- Encounter Africa’s natural wonders while gorilla trekking in the jungles of Rwanda, hiking among lemurs in Madagascar, spotting wildlife on safari in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and exploring spectacular Table Mountain in Cape Town.
- Delve into the rich heritage of the pharaohs amid the tombs of Luxor, Egypt, and visit the haunting sites of Senegal’s Gorée Island, a notorious hub of the slave trade.
- Trace sacred traditions amid the subterranean churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia and the voodoo villages of Benin, and delve into rich artistic traditions in Marrakech and Dakar.
Experience the astonishing diversity of Africa on an expedition by private jet that will bring us from Egypt’s temples to spectacular Cape Town and from the wildlife-rich isle of Madagascar to the timeless medinas of Marrakech. Come face to face with history in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, at Nelson Mandela’s island prison, and on Senegal’s Gorée Island. Delve into rich and ancient cultures in the sacred sites of Ethiopia and Benin. As we follow the continent’s contour through nine countries, get a close-up view of iconic wildlife, venture to tropical islands and desert dunes, and meet artists and entrepreneurs defining contemporary culture across Africa.
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.
Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square
After breakfast, transfer to the airport and fly by private jet to Luxor, Egypt, situated on the east bank of the legendary Nile River. Settle into our hotel before a visit to the astonishing temple of Karnak, the largest ancient religious site in the world. Stroll through the enormous etched columns of the Great Hypostyle Hall and learn how generations of pharaohs and queens made their mark on this site, described by the ancient Egyptians as “the most perfect of places.” Spend the next morning in the Valley of the Kings, where we’ll visit the tombs of divine pharaohs, including Tutankhamun and Seti I. Learn about National Geographic’s recent survey of Tutankhamun’s tomb to determine if secret chambers lie behind its walls. Then admire the exquisite carved murals in the tomb of Nefertari, which tell the story of her extraordinary life. Time permitting, stop at the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the longest reigning female pharaoh and one of history’s great leaders.
Our next flight brings us to the bustling capital city of Addis Ababa. Split by the Great Rift Valley and rippling with endless mountains, Ethiopia’s geography is as dramatic as its history and culture. Considered the cradle of our earliest known ancestors, Ethiopia was a hub for some of the first Christians, Muslims, and Jews, and a last frontier for some of Africa’s timeless tribal traditions. Get acquainted with Ethiopia’s fascinating past, diverse cultural heritage, and natural history on a visit to Unity Park, set on the grounds of the National Palace. Meander the botanical gardens, see indigenous wildlife, and learn about the country’s many ethnicities. Enjoy a traditional Ethiopian feast accompanied by music and dancing this evening.
The next day, fly by local aircraft to the World Heritage site of Lalibela, a place of devotion for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world. In the 12th century, King Lalibela sought to support the powerful Ethiopian Orthodox Church by building a sacred place for those who could not make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This “New Jerusalem,” composed of 11 subterranean churches carved out of bedrock, has drawn Christian pilgrims for centuries. Descend into intricate passageways to investigate this marvel of architecture, engineering, and art, where believers still come to worship daily. Return to Addis Ababa in the early evening.
*We are closely monitoring the current situation in Ethiopia. If travel to Ethiopia cannot move forward, we will visit Zanzibar instead.
Sheraton Addis Ababa
Fly by private jet to Rwanda, home to many of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas. Head into the mountains to encounter these fabled creatures, or remain in Kigali and immerse yourself in the riveting story of Rwanda’s people.
If you choose to see the gorillas, travel directly from the airport to Volcanoes National Park. During a full day of trekking with local rangers, 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 Explorer Dian Fossey. Alternatively, return to Kigali in the morning to visit a handicraft market and the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
Or stay in Kigali and visit the Akilah Institute, which provides higher education to women from all over Rwanda. Delve into Rwandan culture at the Ethnographic Museum and at a local handicraft center. Then spend time at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where we’ll meet survivors and hear their haunting memories—as well as inspiring stories of reconciliation.
Amakoro Songa Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Virunga Lodge, or One&Only Gorilla’s Nest (limited upgrades available); Kigali Marriott Hotel
On the island of Madagascar, an estimated 80 percent of species are endemic—including its celebrated lemurs. Fly by private jet to Nosy Be, a stunning island off the northwestern coast. Settle into bungalows nestled among tropical gardens on the coast. Ride jeeps to Lemuria Land, a nature reserve that harbors many of Madagascar’s endemic species, including lemurs, lizards, chameleons, orchids, and more. Spot these rare creatures on a guided nature walk, and end the tour at a distillery where the essential oils of the island’s prevalent ylang ylang flower are extracted.. The next morning, cruise to Lokobe Reserve for a hike in the lowland rainforests, home to black lemurs and Nosy Be panther chameleons. Or sail by catamaran to Nosy Tanikely to explore the island’s diverse flora and fauna and go snorkeling among vibrant reefs. Enjoy a festive dinner with a performance by local musicians.
Ravintsara Wellness Hotel
Fly by private jet to beautiful Cape Town, home to a vibrant mix of African, French, Dutch, and East Asian cultures, and one of the most diverse floral kingdoms on Earth. Settle into our hotel on the fashionable Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, and choose one of three options for the following day. Ride a cable car (weather permitting) to the top of Table Mountain, which rises more than 3,500 feet above the city, and hike along wooden walkways to see the mountain ablaze with endemic flora. Then journey to the Cape Peninsula, Africa’s southwestern-most point. Examine the unusual flora of Cape Peninsula National Park, and stop at Boulders Beach for a close-up look at the resident population of African penguins.
