Migration and Predation
August 1 to 17, 2021
Timed at the peak of the Great Migration into Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, you’ll search for huge wildebeest and zebra herds making river crossings while optimistic predators wait to attack. Experience being in the midst of and photographing the incredible predator/prey action. Observe the unimaginable abundance of wildlife in the Great Rift Valley’s Nakuru National Park, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves with more opportunities to see Africa’s Big Five: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros. Explore habitats that range from woodlands to arid plains, rivers, and lakes, and take in sweeping views of highland and lowland landscapes. Experience top-quality lodging, knowledgeable guides, and a safari adventure that Cheesemans’ has perfected over 30 years visiting Kenya.
- Engross yourself in huge herds of wildebeest and zebras during a full week in Kenya’s Masai Mara.
- Explore the Rift Valley landscapes of Nakuru National Park with flamingos and Rothchild’s giraffes.
- Travel to northern Kenya to arid lands in the rain shadow of Mount Kenya
- Encounter species not found elsewhere, including endangered Grevy’s zebras, gerenuk, beisa oryx and beautiful birds specialized for arid lands along the Uaso Nyiro River
- Continue your journey on our Mountain Gorilla extension from August 16 to 21, 2021. Trek through the forests of the Virunga Mountains to encounter Rwanda’s gentle giant, the mountain gorilla. See full itinerary.
Itinerary Updated: June 2020
FAQ Print Trip Safari Options
|Aug 1||Travel to Nairobi, Kenya from home.|
|Aug 2||Arrive in Nairobi.||Arrive in Nairobi. Ole-Sereni Hotel, Nairobi|
|Aug 3-8||Meet your guides at breakfast and drive to the Masai Mara National Reserve for six days of immersion in vast herds along the rivers.||Mara Serena Safari Lodge, Masai Mara||B, L, D|
|Aug 9-10||Maximum time for wildlife action on the eastern side of the Masai Mara.||Sarova Mara Game Camp, Masai Mara||B, L, D|
|Aug 11||Drive from the Masai Mara to Lake Nakuru National Park overlooking Lake Nakuru.||Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge, Lake Nakuru National Park||B, L, D|
|Aug 12-13||Search for black and white rhino at Nakuru and on the Laikipia Plateau in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.||Sweetwaters Serena Camp, Ol Pejeta Conservancy||B, L, D|
|Aug 14-15||Search for arid-adapted wildlife in Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves.||Larsens Camp, Buffalo Springs National Reserve||B, L, D|
|Aug 16||Morning game drive, and then fly to Nairobi to continue on our Mountain Gorilla extension or fly homeward.||Ole-Sereni Hotel, Nairobi (dayroom)||B, L|
|Aug 17||Arrive home.|
Our Trip Leaders
Zach has been a guide for Cheesemans’ Kenya safaris since the 1980s and received many accolades. An outstanding naturalist and excellent driver, he loves to locate hard-to-find predators, especially cats. He and his wife own a farm in the fertile Kenya Highlands.
Tom has extensive knowledge about African wildlife, especially about mammal behavior, along with a great personality and high energy. With an excellent eye for photography, he will position the vehicle so you can capture wonderful photos of your safari. Tom guided for us before and we are thrilled that he will once again be one of our leaders.
Titus received his Master’s in Avian Biology in 2014 and will complete his PhD by 2021. He has worked at the Nairobi National Museum’s Department of Ornithology for many years. Titus’s father, Jackson, was Doug and Gail Cheeseman’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.
Grephus Andalo Ingati
Grephus is an excellent naturalist who has great knowledge of the birds and mammals of Kenya. He is also a photographer and great at positioning the vehicle so everyone has a chance to take photos. Wonderful teachers filled his childhood in a very bird- and primate-rich area, the Kakamega Forest in western Kenya. He was one of nine students chosen from Kakamega to receive an in-depth course in forest ecology. He and his family also run an organic farm in the Kakamega area.
A glimpse into our journey
Arrive in Nairobi, Kenya from our Tanzania extension or home
Upon arrival our local agent will transfer you to the hotel.
Masai Mara National Reserve
After an early breakfast, the guides will collect your picnic lunches and start the drive to the Masai Mara. This drive takes about six hours and weaves down the Great Escarpment and across the Great Rift Valley. At the Masai Mara Reserve’s eastern gate, you’ll game drive to the Mara Conservancy, which begins once you cross the Mara River into the western Masai Mara. Ahead is your luxurious lodge atop a scenic hill looking down on the major traditional wildebeest crossings.
August is the peak of the famous wildebeest and zebra migration, so it’s very exciting to have six full days here! Game drives will focus on the riverine areas along the Mara River and the Sand River, the marshes, and other havens that attract wildlife during this season. By August the great migration, involving hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebras, is concentrated along the Mara River from the southeastern Masai Mara ecosystem (Kenya) down into the northeastern part of the Serengeti ecosystem (Tanzania). You’ll follow the herds to hope for and find the best place to observe a big herd crossing. Herds spend long hours at the traditional river crossings waiting for the right moment to drink or to jump in to cross, so you’ll find Nile crocodiles, African lions, and other predators patiently stalking prey along the river banks. You’ll also explore the base of the east/west escarpment that borders the Mara, where beautiful scenes in Out of Africa were filmed.
