“An eight day safari holiday in Kenya, fully guided, and travelling in a small group. Staying in luxury camps in the Masai Mara, it is Out of Africa and out of this world. ”

Highlights

Lake Elementaita | Lake Nakuru National Park | Masai Mara | Luxury tented safari camps | Option for walking safari | Great wildebeest migration in season | Nairobi

Description of Kenya safari

This eight day Kenya safari takes us not only for a few days into the unforgettable Masai Mara, but also to lakelands where wildlife watching is equally spectacular. After landing in Nairobi we travel north, in our private minibus, to Lake Elementaita on the edge of the escarpment leading to the Rift Valley, where thousands of flamingos make a fine welcoming sight. There is also an optional safari game walk here to see the other wildlife of the region such as gazelle or impala.

Parallel to this lake is world renowned Lake Nakuru National Park, also famous for its flamingos and the fact that it was used for a spectacular overhead shot in the seminal film, Out of Africa. One of the Rift Valley’s eight lakes, it also entices giraffe, buffalo and both black and white rhino as well as hundreds of other bird species to its wetlands.

From one dramatic setting to another, we drive to the Masai Mara where we spend three days on game drives and an option for game walks too. Home to the world famous Maasai tribes, many of whom work as expert and excellent wildlife guides, this is the world stage for the Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra which takes place between June and October, as we witness them cross the Mara River trying to escape the hungry mouths of crocodiles en route. Outside this season, the Mara is still one of the most spectacular places to go on safari, with many of the planet’s big predators including lions, leopards and cheetahs roaming these vast plains. Staying in luxury tented camps, you will wake up to the sights and sounds of the Mara, making this holiday one of a lifetime.

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

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Holiday type

Small group holiday

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Simplicity
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
Mythbuster
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
No.
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Kenya safari

Environment

Activity:
The highlight of this trip is going on game drives in the Masai Mara Game Reserve and Lake Nakuru National Park, where we hope to spot some the ‘Big 5’ and countless other fascinating species. First of all, by visiting these protected areas, we must pay park fees which go towards community and environmental initiatives in this area. We are very mindful of the environment and local groups we encounter anyway and maintain a strict ‘leave no trace’ policy.

Conservation:
Our local operators are trustees of the Kicheche Community trust, which runs several programmes for the benefit of people and wildlife. For communities to prosper within and in the vicinity of wildlife conservancies it's important for these communities to be protected from the wildlife and vice versa. In 2012 Kicheche Trust donated half for the construction of 5 predator free bomas (small groups of housing). The trust also part sponsors the Naboisho Lion project in Naboisho Concervancy, Masai Mara, which helps to protect and monitor local wildlife. By travelling with us, you are not only raising awareness about animal welfare but contributing to these vital projects.

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.

Community

Accommodation and Meals:
We will be spending three nights in a luxury tented camp and 2 nights in a lodge. Both accommodations are locally run and locally staffed, so by choosing to stay here, we are supporting employment opportunities for communities in surrounding areas. Most meals are supplied and we are keen to source ingredients from as nearby as possible as a means of generating income for small businesses within the local community and producing fresh, authentic food for clients. Breakfasts and lunches often include freshly baked biscuits, fruit, cakes and hot drinks.

Community:
We usually use Ilkeliani Camp, which assists the surrounding Masai communities of the game reserve in conserving their wildlife and environment. By using this accommodation, we contribute to a number of initiatives they run. The camp provides for the Masai people whereby they receive a bed night fee for every guest night in the camp. Unlike most camps in the Mara who charge their clients an extra "hidden" conservation fee, Ilkeliani contributes to this cause directly from their profits. This enables the Masai to benefit from their natural resources in a sustainable and non-destructive way so to better able to care for their families and improve their standard of living.

Charity:
Through Ilkeliani, we support the ‘Pack for a Purpose’ initiative. We encourage guests to bring school supplies and equipment with them and then provide transport to the Molibanny Primary School which is located near the Mara Reserve. The school educates children between the ages of 6 and 13 in the surrounding villages on the edge of the Masai Mara. The school often has difficulty obtaining items like book bags, chalk, coloured pencils and notepads so our contributions- and those of our guests- are really greatly appreciated here. We have also raised considerable money for various projects in Kenya including the predator free bomas project and supporting S.A.F.E Kenya (http://safekenya.org/) which uses street theatre to educate about the harms of female genital mutilation.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

Reviews of Kenya safari

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 26 Feb 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The feeling of space and peace with only the sounds of birds and animals and wide open vistas

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be aware that if you are wedded to your hairdryer and are averse to having bushes replace flush toilets, this may not be the holiday for you! Having said that, I would have said both of those things applied to me, but I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. The benefits from stepping outside of the comfort zone - even marginally - are worth it.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


I'm sure there was a benefit to local people, how much that exceeded that of other companies, I couldn't say.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


The holiday was brilliant. The staff could not have been more helpful or knowledgeable; the locations and activities were clearly carefully selected so that the whole trip unfolded like a perfect rose.

