Travel into the heart of Africa to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda

A close encounter with gentle giants on a gorilla safari in Rwanda is an extraordinary African experience that will always stay with you - and it's just one of the many wildlife spottings this unforgettable African overland adventure has to offer. Roam the verdant plains, rainforests, papyrus-fringed lakes and acacia woodlands of Kenya and Uganda's game parks to spot lions, rhinos, chimps, antelope, hippos, leopards, flamingos and more in their natural habitats. The staggeringly beautiful African countryside will provide memories that last a lifetime.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:
From 1st January 2017 this trip will visit Lake Nakuru for 1 night rather than Masai Mara for 2 nights. This shortens what was a long distance from Nairobi, and to Eldoret. There is also a night added at Kalinzu Forest to do an optional chimp trek and therefore not interrupt the game drive at Queen Elizabeth NP. Further the Kampala accommodation will change from camping to a basix hotel allowing passengers to relax on what are long driving days both before and afterwards. The new itinerary is outlined below:

Day 1 - Nairobi
Day 2 - Lake Nakuru NP
Day 3 - Eldoret
Day 4 - Kampala
Day 5 - Kalinzu Forest
Day 6 - Queen Elizabeth NP
Day 7 - Queen Elizabeth NP
Day 8 - Lake Bunyonyi
Day 9 - Kigali / Ruhengeri
Day 10 - Gorilla Trek
Day 11 - Gorilla Trek
Day 12 - Mbarara
Day 13 - Jinja
Day 14 - Jinja
Day 15 - Eldoret
Day 16 - Nairobi

Start
Nairobi, Kenya
Finish
Nairobi, Kenya
Countries
Kenya,
Rwanda,
Uganda
Themes
Overland, Wildlife
Code
YXOG
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 22
Carbon offset
803kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • The Masai Mara National Reserve is filled with iconic vistas and animals – safari through it with an early morning and late afternoon game drive in our overland vehicle
  • The chance to spot and get close to all of the Big Five in Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • Seek out the rare mountain gorilla on a trek through Rwanda's steamy forests and spend an unforgettable hour in their presence
  • Experience the two sides of Jinja, a riverside retreat at the source of the Nile but also the adventure capital of Uganda

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Jambo! Welcome to Kenya. Your Africa adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. Have your insurance details and next of kin information available for collection at this meeting. If you have the time, soak up the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Nairobi. There are plenty of good bars and restaurants, while markets and shops have most things you could want or need, as well as various arts and crafts from the region. There's also the National Museum of Kenya, the Karen Blixen Museum (author of Out of Africa), or Bomas of Kenya (displays of traditional homesteads of several Kenyan tribes) open for exploration.

Notes: Unfortunately petty crime has become fairly common in Nairobi and recently arrived visitors to the capital can often make for tempting targets. Your trip leader will verse you in a few worthwhile precautions at the welcome meeting. Some top tips are to get local advice on where to walk, keep valuables in a neck wallet or money belt or leave them secure in your hotel, and to not leave belongings unattended on chairs or the floor. Stay aware even when inside, as thieves and pickpockets have been known to operate indoors as well. There's no need to be paranoid, but appearing vigilant is a great deterrent to would-be thieves.
Today you will leave the city behind and head out into a quintessential image of Africa - the Masai Mara National Reserve (approximately 6 hours). The view of sparse open plains, dramatic skies and iconic animals grazing within the reserve's boundaries is unforgettable. The road is smooth for the first half of the drive, the rest dusty when dry and possibly slippery and soft when wet. This huge area of woodlands and open plains, backed by the striking Esoit Oloololo Escarpment, is home to all of the Big Five and in the rainy season is flooded by over a million wildebeest on their annual migration. Tonight's campground is located outside of the national reserve and has flush toilets and showers. There is an option to upgrade tonight (depending on availability) however there is no WiFi available.
Today we wake before dawn to start a morning game drive when the sun comes up. You’ll discover the reserve’s rich concentration of animal life, and hopefully catch them at their most active. Keep an eye out for prides of lions, herds of elephants and, if you are lucky, a stealthy cheetah or leopard. Beat the heat back at camp to relax and have lunch, then look out for animals like buffaloes, zebras, hyenas and giraffe as the sun sets over the grasslands. Depending on wildlife movements, you may on occasion do a full day's game drive and stop en-route for a picnic lunch. There’s also the chance to get an unforgettably different perspective with a sunrise balloon ride high over the park. If you have pre-booked this activity (please see 'Important Notes') you will be picked up and driven to the launch site and receive a safety briefing from your pilot. You then glide through the dawn, sometimes at tree height, providing amazing wildlife photography opportunities; sometimes ascending to get an overview of the enormity of the Masai Mara plains and the early morning movements of the teeming herds. Upon landing you'll be treated to a bush breakfast before being returned to your vehicle.

