After arriving in Nairobi, you will connect onto a short flight to Arusha. Have your camera ready as the views from the plane window are legendary. On a clear day the open grass plains of East Africa are visible from above, but the highlight is cutting past snow capped Mount Kilimanjaro, the world's highest free standing mountain. Arusha is the gateway to Tanzania's jewels and you will be met at Kilimanjaro International Airport by your experienced guide. After a short transfer to your hotel the rest of the evening is free for you to rest up and prepare for your Tanzanian safari.
What's Included: lunch, dinner, transfer to hotel
Under brilliant blue skies, your African safari begins. You travel through a scorched red-brown landscape, on route to one of Africa's most overlooked national parks. Flowing through the length of this park is the Tarangire River, and it's this life-giving water source that attracts thirsty animals in their thousands. Herds of up to 300 elephants play enthusiastically by swamps and waterholes. Wildebeest, zebra, and giraffe, are always on the move, dodging the predators and finding safety in numbers at the open lagoons. Is that an impala? Or a gazelle? Maybe a hartebeest or eland? You'll quickly learn the nuances of different antelope species, including rare varieties that are unique to Tarangire. Gerenuks use their giraffe like necks to feed on trees, often standing on their hind legs and looking a bit like a boxing kangaroo. Brilliantly straight horns distinguish the fringe-eared oryx, and these creatures give a powerful stare.
Tarangire River shrivels during the dry season yet animals know where to dig for streams beneath the parched riverbed. But there is much more to Tarangire than its irrefutable river. Ancient baobab trees have resisted many droughts and their unmistakable shape finds a way into most Tarangire photographs. Vast grassland and dense bushes complement them, the diverse mix of vegetation ensuring that everyone has something to eat.
Over 500 different bird species congregate around the swamps, including the monumental Kori bustard, the heaviest flying bird on the planet. Vibrant flocks of indigenous birds stand out against the vivid blue sky. They provide a meandering soundtrack, barbet duets clashing with the unforgettable screeches of lovebirds; that's the yellow-collared two winged variety of lovebird in case you got the wrong impression. These bird species are regular visitors to your luxury lodge inside the park. From here you can gaze down on the beauty of Tarangire, as well as say hello to any four legged mammals that wander past. After dusk, an encompassing blackness covers the landscape, but the fairytale sounds of African wilderness continue through the night.
So much animal diversity can only mean one thing: predators. The big cats occupy Tarangire, although they live a little differently here than you might expect. Both leopards and lions climb the trees, resting along the broad branches of a baobab or fruit tree. With game drives in the afternoon and morning, there is an excellent chance of coming face to face with these breathtaking creatures. By staying inside the national park the wildlife never goes away. Even when you are enjoying sumptuous meals at the lodge there will be endless views of the Tarangire ecosystem.
What's Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, park entry fees, two afternoon game drives, one morning game drive
After a short morning drive, deafening levels of bird song welcome you to Lake Manyara. From the park's entrance gate, the trail winds through dense forest, each slow turn revealing another angle and some intriguing characters. Playful baboons run across the forest floor, while mothers skillfully carry newborn babies on their stomachs. Blue monkeys swing and scramble through the trees, while tree-climbing lions lurk on the branches. Keep your eyes peeled as the lions are carefully camouflaged, and a swinging tail can easily go unspotted. And don't be fooled by their seeming serenity. These lions can be deadly as any other. Lake Manyara is also a haven for leopards and their abundance provides a good chance to spot the most elusive of Africa's Big Five.
One more turn and the forest is behind you, the landscape opening up onto the tranquility of Lake Manyara. Herds of hippos wander along the flood plains, before sinking into the cooling water. Gazing along the lake's surface you'll spot their snouts rising to attention, along with the brilliant pink shocks of flamingo. Elephants and giraffes plod past, occasionally feeding from the old mahogany and fig trees. Buffalo, wildebeest, impala, and warthog, all add their own inimitability to this ground cast of animals. But that bird powered soundtrack never goes away. Look up and find the culprits, hornbills unashamedly screaming from the treetops. They're not alone as Lake Manyara is home to an astonishing 400 species of bird, ranging from the cute and colorful to the large waterbirds like storks, pelicans, and cormorants. Then let's not forget the migratory eagles and kingfishers. Another night of birdsong awaits from your luxury lodge at Lake Manyara.