Reviewed on 03 Nov 2008 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


This was my first time in Sub Saharan Africa so I was excited just touching down on Kenyan soil...The most memorable experiences were many. Driving towards Lake Elementaita and seeing the hazy pink fog on the horizon which as we drew closer realised that is was 1000's of pink flamingos! We knew we had a lucky group as at that point Ben our driver told us that 2 weeks previously there were no flamingos to be seen! It was a magical site. Another magical site would be on the first dawn game drive we did and managed to see a pride of lions basking in the morning light, a cheetah prowling the plains and then the elusive leopard lazing halfway up a tree! back at the camp we were then treated to a 5 star style camp breakfast out in the open guarded by expert Masai hunters, who - we were reminded were there for our safety -since they would inform us what animals were making the noises we would sporadically hear just outside the edges of the camp. To be honest, there were so many memorable moments. The wildlife, the guides' knowledge, the attention to detail and the attentiveness of the camp staff-all this rolled into one great trip.

The other highlight I have to mention would be the trip I made to the local school which the tour operator and travellers on trips to Kenya can also support. It’s only half an hour away and seeing the new school building that the 100 local children benefit from is eye opening. Not to mention the kindness and hospitality of the school staff and the gorgeous children-a humbling experience. Lastly, visiting a Masai village and taking some Polaroids of people to give back to them was great fun for me and them!



2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


A few tips spring to mind-at certain times of the year the evenings will be cold despite the days being very warm so take spare layers for the evening. We also experienced a cold monsoon style downpour near Lake Elementaita lodge when it had been very hot just minutes before. A good waterproof to keep in your bag just in case could therefore be useful. Do check with your tour opetator consultant to ask the local school what they could benefit from. I took exercise books and pens which were greatly received, as would be any items but worth checking if you do intend to visit the local school or you can just leave with the camp staff at Kicheche Camp and they will make sure the school receives your much needed gift.

A pair of binoculars are also a great idea. We shared the 4 pairs we had in our vehicle around the 6 of us which was fine but great to bring a pair if you can get your hands on a pair. Do also listen to your driver-guides! They are extremely knowledgeable and you will be amazed at how much you can learn from them, they have all studied for many years to be able to take groups out and tell you about a vast number of animals, birds and plants.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes I did. All the staff I came into contact with were local, from our driver-guide Ben to the Kichche Camp manager Williams. At Kicheche the staff run an amazingly tight operation where no water is wasted, lights are energy saving and only as much hot water (heated in the day by the sun) as is needed is used. The staff explain these simple 'rules' to their guests which also helps to educate travellers coming into bush camps expecting to have 5 star (unnecessary?) luxuries such as constant hot water on tap. Visits to a Masai village involved a 'fee' which might make you feel you are entering some sort of themed constructed village (where this is not the case). The fee exists so that local people benefit from your visit. They will also demonstrate traditional dancing (and jumping) and take you into a village house and explain more about Masai culture. Talk to the villagers and they will open up to you and be happy to share conversations. Our driver-guide explained that he visits different villages each time so as to even things out. You will also get the chance to buy locally made masks, jewellery etc and the money you spend is going directly back to the villagers there. As already mentioned travellers on this trip can also donate money/items to the trust which undertakes projects such as they school I visited.


4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


A 5 ***** holiday. So many fantastic memories. This safari is perfect as a first safari or if you don't have much time. We saw more wildlife than I could have hoped for. For me, interacting with the Kenyan people (tour operator and camp staff), was a wonderful experience too and was a perfect introduction to Africa. I will be back...

Reviewed on 01 Aug 2007 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Watching a cheetah and 2 cubs playing, chasing each other round and round a clump of trees. A classic safari sunset.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be aware that
a) the road between Nairobi-Nakuru-Masaai Mara is under construction and is like driving down a motorway building site. This journey to and from the Nara takes up 2 whole days of your holiday.
b) You don't actually go into the Maasai Mara National Park, only in the wider conservation area. You are supposed to see as many animals, but I doubt this, and I'm sure the National Park regulations make it more environmentally responsible.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Some benefits through employment, but the Lodge was part of a chain and am not sure how much if any of the money gets into the local community. The tented camp employed about 10 people but the atmosphere was rather colonial and interactions with staff were rather stilted. On game drives in the Mara conservation area, off-roading is allowed. This means a lot of churned up tracks and 'track-creep'. This and radio contact between vehicles in the area meant that as many as 20 vehicles could encircle an animal quite closely, influencing its behaviour and direction of travel, even following it further into the bush.. Surely this isn't very responsible tourism.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Not very good value for money. We saw the 'Big Five' which was what seemed to be the main aim, but the lack of big variety of species and lack of real engagement with the drivers was disappointing after our experience in the Serengeti the previous week. 3 short optional extra walks seemed excessively priced at $20 per head.

