On arrival at Nairobi airport you are met and transferred to your hotel. A brief departure meeting will be held in the hotel reception area in evening on Day 1 of your tour. Upon arrival look for information from your tour leader on the hotel bulletin board regarding the meeting time. Take today to wander the streets of central Nairobi, taking in old colonial architecture and the brightly coloured crowds to get a feel for Africa. The city’s best attraction is the National Museum, home to most of the great prehistoric finds made by the Leakey family in East Africa, from Ethiopia to the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. It also has sections on wildlife, art, geology, local history and a snake park. West of the city, the suburb of Karen is named after Karen Blixen, author of “Out of Africa”. Her house is now the Karen Blixen Museum, complete with a garden and tea house, it tells the history of the famous author. Also in Karen is the African Butterfly Research Institute , a large magical greenhouse alive with native butterflies. South of Nairobi, in Langata, are a number of the city's best attractions. At the Giraffe Centre, you'll have the option of hand-feeding the rare Rothschild giraffes, plus embarking upon a nature walk with 160 species of bird. The Sheldrick Animal Orphanage cares for young, orphaned elephants. The Bomas of Kenya is a living open-air museum of the tribes of Kenya, including regular dance performances. The Nairobi National Park is just south of the city, and covers 114 sq km. It has over 400 bird species of and populations lions, leopards, and one of the country’s few thriving populations of black rhino. The name Nairobi is derived from the Masai word for cool waters, which the Masai people gave to a water hole known as Ewaso Nyirobi. In modern times, the sprawling, cosmopolitan city of Nairobi combines the first-world glamour of reflecting-glass skyscraper buildings with abject developing-world poverty. It originated in 1899 from a handful of shacks that marked the end of the railhead during the building of the Uganda railway. Due to big game hunting bringing tourists from Britain, the city expanded dramatically in the early 1900’s. A large number of British nationals settled in the area, prompting more growth and this angered both the Masai and Kikuyu people, as they were losing hunting ground due to the expansion of the city limits. The friction increased and, eventually led to the Mau Mau uprising, which saw Jomo Kenyatta, the future president jailed. Kenya was granted independence from Britain in 1963, with Nairobi as the capital. Apart from being Kenya’s capital and the main centre of government and commerce, Nairobi is the most significant city in East Africa and an important player on the pan-African stage. It is the diplomatic base for many counties in Africa, with its broad spectrum of international embassies and headquarters for the United Nations, multi-national companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and press correspondents. It’s also the center of the growing safari business of East Africa.
Approximate Distance: 368 km Estimated Travel Time: 6 hrs After breakfast, we depart for the world famous Masai Mara Game Reserve. With its vast open plains and distinctive flat-topped acacia trees, no visit to Kenya would be complete without a visit here! In the afternoon we will arrive in the area, and get settled at our safari lodge, our base for our time here. Then we make our way into the reserve for an afternoon game viewing drive, with excellent chances of seeing the "Big 5" - lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino. Days 5 and 6 both begin with early morning game drives, since the best time to spot wildlife is in the early hours of the morning. The days continue with more game viewing as you criss-cross the rolling hills of the African savannah. With this amount of time in the reserve, you will have a chance to venture further than most safari groups, into territoties in the western part of the reserve, considered to be the best areas for wildlife viewing. You will also have a chance to try the optional balloon safari, in addition to stopping at a Masai village to learn about, and interact with, the local Masai people. The Masai Mara (also spelled Maasai Mara) is a game reserve in south-western Kenya, which is effectively the northern continuation of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Named for the Masai tribes people, who are the traditional inhabitants of the area, and the Mara River, which divides it, the reserve is famous for its exceptional population of game and the annual migration of the wildebeest every September and October, a migration so immense to be called the Great Migration. Thousands of wildebeest die in the crossing due to crocodile attacks. The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving an immensity of herbivores: some 1,300,000 wildebeest, 360,000 Thomson's gazelle, and 191,000 zebra. With an area of 1510 km sq., the Masai Mara is not the largest game park or reserve in Kenya, but it is probably the most famous. The entire area of the park is nestled within the enormous Great Rift Valley that extends from the