You will celebrate East Africa’s natural wonder on your 14-day African safari adventure through Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. You will have an immersive wildlife experience when trekking through the misty jungle on guided gorilla treks and scour the Maasai Mara grasslands in search of leopards and wildebeest. Uncover the mystique of the Serengeti plains and find grazing rhinoceros in Ngorongoro Crater as you enjoy East Africa’s timeless charm.
Nairobi – Relaxed First Impressions in Africa
After landing in the Kenyan capital, you will be greeted by a guide and then transferred to a hotel on the city’s outskirts. While central Nairobi is full of color and bustle, the outskirts remain a place where wildlife can thrive. Nairobi National Park is partially unfenced, allowing for animals to migrate onto valleys that surround the city. Giraffes and elephants can be spotted from the highway as well as from your hotel room. These animals will provide a charming welcome to Kenya and will tease you with what is to come on the safari.
Masai Mara – A Tented Camp and First Game Drive
The domestic airstrip is only ten minutes from your hotel, so it will be a short transfer this morning before a safari flight to the Masai Mara. Once upon the Masai Mara, the grass extends in every direction. Thomson’s gazelle may skip upon the grass, elephants may march around the grass, and zebra herds may graze all around the camp. You can venture off on a game drive where you will see something else: kopjes. These rocky outcrops were the inspiration for The Lion King, and they are home to lions. Entire prides perch on the rocks, surveying their kingdom and inspecting their dinner menu.
On this first game drive, your guide will attempt to find all the famous animals for you. First-time visitors are always keen to see the wildlife of their imagination from giraffes to buffalos to leopards. Usually, you will not need to drive far in the Masai Mara to see the complete sweep of animals. Open plains make it relatively easy to spot big game. With a single glance, it will be effortless to spot animals along the horizon. Guides have an intimate understanding of these landscapes, and their knowledge is essential. For example, when a gazelle herd stops grazing for a prolonged amount of time, they must be spooked by something. So, the guide looks closely to find where a predator may be lurking.
Masai Mara – Safari on the Stunning Grasslands
From dawn until dusk, you will spend the day exploring Masai Mara National Reserve. An early start will help you to spot the big cats, especially cheetahs and active lion prides. Wildebeest are full of enthusiasm every morning, galloping and bucking with an almost comical glee. These displays of energy eventually lead up to the mating system where the most energetic bulls are preferred mates. By crossing the grasslands, you will experience the scale of this famous landscape, particularly how some areas are quiet and have already been grazed and how others feature long grass that the herds are yet to reach.
You will spend the middle part of the day around the Mara River. Hippos may wallow over the water, sharing the space with Nile crocodiles. This river is witness to the great Mara River crossing, which is when the wildebeest migration moves from the Serengeti to Masai Mara. Witnessing this spectacle requires incredible timing and patience, but note that there is action at the Mara River every day of the year. Animals come to drink, lions come for prey, and dazzling scenes always unfold. After a packed lunch at the river, you will drive a different route back to the camp, stopping at many special animal encounters along the way.
Day 4 - 5
Amboseli – At Home With Elephants and Kilimanjaro
The Masai Mara provides a thrilling safari introduction, and Amboseli is more laid back. The park is a fraction of the size, and here, you will settle into a more traditional safari program with early morning and late afternoon game drives. Mount Kilimanjaro will provide your backdrop to it all, which is Africa’s highest mountain. Amboseli’s most famous image is of elephants that wander beneath this huge volcano, and it is something that you will witness directly from the camp. Giraffes are equally impressive in this postcard view as their necks turn to silhouettes when the sun leaves the sky.
While the Masai Mara has large areas to explore, a safari in Amboseli is a little more predictable. Most of the action takes place around one of the park’s swamps. Hippos may be wading and wallowing in the water, often offering a grunt to any ungulate coming to drink. Lions may lurk close to the water, especially around dawn and dusk. During the middle of the day, lions approach the swamps but make no attempt to hide. As such, the scene is often a conglomeration of many different species together.