At your lodge, you can arrange night drives with the resident lodge guides (costs extra) to see some of the creatures that stay hidden during the day like bat-eared fox, white-tailed mongoose, lion, leopard, grazing hippo, nightjars, and other nocturnal species.
The eastern part of Masai Mara National Reserve
Travel from the western side of the Masai Mara to the eastern side of the Mara River. The Mara has many diverse habitats, including riverine forest, acacia woodland, grasslands, croton bush (a favorite hideout for black rhino), termite mounds, marshes, escarpments, and rocky outcrops. During this time of year, the short grass Serengeti plains are at their driest and so the wildebeest, Burchell’s zebras, and gazelles have migrated to the wettest areas in the Mara region where the rivers run year-round. During this Great Migration, the Mara has the largest concentration of mammals anywhere in the world, plus birds are abundant, very visible, and easily photographed.
Travel to Lake Nakuru National Park
Travel in our Land Cruisers 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 flamingos, for being a sanctuary of both black and white rhinos, and for also being a sanctuary for Rothchild’s giraffe, one of the most beautiful sub-species of giraffe. You will arrive in time for a late afternoon game drive before checking into the lodge, surrounded by extensive grounds. You’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
An early morning game drive at Nakuru will allow for viewing the delightful light on the wildlife around the lake. Mid-morning you will depart northeast to our camp, which is a sheltered oasis clustered around a lagoon and nestled in the private Ol Pejeta Conservancy and located on the plains of Mount Kenya known as the Laikipia Plateau. It is the largest black rhino sanctuary in east Africa and home to the last two remaining northern white rhinos in the wild (both females). You’ll search for the Big Five – elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, and buffalo – plus endangered African wild dogs. You can arrange night game drives with the resident lodge guides in advance (costs extra).
Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves
Start the day with an early game drive, and then head north for Samburu National Reserve. 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 and other people 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 Samburu in time for lunch and enjoy an afternoon game drive there or the adjacent Buffalo Springs National Reserve, which are famous for a remarkable variety of arid-adapted mammals and birds. They host 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.
Your lodge is on the Uaso Nyiro River, which is attractive to wildlife that must come to drink. You may visit a Samburu manyatta (extended family home), where you may photograph Samburu people in their traditional dress (costs extra).
Fly to Nairobi to join our Mountain Gorilla extension or fly home
After another wonderful morning and lunch at Samburu, you’ll fly to Wilson Airport in Nairobi to continue on our Mountain Gorilla extension or transfer to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for flights home.
Our definitive safari to Kenya timed at the peak of migration—perfect for a wildlife enthusiast.
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Cost & Payments
Costs (in US$)
|Type||Cost Per Person|
|Trip cost, double occupancy||$11,500|
Costs are per person, double occupancy, not including airfare (except for one-way flight from Samburu to Nairobi), singles extra. See Included and Not Included sections for more details.
If you are a single traveler, we will find a roommate for you, but if we cannot find you a roommate, we may charge you a single supplement. Single rooms cost extra and are subject to availability.
|Payment||Due Date||Amount Per Person|
|Deposit||Due now to reserve your space||$500|
|Second||September 15, 2020||$5,000|
|Final||February 15, 2021||Remaining balance|
Payments are 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.
- One-way flight from Samburu to Nairobi.
- Accommodations for the nights of August 2 through August 15 and day-use room on August 16.
- Meals from breakfast on August 3 through lunch on August 16.
- Airport transfers on August 2 and August 16.
- Bottled beverages – bottled water is provided in the vehicles, and each lodge provides one free half-liter bottle of 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. For more information see travel insurance.
- All airfare (except one flight listed as included), airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees. Round-trip airfare is approximately $2,200 between the US and Nairobi, depending on origin.
- We can arrange divergent airport transfers and extra hotel nights for an extra cost.
- Optional night drives at Mara Serena Safari Lodge and Sweetwaters Serena Camp.
- Optional visit to a Samburu manyatta.
- 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 always discretionary. However, we suggest budgeting about $22 to $25 per participant per day for August 3 to August 16 with our guides (about $308 to $350 total per participant) plus $5 per participant for the airport transfer driver on arrival and departure.
- Trip cancellation insurance. For more information see travel insurance.
- Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, alcoholic and other beverages, items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation Form.
Temperatures generally range from around 50°F at night to 85°F during the day (10 to 32°C) at this season at the elevations where we will be. It is the cool dry season in the southern hemisphere, but weather is variable, so come prepared by dressing in layers, including a warm jacket. Even during the dry season of July and August, expect localized afternoon thunderstorms causing temperatures to drop.
