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A fantastic 24-day budget camping Safari in East Africa.
This Gorillas, Masai Mara & Zanzibar Overland Camping Safari starts off in Nairobi, heading to Kenya's best known park - Masai Mara National Reserve. We explore Masai Mara, home to Africa's Big Five and the legendary Wildebeest Migration, before crossing into Uganda. In Uganda you have the opportunity to go Mountain Gorilla Trekking, coming face-to-face with these endangered primates in the wild.
Then we travel to the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater for epic wildlife experiences on the game-rich plains of Tanzania. The tour ends off with a trip to the white sand beaches of tropical Zanzibar Island with its rich cultural mix and colourful history.
This Gorillas, Masai Mara & Zanzibar Overland Camping Safari departs from Kenya's capital in the morning.
Travelling up the escarpment from Nairobi we stop at a viewpoint to look out over part of the sweeping Great Rift Valley. We then descend to the floor of the Rift Valley in Kenya entering Maasai country. The striking-looking Maasai are often seen along the roadside in their brightly-coloured robes herding cattle.
Driving south through the town of Narok, we look out for wildlife en-route to our first overnight campsite. In the late afternoon we arrive at our safari camp overlooking the Meguarra Hills and a meandering stream that borders on the famous Masai Mara National Reserve.
The Mara Game Reserve is unfenced, so its wild animals are free to roam around in the surrounding wilderness areas, even entering our safari camp! The local ‘Askari’ keeps a look out for any unwelcome predators at camp, ensuring your safety.
Departing just after sunrise we embark on our first exhilarating game drive in Masai Mara Game Reserve. Kenya's Masai Mara is considered one of the best game viewing destinations in the world and arguably East Africa's top safari destination.
Masai Mara is home to a wide variety of wildlife species including an array of predators and plains game. The reserve is known for its sizeable big cat populations, hosting plenty of lions, leopards and cheetahs. The Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo) are commonly seen on game drives in this 1510 km² wilderness area.
The Masai Mara Reserve is best known for the Annual Wildebeest Migration, also called the Great Migration. This wildlife spectacle sees massive herds of over a million wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle stampede across the open plains between the Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania and Masai Mara in southwestern Kenya. These huge herds of herbivores are usually seen on the move between July and October when they search for fresh grazing. The masses of grazers attract an abundance of Africa’s predators that are frequently spotted making dramatic kills during the Great Migration.
On our game drive through Masai Mara National Reserve we may see all of Africa's Big Five, along with many other species of animals and birds.
After game viewing in the classical African safari setting of Masai Mara, we have the chance to stop in at one of the nearby Maasai Manyattas – traditional settlements where the Masai Tribes still live in their customary way. In the evening we relax around the campfire, watching the sun set over this iconic African landscape. The Masai Mara Reserve covers incredible wide-open scenery and fertile riverine woodlands, following the looping meanders of the Mara and Talek rivers. Wherever you go in the Masai Mara you will see an abundance of wildlife!
Hot-air balloon trips are an entirely outstanding way of viewing the savannah plains and the wildlife of Masai Mara and can be arranged upon booking.
In the early morning we leave the Masai Mara Game Reserve, having experienced incredible wildlife viewing.
From Mara we pass through the rolling tea plantations of Kericho, west of the Rift Valley. Leaving the green hillsides of the highlands we dip down to the Rift Valley Plateau. Then we travel to one of Kenya's fastest growing towns - Eldoret, located south of the Cherangani Hills in western Kenya.
Crossing the western border of Kenya we travel into the striking African country of Uganda.
We stay in the capital city, Kampala, for our first night in Uganda. Uganda is a small country, covering diverse terrains. Habitats vary from fertile areas of greenery in the northern area around the shores of Lake Victoria to the snow-capped Ruwenzori Mountain peaks in the west and the captivating semi-desert region in the north of Uganda.
The political instability in Uganda over the past has inadvertently sheltered the country from the negative impacts of rampant commercialization. The current administration has devoted considerable efforts and funds to restoring Uganda to its former position as one of Africa's most prosperous and alluring travel destinations. Uganda appeals to travellers because of its beauty, gorilla trekking and the fact that it is less affected by western development than other African countries, making it a unique country to visit.
On day five we depart from Kampala early in the morning heading southwest into the heart of beautiful Uganda.
Our next overnight base is located at the picturesque Lake Bunyoni, meaning “place of many little birds”. Around 200 bird species have been recorded at this tranquil lake dotted with islands.