Safaris are always considered to be an adventurous vacation choice. Not many people appreciate how relaxing they are. You will be immersed in nature where birdsong rather than street traffic provides the soundtrack. There is nothing artificial to break nature’s spell, and the opportunity for a digital detox can be very welcome. In Amboseli, you will have plenty of downtime at the camp, which is where you will smell and listen to the wild in addition to watching baboons and zebras graze. Then, on the game drives, you will look for drama at the swamps.
Arusha – Relaxed Day in Tanzania
From Amboseli, you will travel overland to the Serengeti. Today, you will cross the border into Tanzania and drive half a day to Arusha, which is a busy town that is the gateway for the Serengeti and northern safari circuit. Your lodge will be situated outside the town and will have a superb mountain view. Bush babies chirp from the garden as you enjoy some time to rest and recollect yourself before your Kenyan safari. The guide can accompany you into Arusha where a local market will provide an exciting perspective on Tanzanian life.
Lake Manyara – Surrounded by Baboons and Tree-Climbing Lions
After driving to Lake Manyara, you will first explore a dense forest. Raucous birds will provide a welcome at the gate, and the park’s narrow trails are very different from those in the Masai Mara and Amboseli. On open plains, it will be easy to see wildlife for many miles around. That is not possible in a thick and tangled woodland as you can only see until the next bend in the ochre-colored, dirt track. This does make secretive animals like leopards harder to find. However, most animals do not see you coming either, so you may turn a bend and suddenly be surrounded by a dozen elephants.
The world’s largest baboon population occupies this forest, and they make a lot of noise. Giant troops battle for territory by banging on trees and yelping clamorously. Even the elephants may become a little uneasy by these antics. The lions do not though. In Lake Manyara, the lions climb trees. Sometimes, an entire pride can fill a single tree with each member snoozing on a different branch. This rare behavior is just one highlight in one of Africa’s most picturesque parks. Others include hippos in the lake itself and the solitude of your camp. Tonight, you will be tucked away deep in the park, staying in a treehouse that overlooks a floodlit watering hole. Throughout the evening and night, you can watch animals coming for a drink.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area – Safari in Ngorongoro Crater
This morning, you can choose to do another Lake Manyara game drive or to take a relaxed breakfast on a deck above the watering hole. Even by staying at the camp, you will see animals, including elephant herds that drink in the cool morning hours. From Lake Manyara, it is a short drive to Ngorongoro Conservation Area where your lodge is located on the rim of the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera. Every vehicle is allowed to spend six hours on the caldera floor, so you will wait until midday before starting the game drive, which ensures that you can still be out exploring just before dusk.
Descend steep slopes into the caldera, and there will be little energy at midday. During the day, many animals retreat to the woodland or find shade close to the caldera slopes. Naturally, these are the areas that you will explore first. Some of the world’s largest elephants march through these trees with their tusks curling above the safari vehicle. Black rhinos hide away, but the guide knows how to best locate them. Buffalos and wildebeests tend to venture close to the trees at this hour of the day. Later in the afternoon, the wildlife will spring to life, and you explore the caldera’s open plain, watching spotted hyena chase a herd of zebra. Soon, the lions will emerge, and you can watch them prowl. If you are lucky, you may spot a leopard as well.
Day 9 - 10
Serengeti National Park – Following the Herds in the Serengeti
When the Ngorongoro volcano erupted, it split volcanic ash to the west, flattening the landscape. Millions of years later, the ash evolved into a nutrient-rich grassland that is now known as the Serengeti. It is so fertile and nutritious that wildebeest develop at twice the speed here than anywhere else in Africa. Over 1.5 million wildebeest move around the Serengeti plains, and they are joined by half of a million zebras and Thomson’s gazelle. These abundant ungulates provide food for an incredible density of predators, notably leopards, cheetahs, lions, and spotted hyenas. With so much food around, these predators can survive in smaller territories, and you will probably see more of them than in any other African park.
