Rift Valley

GuideBen Mugambi
DatesAny Time
Birding Days10
Ground Price£3500
Flight ex UK£500
Ben Mugambi
Ben Mugambi is one of Kenya's best birders. He knows the country and its wildlife intimately, and has formed his own company, primarily geared towards birdwatching. He has also worked as the Resident Ornithologist and Naturalist, as well as a Guest Relations Officer in a number of the top Kenyan and Tanzania Lodges, Camps and Hotels.
Birds Galore!.....Kenya’s birdlife is both profuse and easy-to-find. Only in East Africa can such a large number of species be seen in such a short time, with many of them colourful and spectacular.
After arriving in Nairobi, we transfer the 40km to Thika. The grounds of the Blue Posts Hotel are excellent for birding, and have a range of scarce species, including African Penduline Tit, Purple-crested Turaco, Black Duck, Trumpeter Hornbill, Grey-olive Greenbul, and a host of sunbirds. There is the option of driving the 45 minutes to Kieni Forest in the afternoon for highland forest birds, including White-headed Woodhoopoe, Fine-banded Woodpecker, Black-throated Apalis, Black-fronted Bush-shrike, Abbott's Starling, Bar-tailed Trogon and Bronze-naped Pigeon.
After birding Thika, the next stop is the rice-paddies near Thiba. These have numerous water birds, including Grey, Black-necked, Purple and Goliath Herons, Madagascar Squacco, Little, Intermediate and Great White Egrets, several duck species, Purple Gallinule, White-winged Widowbird and Yellow-crowned Bishop. Following on from here is a visit to Wajee Nature Park. This is home to the endemic Hinde's Babbler, and other species include African Wood Owl, Ruppell's and Cape Robin-chats and several other highland species.
It is a short drive to Naro Moru from Nyeri. The grounds of our lodge are full of birds, including Black Duck, Hartlaub's Turaco, Red-fronted Parrot, Mountain Wagtail, Black Cuckoo Shrike, Thick-billed Seedeater, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Rufous Chatterer, Yellow Bishop, Montane Nightjar, Little Rock Thrush, and up to 10 species of sunbird. The slopes of Mt Kenya have other highland species, including White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, White-starred Robin, Kenrick's Starling and Doherty's Bush-shrike. An alternative overnight stop is at the Meteorological Station in the bunkhouses (sleeping bags supplied), where at 3000m, there is the option of walking in the early morning to the moor lands. This gives the opportunity for Alpine Chat, Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbird, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Jackson's Francolin, Cinnamon Bracken and Evergreen Forest Warblers, and Olive Ibis.
The next destination is Samburu National Reserve. En-route, there is the opportunity of the near-endemic Boran Cisticola, as well as Long-tailed and Jackson's Widowbirds and Dusky Turtle Dove. A further option is a visit to the Meru Forest, where Kenya's only Black-and-White Flycatchers live. Once in Samburu reserve, birding will be mixed with game-viewing. Grevy's and Grant's Zebras, Reticulated Giraffe, Beisa Oryx, Kirk's Dik-dik, Gerenuk, Impala, Thompson's and Grant's Gazelles and Common Waterbuck are all fairly easy to find. Lion and Cheetah occur in smaller numbers, but are usually seen with patience. Elephant are common along the river, as are large Crocodiles. In the evening, Leopards descend to feed at prepared stations, or can be seen lazily sleeping in trees in the day with luck. The birdlife is profuse, and includes many different Raptors, Verreaux's Eagle-owl, Slender-tailed Nightjar, White-headed Mousebird, Violet Woodhoopoe, Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-weaver, Shining and Black-bellied Sunbirds, Somali and White-throated Bee-eaters, Orange-bellied Parrot, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Golden Pipit, Red-winged, Fawn-coloured and Pink-breasted Larks, Taita Fiscal, Buff-crested and Kori Bustards and Liechtenstein's, Chestnut-bellied and Black-faced Sandgrouse.
A whole day will be available within the Samburu reserve complex. There will be the option of visiting nearby Shaba Reserve to seek out the endemic William's Lark, as well as Masked Lark. Then the route goes back to Naro Moru, catching up with species we may have missed earlier.
Next, the route passes across Solio Plains. These are good for Capped Wheatear and Jackson's and Long-tailed Widowbirds. Several bustards are possible, including Kori, Black-bellied, White-bellied and the scarce Denham's. Spotted Thick-knee is sometimes found, and Pectoral-patch Cisticola is common. In winter, European Bee-eater, Whinchat, Pallid and Montague's Harriers and Lesser Kestrel are all found. Greater Kestrel is also possible. Skirting the Aberdares, the picturesque Thompson's Falls is home to Slender-billed Starling, African Snipe, Tinkling Cisticola and Cape Wagtail. Also present are Crowned Eagle, Mountain Buzzard and African Marsh Harrier, and Golden-winged Sunbird id common. Kenya's highest Hippos reside here. Entering Lake Nakuru National Park, the pink-sheen will be found to be millions of Lesser Flamingos. In amongst them are Greater Flamingo, White Pelican and many other water birds and waders. The woodland and grassland around the lake is home to Hildebrandt's Francolin, Arrow-marked Babbler, Grey-crested Helmetshrike, Green Woodhoopoe, Red-throated Wryneck, Bearded and Cardinal Woodpeckers, Diederik Cuckoo, Ground Hornbill, Cliff-chat and Cinnamon-chested Rock Bunting. Mammals include Lion and Leopard, Brown Hyena, Defassa Waterbuck, Impala and both Black and White Rhinos.
After further exploration of Nakuru, the route is north to Lake Baringo. This is a freshwater lake, but birding is mainly away from the lake, in the scrub along the cliffs just inland, and in the grounds of Lake Baringo Club. Here, there are several scarce species including Brown Babbler, Bristle-crowned Starling, Brown-tailed Chat, Northern Grey Tit, Mouse-coloured Penduline Tit, Violet-backed and Beautiful Sunbirds, Heuglin's Courser, Slender-tailed Nightjar, Bru-bru, Hemprich's, Jackson's and Red-billed Hornbills, Red-and-Yellow Barbet, Little, Vitelline-masked, Northern Masked and Jackson's Golden-backed and White-billed Buffalo Weavers. There is the chance of Verreaux's and Spotted Eagle Owls, as well as White-faced Scops Owl.
After further birding around Lake Baringo, the trip heads back south to Nairobi. Options en-route include the lower Aberdares slopes for the endemic Aberdare Cisticola, the Kinangop Plateau for the endemic Sharpe's Longclaw, and Limuru Pond, which has many water birds, including the scarce Maccoa and White-backed Ducks.
The final day will be spent in the Nairobi area. This will involve the excellent Nairobi National Park, which is home to nearly all the large mammals found in Kenya, with the exception of elephant. It is especially good for Black Rhino. Birds are also numerous, including a potential new species of Pipit found in the wooded areas. Northern Pied Babbler, Jackson's Widowbird, Hartlaub's Bustard, Short-tailed and Northern White-tailed Larks and Red-throated Tit are all specialities, and raptors can be plentiful. African Finfoot is sometimes seen on the river. For the more adventurous, there is the opportunity of an early drive to Lake Magadi before returning to the park for the afternoon. Here, Chestnut-fronted Sandplover is found, along with Cape Wigeon and Lesser Flamingo. The drive to the lake is also good for dry-country birds including Blue-capped Cordon-bleu, Grey-capped Social Weaver, Chestnut Sparrow, Chestnut Weaver and Rosy-patch Shrike. After a final wash and brush-up, it is time to go to the airport in the late-evening for the overnight flight home.