Days 1- 3: Nairobi, Masai Mara National Reserve. Kenya is East Africa’s most popular destination and has a long tradition of tourism and of welcoming visitors. Very often the first word you hear is the Swahili greeting ‘Jambo’ (hello), often followed by ‘Hakuna matata’ (no problem!). We recommend you arrive the day before the tour’s scheduled departure in order to relax and overcome any jetlag before starting your trip. Nairobi, has seen rapid growth in recent years but has a comparatively small city centre, ideal for walking, a very interesting city market (ideal for sharpening your bargaining skills), numerous craft shops, book shops and plenty of cafes and restaurants to try.
We depart the city early Day One of the tour and make our way across the Great Rift Valley to the Masai Mara National Reserve. We spend two nights camping on the edge of the Reserve with time to explore the park on morning and afternoon game drives. The sweeping plains, distant horizons, low slung acacia trees, occasional coppices of vegetation, and plentiful wildlife form a deeply evocative introduction to this wonderful continent.
The ‘Mara’ is crossed every year between July and October by great herds of wildebeest, zebra and other grazing animals in their migration from the adjoining Serengeti plains to the south (in Tanzania). Predators (such as lion, cheetah, leopard) and scavengers (hyena, vultures) follow the grazing animals and this enormous congregation of wildlife forms a spectacular display of Africa’s natural resource. But the Mara is excellent for game viewing at any time of year and regardless of when you can visit we hope to see some, if not all, of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ (elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo and leopard) and an array of other wildlife. From the Mara, we return to Nairobi, where we usually overnight, on our way south into Tanzania.
Days 4-8: Arusha, Serengeti National Park, Olduvai Gorge, Ngorongoro Crater. After crossing the border at the busy Namanga frontier we come to Arusha. Situated mid-way between Cape Town and Cairo, this is very much Tanzania’s ‘safari capital’ - a bustling city with colourful markets, shops, vehicles and people, all nestling in the shadow of the brooding Mt Meru (4556m). After exploring the curio markets, we head to our camp outside Arusha on the open plains to the west of the city. There is the opportunity to walk to one of the local Masai villages. For those who are interested there is a local school and small clinic near the campsite, or you may wish to visit the small but very informative Masai museum and to walk through the – also very informative – Meserani Snake enclosure.
Switching to smaller more ‘gamepark friendly’ vehicles we drive west across the Rift Valley, passing through Mto Wa Mbo (‘mosquito creek’) and enter the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. We pass into the park and drive around the Crater rim and down onto the Serengeti plains. Stopping at the Olduvai Gorge, made famous by Drs Louis and Mary Leakey for explorations into early man we descend onto the open plains and wide horizons of the Serengeti. Green after the rains, brown and burnt in the dry this is home to an enormous variety of grazing animals, predators, and birdlife. Flatter and larger than the Masai Mara the Serengeti is simply huge - indeed the name derives from the Masai word Siringitu – ‘the place where the land moves on forever’. Game viewing here can be superb and camping out in the designated (but unfenced) campsite where lion and hyena roam nearby is an unforgettable experience.
The following day we drive out of the plains for gamedriving and after lunch ascend the outer wall of the Ngorongoro Crater. We spend the night camping on the rim (you may need a jacket; it can be cold at night). At 326 square kilometres in area the Ngorongoro is Africa’s largest intact caldera and is a World Heritage Site. If the view from the rim (2400 metres above sea level) is spectacular, the site from the Crater floor (some 600 metres below) is equally enjoyable. All the major mammals are present except giraffe (which cannot manage the steep slopes leading down onto the Crater floor) and we descend the steep access road for a morning of game driving. Time her is limited however and we drive back up the access road after lunch for a final view over the Ngorongoro before we retrace our steps to Arusha and our camp for the evening.
Day 9 - 13: Dar es Salaam - Zanzibar. We have time in Arusha to replenish our stores before continuing past the shadow of Mt Kilimanjaro (Africa’s highest peak at 5895m) to Dar es Salaam and the Indian Ocean. ‘Dar’ is Tanzania’s main port and is a hub of commerce and industry - a hot, humid and bustling city. We set up camp at our campsite on the beach just outside of the city centre, usually having time to browse curio markets - best known for ebony wood - and prepare for our trip to Zanzibar.
Evocative and exotic, Zanzibar conjures up images of idyllic, sandy, palm fringed beaches, romantic winding cobbled alleys and lush tropical forests. You will find all of these here – and an intriguing history. Zanzibar was the base for the great 19th century explorers John Hanning Speke, Richard Burton and David Livingstone and was once a major trading centre for spices.
Indeed the spice trade is central to the island’s history – Zanzibaris have traded with the people of the Arabian peninsula for generations, plying the ocean in simple dhow sailboats using the annual trade winds for passage. The Arab influence is evident in the architecture and diverse street stall offerings of Stone Town. Indeed the Arab influence can be seen right along the East African coast - the Swahili language itself the result of the mixing of Arab and African languages and cultures over many centuries.
