Deeper Africa - vacations and travel

Bush Plane Safari

Kenya

from $11,599* per person 15 Days December-March, June-October
Boutique accommodations Exertion level: 3
Operator: Deeper Africa 8 people max
  • Nairobi, kenya
  • Culture & Nature trips
Our bush plane safari is the ultimate African expedition.  For this journey we have put together a selection of small lodges and unique facilities so you can enjoy the finest wildlife experiences and a deep taste of Kenyan hospitality.  Each lodge takes in a limited number of guests so you have personal contact with your hosts at every stop; this paired with the freedom to design the pace and flavor of your safari one day at a time. 

This safari is not just about Kenya's spectacular wildlife, but also about its people. The safari is set up to give you time with amazing people, like Oria and Iain Douglas-Hamilton, internationally known elephant researchers, and Will and Emma Craig, founders of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. In addition, you will have unhurried time with Luca Belpietro and Antonella Bonomi, two Europeans on the forefront of micro-economic development ecotourism projects in Kenya, and the Grammaticas family, owners of the marvelous Little Governors Camp.

Expect unique opportunities for wildlife viewing, luxurious accommodations, fine cuisine and a wide selection of activities including day and night game drives, walking safaris, horseback safaris, warrior walkabouts, an optional balloon safari followed by a champagne breakfast, and close-range wildlife observation from a blind - complemented by the pleasure and efficiency of bush plane transit between lodges.  With no time spent on overland travel, you can make the most of every hour of this unforgettable experience.

Locations visited/nearby

Kenya

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Special information

  • This is a custom departure, meaning this trip is offered on dates that you arrange privately with the provider. Additionally, you need to form your own private group for this trip. The itinerary and price here is just a sample. Contact the provider for detailed pricing, minimum group size, and scheduling information. For most providers, the larger the group you are traveling with, the lower the per-person cost will be.

Itinerary

Day 1  
Travel Day   
International Flight

Day 2
House of Waine
Nairobi   
Pickup at Nairobi Airport by your Deeper Africa guide after clearing customs. He will have a sign with your name on it.  Your guide will transport you to the House of Waine for an evening dinner and overnight.

Dinner and overnight at House of Waine.

Day 3
Elephant Watch Camp
Samburu National Reserve   
Breakfast at the House of Waine. Pick up and transport to Wilson airport for your morning bush flight to Samburu Game Reserve. 

Your Deeper Africa guide will be waiting for you with the Land Cruiser at the Samburu bush strip. You’ll spend the next two days exploring Samburu Game Reserve and the neighboring Shaba Reserve and Buffalo Springs Reserve – all offer incredible scenery, cultural immersion, and premier wildlife viewing opportunities.  The complex formed by Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba Reserves offers some of the most unique wildlife viewing available in Kenya.  They are the most accessible of the protected areas in the country’s north, right at the edge of the evocative NFD or Northern Frontier District.   

Samburu National Reserve offers shelter to 66 known elephant family matriarchal groups and approximately 100 bulls, numbering about 750 elephants.  Two thousand elephants undertake a seasonal migration from the Laikipia plains northward into the rangelands of Samburu, Buffalo Springs, and the Shaba reserves.  Seven hundred and fifty of those elephants consider Samburu their home range, with the remainder of the elephants spread out over the larger northern reserve lands.  Electronically tagged elephants are monitored as they migrate across the Laikipia plains and throughout the reserves, research made famous by well known conservationist, Iain Douglas Hamilton.  Because of Dr. Douglas Hamilton’s research, elephant migration corridors in this area of Kenya are better mapped and the human to elephant conflicts are better understood.        

These three reserves stretch along the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River.  Even in times of drought the Ewaso Nyiro, 32 km or 20 miles, of permanent water provides water to the local game. When the water levels are very low the elephants dig into dry sand in order to create small water holes. When the river is higher they are a common sight bathing all along the river, their young playing and the squeals, rumbles, and trumpets thrilling their human observers. The Ewaso Nyiro waters countless humans and animals in the Samburu District before its sleepy brown waters head north-east, where several hundred kilometers later the life-giving river sinks into the Lorian Swamp. The river attracts plentiful wildlife due to its permanent water supply and forest shade. 

The juxtaposition of the wildlife inside the reserve and the Samburu herdsmen across the river is fascinating: you can sit on the river bank and watch the Samburu warriors and younger boys going about their daily routine of herding large flocks of goats and sheep accompanied by whistles and the soft tones of traditional wooden goat bells.

