Kenya Rhino Conservation Safari

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Itinerary

Itinerary Map
Day 1: Nairobi, Kenya
Our Kenya safari begins in Nairobi, with a transfer from the airport to our boutique hotel in the quiet residential suburb of Karen on the outskirts of the city. This area at the foot of the Ngong Hills is named for Danish author Karen Blixen, also known by her pen name Isak Dinesen, who wrote the famous memoir Out of Africa chronicling her life on a Kenyan coffee plantation in the early 20th century. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner with our Expedition Leader and a preview of our safari adventures ahead.

Day 2: Nairobi National Park / Sheldrick Elephant & Rhino Orphanage / Giraffe Center
After breakfast, meet your guide and head out for your first wildlife experience, a morning game drive in nearby Nairobi National Park. Designated as a protected reserve by the British colonial government in 1946, this 45-square-mile park on the outskirts of the city is home to black rhino, lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, buffalo, giraffe and diverse birdlife, with more than 400 species recorded. Here, we'll have our first rhino encounter and introduction to this very special endangered species.

After our safari and a picnic lunch in the park, continue to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which operates the most successful elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. The trust's pioneering programs for orphaned elephants—rhinos, too—are a leading inspiration for conservation work in East Africa, with numerous wildlife and habitat protection successes to tout. On a private visit to the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, learn about its history and mission, how the baby elephants here were rescued, and what their care involves until they can be released back into the wild. We'll meet their keepers, watch a feeding, and likely observe some mud bath play as well.

Then it's on to Nairobi's famous Giraffe Center, established in 1983 to protect the endangered Rothschild's giraffe found only on the grasslands of East Africa. The Giraffe Center is the creation of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, a Kenyan non-profit whose main purpose is to provide educational programs for Kenyan youth about the country's wildlife and environment, and to offer visitors a chance to come into contact with the world's tallest species, the giraffe. The center has introduced several breeding pairs of Rothschild's giraffe into Kenyan national parks. You’ll stand up high on platforms to engage eye-to-eye with these gentle giants, and a chance to feed them by hand is lots of fun.

Days 3–5: Ol Pejeta Conservancy—Nat Hab's Rhino Camp
Fly north to the renowned Ol Pejeta Conservancy, located on the Laikipia Plateau. A working cattle ranch established in the 1940s during Kenya's colonial days, Ol Pejeta set aside land for rhino conservation in 1988 and has become a highly regarded trailblazer for conservation innovation. Today it is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa and home to the world’s last two remaining northern white rhinos, a staunchly guarded pair of females that we visit in person, learning about their fate and future with a local conservation expert. The conservancy is also home to the endangered Grevy's zebra and has some of Kenya's highest predator densities, yet it still manages a very successful livestock program. Ol Pejeta seeks to preserve the exceptional biodiversity within its 90,000 acres while supporting the people living on its borders, to ensure that wildlife conservation translates to better education, healthcare and infrastructure for the next generation of wildlife guardians. In 2014, Ol Pejeta achieved IUCN Green List status, one of only two conservancies in Africa to be so recognized. The Green List aims to define excellence in managing valuable natural areas.

Nat Hab's Rhino Camp inside the conservancy is the ideal base from which to explore this diverse wildlife haven that contains many of Kenya's endemic northern species. We'll hope to see the legendary Big Five and much more on day and night wildlife drives and guided walks against the backdrop of snowcapped Mount Kenya. At the end of each exhilarating foray into the bush, return to the comforts of our tented camp, redolent with the ambience of East Africa's classic safari era.