The Ngorongoro Crater is one of nature's great phenomenons. This inactive volcanic crater has something for everyone. Elephants and black rhinos sniff around the woodland, antelope and buffalo graze on the plains, hippos and flamingo relax in the lakes, while lions and leopards can often be seen on a hunt. Arriving by lunchtime means there's a whole afternoon to spend on the crater floor. In the Ngorongoro Crater the question is often which way to look. Perhaps at the jackal running through the short grass, or at the magnificent Cape buffalo that always returns a stare. But, no, quickly turn around to see a hyena sauntering past the safari truck.
Your hotel is perfectly situated on the crater rim, and it's no stranger to wildlife. Don't be surprised if elephant or zebra casually saunter past the balcony while you're enjoying dinner. The hotel is 2,000 feet above the crater and morning sometimes brings a blanket of mist that shrouds everything in mystery. If it's not misty, then the raw African sunrise from Ngorongoro will astound you. After breakfast you'll descend to the crater floor, a perfect time for predators returning from a night's hunt. All the Big Five are commonplace in Ngorongoro and you'll have a whole morning to find any that haven't yet been ticked off your list.
Ngorongoro Crater is also known as “the birthplace of man.” Maasai tribes and culture live on in this area, continuing practices that have survived for millennia. Young warriors cover their faces in brilliant white paint, women are full of interesting facial piercings, and every Maasai has both a spear and some shoes made from old car tires. You'll visit a traditional Maasai village in the afternoon, meeting engaging locals who are happy to share their way of life.
The name “Serengeti” is derived from the Maasai word “Siringet," meaning endless plains of short and long grass. It won't take long before you realize just how accurate Maasai names can be. The world's most famous national park seems to extend into oblivion. Grass always attracts the grazers, and the numbers are staggering. Every year almost two million mammals wander around the Serengeti in the Great Migration, one of nature's most spectacular sights. You'll spend three full days deep in the Serengeti ecosystem, and dependent on the time of year, your guides will attempt to track and locate the one million strong herd of wildebeest that lead the migration.
After entering the Serengeti on day nine, you'll get to feel the aura of another ancient creature. Stone tools, hominid remains, and innumerable fossils, have been discovered in Olduvai Gorge, many dating back to almost two million years ago. Stand on the rim of the gorge, take in the view, and revel in the place where human evolution has its roots. In the Serengeti you'll have two dedicated game drives every day. Early mornings and late afternoons are when the park is most active. Hippos wander towards the water, cheetahs and wild dogs scan the grass for prey, while birds create the daily soundtrack. Each day you'll have a leisurely afternoon at lodges that are deep within the park.
Every game drive in the Serengeti is different. Gaze upon crowded pools of hippos or watch playful elephants approach a waterhole. Beneath the shade of stunning rock outcroppings, the big cats lounge and slumber. Endless flat grass makes animal spotting easy, particularly the giraffe necks that rise above the grass. Even without the Great Migration, these three days will offer prime hunting scenes. Leopards dip their necks with cold precision as they stalk unsuspecting gazelle. Lion prides stealthily follow herds of wildebeest, keeping their distance before launching a strike. However, most people's highlight is experiencing the vastness of the Serengeti. Sometimes it's breathtakingly serene and beautiful. At other times there are phenomenal displays of raw power, whether that's a million hooves kicking up dust or a lion yawning beside the truck. And at all times, you'll be fully absorbed in an environment where animals are king.
After breakfast, you'll be taken to a small airstrip for your flight to Arusha and a connecting flight to Nairobi. Using flights direct from the Serengeti saves hours of traveling time, and you'll be in your Nairobi hotel by early afternoon. The rest of the afternoon is free to enjoy East Africa's largest city. The busy streets and modern buildings might be a million miles from the grasses of the Serengeti, but Nairobi has many hidden attractions that reveal a different side to the continent.