Dinner and overnight at Elephant Watch Camp

Day 4
Elephant Watch Camp
Samburu National Reserve   
Breakfast at Elephant Watch Camp. Full day of wildlife viewing in Samburu, Shaba, or Buffalo Springs, as you schedule with your guide.  Picnic lunch available.   

Buffalo Springs, in the Reserve of the same name bordering the eastern side of Samburu reserve, is formed by underground streams coming from Mount Kenya. These springs give rise to freshwater pools and streams – attracting thousands of sandgrouse and doves, as well as many other birds and animals. One of the springs has been walled in to keep out crocodiles. Braver visitors who want to cool down from the hot sun can swim here.

The dusty plains are broken by the Koitogorr (“uplift” in the language of the Samburu tribe) and, lying far beyond, the flat head of the reddish Ol Olokwe Mountain, as well as many other ranges of hills and mountains further north. Turning back you can also see the peaks of Mount Kenya to the south, dwarfed by distance. The dry, dusty heat, the extraordinary shapes of the pale blue, mauve and indigo hills, the local people and the life-giving river and springs, with their rich variety of animals and birds, all combine to make this area of Kenya a treasured experience.

Grevy’s zebra, Somali Ostrich, kudu, beisa oryx, reticulated giraffe, and gerenuk are among the northern species that can be seen in Samburu. Leopards, lion, cheetah, crocodiles, buffalo, tiny dik-dik, and spotted and striped hyena are frequently sighted. Immense flocks of helmeted and vulturine guinea-fowl drink at the river, while it is not uncommon to see over a hundred species of birds in a day, including the giant martial eagle and tiny pygmy falcon.

Dinner and overnight at Elephant Watch Camp. 

Day 5
Lewa Safari Camp
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy   
Breakfast at Elephant Watch Camp.  Depart early in the morning for the drive to the foothills of Mount Kenya and onto the Laikipia Plateau.  Sited to the northwest of Mount Kenya and east of the Great Rift Valley lakes of Baringo and Bogoria, Laikipia is formed from an ancient lava-plain. 
During the colonial era, the Laikipia Plateau was utilized as an extensive cattle ranching area. Lacking the rainfall required to successfully cultivate crops, cattle ranching was seen as the next best way to utilize the land.  In those days, wildlife was perceived as having little or no value to landowners. Over time, cattle ranching became less and less profitable.  Elephant populations that previously used the ranches as a transit area from the north to Mount Kenya and the Aberdares were forced to take up permanent residence on the property. As a result, the fences required to maximize cattle productivity were destroyed, becoming impossible to effectively maintain cost. Consequently, in the face of declining wildlife populations elsewhere and as a means to effectively utilize the land, the recent past has seen increasing emphasis placed upon wildlife conservation.

Enjoy “sundowners” (drinks at sundown), dinner and overnight at Lewa Safari Camp.

Day 6
Lewa Safari Camp
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy   
Breakfast at Lewa Safari Camp. Full day of wildlife viewing.

The Conservancy area includes 62,000 acres.  It supports over 20% of the world’s remaining Grevy’s Zebra population and 10% of Kenya’s black rhino population.   There are five extremely diverse ecosystems within the Conservancy District including:  one of the three remaining habitats for sitatunga antelope and ecosystems that support predator populations of lion, leopard, hyena, and wild dogs.  There are 70 mammal species residing in Lewa Downs, with over 350 species of birds. 

Dinner and overnight at Lewa Safari Camp. Night game drive, if you choose. 

Day 7
Lewa Safari Camp
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy   
Breakfast at Lewa Safari Camp. Full day of wildlife viewing.

Lewa contains the Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary.  It holds the largest breeding rhino population on the African continent.  The rhino sanctuary was originally stocked with animals from other reserves and with isolated rhinos from northern Kenya.  The breeding program has been one of the most successful programs in all of Africa and rhino from Lewa Downs are beginning to be relocated into other Kenyan reserves and parks. 

Lewa employs 330 full time Kenyan employees, many from the local tribal areas bordering the Conservancy District.  The Conservancy operates a health facility and mobile clinic that are open to local communities. It manages a micro-enterprise lending program for local women.  Likewise, it supports eight local primary schools with infrastructure support, educational materials, lunch programs, and scholarships.  All profits generated by your visit to Lewa are reinvested in the Conservancy’s environmental, social, educational, or health programs. 

