Day 1: Arrive in Nairobi at night, stay at House of Waine
Day 2: Visit Giraffe Mansion and local arts & crafts shops, visit David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Day 3: Fly to Amboseli National Reserve, stay at Satao Elerai, begin Safari
Day 4: Full day of Safari at Amboseli National Reserve, all meals and accommodations by Satao Elerai
Day 5: Full day of Safari at Amboseli National Reserve, all meals and accommodations by Satao Elerai
Day 6: Fly to Laikipia Plateau, stay at Lewa Downs, half day of safari
Day 7: Full day of Safari at Laikipia Plateau, all accomodations by Lewa Downs
Day 8: Half day of Safari at Laikipia Plateau, fly to Masai Mara Game Reserve, stay at Kichwa Tembo Camp
Day 9: Full day of Safari at Masai Mara Game Reserve, accomodations by Kichwa Tembo
Day 10: Visit and tour with local Masai tribe, half day of Safari, accomodations by Kichwa Tembo
Day 11: Full day of Safari at Masai Mara Game Reserve, accomodations by Kichwa Tembo
Day 12: Head home
Part 1: Nairobi
House of Waine $$$:
★★★★☆ overall rating, ★★★★★ locally owned and run, ★★★☆☆ nature immersive, ★★★★☆ sustainable, ★★★★★ cuisine
This luxury boutique hotel is family-owned and has incredibly friendly staff. The atmosphere was very quiet, but the rooms were nice and the location is great for visiting Giraffe Manor and David Sheldrick, two of the renowned local wildlife conservation sites outside Nairobi. While I did enjoy the stay, next time I would try for Giraffe Manor which has giraffes and warthogs roaming free on the land.
Giraffe Manor $$$:
★★★☆☆ rating, ★★★★★ sustainability, ★★★★★ nature immersion, ★★★☆☆ cuisine, ★★☆☆☆ for locally owned
This boutique hotel also boasts a giraffe park where 5-6 people-friendly giraffes roam around and can be fed onsite. Great for kids, but for our group of adults it was probably not worth the $30 per-person admission fee. If you stay at the hotel they will give you free entry. The hotel is part of a larger ownership by the Safari Collection.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust $$: ★★★★★ rating, ★★★★★ nature immersive, ★★★★★ sustainability, ★★★★★ locally owned
Dame Daphne Sheldrick started this incredible elephant rescue organization after the death of her husband, but her work in convservation dates back to her childhood. This organization has been hugely instrumental in helping to stop poaching and save the lives of hundreds of orphaned elephants, many of whom are left helpless when their mothers are poached. They ask you to arrive in the evening so you can experience the young elephants marching back into the camp from the woods where they've been out grazing and playing all day. The keepers who look after the orphaned elephants are incredibly dedicated, they even sleep in the stalls with their elephant to ensure its wellbeing and emotional recovery. This is an absolute must-see experience in Nairobi.
Amboseli National Park: ★★★★★ overall, ★★★★★ nature-immersive
Situated at a very high elevation, Amboseli is known for the dust devils called amboselis, which roam across the plains regularly. Also roaming across the plains were breathtaking herds of elephants, hyenas eating a kill, a wide variety of birds both large and small, zebras, giraffes, and more. As the day warms up and the sun comes overhead, the views of Mount Kilimanjaro are breathtaking. We also drove past a local group of women selling jewelry at the truck stop before the park, and bought some lovely gifts for friends back home. Truly spectacular park and an unforgettable experience.
Satao Elerai $$$: ★★★☆☆ overall, ★★★★★ nature immersive, ★★☆☆☆ cuisine, ★★★★☆ locally owned and operated
Owned by a Brit who fell in love with Kenya and decided to set up his own lodge, Satao Elerai is a true wilderness experience. Travelers stay in tents with bathrooms connected to the back. The temperature in the mountains drops down to 40-50 degrees F at night so they put a hot water bottle under your covers. They turn off electricity most of the day and after 10 at night, so you have to carefully plan when you charge your devices, and there's no wifi anywhere except the main lodge, which is very spotty at best and only works when the electricity is on. The food was not great, not many fresh vegetables which was a problem for me as a vegetarian. The staff was incredibly friendly and our guide Benson was absolutely amazing. One of my favorite highlights was the well they built behind the lodge where elephants gather at night to get water. Spectacular to watch!
Lewa Downs $$$: 5/5 Overall, 5/5 nature immersive, 5/5 sustainable, 5/5 cuisine, ☆☆ locally owned and run
Wow, this place is absolutely incredible in every way. Owned by a British family with a passion for conservation but run by a combination of local Kenyans, including a Masai, and some local Africans who have moved to the camp to be part of this incredible staff. The food is out of this world good, the tour guides and staff are great, and they have horse-back riding onsite. You immediately feel like family at Lewa, it's an intimate space and they go above and beyond to make every experience special. The staff joins for meals so you get a chance to know them and you feel like you're being treated to a wonderful meal with friends. They even have giraffes who wander around the camp grounds during the day sometimes, and the rooms are beautiful. Each family gets a house with rooms and a living room where they put a fire in the furnace each night. Plenty of wine, delicious food, and they host tea time. They own the campgrounds in Laikipia and employ rangers who have already shot and taken down poachers in their efforts to protect their rhino population. They also feed all leftover food to their local farm animals, and they have their own garden which provides the delicious vegetables they serve at each meal. This was my favorite place on the whole trip, if you can only go to one location try to go here!
Laikipia: ★★★★★ overall, ★★★★★ nature immersive
Up north they have unique zebras called Gervey zebras, and Reticulated Giraffes, who are different from the Rothschild or Masai Giraffes down south. Here we saw lions, Topis, tons of zebra and giraffe, and even had a safari on horseback. Local Masai work for the camp and offer guided hiking tours and happily answer questions about their local culture and customs. Also featured are camel rides. I really loved this place and hope to come back again some day.
Kichwa Tembo $$$: ★★★★☆ Overall, ★★★★★ Nature Immersive, ★★★★☆ Sustainable
Kichwa has a large number of individual huts, and they run a buffet for all meals to accommodate a larger number of guests. This felt more like a hotel, with staff in uniform and meals at individual tables, unlike the large family table at Lewa. Still, the experience was very nice and the hotel has local Masai come a few times a week to perform songs and they involve the guests. They then sell wood carvings and local handmade jewelry by the Masai women. Many of the local tour guides are Masai as well. Warthogs roam the grounds freely and you can see wild animals in the distance from the back of the huts. The food was very good, and the staff was incredibly nice.
Masai Mara Game Reserve: ★★★★★ Overall, ★★★★★ Nature Immersive
This is the real deal. Tigers, wildebeest, leopards, zebra, hippos, cheetahs, crocodiles, and...The Great Migration. We witnessed zebra rushing through the river to get from Tanzania to Kenya, and the crocodile waiting for their chance to take down the ones who got too close. We even saw one unlucky fellow get pulled underwater. A male lion strolled right past our truck, and herds of elephants strolled past us regularly. If you plan to go to Masai Mara, try to come for the Great Migration, it's a spectacular once in a lifetime experience.