Notes: If you are taking a balloon ride over the Mara you will be taken to the launch place from our campsite before dawn and returned to the group when you have finished your ride. We offer this activity as a pre-booked service, which will guarantee you a spot in a balloon. If you choose to wait and book this activity locally on the ground you may get a better price. However this is a popular activity and places are limited.
This morning you will head north towards Eldoret. It's a scenic drive through tea plantations to one of Kenya's fastest growing towns (approximately 8 hours). Due to its high altitude, the town is an ideal training ground for middle and long distance athletes and is home to some of Kenya's most famous runners. Your campsite tonight has basic facilities with upgrades available.
Today you will leave Kenya behind and cross the border into landlocked Uganda, travelling on to its capital city, Kampala (approximately 8 hours, though it could take longer depending on border crossings). With a population of over 30 million, Uganda is one of the five countries that make up the East African Community. It's a country of great cultural diversity and in recent years has been one of the most progressive in the region in terms of health education relating to HIV. Your camp tonight is on the outskirts of the city and has flush toilets, showers and upgrades possible (subject to availability).
Travel to the Queen Elizabeth National Park (380 km, approx 8-9 hrs). Queen Elizabeth National Park is beautifully set between the Great Rift Valley lakes of Edward and George. You'll stay at a campsite with basic toilets and showers. However, upgrades are sometimes possible.
Perhaps wake up early to take an optional hike to see the chimps. More closely related to humans than any other living creature, the chimpanzees are a delight to watch as they squabble and play in fruiting trees. If you do not take this option, you'll enjoy an included game drive through Queen Elizabeth National Park. During your time in the park it's hoped you'll see elephants, lions, leopards, buffaloes, Ugandan kobs and waterbucks. This afternoon there's an option to take a boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel, well-known for pelicans, eagles and other wonderful birdlife, as well as its healthy population of hippos.
Today travel south to Lake Bunyonyi on the border with Rwanda (approximately 7 hours), with a stop along the way to stock up on supplies at a shop/market and ATM. Located in the south-west of Uganda, Lake Bunyonyi - meaning 'place of many little birds' - is home to some of the most picturesque scenery in the country. If time allows, explore the hilly, terraced shores of the lake. One of the best ways to admire the landscape is from the lake itself; hire a traditional dugout canoe (mokoro) and glide across the water, hopping between the little islands dotted around. They can be hard to master at first but great fun. Your campground has flush toilets, basic showers, WiFi access and upgrades possible.
Cross the boarder into Rwanda and set up camp at Ruhengeri, the gateway to the land of the gorillas (approximately 7 hours). You'll make a stop en route at Kigali and visit the very moving genocide memorial. There is also the option to hire an audio guide at the memorial to learn more about this dark part of recent history. Continue on to Ruhengeri, the entrance to Volcanoes National Park, the oldest national park in Africa, which was created to protect the habitat of the gorillas. There are two days allowed for gorilla visits as you are assigned a trekking group/time on your permit. The group may be split up into different trekking groups during the day, or even over two days, depending on the time of permit issue and group size. There is a maximum group size of eight on each gorilla visit. Depending on availability, you will stay in dormitories at a local church mission. If the dormitories are not available you will camp for these 3 nights.
Joined by a local guide and trackers, climb through rugged mountain terrain to meet the eyes of these rare animals. This region is one of the last remaining sanctuaries for the mountain gorilla. No more than eight per day can visit any one habituated family and visits are strictly controlled to minimise the possibility of disturbance or transmission of disease to the animals. Tracking gorillas in the dense forest can sometimes be wet, muddy and uncomfortable. The terrain is by no means easy either, so it can be pretty strenuous and often humid, but the sheer thrill in coming across a habituated group of gorillas, dominated by a great male silverback, more than outweighs any difficulty. You need to be prepared and fit enough to walk up to 4 hours - up and down hill. You can usually get very close to the mountain gorillas, who are placid and gentle, and watching their movements is like seeing a mirror image of yourself. Be mesmerised as you watch them eat, sleep, groom and play – the giant silverback surveying the scene as the smaller ones laze in the trees or play like children. Your visit with the gorillas will last one unforgettable hour.
When you are waiting for, or have completed, your gorilla visit, your leader will provide you with options and ideas on how you can spend your free day in the area around Ruhengeri. You can head out on more rainforest hikes to see monkeys, on nature walks, a hike up Mt Bisoke or a walk to the memorial for naturalist Dian Fossey. Please keep in mind that the prices of these optionals are not inclusive of transport costs to and from the activity. Your guide will organise transport for you to be paid locally.

