Arrive at Kilimanjaro Airport and transfer to a peaceful country lodge at the base of Mount Meru. Relax amid the ambience of a 1905 colonial farmhouse and lush gardens, surrounded by mature native forest where colobus and Sykes' monkeys play in the trees. If time permits, take a swim in the pool or enjoy a restorative massage in the open-air tent, serenaded by birdsong. As the afternoon wanes, sip a sundowner on the terrace in view of Mount Kilimanjaro before gathering for a welcome dinner this evening.
Days 2–4: East-Central Serengeti
Early this morning, depart for Arusha's domestic airport and our flight to Serengeti National Park. This legendary savanna derives its name from a Maasai word meaning “endless plains,” and the vista of golden grasslands stretching to the horizon under a blue bowl of sky provides an iconic image of East Africa. Meeting our safari vehicles and drivers, we set out on our first wildlife drive. Our destination is a remote sector of the Serengeti previously off-limits to visitors for two decades during a period of habitat rehabilitation to increase the cheetah population. Surrounded by open range and kopjes—large granite outcrops that dot the plains—the camp offers fabulous wildlife viewing in diverse habitats, particularly of the abundant feline predators that live and hunt in this area. It also provides exceptional seclusion away from crowds. From luxurious canvas tents shaded by giant acacia trees, survey 360-degree views of wildlife traversing the savanna, with more thrilling encounters in store on game drives.
Days 5-7: Northern Serengeti—Nat Hab's Migration Base Camp
Flying on to the northern Serengeti, we reach Nat Hab's private mobile camp, our base for a three-day immersion in Africa's Great Migration. In accord with the herds’ seasonal movements, we locate our camp in the northern Serengeti from July through October. This deluxe tented outpost rests within one of the main movement corridors for more than 2 million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle that make this annual trek, plus an accompanying cast of predators. Each year, the herds follow an ancient circuit covering 1,800 miles from Kenya’s Maasai Mara to the southern Serengeti and back again. On daily game drives, witness this remarkable spectacle as the enormous herds traverse the savanna while big cats and hyenas steal behind. We may behold stunning scenes of predator-prey interaction as a lion takes down a sick animal or a cheetah snatches an infant. The spectacle can be grim, but it is a wonder to behold.
The days of heavy canvas hunting camps set for the likes of Roosevelt and Hemingway were nearly over until photo safaris gained popularity in the 1970s, and our secluded mobile camp, with its walk-in canvas tents and crackling campfire, is redolent with that vintage atmosphere. Yet despite our remote location, we enjoy impressive luxuries, including candlelight dinners served on white linen under a canopy of stars.
Day 8: Serengeti / Ngorongoro Crater
Make a last Serengeti game drive en route to the airstrip this morning to meet our flight to Ngorongoro. Continue with a drive through the lush highlands to our camp on the rim, followed by an afternoon excursion to the crater floor. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unbroken caldera on Earth—the center of a massive ancient volcano that scientists believe may have been larger than Mount Kilimanjaro. Twelve miles across and 2,000 feet deep, the crater is home to some 30,000 animals that live year-round inside its walls. Because of the crater's permanent supply of fresh water, it sustains the densest concentration of wildlife in Africa. Common sightings include elephant, buffalo, hippo, giraffe, zebra, blue wildebeest, eland, gazelle and waterbuck, while lion and hyena are abundant predators. A glimpse of the rare black rhinoceros is a special prize. Before dinner this evening, make an optional visit to a nearby Maasai village to meet some of the local residents in an authentic setting. The Maasai are the traditional pastoral herders of East Africa's Great Rift Valley, and we’ll have a chance to learn about their lifestyle and enduring customs.
Day 9: Ngorongoro Crater / Ngorongoro Highlands
At morning's first light, board safari vehicles to descend the steep wall into the 100-square-mile crater floor. Here in this veritable Eden, a host of creatures thrives within an ecosystem of abundant resources. Along with many mammals, flocks of pink flamingos cover the soda lakes, while large land birds like ostrich and kory bustard roam the grassy plain. We spend the bulk of the day viewing wildlife, with a picnic lunch along the way. Late this afternoon, we exit the crater and drive to Plantation Lodge in the Ngorongoro Highlands. This genteel inn is tucked among 25 acres of gardens and tall trees and surrounded by working coffee, flower and vegetable plantations. Time permitting, enjoy a swim in the pool, a massage, or a walk around the lavish grounds.
Day 10: Drive to Arusha / Depart
This morning we make the easy drive back to Arusha on a tarmac road, passing farms, villages and lively roadside markets en route. A farewell lunch is served on arrival at our lodge, where day rooms await, offering a chance to relax and refresh before your transfer to Kilimanjaro Airport for international departures this evening.
Extra Day in Arusha
1 Day / From $645