Lewa Marathon & Kenya Wildlife Safari

Lewa Marathon & Kenya Safari
The Lewa Marathon takes you to Kenya where you will run on dirt tracks in a Big Five area – definitely ‘One of the top ten races to run in your life’. We combine this bucket list experience with a wildlife safari visiting Kenya’s best parks and reserves. This is an amazing active safari experience!

Next race date: 26 June 2021

ITINERARY – Lewa Safari Marathon & Kenya Wildlife Safari
DAY 1:
Arrival in Nairobi, afternoon visit to Nairobi National Park

Welcome to magical Kenya! Your fantastic African running and Big Five safari will start today when you touch down at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the east of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city and the “safari capital of the world”.

You will be transferred to our chosen comfortable city hotel by a representative. You will get to enjoy the sights and sounds of Nairobi, a very interesting east African city, on the way to the hotel. Situated along the Nairobi river (the name actually comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to “cool water”, in reference to the river), the capital is definitely east Africa’s most cosmopolitan city. It is Africa’s 4th largest city (with a population of over 4 million) and is a vibrant and exciting place, and although it has developed a reputation which keeps tourist visits brief, there are some fascinating attractions.

Nairobi is known not just for its proximity to east Africa’s superb game reserves, but also for its cafe culture, huge range of restaurants, Benga music, unbridled nightlife, 6 golf courses, the National Museum, the Karen Blixen Museum and its many parks and open spaces. There are many bird species to be spotted in the city limits, and you could see anything from Marabou Storks to Superb Starlings and even African Paradise Flycatcher.
*Please note: to ensure a full afternoon of wildlife viewing, please try to arrange your incoming flight to arrive during the night or early in the morning today.

At around lunch time you will be met by your Nature Travel guide (and fellow runner!) at the hotel, we will hop into our comfortable, airconditioned vehicle and head off to our first wildlife activity of this exciting tour.

We are going to enjoy the full afternoon in nearby Nairobi National Park, the only wildlife park in the world to border a capital city.

This utterly unique 117 km2 (45 sq mi) park was officially opened in 1946, making it Kenya’s oldest national park. It really is a bizarre sight watching Africa’s big game against a backdrop of city skyscrapers and commercial airplanes coming in to land! The habitat in the park is mostly open savannah plains with scattered Acacia trees. The Athi river on the southern boundary of the park provides lush riverine habitat.

The park also goes by the nickname “Kifaru Ark”, a testament to its successful rhino (kifaru in Swahili) conservation history. In fact, the park boasts the densest concentration of Black Rhinoceros of any park in the world. It is also home to 3 other members of Africa’s Big Five (no African Elephant) and we will hope to see these and many of the other mammals that live here. These include Cheetah, Spotted Hyaena, Hartebeest, Giraffe, Hippopotamus, Common Eland, Plains Zebra, Impala, Waterbuck and more.

Over 500 bird species have also been recorded in the park, and it is one of Kenya’s 60 Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Some of the special and striking species we will be looking for here include Martial, Crowned and Wahlberg’s Eagle, Bateleur, Lappet-faced and White-headed Vulture, Kori and Hartlaub’s Bustard, Saddle-billed Stork, Secretarybird, Shelley’s Francolin, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, African Rail, Spotted Thick-knee, African Finfoot, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Northern Pied Babbler, Red-throated Tit, and Orange-breasted and Black-faced Waxbill.

We will have dinner at the hotel tonight and get to know each other a bit better. After dinner we will return to our rooms for a good night’s rest.

DAY 2:
Transfer to Lewa Conservancy

We will start our day with a nice hotel breakfast and then check out.

We will drive north towards majestic Mount Kenya. As soon as we exit the greater metropolitan area of Nairobi, the scenery will change and you will start seeing why people that come to Kenya always return; it really is a beautiful place.

Our drive is about 5 hours long today, but we will make regular stops to stretch our legs, take photographs, and we will also make a long lunch stop somewhere in a nice spot.

We will drive by the west side of Mount Kenya National Park. The park was created in the 1940s to protect Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest mountain (after Kilimanjaro) at a dizzying 5,199 metres (17,057 ft) above sea level. The park is now both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. We will reach the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in the mid-afternoon and check in to our accommodation.

The conservancy (also known as Lewa Downs) covers over 62,000 acres (250 km2) on the Laikipia plateau. It is known for its excellent conservation record and development work in the local community, despite starting out as a cattle ranch. The habitat of the conservancy is dominated by rolling, semi-arid plains dotted with acacia trees – a classic east Africa safari scene. A large swamp area is fringed by yellow fever trees, and several hills offer lookout points over the surrounding plains. The Ngare Ndare forest reserve is also part of the conservancy. And of course, beautiful views of distant Mount Kenya is never far away!

