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.
1. 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: September 2019
FAQ Print Trip Safari Options
|Aug 1||Travel to Nairobi, Kenya from home.|
|Aug 2||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
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.
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.
Tom is a wonderful safari leader relying on his extensive knowledge, especially about African mammal behavior, great personality, and high level of energy. With an excellent eye for photography, he will position the safari vehicle so you can take home wonderful photos of your safari in Kenya. Tom guided for us in the past and we are happy that he will once again be part of our slate of leaders.
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, 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
Morning game drive and then fly to Nairobi to continue on our Mountain Gorilla extension or fly homeward.
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 two internal flights), singles extra. See Included and Not Included sections for more details.
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||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.
- Flight between Samburu and Nairobi on August 16.
- 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. Click for more information.
- All airfare (except one flight listed as included), airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees. 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, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting about $22-$25 per participant per day for August 3-16 with our guides (about $308-$350 total per participant) plus $5 per participant for the airport transfer driver on arrival and departure.
- Trip cancellation 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 (10–32°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 afternoonthunderstorms 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 at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi (NBO) on August 2. Depart from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi (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: Flight between Samburu and Nairobi. The cost of this booking is included in the tour cost.
I want to travel to Africa, which trip is right for me?
If you are looking for the vast Serengeti-like experience, then Tanzania/Kenya may be the best safari for you. If you want a more exclusive experience of Africa, Botswana may be the best safari for you if you like mobile camping. Botswana is more arid and sandy and lacks the vast grassland plains that Tanzania/Kenya has and generally has less number of species, although there is quite a bit of overlap of species, particularly the antelopes. If this is your first visit to Africa, we suggest Tanzania/Kenya because it is the quintessential African safari and the animals are less leary of the safari vehicles.
I want to see the “Great Migration,” which trip is best?
The Great Serengeti Migration is the movement of vast herds of Wildebeest, accompanied by large numbers of Burchell Zebra, and smaller numbers of Grant's Gazelle, Thompson's Gazelle, Topi, Kongoni (Hartebeest), Eland and Impala. The herds move in a circular pattern, sometimes heading northward and sometimes southward, around the Serengeti throughout the year seeking fresh grass. The exact timing of the migration is entirely dependent on the timing of the seasonal rainfall. This is the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world.
Migration occurs year-round, but is concentrated during both our January/February and July/August Tanzania/Kenya safaris. The famous Mara River crossings of the Wildebeest and Burchell’s Zebra occur in July/August in Kenya, whereas the migration is concentrated on the grassland Serengeti Plains of Tanzania in January/February.
What is the difference between the January/February and July/August tours?
Why are the itineraries different?
Our itineraries follow the concentration of the great ungulate herds during their migration through the Serengeti ecosystem located in Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa. The exact timing of the migration can vary a bit depending on the rains that freshen the grass that they consume.
In January/February, we spend almost twice the number of nights at Ndutu in the southern Serengeti in Tanzania. Since there are few roads at Ndutu we are allowed to drive off road giving us the opportunity 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 January/February, we do not visit the Masai Mara in Kenya because there is more wildlife in the shortgrass prairie in the southern Serengeti at Ndutu in Tanzania.
What species will we see?
In both seasons we can see about 50 mammals and 250 bird species. The species we see are similar between the two seasons, but northern birds migrate south to spend January/February in Africa, which makes it possible to see an additional 25 species. In July/August we have a better chance of seeing denning African Wild Dogs in Tanzania.
Do we see large herds?
We see herds in both seasons, but the distribution is different. In July/August, the wildlife is concentrated around water sources, whereas in January/February the wildlife is grazing on the shortgrass plains, often in lines or dispersed over the plains, only visiting water sources when needed.
Do we see different animal behaviors?
In January/February, we see wildebeest calving and other ungulates (such as zebra) with nursing young. Cheetah females with cubs are more visible as they follow the herd movements.
What is the difference in the climate?
January/February is warmer since it’s the Austral summer in the southern hemisphere. Temperatures in Tanzania and Kenya generally range around 65–92°F (18–33°C) in January/February and 50–90°F (10–32°C) in July/August.
What is the difference in the habitat?
The tallgrass prairie of the Masai Mara in Kenya, which we only visit during our July/August safari, makes wildlife sometimes difficult to spot. The shortgrass plains of the southern Serengeti are generally greener in January/February.
What are the vehicles like?
We use four-wheel drive custom-made Landcruisers covered with roofs that raise open (pop-tops).
How many people will be in each vehicle?
We only take four participants per vehicle even though there is room for nine, which provides plenty of space for observing, taking great photographs, and stowing your gear. Our naturalists/guides sit in the front seats so participants have the back to themselves.
What kind of photographic opportunities can I expect?
The best photo opportunities will be from the open pop-top Landcruisers. With only four participants per vehicle, there is room for each person to capture the same scene. The pop-tops provide 360 degrees of view so you have freedom to compose your photos well. A beanbag resting on the vehicle roof provides stability for longer lenses (no tripod is needed). The wildlife is generally close to the vehicles, anywhere from around 15 to 100 feet.
Can I choose the focus of my tour during safari?
We do our best to organize the vehicles by interests placing like-minded individuals together. This allows each vehicle to spend more time photographing, watching birds, observing wildlife behavior, or whatever the group preference is. Please understand that we are flexible, but sometimes interests may be mixed.
Will we get to walk around to see the wildlife?
Both for safety and because animals react strongly to individual people (they often ignore vehicles with people), we are not permitted to leave the vehicles while on safari drives. But we may do short walks around lodging when possible.
How much time do we spend in the field?
We spend maximum time in the field! We typically eat a quick, light breakfast before dawn, come back for lunch or take a picnic lunch with us, and return for dinner (sometimes late).
What is Cheesemans’ background/history in East Africa tourism?
Doug and Gail have been leading African safaris since 1978 and they have known many of the local naturalists/guides since they were young adults, so you not only have experts on wildlife behavior but also get a unique family-like experience from spending time with Doug and Gail and the local guides.
Have a question we didn’t answer?
Please contact us and we will be glad to answer your questions!
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.
- 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 nature: We try to spend as much time in nature 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 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 it is important to understand and accept the risks, both medical and logistical. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but because you are often 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 tour. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your 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.
- Use of drones/UAVs on tours: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), AKA drones, are not suitable for use on most Cheesemans’ Ecology expeditions due to logistical constraints and in many cases, local and national laws or regulations. In some cases, such as on our polar voyages, we operate under environmental regulations that ban the use of recreational drones. Do not bring a drone on safari without contacting us first.
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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."