A Luxury Circuit in Kenya & Tanzania
- Excellent game viewing and bird watching
- The Great Wildebeest Migration in the famed Serengeti National Park (◊)
- Off-road game viewing in most locations
- Good chance of checking off all of the “Big Five”
- Great views of Mt. Kilimanjaro
- Superb accommodations and gorgeous scenery
- Opportunities for cultural interaction with the Maasai people
- Game walks available with Maasai guides
- The Ngorongoro Crater – the world’s largest unflooded volcanic caldera
- “Sundowners” at Lake Manyara in the Great Rift Valley
- Download Detailed Program
Here’s the kind of adventure about which many people dream but few experience! The word “safari” is Swahili for “a journey,” and what a journey indeed we have in store for you here in East Africa where it all began – in Kenya and Tanzania. The writings of Karen Blixen, and the adaptation of her classic book Out of Africa into a major motion picture, helped established Kenya as a great safari destination in the modern era, and Tanzania soon followed. These are the best countries on the African continent for seeing large amounts of wildlife. And, not to be overlooked, some of the locations we experience are private reserves where we can roam the terrain away from others. Bird watching enthusiasts will also appreciate these countries with over a thousand species recorded within their borders.
Set on the Tanzanian border, Kenya’s Amboseli National Reserve is a greatly scenic wildlife reserve. There are few better-known landscapes in the world than that of Amboseli. Many vistas here are dominated by the grandeur of the majestic, snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro – Africa’s highest at over 19,000 feet! The image of elephant and giraffe crossing vast open plains against a backdrop of the snows of Kilimanjaro is one familiar to us all. Amboseli is perhaps best known for its abundant and approachable elephants, which are among the largest in Africa as they have been protected here for generations, and the guides from our camp know the families and their histories intimately. Our beautiful lodge sits adjacent to the Reserve on its own private concession which, importantly, means we have access to private, off-road game viewing and walks here as well as in Amboseli itself.
Lake Manyara National Park is where we enjoy a beautiful sunset excursion to hippopotamus pools and which has the Great Rift Valley Escarpment as its dramatic backdrop. Some 450 species of birds – including an astonishing 40 varieties of birds of prey – have been recorded here, making this one of Tanzania’s best bird-watching localities. Large flocks of flamingo congregate on the lake. Vegetation here includes wild fig, tamarind, mahogany, and sausage trees. If we’re lucky we might have the bonus of spotting some of the tree-climbing lions of Manyara!
Sometimes known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” sometimes as the proverbial “Garden of Eden,” but definitely as a World Heritage Site, the Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unflooded volcano caldera in the world with a vastness and beauty that are overwhelming. The conservation area contains perhaps the largest concentration of permanent wildlife in Africa, with an estimated 30,000 large mammals. It also happens to be one of the best reserves to see black rhino.
The Serengeti National Park – another World Heritage Site and larger than Connecticut — is Tanzania’s largest and most famous park and has the largest concentration of migratory game animals in the world. It’s also famous for its huge lion population and is one of the best places to see them. “Serengeti” is derived from the Maasai language and means “endless plain,” and the park is the primary migration route of the wildebeest. The population figures are staggering: 1.5 million wildebeest, half a million zebra, a plethora of other animals, and nearly 500 species of birds. Many wildebeest will meet their end as they cross the Mara River due to drowning or the patiently awaiting crocodiles. The part of the Serengeti we experience is a mix of open plains, bush, woodlands, and magnificent kopjes (rocky outcrops). Forests of large mahogany and fig trees are found along the rivers.
Following is a description of the superb lodgings we intend to use on this tour. We reserve the right to make changes to these accommodations. In addition to the beautiful places here we also have our first night in an upscale Nairobi hotel before heading out to the bush.
