Northward Migration Safari
July 22 - August 5, 2018
Timed at the peak of the “Great Migration” into Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, this is the definitive East African safari for a wildlife enthusiast. Experience the incredible abundance of African mammals as herds of Wildebeests and Burchell’s Zebras enter the Mara by the thousands, followed by predatory lions and cheetah. Stay in top-quality lodging while game viewing in the best parks and reserves throughout Kenya, seeking out gazelles, hippos, elephants, and crocodiles in habitats varying from plains to forests to highland escarpments. The mammal and bird diversity of the region and the wonderful photographic opportunities are guaranteed to impress! Doug and Gail Cheeseman have been leading safaris to Kenya since 1978 and are happy to return year after year to share their love and knowledge of Kenya’s game parks with new and repeat participants.
• Witness the “Great Migration” of wildebeest and zebra through the Masai Mara National Reserve.
• If conditions are right, enjoy the heart-racing action of huge herds crossing the Mara River while crocodiles snap at their hooves.
• Descend into the Great Rift Valley and see flamingos wading in Lake Nakuru and rhinos feeding along the shoreline.
• At Samburu in the rain shadow of Mt. Kenya encounter species not found elsewhere, including endangered Grevy’s Zebras, Gerenuk, Beisa Oryx and beautiful birds specialized for arid lands.
Itinerary Updated: January 2017.
FAQ Print Trip Safari Options
|Jul 22||Travel day.|
|Jul 23||Arrive in Nairobi from home or from Tanzania Northward Migration Safari.||Ole-Sereni Hotel, Nairobi|
|Jul 24 - 25||Masai Mara National Reserve amid vast herds.||Sarova Mara Game Camp||B, L, D|
|Jul 26 - 28||Mara Triangle for maximum time on game drives in the heart of the wildlife action.||Mara Serena Safari Lodge||B, L, D|
|Jul 29||Nakuru National Park beside beautiful Lake Nakuru.||Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge||B, L, D|
|Jul 30 - 31||Laikipia Plateau in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.||Sweetwaters Serena Camp||B, L, D|
|Aug 1 - 2||Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves.||Larsens Camp||B, L, D|
|Aug 3||Kenya Highlands for nocturnal mammals, Black and White Colobus, and forest birds.||Serena Mountain Lodge||B, L, D|
|Aug 4||Forest walk in Mt. Kenya National Park then to Nairobi for departure home, or depart for the Botswana and Zambia safari or Rwanda extension (see separate itineraries).||Ole-Sereni Hotel, Nairobi (dayrooms)||B, L|
|Aug 5||Arrive home.|
Our Trip Leaders
Grephus Andalo Ingati
Grephus knows the birds and mammals of Kenya very well, and as a photographer understands how to position the vehicle for great photos. He grew up in the Kakamega Forest in western Kenya and was one of only nine students chosen to receive an in-depth course in forest ecology and is now is an excellent professional naturalist. He has worked with Cheesemans’ since the early 1990’s with rave reviews.
Gail is a naturalist of the best kind–self-taught through a lifetime in the field fueled by a deep passion for wildlife. Her attention to tour details and individual desires ensures that each Cheesemans’ traveler has the experience of their dreams. Gail has a true spirit for conservation that drives her actions on many issues, both local and worldwide. Together, Gail and Doug make a team of remarkable ecologists who seek to inspire others to enjoy and conserve the Earth’s wild landscapes.
Doug leverages his expertise gained during 35 years of teaching ecology and zoology at De Anza College to offer travelers a unique learning experience in wildlife-rich regions of the world. Doug and Gail have led over 70 safaris to Africa, especially to Tanzania and Kenya, since 1978. They also led many tours to all corners of the globe including the Antarctic, South America, Australia, and Asia. A love of photographing wildlife behavior and giving college-level lectures to interested groups adds to his accomplishments.
Pius (pronounced pe-ous) has guided for for us since 2011. He loves to answer questions and talk about Kenya, and is very attentive to our interests. He's very experienced at positioning the safari vehicle for photography or to see the action. All our travelmates are impressed with his high energy and outgoing personality.
Titus received his Master’s in avian biology in 2014 and has worked at the Nairobi National Museum’s Department of Ornithology for many years. Titus’s father, Jackson, was Doug and Gail’s favorite guide in the 1980s; Jackson passed his vast knowledge and experience on to Titus. Our safaris have now benefited from his education and experience for over 15 years.
Zach loves to locate hard-to-find predators, especially cats, and position the vehicle for good photography and observation. He lives in the Kenya Highlands and has been a guide and naturalist for us since the 1980s.
A glimpse into our journey
Arrive in Nairobi
Arrive at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) in Nairobi, Kenya by the evening of July 23. Upon arrival at the airport, you will be transferred to our hotel. If you are on our Tanzania Northward Migration Safari immediately before this safari, drive with Doug and Gail on July 23 to Nairobi.
Masai Mara National Reserve
Jul 24 - 25
We’ll start the day by crossing the Great Rift Valley, and traveling up the western escarpment into the Masai Mara. We’ll have five full days at the peak of the famous wildebeest/zebra migration.