Or ride a hovercraft to Robben Island to tour the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his 27-year sentence. Back in Cape Town, learn about the injustices of apartheid at the District Six Museum, and explore the diverse cultural heritage in the Bo-Kaap neighborhood. Alternatively, spend the day visiting wine estates in Stellenbosch and the Cape Winelands. Enjoy private, sommelier-led tastings and a delicious lunch.
One&Only Cape Town
Our next flight by private jet brings us to the largest inland delta system in the world—the 5,800-square mile wetland paradise of the Okavango Delta. Touch down in Maun and fly by light aircraft to one of several intimate camps set within this network of water channels, lagoons, swamps, and islands. The lush floodplains of Botswana’s Okavango Delta attract a rich variety of wildlife, including rare species like blue wildebeest and red lechwe, as well as a high concentration of lions, cheetahs, leopards, and wild dogs.
Enjoy two full days to discover the delta’s wildlife on a variety of excursions. On day and afternoon game drives, observe the interactions of lions and buffalo, watch families of elephants frolicking at the water’s edge, spot hippos splashing among the papyrus, and see tsessebe and blue wildebeest grazing on the plains. Float through the tranquil landscape by boat or mokoro (dugout canoe). Watch for African fish eagles, malachite kingfishers, and more on a birding excursion, and set out on bush walks with seasoned guides. Learn about the work of National Geographic Explorers in the delta—filmmakers, scientists, and conservationists who have surveyed and documented this treasured ecosystem in order to help protect it.
Camp Moremi, Camp Xakanaxa, Xugana Island Lodge, Shinde Camp, or Kanana Camp
Touch down in in Benin, once home to the powerful Dahomey Empire. Delve into local culture during a musical performance that blends jazz, spiritual music, and traditional songs in the country’s native languages. Travel to Ouidah, a center of the animist Vodun, or “voodoo,” religion that is widely practiced in the region. Meet an elder to learn about animist deities and Vodun practices. Visit the Portuguese fort, once a transit point for more than a million enslaved Africans and now a museum devoted to the transatlantic slave trade and the links between Benin and the Americas. At the Python Temple, learn about the important role of snakes in the Vodun religion; then enter the Sacred Forest to see statues representing deities. Later, follow the route along which slaves were driven, from the town down to the ocean, and see the haunting “door of no return.”
Travel to the shores of Lake Nokoué and ride local boats to the village of Ganvié, built on stilts in the middle of the lake. Discover the fascinating origins of this isolated community, established as a way to keep enslavers at bay. Meet residents who make their living by fishing, and get to know the intricate workings of everyday life on the water.
Novotel Orisha Cotonou
Fly by private jet to the bustling city of Dakar, set on a triangular peninsula that juts into the Atlantic. On the way to our hotel, get an overview of this intriguing city, where new and old intermingle. See the cathedral; the colonial Presidential Palace; and the striking Mosque of the Divinity, situated just feet from the beach. The next morning, take the ferry to Gorée Island, once a notorious hub for the slave trade, and now a poignant World Heritage site. At the House of Slaves, meander through quarters where captives were held in dreadful conditions before being sent across the Atlantic. Visit Fort Estrées, a circular fortress built by the French in the mid-1800s and now home to a museum.
After lunch back in Dakar, browse an excellent collection of West African art at the IFAN Museum, and visit the Village des Arts to meet local painters and sculptors in their studios. Or travel just outside of the city to walk desert sand dunes and see the unusual Lake Retba, known as the “pink lake” for the tiny algae that turns the water various shades of coral and rose. Stop by a Peul (Fulani), village to learn about this vibrant pastoralist culture that traditionally herds cattle across the Sahel.
Radisson Blu Dakar
Our final stop is Morocco’s legendary “pearl of the South,” the fabled city of Marrakech. Take a morning stroll in the lovely Majorelle Garden, designed by Yves Saint Laurent to showcase exotic plant species from around the world. Get acquainted with the rich traditions of Morocco’s Amazigh (Berber) culture in the small museum on the grounds. Then head into the heart of the old city to examine stunning architecture at the 14th-century Ben Youssef Madrasa and the splendid Koutoubia Mosque. Delve into the labyrinthine streets of the medina—a World Heritage site lined with market stalls and artisan workshops—and see craftspeople plying their trades.
Alternatively, head to the orchards and gardens outside the city for a cooking class and lunch. Or go on an excursion into the rugged Atlas Mountains to experience Amazigh (Berber) traditions while sipping mint tea in a timeless mountain village. In the afternoon, visit the exquisitely carved Bahia Palace and the Saadian Tombs, or head back into the souk to try out your bargaining skills. Later, soak up the lively atmosphere of Djemaa el Fna square, where locals gather to eat at the many food stalls, while snake charmers, magicians, acrobats, and musicians entertain passersby. Gather this evening to celebrate our adventure at a farewell dinner.
After breakfast, fly by private jet to London and transfer to our hotel. Enjoy dinner at the hotel before departing for home on commercial flights the following day.
Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square