The Mara & Beyond:
Kenyan Wildlife Safari
September 14–24, 2021
Our 2021 Kenya Safari is SOLD OUT!
Click the button below to be notified when our October 2022 Kenya journey opens for registration. You can also email Lauren if you’d like to be put on the waitlist for 2021, just in case a spot opens up!
Trip at a Glance
- September 14–24, 2021
- Escorted by BJ & Lauren, owners of RetreaTours
- Led by expert Kenyan safari guides
- Enjoy daily game drives and check off all of the “Big Five” as you see them!
- Witness the Great Migration of wildebeest into Kenya
- Marvel at Mt. Kilimanjaro from Amboseli National Park
- Witness the majesty of the old “tusker” elephants, the biggest land creatures on the planet
- Watch rhinoceros meander along a Rift Valley “soda” lake
- Explore the wildlife of the Masai Mara, especially the lions, cheetahs, and leopards!
- This journey is triple carbon offset
- Opportunity for a 3-day Mountain Gorilla extension in Rwanda
- All-inclusive price of $5299 (based on double occupancy)
How to Register
- Review this entire webpage for details
- Complete Registration Questions and Contract
- Lauren will email you with a link to pay the deposit.
Not ready for 2021? Get on the list for 2022!
Add your name to the growing list and we’ll let you know as soon as Kenya 2022 registration opens!
COVID Safety Notes (click to open)
We will inform our registered guests as circumstances may change. As of late June 2021, here is information about visiting Kenya and our COVID commitments. We do expect the entry requirements for Kenya to change with more widespread vaccination, and we’ll keep you up to date.
To enter Kenya
You must have a negative PCR test issued at most 96 hours before boarding your flight to Kenya.
We are requiring all of our guests to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for this journey, to protect themselves, fellow guests, and local Kenyans. All of our guides/drivers will also be vaccinated. As information is released about any vaccine requirements to enter Kenya, we’ll keep you informed.
Restaurants while on safari are often open-air or you have the option to eat outside. It is possible to break out into smaller groups, if you’d like.
It is crucial we respect the Kenyans who will be around us on this journey, as vaccinations will most likely not be as widespread there as in other parts of the world. Wearing proper face masks when you are around any local people will be non-negotiable.
Anytime we are in an enclosed space or a vehicle (even on safari, if our guide or driver is not vaccinated), we will ask that you wear your face mask to cover your nose and mouth. We’ll also kindly ask you to use hand sanitizer/wash your hands frequently.
Tests upon departing Kenya
At this point in time (late June 2021) the USA requires people re-entering to have had a negative PCR or antigen test within 96 hours before boarding your flight home. Kenya also requires people exiting to have a negative test within 96 hours of departure. We will arrange for said tests before the end of the trip if they are still required.
Lake Nakuru National Park
“There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne — bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.”
Itinerary at a Glance
September 14 This morning you’ll arrive into Nairobi & rest in a lovely centrally located hotel.
September 15 Depart for Amboseli National Park and our gorgeous home base: a comfortable tent camp in the bush with a stunning view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Our nearest neighbors are giraffes and zebras!
September 16-17 Explore Amboseli, famous for its population of rare “tuskers”–elephants whose tusks are so long that they reach the ground (like Tim, pictured here)
September 18 Head back to Nairobi today to rest before tomorrow’s departure to Nakuru National Park & an afternoon game drive.
September 19 Discover Nakuru with an afternoon game drive today. Nakuru, set on a “soda” lake of the Rift Valley, is home to both the southern white and eastern black rhinoceros.
September 20 From Nakuru we’ll head southwest to the Masai Mara, part of the same beautiful ecosystem as the Serengeti in Tanzania.
September 21, 22, 23 Enjoy the dense population of wildlife on the Mara–especially the big cats! Lions, cheetahs, leopards, oh my!
September 24 We’ll head back to Nairobi today, enjoying one last lunch together and reminisce about seeing “The Big Five” on safari together. Perhaps you’ll add on a 3-day extension to see the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda–see the details below!
Here’s a partial list of animals we’re most likely to see in our adventures!
Lion · African Bush Elephant · Rhinoceros · Cape Buffalo · Leopard · Zebra · Giraffe · Hippopotamus · Cheetah · Spotted Hyena · Wildebeest · Warthog · Ostrich · Jackal · Gazelle · Impala · Eland · Waterbuck · Nile Crocodile · and oodles of bird species!
What to expect on this journey
We never wanted to offer safaris until we were absolutely in love with our itinerary and our local partners—and we’re finally there!