Notes: You can also arrange to partake in an additional gorilla trek on your free day. If you wish to trek on both days, we highly recommend pre-purchasing the additional permit well in advance to avoid disappointment. Please speak to your booking agent about arranging this.The additional gorilla permit is offered as a pre-booked service which will guarantee you a place. If you would rather wait and try to get a better price by booking this locally on the ground, you are welcome to, but keep in mind that gorilla permits often sell out.
Much of today will be spent travelling as you return to Uganda and complete border formalities. It's possible for most nationalities to purchase a re-entry visa at this land crossing but please check before travelling. Then it's on to the pit-stop town of Mbarara near the shores of Lake Victoria for the night (approximately 8 hours including border crossings).
Today you'll continue your journey inland, travelling to Jinja via Kampala. Stop at the equator and then at Kampala - a great place to wander around on foot, exploring its markets and shops (approx 7 hrs). Jinja is one of the highlights of any visit to Uganda, a riverside retreat at the source of the Nile but also the adventure capital of Uganda. Camp at a scenic riverside site with showers, flush toilets, WiFi and ATM access, and upgrades possible.
Located at the source of the Nile as it leaves Lake Victoria, Jinja is a place for the adventurer, the adrenaline junkie and the eco-traveller who wants to do something really worthwhile in a beautiful area. Maybe get active with some excellent white water rafting.
Today you'll begin the journey back to Nairobi, dropping by the town of Eldoret once again for an overnight stop along the way (approximately 8 hours). Tonight's camp has basic facilities with upgrades available.
On arrival in Nairobi you'll be dropped at your finishing point hotel (approximately 7 hours). No accommodation is provided for tonight, but we are able to book you additional accommodation in Nairobi. Please ask at time of booking. If you are staying on a bit longer then perhaps book the Nairobi by Night Urban Adventure to have a final night with your new friends.
Special Information
Please don't book any international flights until after 6.30pm this evening
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
15 breakfasts, 15 lunches, 14 dinners
Transport
4x4 Safari Vehicle, Overland vehicle
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (11 nights), Dormitory (3 nights), Hotel (1 night)
Included activities
  • Masai Mara - Game drive
  • Queen Elizabeth National Park Game Drive
  • Kigali - Genocide Memorial
  • Volcanoes National Park - Mountain gorilla trek & permit

Dates

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Important notes

1.This trip requires an additional non-refundable deposit ( AUD1000, USD1000, EUR800, NZD1250, GBP650, CAD1000, ZAR8000, CHF900 ) in order to secure a gorilla permit. We also require full passport details at time of booking. Please note that we need to confirm availability of a gorilla permit if you are booking within 45 days of departure. The additional deposit paid at time of booking will be credited to the final balance of your booking.
2. A single supplement is available on this trip. The Single Supplement doesn't apply to nights 9-11 spent in a dormitory.
3. This trip finishes upon arrival in Nairobi on Day 16. Please do not book any flights until after 6.30pm this evening.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Gorillas & Game Parks trips score an average of 4.68 out of 5 based on 215 reviews in the last year.

Gorillas & Game Parks , July 2016

Gorillas & Game Parks , August 2016