Giants of Africa: Gorilla Trekking Plus Tanzania & Kenya Safaris

A 13 day trip to Kenya, Rwanda & Tanzania 
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Deep within East Africa's landscapes, the giants thrive. Mountain gorillas beat their chests in Rwanda's forests, elephants march between the baobabs of Tarangire, and wildebeest form huge herds in the Serengeti. Hippos, black rhinos, giraffe and lions and on an East Africa adventure these incredible mammals become the landscape. Combining two gorilla treks with three Tanzanian parks and Kenya's Masai Mara, this 13-day safari focuses on encounters with these enormous animals.

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Arusha, Karatu, Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti, Masai Mara, Mara River, Mara North Conservancy, Nairobi, Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, Ngong Hills, Giraffe Centre, Kigali, Genocide Memorial Centre, Kinigi, Ruhengeri, Virunga Mountains, Volcanoes National Park

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Arusha – Relaxing Amidst the Coffee Plantations

Smells of fresh coffee and the scent of adventure will welcome you to East Africa. Your plane will touch down at Kilimanjaro International Airport, and it is a short transfer to the Arusha Coffee Lodge and your luxurious cottage hidden amongst the coffee plantation. Picturesque gardens roll out from your private deck and tranquility seems to float across the land until the silence is disturbed by the wild bushbabies that call from the trees. The adventure will start properly tomorrow, but the random sounds of wildlife quickly ensure that you already feel a part of Africa. The lodge has an excellent a la carte restaurant for your evening meal.

What's Included: accommodation at Arusha Coffee Lodge, airport transfer.

Day 2: Tarangire to Karatu – Huge Elephant Herds and a Big Game Introduction

Tarangire is a landscape of the giants. Iconic baobab trees are scattered across the savannah, their bulbous frames a celebration of Africa's mystique. Elephants are equally scattered, but they do not stand alone as they move in some of the continent's largest herds, perhaps 50 or 60 march evocatively together across the savannah. Some of the herds number in the three figures here, an indication of just how revered the landscape is for the pachyderms. Giraffe is equally populous as their heads rise above the baobabs. For an introduction to the giants, Tarangire is a premium safari destination and a place to be wowed by Africa's largest mammals.

But look closely, and there is much more to the park. Cheetahs hide in the grasslands to stalk herds of impala or Grant's gazelle. Hippos bathe in the mighty Tarangire River and throw mud as buffalo graze nearby. Baboons scamper between the trees while lion pride are occasionally spotted in the trees as they gaze at their dinner menu with one eye open. It's a two-hour drive from Arusha to Tarangire, and you will have the whole day in the park as your game drive will give you a chance to get acquainted with many of Africa's most revered animals. Exit from a different park gate and rise towards Ngorongoro, where you will stay at the serene Plantation Lodge, a working coffee plantation with sublime views over the Ngorongoro Highlands.

What's Included: accommodation at Plantation Lodge, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Karatu – All the Savannah's Giants on a Ngorongoro Day Trip

If you were to go on an African safari for just a day, than Ngorongoro would be the premier choice. Hidden beneath a misty veil and roaming across an ancient volcanic caldera, is a complete suite of the continent's wildlife. In just one game drive, you may spot the full Big Five. Elusive black rhinos may march past your safari vehicle with horns pointed in proud defiance. Buffalo huddle in their hundreds and graze with the zebra, wildebeest, and gazelle. Some of Africa's biggest elephant bulls make their melancholy journeys while lion pride is easily spotted in the morning hours.

Leopard, cheetah, hyena, hartebeest, eland, hippos jackal, warthog, ostrich and flamingos that taint one lake pink, Ngorongoro is the place that has it all as some 25,000 large mammals occupy a relatively compact area. You will quickly realize that your safari is not just about ticking them off a list; rather the experience is centered around the interaction between animals, from the lionesses that hunt the anxious zebra to the male wildebeest that lock horns in battle. Some people proclaim Ngorongoro Crater as a great snapshot of African wildlife, and while a single photo may capture a baffling array of animals, today's six-hour game drive will reveal how the African savannah looks different with every moment.

