Gorilla & Wildlife Encounter - Overland Trip
3 weeks: to (IMT-GAGW)
IntroThis is the big one – combining the \'Gorilla Express\' with the \'East Africa Safari\'. East Africa\'s premier three countries, (Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania) are explored, showcasing the best of east Africa’s wildlife, scenery and people, over a magical 22 days.
Over the first week we spend time with the rare mountain gorilla, on the slopes on Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, before visiting a chimpanzee sanctuary on a small island, on Lake Victoria. Seeing these endangered gorillas in their own environment is a real privilege and an experience that is sure to be indelibly etched in your memory. The intimacy of contact with these giant apes is, for many, a deeply moving experience. Quite simply, trekking to visit the mountain gorillas is one of those ‘must-do’ things in your life and Uganda offers an incredible opportunity to achieve this. Having the services of a local tour leader to give us valuable insights into the cultural aspects of the country, as well as getting opportunities to meet local Ugandans, admiring incredible landscapes and visiting the deepest crater lake in Africa, all amount to a first week packed with highlights!
After travelling across to Nairobi, two incredible weeks are spent enjoying a traditional safari through the best areas of east Africa. The vast grasslands of Kenya and Tanzania support the largest concentration of wildlife in the world, where massive herds of wildebeest and zebra roam through the Serengeti Plains and the Masai Mara, along with elephant, giraffe and many predators. Ngorongoro Crater is considered by many to be Africa’s ‘jewel in the crown’, being home to an amazing variety of wildlife, including the highly endangered black rhinoceros. We spend six days in parks and conservation areas to ensure our game viewing opportunities and experiences are diversed and incredible! We also allow time to partake in further activities - on foot or by mountain bike. We also have the opportunity to interact with some special children at a Kenyan orphanage and a Tanzanian school, as well as meet various tribal groups. We travel deep into spectacular wildlife arenas, down into the Great Rift Valley, up through highlands and tea estates, along lakeshores and into traditional tribal communities. We visit some worthwhile community projects that we support. By participating in this tour, you are helping to support two worthy causes - the East African Mission Orphange in Kenya and the School of St Jude in Tanzania.
IncludedAn experienced driver/guide (Days 1-8) and an experienced driver, safari guide and a camp cook (Days 9-22); local specialist guides join us for the gorilla trek, in Ngorongoro Crater and in Masai village; park fees and one confirmed gorilla permit; 4 nights budget hotels, 2 nights island camp, 2 nights tented bush camp, 2 nights bungalows, 11 nights camping; private vehicle transfer from Kampala to Narok; transport in custom-built safari vehicle, 4WD vehicles, motorboat and on foot.
ItinerariesDay 1 - Entebbe
Today is an arrival day, so you are free to arrive at any time and make your way to the joining hotel in Entebbe. A pre-departure meeting is held at 6pm at your hotel.
Major airlines offer flights into Entebbe Airport, Uganda’s major airport, for the same or similar rates as flights to Nairobi, in Kenya. If coming from Nairobi, the two options for travel to Entebbe are a flight from Nairobi to Entebbe or an arduous 12 hour bus trip from Nairobi to Kampala followed by a one hour pre-booked transfer from Kampala to Entebbe. Please be aware that we are using local accommodation on this trip, which are quite basic by western standards.
(Driving time: approx 5 hours)
Leaving Entebbe our journey takes us through some interesting countryside and crossing south over the equator, where we stop for a photo and to learn all there is to know about being equidistant from the earth’s poles. Continuing into the Ugandan highlands we observe rural life all around us. Passing herds of Ankole (African longhorn) cattle and cassava and banana plantations, our local guide will be able to answer any questions we may have. We reach Mbarara in the late afternoon, where we stay overnight in a basic hotel. Mbarara is a large university town with an interesting history.
(Driving time: approx 7 hours)
From Mbarara we travel to Bwindi, located on the doorstep of the darkly named Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The drive from Mbarara to Bwindi offers glimpses of rural Ugandan life and the stunning scenery of south-western Uganda. We spend two nights at the national park rondavels, enveloped by the jungles of the World Heritage-listed Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Here we have a free afternoon to prepare for our trek tomorrow or participate in an optional activity. You may wish to wander around the local village or take a forest walk into the park to one of the cascading waterfalls nearby.
