Enaja Safaris and Tours, Inc.
Big Cat Research Safari
This small-group trip promises adventure coupled with learning. We’ll be visiting Nairobi, the Mount Kenya area, and the Mara – including two weeks at the Big Cat Research Center to learn about and get up close to many of Kenya’s majestic animals. This trip is special!
Days 1-2: Departures and Ole Sereni
Aug 5: Depart the US
Aug 6: Ole Sereni
Upon arrival in Nairobi at 2055, Patrick will meet us with his daughters.
Located just minutes from the international airport and bordering the Nairobi National Game Park, Ole Sereni offers views of animals in their natural surroundings at the waterhole from the restaurants, bar, roof-top swimming pool, and other parts of the hotel. Once home of the American Embassy, Ole Sereni combines the best features of a modern hotel and a traditional wildlife lodge offering world-class facilities and personalized service. Each of the 134 rooms is exquisitely furnished and air-conditioned.
Days 3-5: Nairobi
Aug 7: Norfolk Hotel
Meet a traveler when she arrives from Australia at 8am and we’ll go to the Norfolk Hotel. Today we will shop for provisions, visit friends, and generally just be on the move. Patrick can take all our provisions in his car and we’ll get them when we get to the Mara the day before the volunteer stint.
Older than the London Ritz, no other hotel in Kenya has as rich a history as the Norfolk. Ever since it opened on Christmas Day 1904, it has spearheaded traditions of hospitality in East Africa that are still unmatched. The well-appointed, spacious rooms have been lovingly restored over the years to offer luxurious accommodations with modern facilities, while maintaining their historic charm and unique personality. All guest rooms are tastefully furnished with lavish beds, plush arm chair and coffee lounge table, as well as tea and coffee facilities, 32′ TV, hairdryer, digital & cordless phone, iron & ironing board, safe and reading desk. The marble bathrooms have a rain shower, flush toilet and wash basin, and amenities including: shampoo, body lotion, bath and shower gel, bathrobes and 2 bottles of 500ml complimentary water daily. There are several restaurants, a bar, and a heated outdoor swimming pool, and health club situated around the tropical landscaped grounds. The Norfolk is truly Nairobi’s gem.
Aug 8: Norfolk Hotel
Another traveler arrives from the States at 820 pm. A driver will meet her and do the transfer to the Norfolk hotel. We will have a private driver at our disposal during the day for the others to do shopping, visiting, etc. Patrick will be on safari with clients.
Aug 9: Norfolk Hotel
A totally free day to do whatever we want with our private driver. Depending on time, we could even go to the Nairobi National Park and/or the Refuge of the Wild Animal Orphanage to get a start on our game viewing and/or visit Daphne Sheldrick’s Elephant Orphanage. If there is no election violence,
we might consider a day trip to Nakuru.
Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
Wife of the late David Sheldrick (founder and warden of Tsavo National Park), Daphne Sheldrick has been working with wild animals for over 60 years. In 1977 she opened the Elephant Orphanage at her home in Nairobi, where today her eight trained staff members virtually replace the baby elephants’ families. From 11 am to noon each day you can watch and pet the baby elephants while learning about their lives. This is a bit further from the Manor than the other places. If you are interested, we could even go there on our last day. It’s only open from 11 to 12 daily.
Nairobi National Park
Set on the city’s outskirts, Nairobi National Park (at 117 sq km, it’s one of Africa’s smallest) has abundant wildlife which can, in places, be viewed against a backdrop of city skyscrapers and airliners coming in to land – it’s the only national park on earth that borders a capital city. Remarkably, the animals seem utterly unperturbed by it all. The Park is nicknamed Kifaru Ark due to its rhino sanctuary and being home to over 50 black rhinos. Lions and hyenas are also commonly sighted and with luck you will see the park’s resident cheetahs and leopards. Other regularly spotted species include gazelle, warthog, zebra, giraffe, ostrich and buffalo. The park’s wetland areas also sustain approximately 400 bird species, which is more than in the whole of the UK. You might want to walk one of the trails around the hippo pools or visit the Orphanage. The entrance fee of $43 pp can be paid direct at the Park.
“Refuge of the Wild” Orphanage
The Nairobi Animal Orphanage is located in the Nairobi National Park. It serves a treatments and rehabilitation center for wild animals hosting lions, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, serval cats, rare Sokoke cats, warthogs, leopards, various monkeys, baboons and buffalo. Various birds can also be viewed including parrots, guinea fowls, crowned cranes and ostriches. The $22 entrance can be paid direct. It is possible to visit the orphanage without visiting the entire park.
