Ultimate Three-Week African Explorer: Primates, Big-Game Safari & Natural Wonders

A More than 18 day trip to Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda & Zimbabwe 
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The ultimate African adventure should include everything from primates to predators, chimpanzees to Cape Town, and Victoria Falls to vibrant tribal cultures. This awe-inspiring itinerary will take you through five countries in three weeks, uncovering the iconic highlights of a continent. You will discover Masai Mara, Uganda’s gorillas, Botswana’s elephants, endless Samburu, and the tip of Africa. Expertly guided and connected by the continent’s growing flight network, it is a three-week expedition to satisfy the most inquisitive and eclectic of impressions.

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Entebbe, Lake Victoria, Kibale Forest National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kazinga Channel, Ishasha Sector, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Nairobi, Giraffe Centre, Kalama Conservancy, Samburu National Reserve, Mara North Conservancy, Masai Mara, Victoria Falls, Zambezi River, Chobe National Park, Chobe River, Cape Town, Boulders Beach, Cape Point, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Cape Winelands, Stellenbosch, Table Mountain, V & A Waterfront

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Entebbe – Relaxing on the Shores of Lake Victoria

The serene waters of Lake Victoria provide an iconic welcome to Africa, lulling gently alongside your five-star hotel. You are greeted at the airport and have an afternoon at leisure, the surrounding lanes a delight of old-world architecture from the Colonial period. Later in the afternoon, you will take to the water, a Lake Victoria cruise the perfect way to watch your first African sunset. As the waters reflect red and yellow, you settle into the enchantment of the continent. There is something about the landscapes that immediately compels you to explore further.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation, tour, dinner

Day 2: Kibale Forest National Park – The Mystique of Uganda’s Volcanic Forests

A light aircraft takes you west, descending past a series of 5,000-meter-plus volcanic peaks. Vibrant colors merge all around, the ochre of the earth and the green of the forest just two. Colobus monkeys watch peacefully from the top of the canopy, L’Hoest’s monkeys are a few branches lower, and baboons and vervet monkeys showcase their trademark mischief. You have a private guide for the day, and there are many different hiking trails around the forest. Each will encounter different primate species, and the route will be customized depending on your energy levels and interests. All meals are included for the next five days, and the lodges are positioned to maximize the wildlife encounters.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Kibale Forest National Park – Exclusive Chimpanzee Habituation Experience

Chimpanzees are the most famous of the Kibale residents, legendary characters that provide you with an hour of surreal intimacy. They stare back at you, expressions emanating from their playful faces. One is propped against the tree trunk, three are playing in the foliage, and a mother admires her infant. These chimpanzees are wild as they are still being habituated to human contact by researchers. You join the researchers today, a chance to inspect all the behaviors of the troop. Sitting silently and patiently, you could spend up to four hours with a troop as its members play in the trees all around you. It is a full-day adventure and the trekking time could be anywhere from one to four hours.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Queen Elizabeth National Park – Beautiful River Safari and First Encounters with the Savannah Giants

Travel south through a near-unbroken wilderness on an expedition that reflects the etymology of safari, a Swahili word meaning “journey.” Weaving out of the forest, you cross the savannah where elephants and buffalos are among those that cross the trails. Back into the forest, you pass unusual antelopes before arriving at your lodge on the Kazinga Channel for lunch. The afternoon is very relaxed with a boat safari that offers sublime encounters with pods of hippos and a chance to admire the wildlife surprise that occurs along the banks of this life-giving waterway. Back at the lodge, there is a great chance to see hippos emerge from the water as dusk approaches.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Queen Elizabeth National Park to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – Following Lions and Elephants to the Gorillas

You get an early morning start on your safari today. The cooler morning hours are a great time to spot the predators on the move. Lions descend from the trees stalking herds of Ugandan kob, the ubiquitous antelope that is nearly endemic to the country. You might spot a leopard lurking in the deeper grass, preparing an ambush. Giraffes mark the horizon, gazelle skip past, and zebra provide moments of beauty on the savannah. Stop for a picnic lunch on the edge of the national park before a two-hour drive back into the forest, heading beneath the mystical canopy of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – Charms and Captivation of Gorilla Trekking

