Trip report of a trip to Kenya from October 8th -24th, 2022
We flew into Nairobi, where much to our surprise we passed through covid, visa and passport control in a matter of minutes and found our luggage waiting. This was so unexpected after very complicated pre-flight paperwork. We were met by our guide Alex Mwangi and driver/spotter, Benson Aengwo and then taken to the Boma Hotel to stay, after many hours travelling from Spain.
Trip Report Author: John Brooks
Guide : Alex Mwangi together with Benson Aengwo as driver/spotter
We were met by Alex and Benson at 7.00 and drove to the Nairobi National Park only a short drive away. It is an incredible park 7kms from the centre of Nairobi and covers 117 sq kms at an altitude of around 1650mtrs and comprises acacia woodland, savannah and lakes. We started by driving through the woodland to the savannah where there were birds in abundance, together with a wide variety of animals. The park is surrounded by fences on 3 sides but left open on the fourth so animals can roam freely. There were 2 main lakes and the most memorable sight was hundreds of Marabou Storks basking in the sun with their wings outstretched. In total we saw 74 bird species including Helmeted Guineafowl, Crested Francolin, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, White-bellied Bustard, Three-banded Plover, Spur-winged and Blacksmith Lapwing, Little Stint, Marsh, Wood, Green and Common Sandpiper, African Spoonbill, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black-headed Heron, the first of many African Fish Eagles, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Long-tailed Fiscal, Fischers Sparrow-lark, Red-capped Lark, Tawney-flanked Prinea, Northern Pied Babbler, Red-billed Oxpecker, Whinchat, Variable Sunbird, Red-billed Firefinch, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting plus many more.
In addition we saw Vervet and Kolb’s monkey, Lions, Plains Zebra, White Rhinoceros, plus more.
A great way to start the tour. We again stayed at the Boma Hotel.
We drove for 3.5hrs to reach Mount Kenya, the second highest in Africa. It has a highland moist forest with a wide variety of plant species depending on the altitude. We were mainly in the forest croton species areas and birding was hard and it was quiet. However we did get good species as we drove around the mountain forest tracks at 2000mtrs. The weather was excellent with perfect visibility giving us stunning views, which apparently was very unusual. Here we saw Scarce Swift, African Palm Swift, Hartlaub’s Turaco, African Olive Pigeon, Tambourine Dove, Speckled Mousebird, Crowned Hornbill, Purple-throated Cuckooshrike, Black Saw-wing, Red-rumped Swallow, Black-collared and Grey Apalis, Waller’s and Abbott’s Starling, Cape Robin-chat, Holub’s Golden Weaver, Red-backed Mannikin and Common Waxbill. The only animal seen was the Mt Kenya Colobus monkey. We stayed at the only accommodation available in the park, the Castle Forest Lodge, which was basic but situated in a beautiful spot.
We started at dawn birding the grounds of the Lodge looking for the key bird of the area, the Olive Ibis and we were rewarded with stunning views. It seems that this is a very difficult bird to see as it goes deep into the forest at dawn and doesn’t return until dusk. We continued and had a great 2hrs before breakfast seeing Mountain Oriole, Jackson’s Francolin, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Red-fronted Parrot, Hunter’s Cisticola, African Hill Babbler, Yellow-bellied and Kandt’s Waxbill, Yellow-fronted Canary, and Thick-billed Seedeater.
After breakfast we had a 6hr drive to Samburu where we stayed 2 nights at the Samburu Simba Lodge. Again a lovely location looking out over the dry stony scrubland with few trees and bushes at an altitude of 1000mtrs in the centre of Buffalo Springs National Reserve of 139 sq kms. We saw several new species but we were distracted by a Leopard with her cub, as well as Cheetah, and many wild animals.
Here we saw Black-faced Sandgrouse, Slate-coloured Boubou, Cape Rook, and Parrot-billed Sparrow.
We started a little later than normal and drove the 25kms to the main road and then after a short drive turned onto a track leading to the second of the Samburu Reserves – Shaba. After 6kms we arrived at the main entrance to the 239 sq kms park and picked up a local guide armed with a rifle.
