Christmas holiday season is one of the best times to be in East Africa in terms of weather and game-viewing. In addition, Kenya's abundance quirky, independently owned properties that will make you feel that you have gone to visit close family friends to celebrate the holidays, with the Big Five thrown in of course!
Day 1-3: The Norfolk Hotel, Nairobi
Upon arrival in Nairobi today you will be met and transferred to Norfolk Hotel where you can enjoy a festive Christmas in Kenya! You will have a driver and a car to explore the city on one day.
In Nairobi, you will find a city that is lively, cosmopolitan and full of contrasts. It's a place of smart office workers, mansions and expensive suburban shopping centers as well as slums crowded with people struggling on as best they can. Displaying enormous vitality and buzz, Nairobi is one of Africa's major cities and is East Africa's hub for commerce, aid and increasingly, technology. It hard to imagine that this city of almost 5 million people celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1999 and that where it now stands, only Maasai manyattas stood barely a century ago!
Considered one of the leading hotels in East Africa, the legendary Norfolk (which was renovated in 2008) has welcomed such travelers as Teddy Roosevelt, the Baron and Baroness von Blixen and more recently James Earl Jones and Robert Redford. For them, The Norfolk is synonymous with glorious sophistication in the heart of Africa.
No other hotel in Kenya captures as much of Nairobi's splendid past and exciting present, and few hotels anywhere can claim a more romantic history. Electricity was installed in 1908. The first gourmet chef in Kenya was engaged here from the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. The Lord Delamere Terrace is a delightful place for tea and people watching, as London-style taxis deliver travelers to the lobby entrance nearby. Located near the center of Nairobi, the hotel has an inner courtyard, which serves as the nucleus for old and new wings.
On one day you will have a driver who will take you to Giraffe Center, Karen Blixen and Daphne Sheldrick.
AFEW Nature Center at Giraffe Manor where you can hand-feed the rare Rothschild giraffe that live on the grounds. The giraffe were brought here by Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville, who founded AFEW (African Fund for Endangered Wildlife) and built the Nature Center to help educate young African children about wildlife conservation. The Rothschild giraffe are the tallest giraffe species and may reach 18 feet in height, but you can see eye to eye with them on the elevated walkway at the center.
The Karen Blixen House is the former house of the Danish Baronness, Karen Blixen (1885-1962) author of the book Out of Africa. Karen lived in this green residential area from 1914 to 1931 when she left permanently for Denmark. The house was built in 1910 and when Ms. Blixen bought the property, it had 6,000 acres of land but only 600 acres were developed for growing coffee; the rest was retained under natural forest. The house was bought by the Danish Government which offered it back to Kenya in 1963. In 1986, the house, formerly used as a school, was transformed to a National Museum. Much of the original furniture is on display in the house and most objects were either used by Karen herself or for the shooting of the film Out of Africa and donated to the museum.
Drive to Daphne Sheldrick’s Elephant Orphanage at the edge of Nairobi National Park, which is a nursery and rehab center for infant elephants that have lost their families, as well as rhino and occasionally zebras and other wildlife. Daphne was the first person to successfully master the art and raise orphan infant elephants. The wife of the famous naturalist David Sheldrick, Daphne has dedicated her life to conservation. David was founder Warden of Kenya's giant Tsavo East National Park, in which he served from 1948 until his death in 1976. Daphne has continued her involvement and has had real impact on the lives of elephants and rhinos, which would have normally died due to human poaching and surrounding population conflict. You’ll enjoy a visit with the elephants as they’re brought by their keepers to the waterhole and salt lick to be fed and socialize – see how they roll in the mud and play fight, and their affectionate interaction with their keepers. Daphne, or a member of her staff, will be on hand to discuss their habits, as well as impart interesting facts about their upkeep. These infants are eventually released into the wild at Tsavo East National Park and end up in the care of other orphans who have been successfully reintroduced to the wild
You can find other ideas of things to do in Nairobi here.
Overnight at the Norfolk Hotel. Interconnecting Deluxe Rooms Includes: Breakfast.
Day 3-5: Lewa House, Laikipia
The Laikipia Plateau is a vast expanse of wild country covering over 3000 square miles between Mt Kenya and the Rift Valley. The Laikipia Wildlife Forum has brought together privately owned ranches and communal grazing areas, creating an immense wildlife area. The ranches are actively involved in eco-tourism and conservation projects alongside local communities. Wildlife moves freely throughout the area and with few other tourists and the freedom to leave your vehicle, Laikipia offers a unique experience.
Lewa House is managed by Sophia (Craig) Macfarlane and her husband Callum. They live there year round with their two children and as soon as you arrive will feel you are a part of the multi-generational Craig family that founded the Lewa Conservancy.
Lewa House itself is set on top of a hill with an engaging panoramic view of the rolling landscape of the Conservancy, and overlooks the luggas (valleys) and hills, with the horizon rising to the eye-catching views of the Mathews range and the sacred mountain of the Samburu, Ol Lolokwe. The property has a main building with a lounge and dining area, opening up to the charmingly furnished stretch veranda with its own special vista across the plains of Northern Kenya. A short walk away there are three large cottages each with a double and a twin room, making the property suitable for up to twelve people. All the cottages have ensuite bathrooms, apart from the family cottage, which has a shared bathroom. Each of the cottages has a private veranda where guests can sit in the cool of the evening to enjoy the starlit African skies. A large swimming pool overlooking the waterhole is also yours to enjoy at Lewa House.
