Define your understanding of the wilderness and wildlife during your 2-week East Africa safari in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and a day in Rwanda. Search for gorillas nestled in dense jungle terrain and travel alongside wildebeest during the Great Migration. Scour the forest for chimpanzees and experience the excitement of big-game safaris. Your Africa safari highlights will open your eyes to the unlimited perspectives of East Africa’s majestic landscapes and wildlife.
Nairobi – Welcomed to East Africa by Endangered Giraffes
Nairobi is a wonderful introduction to East Africa’s wildlife. It is the region’s biggest city, a throbbing mass of markets and people. But you can see elephants in the same frame as skyscrapers, while giraffes poke their heads through the window of your hotel room. The wild merges seamlessly with the urban landscape, a great indication of just how free-roaming and unperturbed the natural world continues to be. You will be transferred to a boutique guesthouse in a leafy Nairobi suburb, one that is surrounded by the necks of endangered Rothschild’s giraffe. Take a private behind the scenes tour of the nearby Giraffe Center, then settle into an evening of watching these gentle giants from the veranda.
Mara North Conservancy – Fabulous First Impressions of the Mara Grasslands
Fly to the Masai Mara, and when you touch down all you see is grass. But look closer. Elephants are marauding across the grass, Thomson’s gazelles are blurring into the landscape, and a hyena is poking its head up from its hiding place. Sometimes it seems that all the angles are the same, such is the enormity and conformity of the ecosystem. However, no two moments are ever the same in the Masai Mara. Spend the day on game drives in the Mara North, a private safari playground that borders the Masai Mara National Reserve yet restricts visitor access. A pride of lions basks on rocky outcroppings, herds of buffalo surround your vehicle, and you quickly learn that the idea of the Big Five is far too simple for a Mara safari. You are surrounded, engulfed by the atmosphere and rhythm of this world-famous ecosystem. The only thing that is missing is other tourists, this private conservancy enabling you to explore a personal piece of the Mara.
Mara North Conservancy – Up-Close and Personal with the Big Cats of the Mara
Big cats prowl beneath the cloak of dawn. You spot a leopard descending into the grass with the solemnity of the hunter. Hyenas aren’t hiding, they are on the move, running towards the waterholes in search of breakfast. Lionesses look tired, perhaps after spending a whole night hunting. But they are hungry, and they swap stealth for displays of raw power. On a private game drive, you watch the hunts unfold, from the long, drawn-out attempt to get closer, to the thrilling few seconds of a chase and a kill.
The action is far from over. Jaws crunch into carcasses and scavengers arrive while the meat is fresh before a large male lion roars for them to leave. Vultures circle and you see the hunt from another angle, mournful looks are shown in the faces of the rest of the herd. The Masai Mara and Serengeti are two of Africa’s greatest places to see the big cats on a hunt. However, unlike the main national reserves, the Mara North Conservancy allows you to drive off the trail. This means you can get much closer to the hunt; close enough to hear the lions eating and the scavengers quarreling. Spend this day on private game drives in the conservancy, following these thrilling battles between predators and prey.
Masai Mara National Reserve – Hot Air Balloon Above the Mara
Mara North is a great place to explore the details of the Mara ecosystem. A hot air balloon safari is an entirely different perspective, an impression onto the scale of the grasslands and the migratory movements of the herds. You will see different colors, indicating which areas have and have not been grazed, along with nomadic elephant and buffalo herds on their own long journeys. Touch down, and spend the day in the Masai Mara National Reserve, game driving along the Mara River, watching the crocodiles that wait on the banks. As this Mara safari continues, you also find new animals, like roan antelopes, topi, and elands. You then spend the night at a camp overlooking the Mara River, a prime place to watch the drama unfold along the waterside.
Serengeti National Park – World-Renowned Serengeti Grasslands
The Masai Mara and Serengeti are one contiguous ecosystem packed with nuance. Today you cross the country divide and drive around the northern reaches of the Tanzanian side of the habitat. It is even more open here, even more expressive, the landscapes completely uninterrupted for hundreds of miles. The Serengeti is much larger than the Masai Mara, and while the wildlife is not always as concentrated, the sense of surprise is sublime. Spend the day on a game drive on this side of the river, following hyenas on the move, buffalo herds starting a fight, and cheetahs nurturing their cubs in the grass. Trees rise randomly, silent sentinels of the landscape, and great places to find leopards. Deep within this ecosystem, miles from other people or camps, you spend the night at a mobile camp that is surrounded by the herds. Drifting off to sleep, you can hear the drumroll of hoofs on the plains.
Day 6 - 7
Serengeti National Park – Tracking the Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti
For nine months of the year, the great wildebeest migration is in the Serengeti. These two days will track the herds, following the largest population of wild mammals anywhere on the planet. Wildebeest are scattered loosely, mile after mile of animals on their journey. Males with wispy beards gallop, their enthusiasm aimed at impressing the females. Young calves struggle to keep pace, watched over by lion prides that lounge on the kopjes, rocky outcrops. Zebras move in tighter formation, a thick line of black and white, upwards of 50,000 huddled closely together. Every year, this phenomenon plays out, and the abundance is breathtaking, an impossible number of animals surrounding the vehicle.
There is no wrong time to see the great wildebeest migration. The animals are always there, but they occupy different parts of the park dependent on the time of year, and more accurately, dependent on the rains. These two days will take you to the herds, likely to be in the southeast areas from January to March, the central and western areas in April and May, the northern plains in June and July, and then a private concession to the east from October through December. Most of the migration is in the Masai Mara in August and September. It is an immersive experience, and there’s no end to the encounters with predators. Lions and leopards don’t follow, but feast when the migration reaches their territory. Hyenas are on the move, hunting as well as scavenging. You wake up to wildebeest and zebra and spend the day tracking the intricacies of the migration. Then fall asleep as these same two species are illuminated by the moon.
