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Elephants You'll Never Forget

Gain intimate insight into elephants from Kenya's leading researchers & conservationists
If you’re passionate about elephants, you won’t find a more exciting safari than this in-depth immersion into their natural world. Meet and talk with leading conservationists at the world-famous Amboseli Elephant Research Project, where you’ll gain an understanding of elephant behavior and learn to identify them by age and sex, an important orientation for observing them in the wild. Then, travel to two more of Kenya’s renowned reserves for elephants, Samburu in the arid north, and the Tsavo parks, Kenya’s largest protected area that is home to 12,000 elephants. In Nairobi, visit the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and learn about how these youngsters are eventually transitioned back into elephant families in the wild. You’ll have memories for a lifetime!

Trip Highlights

  • Visit the Amboseli Elephant Research Project and learn about the world’s longest-running study of wild elephants
  • Observe elephants from your tent at famous Elephant Watch Camp, and enjoy cultural encounters with the local Samburu community
  • Spend time up close with orphaned elephants in Tsavo as they are gradually transitioned back into the wild

Full Sample Itinerary

Day 1: Nairobi, Kenya
Arrive in Kenya’s capital, where you are met on arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Your transfer to your accommodations will take approximately 45-60 minutes, depending on location and traffic. Enjoy a good night’s sleep before your safari departure tomorrow morning.

Day 2: Amboseli National Park
Depart after breakfast for Nairobi's Wilson Airport and your flight to Amboseli National Park. You are met on arrival and transferred to Tortilis Camp, named for Kenya's native umbrella thorn tree, the Acacia tortilis. The camp boasts unrivaled views of Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as frequent sightings of the region's thriving elephant population. Some 1,500 elephants, including numerous babies, live within the park ecosystem and are some of the largest in Africa. While they roam in family groups of 8 to 16 individuals, they often join together in groups of 50 to 100 to amble across the dry lake bed, headed for the main swamp where they drink daily. Here, it is not uncommon to see several hundred elephants at one time against the photogenic backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Our focal point is the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, the world's longest-running study of wild elephants. The project works to ensure the future of the elephants in the Amboseli ecosystem, an dusty realm of dessicated mud and scrub grass fed by the waters of Kilimanjaro. The research project was founded by an American conservationist, Cynthia Moss, 40 years ago, who became a research assistant for famed elephant zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton in 1968 before founding the AERP on her own in 1972. Since then she and her research associates have identified and recorded more than 1,400 elephants. During your visit you will have a chance to hear from some of those researchers about their long-term studies of African elephant family structure, life cycle and behavior, which have contributed to the conservation of the dwindling population. You'll learn how to identify individuals and family groups, and determine age and sex—an important starting point for your elephant safari. In the evenings, retreat to the comforts of Tortilis Camp, where your private veranda enjoys a broad panorama of Kilimanjaro's snowy summit.

Days 5-6: Samburu National Reserve
Fly northward today to Samburu in Kenya's remote Northern Frontier District. The vast Samburu landscape is home to one of Kenya's largest concentrations of elephants, with some of the biggest bulls in Africa. Researchers in Samburu monitor elephant movements over a massive area, learning about their seasonal patterns and using this information to minimize human-wildlife conflict.

Our base, appropriately, is Elephant Watch Camp, perched on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, a ribbon of life in this arid region which draws a plethora of wildlife daily, especially during the dry season. Elephants are often spotted mudding in the river, resting in the shade or picking pods from the acacia trees beside the tents. The camp is run by the daughter of the world's foremost elephant researcher, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, who has conducted most of his elephant studies in this region. The family's passion for pachyderms is evident in every aspect of the camp, even down to the furniture built of twisted acacia branches from trees felled by elephants. Because elephants are never far away, Samburu warriors escort guests after dark and keep watch throughout the night.

The Samburu region is home to lots of other wildlife, including endangered Grevy's zebra, one of the Samburu "Special Five" that also includes reticulated giraffe, Beisa oryx, gerenuk and Somali ostrich. Plenty of lion and leopard thrive here, too, pursuing abundant hoofed game. The rich Samburu culture is also a highlight, with vivid artistic traditions evidenced in the local people's elaborate jewelry and attire. 

Day 7: Nairobi – David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Elephant Orphanage
Return by air to Nairobi this morning and transfer to your hotel in the peaceful suburb of Karen, in the Ngong Hills. A delightful event is in store today as you visit the elephant orphanage founded by Dame Daphne Sheldrick at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. David, her second husband, was the legendary head warden of Tsavo, Kenya’s biggest national park, from 1948 to 1976 and an ardent crusader against the poaching that decimated many of the park's elephants and rhinos. Still today, numerous elephant babies are orphaned by poaching; those that are rescued come to the Trust until they are old enough to be rehabituated into the wild. 

Day 8-10: Tsavo East National Park
Your elephant adventures continue today with a flight to Tsavo East National Park and Ithumba Camp, which is owned by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Tucked among rocky hills and acacia trees, the exceptionally secluded camp has just four large safari tents shaded by thatched makuti roofs. Though simple in appointments, the camp is rich in its proximity to wildlife. From your tent you will spy the diminutive dik dik (a tiny deer), lesser kudu and other small game and birds that gather at the small waterhole. The camp is completely fenced because of its biggest wildlife draw— the many wild elephants that congregate in the area. 

The two Tsavo parks together comprise Kenya's largest wildlife reserve, home to 12,000 elephants. Ithumba Camp lies in the northern part of Tsavo East, a remote and relatively safe location to reintroduce the 3-year-old orphaned elephants into their wild family habitat. Over a period of more than a decade they are taught to forage for food, learn seasonal water availability, and most importantly, to begin to encounter and interact with the wild elephants that they will eventually live among. Guests at Ithumba Camp get to spend time with different orphans at various stages of this process, and get close to the wild elephants with which they are interacting. It's hard to imagine a more exciting finale to a matchless African elephant adventure! You'll definitely go home concurring with Bill Murray's observation in his film "Larger Than Life":  "You know ... they say an elephant never forgets. What they don't tell you is, you never forget an elephant."

Day 11: Nairobi / Home
Your immersion with Kenya's elephants winds to a close today as you fly back to Nairobi's Wilson Airport, where a day room awaits at a nearby hotel. Here you may relax as you await your evening flight departure, or, for those who wish to do some sightseeing at the Karen Blixen Museum or Giraffe Center, or fit in some last-minute shopping, we can arrange such activities plus a day room near these locations, at an extra cost. 

Contact Us To Enquire or Book >>

Sample Itinerary

  • Day 1: Nairobi, Kenya
  • Day 2: Amboseli National Park - Permanent Lodge
  • Days 5-6: Samburu National Reserve - Permanent Lodge
  • Day 7: Nairobi – David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Elephant Orphanage
  • Day 8-10: Tsavo East National Park – Ithumba Camp / Orphan Integration Centre
  • Day 11: Nairobi / Home

Cost: From $9,530 per adult sharing

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