The course is based at the Mpala Research Centre in the Laikipia district of central Kenya. The road from Nairobi to the field station is good, but once at the station be prepared for bumpy and dusty dirt roads. We will be traveling in 9-passenger minivan-type vehicles with a top that raises up so that you can stand and look at wildlife from the vehicles.

The Mpala Research Centre ( is administered by the Mpala Research Trust, in collaboration with Princeton University, the Smithsonian Institution, the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the National Museums of Kenya. “Mpala” is spelled oddly, but it is pronounced just like the antelope “impala.” Mpala is a six-hour drive from Nairobi.  It is a huge property of almost 50,000 acres. Mpala has extensive research facilities and labs used by resident and visiting researchers, along with the full infrastructure needed to support a large research and visiting scientist community in a remote location. Electrical generators and solar panels provide electricity, and power at 240V and 110V is available on a 24 hr basis in the labs and offices. Experienced local field guides are required to accompany all students and researchers when they are in the field.



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Students do not have access to email, internet, text messaging, or telephones while at Mpala.


Mpala is about 45 kilometers from the base of Mt. Kenya at roughly 1200 m elevation on the Laikipia plateau. The surrounding region is home to many large-scale cattle ranches and privately owned wildlife conservancies. Wildlife and cattle mix peacefully in this area, and now that many ranches have been converted to game reserves, nearly all wildlife is thriving in the area, including many endangered species like wild dogs and Grevy’s zebras. 

We will be staying in a safari-style camp on the Mpala property that is run by Mpala staff. Students are housed in large safari tents (with wooden beds, mattresses, bedding, pillows, and towels all provided). Bathroom facilities include bucket showers (with hot water) and (most often) pit-style latrines. We assemble for meals and lectures in a large and comfortable dining tent.

The camp is beautifully situated along the river. Thorn scrub acacia dominates this red soil (well drained) habitat and the river is only meters away. Large yellow thorn acacias surround the area, providing shade. Wildlife is all around, including a diversity of birds. You can relax near the water, but we forbid swimming in the river (we don’t want you to run the slight risk of picking up a pathogen or having a close encounter with a hippo or crocodile). The camp is guarded 24 hr a day to deter dangerous wildlife, but large mammals of various kinds often wander through at night.

We eat all meals at this same camp; they are prepared by Mpala cooks who have worked with many past groups of visiting students.  Vegetarian dishes are provided at all meals, but vegetarians are relatively rare in Kenya and the diversity of options will be somewhat lower than you are probably accustomed to at home. In general, past participants have commented favorably that the Mpala food was far better than they had expected it to be. Drinking water is boiled, purified rain water that is safe to drink.  Hot showers use river water, which is safe for bathing but not for consumption. Electricity is available at the main Mpala Centre in the mornings and evenings, and 24 hr electricity is available from solar-charged batteries in some buildings. There will not be electricity at the campsite where we will be staying.

Sheets, blankets, towels and pillows will all be provided.  Although most of your laundry is done by the camp staff, the standard convention is for students to wash their own underwear (by hand).  We provide laundry detergent.

The temperature at Mpala is surprisingly cold in the evening--especially when we go on night drives--so everyone should bring plenty of warm clothes, including a warm fleece-style jacket or the equivalent and something warm to sleep in.

We stay at the Ewaso Ngiro Tented Camp, located roughly one mile from the main Mpala Research Centre facility along the Ewaso Ngiro River. We live in safari style tents and eat all of our meals at the camp.

Tropical Biology