Amboseli National Reserve — Kenya — 2 nights
Our selected accommodation is a wonderfully conceived site — the only luxury tented camp in Amboseli — and offers the most exceptional views of Kilimanjaro. Situated in a forest of umbrella thorn trees, it’s located just outside the Reserve on a private concession so we can enjoy game drives in open-sided 4×4 vehicles in both areas as well as guided walks with expert Masaai guides, cultural visits, bush meals, and ‘sundowners’ at the top of a hill as the setting sun colors the snows of Kilimanjaro pink. Relax in an indulgent massage. Take a refreshing dip in the swimming pool. This camp has 16 luxury safari tents, all spacious and nicely appointed. Each tent is raised up on a wooden deck and consists of a main bedroom, bathroom, and spacious veranda all under a big thatched roof. At the lounge and dining area guests are close to the camp’s own watering hole and have views of Kilimanjaro. With an invitingly lush and healthy vegetable garden, the camp prides itself in serving up fresh salads and vegetables with every meal. From impressive bush breakfasts out in the middle of the plains to fresh homemade pastas and breads at the camp, the chefs excel with every meal. The friendly staff mostly come from the local Maasai community. This camp has been the recipient of myriad accolades and has been placed on many prestigious lists: the Good Safari Guide, the World Travel Awards, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, etc.
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Ngorongoro Crater / Lake Manyara Area — Tanzania — 3 nights
Our accommodation during this leg of the journey is one of those places where most guests spend just a night passing through and then regret it the next morning. Not an actual safari camp but more akin to an African version of a European Relais & Chateaux property, this is a luxury inn situated on a historic, working coffee farm with very close ties to the surrounding communities. A stay here provides a unique experience based upon East African traditions and hospitality. The 1929 original farmhouse has managed to retain its old-fashioned charm with a wide veranda, intimate lounges, inviting reading nooks, and a bar and dining room that look much as they must have done almost a hundred years ago. The gardens are exquisitely verdant and fragrant, the views out onto the rolling hills outstanding. Nestled near the forested slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater, we will use this multi-award-winning property as a base for three nights as we do day trips to the Crater and Lake Manyara National Park. The 17 guest rooms are actually richly appointed cottages with eucalyptus floors, hand-crafted furniture, a private veranda, wrap-around windows, a fireplace, and artwork commissioned from the farm’s artist-in-residence program. There are many cultural activities on offer as well, which provide a nice break from the safari routine, as well as rejuvenating spa treatments and various themed walks. The Chef de Cuisine and her culinary team are renowned for creating rich, farm-to-table organic cuisine, utilizing fresh, local and seasonal foods whenever possible, served in a dining room with upscale, down-home décor and soaring windows that frame the coffee fields and majestic distant views.
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Serengeti — Tanzania — 3 nights
Recently the Tanzanian government granted permission to only a handful of permanent tented camps to operate in the remote far northern Serengeti, and ours was offered the prime site! While Kenya’s Masaai Mara is world-renowned, it can be very crowded, especially at this time of year. But here — just on the other side of the border — Tanzania’s Serengeti Mara is the same ecosystem with just a tiny fraction of the human visitors and all the same wildlife. Our gorgeous camp opened in 2011 and is operated by a top-notch safari operator. Travel + Leisure placed it on their 2012 “IT List” – a compilation of their favorite new accommodations. Typically in July the first of the migrating wildebeest herds reach the Mara River area, where we’re set up for three wonderful nights. Twelve thatched chalets, a natural rock swimming pool, library, bar, and dining lodge are all set nearly invisibly amid the giant boulders of a kopje — a volcanic rock outcropping — with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The property is designed such that to the casual eye it melts into its hillside background. The chalets, a clever blend of canvas, plaster, wood-beam and thatched roof, have spacious bedrooms, bathrooms with double basin, outdoor decks, and Zanzibar style day beds, all hidden down a path between the boulders, creating a feeling of privacy, and all sited to afford spectacular views.
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(◊) Please Note: It’s impossible to predict the exact timing of the famous Serengeti migration which covers a circuit of about 500 miles. Usually, though, the migration will be happening during this time period in the part of the Serengeti where we’ll be staying.