Mark Smith Nature Tours
Natural History   •   Birdwatching   •   Flora   •   Wildlife   •   Travel Photography

Kenya and Tanzania

Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire, Mount Kenya, Rift Valley Lakes, Baringo and Naivasha, Samburu northern desert, Coastal Forests and Estuaries, Coral Reefs

February 10 - 28, 2018

Indian Ocean Kenya Coast Extension
with Forests and Coral Reefs:

February 27 - March 4, 2018

Led by Mark Smith and Regional Naturalists


Mark Smith has led numerous private, Audubon and Nature Conservancy international tours. Mark has a broad knowledge of natural history, with special emphasis in animal behavior, ornithology and ecology. He is co-author of the book, Oregon Birds. Since his studies at Oregon State University he has worked as a researcher and educator for a variety of organizations including the National Marine Fisheries Service, The National Science Foundation, the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry. During the last 20 years he has spent over two years traveling, doing research, and leading more than 20 groups in East Africa.

We will have one or two experienced African driver/guides with us at all times. These guides know birds and wildlife, and will share insights into their culture and country.

Lodging, Activities and Expectations

Physical activities on this trip are not difficult but there are a few longer drives with fantastic scenery. Some roads are rough for short, slow distances, but in recent years many have been paved or are kept graded. Activities vary from the viewing of wildlife from vans to short nature walks over flat terrain. Accommodations are in lodges, hotels, and one deluxe tented lodge for two nights, where large, standing-room canvas tents have attached concrete bathroom with flush toilet and hot shower. This Tarangire Tented Lodge is famous for its hospitality, innovations, food, and stunning location. Participants often can choose to relax at lodgings while the group is on short field trips. For half of this tour we will be at over 5000' elevation, and mornings and evenings you will want a sweater or coat, and daytime temperatures are usually in the 70's, with the coast warmer but breezy.


Reading and bird lists, articles, maps and travel information will be sent to participants well before departure.

Trip Cost and Reservations

A deposit of $1500 is required to reserve one of the 9 available spaces. The final payment 60 days before departure.

$1500 Initial reservation deposit
$5950 Final Payment (due 60 days before departure)
$7450 Ground Fare Total

(Single supplement)

Coastal Extension Ground Fare: (February 27 - March 4, 2018)
Snorkeling and Marine Park fees are extra but minimal.
($270) (Single supplement for coast extension)

A reasonable small-group supplement will be added if the group size falls below 5, and will be adjusted according to the number of travelers.

$1,800 Air Fare approximately from West Coast
$1,400 Air Fare approximately from East Coast
$ 280 (Coast Extension, for two internal flights)

Ground fare includes double occupancy accommodations in hotels, and one tented camp, transport in one or two 7-passenger SUV's or vans, large four-wheel drives, entrance fees and all meals. Not included are airport taxes, excess baggage charges, bar beverages, laundry, tips to drivers, phone calls and other personal items.

Currently flights from the US through Amsterdam with Northwest Airlines, and KLM from Amsterdam to Tanzania provide the best connections.

Mark’s travel agent is Pam Davis of Willamette Travel
Reach Pam at,  503-224-0180
Pam will know of local lodgings and extensions in the area.
Mark can also suggest Portland hotels.

Participants are encouraged to make flight arrangements through Pam, and travel insurance is also available. Pam will work with you to use your favorite airlines to get to Europe and Tanzania.

Please make the deposit and final payment payable to Mark Smith Nature Tours and send to:

Mark Smith
PO Box 3831
Portland, OR 97208

Phone: 503-475-1978

Your deposit will ensure you a place on this tour. Include your address and phone, and the name and dates of the trip. You will be sent a packet of information to help you prepare for the trip. The final payment is due 60 days before departure.

Cancellations and Refunds

For cancellations made more than 60 days prior to departure payments are fully refunded. Cancellations made fewer than 60 days before the departure date forfeit 65% of the tour cost. We recommend that participants consider trip cancellation insurance, which can be bought through our agent, Willamette International Travel (above).


Day 1 & 2 February 10 & 11 US to Moshi, Tanzania

Relatively few flights fly into Kilimanjaro Airport in Moshi, Northern Tanzania. Northwest Airlines, partnered with KLM, however, has an excellent schedule and prices. Northwest departs Seattle 1:25 PM (NW also flies from other US cities) arriving in Amsterdam at 8:30 AM, and KLM continues at 10:15 AM to arrive in Tanzania at Kilimanjaro Airport at 8:50 PM.

From the airport near Moshi we drive an hour west to Arusha (pop. 200,000), where we settle into our hotel for a good night's sleep.