In terms of wildlife, Lewa is fantastic. All members of the Big Five are present, and it is probably the best place in Kenya to get close to Black and White Rhinoceros. Other mammals include Cheetah, African Wild Dog, Spotted Hyaena, Common Eland and several northern Kenya special species like Giraffe (reticulata subspecies), the Endangered Grevy’s Zebra, Beisa Oryx and Gerenuk.

Birdlife is also prolific here (more than 350 species recorded), and during our time here we could see Somali Ostrich, Vulturine Guineafowl, Secretarybird, Grey Crowned Crane, several sunbirds, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Hildebrandt’s Francolin, Red-bellied Parrot and Yellow-necked Spurfowl.
Followers of the British royals might be interested to know that on 19 October 2010, Prince William of Wales proposed marriage to Catherine Middleton at Lewa.
We will collect our race packs in the late afternoon after a game drive. Now the excitement will really start building.

The locals are buzzing during marathon time and the lodge will definitely serve some sort of carbo-loading meal (like pasta or pizza) along with the usual excellent cuisine, so we are sure to find something that everyone enjoys. After dinner we will return to our rooms for a good night’s rest before tomorrow’s marathon.

DAY 3:
Lewa Safari Marathon

Today we run!
We will have an early quick breakfast and proceed to the start area of the marathon, inside the conservancy.

The marathon is not just a running experience, it is a force for good. It not only helps protect Kenya’s wildlife, but it brings communities together and transforms lives. The extraordinary sums generated go directly toward our conservation efforts on the ground. It is an event like no other.

Some of the more notable competitors have included the likes of 2004 Olympic silver medalist Catherine Ndereba, former marathon world record holder Paul Tergat, current marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, and Scott Jurek, renowned ultramarathon runner and author of the NY Times bestseller, ‘Eat and Run’.

One of the more notable characteristics of the marathon is the incredible setting in which it takes place. There are no physical barriers separating the runners from the wildlife, making Lewa a unique experience in the running world. The course consists of two loops that are run on dirt roads that ordinarily serves as 4×4 trails for safari vehicles. Mount Kenya lies to the south and there are breathtaking views north towards Samburu and Mount Ololokwe.

Since the first event was held in 2000, the marathon has become widely known for its difficult terrain (we are about 1,680 metres/5,500 ft above sea level) and harsh climate (the mercury regularly exceeds 30 °C/86 °F), yet it still draws almost 1,500 competitors and 5,000 spectators from all over the world. It is tough, but so worth it!

The event offers the truly unforgettable experience of running alongside some of Africa’s most amazing wildlife. Security patrols of experienced, armed rangers from the Kenyan Wildlife Service guard the course to ensure the safety of the runners. In support of ground efforts, two helicopters and one spotter plane keep an eye out for any possible threats. This ensures we can just relax and enjoy ourselves!

While the Lewa Safari Marathon gives generously to the surrounding communities of northern Kenya, its main purpose is to support wildlife conservation. Funds raised from the marathon help support a staff of over 140 armed rangers that protect the animal residents of the conservancy. Over $7.5m have been raised over the years for projects at the conservancy and across Kenya.

The cut-off for the marathon is a generous 7 hours, so there will be plenty of time to enjoy the superb scenery and our friendly fellow runners. When you receive your finisher’s medal it will be a special one, and one that you will treasure for a long time.

After the marathon and maybe a celebratory local beer (or two), we will return to our accommodation for a late lunch, a shower and some down time.

We will go out for a late afternoon game viewing activity again, hoping to again get close to some of Africa’s iconic animals.
We will get together for dinner at the lodge, chatting about our race and showing off the (hopefully awesome) photos we took on the route, before we settle in for a good night’s sleep after an amazing day.

DAY 4:
Transfer to Nyeri, afternoon visit to Aberdare National Park

We will do our final game viewing activity in the conservancy this morning, and then enjoy breakfast.

Afterwards we will check out and depart for our next exciting destination. We are heading southwest, in the direction of a park that we all love here at the Nature Travel group; Aberdare National Park. It is a drive of about 3 hours. We will enjoy some wonderful scenery along the way.

We should arrive at the town of Nyeri by late afternoon and check into our comfortable lodgings, very close to Aberdare. Nyeri is one of the oldest towns in Kenya, having been established in the British colonial era. Nyeri hosts the tomb of Robert Baden Powell, the founder of the Scout movement. It is also the home town of the late Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai.

After lunch we will go on our first game drive in Aberdare. The park is about 15 kilometres (9 mi) out of Nyeri on the opposite side to Mount Kenya. Established in 1950, the park covers an area of 767 km2 (296 sq mi) and forms part of the Aberdare mountain range. The park contains a wide range of fauna-rich habitats, from mountain peaks that rise to 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) above sea level, to their valleys intersected by streams, rivers, and spectacular waterfalls. Afro-alpine moorland, bamboo forests and rainforests are also found at various altitudes in the park.