What's Included: accommodation at Plantation Lodge, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 4 – 5: Serengeti – Following the Drama of the Great Wildebeest Migration

At the Ubuntu Camp, you can hear a million hooves as they march across the grasslands and the reverberating thump of wildebeest on the move. Pull open the canvas of your boutique tent, and you will watch the great wildebeest migration happening right in front of you. A little further behind are the zebra as they fill the landscape with a blur of black and white stripes. You will be surrounded by it all as you watch nature's greatest spectacle without even having to go on a game drive.  Should you decide to travel outside of May to August, you may use another camp in a different part of the Serengeti so as to catch the migration.

As you go on your game drive, the scenes will play out with astonishing frequency. Stand transfixed as a leopard disappears into the grass and emerges with an impala carcass, to the cacophonous protest of storks that swoop overhead. Watch a hyena cackle snarl as it fights young lions for the remains of a meal, and then follow a cheetah as she nurtures her two cubs on a quiet grassy clearing. Then you may drive between a 10,000-strong zebra herd and lose yourself in the spectacle. Wildebeest keep coming and sometimes you will focus in on one--perhaps an old male struggling to keep pace or a mother encouraging her calf, or a young bachelor as he gallops around to showcase his strength and virility.

You will fly from the Kogatende Airstrip in Manyara to the Northern Serengeti. Spend two days with the great wildebeest migration and you will be baffled by the scale. Animals are everywhere, and it will be impossible to know which way to look. Counting would be futile when there are perhaps a million mammals within the vicinity. But on each game drive, you will slowly pick apart the jigsaw and marvel at the subtleties of nature's greatest spectacle. Lions separate a zebra for an ambush as jackals steal scraps, elephants make lonely journeys across the grasslands, and the landscape changes color as the herds march on. You will be surrounded by wildlife nearly every moment at Ubuntu Camp, your boutique home at the heart of the migration.

What's Included: accommodation at Ubuntu Camp, safari, domestic flight, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 6 – 8: Maasai Mara (Mara North Conservancy) – Exclusive Big Game Safari on the Famous Grass Plains

Just like the wildebeest, your adventure will also take you north and across the Mara River to the grasslands of the Masai Mara. You are now in Kenya and will continue your immersion in the intricacies of nature. This famous safari destination is full of surprises, from the 500 resident bird species to the black rhino that wander across the plains. New species that you have not yet seen emerge, like a caracal or a colobus monkey. But most of all you will see the predators. The lions crowd together in an abundance not seen anywhere else in Africa. Leopards and cheetahs are plentiful and coexist on a landscape that always provides a bounty. Hyenas track the wildebeest across the river while vultures and eagles gaze down from the sky.

Using two local safari flights, you will cross north from Tanzania and into Kenya. Explore for three days to follow the hunters and watch the scenes play out through the eyes of both predator and prey. Lions crunch through gazelle bones and you will be just three meters away. A kudu herd exudes fear as they sense a leopard hiding nearby. Watch patiently as a cheetah hides in the grass and waits for the prime moment to launch an attack. A private conservancy will elevate your experience, and Mara North is an integral part of the unfenced Masai Mara ecosystem. Thousands upon thousands of mammals reside here, but very few tourists can enter. Access is restricted to those staying at one of the conservancy's luxury camps, and you will be staying at Kicheche Mara, hidden in Acacia Valley.

When you go on a game drive, there are hardly any other vehicles to interrupt the panorama. Find a revered safari sight, and it will not be shared with any other visitors. Spot a leopard in the distance, and the guide will take you off the trail and bumping across the savannah to move closer. As it's a private reserve, you are not restricted by the usual safari rules, so the guide will bring you closer and closer. Wander onto the grasslands with a Masai warrior guide and take a walking safari that will be laced with wild intimacy. Then stay out late on a game drive to experience it all in the spooky evening hours. This is a prime place to end your safari as the introduction of new activities and species ensures every day remains fresh and thrilling.

