As you consider the allure of Africa, three experiences rise to the pinnacle of most imaginations; the landscape of South Africa’s Kruger, the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara, and the trek to see the wild mountain gorillas. This luxury two-week adventure safari will connect all three for the ultimate adventure into the intimacy and the drama of Africa’s wilderness. Featuring exceptional lodges, unique safari activities, private concessions, and a chance to be alone with the four-legged...
MalaMala Game Reserve – Iconic Game Drive Introductions
An old elephant may amble past the lodge, a look of melancholy in his small eyes. Three giraffes are painted along the horizon, sentinels of the safari. Baboons are hooting from the trees above you, and a herd of zebra grazes on the grass below your balcony. You have not yet even been on your game drive, and already the animals are leaving an impression. Over these two weeks, you will find that rare wildlife becomes the panorama and the constant across Kruger, Masai Mara, and Rwanda.
Earlier in the day you will touch down in Johannesburg and transfer onto a scheduled light aircraft flight to MalaMala, well-renowned as the finest of the private game reserves in Southern Africa. MalaMala is also the largest as it runs along the western corridor of the Greater Kruger ecosystem with no barriers preventing the movement of wildlife. As you begin with your first game drive, you will start to get closer to find that now it is an elephant herd, rather than just something in the distance as trunks swing as they pass your vehicle. Prints will lead you towards a cheetah, eventually found hiding amongst the grass, and your first glimpse of a rhino provides a memory that will last a lifetime.
Day 2 - 3
MalaMala Game Reserve – Immersed in the Luxury
More rhinos come into view as your rise in the morning and silence reigns as a mother and calf wander past, their movements a symbol of elegance. Flittering around the bushes, you might find more with two bulbous males on the verge of a quarrel. More than half the world’s rhinos occupy the Greater Kruger ecosystem, and the number you encounter over the next few days can be astonishing. Continue your game drive and go off the trails to inspect a fresh kill. You can hear them chomping, the lions greedily ripping through a carcass, and then you see the scavengers with the jackals the first on the scene.
With a flexible program, you can combine game drives with walking safaris and also the thrill of a nighttime game drive. Each offers a new perspective and some new insight into the species that thrive in this corner of Africa. Head into the bush after dusk and the guides’ spotlight shines on a leopard, the hunter descending for a nighttime prowl. You may only glimpse it by sight, but with the engine turned off you pick up on other clues like a rustle, a yelp, and the frightened scream of the hunted. Leopards are one of the rare safari sights, but in MalaMala they are part of the experience, witnessed not only in the trees but on the trail of for their prey.
Day 4 - 5
Kruger National Park – Exploring the Thrilling Enormity of Kruger
It would take days to drive across the Kruger, so it is much quicker to fly on a chartered light aircraft that will bring you to the remote east of the ecosystem. The colors of the savanna stretch out below as you fly, and then land in the Kruger. MalaMala presents the Kruger in concentrated form, but in the national park, you will begin to appreciate the scale of the landscape. Elephants may be spotted in the hundreds, and you will quickly lose track of the number of rhinos. Glance up from your private plunge pool to find a landscape speckled with life, from large herds of buffalo kicking up dust to the springbok and kudu that blend into the grass. Game drives cover larger distances now, and there is seemingly no end to the animals in view.
Mountains form a natural barrier further to the east, and you can take a walking safari in the foothills. You are almost silent on foot, and to the wildlife, you are much smaller than a safari vehicle. So the antelope will not hide, the zebra does not run, and peculiar animals fix your stare. Avoiding the prints of predators, these walking safaris create an intimacy with the wilderness. You can breathe in the ambiance, both smelling and hearing the subtle changes that enliven every square mile of the savanna. In the distance are the giant elephants, giraffe, and buffalo that are far larger when you are also at ground level. Like each of the destinations in South Africa and Kenya, you can create a personal program and choose only the activities that suit your mood. So, a game drive tracking lions can be followed by a short walking safari with the zebra, and then some downtime at the lodge before an afternoon game drive that blurs into a nighttime drive.
Nairobi – Giraffe Poking Their Heads Through the Window
It is becoming surprisingly quick and simple to connect South and East Africa, and you will fly by light aircraft from the east of Kruger to O. R. Tambo International in Johannesburg to board a scheduled flight to Nairobi. Touch down in the Kenyan capital, and the wildlife scenes continue as you settle into your boutique lodge that is part of a Rothschild’s giraffe conservation program. The giraffe wanders the gardens of where you are staying, and if you leave the window open to your room, they may be poking their heads through for a surreal scene that epitomizes the city’s ability to mix contemporary urban with wild origins. To understand more of this endangered subspecies, you are taken on a tour of the Giraffe Centre with dinner at the lodge included.
Day 7 - 8
Mara Naboisho Conservancy – Intimate Experiences With the Big Cats
Mara Naboisho has evolved into an iconic haven for the predators. Away from the noise of the main national reserve, it has become a nurturing home for spotted cats and their cubs. Driving off the trail, which is not permitted in the national reserve, you can explore the cats’ realm. Lions bask in the grass, panting with bellies full, watching you intently even when resting. Draped across a tree branch is a leopard, and as you look more closely, you will find the cub nestled into her bosom. Two cheetah cubs follow their mother, playful and enthusiastic as they fail to grasp the basics of the silence that’s required in the hunting lesson.
