Coastal Kenya Birding Tour - Detailed Tour Itinerary

Day 1   Arrival in Nairobi - 7th March
Today on arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, you will be met and transferred to the Nairobi Hilton Gardens Hotel for an overnight stay.

Days 2 - 3   Amboseli National Park
After breakfast we will set out on the drive into Amboseli National Park where we will stay for two nights at a delightful lodge. On our way we will encounter a wide selection of birdlife that Africa is so famous for with possibilities including Kori Bustard, Ring-necked Dove, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Red-fronted Barbet, Little and White-rumped Swifts, Speckled Mousebird, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Lesser Striped and Red-rumped Swallows, Plain and Rock Martins, African Pied Wagtail, Rattling, Singing, Stout and Lyne’s Cisticolas, Dark-capped Yellow-Warbler, Red-faced Crombec, Buff-bellied Warbler, Banded and Brown Parisomas, Chin-spot Batis, Tropical and Slate-coloured Boubous, Northern Pied-babbler, Superb and Hildebrandt’s Starlings, Red-throated and White-bellied Tits, Abyssinian White-eyes, Rufous Sparrow, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Baglafecht, Speke’s and Spectacled Weavers, White-winged Widowbird, Yellow Bishop, Pin-tailed Whydah, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Crimson-rumped Waxbill and Streaky Seedeater, to name just a few!

Before reaching the Amboseli Game Reserve we will pass through some dry scrub country where we may find Eastern Chanting-Goshawk, Pygmy Falcon, Crested and Yellow-necked Francolins, Buff-crested Bustard, Spotted Thick-knee, Namaqua, Laughing and African Mourning Doves, Emerald-spotted Wood-dove, Pearl-spotted Owlet, African Orange-bellied Parrot, White-bellied Go-away-bird, White-headed and Blue-naped Mousebirds, Little Bee-eater, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Northern Red-billed and Von der Decken’s Hornbills, Black-throated, D’arnaud’s and Red-and-yellow Barbets, Foxy (Fawn-coloured) and Pink-breasted Larks, African Bare-eyed Thrush, Ashy and Tiny Cisticolas, Grey Wren-Warbler, White-winged Scrub-Robin, Beautiful and Mariqua Sunbirds, Northern White-crowned Shrike, Long-tailed and Taita Fiscals, Rosy-patched Bush-Shrike, Fischer’s Starling, White-headed Buffalo-Weaver, Vitelline and Lesser Masked  Weavers, Grey-capped Social-Weaver, Chestnut Sparrow, Blue-capped Cordon-bleu, Grey-headed Silverbill, Black-faced Waxbill and the extremely-local Southern Grosbeak-Canary.

Amboseli Game Reserve is home to a wide variety of birds and mammal species and is also one of the best places in the world to observe the spectacular Mt Kilimanjaro, which towers more than 19,000 feet above the plains. The list of potential birds in this amazing reserve is vast and includes Common Ostrich, Bateleur, Martial Eagle, White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures, Spur-winged and Egyptian Geese, Red-billed and Hottentot Teals, Long-tailed Cormorant, Red-knobbed Coot, Yellow-billed and Saddle-billed Storks, Great and Intermediate Egrets, Grey, Black-headed, Goliath and Squacco Herons, Black Crake, African Jacana, Grey Crowned-Crane, African Spoonbill, African Fish-Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Hartlaub’s Bustard, Water Thick-Knee, Collared Pratincole, Two-banded Courser, Long-toed Lapwing, Three-banded, Kittlitz’s, Blacksmith and Spur-winged Plovers, Greater Painted-Snipe, Chestnut-bellied and Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, White-browed Coucal, Slender-tailed Nightjar, Lilac-breasted Roller, Grey-headed, Malachite and Pied Kingfishers, African Hoopoe, Red-capped Lark, Fischer’s Sparrow-Lark, Pangani and Rosy-throated Longclaws, Zitting and Winding Cisticolas, Speke’s Weaver, Taveta Golden-Weaver, Fan-tailed Widowbird and the diminutive Red-billed Firefinch. Some of the many mammals possible in Amboseli include Yellow Baboon, Black-faced Vervet Monkey, Scrub Hare, Black-backed and Side-striped Jackals, Dwarf Mongoose, Spotted Hyena, Lion, Cheetah, African Savannah Elephant, Common (Burchell’s) Zebra, Hippopotamus, Common Warthog, Masai Giraffe, Cape Buffalo, Kirk’s Dikdik, Bohor Reedbuck, Common Waterbuck, Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelles, Impala, Coke’s Hartebeest and occasionally the stunning Fringe-eared Oryx. Nights in Amboseli.