Zanzibar’s other history is not so romantic. The island was a staging post for slaves brought from the African interior, held before shipping to slave owners in the middle east. You can still see the places where these men and women were held – and even a short visit is enough to convey the appalling conditions they had to endure.
Our time on the island is not structured and your time is at leisure. Perhaps the best way to see Stone Town is on foot: explore the bazaars, shops, mosques, palaces, courtyards and alleyways of the old town. Spices are grown in plantations nearby and you can take day-tours to visit some and have your senses dazzled by the tastes and scents experienced. If it’s white sand, sparkling ocean and hot sun you prefer – head for the northern beaches and enjoy the Indian Ocean at its best. Try snorkelling and diving, indulge in some sumptuous seafood, or simply relax beneath a coconut palm with a cocktail and a good book.
After three nights we cross back by ferry to the African mainland and Dar es Salaam.
NB: As we leave the truck on the mainland, food and accommodation on Zanzibar is not included in the price or Local Payment. The time is yours to enjoy at leisure. Your tour leader will assist (if you wish) by booking suitable and well priced accommodation in Stone Town or on the beach (budget approx $30-35 per night), unless you would like to book something independently in advance.
Days 14 - 19: Mikumi National Park – Lake Malawi Beaches. We spend one further night in Dar es Salaam before leaving the coast and driving across country to Malawi. The road runs through the relatively small (by African standards) Mikumi National Park and passes through various small towns and villages of rural Tanzania. We enter Malawi at its northern tip and almost immediately catch a glimpse of the enormous Lake Malawi. Covering almost a fifth of the country’s area, this is one of Africa’s ‘great lakes’. It provides a source of livelihood for many of the Malawi people - fishermen, traders, canoe and net makers are common sights along the shoreline. Freshwater and safe swimming explains why it is also a major visitor attraction.
We camp along the lake shore, usually by the beach. There is usually a range of water sports available and time to indulge or simply to relax. The Malawi people are known amongst travellers as being very friendly and there is usually the opportunity to meet some of the local people from the nearby communities.
Days 20 - 24: Lusaka – Livingstone – Victoria Falls. Leaving Malawi we cross into Zambia. We cross the Luangwa River and pass through the capital city, Lusaka, to Livingstone and Victoria Falls, arriving on day 22 of the tour. Our camp is on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, one of Africa’s major rivers, indeed the largest that flows eastward into the Indian Ocean. Time here is at leisure. Take advantage of the range of optional activities typically available: white water rafting, bungee jumping, abseiling, gorge swinging, canoeing, elephant and horse riding, lion walks, game drives and scenic flights. Naturally a visit to the Victoria Falls themselves is a ‘must’. At over a mile wide and some 100m deep, at high water the ‘Falls’ is the largest curtain of falling water in the world. Depending on the time of year the spray from the Falls can be seen from 30 kilometres - hence the local name Mosi au Tunya – ‘smoke that thunders’.
NB: For the sake of practicality, meals in the Livingstone/Victoria Falls area are restricted to breakfasts. This allows you to take on half day or full day activities (some of which include lunch) without having to be back with the group at mealtimes. The Waterfront camp restaurant overlooks the Zambezi River and offers a selection of reasonably priced meals and snacks throughout the day (we suggest you allow US$30-$40 per day). Alternatively Livingstone town is a short taxi ride away, where you can eat out at one of the local restaurants.
Days 25 - 30: Livingstone – Chobe National Park. Greater Kruger & National Park. From Livingstone, we drive the short distance head to the Botswana frontier and cross into the huge country be ferry. Our first stop is near Chobe National Park, home to large populations of elephant, as well as lion, hyena and abundant birdlife. We take a late afternoon game viewing cruise to see hippo, buffalo or elephant coming to drink at the end of the day.
We continue across the flat grasslands of southern Botswana travelling via Nata, Francistown, and small frontier towns to South Africa. Once border formalities are complete we continue to southern Africa’s premier game reserve, the Kruger National Park. The fences between the national park and adjacent private reserves have been removed resulting in the massive ‘Greater Kruger’ - an area of over 24,000 square kilometres. We spend two nights here and hope to catch sight of some of Africa’s marvellously diverse wildlife: lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, giraffe, and some of the 500 species of bird that inhabit the park. The landscape is mainly flat bush and savannah but there is a good road network within the park and whilst the time we have available is limited it does allow us to glimpse the diversity. In addition to morning gamedrives there may also be the option of a cultural evening at one of the local villages to round off our tour. We leave the Kruger behind and make our way to South Africa’s commercial capital, Johannesburg, where our tour ends in the late afternoon/early evening of day 31.
Day 31: Johannesburg
- Age: 18-39.
- Local payment: USD 1025 – covers food camping, Masai Mara excursion, Zanzibar excursion (including Accommodation) Kruger National Park and Livingstone accommodation
Also see tour packages in:
Africa Malawi Zambia Botswana Nature & Wildlife National Parks
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