Kenya Classic Affordable Safari | Samburu Special Five, Flamingos, Migration & Beach | 11 Nights Samburu Region, Lake Elementeita, Masai Mara & Mombasa

Get a sense of Kenya’s scale and diversity on this affordable African safari as you migrate from the arid northern Samburu region to the glittering lakes of the Great Rift Valley, the open plains of the legendary Masai Mara and ultimately the warm waters and welcomes of Mombasa and the Swahili Coast.

  • A comprehensive introduction to Kenya’s diverse landscapes, from dry, rocky Samburu to teeming sodic lakes, the rolling, tree-studded savannah of the Masai Mara and the white sand and waving palm fronds of Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast.
  • Opportunities to enjoy camel safaris and go on game drives in Samburu, see flamingos at Lake Elementeita, experience the Great Wildebeest Migration at first hoof and go hot-air ballooning in the Masai Mara, and enjoy soothing spa treatments and walk hand-in-hand along sunset beaches on the Kenyan coast.
  • Samburu Intrepids has 27 modern tents with secluded verandahs on the banks of the Ngiro River. The lodge has a riverfront dining deck, an open-air lounge area and a swimming pool with sunbathing terrace.
  • Lake Elementeita Serena Camp has 24 guest tents and The Flamingo suite, idyllically set among golden-barked acacias with breathtaking views across the sapphire-blue Lake Elementeita. The dining area overlooks both the swimming pool and the waterhole, and the stylish bar has long views over the lake.
  • Overlooking the Talek River, at the very confluence of the Mara’s four game-viewing areas, Mara Intrepids enjoys a spectacular location in the Masai Mara. Its 30 comfortable tents are widely spread across the large riverside site to ensure guests the optimum of privacy and peace. The intimate dining area is on the riverfront, and the swimming pool has a sunbathing terrace.
  • With the shimmering sands and waters of the Indian Ocean stretching before it, the Serena Beach Resort & Spa represents the ultimate escape. It has 164 rooms, several bars and restaurants, a spa and swimming pool.

Three nights at Samburu Intrepids

As we drove north towards Samburu, the exhilarating hustle and bustle of Nairobi was soon just a memory. Our spirits rose with the road as we headed towards the Kenyan highlands, the Aberdares to one side and the towering mass of Mount Kenya to the other. We drove in a great clockwise curve around the base of the mountain, before the road could swing northwards again. By the time we reached the dusty settlement of Isiolo, it was clear that we were in a different Kenya. Minarets had replaced steeples, and camels became a frequent sight.It was impossible not to experience a thrill at staying at a camp with ‘intrepid’ in the name, although truth be told, we were hardly called on to be hardy pioneers. Standing on the raised deck of our tent, we felt the cooling breeze from the Ngiro River and the soothing shade of the trees that clung to its banks. A reviving hot shower and a brief tour of our tent showed that staying here would be no hardship, and an afternoon game drive in search of the Samburu Special Five was the ideal final journey for the day. After a day on (and off) the road, we opted to stretch our legs on day two and – accompanied by a local Samburu naturalist – set off on a nature walk around the camp while it was still cool. His knowledge was astonishing and encompassed everything from the alighting butterflies to their chosen flowers, and the names of the mountains which loomed benignly in every direction. Much later, we were launched on a stellar tour of Samburu mythology as one of the camp guides took us on a stargazing tour of the constellations, showing where to find the fantastic beasts that bestrode the night sky.The next morning saw us projected skywards again, although in a slightly more ungainly fashion. We’d never actually met camel befores, and now we were riding them. Our camelback safari gave us a different perspective on our dry, rocky surroundings – and taught us that these ships of the desert can be rather wayward, with a juicy cacti being enough to cause a diversion. Seeing elephant on the far bank of the river, and crocodile basking on a sandbar, meant that this particular ‘hump day’ was not one we wanted to forget – or get over – in a hurry.

