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It’s no exaggeration that this East African safari around Kenya and Tanzania is better than ever! Rated 5-stars by past travelers, the most common advice they offer is, “Just do it!” From the accommodations — including Kirawira Tented Camp in the Serengeti, a national park famed for the wildebeest migration — to interacting with the Iraqw ethnic tribe near Lake Manyara, you’ll be immersed in the culture of Kenya and Tanzania.
This grand expedition is a safari in the truest sense of the word, with explorations of some of the most illustrious game reserves in Kenya and Tanzania: Amboseli, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti, and Masai Mara. Every traveler will get a window seat in exclusive 6-passenger 4x4 pop-top African safari vehicles, where over the course of 17 professionally guided game drives, you’ll fall under the spell of East Africa’s big skies, vast plains, and abundant game, including those lovingly ferocious big cats.
With 26 included features and Cultural Discoveries, you’ll also learn about the work of Karen Blixen, interact with the traditional Maasai people, and meet local fisherman at a fishing village on Lake Victoria. By the adventure’s end, your well-worn khakis will attest that you’ve explored a few of the best national parks on the safari of a lifetime with Vantage!
Depart home for Nairobi, Kenya
Today, you’ll depart the U.S. for an overnight flight to Nairobi, Kenya.
If you chose the pre-tour extension, you will be spending a couple of nights on safari at Sweetwaters Serena Tented Camp, and then join the rest of the group when they arrive tomorrow.
Arrive in Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi
When you awake from your overnight flight, you’ll find yourself in Nairobi, Kenya. Expect a warm welcome from your Vantage representative, who will be waiting for you at the airport to take you to your deluxe hotel just outside the city.
Take the rest of the day and evening to relax and unwind; the hotel offers air-conditioned rooms, tropical gardens, a heated swimming pool, patisserie, gelateria, coffee shop, and restaurants, as well as a spa and health club. This combination of comforts should serve to refresh you before we set off on our grand safari tomorrow.
A day of close-up animal encounters: Touch orphaned elephants, feed giraffes, and visit Karen Blixen’s home
Today is all about close-up animal encounters. After breakfast, we take a short drive to Nairobi National Park. Look out for animals as we drive slowly to the far side of the park! We soon arrive at the famous Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, which is the most successful orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. Seeing these adorable babies will incite deep compassion in you! One of the orphanage’s conservationists will give us a talk about these youngsters and we’ll be able to get very close to them.
Our next stop is the Giraffe Center, which protects the endangered Rothschild's giraffe, a subspecies only found in East Africa. Here, we’ll hand-feed these gentle creatures and see how extraordinary long their tongue is — around 18-inches! Perfect for getting between acacia thorns to reach succulent leaves.
Arrive in Amboseli National Park and take an afternoon game drive
After breakfast, we step aboard our safari vehicles for our first experience of rural African roads — a bit bumpy in places. But we are in 4x4s that have been specially built for adventure. So, Amboseli National Park here, we come!
The most iconic image of East Africa is that of elephants or giraffes wandering across Amboseli’s savanna, with Mount Kilimanjaro towering in the background. Given a clear day and animals in just the right spot, you too may be able to view such remarkable image.
We arrive at our Amboseli lodge in time for lunch. Relax and settle in before meeting on the veranda for a safari briefing.
Then, it’s time for our first game drive within this national park, renowned not just for large herds of elephants, but big old tuskers. While runoff from Mt. Kilimanjaro provides permanent water rising to the surface in swampy springs, the terrain can turn from lush grasslands to dust depending on local rains. Amboseli comes from the Maasai word meaning “salty dust,” and is sometimes referred to as “Amboseli powder.” What you can be sure of is big skies and far horizons, dotted with plentiful game like impala, wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, giraffes and lions, epitomizing everything good about an East African safari.
We return to our charming lodge for dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Explore Amboseli and spot wildlife on two game drives
We take our cue from the animals and rise early today for morning game drives to catch a glimpse of predators before they sleep off the heat of the day. Then, we’ll head out again for an afternoon game drive, when predators start to wake and animals head to the waterholes.
With 1,700 elephants in this park, it’s impossible not to see them on a game drive. There are more than 420 species of birds too, including 10 varieties of eagles and 12 types of heron. It’s fun to see how many of each you can spot.
Your guides are brilliant at spotting even the most elusive wildlife and positioning the vehicle to give everybody great photo opportunities. Their knowledge and understanding of wildlife, ecology, and the local tribes will certainly enrich your tour.
During the morning, we stop at a Maasai village and find out how, despite western influences, a traditional mud-hut way of life remains intact. Robed in red and with their spears and rungu (knobkerry) always in hand, the Maasai warriors will perform their traditional jumping dance, revealing how high they can leap. A lifestyle where drinking milk mixed with cow’s blood is part of their diet — this is just one revelation of how different the Maasai existence is to your own.