Sundowners, dinner and overnight at Lewa Safari Camp.

Day 8
Little Governor’s Camp
Maasai Mara National Reserve   
Breakfast at Lewa Safari Camp. Bush flight to Maasai Mara and transfer to Little Governor’s Camp.

The Maasai Mara is probably the most famous reserve in Kenya.  Its breathtaking views became familiar worldwide when the film Out of Africa  was released, as much of it was filmed in the Mara.  It is perhaps the only region left in Africa where the super-abundance of animals that existed a century ago can be viewed.  

The Maasai Mara is the northern section of the Serengeti.  Serengeti means endless plain.  This vast savannah grass land extends southward into Tanzania for over 5,000 square miles of land, forming one of the world’s largest wildlife refuges.  This is land as it was in the beginning:  no fences, no settlements, just a perennial migration of wildlife.  In a journey that dates back through time, these herds of animals (currently estimated at 1.25 million) follow the seasonal rains, traveling north into the Mara from Tanzania and instinctually moving with the seasonal rainfalls.  They sometimes migrate as much as 300 miles a year.  Wildlife is allowed to roam freely across the Kenyan and Tanzanian borders, uniting the two parks into a single ecological unit which supports the largest concentration of large mammals on the planet.    

Wide arrays of habitats are represented in the Mara - each with a unique complement of flora and fauna.  Acacia woodlands attract giraffes, while hippos occupy the deeper river pools.  But it is the East Africa savannah grasslands and the herds and predators of the savannah that make the Mara famous.  Wildebeest are well suited to harvest the short grasses that cover the semiarid plains of the Serengeti.  The soils of this region have an underlying hardpan covered by a fertile layer of volcanic soil.  Grass growing in this soil is highly nutritious, taking up nutrients trapped by the hard pan.   The eastern and western Mara, as well as the Mara River areas, are all accessible to you by Land Cruiser.  The variety of ecosystems makes the Mara a superb place to hone your tracking and spotting skills allowing you continued opportunities to increase your wildlife knowledge.

Dinner and overnight at Little Governor’s Camp.

Day 9   
Little Governor’s Camp.
Maasai Mara National Reserve   
Breakfast at Little Governor’s Camp. Full day of wildlife viewing.

The annual migration is what makes the Mara famous.  The herds gather in the hundreds of thousands on the plains of the Mara during July, August, September, October, and into November.  The herds are drawn into the northern Serengeti region by areas of greater rainfall where the grasses grow taller and stay greener longer.  The migration includes vast herds of wildebeest, but also zebra and Thomson’s gazelle.  Those herds remain in the Mara for up to four months chomping, trampling the grass, grunting, and stampeding across the Mara River in search of fresh grass for grazing.  It is the superabundance of prey that accounts for the Mara’s big predator populations.  The onset of the “short rains” sometime in November or early December sends them south into the Serengeti for fresh grass.

The Mara savannahs with their open country and grasslands support a healthy cheetah population.  Cheetahs face increasing pressure from humans and land encroachment - with between 9,000 to 12,000 left in the world.  You’ll be scouting for cheetah in one of the two remaining cheetah strongholds in the world - the Mara/Serengeti ecosystem. (The other significant cheetah population is in Namibia and Botswana.) The Mara cheetah population is threatened by a lack of genetic variation, making them susceptible to disease and decreasing reproduction.  Still, there have been a number of cub births in the Mara cheetah population over the past five years.  Cheetahs live in small groups or singly, not in prides.  The famous BBC documentary Big Cat Diary has filmed quite a number of Mara cheetah mothers with their cubs in the past few seasons.       

Dinner and overnight at Little Governor’s Camp.

Day 10
Little Governor’s Camp.
Maasai Mara National Reserve   
Breakfast at Little Governor’s Camp. Full day of wildlife viewing.

While in the Serengeti, you can also study some of the great challenges facing the stability of the Serengeti migratory herds.  In most other areas of Africa, major wildebeest herds have died out because of ever-expanding human populations which demand land for agriculture, domestic livestock, and water resources.  Humans’ need for land and water resources at the edges of the Mara threaten to reduce the migration range and access to water resources.  It is land available for grazing and access to water that determine the size of the Serengeti wildebeest population.  The herd’s population varies yearly depending on rainfall and how much grassland is available.  When there is not enough food or water, the weakest members of the population starve.  In the absence of severe drought, most of the culling will occur late in the dry season, just before the “short rains” begin. 

