Expedition Overview

Expedition Overview

  • Venture into the misty hills of Rwanda on the trail of mountain gorillas, which Dian Fossey famously studied with support from National Geographic.
  • Track the elusive Bengal tiger in India’s Ranthambore National Park, and look for elephants and leopards in two magnificent wildlife reserves on the island of Sri Lanka.
  • Experience the dazzling marine world of the Maldives, spot lemurs in the rainforests of Madagascar, and observe endangered orangutans in Borneo.
  • Set out on safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park from your base at one of the secluded bush camps of Mfuwe Lodge—a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.

Itinerary

Itinerary

From long-limbed orangutans to mysterious Bengal tigers, wide-eyed lemurs to mighty silverback gorillas, the planet is full of rare and unusual creatures that National Geographic has photographed and studied for decades. On this extraordinary journey by private jet, travel with a team of inspiring National Geographic Experts to biodiversity hotspots across Asia and Africa. Venture into rainforests, climb up mountains, and dive into turquoise seas in search of some of the world’s most iconic animals; and gain insights from local communities, naturalists, and scientists on the critical work being done to protect them.

Days 1-2: SINGAPORE

Arrive on your own in Singapore, a thriving island city-state located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula. Join your National Geographic Experts and fellow travelers for a welcome reception and dinner tonight. The following day, we’ll visit the famed Singapore Zoo—home to a successful orangutan breeding program—and take a tour of the breathtaking Gardens by the Bay. This evening, opt to experience a night safari in the world’s first nocturnal zoo.

Meals Included:Day 1 (Dinner) | Day 2 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Accommodations:The Fullerton Bay Hotel
Days 3-5: BORNEO, MALAYSIA

Fly by private jet to Borneo, the third largest island in the world, renowned for its natural beauty and biodiversity. Arrive in Sandakan on Borneo’s northeastern coast and drive to the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, encompassing more than 10,000 acres—much of which is virgin rainforest—and harboring an array of rare animals. Here, we’ll visit the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre—located just outside the boundary of the reserve—to meet rescued Malayan sun bears, the smallest bear species in the world. We’ll also encounter orangutans at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, where orangutans rescued from captivity are reintroduced to the wild. Enjoy a special opportunity to observe these charismatic great apes—among the planet’s most critically endangered creatures and only found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

The following morning, continue to either the Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort or Sukau Rainforest Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World. We’ll spend two nights nestled in the heart of the lush Kinabatangan River basin. Explore dense jungle waterways by boat with naturalist guides, or venture into the rainforest on foot, keeping a lookout for Borneo’s unique species: orangutans, gibbons, proboscis monkeys, and pygmy elephants, as well as numerous birds.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan; Kinabatangan Wetlands Resort or Sukau Rainforest Lodge
Day 6: JAIPUR, INDIA

Fly by private jet to India. Touch down in Jaipur, the capital of the desert state of Rajasthan, and settle into our splendid accommodations at Rambagh Palace, a former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Set out to explore the “pink city,” where sauntering camels share the road with beeping rickshaws, and majestic, rose-colored monuments overlook bustling bazaars.

Visit the 16th-century Amber Fort, the historic seat of Jaipur’s Rajput rulers. Admire the fort’s enchanting architecture, a blend of Mughal and Rajput styles, and its exquisitely carved, hand-painted ceilings; and venture to the nearby Galta Ji “monkey temple,” built at the site of a natural spring. Troops of rhesus macaques have made their home at this temple, which was featured in the National Geographic Channel’s award-winning series Monkey Thieves.

On a drive through old Jaipur, observe the city’s pink sandstone walls and many beautiful gates; and marvel at the ethereal Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of the Winds—a honeycomb-like building adorned with hundreds of delicately latticed windows, from which the ladies of the Maharaja’s family could watch the streets below without being seen. Then discover the magnificent City Palace, built in the early 18th century. A portion of this vast complex is reserved for Jaipur’s royal family, while other areas have been converted into museums displaying a dazzling collection of armory, paintings, carpets, and more. Time permitting, visit the royal observatory known as Jantar Mantar, built by Maharaja Jai Singh around 1729.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodations:Rambagh Palace
Days 7-8: RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK, INDIA

Drive southeast to Ranthambore National Park, one of northern India’s largest and most renowned wildlife reserves. The park, which covers nearly 100,000 acres, was once the private hunting ground of the maharajas of Jaipur; today, it is a leading destination for scientists and researchers working to conserve the endangered Bengal tiger. Head into the park on safari alongside expert naturalists, driving in 4×4s through deep gorges and forests filled with towering banyan, peepul, and neem—trees known for their medicinal qualities and considered sacred by Hindus. Keep a lookout for the park’s iconic creatures including leopards; sloth bears; and the sambar, Asia’s largest species of deer. With luck, we may glimpse the elusive tiger.