Mediterranean Sea to Mozambique. The terrain of the reserve is primarily open grassland, with clusters of the distinctive acacia tree in the south-east region. The western border is the Esoit Oloololo Escarpment of the Rift Valley, and wildlife tends to be most concentrated here, as the swampy ground means that access to water is always good. The easternmost border is 224 km from Nairobi. The Masai Mara is perhaps most famous for its lions, though the other members of the "Big Five" (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhinoceros) are as well found. This said, the population of black rhinoceros is severely threatened, with a population of only 37 recorded in 2000. Hippopotami are found in large groups in the Masai Mara and Talek Rivers, and many cheetah, zebra, impala, gazelles, hartebeest, warthog, ostrich, topi, the Masai giraffe, among other mammals, all consider the “Mara” their home territory. As well, the large Roan antelope and the nocturnal bat-eared fox, rarely present elsewhere in Kenya, can be seen within the reserve borders. Like in the Serengeti in Tanzania, the wildebeest are the dominant inhabitant of the Masai Mara, and their numbers are estimated in the millions. Around July of each year these animals migrate in a vast ensemble north from the Serengeti plains in search of fresh pasture, and return to the south around October. These numerous migrants are followed along their annual, circular route by a block of hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena. The Masai Mara is a also major research centre for the spotted hyena. Additionally, over 450 species of birdlife have been identified in the park, including vulture, marabou, secretary bird, hornbill, crowned crane, ostrich, long-crested eagle, and pygmy falcon.
Approximate Distance: 340 km Estimated Travel Time: 4-5hrs After breakfast, we embark to Lake Nakuru National Park for a hot lunch and an afternoon safari game drive in search of the resident black and white rhino, buffalo, impala, and the elusive leopard. Our safari lodge is located within Lake Nakuru National Park. Lake Nakuru itself is one of the Rift Valley soda lakes. The alkaline lake's abundance of algae attracts the large quantity of flamingos, estimated into the millions, that famously line the shore. The surface of the shallow lake is often hardly recognizable due to the continually shifting mass of pink. There are two types of flamingo species: the Lesser flamingo can be distinguished by its deep red carmine bill and pink plumage unlike the greater flamingo, which has a bill with a black tip. But flamingos are not the only avian attraction, also present are two large fish-eating birds, pelicans and cormorants. The park is rich in other birdlife, including grebes, white winged black, stilts, avocets, ducks, and in the European winter, the migrant waders. The park has recently been enlarged partly to provide the sanctuary for the black rhino. This undertaking has necessitated a fence - to keep out poachers rather than to restrict the movement of wildlife. The park now has more than 25 rhinos, one of the largest concentrations in the country, so the chances of spotting these survivors are better than in other parks. There are also a number of Rothschild's giraffe, again translocated for safety from western Kenya beginning in 1977. Numerous other mammals can be seen, including zebra, impala, gazelle, waterbuck, lion, warthog, bushbuck, many buffalo, and even at times leopard.
Approximate Distance: 405 km Estimated Travel Time: 7-8hrs After a morning game drive venture south to the famed Amboseli National Park located at the foot of Africa's highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. The snow-capped peak of the mountain dominates every aspect of the park, providing the ultimate photo backdrop. Amboseli covers only 392 sq km, though despite its small size and its fragile ecosystem the park supports a wide range of mammals (well over 50 of the larger species) and birds (over 400 species). Day 7 offers morning and afternoon safaris criss-crossing the park in search of lions, buffaloes, elephants, rhino, cheetah, and of course the photo of a lifetime. A part of the park is composed of a dried-up lake bed which in the shimmering heat produces mirages. Swamps and springs, fed by underground rivers from Kilimanjaro's melting snows, form permanent watering places for the wildlife through times of drought. The snows of Kilimanjaro form a majestic backdrop to one of Kenya's most spectacular displays of wildlife creating Kenya's most sought after photographer's paradise. The park's best game drives are around the swamps and there is a fine lookout on Observation Hill which offers views over the whole of the park and beyond. Years ago this was the locale around which such famous writers as Ernest Hemingway and Robert Ruark spun their stories of big-game hunting in the wilds of Africa. In addition, the park that has been made famous by Cynthia Moss, the noted American naturalist and author who has one of the longest-running studies on elephants. You might even see some of the elephants that Cynthia has immortalized in her many books and award-winning film Echo of the Elephants.
