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Spend 42 days travelling through the iconic vistas of East Africa on a Lonely Planet Experience, powered by Intrepid Travel. Seek out the rare mountain gorilla in Rwanda's steamy jungle, enjoy thrill-packed safaris through lush forest and open savanna and finish in Victoria Falls. Be welcomed into small villages in Tanzania and Malawi, relax on sandy beaches in Zanzibar and track the Big Five in the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. This overland adventure is a mix of locally-guided excursions and free time to follow your heart (and your Lonely Planet app) to the stuff you want to see.
Day 1: Nairobi
Jambo! Welcome to Kenya. Your Lonely Planet Experience, powered by Intrepid, begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, but if you arrive early, why not head out and soak up the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Nairobi. There are plenty of good bars and restaurants, and markets and shops for essentials as well as arts and crafts from the region. After the welcome meeting, perhaps join your new travel companions for an optional group dinner.
Day 2: Lake Nakuru National Park
Take in spectacular views of the Rift Valley, Lake Naivasha and Elementaita on the drive north-west to Lake Nakuru National Park, situated in the heart of the Great Rift Valley. The drive will take approximately 3–4 hours and you’ll arrive in time for a short evening game drive along the shore of the lake. Lake Nakuru National Park is a small and compact area based around a lake that makes a great location for spotting wildlife. Along with the other members of the Big Five, Lake Nakuru harbours many rhinos and will be the best chance to get a great picture of these magnificent beasts.
Day 3: Eldoret
Rise early this morning for tea or coffee before going back into the park for a morning game drive. Return to camp for brunch before driving north-west to Eldoret, one of Kenya's fastest growing towns (approximately 5-6 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. Tonight, enjoy a traditional dinner at your campsite located just outside of Eldoret town.
Day 4: Kampala
Today you will leave Kenya behind and cross the border into landlocked Uganda, travelling on to its capital city, Kampala (approximately 10 hours, though it could take longer depending on border crossings). With a population of over 30 million, Uganda is a country of great cultural diversity and is one of the five countries that make up the East African Community. As today is a long travel day, take a break from setting up camp with a stay at a hotel. Shake off the long journey with the option to eat in Kampala town and experience this dynamic city.
Day 5: Kalinzu Forest
Travel to Kalinzu Forest National Park (approximately 9 hours). Some of its inhabitants include chimpanzees, black and white colobuses, baboons, red-tailed monkeys, both blue and red duikers, bushbucks, waterbucks, giant forest hogs, buffalo and elephants. On arrival, settle into your camp and perhaps stretch your legs and explore your surrounds with the rest of the group.
Day 6: Queen Elizabeth National Park
Take the optional excursion of visiting the chimpanzees of Kalinzu Forest this morning or enjoy the sounds of the forest from the comfort of your tent. 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. Later, take the short drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Once camp is set up 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 a healthy population of hippos.
Day 7: Kisoro
Today, drive out of the Queen Elizabeth National Park on your way to the southwest tip of Uganda (approximately 7-hour drive). On this short game drive, cross your fingers and look out for elephants, buffalo, Ugandan kobs and waterbucks. When you arrive at the corner of Uganda, where the border touches Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, you’ll be based in Kisoro, which provides access to seven different gorilla groups located in Mgahinga, Nkuringo, Rushaga and Nshongi.
Day 8: Gorilla Trek
Joined by a local guide and trackers, climb through the rugged mountain terrain of Bwindi National Park to encounter rare gorillas. No more than eight people per day can visit any one habituated family and visits are strictly controlled to minimise disturbance or the chances of 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 quite 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 four hours – up and down hills. 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.
Day 9: Gorilla Trek
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 Kisoro. You can head out on more rainforest hikes to see monkeys, take some nature walks, join a hike up Mt Sabinyo – one of five volcanoes located in the Parc National des Volcans – or perhaps make a visit to the Batwa community, indigenous to the Great Lakes Region and found throughout Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and the eastern region of the Congo.