We’ve carefully curated your safari experience to maximize wildlife viewing and comfort while minimizing time driving between national parks. Many safari itineraries have you running all over creation, but we focus on three stellar national parks that house not only the “Big Five” (lions, elephants, cape buffalo, rhinos & leopards) but all of the animals you’re here for!
We’ll experience one to two game drives a day, starting in the early light of sunrise to witness the activity of wildlife, and we’ll stay out through the early afternoon. Late afternoon game drives will always be optional for you, but highly encouraged!
Our vehicles will be comfortable Toyota Land Cruisers, never filled to capacity; you’ll sit four to six guests per vehicle, while the max capacity is 8. While in the bush we see so many safari vehicles simply packed to the gills & it break our heart; we know that doesn’t make for a good experience! Our hotels and safari tent camps are perfectly located within or directly adjacent to the national parks & all rooms have a private bathroom and hot water.
We’ve worked hard to find outstanding Kenyan-owned safari companies, guides, and hotels, ensuring your money stays within Kenya to benefit the community.
You can find cheaper safaris, but at what cost? So many budget safari companies use buses or mini-vans to bring you into the bush (pictured above). We don’t think that makes for a very pleasant experience, so we use Toyota Landcruisers (pictured below) and we don’t fill them to capacity—everyone gets a window seat (and to see out the roof!)
Detailed Daily Itinerary
Ever since BJ’s first safari in 1999, it was a dream to be able to share this experience with others. Now, after a decade of professional travel experience and years of trying to find the best local partners, we are overjoyed to share our first safari opportunity with you!
We’ve carefully created this itinerary to show you the best wildlife Kenya has to offer while reducing the amount of time spent traveling from park to park. Your Kenyan experience will begin in the capital, Nairobi. We’ll stay in Nairobi for one evening and begin our adventure the next morning!
We’ll start off near the southern border of Kenya in Amboseli National Park (5-hour drive from Nairobi). This park, part of a much-larger ecosystem that spreads across the Kenya-Tanzania border, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991. Amboseli is famous for its views of Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 19,341 ft (5,895 meters). The park is also known for its elephants, including some of the last of the great tuskers.
Our stylish and intimate camp in Amboseli is a gem. Think “glamping,” for sure! Each tent is equipped with its own private bathroom and gorgeous view. The camp’s central lounge area and fire pit are a perfect place to relax and take in the view—Mt Kilimanjaro takes center stage when it emerges from the clouds. Tim and his merry band of tuskers has also been known to make guest appearances near the camp, as well.
Each full day in a national park we’ll have the opportunity for two games drives; one to take advantage of the beautiful light and increased animal activity at sunrise, and another in the late afternoon for the rich colors of sunset. Both are, of course, optional, depending on how you are feeling that day. On the days where we drive to a new national park, we’ll still have time for one game drive in the afternoon (and, of course, an inherent bonus game drive as we make our way out of the parks in the morning!)
On the 18th we’ll say goodbye to Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tim, and all of Amboseli and head back for an overnight in Nairobi (drive time: 5 hours). We’ll have a comfortable night’s rest and start out tomorrow morning to Lake Nakuru (drive time: 4.5 hours) On the way we may be lucky enough to see the crater rim of Mt. Longonot, a beautiful extinct volcano. Lake Nakuru National Park is within the Rift Valley and this is where we’ll try to spot rhinoceros! Lake Nakuru National Park is one of the oldest rhino sanctuaries and home to both eastern black and southern white rhinos. This is also the place to spot the Rothschild’s giraffe; you’ll see it has a different pattern than the Masai giraffes you’ll admire in Amboseli and Masai Mara.
On the morning of the 20th we’ll drive to Masai Mara (5-hour drive) to begin our four-night stay at a beautiful camp overlooking the Mara. The Masai Mara, named after the indigenous Maasai tribe, is part of the same ecosystem as the neighboring Serengeti in Tanzania. We will be here during the Great Migration, when millions of wildebeest cross into the Mara in search of their favorite food: grass. While it may be known for the flurry of activity during the Great Migration, the Mara has an amazing population of wildlife year round, the densest in all of Kenya.
Here is where we will spend time with the big cats: lions, cheetahs, and if you’re lucky, leopards! In fact, all members of the “Big Five” call the Mara their home: lions, leopards, elephants, cape buffalo, and rhinoceros. Masai Mara is an embarrassment of gorgeous creatures, from hippos and hyenas to warthogs and crocodiles. Wildebeest and zebra dot the plains, and all manner of antelope grace the Mara: impala, dik-dik, reedbuck, Thomson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle, waterbuck, eland, Coke’s hartebeest, and topi. More than 470 species of birds have been identified in the park!