Approximate Distance: 286 km Estimate Travel Time: 7-8 hrs depending on the road conditions Today we cross into Tanzania, stopping at Arusha, a picturesque town that sits at the foot of rugged Mount Meru, Africa's fifth highest mountain. Spend some time exploring the town and its bustling markets, and try a sample or two of the fresh locally grown coffee. Upon arrival into Arusha, you may be joined by other G Adventures travellers starting the Tanzania safari portion of the trip in Arusha. Arusha, also known as Tanzania’s “safari capital”, is undoubtedly the most important center in northen Tanzania. With many protected national parks, reserves, and mountains nearby (on a clear day, it may be possible to see Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distance), Arusha is a modern town, and with its markets, services, and fine location, it is a great base for your safari trip. Arusha officially became a city on the 1st of July 2006. The primary industry of the region is agriculture with large vegetable producers sending high-quality produce to Europe. The city and its environs are also spotted with large coffee plantations, adding to the area’s charm. Though in recent years, due to the coffee crisis, many local farmers have been badly hit, and now subsistence farming is the most common source of livelihood. Arusha owes its name from the local Wa-arusha people who resided here for hundreds of years, and is historically and politically significant city within East Africa. In 1961 the official documents ceding independence to Tanzania were signed by the United Kingdom in Arusha. Six years later the Arusha Declaration of Self Reliance in Tanzania was signed. On the 4th of August 1993 the Arusha Accords were signed by representatives of competing factions in the civil war in neighbouring Rwanda. After the Rwandan genocide, the UN Security Council decided by its Resolution 955 of 8 November 1994 that Arusha should host the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The establishment of the tribunal with its employees has influenced the local economy of Arusha. The tribunal is expected to end its mandate in 2008.
Approximate Distance: 130 km Estimated Travel Time: 2-3 hrs After breakfast, we make our way to Lake Manyara National Park with a picnic lunch for a full day of game viewing in the park. This area is truly stunning, as the western wall of the Rift Valley escarpment provides a backdrop for your search of the park's phenomenal bird life, tree-climbing lions, elephants, giraffes, and hippos. The afternoon is spent game viewing along the main road that winds for several kilometers through a cool, lush, mature groundwater forest dominated by large fichus trees and a tangle of green epiphytes. The name Manyara is derived from the Masai word “Emanyara”, which is a Euphorbia species of plant that is found around a family homestead in the area. The lake itself is a shallow, alkaline lake stretching 50km at the base of the sheer 600-metre high Rift Valley escarpment. This forms part of the national park that covers an area on roughly 330km sq. Lake Manyara National Park is home to the giant fig trees, acacia woodlands, mahogany trees and grassy flood plains. The contrasts of this area are simply breathtaking, with the open plains, huge escarpment, central soda lake, dense woodlands, and distance volcanic peaks coming together in an area best described by Ernest Hemingway as “the loveliest I had seen in Africa”. Animals such as blue monkeys, hippo, impala, elephant, wildebeest, buffalo, warthog, and giraffe all roam the park’s territory. The park is also home to legendary tree-climbing lions, and also has small populations of leopard. Manyara provides the perfect introduction to Tanzania’s bird life, with over 400 species having been recorded within the parks boundaries. Highlights include thousands of pink-hued flamingos on their perpetual migration, as well as other large water birds such as pelicans, cormorants and storks.