Days 4 - 5   Tsavo West National Park
After breakfast we will transfer to Tsavo West National Park for two nights stay at another great lodge. En-route we will be making several birding stops, of which Hunter’s Lodge is most notable.  These may produce Black-faced Sandgrouse, Crowned Hornbill, Red-chested Cuckoo, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Giant Kingfisher, Nubian Woodpecker, Short-tailed Lark, Northern Brownbul, Eastern Nicator, Spotted Morning-Thrush, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Northern Crombec, Ashy and Lead-coloured Flycatchers, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Black-headed-Batis, Retz’s Helmet-Shrike, African Golden-Weaver, Green-winged Pytilia, Peters’s Twinspot and the local Jameson’s Firefinch.

Tsavo West is one of the largest parks in the world and is also one of the wildest areas left on the planet.  The park consists of many habitat types, but thick bush country is the most prevalent.  Avian treats during our stay in Tsavo West may include Common Ostrich, Hildebrandt's and Crested Francolins, Spur-winged Goose, African Darter, Goliath and Black Herons, Hamerkop, Secretarybird, Steppe, Tawny and Verreaux’s Eagles, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, Grasshopper Buzzard, Pygmy Falcon, White-bellied and Hartlaub ́s Bustards, Water Thick-knee, Two-banded Courser, Collared Pratincole, Verreaux's Eagle-Owl, Slender-tailed and Freckled Nightjars, Jacobin, Great Spotted and Diederik Cuckoo, Yellow-billed and Southern Ground Hornbills, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Sooty and Amur Falcons, African Hoopoe, Mottled and African Black Swifts, Banded Martin, D ́Arnauds and Spot-flanked Barbets, Cardinal Woodpecker, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill, White-bellied Go-Away-Bird, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Three-streaked and Black-crowned Tchagra, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, Black-backed and Pringle's Puffbacks, Long-tailed Fiscal, Brown-crowned, Black-crowned and Three-streaked Tchagras, Rosy-patched, Grey-headed and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrikes, Dodson’s Bulbul, African Grey and Pale Flycatchers, Rufous and Scaly Chatterers, Somali (Acacia) Tit, African and Mouse-coloured Penduline-Tits, Black-billed (Amethyst), Hunter’s, Tsavo and Kenya Violet-backed Sunbirds, Pygmy Batis, Brubru, Common Rock Thrush, African Black-headed Oriole, Yellow-billed and Red-billed Oxpeckers, White-necked Raven, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Ox-peckers, Hildebrandt ́s, Fischer ́s, Violet-backed, Ruppell's, Magpie and Golden-breasted Starlings, White-headed and Red-billed Buffalo-Weavers, Black-necked, Lesser Masked, Vitelline Masked, Village and Red-headed Weavers, Taveta (Golden) Weaver, Black-capped Social-Weaver, African Quail-Finch, Long-tailed Paradise, Steel-blue and Pin-tailed Whydahs, Southern Grosbeak-Canary, Chestnut Sparrow, Reichenow’s (Kenya Yellow-rumped) Seedeater and the magnificent Somali Bunting. We should encounter more overwintering northern migrants as well, species such as White-throated Robin, Pied Wheatear, Marsh, Olive-tree, River, Barred and even Basra Reed Warbler amongst others. 

African Crested Porcupine, Yellow Baboon, Blue Sykes’s Monkey, Black-faced Vervet Monkey, Scrub Hare, Unstriped Ground-Squirrel, Black-backed Jackal, Lion, Bush Hyrax, Common (Burchell’s) Zebra, Hippopotamus, Common Warthog, Masai Bushbuck, the elegant Lesser Kudu, Klipspringer, Kirk’s Dikdik, Bush Duiker, Bohor Reedbuck, Common Waterbuck, Grant’s Gazelle, Impala, Coke’s Hartebeestt, the impressive Fringe-eared Oryx and if we are incredibly lucky, the rare African Wild Dog are just a few of the mammals we may locate during our stay in Tsavo West.

Days 6 - 7   Taita Hills
After an early breakfast we'll leave Tsavo and drive towards Taita Hills where we‘ll spend the morning in a remnant patch of forest at the top of the Taita Hills looking for a number of species that occur nowhere else in Kenya such as Stripe-cheeked Bulbul, Taita Thrush, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Taita Apalis, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler and Taita White-eye. Other birds in this small woodland include African Crowned Eagle, Mountain Buzzard, sometimes Taita Falcon, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Orange Ground-Thrush, Striped Pipit, Olive Sunbird, Placid Greenbul, Starred Robin, Sharpe’s and Abbott’s Starling and Green Twinspot amongst others. In the afternoon we'll drive back to our lodge and we will undoubtedly find more new birds with possibilities including Brown-breasted Barbet, Olive Bee-eater, Ashy Cisticola, Straw-tailed Whydah and many more. The lodge is located in Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary covering an area of 125,000 acres, a vital elephants corridor and conservation area bordering the southwest corner of Tsavo West National Park. It is owned by the local community and offers magnificent panoramic views, features 12 traditionally built en-suite rooms on wooden decks, whose verandahs are raised over one of Kenya most stunning panoramas. It’s a mammal paradise with Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Serval, Civet, Bat-eared Fox, African Water Buffalo, Giraffe, African Elephant, Olive Baboon, Waterbuck, Hartebeest, Eland, various gazelles, Plains Zebra, Rock Hyrax, African Porcupine and Orxy all present, whilst the unusual Aardwolf and both Striped and Spotted Hyena can be seen. It is possible to arrange night game drives here – please ask our office for details. Nights in Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary.  

