Wildebeest Migration and Gorilla Trekking: A Uganda and Tanzania Safari

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Total Trip:

11 Days
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Countries Visited:

Tanzania, Uganda
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Places Visited:

Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park, Entebbe, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Experience the indescribable feeling of a million hooves rumbling across the plains, hearing a silverback beating his chest, and watching the incalculable drama of big cats stalking their prey while the world’s largest primates surround you. The great wildebeest migration and trekking to wild mountain gorillas are Africa’s two most iconic wildlife attractions. You will experience both sensations on this 11-day luxury safari in Uganda and Tanzania. Tailored for travel from December to early March

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Day 1

Arusha – Arrival and Preparing For the Safari

As you touch down at Kilimanjaro International Airport, you will glimpse the snow-dappled cone of Africa’s highest mountain, before you sneak a peek at Mount Meru and settle into the lush gardens of the lodge. This luxury lodge just outside of Arusha will provide a quiet first night in Africa. When dusk falls, you will start to hear the bushbabies, perhaps even spot their large eyes that shine in the gloom. Two hours later and all will be silent while stillness hangs in the air. Tonight, you will rest, relax, and get ready for the safari adventure that starts tomorrow. Dinner at the lodge will be included.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

included

Dinner

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Day 2

Lake Manyara National Park to Tarangire National Park – Beautiful Impressions of the Wild

In the morning you will discover that baboons guard the entrance to Lake Manyara National Park, and huge troops of them jump across the trail with frenzies stares and fierce howling. They compete with the storks for attention as the birds occupy the higher tree branches with a deafening squawk. When you weave into the park, notice how the elephants don’t seem fussed by the racket, and they wander peacefully through the forest.

When the forest ends, you will cross the floodplain, where wildebeest and buffalo graze, just beyond the hooting of hippos in the lake. Spectacular canyon walls cast a lengthy shadow across the landscape, and upon further inspection, you will find lions in the trees. During your time at Lake Manyara, you will primarily encounter baboons, as this area has the highest concentration in Africa. This beautiful little park on route to the Serengeti provides a very relaxed introduction to the safari lifestyle. You’ll cross the park in half a day and exit from the southern gate towards Tarangire National Park, where your lodge has a terrace that overlooks the evening wanderings of elephant herds.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 3

Tarangire National Park to Ngorongoro Conservation Area – Alone With the Elephants and the Baobabs

The next day, when you open the curtains, you will be in the wild. Watch as a small elephant herd plods past and when the sun rises a little further you will spot another 30 or so friendly mammals on the landscape below. During the morning game drive, you will soon be surrounded by the giants, from the trunk-swinging antics of the babies to the lonely melancholy wanderings of cast-out old males. Impala jump past as a small herd of zebra play on the plains around a giant baobab tree. Lions can also be spotted here, but your focus will not be the predators, it’ll be the harmony of life and sense of wilderness that an African safari can create.

While yesterday you may have been ticking off sights, by the second day on safari you’re starting to understand that the experience is about feeling and quality, not numbers. Spend the full morning in Tarangire and exit through the northern gate after a picnic lunch then drive to your lodge in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Just like everywhere you stay in Tanzania the wildlife sightings will continue long into the night with the silhouetted giants that wander past as you dine at the lodge.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 4

Ngorongoro Conservation Area to Serengeti – Safari in Africa’s Eden and Into the Serengeti

Today you will descend at dawn into the world’s largest intact caldera, which is a mystical place. As you journey through the landscape, lions will emerge from the mist and wander menacingly toward a frightened herd of zebra. Wildebeest gallop and their energy will be a sharp contrast to some of Africa’s largest elephant bulls, which move at a pace that reflects their old age with curved tusks that are quite majestic. Black rhinos also roam the caldera floor, and these naturally bashful characters trot with a strange yet elegant gait. As you drive past the flamingos in one lake to the pods of hippos in another, you will pass buffalos and hyenas on the way. More than 25,000 animals live in the crater, and you may see up to a dozen species in a single vista. This natural Eden is one of the enduring pieces in Africa’s wildlife jigsaw.

Upon your ascend from the crater, you will follow the rugged road west and gaze down on the open and untouched plains of the Serengeti. The two parks are contiguous, and it’s only because of Ngorongoro that the great wildebeest migration is possible. When the Ngorongoro volcano exploded, it created a blanket of nutrient-rich soil that flattened a vast area to the west, now the Serengeti. This grass sustains the world’s largest wild mammal population, with wildebeest and zebra calves able to develop at a rate not witnessed elsewhere in the wild. You’ll get a view of the enormity of the grassland from above before drive onto the open landscape for your first mystical experience with the migration.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 5 - 7

Serengeti – Tracking the Great Wildebeest Migration: An Immersive Experience

During your stay in the Serengeti, you’ll wake to the sound of hooves each morning. It’s like a drumbeat, a hi-hat percussion that echoes across the flat landscape. Open the curtains of your luxury canvas tent, and you will see the wildebeest on the move, and perhaps a few of them gallop around with enthusiasm you don’t usually associate with the morning. Enjoy your coffee and a quick breakfast before you set off as the sun has peeked over the horizon. These early morning hours are when the Serengeti is most active with the herds starting their daily journey and the big cats hunting in colder temperatures to conserve energy. There will be no set route for the game drive to take. Instead, you will follow the action and trace the clues, perhaps tracking a pride on the prowl, a leopard with her cub, or the circling of vultures that suggests a recent kill.