Later, opt to visit Dastkar Ranthambore, a local NGO dedicated to empowering men and women from surrounding villages. By providing training in the production of traditional handicrafts, the organization has helped uplift rural communities who lost their land-based livelihoods when Ranthambore National Park was created in 1980. Meet some of the villagers and observe a range of beautiful crafts, including embroidery, block printing, and pottery.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:The Oberoi Vanyavilas Wildlife Resort or Aman-i-Khas
Days 9-11: YALA NATIONAL PARK AND BUNDALA NATIONAL PARK, SRI LANKA

Fly to Sri Lanka and touch down in Mattala, where we transfer to the island’s southeastern coast and settle into our luxurious beachside lodges near Yala National Park. Known to early Arab traders as Serendib, this emerald-green oasis in the Indian Ocean gave rise to the English word “serendipity.” We’ll spend three days on Sri Lanka’s delightful, rugged shores—our base for exploring two of the country’s national parks.

Our first destination, Yala National Park, encompasses a vast wilderness of wetlands, lakes, scrub jungle, and grassy plains. Set out in 4×4s to seek out elephants, leopards, sloth bears, spotted deer, and brilliantly plumed peacocks. Keep your binoculars ready as we cross through wetlands inhabited by more than 200 avian species, including the endemic grey hornbill, the jungle fowl, and the crimson-fronted barbet.

Opt to venture into Bundala National Park, a protected coastal wetland where a plethora of migratory and resident birds are known to nest. You’ll likely see wading birds like ibis, pelicans, painted storks, and the park’s signature greater flamingos. You may also spot elephants wandering the quiet beaches, and crocodiles basking by lagoons.

Later, choose to explore Kataragama temple, a complex of shrines nestled amid wooded parkland that is sacred to Buddhists and Hindus, as well as the indigenous Vedda people. We’ll time our visit to coincide with the evening puja, when throngs of pilgrims arrive to pay homage to the god Kataragama, one of the guardian deities of Sri Lanka.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Wild Coast Tented Lodge or Chena Huts by Uga Escapes
Days 12-13: ADDU ATHOLHU, MALDIVES

Fly to the Maldives, which boasts some of the most spectacular beaches and richest marine ecosystems on the planet. The private jet brings us to Gan Island in Addu Atholhu, the southernmost atoll of the archipelago. Take a short boat ride to the nearby isle of Viligili and settle into your private overwater villa at our luxurious resort, surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.

Spend two days discovering the Maldives’ extraordinary marine habitat, where more than 2,000 species of fish thrive. Peer into this dazzling underwater world from a glass-bottom boat; or embark on a guided snorkeling excursion at two spectacular snorkeling sites, swimming among vibrant corals and a profusion of marine creatures, from lionfish and sea turtles to nudibranchs and sweetlips. Opt to take part in a reef care project at the resort's coral nursery, which was created in 2010 to help regenerate the islands’ fragile reefs.

You’ll also have an opportunity to choose from a variety of cultural excursions. Get a taste of traditional Maldivian life on a tour of nearby villages with a local guide; or travel by boat to Meedhoo island for a visit to its farms, from which much of our resort’s fresh produce is sourced. Alternatively, travel to Gan Island, where the British established a naval base in 1941, and delve into its fascinating World War II history. In your leisure time, relax at your tranquil villa or at our resort’s private, white-sand beaches, enjoying plentiful amenities and a world-class spa.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Shangri-La's Villingili Resort & Spa
Days 14-16: ANDASIBE-MANTADIA NATIONAL PARK OR ANJAJAVY, MADAGASCAR

Our next stop is the island of Madagascar, where an astonishing amount of biodiversity awaits us. Thanks to its natural isolation from the African mainland, an estimated 80 percent of Madagascar’s species are endemic—including its celebrated lemurs. After a night in Antananarivo, the island’s vibrant capital, choose from the following excursions.

