- On a trip inspired by National Geographic-sponsored efforts to save Kenya's iconic wildlife, meet grantees working throughout the country to protect elephants, rhinos, and big cats.
- Set out on safari in three wildlife conservancies known for their high concentrations of African megafauna: Amboseli National Park, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, and Masai Mara National Reserve.
- In Nairobi, interact with orphaned elephants at the renowned David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, featured in the September 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine.
- Delve into Samburu culture during a village visit, and learn about wildlife conservation efforts carried out in partnership with local Maasai communities.
In the rolling grasslands of southern Kenya, experience a fascinating and fragile ecosystem through the eyes of people dedicated to saving it. Embark on game drives in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, and track rare species like African wild dogs and white and black rhinos through the thriving Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. In the legendary Masai Mara, observe herds of zebras and wildebeests—and the fierce predators that hunt them. Along the way, meet researchers, wildlife biologists, and conservationists who are confronting poaching and habitat loss in East Africa head-on.
Arrive at the airport in Nairobi, where our staff will be on hand to facilitate your transfer to the hotel. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.
Fly to Amboseli National Park, a conservancy of far-reaching grass and marshlands irrigated by underground runoff streams from Mount Kilimanjaro. These landscapes provide a habitat for hundreds of elephants, making the park one of the best places in Africa to spot these majestic pachyderms. Enjoy a safari en route to our sustainable safari lodge, set within view of Mount Kilimanjaro—the world’s highest freestanding peak. After lunch and time to settle into your tent, set out on an afternoon safari, on the lookout for cheetahs, lions, zebras, and other creatures scattered across the endless savanna.
Go on safari in Amboseli and learn about elephant behavior while seeking out resident herds. As we travel across the grasslands, keep an eye out for the savanna’s smaller creatures, including some of the more than 400 bird species that have been identified here—from superb starlings to grey crowned cranes. Spend an afternoon at the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, home to the longest running study of wild elephants in the world. Its director, Cynthia Moss, has received support from the National Geographic Society for her work. Meet with project researchers to hear about their time in the field observing herd dynamics and collecting biological samples.
Fly to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, 62,000 acres of golden savanna dotted with iconic umbrella thorn trees on the northern flanks of Mount Kenya. Considered a model in the conservation field, this healthy wildlife habitat is home to a number of rare species, including the reticulated giraffe, the dazzling Grevy’s zebra, and African wild dogs. Lewa and the neighboring Borana Conservancy also harbor roughly 15 percent of Kenya’s entire rhino population. Settle into your tented camp; then set out on safari to track these and countless other creatures, and cap off your day sipping sundowners on the savanna.
If you wish, rise at daybreak for a birding walk, spotting avian species flitting and fluttering amid the grasses. Lewa is home to more than 350 bird species, including beauties like the lilac-breasted roller, Hartlaub’s turaco, and the variable sunbird. Or see Lewa from a different perspective on a thrilling bushwalk. Tread in the tracks of lions, rhinos, and leopards; spot tiny members of the ecosystem; and learn to identify local flora. Later, meet with members of Lewa’s award-winning security team, whose effective patrolling of the reserve has ensured that not a single rhino has been poached in the past three years (to date). If you wish, join the team and their highly effective tracking dogs on a simulated patrol of the conservancy.
After breakfast, choose an excursion: Venture into the Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve and traverse hanging bridges strung through the canopy for a chance to spot black-and-white colobus monkeys swinging among the trees; then take a refreshing swim beneath a waterfall. Or delve into Samburu culture during a village visit, and see how traditional dwellings are constructed. This evening, enjoy another safari, followed by a festive dinner in the bush.
Take a final safari in Lewa en route to the airstrip, then fly to the legendary Masai Mara National Reserve. Settle into our stunning safari camp, located on the edge of the Soit Ololol (or Oloololo) Escarpment in a private concession that shares an unfenced border with Masai Mara—but is free of the reserve’s crowds. After lunch, get an intimate look at the area’s legendary landscapes on an open-vehicle wildlife drive.
At first light, head out on safari to track the animals that traversed the area during the night. View plains game such as Thomson's and Grant's gazelles, topi and eland antelopes—as well as their stealthy predators—at one of their most active times of the day. This area is reputed to have one of the highest concentrations of predators in all of Africa. Glimpse large pods of hippos submerged up to their nostrils in the Mara River and crocodiles sunbathing on the shore. Then set out on an evening safari along the shores of the Mara River.
This morning we meet with researchers from the Anne K. Taylor Fund, an organization that works with local Maasai communities to conserve area wildlife by reducing human-animal conflict with support from National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative. Learn about ongoing projects, like the effort to fortify bomas to prevent predators from attacking livestock, resulting in revenge poaching. Later, set off on one last safari, then toast our adventure during a farewell dinner under a starlit sky.
Return to Nairobi to meet National Geographic grantee Washington Wachira and learn about how he trains emerging conservationists through his Youth Conservation Awareness Programme. Visit the Giraffe Centre, where the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe is bred in captivity before being released into the wild. Continue to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, featured in the September 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine. The organization is the world’s most successful rescue and rehabilitation program for orphaned elephants. Enjoy the opportunity to shadow the center's caretakers and get up close to the elephants during their afternoon feeding. Later, transfer to the airport for your flight home.
- Rwanda Gorilla Tracking Extension
Post-Trip, 6 Days
Add an optional pre- or post-trip extension to Rwanda for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to encounter endangered mountain gorillas in the wild. From our base at the spectacular Virunga Lodge, track gorillas and hike to the original site of National Geographic grantee Dian Fossey's Karisoke Research Center.
Following our afternoon visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, transfer to our hotel near the airport and enjoy an evening at leisure.
Following an early morning flight to Kigali, journey into the lush hills surrounding the city on an excursion that traces Rwanda’s path from despair to hope. We visit a “reconciliation village” supported by the Millennium Villages project, a unique development approach conceived by Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the United Nations Development Project. Here, survivors and perpetrators live side by side in an effort to heal the wounds of the genocide and build a brighter future for Rwanda. Listen to the moving testimonies of both a perpetrator and a survivor, and discuss the challenges—and the promise—of former enemies living as one. Visit the village health center and the primary school, fruits of the Millennium Villages project. This afternoon, travel back to Kigali for dinner at the legendary Hotel des Mille Collines—featured in the movie 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 Parc National des Volcans.
Spend the day tracking mountain gorillas in the forested hills of Parc National des Volcans. Follow local guides through thick undergrowth and dangling vines in search of gorilla families. Once we find them, sit among these gentle giants, observing 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 mountain gorilla research for 18 years. Or strike out into the lower reaches of the park on the lookout for golden monkeys, a distinct species of primate that can often be found in thick bamboo stands. Or if you prefer, you may enjoy an optional second day of gorilla tracking in Parc National des Volcans for an additional cost. In the afternoon, head back to Kigali.
After breakfast, transfer to Kigali International Airport for your flight home, arriving the next day.