You may also wish to take a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Mara! These spots fill up quickly, so we can help you reserve a space sooner rather than later.
On the 24th we’ll say goodbye to our Mara home and head back to Nairobi (5-hours); most flights depart in the late afternoon, so we’ll enjoy a final lunch together and part ways. Soon we’ll have a whole safari photo album online for you to revisit and show your loved ones!
You can have a smartphone safari!
Do we recommend only having your smartphone on safari? Not necessarily. Can you bring home some excellent shots on your smartphone, though? Absolutely! We get so close to so many animals that sometimes you have to use your phone instead of a zoom lens.
The video below highlights footage that BJ took exclusively on his iPhone 11—nothing edited or zoomed beyond the standard 2x zoom. This video goes to show that it’s not only about what camera you are using on safari!
Want to relax and not worry about capturing the moment? Bring your smartphone & a pair of binoculars and then rely on our photo album at the end of the safari!
Please click the title of the desired tab to open it.
Price & What is Included
The price for this journey is $5299 USD per person (double occupancy).
A $2000 non-refundable deposit holds your space. The second installment of $2000 is due by May 1, 2021, and the balance is due by July 1, 2021. Single supplement ($599) is due along with the last installment. We will email you an invoice (via PayPal) about a week before each due date.
If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $599 USD and will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this single supplement is necessary). We are happy to say we have partially subsidized this single supplement for you! Please note that we cannot guarantee you a roommate for this trip, and if you room alone, you will be responsible for the single supplement.
- All transportation within Kenya, including airport pickup and drop-off
- All accommodation
- All meals (starting with dinner on the 14th and ending with lunch on the 24rd)
- All water, on safari and at meals
- All safaris in a private 4×4 Land Cruiser (only 4 to 6 guests per vehicle)
- All National Park entrance fees ($600 USD per person)
- All tips at hotels and restaurants
- Laundry at Zebra Plains Mara and Zebra Plains Amboseli
- Online photo album after the trip
- Carbon-offsetting for your time in Kenya
Price does not include:
- International airfare (although will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements!)
- Kenya visa (~$51 USD) or East African Visa if you are adding the Rwanda extension (~$100 USD)
- Travel insurance (required)
- Sodas, Juices, and Alcohol (only water included)
- Tip to expert local guide; this is optional, but highly suggested and entirely based on how much you appreciated them and their service.
- Laundry services elsewhere
- Optional Hot Air Balloon ride in the Masai Mara ($470 USD for 2021)
We accept payments via check and credit or debit card (via PayPal). For our guests outside the U.S., please write Lauren@RetreaTours.com for the best transfer details, to save you from PayPal’s 2.5 to 4.5% currency conversion fee.
- Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to RetreaTours and sent to 8821 NW 14 Street, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.
- Paying by Credit Card, Debit Card, or PayPal balance: You can pay the balance with credit card, debit card, or PayPal balance through the button below. Note that you do not have to pay with your PayPal balance; please click here if you’d like further instruction.
We will email you an invoice (via PayPal) about a week before each due date.
We do everything in our power to do right by our guests. We are proud to say that in the wake of our COVID-related trip cancellations through 2020 and 2021, we were able to offer each of our guests the choice of a 100% credit, if not a full refund.
We’ve re-examined each trip and done our best to reduce the deposit amounts as much as possible. Upon your registration, your deposit immediately goes toward reserving your space for flights, hotels, and excursions that must be booked months in advance and are often non-refundable (particularly in Kenya and Rwanda).
Cancellation by our guests
The cancellation charges are as follows unless otherwise indicated on the detailed itinerary for each trip. All cancellations must be received via e-mail or US mail.
- Cancellations prior to 120 days to departure, money will be refunded minus the non-refundable deposit.
- Cancellations received 61 to 119 days prior to departure are subject to a penalty of 50% of the total cost of the trip.
- Cancellations received 60 days or less prior to trip departure will forfeit the entire cost of the trip.
If a trip is cancelled by RetreaTours
When a tour is cancelled in the case of force majeure, the Tour Participant will receive a refund minus any funds that we are unable to recover from any supplier.
You can see the full cancellation policy in our contract here.
Registration Questions & Contract
Please click here to go to complete this journey’s registration form. You will be asked for your passport expiration date; if you will need to renew your passport before this trip, simply fill in your old information and update us when you receive your new passport.
At the end of the form, please press “submit” to finalize your answers. Your spot is not considered reserved until you have completed these questions.
Please click here to download to view and download a PDF of the contract for your records.
