Upon arrival in Entebbe, you are met at the airport by our Expedition Leader. Transfer to our boutique hotel, a refuge set among lush gardens in this quiet town that was the capital of Uganda during colonial times. This evening, a welcome dinner awaits with your fellow travelers and our expert naturalist guide who's with you throughout the entire journey.
Day 2: Entebbe / Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Fly from Entebbe to Kihihi and transfer to our rain forest ecolodge on the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the world's most famous destinations for gorilla trekking. Bwindi is home to nearly half the world’s mountain gorillas—about 459—a population that is growing, but still threatened by the increasing human population in the surrounding communities. We may even catch our first glimpse of mountain gorillas right on the grounds of the lodge, since many trails into the park's dense jungle, which early explorers called the “Impenetrable Forest,” leave directly from here. Responsible tourism has been integral to sustaining critically endangered gorillas, and the dollars we infuse into the local community help support their protection through economic sustenance of the people who live in proximity to them.
Days 3 & 4: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Spend two full days gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Rise early each morning in anticipation of a peerless experience: the chance to look into the face of a wild gorilla. After an early breakfast, make a short drive to park headquarters to meet our local guides who will provide an orientation to the day's trek, covering the etiquette of behavior as we spend time among the gorillas. From here, we walk or drive a short distance to the trek starting point, then head into the dense emerald rain forest on foot accompanied by local guides.
The trackers are out on the mountain ahead of our departure, identifying where the gorillas were seen the night before and pursuing them to a point where we are able to connect. Reaching the gorillas' current location can take as little as 15 minutes or up to several hours, depending on how far the gorilla family has traveled. The trek may involve climbing to altitudes above 7,500 feet over terrain is rough and at times muddy, though the rewards are profound. While the hike can be physically demanding, the beauty of the forest scenery en route makes it worthwhile. Once we find the gorillas, all fatigue is forgotten, and the experience is often described as the most profound nature encounter travelers have ever experienced. If time permits, we’ll visit Conservation Coffee, a local co-op of farmers who grow, process and roast beans to sell at a premium to benefit gorilla conservation. We may have a chance to walk through the coffee fields, pick some beans, and witness this sustainable community enterprise firsthand.
Day 5: Kihihi / Entebbe / Nairobi, Kenya
Fly from Kihihi back to Entebbe this morning to connect with our flight to Kenya's traditional safari capital of Nairobi. From the airport, transfer to the House of Waine, located in the quiet residential suburb of Karen on the outskirts of the city. Originally built as a lavish private estate, today the stately home surrounded by lush gardens is one of Nairobi's most elegant boutique hotels.
Days 6–8: Ol Pejeta Conservancy—Nat Hab's Private Mobile Camp
Fly north to the renowned Ol Pejeta Conservancy, located on the Lakipia Plateau in the shadow of Mount Kenya. A working cattle ranch established in the 1940s during Kenya's colonial days, Ol Pejeta set aside land for rhino conservation in 1988 and has since become a trailblazer for conservation innovation. Today it is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa and home to the world’s last two remaining northern white rhinos, a staunchly guarded pair of females which we visit in person. The conservancy is also home to the endangered Grevy's zebra and has some of Kenya's highest predator densities, yet still manages a very successful livestock program. Ol Pejeta seeks to preserve the exceptional biodiversity within its 90,000 acres while supporting the people living on its borders, to ensure that wildlife conservation translates to better education, healthcare and infrastructure for the next generation of wildlife guardians. In 2014, Ol Pejeta achieved IUCN Green List status, one of only two conservancies in Africa to be so recognized. The Green List aims to define excellence in managing valuable natural areas.
Nat Hab's Private Mobile Camp inside the conservancy is the ideal base from which to explore this diverse wildlife haven that contains many of Kenya's endemic northern species. We'll hope to see the legendary Big Five and much more on day and night safari drives and guided walks set against the backdrop of snowcapped Mount Kenya. At the end of each exhilarating foray into the bush, return to the comforts of our tented camp, redolent with the ambience of East Africa's classic safari era.
Days 9 & 10: Private Mara Conservancy—Nat Hab's Private Mobile Camp
Fly this morning to the Maasai Mara, one of Africa’s most legendary wildlife realms. Secluded within a vast private conservancy that borders the Maasai Mara National Reserve, our isolated tented camp is surrounded by all the wonders of the Mara ecosystem without the crowds. The conservancy offers the rare opportunity to experience the Mara’s spectacular wildlife in peaceful seclusion, and our deluxe camp is one of just a handful located within its bounds. Strict limits on guest numbers means unprecedented wildlife viewing largely in solitude, especially of the wildebeest migration that occurs in close proximity. The conservancy serves as a migration corridor for thousands of animals moving between the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Loita Plains to the east.
