Nairobi, Meru National Park, Samburu National Reserve, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Masai Mara National Reserve
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Cheetahs roam where ungulates graze across the Kenyan plains. They thrive in the Masai Mara, have returned to Meru, are holding on in Samburu, and are accompanied by critically endangered species in Ol Pejeta. This unforgettable, 11-day safari will showcase four exceptional Kenyan destinations while focusing on cheetah encounters in addition to the country’s rarer and more unusual wildlife. It will provide a diverse safari experience in the country where safaris began.
Nairobi – Overnight in a Gentle City
An overnight stay in Nairobi is typical of most Kenyan safaris. The city is modern and green, which is a place where elephants and skyscrapers are juxtaposed along the same horizon. It is a capital that confounds most visitors’ preconceptions. Yes, you can find the bustle and color to be synonymous with urban East Africa, but you can also discover a wonderful sense of space and wildlife conservation. After landing at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, you will be transferred to your upmarket lodge that overlooks Nairobi National Park. From your balcony, you can listen to the various animals, most notably giraffes and elephants. The famous Carnivore restaurant is nearby your accommodation, and you can also order food to your room.
Meru National Park – A Park Returning to its Former Splendor
From Nairobi, you will drive through the Great Rift Valley this morning, which is a breathtaking journey of viewpoints and endless escarpments. After two hours on the road, volcanos will begin to take over, and their iconic shapes will guide you into Meru National Park for a full afternoon on safari. First impressions are likely to be of how quiet it is here. Meru was one of Africa’s pioneering safari destinations, but it lapsed into disregard during the 1980s and 1990s. The last 20 years have witnessed a strong recovery, especially in terms of cheetah numbers.
On your first Kenyan game drive, you can encounter a wide variety of large mammals that patrol their natural habitat. Elephants and buffalos will be very common and are typically spotted in large herds. Wildebeests and zebras may graze the open plains, and these will most likely be your first of many sightings. Down by a river, you can spot hippos as they wade and wallow in the water before encountering lions and hyenas on the woodland fringes. Hopefully, this first game drive will bring some cheetah experiences or sightings of Meru’s leopards. Afterward, you will return to your accommodation and spend the night at a small camp inside the national park, where you will be surrounded by the sights and sounds of a revitalized wilderness.
Meru National Park – Intimate Encounters With Kenyan Cheetahs
Few places in Africa can compare with Meru. Scarcely visited but thriving with life, this national park will immerse you in the true African wilderness. You can travel slowly through thick jungle in search of strange antelope. Reedbuck and hartebeest will be featured as you cross khaki-toned grasslands, and luscious swamps are a haven for birdlife. It is on the grasslands where you will find cheetahs. The spotted hunter tends to camouflage themselves in the grass before accelerating across open space.
Cheetahs have lost over 90% of their range. Meru is one of those special places where their range is expanding because wildlife corridors are reopened and an ancient wilderness is returning to its former brilliance. Today’s game drives should provide you with some personal moments along with an appreciation of how and where the species can thrive. You should note that your game drives in Meru will be private, and this provides you with the flexibility that is necessary when searching for a specific animal. Game drives in shared vehicles tend to be more generic because they must satisfy the curiosity of everyone on the drive, but throughout your Kenyan cheetah safari, you will have private guides and a private vehicle.
Samburu National Reserve – An Afternoon and Evening with the Samburu
You will continue by road this morning and admire how the ecosystems transform across Kenya. Luxuriant jungles and green mountain slopes will soon give way to arid tones and a flatter landscape. Samburu is the beginning of a wilderness that extends all the way to Southern Sudan and Ethiopia, which are landscapes that connect Saharan nature with the dense foliage of the East African plains. You will arrive in time for lunch before spending the rest of your day on a game drive with Samburu guides, who are people that have grown up alongside wildlife.
Even more so than Meru, Samburu is a haven for some of Africa’s rarest species. Reticulated giraffes will be memorable for their incredibly bright markings, and Grevy’s zebras can be seen as they graze alongside Burchell’s zebra, which is one of the only places in Africa where the two zebra species overlap. The spectacular new antelope that you will encounter is probably a Beisa oryx with spiraled horns that point skyward and a beautiful face. You should also spot gerenuk, which is a bizarre antelope with a neck like a giraffe and a body like a gazelle. You will continue your drive into the evening in search of some nocturnal behavior before indulging in dinner and downtime at the lodge.
Samburu National Reserve – The Cheetahs and Rare Wildlife of an Arid Plain
It is difficult for wildlife to thrive in an environment as arid as Samburu, but it covers a vast area and creates a home for adapted animals that are able to move. Elephants march large distances in search of water and ungulates move with the rains and are always in search of fresh pastures. Cheetahs hideout along wildlife corridors, hunting the animals that pass. These corridors are currently being threatened by habitat degradation. Habitat fragmentation would be devastating for Samburu’s cheetahs because their prey would no longer move freely through the hunting grounds.