FAQ: Visas, Vaccines, Food, Money & more
- Passport and Visa information
- Health & Vaccines, Altitude, Travel Insurance
- Money & How to Get Local Currency
- Communication / Internet Connectivity
- What do I need to know about the visa?
First and foremost, your passport MUST be valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip, and you’ll need two empty pages in the Visas section of your passport (make sure they are in the Visa section, not the Amendment or Endorsement section).
We’ll give you further visa instructions along with the orientation before the journey. The Kenya visa is $51 USD and for those that are extending their journey to Rwanda, you can receive an East African visa for $100 USD.
- Can my dietary needs be accommodated?
Absolutely, we’ll let the camps know about your needs before our arrival. Please indicate any special requests/allergies on the registration form. Please note that many breakfasts/lunches will be boxed meals that we will take to enjoy on safari, but dinners will always be at our hotels.
- Should I bring snacks?
So glad you asked–yes! Snacks like nuts, protein bars, or other favorites are a nice thing to have on hand during long days on safari.
- Can I drink the water?
In a word, No. Although many cities around the world are getting more advanced public water systems, we don’t recommend it. Not only from a pathogen standpoint, but it’s a different set of bacteria than your body is used to. Why risk an upset stomach if you don’t have to? We recommend drinking only bottled water, and you will want to rinse your toothbrush off in bottled water. If you’d like to bring a reusable bottle and a means of sterilization to save on plastic water bottle consumption, you are more than welcome. Otherwise, we will have access to filtered water at all times.
Kenya’s National Parks are said to be changing their rules in 2020 to ban all single-use plastic bottles. If you have a favorite re-usable water bottle/travel mug. please bring it with you!
HEALTH & VACCINES
- What vaccines do I need?
No vaccines are required to enter Kenya, but this is one destination where we highly encourage you to work with your local travel clinic or the travel department of your local health department (often a much cheaper option).
Please see the CDC’s general advice for Kenya: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/kenya
Please see the NHS’s general advice for Kenya: https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations/africa/kenya
As you can see in the CDC’s map below, the Yellow Fever vaccine is recommended for Kenya.
- What about malaria?
As you can see on the CDC’s malaria map below, malaria is endemic throughout Kenya and preventatives are recommended. Please work with your travel physician for the prophylactic best for you.
- Do I need travel insurance?
Travel insurance is required on this trip; please see the separate “Travel Insurance” toggle on this page.
- How much money should I bring?
All of your meals and transportation are covered, so you just have to gauge how much you want to spend on extras. After registration we’ll let you know how much some of the optional activities cost, as well as tips to the guide that are not included.
- How do I get the local currency?
You can either exchange cash in Kenya or use a local ATMs upon arrival in Nairobi (although exchanging money will be easier). Just make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in Kenya so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world.
- What kind of hotels will we be staying at?
Please see the separate “About our Accommodations” toggle on this page.
- Will I be able to charge my electronics (phone, iPad, etc)?
Yes, just be sure to bring along a Universal Travel Adaptor that can go with you anywhere in the world! If you plan on using your phone as a camera on safari, we also highly recommend bringing a portable battery charger such as this one.
- How can my family get ahold of me in an emergency?
Before the trip begins we will give you the contact information for our guide and our partner travel office in Nairobi; in addition, we will give you an American number good for text messages and voicemails. An international phone plan will work in many places on our trip, but please check with your cell provider. If you have an unlocked cell phone, you can buy a local Kenyan SIM card upon arrival at the airport in Nairobi.
- About the Wifi
You will have wifi at most of our camps and all of our hotels in Nairobi, but it can be a very weak signal out in the bush. Cell phone signals (and data) are relatively consistent with a local SIM card at our camps; if you do not have an unlocked phone and cannot purchase a SIM card, you can connect to our phones to check in with your family via email or WhatsApp.
Our Carbon Negative Commitment
RetreaTours is Climate Positive!
We purchase triple carbon offsets for your travels with us—that’s from your home, through the entire tour, and back to your home again, times three!
RetreaTours is officially a Carbonfree® Partner with Carbonfund.org, as well as a partner with Cool Effect.
You may have heard the term “carbon neutral,” which means that a company offsets as much carbon as it produces. With this 300% offset, RetreaTours is actually offsetting more carbon than we produce each year, making us “carbon negative” (or “climate positive,” which has a nicer ring to it!)
Since 2012 we’ve focused on making travel safe and easy for our guests; with our triple carbon offset tours, we’re pleased to make our trips as sustainable as they are memorable.
Please see more at RetreaTours.com/CarbonNegative
About our Accommodations
During our time together in Kenya, we’ll be staying at a mix of hotels in Nairobi and Lake Nakuru and modern tent camps (true “glamping!”) in the Masai Mara and Amboseli. The camps are stylish and comfortable and each tent has its own bathroom with running hot water and shower. If you’d like to see our accommodations, please see the links below!