Then we drove into a totally different landscape. Lava flows had shaped gullies and waterfalls, open grasslands, rocky hills and dusty plains with the Uaso Nyiro river running through where large Nile crocodiles can be seen. Shaba had more trees and thorny bushes with palms running along the river. The tracks were bumpy but we only saw 1 other safari car. Animals and birds were dispersed but we did see Somali Ostrich, White-bellied Go-away-bird, Crowned Lapwing, Goliath Heron, Ruppell’s and White-headed Vulture, Gabar and Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Von der Decken’s and Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill, White-throated Bee-eater, Pygmy Falcon, Red-bellied Parrot, Pringle’s Puffback, Dodson’s Bulbul and Black-capped Social Weaver.
In the afternoon we explored other parts of the Buffalo Springs reserve. It was hard going as it was very quiet with few new species in the dry low scrub. However we managed Vulturine Guineafowl, Martial Eagle, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Taita Fiscal, Red-winged Lark, Spotted Flycatcher, Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird and Donaldson Smith’s Sparrow-weaver.
As we were leaving we birded around the start of the springs were we saw Somali Courser, Marabou Stork, White-headed Mousebird, Fan-tailed Raven, Rufus Chatterer and Magpie Starling. We also saw Desert Warthog, Hilgert’s Vervet Monkey, Reticulated Giraffe,
Then a 7hr drive to Nakuru National Park where we stayed a night at the beautifully located Lake Nakuru Lodge inside the park. Here we saw Coqui Francolin, Laughing Dove, Greater Flamingo, Great White Pelican, Steppe Buzzard, Grey-headed Kingfisher, European Bee-eater, Black-backed Puffback, Grey-backed Fiscal, Rufus-naped Lark, Barn Swallow, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Speke’s Weaver and Reichenow’s Seedeater.
We spent the morning birding around the Lodge, then as we left the Lodge we passed lions within 300mtrs of the Lodge and during the morning many other species including Plain’s Zebra, White Rhinoceros, Common Warthog, Waterbuck and Reticulated Giraffe. We drove a short distance to open marshes/pastures before going on a boat around part of Lake Nakuru.
The Lake was astounding with thousands of Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Pink-backed and Great White Pelican. Such a spectacle. This morning we also saw White-faced Whistling Duck, Egyptian Goose, Red-billed Teal, White-browed Coucal, Red-knobbed Coot, Pied Avocet, Ringed Plover, Glossy Ibis, Osprey, African Cuckoo-Hawk, Meyer’s Parrot, White-bellied Tit, Grey-capped Warbler, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Lesser-masked Weaver, Yellow Bishop and Pin-tailed Whydah.
We then had a 2.5hr drive to Lake Baringo where we stayed for 2 nights in Baringo Soi Lodge where our rooms overlooked the lake. Here the temperature was high as well as the humidity but as the sun went down a good breeze came up and the evening weather was perfect. We went birding in the open scrubland and found some fantastic birds including Slender-tailed Nightjar, Three-banded Courser, Hamerkop, Northern White-faced Owl, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Beautiful Sunbird and Common Ostrich.
We started the day on board a boat at 6.30 going round the lake. Lake Baringo rose by several meters last winter and a village, hospital ad resorts were put underwater. Even though the lake has sunk by 3 mtrs much still remains below the water. This has affected the edges of the lake where there used to be trees, bushes, reeds and marshy areas. This has made birding more difficult and whilst we saw many species we only saw one new one, an endemic Northern Masked Weaver.
After breakfast we birded the dry and arid acacia plains near to the escarpments where birds were scarce but interesting. In the afternoon we went walking into the acacia woods and saw 2 rarities, Jackson’s Hornbill and the Mocking Cliff Chat, which was hunting for insects on the cliff face and amongst the fallen rocks at their base.
Today we saw Speckled Pigeon, Mourning Collared Dove, Emerald Spotted Wood Dove, Namaqua Dove, Black Crake, Spotted Thick-knee, African Darter, Striated and Purple Heron, Brown Snake and Verreaux’s Greyish Eagle-Owl, Blue-naped Mousebird, Eagle, Northern Red-billed and Hemprich’s Hornbill, Purple Roller, Nubian and Cardinal Woodpecker, Pygmy Batis, Acacia Tit, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Superb and Bristle-crowned Starling, Isabelline Wheatear, Familiar Chat, Northern Masked and Chestnut Weaver, Red-billed Quelea and Green-winged Pytilia.
