Mountain Gorillas and Great Migration

Some things you cannot see in a zoo. Mountain gorillas and a herd of two million wildebeest are two examples.

This tour takes you there.

Did you know that there are no Mountain Gorillas in any zoos anywhere in the world? Thankfully!

There were some in captivity in the 19th and early 20th centuries but they all died. It is now unlawful to capture any Mountain Gorillas, of which there are about 1000 remaining.

The good news is that after decades of declining they are making a steady comeback. Fees paid by tourists directly fund veterinarians, armed rangers and hundreds of others who protect the health and safety of these magnificent creatures. This is one of the few good news stories in global conservation. There are now about 300 more Mountain Gorillas in the wild than when we first started taking guests to meet with them in their natural habitat.

Here's something else that often surprises people: The Great Migration is not an annual event. Rather, millions of wildebeest are constantly on the move in a huge circuit around the contiguous grasslands we know as the Maasai Mara (Kenya) and the Serengeti (Tanzania). In a miracle of nature, the rains move in an annual cycle around the vast plains, that straddle the equator. Those rains give rise to fresh green shoots and the herds of antelope follow the sweet scent of fresh grass. Consequently, whatever time of the year you wish to travel, we can plan an itinerary to match the historic schedule of this marvel of nature.

This particular itinerary is best in August and September, when the weather in Uganda is benign and the Great Migration herds are in the Maasai Mara.

NB: The international flights in this itinerary are not included in the price. They are included on the schedule to indicate the logistics for Melbourne guests. That said, it is a simple matter to readjust the itinerary to suit guests from any city in the world.

Itinerary

Day 1 - 2

The Boma Hotel Entebbe (1 Night) in Entebbe

Entebbe

Situated on a peninsula in Lake Victoria, the former seat of Uganda’s government, Entebbe is just a short drive from the current capital and offers plenty to keep visitors amused. This charming town features tree-lined streets and serves as an excellent base from which to explore the surrounding area. Tourists can look forward to spending days on beautiful beaches along the banks of Lake Victoria, stroll through the fields and forests of the magnificent Botanical Gardens, or pay a visit to Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a haven for country’s orphaned chimps.

 

Day 2 - 4

Mount Gahinga Lodge (2 Nights) in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Located in southwestern Uganda, in the Kisoro District, the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area. This wilderness sanctuary was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests. The striking landscape boasts three conical volcanoes which are a part of the magnificent Virunga Range which fringes Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. Aside from the main attraction which is the mountain gorillas, the park is home to buffaloes, elephants, endangered golden monkeys and many of bird species. The three extinct volcanoes offer plenty of hiking trails.

Mount Gahinga Lodge

Mount Gahinga Lodge opened in 1997 and was the first lodge of the Volcanoes Safaris collection. It is the perfect base to go gorilla tracking on the Ugandan side of the Virungas, track the rare golden monkey, climb a volcano, walk through local villages and most of all to share the culture of the Batwa, the oldest inhabitants of the Central African rain forest.

The charming property, inspired by traditional design and building techniques, has been re-imagined in 2019: the lounge, dining room, and gardens have been remodeled, and two new deluxe bandas have been launched.

The luxury bandas reflect the magic of the aesthetic traditions of the Bufimbira people, with their distinct colours. Each Banda has an ensuite luxury shower room, fireplace and private porch.

Gorilla Tracking Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is situated in southwestern, Uganda. The National Park is one of few parks where endangered mountain gorillas roam freely in the beautiful rainforest. There is a variety of lodges suitable for overnight stays. The gorilla tracking starts at 8:00 am, and the duration is 2-4 hours. The best time to go to the park is mid-December till February and June to October, although gorilla tracking takes place throughout the year.

 

Day 4 - 8

Nile Safari Lodge (4 Nights) in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park

Stretching from the shores of Lake Albert, Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda's largest National Park. The Nile River flows through the middle of the park creating the impressive Murchison Falls which is the park’s major attraction. The landscape features dense rainforest, undulating savannah and a diversity of abundant wildlife. Visitors can enjoy prime game-viewing along the Buligi Circuit. The forests are home to numerous primates, including Chimpanzees, and near the river, buffalo, elephants and Rothschild-Giraffes can be seen. Other commonly spotted wildlife include: lions, antelope, waterbucks, hippos and crocodiles.

Nile Safari Lodge

Nile Safari Lodge is a luxury eco-friendly safari lodge located on the Victoria Nile River banks in Uganda. The lodge is situated in the heart of the Murchison Falls National Park and offers spectacular views of the river and endless game viewing opportunities. Accommodation includes eight secluded bandas equipped with en-suite facilities, a private view deck with deck chairs and a mosquito net. Guests may enjoy delicious meals at the on-site restaurant.