Fly direct to this private conservancy from Nairobi and spend a couple of days immersed in the life of the great predators. Masai warriors maintain a localized knowledge of this land, trackers that help you quickly identify the clues that cats leave behind while lion prides lounge in the open, but the others hide, especially with their cubs. Walking safaris are also possible here, such a thrill to walking across the famous Mara plains, the Masai warriors keeping you clear of the cats just as they have kept clear themselves for thousands of years. Back in the vehicle, you can trace the stages of a hunt, stalking, and prowling and then the dramatic swirl of dust as the actual kill takes place in just a few seconds. Throughout it all, you will appreciate the privacy that a conservancy is able to offer with only a handful of other guests alongside you in this part of the Mara.
Day 9 - 10
Masai Mara National Reserve – Hot Air Balloon Safari
From the air, you can spot the herds as the wildebeest move in scattered clusters and the zebra blend together into one large mass. A patchwork extends below with scorched yellow, lush green, and the ochre of granite rocks that rise iconically. After the hot air balloon safari, you will cross the Masai Mara on a full-day game drive to head south to the Mara River, where your camp has the perfect view of the waterway. While there are also more vehicles around, the density of the herds makes your time spent in the national reserve an integral part of the safari experience. Stop at various viewpoints and watch the herds roam, circle rocks where lions rest, and picnic by the river as a gazelle unsuccessfully attempts to drink without getting caught in a crocodile’s jaw.
The Masai Mara – Serengeti ecosystem is contiguous and home to more wild mammals than anywhere else on the planet. There are more than 2 million in number, mostly wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle. Many, but far from all of these, form the great wildebeest migration, which crosses the crocodile-infested Mara River around July and stays in the Masai Mara until October. Whatever time you visit the Mara grasslands, the abundance of these three species is staggering with herds numbering in the thousands. Two million ungulates support a phenomenal quantity of predators, and few people realize that most of these predators do not follow the great wildebeest migration. Only hyenas and vultures have the stamina, while the cats must also stay and protect their home patch. For the predators, the migration is a feast that passes through their realm once a year, and for you, the predators are a constant on the safari.
Volcanoes National Park – Into the Land of the Gorillas
Enjoy a relaxed final morning in the Masai Mara and watch the grasslands come to life at dawn before you take a final game drive to track the lions. Move next to take in a supreme aerial experience with an afternoon flight that travels south, over the Mara River, and above Tanzania’s Serengeti. You will change light aircraft in Mwanza, and then touch down in Rwanda’s capital around 5 pm, where it is a two-hour drive through The Land of a Thousand Hills to Volcanoes National Park. While it is dark upon arrival, you can already sense the mystique as your lodge is surrounded by a forest that sings with life through day and night.
Day 12 - 13
Volcanoes National Park – The Thrill and Charm of Gorilla Trekking
The trail is muddy and steep with tangled branches being sliced clear by machetes. The canopy closes in, and when you stop and listen, there is nothing artificial with just the flutter of birds and the crunch of steps. A radio call comes in to say that the gorillas are close and your anticipation rises, and you are now following trails created by the gorillas. They move on all fours, and you are walking, so you must duck and dip your way towards the world’s largest primates. Less than 1,000 of them remain in the wild, and gorilla trekking is only possible in two countries. If you are short on time, Rwanda is usually favored over Uganda for its ease as Volcanoes National Park is only two hours from the country’s main international airport.
The trekking is part of the experience, creating an appreciation of the remote world these giants live in, and what a welcome they provide! The thrill of arms waving and eyes returning your gaze abound, and there are no barriers. There is nothing between you and them, and while the gorillas have been habituated to human presence, they always like to inspect their visitors. Two blackback males may stare at you, holding your gaze with an intensity that will bring goosebumps. A mother looks longingly towards her infant, such emotion in eyes that are black and deep-set. And now the silverback, arms bulging as he crawls across a clearing, barely seven meters away from you.
Every gorilla troop is different, and each trek will introduce you to new behavior and interactions. Gorillas are falling from trees, snapping branches, gnawing bark, feasting on seeds, and foraging in the bushes all within your view. With every gorilla, you can read the emotion with so much expression found in their faces. With every moment, you cannot escape the intimacy of the experience as the great primates are found on almost every side of you. It is all so amazing that you will be eager to go again, which you do, visiting a different troop on the second day.
Kigali – Departure
On the drive back to Kigali, there is the option to see more of Rwanda, perhaps stopping at the National Genocide Memorial or taking a tour of the capital. You can also spend the whole morning relaxed at the lodge, watching the mist swirl over the forest, recounting the tales of the gorillas from the last two days.
- Engage in intimate connections with the Big Five as the MalaMala Game Reserve is the finest private reserve in Southern Africa and an unfenced part of the Greater Kruger
- Enjoy the massive abundance of life in the Kruger, including more than half the world’s wild rhinos with days spent at a remote luxury lodge that will showcase the scale of the landscape
- Immerse yourself in the Masai Mara as during the migration more than 2 million animals can be seen, and even outside the migration, you will enjoy a baffling profusion of wildlife
- Wander away from the crowds as the private Mara Naboisho Conservancy takes you away from the Mara and you can bump off-road and savor incredible proximity to the hunting cats of the grasslands
- Spend a couple of days in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park as you trek to two different gorilla troops to better understand the behavior of the world’s largest primate
- Mix national parks and private reserves to take in a complete range of safari activities as game drives during the day and night are complemented by inspiring game walks and the beauty of a hot air balloon safari over the Mara grasslands
- Travel between the three countries easily as transfers have improved enormously over the last decade and little time is lost in transit as light aircraft flights take you to the national parks upon arrival in the capital cities
- Celebrate the very best of these legendary destinations as your accommodation offers an elevated level of luxury while maintaining the authenticity of the setting
$13,715 per person (excluding international flights)
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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