Day 1: Morning arrivals into Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), from which we will take an afternoon flight to Lamu on Mandai Island. We will hopefully have time to already pin down the near-endemic Black Boubou, along with Eastern Black-headed Batis and Bare-eyed Thrush.
Day 2: Early morning birding on Manda Island before heading south to Watamu, where we will be staying for the next three nights.
Day 3-4: Arabuko-Sokoke Forest will be our first port of call, as we search for the near-endemic Sokoke Pipit and Sokoke Scops Owl, along with Fischer’s Turaco, East Coast Akalat, Amani Sunbird, Mombasa Woodpecker, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Forest Batis, Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike, and Plain-backed Sunbird. Other east coast specialties in the area include Mangrove Kingfisher, Green Malkoha, Lowland Tiny Greenbul, Fischer’s Greenbul, Black-headed Apalis and Pale Batis, amongst dozens of other more widespread east African birds shared with Tanzania and Mozambique. There is also a good chance to see the Critically Endangered Golden-rumped Sengi here.
In more open country we hope to visit a colony of the endemic Clarke’s Weaver, and may find localised Golden Palm Weaver nearby. Although the former species is not guaranteed every year, the late timing of our tour will give us the best possible chance to find them. Easier species include the near-endemic Scaly Babbler, Violet-breasted Sunbird, Coastal Cisticola and Malindi Pipit. Other restricted-range species include Dodson’s Bulbul, East Coast Boubou and Zanzibar Red Bishop. Then, around the mouth of Sabaki River, we will search for Crab-plover, Dimorphic Egret, Sooty Gull and Saunders’s Tern, while the progressing Palearctic migration might produce a few surprises like Sooty Falcon. The rare Forbes-Watson’s Swift is also known from this area, but is only recorded a few times each year.
Day 5: After a final morning in the coastal areas we will drive inland to Tsavo East National Park for an afternoon session. This lovely reserve offers fabulous birding, and with the onset of the early-May rains it is a particularly good place to find near-endemics like Heuglin’s Bustard, Fire-fronted Bishop, Tsavo Sunbird, Pagani Longclaw, Pink-breasted Lark, Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Lark, and hopefully the erratic Friedmann’s Lark. There should be many roadside raptors, and we will also have our first chance at specialties like Rosy-patched Bushshrike, Golden-breasted Starling, and the astounding Golden Pipit. We can expect a large variety of other exciting new birds here, including Hartlaub’s Bustard, Buff-crested Bustard, Black-faced Sandgrouse, Red-bellied Parrot, Taita Fiscal, Black-throated Barbet, Red-and-yellow Barbet, Fischer’s Starling, Red-winged Lark, and much more!
Day 6: We will spend the full day exploring different sections of Tsavo for the hardest specialties before leaving at dusk to continue on to our hotel at the base of the Taita Hills, putting us in prime position for the following day.
Day 7: Near the top of the Taita Hills, we will be focused on finding several of the rarest birds in Africa in tracts of remaining forest. These are the Critically Endangered endemics Taita Thrus and Taita Apalis, plus the more common but still Vulnerable endemic Taita White-eye. Other interesting species might include Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Spot-flanked Barbet, Brown-breasted Barbet, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Usambara Double-collared Sunbird, Striped Pipit, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Stripe-faced Greenbul, Placid Greenbul, and Grey-olive Greenbul.
Day 8: We will have another morning to search for any missing Taita Hills species before a long drive north towards the slopes of Mount Kenya. Some short stops will hopefully produce the stunning Straw-tailed Whydah in breeding plumage! Night in Embu.
Day 9: This morning we will visit Castle Forest where we hope to find the little-known Abbott’s Starling, and we will have our first chance for several specialties like the endemic Kikuyu White-eye, plus the restricted-range Hartlaub’s Turaco and Olive-breasted Greenbul. Other target species might include Olive Ibis, Moustached Tinkerbird, Tullberg’s Woodpecker, Mountain Oriole, Hunter’s Cisticola, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Grey Apalis, and Brown-capped Weaver, though there are again many more widespread African birds in this area which we will also bump into! Afterwards it will be time to head north-east to Shaba National Reserve for our two-night stay. During the drive we will make a stop for the restricted-range Boran Cisticola, and arrive at our comfortable lodge on the banks of the Uaso Nyiro River this evening.
