Duration: 14 days | Sites: Kenya and Uganda
Days 1-2: Welcome to Nairobi
After touching down in Kenya’s warm and vibrant capital, you are driven to Hemingways Nairobi, a gracious lodge in the upscale neighbourhood in Karen with views of the famous Ngong Hills. If your schedule permits, consider a game drive in Nairobi National Park – the only place in the world where you can photograph wild giraffe with 21st century skyscrapers in the distance – pay a visit to the Karen Blixen Museum to see the life of the author of Out of Africa or drop in on the ellies at the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage.
Hemingways’ tranquil surrounds, comfortable rooms and cuisine created by a Michelin-starred chef will give you a peaceful night’s sleep so that you can set off from Wilson Airport well rested in the morning.
Days 2-5: Uncover the mysteries of Chyulu Hills
From views of the Ngong Hills to spending three days in the Chyulu Hills, an untamed slice of Kenya between Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks. With two astonishing conservation areas on your doorstep, you can take your pick between game drives, guided walks, horseback safaris and even mountain biking. The staff at Ol Donyo, which is a member of Relais & Chateaux, will also arrange for you to meet traditional Maasai villagers and get a sense of this unique culture.
On one evening, enjoy one of Ol Donyo’s best-kept secrets: a night in their romantic ‘star beds’. Sleeping out in the open, under the shimmering Milky Way and with the rustle of far-off jackals and the occasional hoot of a content owl… this is the life.
Days 5-7: Sojourn into the Samburu
Set in the mesmerising mountains of the Kalama Conservancy with views to monolithic Mount Kenya, Saruni Samburu’s design make the most of its beautiful natural surroundings. Suites and living areas are placed in hollows and outcrops among the enormous boulders, making for a lodge that is utterly unlike any other. In addition to game viewing and birding in the Samburu Reserve, Saruni offers exciting extras like elephant safaris, expeditions to see ancient rock art, riverside picnics and bush dinners.
If you feel the need for some one-on-one pampering, make a date with the Wellbeing Space – which overlooks the Kalama Conservancy – for replenishing techniques that combine old and new.
Days 7-10: Classic Kenya awaits
Touch down on another airstrip carved from the African bush; this one in the Olare Motogori Conservancy in the Masai Mara. Mara Plains Camp will be your home for the next three nights and the spot where you undertake one of the best ways to truly comprehend the scale of Africa: a dawn hot-air balloon safari over the plains as the animals awake and the sun creeps up over the horizon.
Olare Motogori is considered particularly good for the chances of seeing predator action and guides here are permitted to undertake night drives, which opens the world of nocturnal animals like leopards, bushbabies, owls and bats to you. If you are travelling at the right time of year, the Masai Mara is the place to be to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration, when hundreds of thousands of these bold ungulates cross the savannah in a relentless search for fresh grazing.
Days 11-12: Jambo Uganda!
From Kenya’s riches to Uganda’s treasures: it is back to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi for your flight to Entebbe in Uganda. As an under-explored travel destination, Uganda promises a never-to-be-forgotten vacation experience.
Spend the night at The Boma in Entebbe, a modern and comfortable hotel in this thriving capital. Make sure your camera batteries are charged and that your health is in tip-top condition because tomorrow you go in search of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, an emerald jewel in Uganda.
Days 12-14: Making friends with gorillas
They say gorillas are our closest animal relatives but you never understand this fully until you come face to face with a watchful and intelligent mountain gorilla in the wild. Their expressions, gestures, grunts, moans and the way their tenderly care for their young is so humanlike that it is almost impossible not to be moved and awed. Treks out of the forest after spending an hour with these precious primates are famously silent as each trekker muses privately on this extraordinary experience.
Your abode for three nights is Gorilla Forest Camp, one of the best tented camps in Bwindi. On one day you will hike with your guides and trackers to find a habituated gorilla group and on the other visit a Batwa Pygmy village to learn more about how this tribe adapted to life in the forest.
After two weeks, it will be time to leave. Although you may be sad to bid farewell to East Africa and the end of your adventurous vacation, there will bubble up the hope and excitement that one day you will return to learn, explore and see even more.
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