From Lake Bunyoni we have the option of participating in Mountain Gorilla Trekking Expeditions in the rainforests of central Africa. We trek in Magahinga, or Bwindi National Parks (Uganda), Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo), or Ruhengeri National Park (Rwanda); depending on the availability of gorilla trekking permits.
The prices of the gorilla trekking permits change, sometimes without prior notice. The price is currently at about US$600 depending on which national park is visited. A local transport and handling fee is also charged per person (this includes the return transfer and booking fee with the Wildlife Authority). When gorilla trekking takes place in the DRC or Rwanda, we will also need to pay for the additional visa for either country, as well as renewing our Ugandan visa when we re-enter the country. Your safari guide will brief you about the park to be visited, at a pre-departure meeting, and assist with online visa applications for Rwanda en-route, if required. It is customary to tip the local guides and rangers who take you gorilla trekking.
With only about 700 African mountain gorillas remaining, gorilla trekking is an extraordinary opportunity to encounter these gentle primates in the wild. On these unforgettable treks we get to watch the mountain gorillas (Gorilla Gorilla Berengei) in their natural habitat – a rare and unique wildlife experience! Although the gorillas are monitored on a daily basis, giving the rangers a good idea of where to find these primates, sightings of the mountain gorillas cannot be guaranteed, as they are still free roaming wild animals.
These mountain gorillas share much of our DNA, therefore anyone with even the mildest cold or any transferable disease will not be permitted on the gorilla treks. There is an age restriction of a minimum of 16 years for trekking. The number of daily visitors allowed on the gorilla trekking trips is limited, thus we depart from our Lake Bunyoni base in small groups over the next 3 to 4 days, depending on the size of our entire group.
From Bunyoni we wind our way through some of the most splendid scenery in Africa, travelling to Kisoro town, our next overnight base. The next morning, we pack a picnic lunch and transfer to a ranger’s station, serving as the starting point for our adventure. The rangers will lead you into the dense rainforest in search of a family of gorillas. Gorilla trekking can take anything from 45 minutes to 8 hours depending on how easy the gorillas are to locate. Trekking can be fairly strenuous; therefore it is necessary for participants to be reasonably fit.
We get to spend a maximum of one hour with the mountain gorillas, to ensure that the animals do not get too accustomed to humans and to protect them from any of our diseases. The visit allows for ample time to observe the gorillas from close range and take photographs of them. Your ranger will be able to give you the background on the particular gorilla family that you encounter. When your visit comes to an end you trek back through the rainforest to the meeting point, from where you are transferred to our Lake Bunyoni base.
The rise in gorilla trekking plays a vital role in the conservation of these endangered mountain gorillas, with tourism helping to ensure the survival of this threatened species. The entire cost of the gorilla trekking permits is used by the national park authorities to protect the gorillas. The gorilla permit fee is used to fund patrolling, key to protecting the gorillas from poachers and deadly snares, as well as to promote awareness about the status of these unique animals.
Lake Bunyoni, a nature lover’s delight, is the deepest Crater Lake in Africa. There are a number of activities for you to enjoy at Lake Bunyoni, while you wait for your turn to go gorilla trekking. These activities include: hiking in the hills of this beautiful area, canoeing on the lake or going on a bird watching walk in this birding paradise.
Or you can experience the local culture by visiting a nearby village or church or exploring the local markets of Kabale. You could also choose to take it easy, simply relaxing on the tranquil shores of Lake Bunyoni or taking a dip in its clean waters.
After the unforgettable gorilla trekking experience and soaking up the serenity of Lake Bunyoni we return to Kampala.
Along the way we cross the Equator again, pausing to capture the must-have "one foot in each hemisphere" photo. We overnight in Uganda's largest city, Kampala, and have the option of enjoying the local nightlife.
Today you have a choice between visiting the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary or transferring to Jinja for activities.
Ngamba Island provides a haven for almost 50 orphaned chimpanzees rescued from across Uganda. Visiting this small island on Lake Victoria gives you the opportunity to get up close to these primates.
In Jinja the selection of adventure activities includes that of white water rafting at the source of the White Nile, quad biking or volunteering at a local community project. In the afternoon you can relax on the riverbanks spotting the wide variety of waterbirds found in this area.
With Uganda, the 'Pearl of Africa', behind us we return to neighbouring Kenya, pausing along the way for supplies and lunch.
