Expedition Overview

Expedition Overview

  • Encounter incredible wildlife in South Africa’s Phinda Private Game Reserve and on the shores of Botswana’s Chobe River, and go gorilla trekking in the rainforests of Rwanda.
  • Delve into Africa’s diverse cultural heritage, from medieval Fez to the Omani palaces of Zanzibar, and retrace history on visits to Ghana’s Elmina slave castle and Cape Town.
  • Take in majestic natural sites, including Victoria Falls, the Cape Peninsula, and Rwanda’s conical volcanoes.

Itinerary

Itinerary

Journey to Africa’s north, south, east, and west, visiting seven countries and encountering a dazzling spectrum of wildlife, landscapes, and cultures. Come face-to-face with gorillas, elephants, leopards, and much more on safari in wilderness areas from Botswana to Rwanda. Meet artists in the medieval lanes of Fez and the woodcarving workshops of Ghana. From a slave castle on the Gold Coast to Nelson Mandela’s island prison, explore difficult chapters in the continent’s history—and hear inspiring stories of resilience and innovation. Go flightseeing over magnificent Cape Peninsula, feel the spray of Victoria Falls, and delve into the spice plantations of Zanzibar on an expedition that celebrates Africa’s many wonders—of nature, culture, and human spirit.

Day 1: LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

Arrive in London, where you'll be met by a private driver for the transfer to your luxury hotel in the heart of the city. Later, sit down to a welcome dinner in the hotel's historic UN Ballroom, site of the 1946 United Nations General Assembly.

Meals Included:Dinner
Accommodations:Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square
Days 2-3: FEZ, MOROCCO

After breakfast, transfer to London's Luton Airport and fly by private jet to Fez. Founded in the eighth century, Fez is Morocco’s oldest imperial city and its cultural and spiritual heart. At the Dar Batha Museum, examine the city’s artistic traditions, including mosaics, ceramics, and woodcarvings. Gaze up at the mosaic-clad Blue Gate and the bronze doors of the Royal Palace. Stroll the 13th-century Jewish quarter, a picturesque neighborhood of carved wooden balconies and Moorish doorways.

The next morning, step back in time on a walking tour of the medina, the largest intact medieval city in the world. See the splendid courtyard of the University of Al-Karaouine and meet a scholar at the 14th-century Bou Inania Madrasa. Admire the exquisite fountain in Nejjarine Square; visit the shrine of Moulay Idriss II, the founder of Fez; and soak up the enchanting sounds and sights of the souk. After lunch, choose to stay in the old city and visit artisan workshops, including the Chouara Tannery. Or spend the afternoon at the ancient Roman site of Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage site set on the rolling plains near Fez. Tonight, we’ll be joined by a Sufi scholar for dinner in a traditional home and a performance of Sufi music.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Hotel Sahrai
Days 4-5: ACCRA, GHANA

Bid farewell to North Africa and fly by private jet across the Sahara to Ghana’s vibrant capital city. Thrumming with creative energy, Accra is a city both cosmopolitan and scrappy, where timeless traditions collide with the latest trends. Retrace the country’s history today at Independence Square, which marks the end of British rule in 1957; and at Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park, a monument to Ghana’s first president. In nearby Teshie, visit the fantasy coffin makers— woodworkers who craft imaginative custom-made coffins—and wander among whimsically sculpted sarcophagi in the form of everything from race cars to chili peppers.