Day 6: Giraffe Manor and Surroundings
Aug 10: Giraffe Manor
After another scrumptious breakfast and leisurely morning, we transfer to Giraffe Manor. Currently Robin and Gail will be in a double room. I’ll be at Hemingway’s Lodge located very near Giraffe Manor. I will join Robin/Gail for, or shortly after, breakfast for some giraffe time. This afternoon we can visit some of the shops, sights in the area, giraffe center, etc. together or just enjoy relaxing and exploring our wonderful lodgings.
Built in 1932 by Sir David Duncan, Giraffe Manor is situated on 120 acres of land. In 1974 Jock Leslie-Melville (grandson of a Scottish earl) and his wife, Betty (who also founded the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife) bought the Manor. They then moved five babies of the highly endangered Rothschild giraffe to their property where they have been successfully reared and now have calves of their own. When Jock died, Betty decided to open her house to visitors. Exclusive, spacious, and elegant, it is the only place in the world where one can feed giraffes from the second floor bedroom window, over the lunch table, and at the front door. Guests can feed and photograph the giraffes and warthogs at the Manor, and also wander through the adjoining primeval forest to view the bushbuck, dikdik, and more than 180 bird species found there. One bedroom is furnished with Karen Blixen’s (Out of Africa) furniture that she gave to Jock and Betty when she left Kenya.
Giraffe Center at Giraffe Manor
The Center provides a taste of the Africa most tourists come to Kenya to see. In addition to the short nature walk, the Giraffe Center offers the rare opportunity to be (safely) close enough to the animals to feed and touch them. The entrance fee to the Center supports the re-establishment of the Rothschild giraffes in Kenya.
Kazuri Bead Shop
This workshop is located at the base of the Ngong Hills outside Nairobi, on a portion of the farm once owned by Karen Von Blixen of Out of Africa fame. Lady Susan Wood founded Kazuri (which means “small and beautiful in Swahili, the language of Kenya) in 1975, after observing that many women in the villages around Nairobi were nearly destitute. She and two Kikuyu women organized a ceramic workshop and taught jewelry making to the poor, and the instruction continues to this day. Each bead that makes up a necklace or bracelet is shaped by hand, without the aid of molds or forms, by one of the 90 local women employed by Kazuri. The beads are then polished and kiln-fired, painted, and fired again before being strung. You will see the ladies making the beads at the shop.
Karen Blixen Museum
This museum was originally the home of Karen Blixen, who came to Kenya from Denmark in the early part of the 20th century. The present museum sits at the heart of the larger coffee plantation run by Blixen between 1914 and 1931. Upon Kenya’s independence, the Danish government donated the house and surrounding land to Kenya. The house was restored by the Danish government and was used during the filming of Out of Africa. Much of the original furniture is on display in the house, and combined with the beautifully landscaped gardens and encompassing view of the Ngong Hills, the Museum has continued to be a very popular destination for international and local visitors.
This is a wonderful gallery with a large selection of hand-made bronzes. There are pieces of all sizes and prices – everything from tasteful animal footprint ashtrays to jewelry, picture frames, and life-size sculptures.
Days 7-8: Ol Pejeta Bush Camp
Aug 11-12 Ol Pejeta Bush Camp
• After breakfast with the giraffes, we leisurely depart for the Mt. Kenya area – about a 2-hour drive. We can stop along the way to visit the Nanyuki Weavers, or not. Once we’re at Ol Pejeta, we will have game drives and other camp activities using their guides and vehicles.
• Another full day of game activities at camp and drives in the Conservancy including the chimpanzee center, a visit to the resident rhino and a private “tour” of the Rhino Sanctuary
Ol Pejeta Conservancy
The 90,000 acres of open Savannah grassland that is Ol Pejeta Conservancy has some of the highest predator densities in Kenya, and still manages a very successful livestock program. It is also the largest black rhino sanctuary in east Africa, and the 700-acre Endangered Species Enclosure is home to the world’s three last remaining northern white rhino. This is the only place in Kenya to see chimpanzees. A 300- acre sanctuary was established to rehabilitate animals rescued from the black market. Ol Pejeta also seeks to support the people living around its borders, to ensure wildlife conservation translates to better education, healthcare and infrastructure for the next generation of wildlife guardians.