As we drove north towards Samburu, the exhilarating hustle and bustle of Nairobi was soon just a memory. Our spirits rose with the road as we headed towards the Kenyan highlands, the Aberdares to one side and the towering mass of Mount Kenya to the other. We drove in a great clockwise curve around the base of the mountain, before the road could swing northwards again. By the time we reached the dusty settlement of Isiolo, it was clear that we were in a different Kenya. Minarets had replaced steeples, and camels became a frequent sight.

It was impossible not to experience a thrill at staying at a camp with ‘intrepid’ in the name, although truth be told, we were hardly called on to be hardy pioneers. Standing on the raised deck of our tent, we felt the cooling breeze from the Ngiro River and the soothing shade of the trees that clung to its banks. A reviving hot shower and a brief tour of our tent showed that staying here would be no hardship, and an afternoon game drive in search of the Samburu Special Five was the ideal final journey for the day.

After a day on (and off) the road, we opted to stretch our legs on day two and – accompanied by a local Samburu naturalist – set off on a nature walk around the camp while it was still cool. His knowledge was astonishing and encompassed everything from the alighting butterflies to their chosen flowers, and the names of the mountains which loomed benignly in every direction. Much later, we were launched on a stellar tour of Samburu mythology as one of the camp guides took us on a stargazing tour of the constellations, showing where to find the fantastic beasts that bestrode the night sky.

The next morning saw us projected skywards again, although in a slightly more ungainly fashion. We’d never actually met camel befores, and now we were riding them. Our camelback safari gave us a different perspective on our dry, rocky surroundings – and taught us that these ships of the desert can be rather wayward, with a juicy cacti being enough to cause a diversion. Seeing elephant on the far bank of the river, and crocodile basking on a sandbar, meant that this particular ‘hump day’ was not one we wanted to forget – or get over – in a hurry.

One night at Lake Elementeita Serena Camp

The next stage of our journey through Kenya was also shaped by the soaring terrain. The roads had been constructed with respect for the landscapes – rather than tunnels blasted through mountains, there were long loops of tar draped around them. Once we were past the wooded, mysterious Aberdares, we headed along Africa’s longest scar: the Great Rift Valley. Sharing this journey brought us closer together, even as Africa was very slowly tearing itself apart along this spectacular crinkle.Lake Elementeita Serena Camp offered a wonderful combination of gracious accommodation and scenic grandeur. From the refined sanctuary of our tent, we could see the lake and the many birds that congregated there. With the Rift Valley escarpment framing the scene, we walked out from the camp with our guide, binoculars in hand, to seek the graceful flamingos that added a blush of colour to the scene. Walking towards the lake, we surprised a grazing family of warthog, which trotted off, tails in the air to telegraph our presence to the wary zebra. As for the flamingos, they didn’t even lift their heads!

The next stage of our journey through Kenya was also shaped by the soaring terrain. The roads had been constructed with respect for the landscapes – rather than tunnels blasted through mountains, there were long loops of tar draped around them. Once we were past the wooded, mysterious Aberdares, we headed along Africa’s longest scar: the Great Rift Valley. Sharing this journey brought us closer together, even as Africa was very slowly tearing itself apart along this spectacular crinkle.

Lake Elementeita Serena Camp offered a wonderful combination of gracious accommodation and scenic grandeur. From the refined sanctuary of our tent, we could see the lake and the many birds that congregated there. With the Rift Valley escarpment framing the scene, we walked out from the camp with our guide, binoculars in hand, to seek the graceful flamingos that added a blush of colour to the scene. Walking towards the lake, we surprised a grazing family of warthog, which trotted off, tails in the air to telegraph our presence to the wary zebra. As for the flamingos, they didn’t even lift their heads!