Entebbe – Uganda’s Colorful Old City
Light aircraft connects the Serengeti wilderness with Entebbe, Uganda’s former capital. Savor a final morning game drive, then fly out of an airstrip that is regularly crossed by elephants and buffalos, the plane soaring over Lake Victoria on its way to Uganda. Touch down, and the afternoon is at your leisure, spent at a lodge on the lakeshore, just a few meters from the colonial-era remains of Entebbe. After six days on safari, it is a chance to return to the modern world, recuperate at the waterside, and get ready for the second week of safari.
Murchison Falls National Park – Game Drives Around the River Nile
Murchison Falls National Park looks and feels very different from the Serengeti. This is a savannah and woodland landscape, dominated by the swerves of the River Nile. The openness of the grasslands is replaced by the drama of close-up encounters, and you can never predict what lurks around the next corner. Thousands of Ugandan kob dominate the savannah, while lions blur hypnotically into the color of the grass. Elephants and giraffe dominate the riverbanks, while a whole host of primates and antelopes can be seen tentatively drinking. Everywhere here revolves around the water, and your private afternoon game drive follows the Nile, exploring the tensions that exist next to the landscape’s lifeblood.
Murchison Falls National Park – Chimpanzee Trekking
Spend the morning in the forest, trekking into a landscape that can’t be penetrated by vehicles. Murchison Falls is relatively unique in combining big-game and primate safari highlights in one park. Antelopes are seen at the start of your journey, but as the canopy closes in, it is mostly vervet monkeys and baboons, along with an exotic assortment of birdlife. Your focus is a habituated chimpanzee troop, the members of which swing effortlessly through the trees, and scamper across small forest clearings. Their eyes meet yours, and their faces reveal emotion, from joy to sorrow, excitement to mischief. It does not take long to notice the genetic similarities. But an hour with a chimpanzee troop also introduces you to the contrasts, showing how these creatures are as unique as any on the planet.
Return to the lodge for lunch, then rest your legs in the afternoon, taking a boat along the River Nile towards Murchison Falls. Hippos fill the water, and you admire their quarrels and their enormous jaws. The famous river narrows to just seven meters across, cascading some 40 meters down into the water below. You view these falls from below, then take a shorting walking trail to viewpoints above the spectacle. Return to the lodge, and the safari continues, so many animals seen from water level, including predators lurking in the high reeds.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – Fly Across Uganda
The aerial journeys always provide a new perspective, helping to show how rural and wild East Africa always has been. There are very few roads, virtually no cities, just empty miles of unbroken wilderness, from yellow-hued savannah to thick mountainous forest. Touch down beside Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the afternoon is at your leisure, with a couple of guided walking trails giving you an insight into the gorillas’ habitat. Tomorrow you will go gorilla trekking. Today you watch the mist swirl around as the sun dips evocatively behind volcanic peaks.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – Exclusive Gorilla Trekking
A gorilla stands defiant, powerful shoulder muscles rippling beneath thick, black fur. Intense, dark eyes stare straight back at you, watching you without pause. There is pride in the stance, immediately commanding respect. Then the gorilla turns and crawls away, an invitation for you to join the rest of the troop. There are 15 in total, including an infant that shows some baffling facial features as it jumps enthusiastically between the trees. The silverback keeps his distance, feasting in the green, arms powerfully pulling at the fruit. Some gorillas are more inquisitive, getting closer than the seven-meter allowed distance, knowing nothing about the rule on proximity. Others, like two older females, disappear into the forest, away from your camera. You get a whole hour with this troop, exploring how it works, admiring all the different individuals. It is an experience unlike any other on safari, this chance to be amongst the giants; less than 1,000 wild mountain gorillas remain in the world, and you are spending an hour with a whole troop of them.
Kigali – Exploring Rwanda for a Day
Entebbe is a ten-hour drive from Bwindi. But Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, is just four hours away, a delightful journey through rolling, green hills, and thickly forested landscapes. It also creates the opportunity to glimpse the fourth country on this safari, even if you won’t be exploring Rwanda’s wildlife. Drive to Kigali for lunch, then spend the afternoon on a city tour, exploring markets and meeting places along with the genocide memorials. Many visitors find that this city feels far more European than elsewhere in East Africa, the broad tree-lined streets flanked by neoclassical architecture. The evening is relaxed, and your guide will provide dining recommendations.
Kigali – Departure
Depart East Africa on a flight from Kigali International this morning, taking away memories from the region’s most iconic experiences.
- Go gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and spend an hour with the world’s largest primates, a whole troop of gorillas staring straight back at you
- Hot air balloon above the Masai Mara, and admire the migratory patterns of the herds
- Track the great wildebeest migration, and surround yourself with the world’s greatest population of wild mammals, up to two-million zebra, wildebeest and Thomson’s gazelle followed by voracious predators
- Find your own private piece of the Masai Mara with a 2-day safari in the Mara North Conservancy, enjoying fabulous moments with East Africa’s predatory cats
- Cross the Mara River, and connect different pieces of the great grassland ecosystem, driving from the Masai Mara to the Serengeti
- Take a boat safari along the River Nile in Murchison Falls National Park, passing by hippo pods and the exotic wildlife that lines the banks.
- Search for chimpanzees in Budongo Forest Reserve, finding yourself just a few meters away from these impish and familiar primates
- Spend a night in some of Africa’s most atmospheric cities, with giraffes poking their heads through your window in Nairobi, the charms of Lake Victoria in Entebbe, and a Parisian ambiance in Kigali
- Fly between some of Africa’s great wilderness areas, the aerial journeys offering a supreme impression of the continent’s grandeur
$7,135 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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