Hear the call of the wild in this epic experience of Kenya and Rwanda. This visit takes you gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes National Park and to the untamed life of the Masai Mara and Laikipia. Soak up real and contemporary African culture in the urban communities of Kigali and Nairobi.
Welcome to Uganda. This Independent Experience starts at Entebbe airport where you will be met by our local representative and transferred to Lake Mburo National Park. Please make sure that you arrive in time for an 11am departure. If you are planning on staying in Entebbe prior to your Independent Experience you can arrange to be collected today from your nominated hotel (at 10am) instead of the Airport. Drive approximately 5 hours to the park, stopping on the way to stand in both the northern and southern hemispheres at the equator line. After entering the park, you’ll enjoy a game drive on the way to camp, arriving in the early afternoon. Extensive acacia woodland and five lakes make up Lake Mburo National Park, an area that is home to a stunning array of wildlife. It’s the best place in the country to see eland (the largest species of antelope), as well as zebra, topi, impala and several types of birds that gather around acacia trees. This afternoon you’ll take a boat ride on Lake Mburo. The lakes provide a home for hippos, crocodiles and a variety of waterbirds – the swampy fringe region provides a hideaway for secretive species such as sitatunga and red, black and yellow papyrus gonalek. Tonight’s simple but comfortable tented camp is located in the centre of the park. Placed in varied settings, some rooms are situated in a forest, some with a lake view, and some on rocky outcrops. Animals gathering in the valley will give you fantastic game viewing opportunities, and you can relax and watch wildlife at a waterhole below the pool.
This morning you’ll enjoy an early breakfast, leave the national park and continue on to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (approximately 6 hours), your base for the next two nights. Your lodge here combines excellent local hospitality with seclusion in this enchanting wilderness area. The forest’s moniker is very apt – this is extremely rugged and dense woodland which dates back over 25,000 years and is one of the most biologically diverse rainforests in the world. If time allows, in the afternoon you’ll take a walk to a beautiful waterfall within the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Look out for the wildlife that will surround you – numerous birds, butterflies, and maybe monkeys. Then return to camp to enjoy a sumptuous dinner this evening.
A short morning drive takes you to the park headquarters, where you’ll be briefed on the gorilla trek by the Uganda Wildlife Authorities. The 330 square kilometre Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was declared a World Heritage site in 1994 because of its incredible biodiversity. This small pocket of primeval forest in the Virunga Mountains protects about half of the world’s remaining 700 mountain gorillas, as well as providing a home for chimpanzees and several species of monkeys. Gorilla trekking is highly controlled with only 24 gorilla trekking permits available each day. Once a trekking group encounters one of the gorilla families, only one hour is granted in the presence of the great apes before trekkers must leave, however reluctantly. Be aware that the trek can be strenuous and may reach altitudes of almost 2,000 metres above sea level. Depending on weather conditions, some of the paths can be slippery and these paths themselves can change depending on the location of the gorillas. Therefore it is very hard to predict how long you will need to walk for, but a very good level of fitness is recommended for this trek. You can usually get very close to the mountain gorillas, and watching their movements is like seeing a mirror image of yourself. Be mesmerised and feel the emotions as you watch them eat, sleep, groom and play – the giant silverback surveying the scene as the smaller ones laze in the trees or play like children. You’ll enjoy a picnic lunch on the trek. At the end of the day the comforts of the hotel beckon, along with a chance to reflect on a truly memorable experience.
Depart from the great forest on what is set to be a substantially long drive to Entebbe, spanning at around 550kms (approx. 8 hours). The trip will be broken up along the way by a picnic lunch. Once you arrive, spend the night at the hotel in preparation for your adventures to Nairobi tomorrow.
This morning you will be transferred to Entebbe International Airport for your self purchased flight to Nairobi. On arrival in Nairobi, you’ll have a day free to do as you please. Maybe visit the Karen Blixen Museum, the Langata Giraffe Centre, or have a meal at the famous Carnivore Restaurant, where meat lovers can taste a variety of barbecued game meat.
Depart Nairobi for Elsamere after breakfast and head north, driving along the escarpment of the Great Rift Valley (approximately 4 hours of driving in total). ‘Elsamere’ is the former home of the writer Joy Adamson, whose 1960 book ‘Born Free’ helped bring wildlife conservation into the mainstream. The house is a veritable museum that dedicated to the works of Joy and George Adamson, with many photos of Elsa, the lioness that started it all. You’ll then embark on a boat trip on Lake Naivasha, the highest of all lakes in the Great Rift Valley and home to many a hippopotamus. Later, enjoy lunch with the lake as a serene backdrop. After lunch, continue to your Lake Nakuru lodge, arriving in the early evening.
This morning you will visit Lake Nakuru National Park by 4WD. Mornings can be cold so it’s important to bring warm clothes. You might see why this great soda lake has been described as the world’s greatest ornithological spectacle; it amazingly turns into a sea of pink on occasion. Flooding in recent years has unfortunately caused a decline in birdlife. The park boasts substantial numbers of other species, including waterbuck, reedbuck and gazelle. Leopards are also to be found here, and the chances of sighting one are significant. Keep your eyes peeled, too, for one of Africa’s most endangered creatures, the elusive black rhinoceros (white rhinos are much easier to spot).