Read the operator's response here:

1. We acknowledge that the road conditions in Kenya are terrible and there are two long journeys which we specify in our trip notes.
2. The Conservation Area is as good as the Reserve, in June I know the Conservation Area was better. During the migration the river crossing points are only in the Reserve and during this time the trips do spend a day in the Reserve.
3. The Conservation Area AND the Reserve are unfortunately NOT well managed, overcrowding does sometimes happen and 20 vehicles around a sighting is indeed outrageous. I do agree with your sentiments but unfortunately it is no better in the Reserve. There is currently a movement underway to bring professional management to the Conservation Area, the Reserve is managed by the local County Council.
4. With regards to Kicheche being part of a 'chain', there are a couple of camps under the same management team, which I guess you could label as 'a chain'? The Camp being colonial and interactions with staff being stilted, this has never been mentioned before, in fact guests tend to be very enthusiastic about the staff friendliness, However, I apologise that you did not feel this way. The manager William is Masai, the staff are all Masai apart from 2 chefs. The staff are nearly all from the local community, the money from souvenirs sold at camp goes straight to staff, we run a community project that recently rebuilt the local nursery school, we lease 1,000 acres of land from local masai landowners. In addition 100% of her Park fee goes to the local Masai landowners in the Conservation Area to leave their land undeveloped (which is why the land is still there for the wildlife today).
5. The negative comment about the drivers is a concern for us to follow up on. After some research I believe that the cost of the walks at $20 pp is actually cheap compared with any other properties in the area.

Thank you for your comments.

Reviewed on 04 Nov 2005 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


It is hard to pick out one most memorable bit. Probably the staff at Kicheche camp. They made our stay so memorable. The sighting of our first cheetah on the way from the airstrip to Kicheche. Charles our guide, who became part of our family.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Don't become a game watcher, soak in the whole picture. Be aware that the 7 hour journey from Kicheche to Elementaita is on appalling roads, and is very tiring. That said, my three children, aged 8, 10 and 12 didn't complain once.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes. Following consultation, we took clothes for local people. We could also see that a good part of our money was finding its way to local people. And certainly Kicheche camp was set up in a way to minimise impact on the local environment.

4. Any other comments?


Got to be a 5 star experience. Best holiday ever, and I felt we were able to connect with the local people because of the way the holiday was set up.

Reviewed on 20 Aug 2005 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The whole trip was amazing. Everything from the Mara camp to the animals in the wild. The service at the camp is first rate, right down to the hot chocolate and wake up call in the mornings. I think seeing a herd of 19 elephants was one of the most memorable part of the trip, but it's hard to pick out just one.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


The trip notes are very clear on what to bring. If you can, I would get a Kenyan visa before you go, as it saves queuing for ages in Nairobi airport. The roads are very, very bumpy...if you can call them roads. But it adds to the experience...just don't sit in the back row of the van for the long journeys to and from the parks.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


I think so, as the lodge and camp staff are local people running it, so they would hopefully get a lot of the money spent there. The camp was very ecological right down to the water in the bucket shower...which was hot and a really good experience.

4. Any other comments?


Thanks Responsibletravel!!

Reviewed on 16 Jul 2005 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Watching those amazing animals doing what they do best in their natural environment was one of the best experiences of my life and a memory that will stay with me for a long time. The Cheetah was my favourite!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


The trip notes from the operator were 100% clear and accurate so follow their advice regarding money, visas, what to bring etc and you'll be fine! The roads in Kenya are total chaos & a bit worrying for the first time visitor but your driver knows what he's doing so sit back, make the most of the experience and enjoy the view!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


The staff at the camp were all locals and a lot of the money spent went straight to the local tribes people. The camp was, I thought, as ecological as it could be and at no compromise to comfort!

Reviewed on 25 Jun 2005 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


We took part in the Balloon Ride from the Governors Site, that was great. But is was spinetingling the first sight of Lion, Elephant, giraffe or what ever. It all takes some beating!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Relax and leave it to the very able guides, who were well versed in many ways. We felt very relaxed in their hands.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


In the main the visit to the Masai Village and talking to the guide there.

4. Any other comments?


Thank you for your care we came back refreshed and acknowledging that we had leant a lot.

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