Day 3 February 12 Arusha to Tarangire National Park

We sleep in, and after breakfast drive southwest across agricultural plains and through the arid Rift Valley to Tarangire Park, arriving at midday and entering the park then continuing to our spectacular lodge, located on a bluff overlooking savannah and river. After checking in and lunch we relax at our deluxe tents with lights and attached hot water bathrooms. Wildebeeste, zebra, great herds of elephants and myriad birds are attracted to Tarangire's water and rolling grasslands studded with massive, contorted baobabs. Tarangire is one of Africa's most beautiful landscapes. Leopards and lions are here too, and special birds include bare-faced go-away birds, grey kestrel, and ashy starling.

Day 4 February 13 Tarangire National Park

Morning and evening wildlife drives in Tarangire National Park.

Day 5 February 14 Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Rim

After a final safari in Tarangire NP, we climb steeply to the 8000 ft. rim of Ngorongoro Crater NP. Two thousand feet below lies the savannah floor of the 12-mile wide volcanic caldera. The Crater supports the densest population of ungulates on earth, as well as lions, cheetahs and rhinos. Thousands of wildebeeste, antelope and zebras forage the perennially green highland grasses. We spend this cool night at a lodge on the crater rim.

Day 6, 7 & 8 Feb. 15, 16, & 17 Ngorongoro and Serengeti National Parks

This morning we descend into the Crater via a rugged one-way road. Watch for lions, huge bull elephants and rhinos. The Crater has one of the few secure black Rhino populations in East Africa. A soda lake in the Crater supports thousands of greater and lesser flamingoes as well as waterfowl and shorebirds. At mid-day we drive up to the cool rim and continue down the western slope of the Ngorongoro Highlands and across the Serengeti Plains to Lake Ndutu Lodge, located at the edge of Serengeti National Park where we spend two nights. A small, personal lodge, Ndutu is the closest accommodation to the Migration, on the plains in every direction. Our third night we spend at a beautiful tented camp near the wooded Seronera area in the Serengeti

The Serengeti ecosystem protects the world's largest population of ungulates; over one million wildebeeste and nearly half a million zebra annually follow the rains from plains to savannah to woodland. It is a view into the Pleistocene. We'll find lions and hyenas, and probably leopards and cheetahs. Antelope include topi, hartebeest, dikdik, eland, steinbok, and Grant's and Thompson's gazelles. Birds of the plains include many raptors, larks, lapwings, bustards and sand grouse. Two nights we are at famed Ndutu Lodge, beside a flamingo lake and in the heart of the plains where two million wildebeeste, zebra, and gazelles are raising young and avoiding predators. Fabulous!

Day 9 February 18 Serengeti to Olduvai Gorge, to Lake Manyara Escarpment

This morning a final safari across the Plains to reach Olduvai Gorge at the base of the Ngorongoro Highlands. Olduvai is the most famous site in anthropology. An African excavator who aids the international researchers with their Olduvai digs will provide an informal lecture, and there is an excellent museum. Afterwards we continue east over the highlands to the Lake Manyara Hotel, perched at the edge of the Rift Valley escarpment overlooking Lake Manyara.

Day 10 February 19 Lake Manyara to Arusha to Nairobi

After an early birdwalk on the delightful hotel grounds which overlook Lake Manyara a thousand feet below, we depart and drive down to a lush groundwater forest, fed by springs that burst from the Rift escarpment, the waters originating in the moist Ngorongoro Highlands. Here we have a short walk then we continue northeast to Arusha with a break in a fine hotel and shopping opportunities, then proceed north to the border crossing into Kenya, arriving in Nairobi this evening for dinner.

Day 11 February 20 Nairobi to Mount Kenya, Mountain Lodge

We depart Nairobi and make our way north through the agricultural Kenyan highlands, homeland of the largest tribe, the Kikuyu, their mud and thatch homes scattered among fields of corn, vegetables, coffee and pineapples. We arrive for lunch at Mountain Lodge, situated beside a pond and natural salt lick high on Mt. Kenya, Africa's second highest mountain at 17,000 ft. The mountain forests of East Africa are endangered, most having been logged and cultivated with tea, coffee and temperate vegetables. Rare and shy forest animals can be seen here coming to the lighted clearing through the night. Rhino, elephant, giant forest hog, leopard, duiker and suni antelopes, and bushbuck are but a few. Dozens of birds are limited to these heights and are easily seen from the lodge's viewing balconies and short forest trails. Robins, raptors, doves and starlings are well represented.

Day 12 February 21 Mountain Lodge to Samburu National Park

The forest around the lodge will be alive with birds this morning. Guenon and colobus monkeys are often seen. After a sumptuous breakfast we continue with stops to Naro Moru Lodge for lunch and a short walk in the beautiful gardens and rich woodland. We continue north to Samburu National Park. En route we pass through the frontier town of Isiolo, where traditionally-clad Samburu, Somali, Turkana, Rendille and Boran tribes gather to trade. We spend two nights at Samburu Park, overlooking the river where animals gather.