We will enjoy dinner back at our hotel, socialise at the bar and then enjoy a good night’s sleep.

DAY 5:
Aberdare National Park

We have a full day on safari in the wonderful Aberdare.
We will enjoy morning and afternoon game drives, and return to our hotel for lunch and a siesta in the heat of the day.

Aberdare really is one of our favourite parks in east Africa here at Nature Travel, partly because it is quieter than the other reserves, but also because of its incredible natural beauty.

Wildlife present in the park include Lion, Leopard, African Elephant, African Buffalo, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, diminutive Suni, Side-striped Jackal, Common Eland, Olive Baboon and Guereza. Interestingly, the African Elephant herd here is the highest-altitude herd of pachyderms on the continent. The park is also home to the beautiful Bongo antelope, but we would have to be extremely lucky to spot one.

Over 300 bird species have also been recorded in the park, and some of the interesting and rare species we will try to see include Jackson’s and Scaly Spurfowl, the endemic Aberdare Cisticola, African Goshawk, Crowned Hornbill, Baglafecht Weaver, African Thrush, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Scarlet-tufted, Golden-winged, Bronzy, Malachite and Tacazze Sunbird, Slender-billed Starling, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Thick-billed Seedeater, and African Emerald and Black Cuckoo.

We will exit Aberdare by late afternoon and make our way back to our hotel nearby. We will maybe walk around the grounds to stretch our legs a little. We will then get together for dinner and have some time to socialise into the night, wondering why it took us so long to come to magical Kenya!

DAY 6:
Transfer to Lake Nakuru National Park

This morning we will have some excellent local coffee and breakfast at the hotel before we check out and thank the staff for a wonderful time.

We then make our way westward to Lake Nakuru, expecting to arrive at lunch time. We will enjoy lunch, check onto our accommodation and have a short rest in our rooms. The lodge’s location affords panoramic views of the lake and the picturesque park.

We will spend the entire afternoon in beautiful Lake Nakuru National Park, famous for its vast flocks of pelicans, flamingos and a wealth of other water birds.

Lake Nakuru (meaning “dusty or dry place”) is one of the rift valley’s alkaline lakes and is protected by the 188 km2 (73 sq mi) Lake Nakuru National Park. The lake is also protected under the International Ramsar Convention on wetlands. Flanked by rocky escarpments, pockets of dense forest and waterfalls, the park itself is very pretty and you will get some great photographs here.

The lake is host to huge numbers of flamingos (Greater and Lesser Flamingo) that gather at the water’s edge, giving the lake an incredible pink hue when viewed from afar. The number of flamingos on the lake varies with water and food conditions (some years there are millions of them!) and the best vantage point is from Baboon Cliff or the even higher Out of Africa viewpoint.

The small park (given National Park status in 1968) boasts several of Africa’s famous big game species, including both White and Black Rhinoceros, Giraffe, Hippopotamus, Waterbuck, Lion, Cheetah and Leopard. Smaller mammals include Common Warthog, Olive Baboon, as well as some huge pythons! Interestingly, the Lions here at Lake Nakuru have learnt to climb trees, and although not as famous as their tree-climbing kin in Uganda, it is still a bizarre thing to witness with your own eyes!

Lake Nakuru also boasts some superb year-round birding opportunities. On the water, at the lake edges and in the Acacia woodland around the lake we will look for special and diverse species such as Grey-crested Helmetshrike, Narina Trogon, Arrow-marked Babbler, Great White Pelican, African Spoonbill, African Fish Eagle, African Harrier-hawk, Hildebrandt’s Francolin, Grey-headed Gull, Broad-billed Roller, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, White-browed Coucal, Green Wood Hoopoe, African Grey Woodpecker and African Firefinch.

After our afternoon game viewing we will head back to the lodge and have some time to freshen up before having our farewell dinner together. We will sit under the African sky and reminisce about our wonderful time here and maybe even start planning our next running safari in another exotic location! We will then head to bed and good night’s rest.

DAY 7:
Transfer to Nairobi and Departure

And so an amazing Kenyan running safari unfortunately comes an end. What a great time we’ve had!

After breakfast at the lodge, we will pack our bags and head back to Nairobi (about 3 hours away) and stop for lunch or some last minute shopping for mementos.

We will then make our way to nearby Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, where we will say our goodbyes and depart on our onward or homeward flights.

*Please note: Extensions to the world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve or one of Kenya’s other wonderful parks can easily be arranged and is highly recommended. This safari can also be shortened or lengthened according to your specific personal preference. Please contact us for more information.

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