Day 10: Mbarara
Farewell the lands of the gorilla and turn back towards the capital, Kampala. You’ll break up the journey at the pit-stop town of Mbarara for the night (approximately 5–6 hours driving). We’ll be honest – there’s not a great deal to do here, however it’s a great opportunity to spend the afternoon and evening relaxing at the camp, or even to have a leisurely look around the town.
Day 11: Jinja
Today you'll continue your journey inland, travelling towards Jinja (approximately 7 hrs). The Jinja region 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. Tonight, camp at a scenic riverside site and enjoy a good night’s rest ready for tomorrow's adventures.
Day 12: Jinja
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. You’ll enjoy two days here at your own pace, with a bunch of optional activities to choose from (at extra cost) if you want. Maybe get active with some whitewater rafting or kayaking. Alternatively take a boat cruise to the source of the Nile or to enjoy the river and quench a thirst.
Day 13: Kericho
Farewell Uganda and begin the journey back to Kenya and Nairobi, stopping overnight at the town of Kericho (approximately 9 hours, including border crossings). Kericho sits at the edge of South-Western Mau National Reserve and is known for its vast tea estates. On arrival, visit a tea plantation and sample a delicious brew or two.
Day 14: Masai Mara National Reserve
This morning, drive to the famous Masai Mara National Park (approximately 7 hours). The Masai Mara is the quintessential African experience, with sparse open plains, dramatic skies and the world's most iconic animals living within its boundaries. Explore this diverse environment and view a multitude of wildlife on an evening 4WD game drive.
Day 15: Masai Mara National Reserve
Venture into the Masai Mara National Reserve for a day-long 4WD game drive. You'll explore this diverse environment and most likely see a multitude of wildlife. An optional balloon ride over the Mara at sunrise is an unforgettable experience. If you have pre-booked this activity you will be picked up before dawn and driven to the launch site for a safety briefing from your pilot. You’ll then glide through the dawn skies, sometimes at tree height, which provides amazing photo opportunities. Sometimes you will ascend, getting an overview of the enormity of the plains and of the early morning movements of the teeming herds. After landing, you'll be treated to a bush breakfast before returning to your campsite.
Day 16: Nairobi
Say goodbye to the open expanses of the African bush and return to the bustling metropolis of Nairobi (approximately 5–6 hours). Pass by the remote region of Loita Hills, home of the Maasai people, known for their vibrant red dress and elaborate jewellery. This is one of a few places where the Maasai still practice a fairly traditional way of life. Stop in at Tepesua Village, which is known for championing Maasai women’s health and education. You’ll be welcomed by Maasai Warriors by way of traditional song and dance. Meet your hosts and enjoy a chat about this remarkable and ancient culture. Take a walk to a community village where widows are welcomed and offered support, safety and economic freedom through the ‘Tepesua Widows Income Project’. Continue to Nairobi and arrive in the afternoon. As this is a combination trip, some of your group may depart today and new travellers may arrive for the next leg of your journey. You can meet the new folks during a welcome meeting this evening.
Day 17: Mto wa Mbu
Depart early for Mto wa Mbu in your overland truck (approximately 10 hours). The trip includes a border crossing from Kenya into Tanzania, so be sure to have your passport handy. While you're on the road, there will be a stop at an ATM and a market or shop to stock up on any supplies you might need for the coming days. Arrive in Mto wa Mbu and acquaint yourself with this delightful small village – it's a fascinating snapshot of small-town African life, situated well off the tourist trail.
Day 18: Ngorongoro Crater / Serengeti National Park
Get up early, put your camping and personal gear into a six-person jeep and head out for an excursion into the Serengeti via the Ngorongoro Crater. Enjoy a safari in the crater, spending 3–4 hours exploring this incredible, perfectly intact volcanic caldera. Watch for black rhinos, lions, leopards, elephants, impalas, zebras and hippos. The crater floor offers excellent game viewing all year round (some 30,000 animals live here) and the photo opportunities are unrivalled. Next, it's on to the wide-open plains of the Serengeti. Green after the rains, brown and burnt in the dry season, this is perhaps the quintessential image of Africa – the home of thousands of hoofed animals and fierce predators. Your campsite is within the Serengeti itself, so listen out for the sounds of nocturnal animals as you drift off to sleep.
