A National Geographic expert will accompany each departure to share insights and a rare behind-the-scenes perspective. Listed below are some of the experts and the departure date(s) they will be joining.
Go in search of the thundering herds of the legendary wildebeest migration on a wildlife safari in Tanzania. Experience the power of the migration up close in the vast savannas of the northern or southern Serengeti, depending on the season. Take in extraordinary vistas of the Great Rift Valley, and descend into the Ngorongoro Crater to spot lions, cheetahs, elephants, and more.
Arrive at Kilimanjaro International Airport this evening and transfer to our hotel.
Drive to Lake Manyara National Park, famous for its elephants, hippos, giraffes, flamingos, and tree-climbing lions. Set out on our first safari to discover East Africa’s legendary wildlife amid the stunning Rift Valley landscape.
On a morning game drive, observe the wildlife that congregates on the shores of Lake Manyara. Enjoy a guided walk around the lodge’s grounds and gardens before hiking to a nearby coffee plantation.
After breakfast, travel to the Ngorongoro Highlands, where we will meet with Maasai community members. Far from the tourist circuit, enjoy a rare opportunity to view traditional singing and dancing, witness an initiation ritual, and learn about this fascinating culture from the village chief and his wives. After lunch, descend 2,000 feet to the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater, where volcanic slopes shelter almost 25,000 animals. Observe the interactions between predator and prey; spot colorful birdlife, from superb starlings to crowned cranes; and track elephants, rare black rhinos, cheetahs, and more.
Return to the crater floor for breakfast and a morning safari. Enjoy an afternoon to relax and watch the sun set over the crater from the lodge. Tonight, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Louise Leakey or Dr. Fidelis Masao, co-director of the Olduvai Landscape Paleoarchaeology Project, joins us for dinner and a discussion about the groundbreaking paleontological finds in the region.
Drive to the Olduvai Gorge, where, on a National Geographic-sponsored expedition in 1960, Louis and Mary Leakey discovered Homo habilis, one of the earliest members of the human genus. This morning, Louise (the Leakeys’ granddaughter) or Dr. Masao will discuss the family’s legacy and ongoing work at Olduvai Gorge. Then take a private tour of the site, or accompany Dr. Masao on a walk through the area where much of his life’s research has been conducted. This afternoon, drive to our lodge in the southern Serengeti, looking for lions, giraffes, and leopards along the way.
Rise early for an optional hot-air balloon safari or a morning game drive before flying to the northern Serengeti. With luck, we will witness the dramatic river crossings of the wildebeest migration. Great herds of wildebeests and zebras eye predators warily as crocodile snouts break the surface of the Mara River. Stay at Sayari Camp, a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection, and take in the region’s spectacular array of wildlife on morning and afternoon game drives. On our last evening, gather for a candlelit farewell dinner in the bush.
After a final early-morning safari, fly back to Arusha. Relax at our hotel before connecting with your flight home.
Post-Trip, 6 Days
Travel to Rwanda on an optional pre- or post-trip extension for an incredible opportunity to encounter endangered mountain gorillas in the wild. From our base just outside Volcanoes National Park, track gorillas and hike to the original site of National Geographic grantee Dian Fossey’s Karisoke Research Center.
Journey into the lush hills that surround Kigali to visit a community supported by the Millennium Villages project—a development approach conceived by Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the United Nations Development Project. Here, survivors and perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide live side by side in an effort to heal wounds and build a brighter future for the country. Listen to moving testimonies of village residents, and visit the health center and the primary school. Return to Kigali for dinner at the legendary Hotel des Mille Collines—featured in the film Hotel Rwanda—where more than a thousand Rwandans found safe haven during the genocide.
This morning, pay a visit to the Kigali Memorial Centre, where a poignant exhibition recalls Rwanda’s mid-1990s genocide and testifies to the country’s remarkable resilience. Then travel north through the beautiful countryside to Volcanoes National Park.
Spend the day tracking mountain gorillas in the forested hills of Volcanoes National Park. Follow local guides through thick undergrowth and dangling vines in search of gorilla families. Sit among these gentle giants and observe their interactions, listening to their distinctive grumbles and viewing one of the planet’s most endangered creatures from an awe-inspiring, up close perspective.
Trek to the original site of the Karisoke Research Center, where the late Dian Fossey, a National Geographic grantee, carried out research on mountain gorillas for 18 years. Or strike out into the lower reaches of the park to seek out golden monkeys, a distinct species of primate that can often be found in thick bamboo stands. For an additional cost, opt to return to Volcanoes National Park for a second day of gorilla tracking. In the afternoon, head back to Kigali.
After breakfast, transfer to Kigali International Airport for your flight home, arriving the next day.
This expedition is rated as light; travelers should be in good health and comfortable sitting for extended periods of time. Excursions include safari drives in open vehicles on dusty, bumpy roads; nature walks on uneven terrain; and sometimes climbing stairs without handrails.
Throughout the expedition, we stay in ideally located hotels, lodges, and luxury tented camps, including Sayari Camp, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World (July through October departures only).
A National Geographic expert and an expedition leader will accompany this trip, and local guides join us along the way.
Our accommodations are selected for their exceptional quality, location, and character. Below are several of the accommodations featured on this expedition.
Sayari Camp – Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Located in the remote northern Serengeti near the Mara River, stunning Sayari Camp, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, is perfectly positioned for spectacular wildlife viewing. The camp overlooks vast plains—home to staggering numbers of big cats, giraffe, elephant, plains game, and an increasing population of rhino. Each of the 15 guest tents has a large, private veranda overlooking the Serengeti. The en-suite bathrooms have flush toilets, a double sink, shower, and beautiful bath. Other camp amenities include an infinity pool, library, bar, lounge, and two dining areas to ensure intimacy and personal service.
Arusha Coffee Lodge – Arusha, Tanzania
Arusha Coffee Lodge is set among a lush coffee plantation. This exclusive, boutique lodge has been designed around the farm’s original plantation homes. The accommodations are lavishly furnished, and each features a split-level living room area, fireplace, and private veranda. Room amenities include a telephone, in-room safe, hair dryer, mini bar, and tea- and coffee-making facilities. Other property amenities include a swimming pool, boutique, bar, lounge, dining room, and Wi-fi internet access in common areas.
Lake Masek Tented Camp – Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Lake Masek Tented Camp is located in the Ndutu region bordering the southern Serengeti. Overlooking Lake Masek, this eco-friendly luxury camp runs on solar power and rain water. Each of the 20 guest tents is raised on wooden platforms and offers a private veranda, in-room safe, en suite facilities with twin washbasins, a standalone bath, and an outdoor shower. Other lodge amenities include a lounge, dining area, and Wi-fi internet access.
Prices are per person based on double or single occupancy (unless otherwise noted) and do not include international airfare to/from your destination or internal flights during the expedition. Internal flights are between $450 and $775 per person based on seasonality. Internal flights for the optional extension to Rwanda are $1100 per person, and $1500 for the Ruaha extension. All prices and fares are quoted in U.S. dollars and subject to change. See the terms and conditions for this trip for more information.