Today you will head southwest to the Masai Mara (approximately 6–7 hours), arguably one of the finest game reserves in Africa. Before you arrive, you’ll first cross the Great Rift Valley, Africa’s immense and spectacular great divide. Pass by the remote region of Loita Hills, home of the traditional Maasai people. Here you will make a stop to visit the Maasai, known for their vibrant red dress and elaborate jewellery, and gain an insight into the culture and ancient ways of this proud East African Community. Meet your Maasai hosts and enjoy a fascinating talk, full of insights into this remarkable and ancient culture, from a local elder. Enjoy being shown around a traditional Maasai home and their cattle enclosures. Afterwards, continue on your journey to ‘The Mara’, swapping into 4×4 jeeps. After checking into the park, take a short game drive on the way to camp. Set in what is considered Kenya’s prime wildlife area, Mara Leisure Camp is located along the Talek River, on the northern boundary of the Masai Mara Game Reserve. Facilities at the camp include a swimming pool, gift shop, bar and restaurant.
Explore more of the park by 4×4 Jeeps today with further game drives in the morning and afternoon. Witness the wonderful procession of wildlife that inhabits the area. Wildebeest, zebra and gazelle are plentiful, and you might even spot predators keeping a casual eye on their movements. Elephants, giraffes and elands are also commonly sighted, along with plenty of bird life. The area is known for its rolling green plains and riverine woodlands, and amongst the many species of game, a black-maned lion, leopard or cheetah might appear, with some luck. As dusk falls, a variety of animals might be visible in the vicinity of your camp also.
Today is a free day. If you wish to continue your exploration of arguably one of the finest game reserves on the continent there are a number of optional activities you can choose from including half-day or full-day game drives, or walking safaris. A morning game drive involves waking at dawn for a light breakfast followed by an early morning game drive, setting off at sunrise and returning to the camp three to four hours later. An afternoon game drive departs around 4pm and returns after sunset. On returning to the camp, freshen up before joining other guests around the campfire for a pre-dinner drink. An optional balloon ride over the Masai Mara at sunrise is an unforgettable experience. If you have pre-booked this activity you will be picked up from camp before dawn and driven to the launch site for a safety briefing with your pilot. You then glide through the dawn, sometimes at tree height, making the most of the amazing photo opportunities. Sometimes you’ll ascend to get an overview of the enormity of the Masai Mara plains and the early-morning movements of the teeming herds. Upon landing you’ll be treated to a bush breakfast before rejoining your group.
In and around Migori
Say goodbye to the Mara and head to Migori (approximately 6.5 hours). On the way you will stop for lunch (at your own expense) and visit a local soapstone factory in Kisii. This town is home to the best soapstone carvers on the continent. Their products are quite popular around the world. It’s a favourite stopover for travellers seeking a taste of the exquisite Kisii carvings.
Cross into Tanzania before heading to the Serengeti National Park (approximately 8 hours, not including time spent at the border). These ‘Endless Plains’ span some 14,700 square kilometres, but their main claim to fame is 3 million or so animals. The game most likely to be seen in the Serengeti are the wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, lion, cheetah, warthog, hyena, hippo and ostrich. You’ll take a game drive en route to your camp and watch the landscape change within the park from the vast treeless central plains to thick scrub and forest in the north. Linking these areas is the savannah, dotted with acacia trees and magnificent rock outcrops. Pull up in the park and enjoy a refreshing sundowner and some nibbles before carrying on to you camp. The next two nights are spent at Kati Kati mobile tented camp, our feature stay on this trip. Meru-style tents are a great place to relax at the end of the day and have large beds, table, clothes rack, sink, ‘bucket’ showers and a toilet. The eco-friendly camp has a comfortable lounge area, and a cosy mess tent located in the centre of the camp where meals are served. The campfire is ready every evening for appetizers before dinner. This is a unique opportunity to enjoy a real safari camp experience with modern comforts.
Enjoy a full day of game drives in the truck in the magnificent Serengeti. Perhaps the ultimate way to go game viewing is on a hot air balloon safari over the great plains of the Serengeti National Park. Hot-air ballooning in East Africa can be an unforgettable experience, an exceptional way to see this part of the world. We strongly recommend booking this extra activity prior to departure if you’re interested. Tonight we have a private dinner under the stars within our permanent tented camp while listening to the sounds of the Serengeti.
After an early morning game drive, it’s time to leave the park and travel to the Ngorongoro Crater (approximately 5 hours). It’s one of Africa’s most beautiful nature reserves and the world’s largest intact caldera. Upon arrival you will check into your accommodation, which is located just outside of the crater. This small and exclusive lodge faces the Oldeani Volcano, and is located approximately 5 kilometres from the Ngorongoro Lolduare gate.
In the morning, climb aboard the 4WD for your descent to the crater floor. Hopefully you’ll see some or all of the ‘big five’ creatures that rule here. Animals within the Ngorongoro Crater are less shy of people and safari vehicles, so it’s easier to see them up close. Views from the rim of the crater are sensational. On the crater floor, grassland blends into swamps, lakes, rivers, woodlands and hills. The Masai are permitted to water their cattle at the permanent lake and can be seen leading their animals in and out of the crater. The most commonly seen animals are the lion, wildebeest, zebra, eland, bushbuck, cheetah, jackal, buffalo, Grant’s gazelle, Thompson’s gazelle and black rhinoceros. The afternoon is yours to spend as you please, perhaps with optional walking activities or a coffee tour.
Drive to Arusha (approximately 3 hours) where your East African adventure comes to an end at the finishing point hotel. Any flights out of Arusha should not be booked to depart prior to 3pm. Alternatively, you can continue on to finish in Nairobi (approximately another 6 hours). Please see ‘Special Information’ below for more details.