Day 19: Serengeti National Park
Awake at dawn and embark on a game drive. You will head out while the animals are at their most active, then head back to camp for brunch at around 11 am. After spending the middle of the day relaxing, just like the animals do, head out again as the day begins to cool. You'll return from this second game drive in time for dinner. There's also the option of a balloon ride over the park this morning – in place of some of today’s game drives. If you have pre-booked this activity, you will be picked up before dawn and driven to the launch site. After a safety briefing, glide through the dawn, sometimes at tree height, getting some amazing photo opportunities. Sometimes you will ascend, getting an overview of the enormity of the plains and the early morning movements of the teeming herds. After landing, indulge in a five-star bush breakfast, then be returned to camp.
Day 20: Serengeti National Park / Mto wa Mbu
Rise with the sun and enjoy another game drive as you leave the Serengeti in your dust. Jump back into your overland vehicle and head for Mto wa Mbu. Once camp is set up, join the local community for a guided stroll around the farming areas, milling machine, and local homes and farmlands, before a local meal in town.
Day 21: Usambara Mountains
Prepare yourself for a long travel day heading for the Usambara Mountains (approximately 10 hours). Stretch your legs during a brief supply stop in Arusha, then jump back in the vehicle and watch the ever-changing scenery, read your favourite book or get to really know your fellow travellers. Your base will be Lushoto – an old German colony and home to the Wasambaa people. This highland town sits at approximately 1400 metres and this evening you'll camp in the grounds of one of the oldest hotels in Africa.
Day 22: Usambara Mountains
Explore the beautiful Usambara Mountains today – a lovely unspoilt area of Tanzania. Unlike the coast and the north, very few tourists visit this part of the country, so it has a freshness that can be hard to find elsewhere. As beautiful as the surrounding mountains and rainforests are, however, the real jewels here are the local people and villages. You'll experience some hospitality on a visit to some of the small local communities. From your base, you will take a walk out to the gorgeous Irente viewpoint. It's best to pack some water and snacks in a day pack for this trip. On your way back, visit a local cultural project based at an Irente farm and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Day 23: Dar es Salaam
Leaving the mountains behind, travel further south to the coastal town of Kipepeo Beach in Dar es Salaam (380 km, approximately 8–9 hours). Your camp at Kipepeo is by the beach, so make the most of it – perhaps take a stroll along the shore after you arrive and settle in.
Day 24: Stone Town
Catch a ferry to Zanzibar and check into tonight’s accommodation in Zanzibar City’s Old Quarter – Stone Town. There will be an important meeting tonight where you can introduce yourself to any new folks joining your adventure and your new leader for the next part of your tour. Aside from that, your day is free! The best way to explore Stone Town is on foot. After settling in, maybe set out and have a wander through the narrow alleyways and past the market stalls, ornate doorways and stores overflowing with the city’s famous carved frames. Later, maybe head to a waterfront bar for a drink with an incredible view and a seafood curry – a must-try local specialty.
Day 25: Zanzibar Northern Beaches
Once checked out of your Stone Town accommodation, consider booking in to an optional guided tour of the island's spice plantations, learning all about the history of this town's spice trade. You will have the opportunity to smell and taste various spices, such as cinnamon, vanilla and ginger, plus sample some teas made with these spices too. After lunch, head to the Northern Beaches, where white sands and sparkling blue seas await. This is the Indian Ocean at its best.
Day 26: Zanzibar Northern Beaches
Enjoy free time in this beautiful archipelago today. There are many ways you can spend your day – perhaps talk to your leader for any recommendations they might have. Snorkelling in search of exotic fish is an excellent option, or you could take a traditional dhow boat on the water. You might also like to feast on a sumptuous lunch of grilled local seafood, or just relax in a hammock underneath a coconut tree with a good book. It's totally up to you!