Days 5–7: Lewa Wildlife Conservancy—Rhino Safaris & Game Viewing
A short chartered flight takes us to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, located in north-central Kenya in the shadow of snowcapped Mt. Kenya. Originally a cattle ranch known as Lewa Downs, today Lewa is arguably the most famous private wildlife reserve in Africa, gaining a worldwide reputation for its pioneering efforts in restoring endangered species. In the 1980s, the process began to transform the ranchland into a heavily guarded black rhinoceros sanctuary. In the 1960s, Kenya boasted an estimated population of 20,000 black rhinos, yet within a mere two decades, rampant poaching decimated their numbers to less than 300. Lewa has played an instrumental role in returning rhinos from the brink of extinction, and Kenya's rhino population today numbers over a thousand, though the species remains critically endangered. In 2014, Lewa and the neighboring Borana Conservancy made a bold move to remove the fence separating the two reserves to create one conservation landscape for the benefit of the rhino. With the fence now gone, this landscape now tops 93,000 acres and is one of the biggest private rhino reserves in Kenya. Today, 244 black and white rhinos roam the joint protected area. Lewa is also a leader in anti-poaching efforts on behalf of Kenya's imperiled elephants, participating in regional action to protect more than 6,500 migratory elephants as they move seasonally across the area.

On wildlife drives and guided walks, we explore the Lewa landscape, which spans more than 62,000 acres. Dominated by open grasslands and gentle hills, with stands of mature acacia forest and papyrus swamp, Lewa’s varied habitats provide sustenance for a wide range of wildlife, including the world's largest population of endangered Grevy's zebra and the rare sitatunga antelope. The Big Five—lion, leopard, elephant, Cape buffalo and rhino—thrive here, along with other common denizens such as wildebeest, giraffe, impala, waterbuck and nearly 350 bird species. Keep an eye out, too, for cheetah and packs of wild dog. Activities abound at Lewa, including day and night game drives, hikes with Maasai tribesmen, horseback and camel rides, wildlife viewing from a hide, visits to a nearby archaeological site, farm and craft tours, even fishing, tennis or a massage. Scenic flights in a classic yellow open-cockpit biplane, evocative of the famous scene in the film Out of Africa, are offered at an additional cost. After each exhilarating day, retire to the genteel comforts of Lewa Wilderness Lodge, the original Craig family homestead, which has been welcoming guests since 1972.

At Lewa, it's not only the abundant wildlife that is inspiring. The entire enterprise will ignite your own passion for conservation. For families living on its boundaries, Lewa improves livelihoods with its adult education and women’s micro-credit programs, community-managed water projects, and access to health care at its four health clinics. To children in local schools, Lewa opens doors to more future choices with its support for expanding educational opportunities. Lewa is also home to the Northern Rangelands Trust, an innovative partnership with several communities that have given land for the preservation of wildlife. You're sure to come away from a visit to Lewa feeling positive by what's been achieved so far, and what is yet possible.

Days 8–10: Maasai Mara—Ol Derekesi Conservancy, Nat Hab’s Mara East Camp
Transfer this morning to the Lewa Airstrip for our flight to Kenya’s famed Maasai Mara. Our first safari destination in the Mara is a vast private conservancy offering unparalleled access to wildlife viewing. Nat Hab's own mobile camp on the Ol Derekesi Conservancy features bush luxury in classic canvas tents, surrounded by all the natural wonders of the Maasai Mara ecosystem without the crowds. The conservancy model has been a boon to the region's legendary wildlife, creating buffer zones and protecting migration corridors while providing economic benefits to local landowners through responsible safari tourism.

On this private reserve, learn about conservation successes as we experience the Mara’s spectacular wildlife in peaceful solitude—with strict limits on guest numbers, our camp is one of just a handful located within its bounds, allowing for unprecedent wildlife viewing of the multitude of species that resides on the conservancy. Great herds of antelope dot the grassy, rolling plains while stands of acacia woodland shelter prolific birdlife. Rich volcanic soils nurture a verdant landscape where we find more lions per square mile than anywhere else in Kenya. Impressive herds of elephant, giraffe and zebra also roam the savanna. Our activities make the most of our unrivaled access to this vast, wild region. In addition to daily game drives, enjoy guided walks, bush picnics, off-road safaris and night drives in search of nocturnal wildlife—pursuits not permitted in the adjacent Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Day 11: Nairobi / Depart
After a rich range of safari experiences, and inspired by the conservation triumphs Kenya has achieved for endangered rhinos and other wildlife, it's time to fly back to Nairobi today. On arrival, day rooms await for refreshment and relaxation. Later, we'll share a farewell meal to close our Kenya conservation safari before meeting evening departures for international destinations.

Physical Rating: Easy to Moderate

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