A short morning charter flight brings us west to Takoradi, where we’ll take a scenic drive along the coast toward Elmina. Stop to visit a fishing village, and enjoy a lunch of local specialties at a beachside resort. Ghana’s shores are dotted with castles and forts built from the 15th to the 18th century, when the Dutch, Portuguese, British, and other Europeans set up trading posts on the Gold Coast. This afternoon, venture into one of them: St. George’s Castle in Elmina, a notorious “slave castle” and now part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. The oldest of the European fortifications, it was built by the Portuguese as a gold trading center in 1482 and taken over by the Dutch in the 1600s. Tour the grand European quarters and then descend to the dungeons, haunting reminders of one of history’s most barbaric chapters. Later, visit the posubans of Elmina town, elaborate shrines with sometimes quirky decorations and slogans, originally erected by the traditional Asafo warriors of the Fante people. Drive back to Accra and enjoy dinner in one of the city’s best restaurants.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City
Days 6-8: CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Fly south by private jet to Cape Town, one of Africa’s most beautiful cities. Settle into our hotel on the fashionable Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, and sit down to a dinner prepared especially for us by a renowned chef.

Weather permitting the next morning, ride a cable car to the top of Table Mountain, rising more than 3,500 feet above the city. Then split into two groups to explore the Cape Peninsula. One group will take a thrilling flight-seeing helicopter trip to the Cape of Good Hope, Africa’s southwesternmost point. Examine the unusual flora of this vast nature reserve, and ride a funicular to the lighthouse at Cape Point. In the afternoon, return to Cape Town along the dramatic Chapman’s Peak Drive—one of the world’s most spectacular drives—and stop at Boulders Beach to see the resident population of African penguins. The second group will take this drive toward the Cape of Good Hope in the morning and enjoy flightseeing by helicopter in the afternoon. After a talk by our experts, gather for dinner with Nelson Mandela's former bodyguard in the elegant, wine-producing suburb of Constantia.

The following day, choose one of two excursions: ride a hovercraft to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his 27-year prison sentence, and tour the facilities with a former prisoner. Visit the colonial Castle of Good Hope, learn about the injustices of apartheid at the District Six Museum, and explore Cape Town’s diverse cultural heritage in the Bo-Kaap neighborhood. Or spend the day in the Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl wine regions and visit wine estates for private, sommelier-led tastings and lunch with wine pairings.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:One&Only Cape Town
Days 9-10: PHINDA PRIVATE GAME RESERVE, SOUTH AFRICA

Fly by private jet to Johannesburg and continue on a charter flight to Phinda Private Game Reserve, a conservancy that harbors seven distinct habitats— from woodlands and wetlands to mountain ranges and rare dry sand forests—each home to a spectacular array of wildlife. Settle into one of the luxurious lodges set within the borders of the park, then set off with expert rangers and Zulu trackers for an open-vehicle safari far from the crowds. Your route will be determined by the wildlife you encounter, whether it’s a cheetah sprinting across the savanna, a herd of elephants frolicking at a local waterhole, or a giraffe munching on a leafy lunch amid swaying acacia trees. We’ll stop for sundowner cocktails as the sun sets, and watch for nocturnal creatures on the return trip back to the lodge.

Rise early for a safari drive at sunrise, when wildlife is actively engaged in morning routines. Seek out Africa’s famed “big five”—lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and Cape buffalo—and have your binoculars at the ready to spy some of the nearly 450 bird species found on the reserve. If we’re lucky, we may also spot Phinda’s more elusive species, such as the nyala or the black rhino. After time to relax at the lodge, we’ll venture back out into the wild for a late-afternoon safari. This evening, enjoy a special dinner in the bush, complete with entertainment from a four-piece marimba band.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve
Days 11-13: VICTORIA FALLS, ZAMBIA, AND CHOBE NATIONAL PARK, BOTSWANA

After breakfast, return to Johannesburg by charter flight and fly by private jet to Livingstone, Zambia. Here, on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Zambezi River plunges off a high escarpment, tumbling some 350 feet into a narrow chasm and creating a mile-wide veil of mist and rushing water shot through with rainbows. After checking in to our hotel, experience the mighty Zambezi River on a private cruise. Look for hippos, crocodiles, birds, and other wildlife, and watch the sunset transform the landscape. Tonight, dinner is served by lantern light on the lawn of our hotel with the roar of the falls in the distance.