This morning we meet our specialist gorilla guides for a brief safety talk and further information about the gorilla trek and the national park. Our guide is fluent in English and will pass on information to us that to ensure that we understand more about the gorillas and how they live. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest covers an area of 330 square kilometres and is located in the far south-west of the country where Uganda, Rwanda and DRC (Congo) meet. This pocket of huge primeval forest is one of the most biologically diverse areas on earth. It has an eco-system that defines the very essence of the continent and has therefore been designated as a World Heritage site. We set off with our guide into the forest in search of these magnificent apes. The gorilla families may either be close or further afield and they may also be on the move, whilst we are trekking. The forest floor is damp and laden with leaf mould, matted vegetation and fallen vines, which serve to trip you up as you clamber up and down the slippery slopes in search of a glimpse of the elusive gorillas. The altitude reaches a maximum of just under 2000 metres, but this can still be a long and tough climb in damp and humid conditions. We are likely to get within metres of the family we are tracking and will be able to spend an hour observing these magnificent primates. Please note that gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases and you should advise your guide if you are suffering from a cold or anything similar. It would be irresponsible to risk the health of even one of the last 700 remaining mountain gorillas that are still living in their natural habitat. Returning to base, we can either unwind and celebrate our unforgettable gorilla experience or take up an optional activity in Bwindi.Day 5-6 - Bushara Island Camp
(Driving time: approx 4 hours)
After our amazing experience of viewing the gorillas, a morning drive of three to four hours takes us to the shores of Lake Bunyonyi, where we board a motorboat to transfer to Bushara Island Camp. The camp is surrounded by lush tropical gardens and eucalyptus trees and is a haven for a myriad of birds. We arrive at lunchtime and spend two nights here so there is plenty of time to enjoy optional activities, such as cultural tours or fishing. For those wanting to kick back after the trek can relax at the canteen (bar) or go swimming in the lake. The accommodation here is in permanent tents/cottages, with lake views and shared bathroom facilities. All bedding is provided.
(Driving time: approx 6 hours)
We journey back to Entebbe, where we stay for the night after arriving late in the afternoon. Our guide knows the best spots for a great meal and also a visit to a bar to try the local brew called ‘waragi’, which is a unique Ugandan banana gin.
To conclude our visit in Uganda we travel by boat to Ngamba Island on Lake Victoria, where we visit a chimpanzee sanctuary. Covered by rainforest, this island is home to 39 orphaned chimpanzees and here we have the opportunity to observe these cheeky primates close to their natural habitat. We suggest you arrange a packed lunch from your hotel the night before, as only drinks and dry snacks only are available on the island. Remember to bring a hat, sunscreen and swimming gear.Day 9 - Nakuru - East Africa Mission Orphanage
(Driving time: approx 3 hours)
We farewell our guide and Uganda today, as we are met by our private transfer for the journey to Nakuru in Kenya. Whilst your private transfer is unescorted, the driver can assist you at both borders and take you directly to our Nakuru campsite to meet our Kenyan tour guide and group. Our Kenyan guide then conducts a tour briefing this evening, covering the Kenyan sector of our tour. For the next two nights we 'bush camp' on the farmland of the East Africa Mission Orphanage. There are only basic facilities here (pit toilets and no showers), but the cause is certainly an exceptional one! This afternoon we will be able to meet the children and this evening we share dinner with them at the orphanage. They love to practice their English skills and also are excited to know more about the world - be warned they will have lots of questions for you over dinner!
The East Africa Mission Orphanage looks after more than 100 children ranging in age from just a few days old to fifteen years years of age. The complete needs of the children, including full school education, are provided for by the orphanage. This orphanage is actually the result of the dream of one family, who arrived in Kenya in 1997 with nothing more than two suitcases each. It is a charitable institution, registered with the Kenyan Government for the purposes of caring for the thousands of homeless orphans, that would end up either dying a premature death through malnutrition, walking the streets in search of food or turning to prostitution as a means of survival. The orphanage is taking up the challenge to reach out to these children before they have to fend for themselves out in the streets. We are proud to help support the efforts of this family and their incredible orphanage, and is excited to be able to take clients right into the orphanage itself!