Ol Pejeta Bush Camp
Ol Pejeta Bush Camp, a traditional and very comfortable bush camp set on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, offers guests the opportunity for a unique kind of safari experience in Kenya. Spend just one or two nights or stay as long as you want – being as active or as relaxed as you like. The six traditional safari tents at Ol Pejeta are set along the river a reasonable distance from each other, but the thick vegetation makes each tent feel really private. Each tent comes with warm blankets for the winter mornings, rechargeable solar lights and en-suite bathrooms with hot-water safari bucket showers and flushing toilets. Each has a canvas floor with rugs, a large bed with bedside tables and a luggage rack. Solar power lights the rooms, but you cannot plug things in or charge batteries in your room; this has to be done in the main communal tents. Individual verandas provide the perfect spot to while away an afternoon in privacy, watching the animals come and go along the river bank. The tents suit people who are not after a room with lots of frills, but want it to be comfortable, spacious, clean and of good quality. The central area has two separate safari tents: the unfussy lounge tent decorated with small sofas, armchairs, director’s chairs; and the dining tent dominated by a central communal table. While in camp view game at the salt lick on the opposite bank of the river. It often brings in rhinos at night, which causes great excitement. Do remember that Ol Pejeta is at an altitude of 1 800 meters and so it gets extremely cold at night and in the early mornings, especially between June and September: wear plenty of warm layers that you can peel off as the day warms up.
Activities at Ol Pejeta Bush Camp
Activities focus on day and night game drives in 4WD vehicles and walks accompanied by an armed escort. Alex Hunter, the affable and very knowledgeable owner, enjoys taking guests out with a tracker for a few hours looking for birds and signs of wildlife in the bush.
Some of the other included activities are guided visits to Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Hippo Hide; radio collared lion tracking with the Ol Pejeta predator researchers (when available); day to day cattle ranch activities; visits to the local community projects; bush breakfast, picnics and dinners. Visits to the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee refuge and the Northern White Rhino Sanctuary are also possible. Visits to the latter are best booked in advance due to limited daily visitor numbers.
Ol Pejeta Bush Camp also has two permanent hides.
Hippo Hide is located discreetly on the banks of the mighty Ewaso Nyiro river and offers fantastic views of the water – where hippos often spend the day keeping cool in the shallow water. From here, visitors can walk along the Hippo Hide nature trail, which loops back through the bush. Ol Pejeta guides are stationed at the hide and are on standby to talk more about the river, the hippos, and introduce you to the indigenous plants and their values in local medicine. Entry is free, and the hide opens daily from 07:00am – 6:30pm. The best viewing times are between 4.30pm and 6.30pm – when the majority of animals come to drink.
Scott’s Hide is located in a wooded area of Scott’s Plain, overlooking a water hole favored by a diverse range of animals. The hide offers photographers, bird watchers and nature lovers a fantastic opportunity to experience wildlife differently. The best viewing times are between 4.30pm and 6.30pm when the majority of animals come to drink. Salt is also periodically laid to attract wildlife. Scott’s hide can comfortably fit six to eight people. Visitors are advised that there are no toilet facilities here, but conveniences can be found at the headquarters not far away. Pre booking is essential as the hide is locked, and the key will only be given to those with a confirmed booking reference number. Guests have the option to stay here overnight. A vehicle and guide stay with you for security. Dinner is taken along and you sleep on bedrolls on a tree platform. It is a simple and adventurous option that suits people who are keen to do something different.
The Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a project initiated in part by the Jane Goodall Institute, allows visitors to see chimps in their own environment. The aim of this project is to set up a colony where chimps can be rehabilitated and introduced to an area similar to their natural habitat.
Nanyuki Spinners and Weavers
Because the Kenyan highlands area around Nanyuki is a major center for sheep and wool production, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa conceived the idea of training women to become self-sufficient. Started in 1977, the women have been able to card, spin, dye, and weave sheep’s wool to make rugs and blankets to generate income for their families. Today over 100 women rely on their income from this project.
Day 9: Masai Mara at the Mara Ashnil
Aug 13: Mara Ashnil
• After breakfast we transfer to the Nanyuki Airstrip. Hopefully the gift shop there is still as good as it used to be. We fly by small aircraft to the Mara where Patrick meets us (with all our provisions). There is a one-hour flight at 10 am or at 1225 pm. The exact time is yet to be determined. This is actually going to be a surprise for my clients. They have been begging me to travel with them and have no idea that I/we are going to share a day’s game drives and night at the camp with them.
The Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara Game Reserve is widely considered to be Africa’s greatest wildlife reserve. The Mara comprises 200 square miles of open plains, woodlands, and riverine forest. Contiguous with the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania, the Mara is home to a breathtaking array of life. The vast grassland plains are scattered with herds of zebra, giraffe, gazelle, and topi, and the acacia forests abound with birdlife and monkeys. Elephants and buffalo wallow in the wide Musiara Swamp while the Mara and Talek Rivers brim with hippos and crocodiles. Each year the Mara plays host to the world’s greatest natural spectacle: the Great Wildebeest Migration from the Serengeti. From July to October, the promise of rain and fresh life-giving grass in the north brings more than 1.3 million wildebeests together into a single massive herd. They pour across the border into the Mara, making a spectacular entrance in a surging column of life that stretches from horizon to horizon. At the Mara River they mass together on the banks before finally plunging forward through the raging waters, creating a frenzy as they fight against swift currents and waiting crocodiles. The Mara has been called the Kingdom of the Lions, and these hunters dominate the grasslands. Cheetahs are also a common sight in the Mara, as are hyena and smaller predators such as jackals.
