Masai & Tanzania Camping Safari
Day 1 Nairobi
Arrive in Nairobi any time and make your way to the joining point 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. 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.
Day 2-3 Masai Mara Game Reserve (2B,2L,2D)
The tour begins at 7:30am in the morning of Day 2 at your Nairobi hotel. Please be on time to meet your driver/guide at the front entrance of the hotel. A brief departure meeting will be held in the hotel reception area about general and specific aspects of the trip before setting off to the Masai Mara. Travel from Nairobi, through the Great Rift Valley on to Kenya's premier wildlife reserve. In the afternoon we will arrive in the area, and get settled at our safari camp, our base for our time here. Then we head out for a late afternoon game viewing drive, with excellent chances of seeing the "Big 5" - lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino. The varied wildlife and natural environment come together to provide a spectacular safari experience. 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 Great Migration of the wildebeest every September and October. The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural spectacles in the world, involving an immensity of herbivores: some 1,300,000 wildebeest, 360,000 Thomson's gazelle, and 191,000 zebra. With an area of 1510 sq km, 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 and tourist disruption is minimal. 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 5" are as well found. Hippo are found in large groups in the Masai Mara and Talek Rivers, and many cheetah, zebra, impala, gazelles, hartebeest, warthog, ostrich, topi and 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 ungainly 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 an entourage of hungry predators, most notably lions and hyena.
Day 4 Nairobi (1B,1L)
Breathe in the fresh morning air as you enjoy the African sun as it rises over the savannah of the "Mara". Visit a watering hole while on a morning game drive, a perfect time and place for wildlife photography. Return to Nairobi in the late afternoon.
Day 5 Arusha (1B)
Approximate Distance: 286 km Estimate Travel Time: 7-8 hrs depending on the road conditions Today, journey across the border into Tanzania, arriving in the picturesque town of Arusha in the afternoon. Arusha sits at the foot of rugged Mount Meru, Africa's fifth highest mountain. Spend some time exploring the town and its bustling markets, and have another night in the comfort of a hotel. 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.
Day 6 Lake Manyara National Park (1B,1L,1D)
Approximate Distance: 130 km Estimated Travel Time: 2-3 hrs After breakfast, we make our way to Lake Manyara National Park and take part in a village tour to learn a little about what a typical village in the area is like. The village - Mto wa Mbu, whose name means "mosquito river," 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 lunch in the village spend the afternoon touring and viewing wildlife 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 birdlife, 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.
Days 7-8 Serengeti National Park (2B,2L,2D)
Travel through the Rift Valley and visit a Masai village to learn about the fascinating Masai people. Visit the Planeterra-supported Clean Cookstove project and meet the local women engineers who have installed clean cookstoves throughout these communities. Experience the impact of what cooking over an open fire is like before witnessing the transformation that occurs when a clean cookstove is installed. Learning about this project is paired with information about the day to day lives of the famous Masai people. As we drive through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and on to the Serengeti National Park, en route you will begin to experience the sheer vastness of this territory, and you will marvel at the multitude of animal and bird life while cruising through this acacia-spotted savannah. On day 4, after an early rise we enjoy an early morning game drive, returning for a hearty lunch followed by a brief but well-deserved rest. Continue your search for the "Big 5" - lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino - while taking in the vastness of the Serengeti plains. The Serengeti National Park is to Tanzania what the Masai Mara Game Reserve is to Kenya, though with an area of 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, together 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 the extensive amounts of wildlife, this region offers arguably the best wildlife viewing opportunities 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. The area where you will be staying and game viewing is in the central Serengeti 'Seronera' area, which lies in the southeast of the National Park. Because of the sheer size of the National Park other areas will not be accessible during your stay. The Masai people arrived into the Serengeti plains in the 17th century, displacing the Datoga pastoralists who had previously lived there. They lived an undisturbed, nomadic life in the region for hundred of years, until the first westerner, American Stewart Edward White, passed through in 1913. He recorded the plains in the chronicles of a journey that began in Nairobi, Kenya. What he wrote still applies today: “... We walked for miles over burnt out country... Then I saw the green trees of the river, walked 2 miles more and found myself in paradise” . There is no bad time to visit the Serengeti as every season has its own special highlight – even the rainy season has the daily thunder and lightening to look forward to. Changing seasons and light patterns form the most beautiful backdrop to view Africa’s majestic and incredible wildlife. It has more than 1.6 million herbivores and thousands of predators. Blue Wildebeests, gazelles, zebras and buffalos 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, and often totals more than 800km. 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 8. You will miss the morning game drive with the group, but you will have a much better view from above. Approximate Distance: 220 km Estimated Travel Time: 5-6 hrs
Day 9 Ngorongoro Conservation Area (1B,1L,1D)
Approximate Distance: 160 km Estimated Travel Time: 5 hrs Before leaving the Serengeti, enjoy one last morning game drive to see the animal kingdom come to life in this incredible expanse of grassland savannah. You will return and break camp, and journey to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, famous for Africa's best game viewing. The views from the Ngorongoro Crater rim are stunning, and there is an ever-present abundance of wildlife, due to the permanent water supply on the crater floor. You will arrive at your campsite at the crater rim in the late afternoon. The 8,300 km² Ngorongoro Conservation Area is named after its central feature, the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera, and arguably its most spectacular natural arena. 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 a quite 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 whilst allowing human habitation. The landscape is made up of a blend of volcanoes, grasslands, waterfalls and mountain forests, where the wildlife is extensive. The southern and eastern boundaries are approximately 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. The area has healthy resident populations of most species of wildlife.
Day 10 Ngorongoro Conservation Area/Arusha (1B,1L)
Approximate Distance: 200 km Estimated Travel Time: 3-4 hrs After breakfast we embark on a early morning crater tour. 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 favourable. Since most of the crater floor is grassland, grazing animals predominate: 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 lion and leopard, and scavengers such as hyena and jackals. After this fabulous experience within the crater, we have to leave the wildlife behind us and start heading back to Arusha, where you can enjoy the last safari evening with your travel companions and say your goodbyes before departing the next day.
Day 11 Arusha (1B)
Depart Arusha at any time.