You will have 48 hours in the Serengeti, staying at a camp that moves with the great wildebeest migration. The camp packs up every three months, so it is always in the vicinity of the best wildlife abundance. Game drives are flexible here, and the program can be adjusted to your mood. When there is so much going on, some visitors prefer to be out all day. Some can be overwhelmed and prefer shorter game drives. Wildebeest cover many square miles, stretching out in their migration formation with more than 100,000 in a single vista. You will drive amid them, and there will be beauty everywhere. At first, you will just see the herd, but then, you will start to notice all the small, individual details.
Zebra use their black and white stripes to confuse predators. By gathering in tight huddles, these stripes turn to a blur. At first, all you will be able to see is this blur. If you move closer, the individual zebras distinguish themselves. Move even closer still, and you will see beautiful moments among the herd such as zebras resting their heads on each other. Abundance provides one highlight here, and battles between predators and prey offer another. With so many big cats and so many ungulates, you are almost guaranteed to witness raw hunting scenes from prowling cats to the aftermath of a kill.
Kigali to Volcanoes National Park – The Green Hills of Rwanda
Today, you will fly directly from the Serengeti to Kigali, which is Rwanda’s capital city. Upon your arrival, a local guide will take you for lunch in the city, before your 2 ½ hour drive to Volcanoes National Park. It is a beautiful journey, weaving through the Land of a Thousand Hills and contrasting the green landscape with Kenya and Tanzania. After arriving at the lodge, the rest of the day will be at your leisure. There are some hikes in the nearby forest, but most guests prefer to rest before their gorilla trek.
Day 12 - 13
Volcanoes National Park – Two Epic Gorilla Treks
Gorilla trekking is one of the world’s ultimate wildlife connections. Trackers will radio in the location of your allocated troop. At first, the trail will be broad and easy. Then, it veers off into narrower trails with the guides using a machete to clear the way. It can get steep and muddy although gorilla trekking is usually easier here than in Uganda. Trekking groups are mostly allocated on the perceived fitness of trekkers, so older and less fit trekkers visit the troop that is closest to the trailhead. The walk could be anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, and you cannot specifically choose a troop to visit.
Tension will build as you approach the troop. You will be able to hear your heart thumping, especially after you meet the tracker and take the final few steps towards the troop. A gorilla may come to meet you and will probably wave its arms and grunt in your direction. This is a show of power and acceptance. It is also a firm indication that you cannot touch or interrupt the world’s largest primates. Gorilla troops are usually encountered when they are resting and feeding. You will come to within seven meters of the troop although this is a loose rule and often the gorillas are above and behind you as well.
On your first gorilla trek, your impressions will come thick and fast. An infant may swing through the trees above your head, looking at its mother for guidance. Gorillas also may be wrapped around tree trunks, gnawing at nutrient-rich bark. You may also witness a giant silverback that is casually grazing, perhaps even beating on its chest. Most troops have at least ten individuals, and you hone in on all the individual behaviors. You will begin to understand how different gorillas behave with each other and admire the emotional looks that are displayed between the troop.
One gorilla trek is incredible, but Volcanoes National Park is in the heart of Africa, far from everywhere. Now that you are here, it is really worth doing a second trek. You will visit a different troop and find a contrasting set of gorilla behavior. On the first gorilla trek, it is easy to get lost in your camera. The experience is more relaxed the second time around, especially after you have had a night to reflect upon it. Trekking in the rainforest is also a highlight, even without the gorillas. This is a precious, untouched ecosystem that only a few people have the opportunity to visit each day. With two gorilla treks, you will start to understand this landscape’s many secrets.