We left early and drove for 8hrs, stopping at Lelin Camp Site to bird the grounds. It was very successful. Here was saw the Red-chested Cuckoo, African Harrier-hawk, Yellow-billed Kite, Yellow-spotted and Red-and-Yellow Barbet, Grey Cuckooshrike, Pied Crow, Slender-billed Greenbul, Northern Yellow White-eye, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Little Rock Thrush, Double-collared Sunbird and Village Indigobird,
Then we drove over the Tugen Hills, through the Kerio Valley and over the Iten Hills both 1900mtrs before reaching our destination at Kakamega Rondo Retreat where we stayed 2 nights. This Lodge is in extensive and beautiful grounds with chalets dotted around the gardens.
This morning we birded the grounds at 6.30 for 1 hour. Unfortunately the overnight rain was still clouding the sky and the light was bad. After breakfast we drove to a different part of the forest, but as always birding is difficult but we added some new species. Over lunch we had a thunderstorm but after it passed we were able to visit another part of the forest, where again we saw some difficult species. Today we added Black-billed Turaco, Crowned Eagle, Black Sparrowhawk, White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Chestnut and Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Luhder’s Bushshrike, Sharpe’s Drongo, Red-tailed Bristlebill, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Kakamega and Cabanis’s Greenbul, White-headed Saw-wing, Chubb’s Cisticola, White-chinned Prinia, Black-throated Apalis, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Turner’s Eremomela, African Thrush, African Stonechat, Amethyst and Olive-bellied Sunbird and Grey-headed Sparrow.
This morning we birded the lush and extensive gardens, lakes and forest within the Lodge grounds. Then on to another part of the forest but it was very quiet and not many birds were seen. However we did manage Great Blue Turaco, Hadada Ibis, Grey-throated Barbet, Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Joyful and Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, Stuhlmann’s Starling, Green-headed Sunbird,Dark-backed and Brown-capped Weaver, and our most exciting spot an Equatorial Akalat.
Then after an early lunch we drove 2 hrs to Lake Victoria where we checked into the Kisumu Sovereign Hotel. Then immediately off to the lakeside which had reed and papyrus beds. Here we had some excellent birding until a thunderstorm drove us back to the hotel, where in the carpark we found a Black-headed Gonolek, African Paradise Flycatcher and Black-winged Kite.
At 6.30 we were on a boat going to explore the reed and papyrus beds around the shoreline of Kisumu. Here we saw Little Swift, Water Thick-knee, Gull-billed and Whiskered Tern, African Openbill, African Sacred Ibis, Cattle and Great Egret, African Goshawk, Mountain Buzzard, Woodland and Malachite Kingfisher, Black Cuckooshrike, Wire-tailed Swallow, Greater Swamp Warbler, Great Reed and African Reed Warbler, Swamp Flycatcher, Red-chested Sunbird, Slender-billed and Spectacled Weaver, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Black-headed and Golden-backed Weaver.
Then we had a 6 hr drive to Lake Naivasha where we stayed two nights at the Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge. Our room was a good 10mns walk from the restaurant but it had the great advantage of looking out over the lake. We birded the extensive grounds of the lodge, walking amongst Giraffe, Zebra and Waterbuck, with them often less than 30 mtrs away. Very exciting and beautiful to be able to get so close to wild animals.
Here we saw Hildebrandt’s Spurfowl, Nyanza Swift, Fork-tailed Drongo, Rock Martin, Brown Parisoma, African Dusty Flycatcher and White-browed Robin Chat.
Leaving early we drove 2.5hrs into the Abadare NP where we birded around the 3000 mtr level. The habitat was heather and highland moist forest. There were few birds but we did manage an endemic, the Moorland Chat. We also saw Long-crested Eagle, Northern Fiscal, Brown Woodland Warbler, Kikuyu White-eye, Slender-billed Starling, Abyssinian Thrush, Malachite and Golden-winged Sunbird, Eastern Double-collared Sunbird, Kenya Sparrow, Baglafecht Weaver, Long-tailed Widowbird, Mountain Wagtail, Sharpe’s Longclaw, Streaky Seedeater and Yellow-crowned Canary.