Three nights at Mara Intrepids

Heading for the Masai Mara, we drove along what will in many millions of years’ time be the new east coast of Africa. For now, it was a masterclass in dramatic scenery, with impregnable cliff walls rising to meet the sky, stolen glimpses of shining lakes, and roadside villages where curious kids either stood and stared, or ran alongside our vehicle, keeping pace effortlessly. When we turned west at last, we fancied we could almost hear the pounding hooves of the herds in the rhythm of the wheels, until there before us lay the fabled green tapestry of the Mara.From our tent we could look down towards the Talek River; we’d arrived in the epicentre of the Masai Mara, where the herds annually made the earth quake. Appropriately enough for a place made famous by arrivals and departures, our tent had an authentic early safari theme which added to the sense of adventure. With impeccable timing, we had arrived just after the Great Wildebeest Migration, and with thousands more antelope appearing daily, pressure was mounting on the vanguard to move on. Our first afternoon game drive gave us a sense of just how many gnu we were sharing the plains with.The next morning, we rose with the larks – in every sense. As the burners did their best lion impression, the vast, colourful bag of dreams above us swelled and strained at its moorings, and then we were climbing above the herds. The shadow of our hot-air balloon passed unnoticed by the antelope closest to the river crossing – they had other things on their minds. Further out on the plains, we were studied more intently as we drifted overhead. Our vulture’s-eye view of the ultimate rite of passage gave us a truer sense of the magnitude of the antelope’s undertaking.We spent our last full day in the Mara waiting by a river crossing. For company, we had immense, sluggish crocodile, whose months-long patience would likely soon be rewarded. There was a palpable tension in the air – the river had to be forded, but it seemed that none of the assembled gnu could afford to risk it. Our guide had an uncanny ability to predict what would happen next, but even he didn’t spot the small knot of zebra until they’d splashed halfway across. Lazily, the crocodile let them go – far richer and easier pickings would be theirs any day now.

Heading for the Masai Mara, we drove along what will in many millions of years’ time be the new east coast of Africa. For now, it was a masterclass in dramatic scenery, with impregnable cliff walls rising to meet the sky, stolen glimpses of shining lakes, and roadside villages where curious kids either stood and stared, or ran alongside our vehicle, keeping pace effortlessly. When we turned west at last, we fancied we could almost hear the pounding hooves of the herds in the rhythm of the wheels, until there before us lay the fabled green tapestry of the Mara.

From our tent we could look down towards the Talek River; we’d arrived in the epicentre of the Masai Mara, where the herds annually made the earth quake. Appropriately enough for a place made famous by arrivals and departures, our tent had an authentic early safari theme which added to the sense of adventure. With impeccable timing, we had arrived just after the Great Wildebeest Migration, and with thousands more antelope appearing daily, pressure was mounting on the vanguard to move on. Our first afternoon game drive gave us a sense of just how many gnu we were sharing the plains with.

The next morning, we rose with the larks – in every sense. As the burners did their best lion impression, the vast, colourful bag of dreams above us swelled and strained at its moorings, and then we were climbing above the herds. The shadow of our hot-air balloon passed unnoticed by the antelope closest to the river crossing – they had other things on their minds. Further out on the plains, we were studied more intently as we drifted overhead. Our vulture’s-eye view of the ultimate rite of passage gave us a truer sense of the magnitude of the antelope’s undertaking.

We spent our last full day in the Mara waiting by a river crossing. For company, we had immense, sluggish crocodile, whose months-long patience would likely soon be rewarded. There was a palpable tension in the air – the river had to be forded, but it seemed that none of the assembled gnu could afford to risk it. Our guide had an uncanny ability to predict what would happen next, but even he didn’t spot the small knot of zebra until they’d splashed halfway across. Lazily, the crocodile let them go – far richer and easier pickings would be theirs any day now.