(Game drive times variable)
This morning we travel to the nearby Lake Nakuru National Park for a full day of game driving. Lake Nakuru is particularly noted for its populations of white and black rhino, Cape buffalo and the elusive leopard. Many other animals abound here including the Masai giraffe, which is often sighted quite close to the many roads in the park. Lake Nakuru is one of several soda lakes in the Great Rift Valley. Rich in algae, it attracts large quantities of flamingos and at times the surface of the lake resembles a moving carpet of pink feathers. In the evening we return to our camp in the orphanage.
(Driving time: approx 2 hours)
This morning we will spend time with the children of the orphanage in their classrooms. We will be able to sit in on class with the children or join some of th children in a school lesson. The children are taught by paid, qualified local teachers, according to the curriculum of the Kenyan school system. However the children at the orphanage receive the additional benefit of having all their classes conducted in both English and Swahili, assisting them to learn English fluently. After packing up camp we bid farewell to the children of the orphanage and head to the nearby freshwater Lake Naivasha, where we set up camp on the banks of the lake.
This afternoon is at leisure to take in one of the optional activities of the area. You may choose to visit Elsamere, the former home of writer Joy Adamson of ‘Born Free’ fame, and learn about her life and work, before enjoying a sumptuous afternoon tea. Alternatively you can take a cycling tour into Hell's Gate National Park, to try game viewing on two wheels! Another great option is a nature walk in Crescent Island Sanctuary to see just how close you can get to the resident animals such as giraffe, zebra and wildebeest, on foot. Please note that these activities will be offered if time permits. Time may be reduced according to road conditions and hours of daylight (season).
(Driving time: approx 2 hours; game drive times variable)
We head southwest to the rolling grasslands of the world famous Masai Mara National Reserve, where our tented camp is located right on the park boundary. As dusk falls we may see a variety of animals in the vicinity and listen to the sounds of the African night from our camp. We explore the park on morning and afternoon game drives and witness the wonderful procession of wildlife that inhabit this area. Wildebeest, zebra and gazelle are plentiful and, with luck, we may spot lion or cheetah keeping a casual eye on their movements. Elephant, giraffe and eland are also commonly sighted, along with plenty of bird life.
(Driving time: approx 8 hours)
We leave the Masai Mara and head up to the western highlands, which is the agricultural heartland of Kenya. Vast tea plantations cover the region around Kericho and our campsite is located in the midst of an actual plantation. In the afternoon we have the opportunity to learn more about the tea industry in Kenya and how the crop is cultivated. Please note that the tea tour will be included if time permits. Time may be reduced according to road conditions, hours of daylight (season) and tour times of the tea factory.
(Driving time: approx 8 hours plus)
We depart early this morning and head towards the border. Although we travel along a sealed road, this is Africa and it’s still a fairly bumpy ride. Crossing the border into Tanzania there is quite a change in the landscape and we catch our first glimpses of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, which straddles the borders of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Reaching our campsite by the lake, there is time to relax and watch the sun go down before dinner is served, with the sounds of the waves in the background as they gently lap the shores.
(Driving time: approx 8 hours plus; game drive times variable)
We have a leisurely morning to further explore the fishing village of Musoma. Leaving Lake Victoria around lunchtime we game drive our way through to our next campsite, located in the middle of Serengeti National Park. We travel on dirt roads that are in quite poor condition, so there are plenty of bumps and bounces along the way! We reach our campsite in the late afternoon and, depending on the season, we may see a great variety of plains animals in the area. Our campsite provides the opportunity to hear the night time serenade of the African savannah and provides an ideal base to explore the astounding open plains of the Serengeti. These massive grasslands seem to stretch as far as the eye can see, and even beyond! Over a million wildebeest roam through the park, along with a multitude of antelope species and significant populations of lion and cheetah.
Please note that the campsites in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are national park campsites. These are the only public campsites available and the facilities are basic in the extreme. There are no fences surrounding the campsites and wildlife is free to roam at leisure. The toilets are pit toilets and are not cleaned regularly. There is no water for showers or for washing up. As a result the water tank on the vehicle will be required for cooking. You will need to purchase bottled water at your own expense for this part of the tour. However the opportunity to camp in the middle of the Serengeti Plains and on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater are real highlights and incredible experiences that you are unlikely to forget.