Day 8   Taita Hills – Shimba Hills National Park
This morning we can do a morning game drive in Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary and later in the day drive to Shimba Hills National Park, Kenya’s last remaining habitat of the rare Sable Antelope. Shimba Hills is a small park with rolling hills, grasslands, open glades, woodlands and coastal forest. Here we anticipate to see birds such as Palm-nut Vulture, Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills, Sooty Falcon, Eurasian Roller, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Red-backed Shrike, Flappet Lark, Siffling and Croaking Cisticolas, Pangani Longclaw and Yellowbill. In the woods we may get species like Narina Trogon, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black Cuckooshrike, Red tailed Ant-Thrush, East Coast Boubou (split from Tropical Boubou), Red capped Robin-Chat, Chestnut- fronted Helmet-Shrike, Dark-capped Bulbul, Zanzibar Sombre and Yellow bellied Greenbuls, Ashy Flycatcher, Black-headed Apalis, Green-headed Oriole and Black-bellied Starling.

Our lodge stays refreshingly cool in its coastal rainforest setting despite being only 45 minutes drive from the hot, humid coastal city of Mombasa. This wonderfully-constructed, three story timber “Tree-House lodge” overlooks a waterhole and is a bird- and animal-watchers paradise. Dramatic Black-and-white Colobus Monkeys as well Yellow Baboons, herds of Elephants and graceful Maasai Giraffes are often seen here. If we are very lucky a Leopard may make a rare appearance and we can see the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania from the sundowner site. All our rooms have balconies overlooking the waterhole and this will be a great location to spend a relaxing afternoon watching all the activity here. 2 nights at Shimba Hills Lodge.

Day 9   Shimba Hills
All day will be spent in the Shimba Hills National Reserve. This reserve is mostly thick coastal forest, which is broken up in areas by forest glades. Birds that can be located within this lush habitat include Crested Guineafowl, Ayres's Hawk-Eagle, Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, Black Goshawk (Great Sparrowhawk), African Cuckoo-Hawk, Palm-nut Vulture, Red-necked Francolin, Tambourine Dove, Fischer's Turaco, Little Spotted Woodpecker, ellowbill, Mosque Swallow, Mottled and Bohm's Spinetails, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, White-throated Bee-eater (seasonal), Trumpeter and Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, Brown-breasted, White-eared and Green Barbets, Eastern Green Tinkerbird, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Flappet Lark, Black Cuckooshrike, Tiny and Sombre Greenbuls, Terrestrial Brownbul, Siffling and Croaking Cisticolas, Green-backed Camaroptera, Forest Batis, Uluguru Violet-backed and Eastern Olive Sunbirds, Green-headed Oriole, Golden Palm Weaver and the lovely Dark-backed (Forest) Weaver. Mammals that can be seen in the picturesque Shimba Hills include Western Black-and-white Colobus, Lesser Galago or Bush baby (sometimes on top of the dinner table), Red-bellied Coast Squirrel, Common Genet, Small-spotted Genet, the majestic Sable Antelope, Red Duiker and the shy Suni. Occasionally an African Civet or even a family party of Bush Pigs will visit the swamp behind the Lodge at night. Night at Shimba Hills Lodge.

Days 10 - 11  Arabuko – Sokoke Forest
This morning we will leave early and drive to Mombasa and then proceed northwards to Malindi where we will stay for the next 3 nights at Tembo Point Resort or Turtle Bays Beach Hotel – both of which are the perfect base from which to spend three days exploring the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. Birds to be expected within this forest reserve are Southern Banded Snake-Eagle, African Goshawk, Mangrove Kingfisher, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Fischer’s Turaco, Green Barbet, Eastern Green Tinkerbird, Mombasa and Green-backed Woodpeckers, Scaly-breasted, Lesser and Pallid Honeyguides, Forbes-Watson's Swift, Common Scimitarbill, Narina Trogon, Ethiopian Swallow, Sokoke Pipit, Tiny, Yellow-bellied and Fischer’s Greenbuls, Red-tailed Ant-thrush, East Coast Akalat, Red-capped Robin-chat, Eastern Bearded Scrub-Robin, Four-coloured Bush-Shrike, Eastern Nicator, Forest and Pale Batis, Little Yellow Flycatcher, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Collared Palm-Thrush, Coastal Cisticola, Zanzibar Red Bishop, Scaly Babbler, Violet-breasted, Plain-backed and Amani Sunbirds, African Golden Oriole, both Retz’s and Chestnut-fronted Helmet-shrikes, Green and Peters’s (Red-throated)Twinspots, Dark-backed Weaver, and the poorly-known and endangered endemic Clarke’s Weaver. There should be some overwintering, northern migrants present such as Lesser Grey, Red-backed & Isabelline Shrikes, Thrush Nightingale, Rufous Bushchat, Olivaceous & Barred Warblers and others.