Day 27: Stone Town
Enjoy a luxurious sleep in and maybe one last dip in the warm waters of the northern beaches. Head back to Stone Town for a chill afternoon of free time. Maybe grab an octopus curry or biryani for dinner with your crew. There’s long day of driving ahead tomorrow, so rest up while you can!
Day 28: Mikumi National Park
Embrace an early start to catch a 7.30 am ferry to the mainland, then make tracks for Mikumi. It’s approximately an 8-hour drive to your first camp spot, but you’ll get a great look at all that renowned Tanzanian landscape on the way. Gaze out at vast plains dotted with baobab and tamarind trees and maybe catch a glimpse of some of the elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, lions and leopards that call the park home. Once you arrive at your camp spot, your leader will show you the ropes (literally) and help you set up and get comfortable for your night in the tent.
Day 29: Iringa
This morning there is a chance to wake up early to enjoy an optional 4WD game drive into Mikumi National Park. Then drive to Iringa (approximately 5 hours). You will set up camp on the grounds of a farmhouse on the outskirts of this pleasant settlement. The area is filled with natural bush land which can make it a bird watchers paradise. Maybe make the most of this rural setting by doing some stargazing before you retire for the night.
Day 30: Chitimba
Enter Malawi and travel to your campsite at Chitimba (approximately 10–12 hours). Malawi, the ‘warm heart of Africa,’ is dominated by its lake, which covers almost a fifth of the country and provides a livelihood for many Malawian people. Fishermen, fish traders and canoe and net makers all ply their trade on Lake Malawi. A common sight is that of a fisherman in a bwato (a dugout canoe made from a hollowed tree trunk) fishing on the still lake at the break of day.
Day 31: Lake Malawi
Travel from Chitimba to Kande Beach on the shore of Lake Malawi (approximately 6 hours). There will be a chance to stop at a shop or market for any supplies you might need along the way. Enjoy a relaxing getaway from the commercialism and crowds with a few days on the lake’s more peaceful beaches. Your campsite at Kande Beach is right on the shore of Lake Malawi.
Day 32: Lake Malawi
Enjoy free time to soak up your idyllic surrounds. You might like to participate in one of the many water-based activities on offer, like snorkelling or pedal boating. Ask your leader for their recommendations. As well as chilling out on the lake’s sandy shores, make sure you take the opportunity to meet some local Malawians – easily some of the friendliest people in Africa.
Day 33: South Luangwa National Park
Journey through southern Malawi and enter Zambia, continuing to South Luangwa National Park (approximately 9–10 hours). There will be border crossing formalities on the way, and a chance to stock up on goods at a shop or market and visit an ATM. The concentration of animals around the Luangwa River and its lagoons is some of the highest in Africa. Take in the beautiful scenery and the abundance of wildlife, watching out for colourful birds and herds of elephants.
Day 34: South Luangwa National Park
Rise early for an exhilarating morning game drive in a 4WD, then head back to the camp for lunch (as this is the hottest part of the day). If the conditions are right, perhaps return to the park for an optional game drive at night. A village walk is another good option, if you'd like a snapshot of daily life in the local community.
Day 35: Petauke
After breakfast, take a visit to a workshop where local craftswomen make all the jewellery by hand using natural materials from the South Luangwa valley. The project is set primarily to empower women and raise awareness against poaching. Then head further south to Petauke (approximately 6 hours).
Day 36: Lusaka
Head for your camp just south of Lusaka City (approximately 6 hours). Arrive, stretch your legs and take a stroll to discover the town. Though it's fast developing, Lusaka retains a strong African feel, and the locals are usually up for a chat.
Day 37: Harare
Travel to Harare today (approximately 8–9 hours). The first part of your journey takes you to the border with Zimbabwe. After crossing, continue to Harare. There will be a chance to explore the town, stock up on whatever you need at a market or shop and use an ATM.
Day 38: Great Zimbabwe Ruins / Masvingo
Drive to Masvingo (approximately 5–6 hours). This colonial settlement – the oldest in Zimbabwe – makes the perfect base for exploring the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. The ancient city, now a World Heritage site, was first constructed in the 11th century and is believed to have been the seat of power for a monarch. Spend a few hours exploring this intriguing site before heading off to camp.