Approximate Distance: 135 miles (220 km) Estimated Travel Time: 5-6 hr Travel to the world famous Serengeti, one of Africa's premier game parks, stopping first at a traditional Masai Village. Here we get a chance to see the way of life of the heritage tribe of Tanzania. We continue on, driving through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the Serengeti National Park. Along the way, we begin to experience the vastness of this territory and marvel at the multitude of animal and bird life while cruising through this acacia-spotted savannah. En route we visit the archeological site of Olduvai Gorge where we will receive a brief history of the gorge with a professional guide from the Olduvai center and then take a walk (approximately 1 hr) along the floor of the gorge with a local ranger. We then stop at the remarkable phenomenon called the Shifting Sands, a geological rarity which is sacred to the Masai. Known as a Barchan Dune, this interesting phenomenon is constantly on the move across the dry savannah plains. We finally reach the Serengeti in the late afternoon in time for a game drive en route to our camp. The Olduvai, or Oldupai, Gorge is commonly referred to as The Cradle of Mankind. It is a deep ravine that is roughly 30 miles (48 km) long. It is famous for the discovery of the 3.5 million year-old fossil fragments of an early human civilization. Accordingly, it is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world and has been instrumental in furthering an understanding of early human evolution. The Serengeti National Park is to Tanzania what the Masai Mara Game reserve is to Kenya, but with an area of 5,678 sq miles (14,763 sq km), it is actually over 7 times as large. The Serengeti, which derives its name from the Masai for “endless plain”, is the jewel of Tanzania’s protected areas. Combined with the Masai Mara and the Ngorongoro Conservation area it protects the most varied and greatest collection of wildlife on earth. With the Big Five, the Small Five and extensive amounts of wildlife, this region offers arguably the best wildlife viewing in the world. That said, with its vast size and varied terrain, game viewing is only one aspect of the Serengeti - the scenery is simply breathtaking. There is no bad time to visit the Serengeti as every season has its own special highlight. Changing seasons and light patterns form the most beautiful backdrop to view Africa’s majestic wildlife. It has more than 1.6 million herbivores and thousands of predators. Blue wildebeests, gazelles, zebra and buffalo are the animals most commonly found in the region. This area is most famous for the migration that takes place every year; in October over a million herbivores travel toward the southern plains, crossing the Mara River from the hills to the north. They continue west across the Serengeti, and then north once again, crossing the Mara River, after the rains around April. This phenomenon is sometimes also called the circular migration. Over 250,000 wildebeest alone will die along the journey from Tanzania to Masai Mara reserve in Kenya. Note: If you have pre-booked a Serengeti Balloon Safari Theme Pack, your flight be early in the morning of Day 10.
Approximate Distance: 160 km Estimated Travel Time: 4 hrs After an early breakfast we depart the Serengeti to continue our journey to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area for a full day game drive. The rich pasture and permanent water of the Crater floor supports a resident population of more than 20,000 to 25,000 large mammals. They are not confined by the crater walls, and can leave freely; they stay because conditions are favorable. Since most of the crater floor is grassland, grazing animals dominate: zebra, gazelles, buffalo, eland, and warthogs. The swamp and forest provide additional resources for hippos, some of Tanzania's last remaining black rhinos, giant-tusked elephants, waterbucks, reedbucks and bushbucks, baboons and vervet monkeys. All these animals in turn support large predators such as the lion and leopard, and scavengers such as hyenas and jackals. The 5,150 sq miles (8,300 km²) Ngorongoro Conservation Area is named after its central feature, the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera. Ngorongoro Crater has often been described as one of the wonders of the world, not only because of its inherent geological significance, but also because it serves as an extraordinary natural sanctuary for some of Africa’s most dense population of large mammals. The Ngorongoro was part of the original Serengeti National Park proclaimed in 1951, but it was made a separate conservation area in 1956 so that the Masai could graze their cattle there. The Ngorongoro Crater became a World Heritage Site in 1978. Land in the conservation area is unique to Tanzania as it provides protection for the wildlife while allowing human habitation. The landscape is a blend of volcanoes, grasslands, waterfalls and mountain forests. The southern and eastern boundaries are defined by the rim of the Great Rift Valley, which also prevents animal migration in these directions. The annual ungulate migration passes through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, with wildebeest and zebra moving south into the area in December and moving north in June.
Approximate Distance: 125 miles (200 km) Estimated Travel Time: 4-5hrs After breakfast we continue on to Mto wa Mbu which means Mosquito River. Here we take part in a village tour to learn a little about what a typical village in the area is like. The village has over 18,000 inhabitants from 120 tribes. This two hour tour will take you from the village's local market through several different farms, local huts, and artisan shops, and back to the market, giving you the opportunity to get a true glimpse of northern Tanzanian culture!! After our walk we have a local traditional Lunch before continuing on to Arusha. Enjoy one last evening with our travel companions.
Depart Arusha at any time.