Our grand East Africa safari begins in the 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, the stately home surrounded by lush gardens is one of Nairobi's most elegant boutique hotels. This evening, learn about the adventures ahead during a welcome dinner with our Expedition Leader.
Days 2–4: Ol Pejeta Conservancy—Nat Hab's Rhino Camp
Fly north to the renowned Ol Pejeta Conservancy, located on the Laikipia 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 become a respected 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 that 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 Rhino 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 look for the famous Big Five and much more on day and night wildlife drives and guided walks 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 5 & 6: Olderkesi Conservancy—Nat Hab's Migration Camp
Fly this morning to the Maasai Mara, one of Africa’s most legendary wildlife realms. Secluded within the 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. With strict limits on guest numbers, the 7,000-acre Olderkesi Community Wildlife Conservancy offers the rare opportunity to experience the Mara’s spectacular wildlife in peaceful seclusion, especially the wildebeest migration. 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. It is a successful model for how local people are integrating agricultural livelihoods with wildlife protection. By limiting development to certain areas and keeping vast tracts of collectively owned grazing land open and unfenced, Maasai landowners enable wildlife to move freely while also reducing human-wildlife conflict at their homesteads.
As a result, a multitude of species flourishes on the conservancy. Herds of antelope dot the rolling plains while stands of acacia trees shelter prolific birdlife. Rich volcanic soils nurture the grassy savanna where we find more lions per square mile than anywhere else in Kenya. Prolific herds of elephant, giraffe and zebra are also on view. Our activities make the most of our unrivaled access to this wide-open wild country. In addition to daily wildlife 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 7 & 8: East-Central Serengeti—Nat Hab’s Serengeti Plains
Fly to the eastern Serengeti today for a two-night stay at our own luxury bush camp, brand-new in 2023. 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—our private 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.
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 the short-grass plains meet acacia woodlands. The nearby Ngare Nanyuki underground river creates pockets of permanent water that support year-round wildlife concentrations. From this secluded outpost we can expect unrivaled sightings of the big cats that are so plentiful in this area. Until recently, this area was set aside for scientific research into predators, especially cheetah, but today, we are able to enjoy that same access to this dense feline population. Such close encounters with the Serengeti’s apex predators are sure to enthrall even the most seasoned safari traveler.
Days 9-11: Southern Serengeti—Nat Hab’s Migration Camp
Depart this morning for Nat Hab’s private mobile camp in the southern Serengeti, with a game drive en route. Each season, we place our Migration Camp in an area the herds are known to frequent. The days of hunting camps set for the likes of Roosevelt and Hemingway were nearly over until photo safaris gained popularity in the 1970s. Our camp is redolent with that vintage atmosphere, with candlelight dinners presented under canvas and nothing between you and the night sounds of the bush but the walls of your tent.
While home to a profusion of wildlife year-round, there is nothing like the Serengeti during the phenomenon of the Great Migration. We spend three days among the sea of mammals, following them in open-sided 4x4 vehicles that offer superb photography access. During the annual short rains, some 2 million wildebeest trek from Kenya’s Maasai Mara to the southern Serengeti and back again, in search of new grass. They migrate with hundreds of thousands of zebra, whose superior vision serves as an early-warning system for predators. Gazelle and other antelope accompany the huge herds as well.
We are in the region during the time when zebra and wildebeest are giving birth (typically in January and February), and the herds may be mostly stationary. The majority of baby wildebeest are born during a single 3-week window, after most zebra young have emerged, and we’ll hope to see infants, though timing on the calf drop is weather-dependent. Predators seek out the most vulnerable members of the herds, and we may witness a lion seize a sick wildebeest or a cheetah overtaking a newborn that has become separated from its mother. Leopard, hyena and jackal also prey on the migrating herds while vultures hang in the air, waiting to feast on carrion. While the spectacle is at times grim, its primal drama is a wonder to behold.
Day 12: Serengeti / Ngorongoro Highlands
Make a last Serengeti game drive this morning en route to the airstrip where we meet our flight to Karatu. Upon landing, we make an easy drive into the lush Ngorongoro Highlands, a verdant expanse of wild bush and agricultural land comprising the heart of Tanzania's coffee country. This afternoon, arrive at our elegant lodge where you may wish to take an optional tour of a coffee plantation—this is prime terrain for growing some of Africa’s finest beans in the moisture-laden, high-altitude cloud forest environs. Or, choose to relax in the lush garden setting of our lodge, perhaps enjoying a swim or a massage before dinner.
Day 13: Ngorongoro Crater Safari
Leave very early this morning for one of Africa’s consummate safari experiences: a journey into the massive caldera that is the Ngorongoro Crater. We climb to the rim, then drop down the steep wall to the 100-square-mile crater floor. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unbroken caldera on Earth—the center of a huge 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, attracted to its perpetual water sources.
Here in this veritable Eden, a wide variety of wildlife 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. 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. Late this afternoon, we exit the crater and return to our lodge.
Day 14: School Visit / 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. In Karatu, we stop at a local primary school supported by Nat Hab’s philanthropy program, where we meet the children and learn about how our tourism dollars contribute to their education, making a tremendous difference to the economically challenged students who attend here. Continue to Arusha, arriving at Ngare Sero Lodge at the base of Mount Meru, where a farewell lunch is served on arrival. Day rooms await in this peaceful setting, offering a chance to relax and refresh before your transfer to Kilimanjaro Airport for international departures this evening.
Please note: Those booked on our Tarangire extension will continue directly from Ngorongoro to Tarangire National Park for some of Africa's best elephant viewing among giant baobab trees.