Day 39: Bulawayo
Travel to Bulawayo (approximately 5–6 hours). Known locally as the 'City of Kings', Bulawayo is Zimbabwe's second largest city. There is some impeccable colonial architecture to take in here. Enjoy free time this afternoon to explore town. You might like to browse some local markets or chat with the locals. The Natural History Museum and National Art Gallery are also worth checking out.
Day 40: Bulawayo
Perhaps get up early and take the option to visit Matobo National Park. Home to a significant population of black and white rhinos, this optional activity gives you the unique experience to track these magnificent animals on foot. There will also be the chance to spot other game – klipspringers, leopards, warthogs and springhares, among others – while learning about local plant and tree species. This impressive wildlife park is also the site of the grave of Cecil John Rhodes – the founder of Rhodesia and the De Beers diamond company. The Matopos area has great spiritual and cultural significance to local San communities, and there are many sites within the park where important ceremonies still take place. Take a short hike to see San paintings and learn about local history and culture.
Day 41: Victoria Falls
Depart Bulawayo and make the 6-hour drive towards Victoria Falls. Stretching 1.6 kilometres wide and falling 108 metres into a narrow gorge below, the falls for which the area is named are a sight to behold. Although a visit to the falls themselves is optional, it is highly recommended. The entrance fee to the falls is not included, as groups that book ahead are required to tour the site with a local guide, and we feel that seeing these waterfalls should be an uninterrupted sensory experience. In the wet season, the spray created from this feat of nature can rise 400 metres and can often be seen from kilometres away. It’s no wonder that the local name for Victoria Falls is Mosi oa Tunya, or the 'Smoke that Thunders'. Though dry season travellers should not despair! You’ll get an unobstructed view of the falls and the chance to see the islets in the river below. Your leader will take you to a local activity centre where a range of activities will be on offer.
Day 42: Victoria Falls
With no activities planned for today, you are free to leave the camp at any time. That being said, you may like to try some of the optional activities on offer here, and so, we recommend that you schedule any flights for later in the day. If you would like to spend more time in Victoria Falls, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).
- Lake Nakuru - Overland Vehicle Game Drive
- Lake Nakuru - Morning Overland Vehicle Game Drive
- Queen Elizabeth National Park - Overland Vehicle Game Drive
- Bwindi National Park - Mountain Gorilla Permit & Trek
- Kericho - Tea plantation visit
- Masai Mara - 4x4 Game Drive
- Masai Mara National Reserve - Full Day 4x4 Game Drive
- Loita Hills - Maasai Village Visit
- Ngorongoro Crater - 4x4 Game Drive
- Serengeti National Park - 4x4 Game Drive
- Serengeti National Park - 4x4 Game Drive
- Serengeti National Park - 4x4 Game Drive
- Mto Wa Mbu - Village walk & local dinner
- Irente - Lushoto hike & local lunch
- South Luangwa National Park - 4x4 Dawn Game Drive
- Petauke - Jewellery workshop project
- Masvingo - Great Zimbabwe Ruins guided visit
41 Breakfast(s) Included
29 Lunch(es) Included
33 Dinner(s) Included
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Question: Is Airfare Included in the Price?
The trip was both both educational and exciting. I very much enjoyed the sights and culture.
The itinerary was just as I expected! The guide was very good as were the accomodations
Intrepid did such a great job. I never had to worry about where I was supposed to be and it felt so good not to worry about a thing but just to enjoy myself. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about culture and history.
Taiwan people very friendly. Accommodation were centrally located and easily accessible. Did extra activities then in brochure which was greatly.
Larus our tour guide did an excellent job and was very attentive to our needs. He is very knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor.
Our guide Tarang chandola was exceptional. Courteous, knowledgeable, organized, polite, professional and went above and beyond taking care of our needs and requests offen anticipating what that might be. He made sure we all had the best possible time and offered suggestions to meet the needs of everyone on the tour. This made the trip even more enjoyable.
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