You will spend today with wildlife conservationists to gain an excellent understanding of the challenges and opportunities that face cheetahs in Samburu and elsewhere in Africa. By game driving along important wildlife corridors, you will search for cheetahs and witness how the habitat is being preserved. Cheetahs will not be the only highlight as you can go off the trails because you will also witness the tail of lions, hyenas, and leopards. After a long day yesterday, you will probably be back at the lodge around mid-afternoon, so you can have time for the superb views over Samburu plains in addition to stealing some of that time to rest and relax.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy – Up Close With Chimpanzee and Rhino Conservation
You will fly from Samburu to Ol Pejeta today, which is a very short flight that offers an aerial impression of the changing landscape that you earlier explored by road. Three remarkable species will provide highlights this afternoon. Chimpanzees are not native to Kenya, but a chimpanzee sanctuary has been offering refuge for orphaned chimps from areas of rampant poaching with the long-term aim of returning them to the wild. Peering into their enchanting faces, you will be able to witness how precious these mammals really are.
Rhinos are native to this area, and Ol Pejeta is one of the few places where black and white rhinos roam side by side. Black rhinos are browsers, so they mostly inhabit bushland and forest fringes; white rhinos are almost double the size and graze, so they are typically encountered on a more open savannah. Luckily for you, both species move in sight of each other here, and you will even be provided with the opportunity to walk in the rhino sanctuary. This is possible in the middle of the day when the rhinos are at their least active. By late afternoon, you can see more diverse rhino behavior, including mothers as they nurse their babies.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy – Classic Big Five Encounters
Ol Pejeta offers a classic Big Five safari experience. The conservancy is private, and visitor access is restricted, so despite being compact, it will not feel crowded. Rhinos are always a highlight here because they are so rare elsewhere. Elephants and buffalos are the norm throughout every Kenyan safari, and lions are usually the easiest of the big cats to spot because they bask and bathe out in the open. Cheetahs and leopards are solitary and spend most of their day hiding away, so they are always more difficult to find. Still, your expert guides have spent years studying these hiding places and can usually get you very close, especially because Ol Pejeta allows off-road driving.
Masai Mara National Reserve – The Best Place in Africa for a Cheetah Safari
While global cheetah numbers have dwindled to just 7000, the Masai Mara ecosystem remains a place where these spotted hunters can thrive. It is home to Africa’s densest cheetah population, and the entire Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem contains more cheetahs than anywhere else on the continent. Put simply: for the best cheetah safari, you need to visit the Mara. You will fly here from Ol Pejeta, passing a couple of volcanos before touching down on an iconic landscape. Grass will extend in every direction and will be punctuated by kopjes, which are clusters of rocks from which lions survey their realm.
You will be staying in the Mara Triangle, which is as immersive as it gets on this world-famous landscape. After lunch, you will spend the rest of your day on a private game drive, crossing large swathes of the Mara in search of cheetahs and other legendary animals. Often, you will spot a cheetah as it relaxes in the grass with its exceptional camouflage only being betrayed by the flick of its tail. You can also encounter them when they are perched on rocks or moving stealthily through the high grass. Hyenas and lions will be common throughout today’s game drive, and when in the Masai Mara, you can never go far without seeing zebra and wildebeest.
Masai Mara National Reserve – Hot Air Ballooning at Sunrise
The great wildebeest migration is a year-round phenomenon that is dictated by the rains. It is important to remember that the Masai Mara is a superb safari destination even outside of the migration months. In fact, the migration months of July to September see a huge surge in visitors and vehicles, so it can be more enjoyable to safari here in non-migration months. Not all zebra and wildebeest migrate, and these animals are always abundant in the Masai Mara. Hyenas and vultures can keep up with the herds, and the other predators do not have the stamina to migrate but gouge themselves on a seasonal bounty that passes through their range.
A hot air balloon ride is an excellent opportunity to witness how the migration works, even if the largest herds are hundreds of miles away. You will witness a patchwork of colors, indicating fresh, grazing pastures and areas that have been mowed by rampant ungulates. From the sky, you will be able to see how elephants and other giants move in addition to placing your guess to where the herds will move next. After your balloon flight, you will touch down to a champagne breakfast and spend a second day exploring the Masai Mara on the trail of cheetahs and so many other animals.
Masai Mara National Reserve – More Big Cat Experiences in the Mara
On your final safari day, you will have special permission to visit some of the private conservancies that are located to the north of the national reserve. These are places where you can really explore diverse cheetah behavior. Males are known to form coalitions in order to hunt bigger prey and ward off singleton rivals. Mothers nurse their cubs, and you can often see them teaching their offspring how to hunt. Fathers have also been observed getting involved with rearing cubs, which is an extremely rare behavior that you can look out for today. It will be another full day of exploring before another leisurely evening at your safari camp, listening to the wild sounds from around the reserve.
Nairobi – Departure
After many early starts during this adventure, you can sleep in this morning. Once you wake, you will delight in breakfast with a view across the Mara. Later this morning, you will fly from the Masai Mara to Nairobi, where you will be transferred to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for your international flight.
- Discover Africa’s densest cheetah population during a three-night safari in the Masai Mara
- Venture off the beaten track on a safari through the revitalized Meru National Park, where cheetah numbers are thriving once more
- Explore the Samburu’s endless space, where rare and endangered wildlife comes eye to eye with the Big Five
- Immerse yourself in the realm of wildlife conservation by visiting a chimpanzee sanctuary and walking with rhinos in Ol Pejeta
- Uncover Kenya’s exceptional variety of wildlife, including different giraffe species and endangered antelope with nine days on safari
- Hot air balloon above the Masai Mara for a brilliant impression of the moving herds
- Experience different cheetah behaviors as you search for male coalitions and mothers with cubs
$8,685 per person (excluding international flights)
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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