It is the superabundance of prey that accounts for the Mara’s big predator populations.  At last count there were 22 lion prides in the Mara.  Females within a lion pride are related to each other.  Daughters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and nieces live together for up to 15 years - the typical lifespan of a lioness.   Males are forced to leave the pride at between two to three years of age.  When not attached to a pride, lions are nomadic, occasionally banding together with other male cousins or brothers.  The majority of prides in the Mara have two or three adult males, but the males-in-power can form larger alliances.   Nomadic males are a constant territorial threat to the pride males. 

Dinner and overnight at Little Governor’s Camp.

Day 11
Campi ya Kanzi
Chyulu Hills   
Breakfast at Little Governor’s Camp.

Bush plane to Campi ya Kanzi in the Chyulu Hills.
Enjoy the 1 hour bush flight from Nairobi to Campi ya Kanzi in the Chyulu Hills - Hemingway’s “Green Hills of Africa.”  Campi ya Kanzi staff will be waiting at the bush strip to pick you up and transfer you to the lodge.  Luca Belpietro and Antonella Bonomi, the Italian owners of Campi ya Kanzi, will meet up with you soon after you arrive.  We leave you for these three days in their capable hands.

Campi ya Kanzi has a wide range of daily activities, including:
Morning or afternoon wildlife viewing in Land Rovers;
Escorted walking safaris;
Forest walks;
Bird watching;
Chyulu National Park excursions;
Cultural visits to the local Maasai villages;
Bush breakfast and bush dinners.
Relaxation.

Enjoy the most wonderful “Italian cuisine in the bush” and the views of Kilimanjaro from the deck of your Campi ya Kanzi room.  

Dinner and overnight at Campi ya Kanzi.

Day 12
Campi ya Kanzi
Chyulu Hills   
Breakfast at Campi ya Kanzi. Plan your daily activities with Luca and Antonella. 

Campi ya Kanzi is part of a unique partnership with the Maasai tribal council of the Kuku Group Ranch - 280,000 acres of land in the Chyulu Hills.   The Maasai have participated in all stages of the development of Campi ya Kanzi including: building the lodge and guest houses, managing, and running the camp.  All of the buildings have been built with local materials.  The whole camp has been built with the lowest environmental impact.  Electricity is provided by solar panels and hot water through a solar boiler.  No firewood is used for cooking or heating water, and the kitchen stoves burn a special ecological charcoal, made from coffee husks.  Vegetables are grown organically, without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers.  All water is recycled through lava filters and used to feed a waterhole and wildlife.  Over 70 Maasai from the local community earn their livelihood through Campi ya Kanzi. 

Dinner and overnight at Campi ya Kanzi.

Day 13   
Campi ya Kanzi
Chyulu Hills   
Breakfast at Campi ya Kanzi.

There is incredible biodiversity in the Chyulu Hills.  You are able to experience most of the varied ecosystems of Kenya such as: mountain forest, grasslands, green river woodlands, bush, and savannah.  About 63 different mammals and 400 bird species are found on the ranch including:  elephant, rhino, leopard, lion, and buffalo. 

Campi ya Kanzi’s goal is to make wildlife profitable through tourism.  Campi ya Kanzi involves the local tribal population in ecotourism practices.  A daily conservation fee is paid by each guest to the local Maasai community.  Tourist dollars are used by the local community to support:

A primary school on the Group Ranch;
A dispensary for the local community; and
To compensate tribal people who have incurred losses through damage by wildlife through the Simba Project.    

The extraordinary efforts of Campi ya Kanzi have been recognized within the ecotourism community as the winner of the following ecotourism awards:

2008 Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Award
2006 Winner of Eco-Warrior Award
2006 Winner of Tourism for Tomorrow Award
2005 Winner of the Skal International Ecotourism Award
2004 World Legacy Award.  

Dinner and overnight at Campi ya Kanzi. 

Day 14   
House of Waine
(Day Room)   
Breakfast at Campi ya Kanzi. Morning game drive.

Afternoon bush flight to Nairobi. Pick up and transfer to House of Waine for day room and time for packing.

Dinner in Nairobi and transport to international airport for evening international flight.

Day 15   
Travel Day   
International flight


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