At first, the scale will baffle you. The wildebeest spread out, and hundreds of herds will join to create half a dozen herds that could number 300,000 or more. You can easily drive for an hour and not get to the end of the procession. The zebras are usually a day or two behind, and they cluster together so that they look like a single gray mass from a distance, which is part of their camouflage. When you get much closer, the individual animals begin to separate themselves. Tens of thousands of zebras stand in front of you while you focus on the details. A pair of zebras grooms each other while an infant is herded into a mass of adults, and rival males gallop and bite one another. There might be 50,000 in a single panorama, made up of thousands of small family herds of six to eight individuals.

If you visit from December to early March, this mass of hooves will occupy the southeastern corner of the park, where ungulates raise their calves for the journey ahead. From June to August the herds will travel north, and each year they take slightly different routes across the fresh grazing pastures. The camp you will stay at is dependent on when you visit, particularly in July and August. It’s good to maintain some flexibility during these two months as the great wildebeest migration will not follow the standardized route maps published online. Instead, it’s an evolving phenomenon driven by the rains.

However impressive the herds may be, you are not just here for the zebra and wildebeest. You’re here for the spectacle of all of Tanzania’s wildlife. While on safari, you’ll watch the movements of a leopard as it descends from the trees before the hunter disappears into the high grass as she sneaks up on her prey. Then, notice as a lion pride lounges in the sun with bellies full, panting the afternoon away. Another lion pride devours a carcass, and you’ll be close enough to hear the crack of bone. Hyenas snarl as they follow the migration and these curious creatures are mightily effective hunters. Cheetahs are also in abundance since the newborn wildebeest are an excellent addition to their diet of Thomson’s gazelle. Sometimes you will watch the whole hunt, and sometimes you will see the kill, but at all times it’s hard to know where to look because so much is happening on the plains.

Over these three days, you’ll explore exclusively on private daytime game drives. The route will follow the drama and your interests. You may enjoy morning and afternoon drives with relaxed time at the camp in between, or you might stay out all day. There will always be another sight or sound to savor as the annual spectacle plays out. When night falls, the wildlife will sing you a lullaby as distant lion roars are accompanied by shrilled yelps and the soft patter of the hooves.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 8

Serengeti to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Final Game Drive on the Grasslands and Relaxing Amid the Volcanic Forest

On a final morning safari in the Serengeti, you will not loop back to the camp but continue to the airstrip, where you board a new light aircraft service that provides effortless travel between the grasslands and the gorillas. While you soar over the plains, you will watch how the grass gives way to the endless blue of Lake Victoria. Then, touch down in Entebbe where the flight times are scheduled so you can step straight onto a small plane to the west of Uganda. By early afternoon you’ll land beneath the thick green of the forest canopy and notice how the atmosphere has changed. While the Serengeti felt boundless, the dense and tangled Bwindi forest contains a mystery that you can feel and can’t wait to discover. Tomorrow you’ll see the gorillas, but today, you’ll relax and watch the mist start to swirl in the canopy below.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 9 - 10

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park – Two Days of Incredible Gorilla Trekking

Trekking to the gorillas is always an adventure. After you set off on a clear walking trail, you will quickly veer off into the narrow paths created by forest elephants. It is often muddy here, and the ground is extremely uneven. You’ll walk through an untamed forest, where machetes are used to clear a track towards the world’s largest primates. Rangers allocate gorilla troops to trekkers depending on travelers’ fitness levels, with older trekkers typically visiting the primates that are closest to the trailhead. While you can’t choose which troop you want to visit, with two days, you will visit two utterly different gorilla troops. Like all primate families, the contrasts will be remarkable, in terms of behavior as well as the size and makeup of the troop.

With a single glance, you will freeze upon your arrival. The gorilla looks directly at you, and their eyes will be unwavering in their focus. It’ll feel like the gorilla is looking into you as they try to understand their primate cousin. It will be hard to tell how long the gaze lasts, and goosebumps will cover your arms while you get a sense that time is standing still. As one gorilla crawls away, you will find that a juvenile with inquisitive eyes is looking your way. Just seven meters will separate you, although that distance is sometimes shorter as the gorillas don’t know or follow the rules on proximity. Perhaps an infant crawls through the branches above your head, while a silverback marches past silently and powerfully, and a gorilla jumps closer to pick fallen fruit.