Ashnil Mara Camp
Ashnil Mara Camp is comprised of 30 luxury tents located within the Maasai Mara National Reserve adjacent to the Mara River famous for the wildebeest migration. Each of the luxury tents includes en-suite bathrooms, walk-in closets, and a sun deck for relaxation while watching game. Try surprising international cuisines from the restaurant’s set buffets and/or a sundowner cocktail in the open-air bar. If you want to contact the folks at home, Internet service is available at reception. Some of the optional activities available are guided nature walks, in-house cultural activities, sundowners, bush dinners, and you can even get a massage.
Days 10-25: Big Cat Research Center
Aug 14-27: Volunteering who knows!
At noon today we will meet with the Research transportation staff for the transfer to our home for the next two weeks. Hope they’ll let me take Gumby out on some of the adventures! Also, hope there will be some wonderful photo opportunities for us.
Days 26-28: Masai Mara at the Mara Entim
August 28-30: Masai Mara a the Mara Entim
• After breakfast and saying good-bye to our mates, Patrick will pick us up at the project and we’ll have a game drive on our way to Entim. I’m imagining that a shower may be first on our list – haha. The rest of the day is being pampered, watching game, game drives, etc.
• Another full day of game activities that we’ll plan with Patrick
• Another day of game and the migration, including hot-air balloon safari with champagne breakfast.
Entim, meaning “forest” in Maasai, was designed to be in the best possible location to view the wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara game reserve and for a few months of the year the migration is on its doorstep. Overlooking the Mara River only a short drive away from where the Talek and Mara rivers converge, the camp is positioned between major wildebeest crossings. At Entim you don’t have to drive for hours to get to the wildlife action because you are right there in the middle of it, nor do you have to leave the Park before gates close at 6.30 pm. You can continue to witness the wild’s most important and dramatic events, which often take place at dusk and dawn, from your tent or while sipping a cocktail. Each of the 10 guest tents overlooks the Mara River and is en-suite with flush-toilets and hot showers. There is a cozy lounge area with a small library and a separate bar and dining area that is open-fronted allowing guests the unmatched experience of eating meals while watching the animals move to and from the river to drink and forage for their food. Enjoy delicious home-cooked meals and a selection of house wines from the famous wineries of South Africa. Bread, cakes and pastries are all baked in camp, while fresh produce is flown in regularly. If you wish you can dine privately on your own verandah. Local Maasai driver-guides have an instinctive talent for spotting game and natural ability to read animal spoor, as well as signs of an impending natural event, be it a river crossing or a predator kill. The guides will be happy to share their cultural background with you and may even take you outside the reserve to visit their Maasai homesteads, depending on your day’s game viewing schedule.
Days 29-30: Nairobi, Shopping, and Farewell
Aug 31: Ole Sereni single rooms
We bid farewell to the Mara and drive back to Nairobi. There is no rush to get back so we can have more game drive time or stop along the way. If we decide to leave early, there may be time to stop in Naivasha to visit Crescent Island and have lunch. Tonight we have dinner at the hotel, the Carnivore, or another restaurant. A decision to be made later.
The Carnivore Restaurant
Considered “Africa’s Greatest Eating Experience,” this open-air meat specialty restaurant has strikingly different food and atmosphere. All types of meat imaginable, including four choices of wild game, are roasted on traditional Masai swords over a huge, visually spectacular charcoal pit that dominates the entrance of the restaurant. The waiters then carry these meat-laden swords around the restaurant, carving unlimited amounts of the prime cuts onto sizzling, cast iron plates in front of you. A wide selection of salads, vegetable side dishes, and a variety of exotic sauces accompanies the meat feast. Dessert and coffee follow the meal. The Carnivore is also the home of the Simba Saloon, Nairobi’s most popular nightclub and disco. The informal outdoor atmosphere, exceptional snacks, and outstanding entertainment ensure a vibrant and exciting night out.
Sept 1: Ole Sereni and home
On Fridays there is a huge Masai Market that is lots of fun with good prices after bargaining. It is located not too far from Lady Gemini who has an amazing shop with new and antique bead jewelry from all over the world. Just talking with her about the history of beads, especially the real trade beads, is worth the visit. We could also visit the sites around Giraffe Manor today instead of taking time earlier in the itinerary.
Because Lady Gemini educates visitors on the history of beads (a fascinating learning experience), this unique gallery is often compared to a museum. The specialty here is remarkable jewelry ranging from ancient trade beads to the dazzling new trends of the 21st century.