Game Drive Murchison Falls

The Murchison Falls National Park Game Drive takes place in the Murchison Falls National Park. The main areas of the drive are the Delta, Buligi Peninsula and the southern section which is known as the heart of Murchison. The Delta allows visitors an opportunity to see Lions, while the triangle of grassland in the Buligi Peninsula provides an opportunity to see elephant, buffalo, antelopes, and giraffes. This grassland is bound by the Victoria Nile entering Lake Albert with the Albert Nile flowing out of it. Lions, leopard, and waterbirds along with hippos can also be spotted here. Much of the southern part is populated with dense bush and forest, where lions and giraffes can also be seen.

Murchison Falls Bottom of the Falls Cruise

Murchison Falls Bottom of the Falls Cruise is a three-hour scheduled and private cruise from park headquarters to the head of Fajao Gorge at the base of Murchison Falls. Passengers can witness the mighty force of the Nile River pushing through a narrow seven-metre gap, cascading down a forty-metre cliff to the vast gorge below. The power of the falls and the scenic views from their base are breathtaking. Large resident populations of hippo float in the water along the way, groups of crocodile bask on the shore, and herds of elephant, buffalo and antelope can be seen moving along the riverbanks. The river offers spectacular opportunities for bird watchers, with a wide range of water birds and vibrant Bee-eaters nesting in the cliffs along the river's bank.

Murchison Falls Delta Cruise

The Victoria Nile delta, a 20km voyage downstream from Paraa is home to rare wetland birds including the elusive shoebill and papyrus endemic species. This leisurely cruise aboard a Kingfisher/Alligator boat down to Lake Albert offers the opportunity to spot elephant, hippo and large Nile crocodiles. The trip lasts approximately 4-5 hours and departs at 7 am from a jetty at Paraa on the South Bank of the Nile River.

Murchison Falls Top of the Falls Walk

Some of the most powerful moving water in the world, the top of Murchison Falls sees the entirety of the Nile River squeeze itself through a mere 7-meter gap; an epic display of nature’s power. A trail runs down the side of the gorge, allowing the opportunity to view the main falls, and the second “Independence” falls. The views are spectacular and the spray of the falls really refreshing. The walk takes approximately 45 minutes and requires average fitness.

Day 8 - 9

The Boma Hotel Entebbe (1 Night) in Entebbe

This morning after breakfast, you will drive to Pakuba Airstrip and fly to Entebbe and you will be transferred to your accommodation for an overnight.

Day 9 - 10

Crowne Plaza Nairobi Airport (1 Night) in Nairobi

Rest day.  Awkward flight schedules and a busy program of experiences make this stop a welcome break.  Catch your breath.  Tomorrow you go to the famous Maasai Mara.

Crown Plaza Nairobi Airport is the only official hotel located at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The hotel offers 144 spacious, adaptable, contemporarily designed rooms consisting of suites, interconnecting rooms, double and twin rooms, convenient for business, family and leisure travellers.  The hotel features a contemporary café with an around-the-clock menu offering local and global cuisine, and a coffee shop, a conference centre, and three meeting rooms.

Day 10 - 13

Little Governors' Camp (3 Nights) in Masai Mara National Reserve

Masai Mara National Reserve

One of Kenya’s undisputed natural highlights is the Masai Mara National Reserve, which sprawls across more than 1500 square kilometres of the country’s southwest. The park protects a phenomenal array of game, including elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo, as well as crocodile and hippopotamus in the Mara River. The birdlife is no less impressive, with over 450 resident bird species. However, the true highlight here is the Great Migration, recognised as one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. To survive the dry months of July to September, some 1.7 million wildebeest, migrate from the parched plains of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Along with much smaller numbers of antelope, buffalo and zebra, they move to the more forgiving grasslands of the Masai Mara. In their wake come predators such as lion, hyena and cheetah, for whom these giant herds are an easy source of prey.

Little Governor's Camp

The award-winning Little Governors’ is intimate in character, with just 17 luxury ensuite tents dotted around a large watering hole that teems with both birds and wildlife. The camp is approached by a boat ride across the Mara River, then an escorted walk through the riverine forest. Vehicles are left on the far river bank, and the camp is therefore quiet and undisturbed. The guest tents at Little Governors’ have wooden decks with large verandahs for guests to enjoy the constant game activity that takes place around the camp’s watering hole. Guests may need to make way for elephants which often visit the camp.