Only around a thousand of these giants live in the wild and you will understand the uniqueness of the experience from the very first glance. Sometimes you’ll be greeted by waving arms, other times by the fierce stare, and sometimes by mischievous infants throwing sticks. After this initial impression, you will want to take photos and the cameras will ready so that you can take a hundred a minute. Soon, you will put the lens away and appreciate the experience with all your own senses. As a mother nurtures her infant, a blackback gnaws on tree balk while two gorillas forage close to your feet and another falls from the trees after misjudging a jump.

You watch as gestures play out and every primate’s face is so expressive and full of emotion. The eyes may be hard to interpret though as they are black and set far back in their face. The troops are habituated to your presence, however they do not put on a show. They are very wild, and after the first few moments of recognition, the gorillas will simply go about the day. This intimate and incredibly authentic wildlife experience reflects our modern natural world as it is so unique yet imbued with a strong feeling of fragility. One gorilla trek is unforgettable, but with two treks you will enjoy twice as much time with the troops and twice as much behavior.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Activity

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 11

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park to Entebbe – Departure

From Bwindi you will catch the morning flight back to Uganda’s main international airport in Entebbe. You’ll be greeted by a representative and assisted on the transfer to your homebound flight.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

expand/close
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Trip Highlights

  • Marvel at Tanzania’s scale as you spend four days tracking the great wildebeest migration in the Serengeti, the ungulates kicking up dust as they stretch out in breathtakingly-large herds
  • Absorb the exquisite details during two days of gorilla trekking to two very different troops with contrasting behavior
  • Follow the big cats throughout all stages of the hunt, from those slowly prowling to those attempting a kill, and the frenzied feeding when a pride rips through a carcass
  • Come face to face with gorillas that look straight at you as a brilliant moment of silent communication is shared when you first arrive at the troop
  • Begin your exploration of the Serengeti with visits to three stunning destinations: Lake Manyara is a beautiful introduction, elephants in Tarangire surround you, and Ngorongoro Crater celebrates the idea of a natural Eden
  • Trek through Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest as the trail to the gorillas takes you through a tangled and completely untamed volcanic forest
  • Discover the nuances of nature as you track the migration and trek to gorillas, and notice the fearful look in the zebras’ eyes and the antics of a young ape in the trees above your head
  • Travel easily between Uganda and Tanzania’s most remote destinations with a new light aircraft service that enables you to swap the Serengeti for Bwindi in just half a day
  • Enjoy the exclusivity of your luxury lodges that allow you to lose all your senses in the wild as you watch the migration just by looking out from the camp
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Detailed Description

Two wildlife experiences surpass the rest of Africa’s wonders. You will begin your journey with the great wildebeest migration, the world’s largest abundance of wild mammals on their annual pilgrimage across an open landscape that’s bigger than many countries. Then, venture into the jungle for gorilla trekking, an hour of intimacy with the world’s largest primates, a critically endangered species of which only around a thousand remain. While these two experiences seem entirely different from each other, they share something magical that makes them so incredibly evocative. Both are quick to make you feel humbled, and these unparalleled experiences offer so much hope for the planet, showing how the excess of Mother Nature lives on as she has done for tens of thousands of years.

This exclusive safari is tailored for travel between December and early March, or June and August. Mid-March to May is the rainy season in East Africa and should be avoided if you want to combine the two experiences. Gorilla trekking is possible during the rainy season, but the downpours in Uganda’s forested highlands can last for days on end. While rains stimulate the Serengeti grasslands, these intense rains can turn many rugged four-wheel drive trails into impassable muddy swamps. Visit at the start of the year, and the migration experience will focus on calving season in the southeastern corner of the Serengeti where the battles between predator and prey are endless. From June to August you’ll be based around the center and north of the park, watching the herds on the move, possibly even crossing a crocodile-infested river.

Before you experience these two highlights of Africa, you will start with a rounded and redolent introduction to safari. When you land at Kilimanjaro International, you will be whisked off to Lake Manyara National Park, a great place to succumb to the beauty and rhythm of safari. Then, a day in Tarangire National Park is a showcase of size, with elephants and baobab trees continuously surround you throughout the day. Afterward, descend into Ngorongoro Crater, where rhinos add another dimension to the safari. It will all be a great warm-up for the main event as when you get into the Serengeti the experience centers around a small handful of species found in staggering profusion: wildebeest, zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, lions, hyenas, leopards, vultures, and cheetahs.

From the Serengeti, you will fly north on a new light aircraft service that connects the migration with the gorillas. Arrive in western Uganda and take the afternoon to acquaint yourself with the landscape before two full days of gorilla trekking. Uganda has recently habituated new troops, so you’re able to encounter a wide range of primate behavior, deep in a tangled volcanic forest. From the inquisitive youngsters to the rumbustious blackback males and the playful infants to the giant silverbacks, you will get lost in the behaviors and lifestyles of the world’s largest primates. With so much going on it’s sometimes difficult to know which way to look.

Consider learning more about our travelers’ best safari experiences by reading their Uganda and Tanzania travel reviews.

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Starting Price

$5220 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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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.

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