The Mara has many diverse habitats: riverine forest, acacia woodland, grasslands, croton bush (a favorite hideout for Black Rhino), termite mounds, marshes, escarpments, and rocky outcrops. The Mara receives more than 20 inches of rain per year and is the part of the Serengeti Ecosystem with the most rainfall. At this time of year, the eastern Serengeti in Tanzania is at its driest and so the Wildebeest, Burchell’s Zebras, and gazelles migrate to the Mara region. During this “Great Migration,” the Mara has the greatest concentration of mammals anywhere in the world. In addition to mammals, birds are abundant, very visible, and easily photographed.
Masai Mara National Reserve in the Mara Triangle
Jul 26 - 28
Our game drives will focus on the riverine areas along the Mara River, the marshes, and other havens that attract so much wildlife at this season. By late July, the migration of thousands of Wildebeest and Burchell’s Zebras concentrates from the Mara River to the southeast Masai Mara. Nile Crocodiles in the Mara River and the African Lions and other predators, which follow the migration, will all be present and active. We’ll travel along the base of the east/west escarpment that borders the Mara. Some beautiful scenes in “Out of Africa” were filmed along here looking down into the Mara paradise from the top of Oloololo Escarpment.
At the lodge, arranging a night drive to see some of the creatures that stay hidden during the day is an option. Let us know if you would like us to arrange one or more night drives for you (there is an additional cost). The resident lodge guides do the driving for the night drives. You may be able to find Bat-eared Fox, White-tailed Mongoose, Lion, Leopard, hippo, nightjars, and other rare species.
Nakuru National Park
Travel along the Mau Escarpment, and then descend into the Great Rift Valley to arrive at Lake Nakuru, a Rift Valley alkali lake. Lake Nakuru National Park is famous for its flamingoes, for being a sanctuary of both Black and White Rhinos, and for also being a sanctuary for introduced Rothchild’s Giraffe, one of the most beautiful sub-species of giraffe. We will arrive in time for a late afternoon game drive before checking into the lodge, which is surrounded by extensive grounds. We’ll find colonies of colorful Speke’s Weavers building nests, Green Woodhoopoes, several cuckoos, and other special woodland birds on the lodge grounds.
Laikipia Plateau in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Jul 30 - 31
One last early game drive at Nakuru will give time for viewing the delightful light on the wildlife around the lake. Mid-morning you will depart northeast to Sweetwaters Serena Camp, located on the Laikipia Plateau south of Samburu.
Sweetwaters is a sheltered oasis, clustered around a lagoon and nestled in the private Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Located on the plains of Mount Kenya known as the Laikipia Plateau, the camp features luxury tents, each with its own private veranda. The “Big Five” occur here, plus endangered African Wild Dogs. You can encounter both Black and White Rhinos in this reserve and many species of birds. Optional night game drives may be arranged in advance, conducted by Sweetwaters’ vehicles and drivers (not included).
Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves
Aug 1 - 2
We’ll start the day with an early game drive, then head north for Samburu. From the Kenya Highlands, descend into the arid Northern Frontier in the rain shadow of Mount Kenya. Continue north through the arid lands of Isiolo, which is a converging point of many local tribes, plus others driven south by drought and strife. The abrupt contrast between the green Highlands to the south, which is the rolling fertile countryside of the Kikuyu people, and the arid Northern Frontier to the north is striking. Enter the Samburu Game Reserve and arrive in time for lunch at our camp. Enjoy an afternoon game drive in either Samburu or the adjacent Buffalo Springs reserves, which are famous for a remarkable variety of arid adapted mammals and birds. Samburu and Buffalo Springs reserves protect African Elephant, Gerenuk, Reticulated Giraffe, Beisa Oryx, the endangered Grevy’s Zebra, Lion, Leopard, and Cheetah. You may also spot birds like the Somali Ostrich, Vulturine Guineafowl, Donaldson-Smith’s Sparrow-Weaver, and Black-capped Social-Weaver. You’ll be offered three game drives each day, including midday when the river is the best place to find wildlife in action.
Our tented lodge, Larsens Camp, is set on the Uaso Nyiro River that is attractive to wildlife that must come to drink. The lodge is also adjacent to Leopard Rocks, which are sometimes used by Leopards as a good hiding place. Cheetahs hunt Gerenuk and Grant’s Gazelles in the nearby acacia habitat.
You might wish to visit a Samburu manyatta (extended family home), where you may photograph Samburu people in their traditional dress. The optional visit to a manyatta is not included in the trip cost.
After another wonderful morning at Samburu, we’ll head south through Isiolo and back into the Kenya Highlands along the flanks of Mount Kenya. We’ll arrive by late afternoon at our lodge, surrounded by Podocarpus forest on the southwest slopes of Mt. Kenya. At night, a spot-lit water hole gives you an opportunity to see Leopard, Giant Forest Hog, Large-spotted Genet, Bushbuck, African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Jackson’s Mongoose, and other mammals at night.