There is so much to do here! In addition to game drives, you can go horseback riding or take advantage of opportunities to view wildlife on bush walks with Maasai guides. For clients who are interested you can visit the cultural Boma, the furniture workshop or one of several community projects put in place by the conservancy.
Overnights at LEWA HOUSE. Family Room. Includes: All meals, house beverages with meals, game viewing activities, laundry. Guided Walks and pre historic visits
Day 5-8: Kicheche Laikipia Camp, Kenya
Today you will drive from the Lewa to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy where you will stay at Kicheche Laikipia.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a mosaic of grass plains, wooded grassland, Acacia woodland and evergreen thicket extending for over 135 square miles (40,000 hectares) adjacent to Nanyuki town and with magnificent views of Mt. Kenya. Formerly functioning ranchland, Ol Pejeta is a leader in conservation. It is East Africa’s Largest Black Rhino Sanctuary and is home to a chimpanzee sanctuary, established by Kenya Wildlife Service and the Jane Goodall Institute to house injured and rescued chimps from throughout East Africa. The reserve recently introduced Kenya's first unmanned drone to assist rangers with their anti-poaching and animal tracking efforts. Ol Pejeta also holds some of the highest predator densities in Kenya and almost 400 bird species lurk in the savannah grasslands and riverine forests, including Augur Buzzard, Black Kite and African Harrier Hawk. There are also a number of rarer Northern species such as Grevys Zebra, Jacksons Hartebeest and Beisa Oryx.
Kicheche Laikipia sits in an isolated area of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Vehicle access to this area is limited to Kicheche and only two other camps ensuring that you will see few other vehicles during your stay. The camp itself has six luxurious tents. These large tents have en-suite bathrooms equipped with a flush toilet, shower and hot and cold running water. Game viewing is possible from the comfort of your verandah, overlooking the water, with wildlife activity throughout the day Kicheche Laikipia offers a wide range of activities including walking safaris, game viewing (day & night), lion tracking, canoeing, and visits to the Wildlife Educational center, Chimpanzee sanctuary and Northern White rhino enclosure.
Overnights at KICHECHE LAIKIPIA CAMP. Includes: All meals, house wines, soft drinks and beer, laundry, and game drives in open 4X4 vehicles
Day 8-11: Mara House, Masai Mara
This morning you will be brought to the airstrip where you will fly to the Mara. From here you will be taken to Mara Bush house where you will stay for four nights.
The Maasai Mara is Kenya’s most famous nature reserve, and one of the settings for the film Out of Africa. It is classic savannah – grasslands, where animals are plentiful and the vistas spectacular. In this dreamlike land, animals live in freedom, and the Maasai tend their cattle. The area, also known as the “Jewel of Africa,” has one of the largest and the most spectacular animal migrations in the world. The reserve is known for its large wildlife, including lion, cheetah, elephant, leopard, black rhino and hippo.
There are also over 500 resident species of birds in the park including ostrich, lark and sunbird. The reserve which covers an area of 700 square miles forms part of the Serengeti ecosystem and hosts the world famous spectacle of the annual migration of up to two million wildebeest, thousands of zebra and an escort of carnivores from the Serengeti plains, following the rains and succulent new grass. A costly trek as many of the lame, laggard and sick will fall prey to predators and many more will die in the swirling flood waters of the Mara River as they try to cross it. Whether you’re in the Maasai Mara during migration time, your wildlife viewing will be spectacular, as the resident population of zebra and wildebeest will be there, along with the predators.
Located in the same valley as Acacia House, Mara House is a three bedroom private bush home designed to suit a couple, small group or family on safari.
All the main living areas are at the front of the house and lead onto the verandah so all can enjoy the wonderful views down to the game rich waterhole. It is here and at the nearby pool (shared with Acacia House) that much of the day is passed when not out and exploring. The three double rooms are all ensuite and spacious living areas mean the group staying here have plenty of indoor as well as outdoor space. Your private team will prepare all meals to the usual high standard and will cater for bush picnics or lunches out on the lawn under the shade of the acacia trees.
Mara House comes with a full complement of well-trained and experienced staff at guests disposal including a chef, wildlife guide and house manager to ensure a seamlessly-run safari experience which delivers the very best the Mara has to offer. It is an opportunity to explore this wilderness from a private bush home in the company of your personal Masai guide on your own terms.
A fully qualified guide and vehicle will be on hand to assist with a wide range of safari activities which include walking, day or night game drives and visits to local villages and trading centers. Game viewing is done both in the game reserve and in the conservancy and so offering a wide range of experiences.
Overnights at Mara House. Includes: All meals, house wines, soft drinks and beer, laundry, game drives in open 4X4 vehicles and Laundry.
Day 11: Departure
This morning you will be taken to the Mara airstrip where you will fly to Nairobi in time for your international flight home.
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