Kigali – Departure
From Volcanoes National Park, you will drive 2 ½ hours back to Kigali for your outbound flight. You have experienced the wonders of African safari by exploring the beauty of East Africa, the splendor of the wildlife, and the diversity of the culture. You will have plenty of time to check into your flight home, bringing an end to your perfect safari adventure.
- Indulge in a game drive around the Masai Mara grasslands, tracking lions and leopards around the kopjes
- Trek through the volcanic rainforest on the trail of a mountain gorilla troop
- Follow zebra and wildebeest herds across the Serengeti plains
- Marvel at elephants as they roam against a majestic Mount Kilimanjaro backdrop, which is just one highlight of your safari in Amboseli
- Search for tree-climbing lions and encounter the world’s largest baboon population in Lake Manyara
- Return to the rainforest and visit a second mountain gorilla troop, spending an hour in their presence
- Explore Ngorongoro Crater where 30,000 animals provide drama and charm inside an extinct volcano
- Contrast three very different African countries from the green hills of Rwanda to bucolic Tanzanian plains
East Africa is where wildlife continues to thrive. Deep in Rwanda’s volcanic rainforest, you will see gorillas in the mist. You watch wildebeest on the plains as 1.5 million of them march across the Serengeti and Masai Mara. Elephants are abundant with herds that march beneath the snow-capped frame of Mount Kilimanjaro. Across East Africa, there are landscapes that have been untouched for many millennia like the famous grasslands, Lake Manyara, and the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera. This is a region where you can explore untouched ecosystems and discover the wildlife world at its most vibrant. People can only be visitors here, but to be a visitor is one of the world’s greatest travel privileges.
This two-week safari showcases East Africa’s best safari experiences. The highlights will originate from contrast. You will explore a wide variety of ecosystems with each being home to a unique, wildlife population. You will have five nights in Kenya and five nights in Tanzania before spending your final three nights in Rwanda. Each country has a unique atmosphere, and you will meet people from a number of tribes. In Kenya, you travel by light aircraft with safari flights that connect distant wilderness areas. An overland adventure provides contrast in Tanzania as you visit three adjacent national parks. You will then take a direct flight from the Serengeti to Rwanda for two gorilla treks.
After a night in Nairobi, the Masai Mara provides a spellbinding first safari experience. Here, you explore the grasslands and drive around kopjes, which are sun-scorched rocks from which lions survey their kingdom. Two days provide an excellent appreciation of scale as there are hundreds of thousands of wild animals on these plains. You will see the crocodile-filled Mara River, search for leopard and cheetah cubs, and are likely to find many raucous battles between animals. From the Masai Mara, you will take a short flight to Amboseli, which is a compact national park that is dominated by Mount Kilimanjaro. Elephants are always a highlight here along with dramatic, predatory scenes around the park’s numerous swamps.
A delightful overland route connects Amboseli with Serengeti via Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro. On day six, you will overnight in Arusha before spending the following day in Lake Manyara. Enormous baboon troops may dominate the forest here, shouting the whereabouts of rare tree-climbing lions. Hippos may fill the lake, and you will enjoy one of Africa’s most beautiful camps. On day eight, you descend into the world’s largest, intact, volcanic caldera. Some 30,000 animals live here, and they represent almost all of Africa’s famous species except the giraffe. A safari is delightful here, especially when you search the slopes for black rhinos and leopards.
From Ngorongoro, the trail continues into the Serengeti where over 2 million wild mammals cover a grassland that is about half the size of Belgium. Most of these animals are continually on the move, and you will stay in a mobile camp that travels with the herds. For 48 hours, you will be surrounded by the greatest play between predator and prey. Then, you will fly to Rwanda, and the wildlife experience will change again. You will walk through dense rainforest, tracking a gorilla family. After spending an hour with a troop and admiring their behaviors and interactions, you will return the following day to see another troop because gorilla trekking is simply too fun to only do once. Consider learning more about our travelers’ best African Safari experiences by reading their travel reviews.
$6,995 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
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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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