Four nights at Serena Beach Resort & Spa

Our hot-air balloon ride had given us a taste for flight, and so we greatly enjoyed the two separate light-aircraft hops that made up our journey from the Masai Mara to the ocean and Mombasa.As the sun began to dip over the mainland, we left the coolness of our room and ambled through the winding lanes of the resort to reach the beach. Strolling barefoot along the white sand, the maritime breeze stirring up whitecaps and rustling the palm fronds, it was hard to believe that we were in the same country we’d woken up in. We’d exchanged the Mara Triangle area for the angular sail of a dhow at anchor, and our canvas abode for a gleaming white, crenelated hotel. Windsurfers zipped past, and their whoops and the calls of fisherman reached us across the water.Lying face down the next day, each of us with a line of warm, smooth pebbles along our spines, we found it very easy to convince ourselves that we definitely deserved our couples’ treatment in the resort’s inhouse Maisha Spa. Later, walking on air, we floated across to the pool, past the cocktail bar where we’d watched the traditional dancing the previous evening. Almost inevitably, the seafood was superb and the drinks suspiciously short-lived. We took a dip in the pool (on holiday you can swim straight after eating; the normal rules don’t apply) before returning to our garden room for a siesta.The cool white theme of our room was both soothing and invigorating. We both loved the marine influences and the deceptively simple wooden furniture. Our interest in Swahili culture piqued, we embarked on a guided tour of the coastal city of Mombasa on day three here. Leaving the bastion of Fort Jesus, we allowed the city to wash over us – the sights, sounds and smells at once familiar and wonderfully exotic. The markets especially were a feast for the senses. Back on our beach, alone again, we let our new kikois flutter in the breeze as we looked for the ghostly wakes of traders, pirates and adventures.An excursion on a glass-bottomed boat on our last full day gave us our first insight into Kenya’s underwater wildlife, where the colours, shapes and comings and goings rivalled those of Samburu or the Masai Mara. Inspired to take a closer look, we spent a blissful afternoon snorkelling on some of the closer coral reefs, floating above marine ‘cities’ that were every bit as busy and intriguing as Mombasa had been. Over dinner, we recognised some of the same constellations we’d first seen in Samburu and invented our own legends to explain their shapes. None, however, could match the story of our affordable African safari.

Our hot-air balloon ride had given us a taste for flight, and so we greatly enjoyed the two separate light-aircraft hops that made up our journey from the Masai Mara to the ocean and Mombasa.

As the sun began to dip over the mainland, we left the coolness of our room and ambled through the winding lanes of the resort to reach the beach. Strolling barefoot along the white sand, the maritime breeze stirring up whitecaps and rustling the palm fronds, it was hard to believe that we were in the same country we’d woken up in. We’d exchanged the Mara Triangle area for the angular sail of a dhow at anchor, and our canvas abode for a gleaming white, crenelated hotel. Windsurfers zipped past, and their whoops and the calls of fisherman reached us across the water.

Lying face down the next day, each of us with a line of warm, smooth pebbles along our spines, we found it very easy to convince ourselves that we definitely deserved our couples’ treatment in the resort’s inhouse Maisha Spa. Later, walking on air, we floated across to the pool, past the cocktail bar where we’d watched the traditional dancing the previous evening. Almost inevitably, the seafood was superb and the drinks suspiciously short-lived. We took a dip in the pool (on holiday you can swim straight after eating; the normal rules don’t apply) before returning to our garden room for a siesta.

The cool white theme of our room was both soothing and invigorating. We both loved the marine influences and the deceptively simple wooden furniture. Our interest in Swahili culture piqued, we embarked on a guided tour of the coastal city of Mombasa on day three here. Leaving the bastion of Fort Jesus, we allowed the city to wash over us – the sights, sounds and smells at once familiar and wonderfully exotic. The markets especially were a feast for the senses. Back on our beach, alone again, we let our new kikois flutter in the breeze as we looked for the ghostly wakes of traders, pirates and adventures.

An excursion on a glass-bottomed boat on our last full day gave us our first insight into Kenya’s underwater wildlife, where the colours, shapes and comings and goings rivalled those of Samburu or the Masai Mara. Inspired to take a closer look, we spent a blissful afternoon snorkelling on some of the closer coral reefs, floating above marine ‘cities’ that were every bit as busy and intriguing as Mombasa had been. Over dinner, we recognised some of the same constellations we’d first seen in Samburu and invented our own legends to explain their shapes. None, however, could match the story of our affordable African safari.