Day 10: Exploring both Buffalo Springs and Shabah National Reserves today will surely be highlighted by both Somali Ostrich and the wonderful Vulturine Guineafowl! Our main target will be the the Kenyan endemic William’s Lark (a specialised inhabitant of ancient rocky lava-strewn plains), and we will have another chance for Friedmann’s Lark. Several localised or near-endemic specialties occur here too, including Grant’s Wood Hoopoe, Brown-tailed Rock Chat, Magpie Starling, Donaldson Smith’s Sparrow-Weaver, White-headed Mousebird and Black-bellied Sunbird. Other possibilities include Somali Courser, Somali Bee-eater, Acacia Tit, Fischer’s Sparrow-Lark, Pygmy Batis, Pringle’s Puffback, Bristle-crowned Starling, White-bellied Canary, Steel-blue Whydah, and Somali Bunting amongst several other Horn of Africa endemics. There is a small chance for the scarce Somali Sparrow, and we will be on the lookout for Critically Endangered Rüppell’s Vultures, plus Pygmy Falcon and Secretarybird. On the mammal front, we can expect to see Grevy’s Zebra (the most threatened of the three extant Zebras), Southern Gerenuk, Galla Oryx, the attractive “Reticulated” subspecies of Giraffe, and hopefully Cheetah.
Day 11: After a final morning in the area we drive west, watching for the near-endemic Jackson’s Widowbird (in spectacular breeding plumage at this time of year), and maybe Grey Crowned Crane or Little Rock Thrush before arriving at Aberdare National Park where we will spend the next two nights.
Day 12: Exploring this astonishingly scenic area today will see us focusing on the endemic Jackson’s Francolin and Aberdare Cisticola. Other special species include the stunning Golden-winged Sunbird, rare Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Moorland Chat, and the range-restricted Kandt’s Waxbill. More widespread species include Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Tacazze Sunbird, and Abyssinian Crimsonwing.
Day 13: This morning we will target the Vulnerable endemic Hinde’s Babbler before we head west to Lake Baringo. The major specialties we may have our first chance at seeing on arrival this afternoon are Jackson’s Hornbill and Northern Masked Weaver, the latter breeding near the lake shore at this time of year alongside Golden-backed Weavers. Another restricted-range species here is Hemprich’s Hornbill, while spotlighting is often productive with Three-banded Courser, Slender-tailed Nightjar, Greyish Eagle-Owl and Northern White-faced Owl all possible.
Day 14: Morning birding at Lake Baringo followed by a drive further west to Kakamega Forest. We may succeed in finding White-crested Turaco along the way, and hopefully arrive in time for some initial birding this afternoon.
Day 15: Exploring this superb and diverse area, we shall be focused on several specialties which are not regular on any other birding routes. Grey-chested Babbler (a member of the restricted Modulatricidae family) is fairly common in Kakamega, as is the near-endemic Turner’s Eremomela and “Golden-billed” Bar-tailed Trogon. Similarly, Blue-headed Bee-eater and Uganda Woodland Warbler are rarely seen in other countries, so we will make particular effort for these. We will inevitably run into many other more widespread birds endemic to the belt of forest between Uganda and Cameroon, which may include highlights such as Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, Grey-throated Barbet, Stuhlmann’s Starling, Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Joyful Greenbul, and Black-faced Rufous Warbler.
Day 16: After another morning birding in Kakamega, we will head southward to Lake Nakuru for an overnight stay.
Day 17: We can usually expect huge numbers of both Lesser and Greater Flamingos to provide a stunning backdrop to our morning birding around Lake Nakuru! The restricted-range Hildebrandt’s Francolin can often be seen around our lodge’s gardens, and the scarce near-endemic Grey-crested Helmetshrike will be sought-out amongst roving flocks of the more common White-crested Helmetshrike. Nearby birding might allow us to find Kenya Sparrow and maybe the impressive Southern Ground Hornbill.
Moving east back towards Nairobi, we will spend the afternoon in tussock grassland on the western edge of the Aberdare Mountains. This highly threatened habitat is the home of an Endangered Kenyan endemic, the attractive Sharpe’s Longclaw, which will be our main focus alongside the near-endemic Lynes’s Cisticola before continuing to Nairobi where the tour ends this evening at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO).
Conveniently, most flights depart between 11pm and 2am, but if required we can help arrange accommodation near the airport for anyone who wishes to depart the following day.
NOTE: We can arrange a short extension to Masai Mara on request, one of Africa’s most famous national parks offering exceptional safaris. Although the main migration is at a different time of year, we would still see huge numbers of mammals ranging from African Lion and Cheetah to African Elephants and an array of antelopes and other ungulates. Although most of the birds to be found here are widespread, a small handful of near-endemic specialties shared with Tanzania include Karamoja Apalis, Rufous-tailed Weaver, Red-throated Tit, Rosy-throated Longclaw and White-tailed Lark.
MAIN TOUR 2025
Cost: $ 7,200
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 540
Accommodation: All comfortable hotels, a few exceptional lodges.
Road Transport: Comfortable 4WD vehicles with opening roof hatch. There are several long driving days.
Walking difficulty: Mostly easy car-based roadside birding, and a a few easy walks.
Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.
Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.