The guest tents at Little Governors' are all tucked into the forest overlooking a waterhole frequented by a myriad of animals. Each one is spacious with an en-suite bathroom, with polished wooden decks and large verandas to enable guests to relax and enjoy the panorama of animals visiting the watering hole in front.

Breakfast and lunch are served in the open air, and the resident family of warthogs frequently wander amongst the tables. Since all Governors' properties are unfenced and in the heart of the Reserve, elephants may also stroll past. In the evening a warming log fire burns in front of the Bar Tent, and dinner is served in the nearby Dining Tent.

Governors' Balloon Safaris

Optional: The adventure begins just before dawn. Departure is from a perfect natural launch site behind Little Governors’ Camp, and flames from the hot air balloon burners light the darkness as the crews inflate their craft. The first, pink tongues of sunlight flicker across the skies as the hot air balloon fills, then rises. Suspended in a basket beneath the rainbow-coloured canopy, you’re off for a game-viewing adventure with an entirely different perspective. What amazes most first-time balloonists is the absolute stillness: the silence as you float above the plains, the forest and the rivers of the Masai Mara. Even if you’ve flown elsewhere, this is a unique experience. The flight lasts an hour or so, drifting wherever the air currents take you, and with ample opportunities for photography and video filming. Then your Kenyan Hot Air Balloon Safari finishes with a flourish. In the time honoured tradition of balloon flights the world over, you toast your return to earth with a champagne breakfast, cooked wherever you land. The Balloon Safari ends with some leisurely game viewing on the way back to Camp.

Day 13 - 15

Elewana Sand River Masai Mara (2 Nights) in Masai Mara

Masai Mara

The Masai Mara together with Tanzania’s Serengeti form Africa’s most famous wildlife park, the Masai Mara National Reserve. The image of acacia trees dotting endless grass plains epitomises Africa for many, then add a Maasai warrior and some cattle to the picture and the conversation need go no further. The undeniable highlight of the Masai Mara National Reserve is undoubtedly the annual wildebeest migration traversing the vast plains of the Serengeti and the Masai Mara. It is known as the largest mass movement of land mammals on the planet – with more than a million animals following the rains. Large prides of lions, herds of elephants, as well as giraffes, gazelles and eland can also be spotted in the reserve. Aside from horse riding safaris and traditional vehicle safaris, hot-air ballooning over the Mara plains has become almost essential.

Elewana Sand River Masai Mara

Situated along the banks of a river from which it has taken its name, Elewana Sand River Masai Mara is located within the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya on a secluded and picturesque site. The camp enjoys stunning views over the Sand River and out to the neighbouring grassy hills and plains of Tanzania.

The camp sits on the migration route for the millions of wildebeest, zebra and Thompson's gazelle that move between Serengeti and Maasai Mara every year. Guests enjoy the privilege of exclusive views of the plains and hills dotted with thousands of animals as well as being in the thick of the excitement of frenetic and famed river crossings, all from the comfort of camp.

Comprising of 16 tented accommodations, Elewana Sand River Masai Mara replicates the heyday of exclusive permanent tented camps of the late 1920’s.

Divided into two separate but adjoining campsites of 10 and 6 tents, each area possessing its own designated dining and public areas, Elewana Sand River Masai Mara provides an atmosphere of exclusivity and class.

Day 15

Day tour of Nairobi highlights

Nairobi

Sadly, this is your final day in Africa, so we've planned a wonderful day of highlights in Nairobi.  You will visit Karen Blixen's home, where she wrote "Out of Africa".  You will hand feed the Giraffes at the famous Giraffe Center and then you will enjoy a relaxed dinner at Cultiva, a fabulous farm-to-plate dining experience that is quickly establishing an enviable culinary reputation.

Rates

2022 Prices

Fully Escorted: US$14,513 per person, sharing
Independent: US$12,213 per person, sharing

2023 Prices

Fully Escorted: US$15,964 per person, sharing
Independent: US$14,534 per person, sharing

NB: Fully Escorted tours depend on a group size of six guests.

Included

  • Accommodation on bases specified herein
  • Most meals (refer to accommodation basis)
  • Drinks in some properties (refer to accommodation.  Drinks not mentioned means not included.)
  • Transfers specified herein
  • Domestic flights specified herein
  • On fully escorted tours you will be accompanied by an Australian guide with more than 100 safaris under their belt.  That will usually be our founder, Neville Jones.
  • Independent travelers will be accompanied by a local, English-speaking guide during all activities such as game drives.

Excluded

  • All international flights
  • Some meals (refer to accommodation basis)
  • Dinner at Cultiva
  • Travel Insurance (compulsory)
  • Passport and Visa expenses
  • Tips and Gratuities
  • Anything not mentioned herein