In the afternoon we stopped on our way back to the Lodge and explored a heathland but a thunderstorm broke and we continued our drive back.
When we reach the Lodge the weather was beautiful and we went out immediately into the acacia woods and had some great birding seeing Diederik and Claas’s Cuckoo, Long Crested Eagle, Green Wood and African Hoopoe, Red-fronted Barbet, Lanner Falcon, Rattling Costicola, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Black-lored Babbler and Abyssinian White-eye.
After checking out and having many pictures taken of us next to wild zebra, giraffe we went to Lake Naivasha and had 1.5hr boat trip. The lake has been devastated by the increase in the water level. This is similar to Lake Baringo where the water level has swamped a hospital and a beautiful Lodge where we stayed some years ago. This has resulted in hundreds of meters of dead trees and bushes lining the lake. There were no reed beds either and this has seriously affected the wildlife. We did see Blue-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Duck, Black-winged Stilt, Long-toed and Wattled Lapwing, Jacana, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Grey-headed Gull, Yellow-billed Stork, Reed and White-breasted Cormorant, Squacco Heron, Giant and Pied Kingfisher, Tropical Boubou, Brown-throated Martin and Mosque Swallow.
We then set out on our 5hr drive to the Masai Mara and after passing a large town Norok we stopped by chance at Restaurant Olare and as we ate our packed lunch in the carpark we saw Vitelline and Village Weaver, Swahili Sparrow, Schalow’s Wheatear, Hildebrandt’s Starling, Grey Woodpecker and Little Bee-eater and European Roller as we were driving.
We arrived at our last lodgings, Masai Sentrim Camp where we stayed 3 nights. We had a very large tent on a raised platform with a pitched wooden roof and with a balcony looking out over the grounds was the perfect location to finish our tour. Over the next 4 days we saw many birds and animals.
Oct 22nd to Oct 24th
We enjoyed the grounds on our first night than drove to all parts of the park on different days. We saw where the Wildebeast cross the Mara river but unfortunately were a day late as they had already crossed. Nevertheless there were thousands of animals staying the Kenyian side. We had picnics under the only tree permitted by the Park authorities. Its called The Desert Date tree and they are the flat-topped trees which grow on their own and are spaced out by 100’s of metres.
As we go to more remote places than the normal safari vehicles we saw all the species and had fabulous close up views, from 10mtrs of 3 lions lying in the shade of a Date tree. Always when you go birding you see all the animals, usually close by.
Over these days we saw many new species including Mottled Swift, Horus and White-rumped Swift, Schalow’s Turaco, Black-bellied Bustard, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Grey-crowned Crane, Caspian Plover, Temminck’s Courser, Wooly-necked Stork, Secretary Bird, Hooded Vulture, White-backed and Lappet-faced Vulture, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Bateleur, Tawny Eagle, African Hawk –Eagle, Montague’s Harrier, Augur Buzzard, Southern Ground and Grey Hornbill, Lilac-breasted Roller, Usambiro Barbet, Lesser and Greater Honeyguide, Grey Kestrel, Brown-crowned Tchagra, White-crowned and Red-backed Shrike, Black-headed Oriel, the smallest bird in Africa the Grey Penduline Tit, Red-faced Crombec, Winding and Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Wattled and Greater Blue-eared Starling, Ruppell’s and Violet-backed Starling, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, White-browed Scrub Robin, Grey Flycatcher, Sooty and Anteater Chat, Marico Sunbird, Yellow-spotted Petronia, White-headed Buffalo Weaver, Rufous-tailed and Speckle-fronted Weaver, Grey-capped Social and Little Weaver, Red-headed and Vieillot’s Weaver, Yellow-mantled Widowbird, Quailfinch, Purple Grenadier, Red-cheeked Cordon-blue, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Grassland and Plain-backed Pipit, Brimstone Canary and Golden-breasted Bunting.
Many other common species were seen but not included in the above review.
In total we saw 380 species, stayed in some spectacular locations and had great weather apart from 2 short thunderstorms.
Travelling Together as Friends