Gorillas & East Africa Safari
|Resort:||Gorillas & East Africa Safari|
Whether youre watching a sombre silverback gorilla in his natural habitat, descending 600 metres to the floor of the volcanic Ngorongoro Crater or haggling over chickens and pigs with locals at a market in Nairobi, this 18-day tour offers opportunities to create travel memories most people only dream of. Journey through Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania in search of some of the worlds most mythologised animals. Along the way, meet locals and gain an understanding of the diversity of cultures in East Africa from the Maasai tribespeople to villagers on the outskirts of Nairobi and the hip working class residents of Kigalis Nyamirambo neighbourhood.
Day 1 Kigali
Welcome to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda since it gained independence in 1962. Most associate Rwanda with the the horrific genocide that took place in 1994, but this is a country that has been striving to rebuild its economy for years and offers so much to the Intrepid traveller. And though the past won’t, and shouldn’t, be forgotten, the future of Rwanda’s tourism is looking bright thanks to its welcoming people, an abundance of lakes and the beautiful Virunga Mountains. Your adventure begins by meeting your fellow travellers at 6 pm.
Day 2 Kigali
After breakfast you’ll proceed to Ntarama Church, approximately 30 km outside of Kigali. Today presents some confronting reminders of the country’s past, and this church is now a chilling memorial to the 5000 people slaughtered inside during the 1994 genocide. Inside, shelves of skulls and piles of bone can be seen as well as the clothes of victims hanging from the walls and rafters. Afterwards, the group will travel to the Nyamata Genocide Memorial Centre, a former church where some 50,000 people were murdered. This site pays particular attention to the atrocities suffered by women during the genocide. We take some time out from the devastating history with a local lunch and an afternoon city tour, including a trip to the craft market. This evening your leader will take you to their favourite restaurant for an optional dinner.
Day 3 Gisenyi (Lake Kivu)
This morning we visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, which was opened in 2004 to mark the 10th commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi people. It serves as both a museum, detailing the history and consequences of Rwanda’s genocide, and a place for people to grieve for lost friends and family. The group will then head to Gisenyi (approx 3.5 hours), a town on the shore of the beautiful Lake Kivu. Enjoy a free afternoon at your waterfront hotel.
Day 4 Gisenyi (Lake Kivu)
Enjoy a free day in Gisenyi on Lake Kivu’s northern edge. Kivu is one of of Africa’s Great Lakes Rwanda’s largest and Africa’s sixth-largest and is a natural border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. Your leader can help you plan how to spend the day: perhaps take a boat cruise around the lake spotting birdlife and visiting some of the small islands, or maybe take a trip to Napoleon Island to go hiking and encounter birds and its large colony of fruit bats. Alternatively, spend the day getting to know Gisenyi and the colonial-era mansions and bars that sit by the lake.
Day 5 Kisoro
Enjoy breakfast by Lake Kivu then transfer across the border to Kisoro (approx 2 hours plus the border crossing), a Ugandan town on the shore of Lake Mutanda. Kisoro, located near the Virguna Mountains, is the jumping-off point for several national parks and, of course, those in search of the country’s mountain gorillas. In the afternoon you’ll head to Mikozi Village to become acquainted with the Ugandan countryside. Visit the local markets, speak with a traditional Ugandan healer and enjoy a drink or two at the local bar before returning to Kisoro.
Day 6 Kisoro (Gorilla Trek)
Join a local guide and trackers as you climb through the rugged, mountainous terrain of Bwindi National Park in search of mountain gorillas. A quick lock of eyes with these creatures is a truly primal moment and visits are strictly controlled to minimise disturbance. Make no mistake, tracking gorillas is no walk in the park it’s called Bwinidi Impenetrable National Park for a reason. It can be wet, muddy, strenuous and uncomfortable, but the indescribable elation at coming across a group of gorillas is worth the effort. Spend a mesmerising hour with the gorillas as they eat, sleep, groom and play as the male silverback watches over them, then return to the lodge for dinner and to reflect on this incredible experience.
Day 7 Ruhengeri
Transfer this morning back to Rwanda and the town of Ruhengeri (approximately 1 hour plus the border crossing), still buzzing from your gorilla encounter. Settle into your hotel on arrival then have a free day to take the optional cycling tour to Rwanda’s twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo. This area is characterised by steep green hills and magnificent views of the mountains surrounding the lakes. Here you can pedal through the stunning countryside, stopping in small towns and villages to spend some time interacting with the local community.
Day 8 Ruhengeri
Today is free for you to choose from several optional activities after breakfast at the lodge. Perhaps you’d like to pursue your passion for primates and join a park ranger tracking golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park. These monkeys are much quicker than gorillas and you’ll see them swinging from branch to branch and scampering up trees. Alternatively, take a hike focused on the work of Dian Fossey, the groundbreaking gorilla researcher. It’s an incredible experience, both physically and emotionally, and you’ll trek through the jungle to her grave and the house in which she was mysteriously murdered in 1985. She’s buried next to her favourite gorilla Digit as well as number of other mountain gorillas killed by pochers. In the evening, choose whether to attend an optional dinner with the rest of your group.
