Highlights of Kenya Safari: Samburu, Laikipia, Masai Mara

A 11 day trip to Kenya 
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Lions watch wildebeest cross the Mara plains as elephants follow ancient migratory paths to the Ewaso Ngiro River. Black and white rhinos come together beneath Mount Kenya, and the wilderness extends and the animals keep wandering past. Handcrafted to celebrate the variety of wildlife and safari experiences in Kenya, this 11-day adventure takes you to Samburu, the Laikipia Plateau, and Masai Mara. This is a luxury safari, in the places where luxury safari began.

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General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Nairobi, Samburu National Reserve, Ewaso Ngiro River, Laikipia Plateau, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Sweetwaters Game Reserve, Masa North Conservancy, Masai Mara National Reserve, Mara River

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Nairobi – Giraffe and Elephants in the City

Nairobi is often misunderstood, and many people are put off by the idea of a layover in a bustling East African capital. Yet Nairobi is not what you may expect, as the city epitomizes Kenya’s approach to wildlife. The city has expanded around a national park, so elephants and giraffe are backdropped by city towers. Wildlife coexists with highways, and it is a remarkable congruence that really sets you up for the safari to come. Your layover is an essential stop thanks to flights times, so you will touch down and transfer to your lodge overlooking Nairobi National Park to get a glimpse of the wildlife before your safari has even started. So rest, relax and wonder as to how wild it will get once you leave the city.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation

Day 2: Samburu – The Wilderness Extends

Arid plains extend beneath the wingtips as the wilderness extends beyond what you can see. At first glance, it might appear that there is nothing here, so as you touch down on a dusty airstrip, you might wonder what this place is. Where are the animals? Silence and solitude are your first main impressions. Gazing to the horizon, you will see nothing artificial, just a dry and seemingly endless land. Look closer, and you will see more as a Samburu warrior guide shows you how. In the distance an elephant walks, a giraffe likely roams, and around the lodge, there are prints for evidence that a buffalo passed through recently. Head out on a game drive, and you will see more and more clues as your senses grow accustomed to the environment.

Follow these clues, and most of them will lead you to the Ewaso Ngiro River. Water is everything on such an arid land, and big mammals journey for days to reach the river, including elephant herds coated in dust. Witness the elation of their arrival, trunks splashing onto the water as the herd plays and frolics. Grevy’s zebra are also taking a drink as they must graze within a day’s walk of the river, as must many other ungulates. And as you admire their stripes, you might almost miss the four lionesses. Blending into the dusty landscape, the predators plot their hunt, and it is amazing how quickly your initial impression of nothingness gives way.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 3 – 4: Samburu – Rare Wildlife and Wild Safari Encounters

The Samburu people preserve this land, and a safari with them is rich in cultural history. It will also be an eye-opening amount of insight into how to track wildlife. You may see find yourself examing feces, and with one glance, your Samburu guide will know the approximate age and sex of the animal, and how recently it passed through. Game drives are one way you can explore, but the real highlight of Samburu is to explore in a more traditional way, on a walking or camel-back safari. With these activities, you can move quietly and can get even closer to species who might be scared off by a noisy safari vehicle.

You will cross arid pastures for wild encounters with four-legged mammals as Grevy’s zebra canter along. Gerenuk raise their elongated necks to feed from tree branches and incredible horns and painted faces distinguish the beisa oryx. Reticulated giraffe poke their heads above the trees, and in the distance there are elephants. It is quite safe to share the landscape with them as remember, the Samburu live alongside lions and elephants, so they know how to keep you safe. Taking a five-hour walk or ride along the Ewaso Nyiro River and track endangered animals, learning how to use smells and sounds to explore.

Many people land in Africa expecting to see the Big Five straight away, but the Samburu is not that kind of destination. You will need a little patience, and you must look beyond a tick list, as Samburu epitomizes why a safari is so different to visiting a zoo. Slowly you will tune into the wild as you track the clues and learn where wildlife is likely to reside. With every encounter, you will gain an understanding of animal behavior. Slowly you will escape the real world and enter this fantasy, where the Samburu place you in the heart of wildlife drama. In this arid land, there is fierce competition for resources, so you will likely not just see an elephant or lion, you may also watch the battle for survival as it unravels before your eyes.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Laikipia Plateau – Flying Past Mount Kenya to the Rhinos

On safari flights, you will hop between wildernesses. These flight transfers reduce travel time as well as offering a grand impression of how the landscapes change. While Samburu is the ultimate perspective on scale, the Laikipia Plateau is all about intimacies and details. Backdropped by Mount Kenya, the various conservancies offer a more traditional Big Five experience. Almost all of the animals you see here are native, although many have been reintroduced after poaching and habitat destruction had threatened to wipe them out entirely. Touch down and transfer across the hills to Ol Pejeta, a large conservancy with a very famous attraction: rhinos.