What's Included: accommodation at Kicheche Mara Camp, flights, transfer, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9: Nairobi – Elephants and Giraffe in the City

Think of a capital city, and you would expect a break from the giant mammals. But that is not the case in Nairobi, where the Rothschild giraffe and orphaned elephants grace the green suburbs on the edge of the city. Fly from the Mara to Nairobi in the morning to spend your day in Karen, a suburb with a distinctively old-world colonial atmosphere. Tranquil and calm, it provides a quiet space between the Big Five and the big gorillas yet to come. But this is East Africa, so the animals are impossible to miss. You will visit the Giraffe Centre to meet the most endangered of the long-necked subspecies, and then the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, where you can adopt and meet the pachyderms. Completing your day is Hogmead, a boutique guesthouse with warthogs that cover its lawns.

What's Included: accommodation at Hogmead, domestic flight, transfers, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Kigali to Kinigi – Exploring the History of Rwanda

After a morning flight from Nairobi International to Kigali, you will spend half a day to explore Rwanda's capital city. Wide boulevards stretch through the green hills and smiling locals reflect the country's enthusiastic outlook. The scars of the genocide only serve to reinforce the feeling of positivity, and you will visit the National Genocide Memorial Centre where a local guide will help to evoke the stories mostly hidden from the world. Outside the museum, there are mass graves for the hundreds of thousands of people. Seeing it all makes the positivity of Rwanda and its people even more remarkable as this is not a country struggling with its past. Rwanda is a country that has made peace with its history and looks forward in unity. Lunch is included on the tour before you drive across Rwanda to Kinigi in the Virunga Mountain Range. This is your gorilla trekking base, and the Gorilla Mountain View Lodge will provide a wonderful view over the landscape that inspired Gorillas in the Mist.

What's Included: accommodation at Gorilla Mountain View Lodge, flight, airport transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 11: Kinigi – First Spectacular Gorilla Trekking Experience

Partway through a gorilla trekking experience, you will put your camera down and simply watch. Above your head is a young baby, still grasping with how to climb as one second he is delighted, and the next his face is in terror as the branch snaps, and he tumbles down. To the left are four gorillas as each serenely gnaws on bark or feasts from a tree. Just seven meters away is a silverback, a boisterous male who pulls down branches with muscled arms. Crawling past are another two youngsters, and they will stop and gaze towards you with eyes that burn with curiosity before they continue their playful march. A dozen gorillas now surround you and it is impossible to know which way to look.

With gorilla trekking, you will spend a full hour with a habituated mountain gorilla troop. These gorillas are completely wild, and scientists have spent years slowly introducing them to visitor presence. Just to reach the troop is a huge part of the experience as you will trek towards where the troop was seen yesterday, and then continue a walk through the thick tracts of rainforest to follow the gorillas' trail. Sometimes it will take just an hour, and sometimes it is a four-hour hike as the gorillas are also on the move.  Trekkers are allocated based on their interests and fitness levels, so you will reach the troop to take a few inspiring photos, and then lose yourself in the enchantment of the hour-long experience.

What's Included: accommodation at Gorilla Mountain View Lodge, trekking, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 12: Kinigi – Second Gorilla Trek in the Mystical Forest

It’s a new morning, and a new route through the forest to find yet another gorilla troop to admire from close quarters. Like yesterday, you can get to within seven meters of the animals, although the reality is that the troop is likely to surround you on all sides. This troop will have a different social structure with three silverbacks and a scattered assortment of youngsters and mothers. There are close to 20 gorillas in this group, and soon the troop is likely to split, something that is witnessed in the lingering tension between the dominant males with silver hair. Going gorilla trekking twice doesn't just mean double the time with the gorillas. Rather, it's an entirely different experience, with a new troop that reveals its own intimate behaviors. Tension seems to build, and suddenly it will explode as one silverback beats his chest and sends a call that echoes across the forest. It's a signal for you to leave, and a reminder that these are the world's largest primates, confident and comfortable despite only 1,000 of them remaining in the wild.

What's Included: accommodation at Gorilla Mountain View Lodge, trekking, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 13: Kinigi to Kigali – Departure

Weave back through the Land of 1,000 Hills to cross rural Rwanda and return to the capital city of Kigali. It's a three-hour drive, but this includes a stop for coffee at a panoramic viewpoint. You will arrive in plenty of time for your international departure from Kigali International Airport.

What's Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$6,495
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.