- September 14, Nairobi: Golden Tulip Hotel
- September 15–17: Zebra Plains Collection: Amboseli Camp
- September 18, Nairobi: Tamarind Tree Hotel
- September 19: Sarova Lion Hill Game Lodge
- September 20–23: Zebra Plains Collection: Mara Camp
Suggested Fitness Requirements
For better or worse, safaris are not physically strenuous, but they do require a decent amount of time sitting in a vehicle.
Our drive times between Nairobi and the different National Parks are all about 5 hours long, with stops for restrooms and leg-stretching.
Our morning game drives can be up to 6 hours at a stretch (afternoon game drives about 3 hours), but we will also have time to stretch our legs for our boxed breakfasts and “bush” toilet stops. The roofs on our Land Cruisers pop open so you can stand in the vehicle, as well!
If you are traveling with RetreaTours, we require that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation.
We suggest trip cancellation insurance, as well, as you never know what obstacles life can toss at you leading up to a trip. However, we do not require this coverage, we only suggest it highly.
Below you will find some options to look into, if this is a new world to you. However, we ask that you carefully consider your choice in travel insurance. What works for some people may not work for others, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions. Please do take the time to consider the best policy for your individual needs.
World Nomads provides medical coverage for guests under 70 that includes trip cancellation, as well. You can use the box on this page to get a quote and see coverage.
InsureMyTrip.com is a good place to see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like.
It may also be a good idea to check with your credit card companies, especially American Express, to see if they offer any medical coverage for travel.
About your International Flights
We are more than happy to recommend international flights, but ultimately you will make the purchase yourself. Here is some important information if you would like to research flights yourself:
When must I arrive in Nairobi / where will I stay?
Flights typically arrive in the morning to Nairobi, Kenya. Our orientation/dinner will begin at 5 PM on September 14th. (If your plane arrives after 5 PM on the 14th, we’ll catch you up to speed, no worries!)
If you wish to arrive early, we can help you with hotel reservations.
What time should I book my departing flight from Nairobi?
The trip is technically finished after lunch on September 24th, and most flights leave in the late afternoon/evening. If possible, your flight departure time should be after 5 PM on September 24th.
Temperature & Suggested Packing List
The historic temperatures in Kenya and our safari destinations will range between 55°F and 85°F (12°C and 30°C). This will mean chilly evenings and early mornings to pleasantly warm afternoons.
We’ll provide a packing list well before the journey! Please note that this journey requires soft-sided luggage in order to fit inside the safari vehicles.
Please write Lauren@RetreaTours.com for any questions you may have about this journey. If you have not received a reply within 48 hours, please do check your spam folder.
About BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours
You’ll be joined on this journey by BJ & Lauren, owners of RetreaTours–and we are so excited to show you the natural beauty of Kenya!
BJ & Lauren created RetreaTours in 2010 with one goal in mind: to make world travel accessible, authentic, and astounding. In order to focus fully on this passion, they moved out of the U.S. in January 2013 to reside full-time overseas. Each day is spent exploring new destinations, strengthening local ties & relationships, and creating memorable, transformative, one-of-a-kind retreats and tours (aka, RetreaTours™!)
BJ & Lauren take great pride in the itineraries they plan, as they can personally vouch for every hotel, every restaurant, and every activity that you will experience. They craft each element of the trip with intention, and they understand that it is this careful attention to detail that sets them apart. Fueled by their passion, armed with know-how, and supported by knowledgeable local professionals in all of their destinations, BJ & Lauren set the scene for the vacation of a lifetime. The dynamic duo are available to answer any and all questions before the trip begins. From giving advice on the best flights and travel insurance to providing a packing list, FAQ, and even a tiny “phrasebook,” BJ & Lauren pride themselves on these ‘nuts & bolts’ of personalized service.
In addition, as a guest, you receive free travel consulting services (normally a $300 value) should you choose to extend your travels. As one of their most ‘frequent fliers’ put it recently, BJ & Lauren make everything easy for you. Once you arrive in your destination city, your trip is all-inclusive—your meals, transportation, lodging, site fees, donations, and tips are all taken care of. The research has been done, the itinerary carefully laid out, the reservations made, the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. All you have to do is show up and take in all your destination has to show you! So….let’s get going!
Please click a photo to see an enlarged version; you can use your arrow keys or mouse to navigate within the album.
ALL photos in this album were taken by BJ or Lauren in 2019 in the same parks we’ll be visiting!