(Driving time: approx 8 hours)
We enjoy a final early morning game drive, before heading back to break down camp. We then traverse the southern part of Serengeti National Park and then cross over into the adjacent Ngorongoro Conservation Area. On the way to our campsite there is the option of visiting the small museum at Olduvai Gorge (time permitting), which documents the discovery of 1.8 million year old human-like fossils. We arrive at our campsite on the rim of the crater in the early evening – be warned that it gets very cold up here! This campsite is another government campsite and has equally primitive facilities, but is often frequented by buffalo, elephant and zebra.
(Driving time: approx 8 hours plus)
At the heart of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the crater, which is a volcanic caldera some 20 kilometres wide that contains an abundance of wildlife and bird life. Ngorongoro is often referred to as a microcosm of Africa, with forest and grasslands, as well as freshwater and soda lakes. We transfer into Land Rovers and head down to the crater floor, where we spend the morning exploring this outstanding wildlife sanctuary. The crater is home to several black rhinos and, with luck, we may have the opportunity to seeing some of these highly endangered animal. (National Parks Regulations stipulate that vehicles are only allowed a maximum of six hours in Ngorongoro Crater.)
After an exciting morning in the crater we head through Karatu to Mto Wa Mbu to set up camp. This afternoon is at leisure to take a stroll in the colourful and vibrant market town of Mto Wa Mbu. The town has a great curio market, as well as a fresh produce market. Alternatively you may choose to relax by the pool at the campsite and indulge in the luxury of hot showers and cold drinks, after your three nights of primitive campsites!
(Driving time: approx 3 hours)
This morning we join a specialist guide from the Masai Community Cultural Tourism Program to visit a Masai village, who will be able to offer us further information involving the culture and history of the proud Masai people. We explore a small traditional village to gain an insight into the daily life of the Masai. A Masai woman shows her into her house and we learn how the Masai women actually build their houses. Leaving Mto Wa Mbu we stop en route at a local camp in Meserani for lunch. This camp has a comprehensive snake park, which you can visit on an optional guided tour. There is also an excellent Masai museum and the opportunity to purchase crafts from the local Masai women. We then make our way to Arusha for our final two nights of camping. Arusha is truly the safari capital of Tanzania where 4WD vehicles actually outnumber cars.
(Driving time: approx 1 hour)
This morning we visit a very special school in Arusha. The School of St Jude was founded in 2002 by Gemma, a young Australian woman, for orphans and very poor children of Arusha. The school was founded on Gemma's belief that not only was a good and accessible education a right for all children in the world but without it, Africa's rate of development would continue to lag behind the rest of the world. Under the banner of 'Fighting Poverty through Education' the school provides a totally free education to over 90% of the pupils, including supplying transport, uniform, stationery, snacks, water and a hot meal. The opportunity for sponsorship at St Jude is given to the brightest and most ambitious children of extremely poor families, after a series of tests designed to measure potential and poverty levels. Whilst on a guided tour of the school we are given more information on how it operates and the success that it has achieved. We have time to visit children in class, before joining them for morning tea and lunch. We also get to sit in on the weekly assembly - a beautiful opportunity to share time with the children and gain an insight into the school's culture. We may hear some singing and see some of the children displaying special skills. This is a morning that is certain to touch our souls and fill us full of optimism.
(Driving time: approx 8 hours plus)
This morning our tour officially ends in Arusha. You may choose to take a free transfer with the safari vehicle, as it continues back to our Nairobi hotel. Alternately you may join our Mount Kilimanjaro trek in Marangu today. If climbing a mountain is not the challenge you are after, then you may choose to join our 'Zanzibar Revealed' tour which begins in Zanzibar today. These additional tours should be pre-booked with us to ensure availability. Linking flights and transfers to join these tours can also be pre-booked and arranged through us. If you are travelling with the vehicle back to Nairobi you will arrive in there in the late afternoon, where you will be dropped off at the downtown hotel. Flights out of Nairobi tonight should not be booked before 9.00pm. Transfers to Nairobi Airport are at an additional cost.