Back in Kenya we sleep at a lovely campsite on a farm just outside of Nakuru, one of the country's largest towns and the capital of the Rift Valley Province. In Nakuru you have the chance to visit a local orphanage run by a missionary organization.
The town of Nakuru is located next to the compact and wildlife-rich Lake Nakuru National Park.
This morning we head into the Lake Nakuru National Park on a game drive. This Kenyan game park is famous for the lesser and greater flamingos that flock to the edge of its soda lake. The size of the flamingo flocks at Nakuru vary, but when conditions are right the lake appears almost pink as a result of the flamingo flocks.
We spend the day looking for the frequently sighted black and white rhino. The Nakuru Park was established as a sanctuary for the resident rhino species. We also search for the more elusive leopard, seeing giraffe, buffalo, antelope species and sometimes hippos too.
After our game drive in Lake Nakuru National Park, we return to our campsite in the late afternoon.
On day 13 of our Gorillas, Masai Mara & Zanzibar Overland Camping Safari we travel to the highest of the Rift Valley lakes, Lake Naivasha, at 1880 m above sea level. Lake Naivasha is home to a multitude of birds, among them the African Fish Eagle with its regal cry.
Today we participate in optional activities near Lake Naivasha, such as visiting Elsamere (former home to Joy and George Adamson of Born Free fame), taking a boat ride to the Crescent Island Game Sanctuary, or a bike ride around Hell’s Gate National Park.
On day 14 of this epic African Safari Adventure we enjoy breakfast and return to the camp in Nairobi, arriving in the capital of Kenya by the early afternoon.
We bid farewell to the friends and travel companions ending their budget safari trip in Nairobi and make our way to our overnight camp.
This morning we collect any new passengers joining the Gorillas, Masai Mara & Zanzibar Overland Camping Safari. Departing from Nairobi we travel south, crossing into Tanzania at Namanga border post.
We stay at a lovely campsite in Meserani on the outskirts of Arusha for the night. Tomorrow you have the option of embarking on our memorable Serengeti Park and Ngorongoro Crater trip. This game viewing trip is run in locally operated 4x4 safari vehicles that have been adapted for game drives.
Explore the thriving town of Arusha in the morning if you like - browse the vibrant craft markets, go shopping or stop in at the art gallery near our camp to see the brightly coloured Tinga Tinga paintings typical of Tanzania. Visit the interesting Masai Cultural Museum to learn about these tribal people and tour the Meserani Snake Park to see the snakes and other reptiles up close.
Heading back to our base camp at Meserani we have lunch and prepare for our departure, for those participating in the optional Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park Trip. If you choose not to visit the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater there are various alternative activities available in Arusha, such as village tours and day trips to Lake Manyara and Tarangire Park.
This afternoon our optional Ngorongoro & Serengeti Trip takes us to Karatu via the Maasai town of Mtu Wa Mbu, located next to Lake Manyara National Park. We journey up the Great Rift Valley Escarpment to Karatu in the Crater Highlands, with spectacular views over the pretty hills and farms.
We stay at lovely campsite in Karatu overnight, departing early the following morning for the Ngorongoro Crater.
Driving to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area we head into the diverse habitats of the Ngorongoro Crater, teeming with wildlife. This crater is a World Heritage Site boasting one of the highest wildlife concentrations in Africa, which makes for some of best game viewing. Ngorongoro Crater game viewing opportunities include high concentrations of various wildlife species, from black rhinos to lions and wildebeest.
We explore the Crater floor on a game drive before ascending out of the crater and down the crater rim, passing the 'Cradle of Mankind' en route to the Serengeti National Park. We cross the open African plains on our game drive through the southern and central areas of the vast Serengeti Park. Then we camp in the heart of the untamed bushveld, in an unfenced area, surrounded by the sounds of Africa's wildlife at night.
In the morning we take an exhilarating game drive in Serengeti Park, admiring the surrounding landscape as we search for game in the area. The famous Big Five of Africa (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard) are often sighted on our Serengeti game drives.
Along with Masai Mara, Serengeti hosts the Great Migration - an unforgettable wildlife phenomenon! The endless plains dotted with acacia trees are the scenes that movies of wild Africa have been made of, presenting perfect photo opportunities.
After the rewarding morning game drive, we retrace our steps, crossing the vast plains and skirting the rim of lush Ngorongoro Crater. Back in Tanzania's Arusha we spend the evening recounting our thrilling tales of the wildlife encounters experienced on the plains of Serengeti and in the Ngorongoro Crater.
