Northwest Safari Circuit

northwest safari circuit Northwest Safari Circuit is characterised by changeable landscapes

The vast swathe of Kenya that runs north from Nairobi towards the remote border with Ethiopia is characterised by geographic extremes. On the one hand, there are the cool and fertile central highlands that rise towards the 5,199m peak of Mount Kenya, not only Africa’s second-tallest mountain, but sufficiently lofty to actually support glaciers less than 15 km south of the equator. By contrast, the hostile plains that stretch north from Mount Kenya rank among the most parched and barren of sub-Sahelian landscapes, supporting a thin population of nomadic peoples who eke out a living as traditional pastoralists.

These contrasting landscapes offer some of Kenya’s finest and most varied game viewing. Admittedly there’s nothing quite on the scale of the Masai Mara, but the remote and rugged likes of Meru National Park, Samburu-Buffalo Springs National Reserve and the private ranches of Laikipia support a fascinating array of dry-country wildlife, while the highlands around Mount Kenya are rich in forest wildlife. Overall, the northwest will perhaps be less rewarding to first-time safari goers than the more famous southern circuit, but when it comes to unusual wildlife encounters and a genuine wilderness experience, it arguably has more to offer repeat African visitors.

Highlights

mount kenya national park Hut Tarn and Midget Peak, Mount Kenya National Park | Credit: Kenya Airways

Protecting Africa’s second-tallest mountain, Mount Kenya National Park is also Kenya’s most popular destination for multi-day hikes. For ordinary hikers, the usual goal is the 4,985m-high Point Lenana, but peak-baggers with suitable climbing experience and gear can head all the way up to the 5,199m Batian Peak. Either way, weather permitting, the landscapes - from lush rainforest to stark equatorial glaciers - are stunning.

fine dining serena mountain lodge Fine dining at the Serena Mountain Lodge

Set in the forest zones of Mount Kenya and nearby Aberdare National Park, a trio of hide-like tree hotels - Serena Mountain Lodge, Treetops and The Ark - offer a unique overnight game-viewing experience, overlooking water holes that regularly attract some or all of the Big Five, as well as a host of secretive forest-dwellers.

The attractive Thomson’s Falls stands alongside Kenya’s highest town Nyahururu.

Solio Game Ranch, set on the grassy highland saddle between Mount Kenya and the Aberdares, operates Kenya’s most important breeding program for black and white rhino.

laikipia Lions in the Laikipia Plateau

The vast Laikipia Plateau protects a patchwork of private and community-owned sanctuaries that offer an exclusive all-inclusive safari packages focussing not only on the Big Five but also on rarities such as Grevy’s zebra and black rhino. At many ranches, game drives are supplemented by a more varied menu of night drives, guided walks and horseback safaris.

elephants crossing ewaso nyiro river Elephants crossing the Ewaso Nyiro River | Credit: Rainbirder

Set on the arid plains north of Mount Kenya, the Samburu-Buffalo Springs-Shaba complex of national reserves protects a harsh environment alleviated by the forest-fringed waters of the perennial Ewaso Nyiro River. It is the best place to see a long list of localised dry-country mammals and birds whose range is limited to northern Kenya and bordering parts of Ethiopia and Somalia.

The Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy north of Samburu can be explored on exclusive multi-day camelback and walking safaris.

mount meru national park The beautiful Mount Meru National Park

Arguably Kenya’s best-kept game-viewing secret, Meru National Park holds out the possibility of seeing all the Big Five in an untrammelled and little-visited wilderness of grassy plains and babbling jungle-lined streams.

Now accessible along a newly asphalted road running north all the way to the Ethiopian border, the underrated Marsabit National Park protects a volcanic massif that rises in verdant isolation from the surrounding arid plains. Supporting a cover of lush forest, and studded with pretty crater lakes, the park is also home to a good variety of wildlife including some impressive tuskers.

el molo child A young El Molo child

One of Kenya’s most alluring off-the-beaten-track goals, Lake Turkana is the world’s largest desert lake, its deep jade waters submerging the Rift Valley floor for a length of 300 km from north to south. Set in a primeval landscape of extinct volcanoes and naked lava flows, this forbidding lake supports the world’s largest concentration of Nile crocodile, and it is also where several of the world’s oldest and most important hominid fossils have been unearthed. The lake hinterland is of great cultural interest thanks to the presence of traditional and colourfully-attired ethnic groups, among them the Rendille, Samburu, Turkana and El Molo.

Practical advice

  • The main air gateway to the region is Nanyuki Airport, which stands close to the eponymous town and is serviced by daily flights from the Masai Mara and Nairobi. Nanyuki is a short drive from most sites of interest in the region, but those heading on to more remote parts of Laikipia or the likes of Namunyak may need to charter an additional flight.

  • Public reserves and parks are best visited on an organised safari, which can be arranged through any operator. Self-drive out of Nairobi is also a possibility. It is quite common to tag a visit to one or more of Laikipia, Meru and/Samburu-Buffalo Springs onto a southern safari taking in the likes of Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru. Any of the region’s three tree hotels - Treetops, The Ark or Serena Mountain Lodge - would make for a great overnight break en route.

  • Hikes on Mount Kenya are best arranged with specialist operators who know the mountain well.

  • Upmarket lodges and tented camps can be found in all national parks and listed conservancies. Private lodges in Laikipia mostly cater to the top end of the safari market, and their standard thing is an all-inclusive package that covers transportation, meals, activities and in some cases drinks. Most lodges in public reserves operate more like conventional hotels.


