Chyulu Hills

Chyulu Hills National Park is a striking landscape of emerald green hills, open vistas, dense forests and pools of water with reflections of white clouds in azure blue skies. Remote and wild, the park and surrounding conservancies are largely untouched by humans with the exception of the Maasai warriors who protect and depend upon the land. Described by Ernest Hemingway as “The Green Hills of Africa,” this Kenyan treasure is not known as a big game destination, but rather, it is one of the few places where you will find almost no signs of tourism, lending to the surreal sense of isolation amidst surrounding resident fauna.

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Endless open plains are cut by the rugged deep black lava flows that tell the story of this enchanted land, while the rocky outcrops give you breathtaking vistas of the diverse habitats, all with Africa’s most iconic mountain in the background – Mount Kilimanjaro. Game drives are the paramount way to see the large mammals during your exploratory safari in Chyulu Hills Park with Explovanganza . Because few visitors come to this outback, you will have an uncommon story to share with those who have not personally experienced the beauty of Chyulu.

Your Maasai guide is native to this land and has an extensive knowledge of the animals and habitats. Under his lead, you see giraffes adeptly use their long tongues to extract the leaves of the acacia trees while delicately avoiding the thorns. Nearby zebras stand together to create a dizzying pattern of black and white stripes to confuse a lone cheetah that stands on a mound looking for prey. On the crest of a low hill is a scene that you have imagined for your dream East African tour – a pride of lions laze about in the early morning after a night of hunting while their young cubs attempt to pry morsels from the carcass.

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You will truly appreciate your guide’s skills, experience and knowledge when he locates the most elusive animals in the park — leopards and other stealthy predators, as well as elephants, buffalos, rhinos and other grazers. More diverse fauna are wildebeest, impala, bushbuck, oryx, eland, reedbuck, steinbok and other hoofed herbivores.

Bush walks and hiking excursions give you a different perspective of the Chyulu Hills eco-systems, as your guide helps you identify insects, plants and tiny mammals that rustle in the bush as you pass. Another activity for your exquisite Kenya vacation is to spend the day horseback riding with a guide, and settling in at night in a traditional fly camp. Explovaganza Tours can also arrange mountain bike excursions, birding trips and cultural activities for your visit to Chyulu.

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Where to stay

Maasai-co-owned and managed Campi Ya Kanzi sits at the base of the Chyulu Hills on 280,000 acres that are owned by the tribe. The private Kanzi House, six tented cottages, and two tented suites allow for a maximum of 16 guests at the camp, giving you an unrivaled vacation in Kenya. The rustic, yet elegant, design of the camp embraces you with the authenticity of bush wildlife and cultural safaris, yet all of the necessary conveniences are close at hand. In addition to your game drives, we recommend the Campi Ya Kanzi village walks, photography and bird watching safaris, horse-riding, astronomy discourses, bush dining and many other activities offered by the camp staff. Ol Donyo Lodge is a favorite among the most seasoned and discerning Explovaganza travelers to Kenya.

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This boutique lodge is situated in the Mbirikani Group Ranch on 275,000 acres in the foothills of the Chyulu Hills. As an upmarket, premier accommodation, the lodge represents the utmost flexibility, as your activities are tailored to your desires and schedule. The nights are especially magical at Ol Donyo as candlelight fills the air with a warm glow, and you gaze at the night skies from your personal “star bed” on a private rooftop terrace. The lodge has a special hide for wildlife viewing, and other activities include horseback safaris, mountain biking, visits to nearby community villages and game drives (read more on when is the best time to go to Chyulu Park). One of the most interesting activities offered at Ol Donyo Lodge is a bush tracking session with a Maasai guide.

Weather

The dry season from July to October brings little precipitation to Chyulu Hills National Park, averaging half an inch or less each month; though early June dusts away the end of the long rains and late October welcomes the beginning of the short rains. In the hot, dry season, any rain that does fall evaporates quickly in equatorial Kenya, leaving little of this vital resource for the animals to drink. African wildlife behavior in Chyulu is significantly influenced by the abundance or scarcity of water.

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During the dry season, you may observe unique behaviors that only occur when water is in short supply. The watering holes are more crowded, so locating fauna is easier, but the animals may be more territorial and less tolerant of each other, which can lead to confrontations between species. Another unique behavior that has been noted as occurring only during the dry season is that of elephant families moving more quickly between water resources and foraging locations. The lack of rainfall also means that the vegetation is less dense, another circumstance that makes the animals easier to spot, but this also means that food is in short supply for the herbivores due to competition from other foragers, so these animals may travel to greener pastures where water sources are also accessible.

The short rains arrive in November and December, followed by a warm, humid, moderately dry period in January and February. The long rains arrive in late March and last until early June. The rainfall is heavy during these months, so the roads in Chyulu Hills National Park become quite muddy, and the logistics of your safari activities may be much more challenging. This time of year, though, is when the vegetation is lush and green. Some ungulates like impalas are also giving birth, so you may have the delightful experience of seeing the newborns of several species take their first steps (read more on when is the best time to travel to Kenya with Explovaganza ).

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All things considered, we recommend that you plan your wildlife-viewing travels in Chyulu Hills during the cool, long dry season. Certain events may mean that other times are best for you, though, such as the long rains when there are fewer guests, birthing herbivores and lower rooming rates at camps and lodges in Chyulu Hills and around Kenya. Migratory bird species arrive in the park from October to April, transforming the landscape into a birdwatcher’s paradise while the brilliant green grasses and flowers of the long rains create stunning contrasts with the distant Kilimanjaro. Your personal interests may lead you to arrange your nature tour around holidays and special events, and Christmas, New Year’s and Easter are popular times for local and international guests to spend time in Kenya but not so much in Chyulu.

No matter when you choose to set off on your much-anticipated Explovaganza bush holiday, Chyulu Hills will certainly far exceed your expectations. We highly recommend that you bring your camera with plenty of batteries and memory cards or film to take full advantage of the picturesque setting. One of the most representative images is of Mount Kilimanjaro as a backdrop with two bull elephants standing in defense of their territories in the foreground, and you will find an almost infinite number of other images at every turn. You should also pack a warm sweater, fleece or lightweight jacket as the temperatures can be quite cool during early morning game activities and for the evenings that you will spend under the vast African skies. A poncho or waterproof coast is also necessary if you should be traveling during the rainy season.

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