The Gorillas, Masai Mara & Zanzibar Overland Camping Safari takes us into Arusha this morning to top up on supplies before driving south towards Dar es Salaam, on the coast of Tanzania.
We travel through Moshi, a small town at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro – Africa’s highest mountain. Moshi serves as the base for climbing expeditions up Mount Kilimanjaro and passing by we may catch sight of the towering peak, another fantastic photo opportunity!
Driving through expansive sisal plantations flanked by the Usambara and Pare Mountain ranges we continue south to our pleasant overnight campsite tucked away in the mountains, halfway between Arusha and Dar es Salaam.
Travelling via lush countryside landscapes and groves of palm trees, we reach our next safari destination, Dar es Salaam.
The pace of our drive to the warm Indian Ocean slows as we enter the outskirts of busy Dar es Salaam, taking in the interesting sights and sounds of Dar’s vibrant outer suburbs as we go. Keep an eye out for the brightly coloured shop-fronts decorated with humorous names and slogans.
Arriving in Dar es Salaam on the east coast of Africa we head to our nice seaside campsite and have time to prepare for our optional trip to Zanzibar Island the following morning.
On day 21 we travel to Zanzibar on our optional island excursion. From Dar es Salaam we take a ferry across to the Spice Island, where we spend the next three nights.
Zanzibar has a colourful past, as one of the major departure points for most of the explorations into new territories of East Africa, in times gone by. The island was an important link in the old trade route between east and west.
New passengers may join us on our Zanzibar Trip, while some travel companions might opt to end their tour of Africa back in Dar es Salaam.
Accommodation and meal costs are for your own account in Zanzibar, allowing for flexibility and self-guided exploration on the island. Zanzibar Island hosts a wide selection of restaurants offering a variety of tasty meals. Your trip leader joins you and can help with arranging accommodation in Zanzibar.
For travellers choosing not to visit the island of Zanzibar, the next 3 days are spent at the beach campsite in Dar es Salaam. There are various optional activities available from the camp including diving, snorkelling and fishing trips. The driver and cook stay behind in Dar es Salaam during the Zanzibar Trip, off the coast of Tanzania.
Zanzibar Island has a great range of activities to offer visitors, from historical sightseeing to exciting water activities. Zanzibar is one of Africa's top beach destinations, featuring picture-perfect tropical beaches lapped by azure waters.
Explore one of the spice plantations, a colourful experience on Zanzibar, which is famous for its exotic spices. The quaint streets of the old Stone Town of Zanzibar reveal traces of the local Arabic history, from Medina-style shops to the impressive palaces that once belonged to powerful Sultans.
Other interesting activities on Zanzibar Island include a day trip to the pristine beaches of Prison Island, to see its giant tortoises. A full day of scuba diving in Nungwe is well worth it, as is the experience of fishing in a traditional sailing dhow.
There are a variety of restaurants offering a fantastic array of fresh seafood straight from the ocean, with crayfish being a popular specialty. You can mingle with the locals at the seafront market of Forodhani Gardens in Stone Town, where tasty seafood can be bought at good prices.
Departing from the tropical Zanzibar Island in the afternoon our idyllic beach trip comes to a close. We return to the shores of Tanzania by the early evening feeling rejuvenated, sun-kissed and relaxed.
We catch up with fellow travellers at our safari camp in Dar es Salaam, bringing this Gorillas, Masai Mara & Zanzibar Overland Camping Safari to a close.
If you prefer fixed accommodation to camping there is an accommodation upgrade available for this tour. Please see the Full Pricing information above for details.
This Budget African Camping Safari starts in Nairobi, Kenya and travels south through Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, before ending in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Gorillas, Masai Mara & Zanzibar Overland Camping Safari departs from Nairobi in Kenya early on Sunday mornings. Should you wish to explore Nairobi, an earlier arrival is recommended. Accommodation can be booked through African Budget Safaris.
This itinerary should be used as a guide only and may vary from day to day depending on road & weather conditions, political situations and group decisions. All prices & Local Payments are subject to change. Due to Tourism Laws in some of the countries we visit, there may be a truck and crew change during the safari trip.
For booking purposes please notify African Budget Safaris as soon as possible should you choose not to go Mountain Gorilla Trekking.
For up-to-date and confirmed pricing info for optional items, please drop us an enquiry.
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