Travel to Nairobi and homeward
After breakfast, you may choose a guided forest walk or relax on the viewing deck and wait for thirsty African Buffalo and Elephants that may come out of the forest for a drink. On the forest walk, you may see Black and White Colobus monkeys and many forest birds, including one of Doug and Gail’s favorites, the Hartlaub’s Turaco, whose underwings flash bright scarlet as they fly about in the trees. We’ll depart for Nairobi in time to check in at the Ole Sereni where we have included dayrooms. Dinner is on your own this evening.
We’ll transfer you anytime after 5:00 PM to the airport for your evening flight. We can arrange separate airport transfers and extra hotel nights if you’d like to stay in Nairobi longer (not included).
Arrive home, depending on your flight schedule.
Our definitive short East African safari timed at the peak of migration—perfect for a wildlife enthusiast.
Cost & Payments
Costs (in US$)
|Type||Cost Per Person|
|Trip cost, double occupancy||$10,550|
We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you desire, we will find a roommate for you. If we cannot find you a roommate, we may charge you a single supplement fee. Single rooms are subject to availability.
|Payment||Due Date||Amount Per Person|
|Deposit||Due now to reserve your space||$500|
|Second||October 1, 2017||$2,000|
|Final||February 25, 2018||Remaining balance|
Payments will be due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule and cancellation policy as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.
Until the Final Payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person, which can be applied toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Cancellations are non-transferrable. No refunds are given after the Final Payment due date.
- All leaders, transport, park entry fees, and permits for all activities unless described as optional.
- Accommodations for the nights of July 23 through August 3 and dayrooms on August 4.
- Meals from breakfast on July 24 through lunch on August 4.
- Airport transfers on July 23 and August 4.
- Bottled beverages: Bottled water is provided in the vehicles, and each lodge provides one free half-liter bottle of drinking water per person in your room daily.
- Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.
- Short Term AMREF Flying Doctor medical emergency evacuation insurance. This does not include hospital or treatment costs. Read more about travel insurance.
- All airfare, airport and departure taxes, and any excess baggage fees. Airfare is approximately $2,000 round-trip from the USA to Nairobi (NBO) depending on origin.
- Optional nocturnal drives at Mara Serena and Sweetwaters Serena: $105 per person per game drive from 7 to 9 pm.
- Optional visit to Samburu manyatta; please contact us for details.
- Bottled beverages: Bottled water costs extra during meals, except at breakfast when water is often available to fill your water bottle.
- Gratuities – tipping our resident guides is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting about $22 to $25 per participant per day for July 23 to August 4 with our guides (about $285 to $325 total per participant) to be distributed among all of the resident naturalists.
- Trip cancellation insurance. Read more about travel insurance.
- Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, alcoholic and other beverages, and items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation/Release Form.
It is the cool season in the southern hemisphere, but with climate change and our itinerary located near the Equator, weather is more variable, so prepare for varying climate conditions. Temperatures generally range from around 50°F at night to 90°F during the day (10–32°C). On foggy mornings at higher elevations, expect temperatures at the bottom of the range. Temperatures vary with the amount of wind or precipitation, which is unpredictable. Even during the dry season of July and August, expect localized afternoon thunderstorms causing temperatures to drop. Dress in layers and be prepared for changing conditions.
Minimal fitness level is required. However, early morning and nighttime game drives, in addition to usual daytime game drives, require good energy levels. You may have short walks around camp and lodge grounds between game drives, if conditions permit. Please contact us if you have any health concerns that may make this trip challenging.
Airfare is not included in trip costs. Detailed logistical information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you. Please let us know if you are arriving earlier or staying later as we are happy to assist you with any extra overnights that you might want to arrange.
Flights you (or a travel agent) book: If you are coming from home rather than our Tanzania Safari, arrive in Nairobi, Kenya (NBO) by the evening of July 23 at the latest. Depart from Nairobi (NBO) anytime after 5:00 PM on August 4.
Please read our complete Tanzania and Kenya FAQ document.
Accommodations will range from lodges to luxury, tented camps. All have private baths, and are in close proximity to the parks/reserves.
We travel in pop-top Land Cruisers with open shaded roof covers that provide 360° viewing and excellent photography opportunities. With only four participants in each six-passenger vehicle (not including driver’s seat), you’ll have more space for your gear and changing vantage points. Be prepared to experience bumpy, unpaved roads, and although our vehicles are comfortable, you will be jostled around.
- Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours.
- Maximum time in the field: We try to spend as much time in the field as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience.
- Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather, wildlife sightings, or road conditions.
- Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
- Medical conditions and travel risks: Travel to remote places is exciting, but understanding and accepting the risks, both medical and logistical, are important. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but due to the fact that we often travel to locations far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this trip. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your tour deposit and signed reservation form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.
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"Add this trip to your bucket list. If you like maximizing time in the wild and interacting with nature, look no further. Go with Cheesemans' "
Stephen Martin, 2016
"The guides were particularly good at alerting us to animal and bird behaviors. They were all very patient and made sure we saw everything and were able to get great photos. And, of course, it was wonderful to be on safari with Doug and Gail."