Lunch is back at the lodge, with afternoon snoozing time factored in before the late-afternoon game drive. A delicious 3-course dinner awaits you this evening.
Drive from Kenya to Tanzania and onto Lake Manyara, stopping for a Tanzanite Experience and visit the Shanga Riverhouse
After breakfast, we leave Amboseli and cross the border from Kenya into Tanzania. Our destination is Lake Manyara National Park. Our drive may be long, but we’ll take a break in Arusha — Tanzania’s safari gateway town — with a stop at the Tanzanite Experience. This precious stone, only discovered in 1967, is found only in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro and ranges from palest blue to violet. The Maasai have an age-old affinity with the color blue, which is regarded as sacred, healing, and, above all, representative of new life. Many people now see a precious tanzanite as the ultimate adornment.
We’ll have lunch at the Shanga Riverhouse in Arusha and explore their community project, which employs people with disabilities who create unique and high-quality handmade jewelry, glass, and homeware incorporating recycled materials. Their shop is full of beautiful African arts and crafts made right here.
After lunch, it’s less than a 2-hour drive to our luxury lodge inside Lake Manyara National Park, where the Rift Valley escarpment towers 1,950 feet high. All the bedrooms are spread along a cliff edge, with incredible views from your private veranda across the rift valley to the vast Lake Manyara below.
Dinner tonight is at the lodge.
Visit a local village and embark on an afternoon safari to see tree-climbing lions
After breakfast, we visit an Iraqw village for a fascinating insight and interaction with this Cushitic-speaking ethnic group, who have assimilated many foreign groups into their culture and speak a fascinating linguistic mix.
We’ll have a leisurely lunch back at the lodge, then take our window seats for an afternoon of game viewing in Lake Manyara National Park. We can expect to see buffalo, Masai giraffe, gazelle, and impressively tusked elephant. The park often shimmers in a heat haze created by the soda lake, which attracts masses of birdlife, including huge flocks of flamingoes. The park’s other claim to fame is tree-climbing lions (lions are not usually found in trees), and we’ll see if we can find them.
Enjoy a delicious dinner at the lodge.
Tour Gibbs Farm coffee plantation and arrive at Ngorongoro Crater
Today, we head for the world famous Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the world’s biggest intact caldera, a collapsed volcanic crater covering over 100 square miles with a concentration of about 25,000 large mammals, including a very healthy population of black rhinos (all monitored to prevent poaching), giant tusker elephants, black-maned lions, cheetahs, pink flamingoes flocking to the soda lakes, and red-robed Maasai herding cattle alongside predators and prey. Get ready to visit an unforgettable place!
We have time stop for a tour and lunch at Gibbs Farm, which grows, processes, and roasts Arabica coffee and cultivates organic fruit and vegetables to supply its guest house and kitchen. Where better than this award-winning plantation to have lunch and feast on their farm-to-table bounty?
After lunch, we drive into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to our spectacular safari lodge, perched on the rim of the crater. No lodges are allowed on the crater floor — that’s set aside for animals and Maasai — so we’ll look down from above until tomorrow.
Enjoy a memorable dinner tonight, with sensational views.
Spend the day exploring the Ngorongoro “Garden of Eden”
You are in for a magnificent full-day safari in what is Africa’s veritable “Garden of Eden.” We’ll drive deep down into the crater and explore the soda lakes, grasslands, swamps, and patches of forest, fed by springs and streams. There are thousands of animals in this UNESCO World Heritage Site, living peacefully alongside the cattle-herding Maasai. We’ll stop for a picnic lunch and see if we can clock up the Big 5 before returning to the lodge in late afternoon.
We’ll toast this amazing experience with a cocktail party and dinner tonight.
Visit the “Cradle of Mankind” and arrive in the famous Serengeti National Park
Our journey through this part of Tanzania is all within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is of global biodiversity importance. The area includes the Ngorongoro Crater, where we start the day; the Olduvai Gorge, known as the “Cradle of Mankind,” where we stop en route; and the famed Serengeti migration preserve, where we end our day.
The Olduvai Gorge is one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world. Archaeologists Louis and Mary Leakey had been finding fossil evidence of early man in the Olduvai Gorge since 1913, but it was in 1978 that Mary uncovered the oldest hominid footprints known to man, estimated at 3.6 million years old. We’ll stop here and let the displays and presentations bring the past to life.
We’ll continue into Serengeti National Park, whose seasonal grasslands are the driving force behind the migration of thousands of wildebeest and other grazing animals. Migration sightings depend on the time of year and rain levels, but there are plenty of resident animals to keep us busy on game drives.
We’ll stop in the Serengeti for a picnic lunch and spot animals on a game drive all the way to our lodge in the very heart of the park, where we’ll freshen up and relax before dinner.