Venture to Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, home to 14 different species of lemur, more than a hundred types of birds, and a host of reptiles. Observe an abundance of lemurs leaping about in the treetops, including the common brown lemur, the bamboo lemur, the black-and-white ruffed lemur, and the critically endangered diademed sifaka; and spot color-changing chameleons and neon frogs in the undergrowth. Hike through the dense foliage of the Analamazaotra Special Reserve—part of Andasibe-Mantadia National Park—and as you tread past enormous lianas and fragrant orchids, listen for the high-pitched calls of the critically endangered indri, the largest lemur species.

Alternatively, take a local flight to the unspoiled Anjajavy Peninsula on Madagascar’s northwestern coast. Choose from two activities: cruise the otherworldly Moramba Bay, one of the country’s most fragile natural environments, where massive baobab trees grow along the sea. Or, visit the village of Antafiamoara to learn about a project aimed at rewilding Madagascar with a species of giant tortoise from the neighboring Seychelles. Spend your free time exploring the Anjajavy Reserve, which borders our lodge, discovering unique limestone formations called tsingy and looking for nocturnal lemurs on guided night walks.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Novotel Antananarivo; Mantadia Lodge or Anjajavy l’Hôtel
Days 17-19: SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK, ZAMBIA

Fly by private jet to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. This southern African nation harbors a staggering wealth of wilderness, from rugged plateaus to lush river valleys; and of its numerous protected natural areas, South Luangwa National Park is considered the crown jewel.

From Lusaka, a private charter brings us to a safari lodge located just inside South Luangwa. After a welcome orientation, drive to our intimate bush camps, situated near the mighty Luangwa River. Spend the next two days exploring the spectacular park, which encompasses nearly two million acres of wooded savanna. The popular “walking safari” is said to have been pioneered here, allowing travelers to observe the park’s legendary mammals up close while being able to appreciate its smaller, more elusive residents.

On daily morning and evening safaris, seek out an array of creatures including lions, elephants, hippos, buffalo, and leopards, which often take refuge in the park’s shady mahogany and ebony trees. Drive or walk amid herds of graceful kudu, with their distinctive corkscrew horns, and Crawshay’s zebras, which sport narrower stripes than their common cousin. Hear the calls of vervet monkeys and baboons, and perhaps catch sight of the endangered African wild dog, which has made a resurgence in the area thanks to local conservation efforts. You might also spot Thornicroft’s giraffe, a giraffe subspecies found only in the South Luangwa Valley. In between safaris, relax at your bush camp, which provides boundless wildlife-viewing opportunities.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:The Bushcamp Company: Mfuwe Lodge, Chamilandu Camp, Kapamba Camp, Zungulila Camp or Mchenja Camp, Luwi Camp, Kakuli Camp
Days 20-22: KIGALI OR VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, RWANDA

Our final destination is Rwanda, known as the “land of a thousand hills” for its lush mountainous terrain. Roughly half of the world’s mountain gorillas live in the Virunga Mountains, shared by Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Spend your time here tracking these magnificent creatures, or remain in Kigali, where the private jet lands, to immerse yourself in the inspiring stories of Rwanda’s people.

Those who choose to see the gorillas will transfer directly to Volcanoes National Park. Set out with local guides on a full day of trekking in search of these fascinating giants, which the late Dian Fossey famously studied with support from National Geographic. Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime chance to observe gorilla families at close quarters, and learn about
the conservation efforts that have brought them back from the brink of extinction. On our final day, search for endangered golden monkeys with a resident biologist, and attend a talk by a researcher at the Karisoke Research Center, founded by Dian Fossey.

Those who choose to stay in Kigali will pay a visit to the Akilah Institute for women, a nonprofit organization that provides higher education to women from all over Rwanda. Later, visit the Kigali Memorial Centre, dedicated to those who perished in the genocide of 1994. Meet survivors and hear their haunting memories—as well as inspiring stories of reconciliation and healing.

On our last night in Rwanda, toast our extraordinary wildlife 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 23-24: ROME, ITALY

After breakfast, we board the private jet for our final flight to Rome. Upon arrival in Italy’s “eternal city,” transfer to our centrally located hotel, only steps away from the Pantheon. Enjoy cocktails and dinner with your fellow travelers, and return home via commercial air the following day.

Meals Included:Day 23 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) | Day 24 (Breakfast)
Accommodations:Grand Hotel de la Minerve