Day 9 Nairobi
Transfer to Kigali (approx 1 hour) for your flight to Nairobi, the world’s only major city containing a game reserve. There will be a meeting at 6 pm to meet you new Leader and welcome any new travellers joining you on the next stage of your adventure. Once you’ve met your new travel buds, perhaps join them for an optional group dinner.
Day 10 Nairobi
This morning you’ll take part in a unique experience: a ‘From Farm to Feast’ Urban Adventure. During this tour, which explores the relationship between farming and food, you’ll deliver a supply of chickens and pigs to a local community and find out how a local non-profit is helping to alleviate poverty and malnutrition in Kenya, one chick and piglet at a time. Haggle alongside locals for pigs and chickens at the street market, then sit down in a local’s home for tea and coffee to learn about life in Kenya and the challenges these communities face. All of your tour costs will go to supporting nutrition efforts in local communities. In the afternoon, your leader will take you on a brief walking tour of Nairobi and the evening is then free for you to enjoy as you wish.
Day 11 Masai Mara National Reserve
Transfer from Nairobi to the famous Masai Mara, a journey of approximately six or seven hours. This is one of the best game reserves in all of Africa and on the way you’ll stop in Loita Hills, a remote region that’s home to the traditional Maasai people. This is one of the key places where the Maasai people still practice their traditional way of life, with little influence from the western world. Make a stop at Tepesua Village, which is known for championing Maasai womens health and education. Youll be welcomed by Maasai Warriors by way of traditional song and dance. Meet your Maasai hosts and enjoy a fascinating talk, full of insights into this remarkable and ancient culture. Take a walk to the community village which was founded for widows who had lost their cows due to drought, and can never remarry. The village offers support, safety and economic growth through the Tepesua Widows Income Project. Here the women are engaged in making handicrafts and sewing eco-friendly handbags, washable sanitary pads, and backpacks to sell to visiting travellers and locals. Learn about village life and be shown around a traditional Maasai home, and their cattle enclosures. Continue to the outskirts of the Masai Mara, where your permanent tented camp can be found.
Day 12 Masai Mara National Reserve
Explore the Masai Mara in 4WD safari vehicles with game drives in both the morning and the afternoon. This is the quintessential African experience and with sparse open plains, dramatic skies and some of the world’s most impressive animals, one you won’t soon forget. Keep your eyes peeled for wildebeest, lions, leopards, antelope and giraffes, to name but a few.
Day 13 Lake Victoria
Prepare for a long travel day as you head towards the border separating Kenya and Tanzania, then on to the small town of Musoma on the shores of Lake Victoria. Not only is this the largest lake in Africa, it’s also the largest tropical lake in the entire world and shares its shores with Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The next three days will be spent in the wilderness, so make the most of your afternoon and evening by stocking up at the local market, grabbing cash from the town’s ATM and kicking back with a beach side cold drink as the sun goes down.
Day 14 Serengeti National Park
If you’re up for it, wake early this morning for a guided bike excursion around Musoma. You’ll scoot around town and visit the marketplace, which is a great opportunity to interact with the local community. Travel on from Lake Victoria to Serengeti National Park (approximately three hours) and enjoy a picnic lunch at the entrance to the famous expanse. Continue to your campsite on your first Serengeti game drive, keeping an eye out for the hoofed animals and predators that call this place home. Tonight you’ll have a true African safari experience, camping in an unfenced site within the national park, right in the heart of the animal action. Your leader will give you a full safety briefing once you arrive.
Day 15 Serengeti National Park
Wake to another glorious day in the Serengeti. Start the day with an early morning game drive to search for animals when they’re at their most active, then return to the campsite for a relaxed brunch. Spend the hottest part of the day relaxing in camp don’t stress, the animals will be doing the same then head off again in the afternoon for another drive through the park. Return to the campsite for dinner and another night under the Serengeti’s stars.
Note: there’s also an option of an early hot air balloon ride here. Please ask your leader at the start of your trip if you’re interested.
Day 16 Karatu
Enjoy a final game drive through the Serengeti as you exit the park this morning. After lunch, you’ll drive through the Ngorongoro Conservation area en route to Karatu, a small town on its outskirts. Ngorongoro is a World Heritage site, the highlight of which is the Ngorongoro Crater, a gigantic volcanic caldera that you’ll visit tomorrow in search of the Big Five.
Day 17 Ngorongoro Crater / Arusha
This morning you’ll descend to the Ngorongoro’s crater floor for a 4WD excursion. If all goes to plan, you’ll see some or maybe even all of the Big Five animals that reside here and better yet, the vehicle has an open roof so you can really feel like a part of the action. The animals here are less wary of humans and vehicles and as a result it’s easier to watch them from up close. Take in the spectacular views from the rim of the crater as you make your way to the bottom, where animals roam the lakes, rivers, woodlands and hills. Keep an eye out for wildebeest, lion, zebra, cheetah, buffalo, gazelle and the endangered black rhino, as well as the colourfully dressed Maasai people who often water their cattle at the lake here. In the afternoon, you’ll drive to Arusha and maybe enjoy an optional group dinner to celebrate this trip and say farewell to your new friends.
Day 18 Arusha / Nairobi
Your adventure comes to an end after breakfast today. A departure transfer can be booked, at an additional expense, to either Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO) or Arusha Airport (ARK). Alternatively, you can continue on with our crew to finish in Nairobi. Please see ‘Special Information’ below for more details.