A silverback beats on his chest, a call of dominance that echoes through the forest and brings your gorilla trekking experience to a close. You have had an hour with a wild mountain gorilla troop, deep in one of the continent’s most untouched forests. Juveniles have been swinging above your head, mothers and blackbacks have looked back at you as if you weren’t a stranger. The whole troop has been feeding and playing in the clearing just seven meters away. And while you have only had an hour, it feels like you have had the chance to really get to know this troop. Hiking back towards the trailhead, you continually recount the experience, amazed at the intimacy and the intensity. With gorilla trekking, it is almost as if you are interacting, such is the untrammeled insight into the behavior of the troop.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 7: Nairobi – Endangered Giraffe in Kenya’s Capital

Hop back to Entebbe by light aircraft and transfer onto a flight to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. You land in the early afternoon and are transferred to a boutique hotel on the outskirts of the city. An overnight stay is essential, as your onward flight to Samburu only leaves in the morning. Despite being a capital city, there is still plenty of wildlife here. Endangered Rothschild’s giraffes roam the grounds of the hotel, occasionally popping their heads through the window. Elephants are not far away, part of a different conservation program. Even though you are in one of East Africa’s largest cities, the pull of Kenya’s wildlife is inescapable. Dinner at the lodge is included.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic & international flight, transfer, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 8 – 9: Kalama Conservancy (Samburu) – Epic and Exhilarating Big-Game Safari in Kenya’s Untouched North

Samburu is raw and wild, a savannah that seems to extend for eternity. Your lodge is perched on a granite outcrop, gazing over endless miles of roaming elephants, skipping herds, and the scent of predators. Local Samburu warriors are your guides, ancient gatekeepers to this supreme realm. Over these two days, you hardly see another vehicle. It is you and the wilderness, an adventure with the giant game of Africa, an expedition into the iconicity of a continent. The safari program is flexible, with game drives complemented by game walks and a unique opportunity to game drive at night.

By staying in the private Kalama Conservancy, you can also travel off the trails, getting even closer to the wonderful range of wildlife. Encounter lions and you are close enough to smell them. Find hyenas, and you hear the crunch and yelp of their feverish feeding. Stop on the trail, and you can be surrounded by buffalos, elephants, and zebras. But for all the closeness of the encounters, it is the scale that makes Samburu so special. The enduring openness of northern Kenya offers insight into the untouched wonders of Africa.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner  

Days 10 – 11: Mara North Conservancy (Masai Mara) – Africa’s Most Iconic Safari Destination

A light aircraft flight takes you to the south of Kenya and the world-renowned Masai Mara where wildebeest and zebra are gathered beneath the wingtips. Thomson’s gazelle canter past, bounding over the grasslands, and hyenas snarl as they follow the antelope, strange characters that can be both loved and hated. Lions sleep with two eyes open, snoozing and panting beneath the sun with full bellies. One becomes alert and circles the safari vehicle. You can hear the silence, and then the lioness lies back down in the shade created by the vehicle.

By staying in a private conservancy, you continually enjoy these intimate moments with the big cats. In the main Masai Mara National Reserve, the guides must stick to the trails. Going off the trail in the conservancy brings images of a cheetah and her cub, perhaps three bachelor lions with bloodied scars, or maybe a leopard flicking its tail in the trees. You can explore both destinations, moving between the unfenced landscapes as you are engulfed in one of the planet’s greatest profusions of wildlife. Thousands of zebras are on the march, wildebeest are scattered for miles, and the experience is not about the animals you see but the interactions between them. You will soon discover why it is Africa’s most famous safari landscape.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 12: Masai Mara to Nairobi – Hot Air Ballooning Over the Masai Mara

After two days of very personal big-game encounters, a hot air balloon flight provides an understanding of the Mara’s dramatic size. The grasslands stretch onward, and the herds create a patchwork down below. It is an iconic memoir to take from your last day in East Africa, the flight followed by a champagne brunch and a last game drive in the Masai Mara. Fly back to Nairobi in the early afternoon, and the rest of the day is at your leisure. You may wish to visit the city’s Masai Market as it is a great place to get traditional souvenirs.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, transfer, tour, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 13: Victoria Falls – The Wonder of The Smoke That Thunders

New direct flights connect Nairobi with Victoria Falls, a morning departure that leaves the whole afternoon to explore the wonder of Mosi-oa-Tunya. That is what the locals call this spectacle, “The Smoke That Thunders,” a more fitting description for the immense power and growl. The Zambezi River plunges into a canyon that is a mile across. Follow a self-guided hiking trail along the opposite side of the canyon, the abyss below consumed by the spray of the falls. At some points, you can get soaked by the descending clouds of water, while in others you have vistas that are continually enhanced by rainbows.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 14: Victoria Falls – Leisurely Day Along the Banks of the Zambezi