What sets it apart

Our affordable African safari in Kenya made us feel like old safari hands, as it let us see a great deal of this compelling country – both during our stays at the three camps and the Serena Beach Resort & Spa, and on the fascinating journeys between them.We gained a new appreciation for the size of Kenya, but also for the little details that linger longest in the memory after any great holiday: the cool sunset drinks, the wordless moments of communication with people living very different lifestyles, and the heart-stopping animal dramas.Everywhere we went, we had the comforting presence of people who were just as passionate about travel and wildlife as we were, and the exhilaration of experiencing long-dreamed-of locations in the flesh.We had a taste of Kenyan life’s rich tapestry through experiencing Samburu and Swahili culture – very different, but united by a common skein of hospitality and a curiosity about strangers that if anything, exceeded our own.Best of all was the opportunity to spend time immersing ourselves in Kenya’s most important wildlife areas – an authentically wild experience tempered by returning each evening to comfortable, cleverly designed guest tents that balanced affordable African safari style with genuine respect for their locations.This was not an opulent safari; rather, it was one where the watchword was appropriate luxury. We had everything we needed, but there no fripperies to distract us from the experience of simply being on the shores of Lake Elementeita or amid the herds of the Masai Mara.

Our affordable African safari in Kenya made us feel like old safari hands, as it let us see a great deal of this compelling country – both during our stays at the three camps and the Serena Beach Resort & Spa, and on the fascinating journeys between them.

We gained a new appreciation for the size of Kenya, but also for the little details that linger longest in the memory after any great holiday: the cool sunset drinks, the wordless moments of communication with people living very different lifestyles, and the heart-stopping animal dramas.

Everywhere we went, we had the comforting presence of people who were just as passionate about travel and wildlife as we were, and the exhilaration of experiencing long-dreamed-of locations in the flesh.

We had a taste of Kenyan life’s rich tapestry through experiencing Samburu and Swahili culture – very different, but united by a common skein of hospitality and a curiosity about strangers that if anything, exceeded our own.

Best of all was the opportunity to spend time immersing ourselves in Kenya’s most important wildlife areas – an authentically wild experience tempered by returning each evening to comfortable, cleverly designed guest tents that balanced affordable African safari style with genuine respect for their locations.

This was not an opulent safari; rather, it was one where the watchword was appropriate luxury. We had everything we needed, but there no fripperies to distract us from the experience of simply being on the shores of Lake Elementeita or amid the herds of the Masai Mara.

DAY 1–3

Gentle giraffe are a favourite on game drives in Samburu. © The Intrepid Safari Company

From Nairobi you’ll embark on a road trip to Samburu, via the Kenyan highlands, through the valley between the Aberdares and Mount Kenya, and around and to the north of Mount Kenya. After about six hours you’ll arrive at Samburu Intrepids, where you’ll spend three nights.

DAY 4

Lake Elementeita is set next to Sleeping Warrior Hill. © Serena Hotels

From Samburu Intrepids you’ll embark on a road trip to Lake Elementeita, back towards Mount Kenya, past the Aberdares to the north and down into the Great Rift Valley. After about six-and-a-half hours you’ll arrive at Lake Elementeita Serena Camp, where you’ll spend the night.

DAY 5–7

The Great Wildebeest Migration passes near Mara Intrepids. © The Intrepid Safari Company

From Lake Elementeita Serena Camp you’ll embark on a road trip to the Masai Mara, following the Great Rift Valley south before turning west through the Kenyan countryside. After about five-and-a-half hours you’ll arrive at Mara Intrepids, where you’ll spend three nights.

DAY 8–11

Serena Beach Resort & Spa has several restaurants. © Serena Hotels

After a transfer from Mara Intrepids to the airstrip, you’ll take a scheduled light-aircraft flight to Nairobi, and another to Mombasa. A transfer will then take you to Serena Beach Resort & Spa, where you’ll spend four nights.

DAY 12

The shimmering pool at Serena Beach Resort & Spa is what dreams are made of. © Serena Hotels

A transfer will take you from Serena Beach Resort & Spa to Moi International Airport on Mombasa, where you’ll be assisted through check-in for your international flight.

  • Our safaris are tailor-made to match your personal safari dream, taking into account when you’d like to travel, how long you’d like to be away for, who you’d be travelling with, what safari lodge style you’d prefer, and more.
  • This classic affordable safari idea is simply to show you what’s possible. To see what this type of safari costs, and what’s generally included, click hereFor a general overview of African safari prices, you can click through to our blog.
  • We also offer a curated selection of Kenya safari packages, wrapped and priced for your convenience, click here to explore them.

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