What's Included: air transfer to Nairobi, breakfast, lunch, dinner
An early morning drive takes you through the lush green farming areas of the Kenyan highlands. This is where fresh Kenyan coffee is cultivated and there's nothing more authentic than enjoying a steaming cup as you gaze out onto the slopes of Mount Kenya. Zebras, giraffes, and gazelle provide the entertainment as you stop at the exclusive Aberdares Country Club for lunch. The nearby Aberdare National Park is one of Kenya's secrets. Thick forests cover stark mountains and provide a haven for various monkey species, black rhinos, leopard, and countless baboons.
These green mountains are very different to the African landscapes you've seen before and you'll be getting an immersive experience by staying in a unique tree hotel. Overlooking a water hole, this hotel lets you watch and admire the wildlife from the comfort of your luxury room. Elephants pop out for a drink, hyenas come and go as they please, and buffalo plod through the trees. Forests are never quiet and the magical sounds of birds and mammals will continue through the night.
Kenya knows how to wow its visitors. You'll drive to the world-famous Mount Kenya Safari Club for their sumptuous buffet lunch. The 100 acres of grounds contain ponds, waterfalls, colorful flower gardens, and mountain streams. Today is a chance to indulge in some of the best hotel facilities on the continent, including a nine-hole golf course, heated swimming pool, and the chance to go horse riding into the wilderness. Random peacocks flutter their feathers while the tranquil views over Mount Kenya are what lazy days are made for.
After breakfast you'll fly across Kenya's great plains, landing in the heart of the great Maasai Mara National Reserve. Rare Rothschild's giraffe are easily spotted, crocodiles guard the entrances to the Mara River, and endangered black rhinos come out to play at sunset. You'll land in time for lunch, and a long afternoon game drive where the authentic wildlife interactions are at their greatest. While the Big Five might have been ticked off long ago on this unique vacation, the Maasai Mara leaves some surprises for your final couple of days. Like the Bohor's waterbuck, or the black and white colobus monkeys that swing through the trees.
From July to October / November, the Great Migration crosses into Kenya for the fresh pastures of Maasai Mara. With over one million wildebeest it's sometimes hard to see the grass under the hooves. From a distance it looks like a patchwork quilt, each animal blending seamlessly into another. Up close it's an unforgettable spectacle, wildebeest and zebra filling every square inch of your vision. Don't worry if it's not migration time, the Maasai Mara flourishes all year round. Great lion prides go on patrol for a late afternoon dinner, while leopards stealthily come out of the forest. Then there are the elephants and buffalos that cover the tracks, staring down any vehicle who dares to pass. Whichever way you turn in the Maasai, there is a sight to behold.
With an exclusive lodge deep within the national reserve, the wildlife will continue all day and all night. Your guide knows the best spots and after an early morning game drive you'll have breakfast at a hippo pool. Playful baby hippos roll around in the mud, young males test out their new found strength, while the large bulls waddle into the water, clearing a wide path as they go. Another afternoon game drive takes you into different parts of the Maasai Mara, letting you explore the grass-carpeted hills and dark Mara River waters. While the close-up individual sightings are almost impossible to believe, it is the vastness and beauty of the Maasai Mara that is most people's enduring memory.
After a morning flight to Nairobi, you'll be brought to your hotel. This allows you to spend a leisurely afternoon before your late night flight back home. Freshen up, scroll through the unbelievable vacation photos, and recall the favorite moments from this unique trip. It's not all over just yet, though. There's one last African experience to savor as you enjoy a meal in Nairobi's famous Carnivore Restaurant. Waiters bring out huge slabs of barbecue meat, serving them from authentic Maasai swords. This is a chance to sample animals that aren't on the menu anywhere else in the world. With a content belly, you'll be transferred to the airport and say your goodbyes to this magical continent.