The world’s final two northern white rhinos live here. Both are females, and soon the species will be extinct. Over a hundred black and southern white rhinos live side by side as well, providing an opportunity to compare the species. Nowhere else in East Africa has as many rhinos, and this afternoon you will be surrounded by them on lush plains that are also home to the rest of the Big Five. So why did you not visit Laikipia first? Quite simply, first tuning your senses into the wilderness allows you to take more from the other destinations you visit. After Samburu, you will know how to appreciate both the big and the small of what the wilderness has to offer.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 6 – 7: Laikipia – The Classic Luxury Big-Game Safari

Set off on a game drive, and hopefully the lions are active, prowling in the swirling morning mist. A black rhino may walk past the vehicle, bashfully looking your way. Up ahead there may be an old elephant bull plodding melancholically. Buffalo meet your gaze as they huff and puff. They also stamp their feet, as it is a bachelor herd and your guide will retreat quickly. You should also glimpse leopards here, although the Masai Mara is better for this with spots moving through the grass at dawn. Down by the water, you can listen to hippos grunting while out in the trees, you can watch the vervet monkeys jump away from baboons. All these sights are yours to have, and your game drive has only lasted two hours.

Activities are usually shorter in Laikipia than in Samburu. The Conservancy is far smaller and wildlife clusters together. The region is a lush landscape with the food and water available to support great populations of different animals. Wildlife moves freely between the Conservancy and others nearby, though the rhinos are restricted by knee-high fences to prevent poaching, which preserves the authenticity of the safari experience. Here you can watch a cheetah run after an impala, serval tracking dik-dik, and hyenas howling as they hunt and scavenge. You will encounter wild dogs, hartebeest, eland, Grant’s gazelle, and jackal, and sometimes all of them on the same game drive.

As with Samburu, your safari usually continues when you are back at the lodge. Listen to the elephants calling out, and watch herds grazing on the plains nearby. When nighttime comes, the atmosphere changes, and you can try a game drive with your guide’s roving spotlight picking up on movements and sounds in the bush. When tucked up in bed, you can listen to nature’s lullaby from the distant lion grunts to nearby grazing and noisy baboons bashing on tree branches. The exact program of your activities is flexible, and you should include a trip to Sweetwaters Game Reserve, a facility that rehabilitates orphaned chimpanzees.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Mara North Conservancy – First Impressions of the Masai Mara

Now you will move into the famous grasslands with the iconic landscape that looks just like Disney’s The Lion King. Plains extend, interrupted by rocky outcrops called kopjes, the lookout points loved by lions. Wildebeest and zebra graze as they pass the camp, and with a single glance, there could be thousands of mammals. From July to October, there are more wild mammals here than anywhere in Africa, the number swelled by close to 2 million that take part in the great wildebeest migration. However, the Masai Mara is packed with life every month of the year. Only zebra, wildebeest and hyena actually migrate while the other predators stay behind to protect their territories, and no other mammals have the stamina to keep up.

You will be staying in Mara North, a private conservancy that shares unfenced borders with the main national reserve. Access is restricted to guests staying at a camp in the conservancy, so you will avoid the vehicle-clogged trails of the main reserve as the Masai Mara is famous and very popular. First impressions are usually of just a few species, typically the Burchell’s zebra, plenty of wildebeest and some lions. Samburu has the space, the Laikipia Plateau has the diversity, and now in the Mara, you are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of wild mammals. And in some moments, you really will not know which way to look.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9: Mara North Conservancy – Hot Air Balloon Above the Mara and a Day at the River

Rise very early in the morning as you must be at the launch site before sunrise. As dawn, the light will filter into the sky as you ascend, riding a hot air balloon above the famous grasslands. From up here, the Mara starts to make sense. You can spot vast swathes of lush green alongside areas where the grazers will visit next as arid brown indicates where they have been. Corridors between trees show elephant routes, and the Mara River twists through it all as you see how herds gather around the banks. After 90 minutes of cruising, you will touch down to a champagne brunch before continuing your safari in Masai Mara National Reserve.

With a three-day stay, it is recommended to have two days to explore the private conservancy, and one day to spend in the larger main reserve. Your game drive will twist along the river banks, tracking the drama of predators meeting prey. You will drive and drive, and it will seem that there is no end to the grass. Circling kopjes, you may encounter four or five lion prides in a single afternoon. This will be a full-day game drive, and you can take a picnic lunch, best enjoyed at a pool populated by hippos. After dinner at your camp, you can choose to keep exploring with a nighttime drive.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 10: Mara North Conservancy – Intimate Encounters with Spotted Cats

There are two key advantages of staying in a private conservancy or private reserve: exclusivity and intimacy. These, in turn, make the landscape a more desirable place for animals as there are less guests and fewer vehicles, so groups do not crowd around animals or put a predator off a kill. Fewer vehicles mean less of an impact on the natural landscape, making it possible for your guide to take you off the trail. Do this, and you will get closer to animals while in the national reserve, you must stick to the trails so a leopard may be sighted in a tree, but you might really need binoculars to see anything.

Rather than have less wildlife, as some may think, these quieter conservancies provide refuge. Leopards and cheetahs escape here to raise their young, ad these provide a focus to your final day on safari. Something will move in the trees, and you can look closely and not see anything. Once more something moves, and now you might see it as a leopard flicks its tail, staring at you with piercing blue eyes. And as you look even closer, there might be the cubs tucked away in the den. By traveling off the trail ins Mara North, your chances are maximized to see these spotted cats on a hunt. One common encounter is a lion pride tucking into a meal, something you can hardly imagine, but is what in front of your eyes.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 11: Mara North Conservancy to Nairobi – Departure

After nine full days on safari, you will enjoy a final game drive and a chance to wave farewell to some of the animals who have become so commonplace in your experience. Fly back to Nairobi, and you will be transferred to the international airport for your outbound flight.

What’s Included: airport transfer, tour, breakfast


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.