Day 13 February 22 Samburu National Park

During morning and evening safaris we'll search out the arid-land specialties of Samburu. Unique mammals of the region include the reticulated giraffe, beisa oryx (an antelope), Grevy's zebra and the long-necked gerenuk antelope. Elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah and Nile crocodile are here too. A river runs through the park and is the focal point of the ecosystem. The birdlife is astounding, with many species found only here within our itinerary. Raptors, hornbills, bustards and kingfishers are especially well-represented, but also several warblers, weavers and finches.

Day 14 February 23 Samburu to Naro Moru

We safari our way out of Samburu, visiting new areas of the park, then continue south with a pack lunch to the western shoulder of Mt. Kenya at Naro Moru Lodge, beside a quiet river in a dry forest of Podocarpus conifers. This lodge is the staging site for many climbers ascending 17,000 foot Mount Kenya, which we'll likely view if not shrouded in cloud. Even at midday the grounds are rich with birds, especially iridescent Sunbirds, as well as hornbills, turacos, parrots, trogons and cinnamon-chested beeaters.

Day 15 February 24 Naro Moru to Rift Valley and Lake Baringo

After an early morning birdwalk along the river, we depart with pack lunches on a spectacular route west, traversing the Abedare Range, and dropping into the 20 to 40-mile wide Rift Valley, then continuing north to famed Lake Baringo at 3,000 feet, our hotel a flowered lakeshore oasis in an arid landscape.

Day 16 February 25 Lake Baringo

Before breakfast we walk along the nearby escarpment. On the cliff and in the scrubby forest beneath are found plant and animal species difficult to find elsewhere, many at the southern end of their northern range, including Jackson's and Hemprich's hornbills, Verreaux's eagle, cliff chat and bristle-crowned starling. Following breakfast we boat along the shoreline, where we can approach hippos, goliath herons and dozens of other waterbirds Baringo is famous for. This evening we'll scan the lakeshore and walk the yellow fever tree woodlands surrounding the hotel.

Day 17 February 26 Lake Baringo to Lake Naivasha

We depart in midmorning for freshwater Lake Naivasha, where we overnight. Naivasha lies at 7000 ft., and the area is seething with waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and hippos. This evening we'll make woodland and lakeshore walks and enjoy the beautiful grounds of the hotel.

Day 18 February 27 Lake Naivasha to Nairobi to the coast (or Europe)

A relaxed morning of woodland and lakeshore walks before we continue two hours to Nairobi, where we have a break at our previous hotel, and travelers continuing on the coastal extension can leave bags in storage. Those going to the Indian Ocean fly at 2:00 PM. Travelers not on the extension will have a dayroom and could visit the nearby National Museum, or shop in Nairobi. The KLM flight to Amsterdam leaves about 11 PM, arriving at about 6 AM.

Day 19 February 28 Amsterdam to the US

Our KLM flight arrives in Amsterdam at about 6:00 AM. Connections to the East and West coast are in late morning. The Northwest flight to Seattle departs at about 11:00 AM and arrives at about 12:00 Noon. Welcome home.

THE COASTAL EXTENSION (February 27 - March 4)

Day 1 (18) February 27 Nairobi to Malindi on the Indian Ocean

At 2:00 PM. we fly from Nairobi to Malindi, where we are met by our drivers and taken to our beautiful hotel on the beach overlooking the Marine Park where we will snorkel. This afternoon and the next three days we will have a variety of relaxing options.

Day 2-5 (19-22) Feb. 25, Mar. 1, 2, 3 Coastal Highlights

These days we will visit the market in the old town of Malindi and walk through a Giriama village to the home of friend, Rodgers Karabu. At least one early morning we will have a bird and nature walk in relict Sokoke Forest to search for rare lowland birds and the golden-backed elephant shrew with talented local guides. Nearby is Mida Creek, one of the largest mangrove-lined estuaries on the East African coast and home to thousands of interesting waterbirds, many wintering from Europe. There is also the ruined 14th century Arab city of Gedi, set amidst the encroaching forest. And each day we can swim and snorkel. In the afternoon of the last day we fly to Nairobi at about 1:00 PM and connect with our KLM flight for Amsterdam at 11:00 PM, arriving at about 6:00 AM.

Day 6 (23) March 4 Amsterdam to US

We arrive in Amsterdam at about 6:00 AM this morning and connect with flights arriving in the US this same day, the Northwest flight to Seattle arriving at about 12:00 noon.

Red-lored Parrot, photo by Jack Ostlind
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Beautiful Sunbird
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