-resorts.com for more detailed information on our ezines and the Eco-resorts community and wildlife conservation projects that your eco-adventure safari will support. Help us make a difference!

Click here to enquire about a safari holiday to Kenya.

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