Minimal fitness level is required. Early morning, mid-afternoon, and nighttime 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.
Unless listed as included, 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: Arrive in Nairobi, Kenya (NBO) on August 2. Depart from Nairobi, Kenya (NBO) after 5:00pm on August 16. If you are continuing on our Mountain Gorilla extension, see the Flights section in its itinerary for departure information.
Flights we book for you: The one-way flight from Samburu to Nairobi is included in the trip cost.
I want to travel to Africa, which trip is right for me?
If this is your first African safari, we suggest taking both our Tanzania and Kenya tours to experience the quintessential African safari. The grassy Serengeti Plains of Tanzania and Kenya spread unbelievably from horizon to horizon and are often covered with migrating herds seeking fresh grass while being pursued by their predators. In northern Kenya, you will experience a more arid landscape populated by the specially adapted animals that live there. Animals are also generally more accustomed to vehicles so you can get quite close.
Our Botswana safari provides you with a unique immersion into wild Africa through carefree mobile camping that gives you an intimate 24/7 connection. The extensive waterways of the Okavango Delta spread on the dry, sandy landscape of Botswana and create quite the contrast to the grass-covered Serengeti Plains of Tanzania and Kenya. In Botswana, we find more animals suited to this dry watery environment such as hippos, elephants, and antelopes. It is possible to see Africa’s Big Five (African lion, African elephant, cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros) in all three countries.
What is the Great Migration?
The Great Serengeti Migration is the continuous movement of vast herds of wildebeest, accompanied by large numbers of Burchell’s zebra and fewer numbers of Grant’s gazelle, Thompson’s gazelle, topi, kongoni (hartebeest), eland, and impala. Throughout the year the herds move in a circular, clock-wise pattern around the Serengeti, heading northward or southward, seeking new green grass. It is the world’s largest terrestrial mammal migration!
Which safari is best to see the Great Migration?
The exact timing of the migration is dependent on the seasonal rainfall that freshens the grass consumed by ungulates. Throughout the year the herds move in a circular pattern around the Serengeti, heading northward or southward, seeking new green grass. In January/February, wildlife is concentrated in the southern Serengeti short grass plains of Tanzania. In July/August, the famous Mara River crossings of wildebeest and zebra occur in the northern Serengeti ecosystem right on the border of Tanzania and Kenya. While the herbivores migrate through the Serengeti, they pass through the territories of many predators, such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas.
Why are the January/February and July/August itineraries different?
Our itineraries follow the concentration of the great ungulate herds during their migration through the Serengeti ecosystem.
In January/February, we concentrate on Ndutu in the southern Serengeti in Tanzania. Here we can drive off-road, which provides ample opportunities for unique experiences. The cat population around Ndutu is one of the best in all the Serengeti with serval, African wild cat, cheetah, leopard, and lion.
In July/August, we focus on the Mara River near the Kenya border where much of the wildlife is concentrated. If you are interested in a July/August safari, but don’t see an itinerary listed, please contact us.
What species are present in both seasons?
In both seasons we can see similar species (about 50 mammals and 250 bird species) but an additional 25 northern bird species migrate south in January/February. In July/August we have a better chance of seeing denning African wild dogs.
Do we see large herds in both seasons?
Yes, but the distribution is different. In January/February the wildlife grazes on the short grass plains, often in lines or dispersed over the plains near pools of water. While in July/August, the wildlife is concentrated around the rivers in the northern Serengeti ecosystem.
What is the difference in animal behaviors between both seasons?
In January/February, wildebeest are calving and other ungulates (such as zebra) are nursing young, and cheetah females with cubs are more visible as they follow the herd movements. In July/August, although not guaranteed, we have the best chance of seeing herds of zebra and wildebeest cross the Mara River while trying to avoid crocodiles.
What is the difference in climate between both seasons?
January/February is warmer since it’s the summer season in the southern hemisphere.
How much time do we spend in nature?
We spend maximum time in nature! We offer two game drives per day – early morning and afternoon. We typically leave the lodge around dawn, come back for lunch (or have a picnic lunch), head back out an hour or so after lunch, and return for dinner (sometimes late). Be prepared for long days.
Can we walk around to see the wildlife?
For safety reasons, we are not permitted to leave the vehicles on safari drives, although we can walk around the lodge grounds.
What is Cheesemans’ background/history in East Africa tourism?
Doug and Gail have been leading safaris since 1978 and have known many of the local naturalists/guides since they were young adults. Not only do you have experts on wildlife behavior, but you also get a unique family-like experience from spending time with Doug, Gail, and the local guides.
All lodges and the tented camps are well-appointed with private baths and are in close proximity to the parks/reserves. Our accommodations do not have air conditioning but have fans in the warmer locations.
Travel in Land Cruisers with shaded roof covers that provide excellent viewing and photography opportunities with ample space for your gear. Be prepared to experience bumpy, unpaved roads, so you will be jostled around. Game drives can last from about three to six hours depending on location and time of day, with breaks between drives.
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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."