Sensational optional balloon ride and two game drives in Serengeti, the “big cat country”
Spend the morning at leisure or join an optional bucket-list opportunity to rise before dawn and take flight in a hot air balloon, floating effortlessly over the Serengeti at the whim of the wind. Such is the skill of the pilot that one moment you’ll be sky high, and the next you’ll be skimming the tree tops, all the while spotting game from above. Within seconds of landing, the crew following your progress in support vehicles will carve a meadow in the grass and set up tables for a scrumptious champagne breakfast to toast the morning’s new experiences.
After breakfast, we’ll all go on a morning game drive through a section of the park renowned for abundant game and famed big cats like lion, leopard, and cheetah. We return to the lodge for lunch Then, we’ll head out again later in the afternoon for another game drive and stop for sundowner drinks to watch the Serengeti savanna turn golden in the setting sun.
Enjoy a classic safari experience in a tented camp in the Serengeti
We’re going to explore a different section of the Serengeti today on a morning game drive to our next safari camp in the far west of the park. The western terrain has two rivers feeding verdant plains, woods, hills, and rocky outcrops, and it’s from an elevated hilltop position that we look out from our camp to sweeping views of the Serengeti. Our lodge also replicates the colonial luxury of an old hunting lodge, with a gorgeous little swimming pool. Massages are offered on your private balcony.
We’ll have lunch at the camp, then enjoy an afternoon game drive to see what animals and birds are to be found in this more rugged area of the Serengeti.
You’ll get a sense of Out of Africa tonight, when the camp’s colonial theme continues at dinner in the opulent dining tent, with its Edwardian-styled furnishings and waiters in Swahili white robes and turbans.
A full-day of exploring the legendary Serengeti
Ernest Hemingway once said, “I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy.” These sentiments are shared by all our safari adventurers, especially today because we’ve added an extra night for you here in the glorious Serengeti!
Every day brings special moments and new sightings, so we’ll see what the western Serengeti has to offer us on morning and afternoon game drives. We’ll be back at the camp for lunch, with time to relax by the pool, have a massage, or take an afternoon snooze.
Dinner will be a culinary surprise, at the camp or even in the bush.
Visit a local fishing village on your way to the famed Masai Mara
Today, we’ll drive from Tanzania’s Serengeti into Kenya’s Masai
Mara, spotting game along the way. After lunch, we’ll stop to meet the folks of a fishing village on Lake Victoria — Africa’s largest freshwater lake and source of the ancient Nile. Being a fisherman is a tough life, with no guarantees of a good catch. We’ll have a chance to ask some questions and find out what life is like on the banks of this gigantic tropical lake, inhabited by crocodiles and hippos.
Our East African safari continues on its circular route, which takes us north across the Kenyan border into the Masai
Mara National Reserve today. The landscape is an extension of the Serengeti and, when wildebeest migrate, they go from one to the other across the notorious Mara River, with its huge Nile crocodiles.
Our very special lodge for tonight looks down on the Mara River from atop a hill, commanding sweeping views of this savanna, made famous on the big screen in Out of Africa.
We’ll dine tonight in the Masai-inspired dining room, decorated with traditional Masai motifs, with inside and outside seating views down to the river and beyond.
Explore the Masai Mara on game drives and consider another incomparable balloon safari
This morning, you have a second chance at a once-in-a-lifetime optional balloon ride over the Masai Mara. Enjoy the serene elation of floating silently over the open savanna and tree-lined Mara River as the sun comes up. Hold on tight as you come down to earth, where a splendid champagne bush breakfast is set up wherever you land, amongst whatever animals are around.
For the rest of the day, we’ll explore the Masai Mara on a morning and afternoon game drive and see which of the Big 5 we can see. We are situated in the Mara Triangle, famed for predators and documented in the BBC’s Big Cat Diary, which has been following prides and individuals since 1996.
Lunch and dinner are at the lodge today.
Drive to Nairobi and a Farewell Dinner amongst friends
Enjoy your final breakfast on a safari before settling back into the 4x4 for a day’s drive back to Nairobi, where we began this extraordinary adventure. The lodge will pack us a picnic box lunch, which will sustain us during the journey to Kenya’s capital. Tonight, we’ll gather for a Farewell Dinner where we’ll recall our most vivid safari memories.
Farewell Africa — time to go home
What an adventure you’ve had, with memories to last a lifetime! Enjoy breakfast and still have time to do some last-minute gift shopping at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
You can now consider yourself amongst the most experienced of safari travelers, having accomplished a round-trip route through Kenya and Tanzania and back again, visiting the most renowned game reserves in Africa and witnessing nature in all it’s great abundance. Well done!
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert.
Please Note: The hotels listed are preliminary and subject to change. Although we contract our hotels a year in advance, unforeseen situations do occasionally occur. Should it be necessary to change a hotel, one of equal quality and value will be substituted. You will receive verified hotel information with your final itinerary. Hotel ratings are based on the hotel and a leading travel industry authority on hotels throughout the world.