Our Recommended Itinerary

Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)

day 1

Nairobi your arrival
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)

day 2

Chyulu Hills, what a wonderful start
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)

day 3

Amboseli, go down to the swamps

day 4

Rift valley lakes, flamingo and Loldia comfort

day 5

Rhino, Rothchild's giraffe and more

day 6

Into the Mara itself

day 7

Explore the confluence of the rivers
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)

day 8

Olare Orok, more big cats and off-road driving
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)
  • Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)

day 9

Utilise the evening drives

day 10

Fly Home

View Full Itinerary

You might also like

An active holiday in Kenya

Horseback riding in Kenya | Credit: Mario Moreno for Elewana Collection The two most popular activities in Kenya are safaris and beach holidays. Since the former generally involves long hours being driven through the bush in search of animals, and the latter is all about chilling out and doing as little as possible, neither is inherently well suited to active travellers. That said,…

Kenya vs Uganda

Uganda is a great destination for a gorilla trekking safari Kenya is a better destination than Uganda when it comes to quality Big Five sightings and plains wildlife in general. Its game reserves tend to be far larger than their counterparts in Uganda, and to offer a more varied selection of lodges and tented camps. Equally, Uganda offers several attractions not found in Kenya or…

Watamu and Malinda

Sailing in Malinda | Credit: Make it Kenya Like Mombasa, Malindi is an ancient Swahili trading port that fell under Portuguese influence in the 16th century. It is far smaller and more low-rise than Mombasa, and has a less conspicuous sense of antiquity, though the old town is scattered with a few important historical landmarks. These days, Malindi, more than any other comparably…

Health care in Kenya

A public healthcare system exists but it is underfunded and rudimentary by international standards. Private medical facilities compare favourable to most parts of Africa other than South Africa but are not always to the standard you’d expect in Europe or North America. On the plus side, medical consultations are generally very cheap, and local doctors are highly experienced when it…

Welcome to Kenya

The Great Migration in the Masai Mara is a highlight of a Kenyan safari Often regarded to be the ultimate safari destination, Kenya undoubtedly incorporates some of the continent’s most rewarding and exciting national parks and wildlife reserves. Best known is the incomparable Masai Mara, whose undulating green grasslands support staggering concentrations of lion, cheetah, spotted…

Medical requirements for Kenya

Malaria is the biggest single medical threat to visitors to Kenya. It is present in most parts of the country throughout the year, though the risk of transmission is generally far higher at low altitudes and during the rainy season. There is no vaccine, but several different oral prophylactics are available, and it is advisable to visit a travel clinic or other suitably qualified medical…

Popular Kenya Safaris

These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates

 | Kenya Naturalist Safari (7 days)

Kenya Naturalist Safari (7 days)

Search for the near-extinct hirola antelope in Tsavo East, find Africa's largest elephants and visit Chyulu Hills to see Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak...

 | Best of Africa Safari (16 days)

Best of Africa Safari (16 days)

Experience the best of Africa, from the Okavango Delta – one of Africa's Seven Natural Wonders – to the endangered mountain gorillas and East Africa's Great Migration...

 | Gorilla trekking and the Great Migration Combined (11 days)

Gorilla trekking and the Great Migration Combined (11 days)

Unforgettable experience in the jungles of Rwanda to track the last Mountain gorillas on earth and view the awesome Great Migration river crossings...

Lion cubs | Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)

Southern Kenya Sojourn (10 days)

Amboseli, Lake Nakuru and the Masai Mara are southern Kenya's superstars, the best places for your safari...

Asilia Africa | Spectacular July to September Wildebeest River Crossings  (10 days)

Spectacular July to September Wildebeest River Crossings (10 days)

Experience one of Africa's greatest spectacles – smell the dust and hear the noise of thousands of animals crossing the Mara River in an epic struggle for survival...

 | Kenya Bush and Beach Family Safari Itinerary (12 days)

Kenya Bush and Beach Family Safari Itinerary (12 days)

It's easy to see why so many visitors flock to Kenya from around the world to experience a truly unique African adventure in one of the world’s most pristine safari destinations....

 | Migration Safari in Kenya and Tanzania (8 days)

Migration Safari in Kenya and Tanzania (8 days)

See the beauty of nature's greatest wildlife spectacle in two countries...

 | Wilderness safari in Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe (10 days)

Wilderness safari in Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe (10 days)

Why not visit more than one exciting African destination? See the Great Migration, Victoria Falls and wildlife-rich Hwange National Park...

Enjoying a sundowner whilst watching the wildebeest migration.  | HerdTracker Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration Journey (7 days)

HerdTracker Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration Journey (7 days)

Witness the wildebeest migration in Kenya's iconic Masai Mara National Reserve with HerdTracker...

 | Masai Mara Safari Adventure (6 days)

Masai Mara Safari Adventure (6 days)

Explore the jewel in Kenya's crown; the wildlife-rich Masai Mara National Reserve...

Ready to start your adventure?

Your tailor-made African holiday starts here...

How can we get hold of you?

How many people will be travelling?

Details

Please tell us more about your travel plans?


Discover Africa needs the contact information you provide, to us to contact you. You may unsubscribe from these communications at anytime.

Submitting your inquiry

Thank you, your enquiry has been received

Thank you, your enquiry has been received

Reference:

 +27 21 422 3498
   discover.africa
    info@discoverafrica.com
    8AM - 5PM GMT+2