Approach the falls on foot the next morning, an exhilarating close-up encounter with what the area’s indigenous people call the “smoke that thunders.” Then cross into Botswana by boat and drive to Chobe National Park, where our lodge is ideally situated on the banks of the wildlife-rich Chobe River. Relax after lunch before meeting some of the Chobe Angels, an unprecedented all-female team of safari guides that is shaking up an otherwise male-dominated industry. Head out with them to discover the wildlife of Chobe on a safari drive.

Chobe National Park is known for some of the largest elephant herds on the planet, but its namesake river draws all kinds of animals to its shores, including Cape buffalo, cheetahs, rare antelope like the oribi and the sitatunga, and more than 400 species of birds. Our lodge uses electric safari vehicles, allowing us to silently observe the myriad creatures splashing and scuffling in the shallows. Enjoy a full day on safari—on drives or wildlife cruises—and end the day with a sundowner in the wilderness. Gather under the stars for a candlelit dinner at the river’s edge.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara; Chobe Game Lodge or Royal Chundu
Days 14-15: ZANZIBAR, TANZANIA

Transfer to Livingstone and fly by private jet to Zanzibar, the famous “spice island” off the coast of Tanzania. Threads of Arabian and Indian influence are woven into the Swahili culture here, thanks to a long history as an Indian Ocean trading hub, and the architecture of Stone Town reflects this intriguing blend.

Enjoy your choice of two excursions the following day. Examine the eclectic cultural heritage of Zanzibar on a walking tour of Stone Town to discover Omani-style archways and elegant mosques, and ancient houses with intricately carved wooden doors. Visit the Old Fort, built by the Omanis in the 17th century; and see the House of Wonders, a sultan’s palace that dazzled locals with its running water and electricity when it was built in the late 1800s. Browse piles of spices, fish, and exotic fruit at the lively Darajani Market, and then head to a spice plantation after lunch. Follow local farmers into the plantation where cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper trees grow; and sample tropical fruits like custard apple, star fruit, and rambutan. Stop in the Jozani Forest, part of Zanzibar’s only national park, for a chance to see Zanzibar red colobus monkeys, a rare species indigenous to the islands.

Alternatively, embark on a snorkeling excursion on the Nyange Reef. Sail a traditional dhow boat a half hour to the reef and discover a variety of corals and marine species—from frogfish and sea turtles to shrimp and surgeonfish. Dry off for a picnic lunch in the shade.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Park Hyatt Zanzibar
Days 16-18: KIGALI AND VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, RWANDA

Fly by private jet to Rwanda, home to many of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas. Spend your time here tracking these fabled creatures, or remain in Kigali and immerse yourself in the riveting story of Rwanda’s people.

Those who choose to see the gorillas will transfer directly to Volcanoes National Park. During a full day of trekking with local guides, learn about conservation efforts that have brought gorillas back from the edge of extinction. Experience the thrill of sitting among a group of gorillas, observing their fascinating social dynamics up close. On our final day, search for endangered golden monkeys with a biologist, and attend a talk by a researcher at the Karisoke Research Center, founded by National Geographic Grantee Dian Fossey. After lunch, return to Kigali. Or, return to Kigali in the morning and meet a survivor at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in the afternoon.

Those who choose to stay in Kigali will visit the Akilah Institute, which provides higher education to women from all over Rwanda, and soar over volcanic peaks during a helicopter flight-seeing excursion the following day. Then visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial to meet survivors and hear their haunting memories—as well as inspiring stories of reconciliation. Tonight, toast our grand African adventure at a festive farewell dinner

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Amakoro Songa Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, or Virunga Lodge; Kigali Marriott Hotel
Days 19-20: ROME, ITALY

After breakfast, fly by private jet to Rome and transfer to our hotel, overlooking the Pantheon in the heart of the city. Enjoy dinner at the hotel before departing for home on commercial flights the following day.

Meals Included:Day 19 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) | Day 20 (Breakfast)
Accommodations:Hotel de Russie