In the evening we will be searching for several nocturnal species including the endangered Sokoke Scops-Owl, African Barred Owlet, African Wood-Owl and the colourful Fiery-necked Nightjar. Four-toed and Golden-rumped Elephant Shrews (the latter being critically-endangered) are both found in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, but are very shy and difficult to see. Occasionally, nocturnal mammals such as White-tailed Mongoose, Honey Badger or even the stunning Caracal can be found here.  Of course it helps to have a little bit of luck with these!

Another site we will visit during our stay in the Watamu area is Mida Creek. This is a tidal mudflat with scores of waders present and birds of note in this area are Greater Flamingo, Dimorphic Egret, Crab Plover (sometimes more than 100 individuals), Lesser and Greater Sandplovers, and both Terek and Curlew Sandpipers amongst others. 3 nights at Tembo Point Resort or Turtle Beach Resort.

Day 12   Sabaki Estuary
On our last morning here we will visit the Sabaki Estuary north of Malindi town and this area is usually teeming with waders and waterfowl.  Some of our target species here include Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, Madagascar Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, White-fronted Plover, Sooty and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Lesser and Greater Crested Terns, Saunders’s Tern and African Skimmer. Nearby reeds sometimes hold Fire-fronted and Zanzibar Red Bishops.  Rarities pop up in this area all the time and it is exciting to think what we may find. In the latter part of the morning we will try and find the extremely local Malindi Pipit. And after our birding is finished we will head back to our excellent hotel for some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

Day 13   Tsavo East National Park
After breakfast we will head to Tsavo East National Park for a one-night stay. We will be birding all day seeing many truly iconic African birds and there’s a lot to see here: Somali Ostrich, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Vulturine Guineafowl, White-bellied & Buff-crested Bustards, Somali Courser, Caspian Plover, Black-faced Sandgrouse, African Openbill, Secretarybird, Martial Eagle, Black-chested and Brown Snake-eagles, Bateleur, African Harrier-Hawk, White-headed, Lappet-faced and Ruppell’s Griffon Vultures, Gabar Goshawk, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Steppe Buzzard, Montagu ́s Harrier, Eleonora ́s Falcon, Northern Red-billed, Von der Decken's, African Grey and Crowned Hornbills, Purple Roller, Little, White-throated, Blue-cheeked and Somali Bee-eaters, Lesser Kestrel, Brown-headed Parrot, African Pygmy and Striped Kingfishers, African, Common and Diederik Cuckoo, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Red-and-yellow Barbet, Bearded, Nubian and Cardinal Woodpeckers, Red-faced Crombec, Black Cuckooshrike, Banded Martin, Golden Pipit, Rosy-patched and Red-naped Bushshrikes, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Singing, Red-winged and Pink-breasted Larks, Northern Brownbul, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark (seasonal), White-crested Helmetshrike, White-throated Robin, Banded Parisoma, Fork-tailed Drongo, Pygmy Batis, Red-throated Tit, Three-streaked Tchagra, Buff-bellied Warbler, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Upcher's Warbler, Bare-eyed Thrush, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Tsavo Purple-banded Sunbird, Pale Prinia, Jameson’s Firefinch, Red-billed Quelea, Chestnut-backed and Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Larks, African Silverbill, Wattled and Golden-breasted Starlings, Chestnut and Speke’s Weavers, Grey-capped Social-Weaver, and the elegant Eastern Paradise-whydah are some of the birds we may see. There are sometimes reports of the stunning African Swallow-tailed Kite, but this is far south from their normal range and it must be assumed this species is a rarity here. Of course there will be plenty of the usual mammals on view to keep us entertained. Night birding could produce Donaldson-Smith’s, Sombre, Plain or even a Nubian Nightjar. Night near Tsavo East NP.

Day 14   Tsavo East NP – Nairobi – End of Tour  - 20th March
After breakfast we will head back towards Nairobi, making plenty of birding stops along the way.  And later in the day we will transfer to the airport for our scheduled flights back home and conclusion of a wonderful tour.