This day is deliberately left free. Your lodge is perched along the banks of the Zambezi River, and you are never far from the antics of hippos and baboons. Various activities can be planned, from helicopter and microlight flights over the falls to canoeing or walking in the surrounding wilderness. You might also wish to return to Victoria Falls to spend more time with this natural wonder of Africa. In the late afternoon, you board a sunset dinner cruise, fine dining complemented by the sight and sound of hippos emerging to graze.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 15: Chobe National Park – Safari with the Elephants in Neighboring Botswana

Elephants are so numerous in this part of Africa that you can spot them crossing the road just a few hundred meters from the international border post. Today, you follow their migratory journey, crossing into neighboring Botswana and the nutrient-rich Chobe Forest. Around 100,000 elephants are in the vicinity, comfortably the world’s largest population. They are constants throughout the safari: babies scampering after warthogs, herds splashing in the river, lone males bashing down trees, infants using their trunks as snorkels. Giraffes also thrive here, and over the day you spot thousands of Africa’ giants, often from just a couple of meters away. For a new overnight experience, you stay at a mobile camp in the park, feeling and sensing the excitable atmosphere of the wild.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 16: Chobe National Park to Victoria Falls – Continuing the Safari and Overnight Near the Falls

It is not just elephants and giraffe in Chobe; predators are also numerous. You will see how the higher grass and denser foliage makes them harder to spot than in the Masai Mara. Various antelope jump around, springbok and eland new species on your safari. Buffalos also block the trail and surrounding the camp you might see the prints of a herd. Continue the safari this morning before lunch overlooking the Chobe River and a relaxed river cruise brings the Botswana experience to a close. It is an hour back to Victoria Falls where you stay at different accommodation, a vintage hotel that is well situated for exploring the small town.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 17: Cape Town – First Impressions of the Mother City

From Victoria Falls to Table Mountain, a direct flight takes you to the southwestern corner of Africa. The vertical rockface provides an inspiring backdrop and first impression, standing high above the city and the Atlantic Ocean. This afternoon is free, and if the summit is clear, you might want to take the cable car up the mountain, a wonderful first impression of a city that stands beneath the awe of nature. Your hotel is in the pedestrianized V & A Waterfront area, a vibrant part of Cape Town that is very safe to explore on foot throughout the day and the night. Many good restaurants are within walking distance of the hotel.

What’s Included: accommodation, international flight, transfer, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 18: Cape Town – Penguins, Panoramas and the Tip of Africa

Nature continues to dominate, even when you are discovering the urban side of the continent. On a private day-tour, you pass through fishing villages, following the stunning Chapman’s Peak Drive toward the southwestern tip of the continent. Astonishing panoramas are enjoyed from viewpoints along the way, colonies of jackass penguins fill Boulders Beach, and two lighthouses mark the tip of the continent. This journey to Cape Point is Cape Town’s most iconic experience, a day that celebrates the natural splendor of the region with its unusual fynbos and majestic mountain backdrop. You return to the city in the late afternoon, another Atlantic Ocean sunset viewed from the terrace of your hotel.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 19: Cape Town – Sensual Serenity of the Cape Winelands

Away from the coast, the landscapes are just as sublime, vineyards clustered in the folds of the ongoing mountain chain. Start the private tour with bubbles, local MCC a sensual way to begin the tasting. Pinotage is the South African grape, a rounded and easy drinking wine that is a quintessential part of the tasting. Hundreds of vineyards are found in these valleys, and the guide will tailor the rest of the day-tour to your tastes, so many potential stops in a region that exports little. Most South Africa wine seen around the world comes from a region further north where the quantity of production dominates, The Cape Winelands, especially the area of Stellenbosch Valley, is concerned with quality.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 20: Cape Town – Leisurely Day Around Cape Town

The final day of this African adventure is left free. There are dozens of activities and tours to take around Cape Town, from walks in the city to traveling further afield to great white sharks and whales. Robben Island awaits just offshore, a series of colorful markets provide easy shopping spots, and the city has a stunning range of restaurants to pick from. You may want to sit back on the terrace, watching the yachts lull in the harbor, recounting the five countries you have seen over the last three weeks.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 21: Cape Town – Departure

After three weeks, you depart Africa from Cape Town International Airport.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast 

Price

Starting Price 

$8,455
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.