A multitude of species flourishes on the conservancy. Herds of antelope dot the rolling plains while acacia trees harbor prolific birdlife. Rich volcanic soils nurture the savanna where we find more lions per square mile than anywhere else in Kenya. Large herds of elephant, giraffe and zebra are also on view. Our activities make the most of our unrivaled access to this wide-open wild land. In addition to daily game drives, enjoy guided bush walks, wilderness picnics, off-road safaris and night drives in search of nocturnal wildlife—exciting activities not permitted in the adjacent national reserve.
Days 11–13: Northern Serengeti—Nat Hab’s Private Mobile Camp
Fly on to the Serengeti Plains, the Tanzanian side of the massive Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. The sweeping sea of grass that comprises Serengeti National Park is roughly the size of Maryland, and its reputation as one of the world’s iconic nature destinations is well deserved. Staggering concentrations of hoofed game and prodigious predators engage in an ancient and epic struggle for survival. Nat Hab's private mobile camp provides a front-row view on all the action, as well as the romance of sleeping under canvas beneath starry African skies.
We spend three days in the remote northern reaches of the Serengeti, immersed in the phenomenon of the Great Migration. In accord with the animals' movement patterns, our mobile camp is placed in a main migration corridor traversed by more than 2 million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle, plus an accompanying cast of predators, on their annual 1,800-mile trek from Kenya’s Maasai Mara to the southern Serengeti and back again. Witness this remarkable spectacle on daily game drives, where we may behold stunning scenes of predator-prey interaction as a lion takes down a sick wildebeest or a cheetah overtakes an infant antelope. We track the herds in private 4x4 vehicles, allowing for optimal mobility and proximity. Our luxury mobile camp ensures that we go where the wildlife is, yet it offers surprising comfort given the remoteness of our location. Walk-in canvas tents are reminiscent of the safari era of yesteryear, offering vintage ambience. Each evening, dine under a canopy of stars and share impressions of the day around a crackling campfire.
Days 14 & 15: East Central Serengeti
Drive to the eastern side of the Serengeti today for a two-night stay at a remote luxury bush camp. The surrounding environs are dotted with dramatic rocky outcrops, and the sunrise over these granite kopjes is glorious. Shaded by giant acacias, our camp lies where short-grass plains meet woodlands, and the nearby Ngare Nanyuki underground river creates pockets of permanent water that support year-round wildlife concentrations. From this private outpost we can expect unrivaled sightings of the big cats that are so plentiful in this area. Such close encounters with the Serengeti’s apex predators are sure to enthrall even the most seasoned safari traveler.
Day 16: Ngorongoro Conservation Area—Ngorongoro Crater
Enjoy an exciting wildlife drive en route from the east-central Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, with a picnic lunch along the way. Once we reach the crater rim at 7,300 feet in elevation, we’ll descend to the floor and traverse the crater’s expanse en route to our secluded camp on the other side. Within the steep 2,000-foot walls of the world’s largest unbroken volcanic caldera lies Africa's densest concentration of wildlife, attracted to the crater's perpetual water sources. By late afternoon we reach our camp, set within lush forest on the crater rim. This optimal location allows us an early entry to the crater tomorrow morning, compared to most visitors who must stay farther away—a real bonus when it comes to coveted safari time here. This evening, enjoy a non-commercialized visit to a Maasai village nearby.
Day 17: Ngorongoro Crater / Ngorongoro Highlands
Make an early second descent into the Ngorongoro Crater this morning. Some 25,000 animals live on the crater floor, a veritable Eden filled with creatures nurtured by the abundant resources here. We'll look for elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, eland, gazelle and more, as well as the predators that pursue them, including lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena. We may even be fortunate enough to spy one of the few endangered black rhinos that reside within the crater. Birdlife is also abundant, with huge flocks of flamingos covering the soda lakes in a blanket of pink. Spend a full day exploring the crater floor before ascending to the rim and driving on to our hotel in the Ngorongoro Highlands by late afternoon. If time permits, we may stop along the way to visit a local primary school supported by Nat Hab's philanthropy program. Located well off the main road outside the town of Karatu, this school isn't visited by other safari companies, and our tourism dollars make a tremendous difference to the economically challenged students who attend here. Once we reach our luxury lodge, there's time to relax relax among the manicured grounds surrounded by a working coffee plantation.
Day 18: Arusha / Depart
Our epic adventure in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania comes to a close as we drive on to Arusha, a lively market city surrounded by coffee plantations beneath the verdant slopes of Mount Meru. On arrival, we have a special farewell lunch at a secluded lodge surrounded by lush gardens and native forest, plus the use of day rooms to rest and refresh. Relax in this peaceful setting before transferring to Kilimanjaro Airport for international departures this evening.