“The Who’s Who of Safari Specialists.”
You can have breakfast in the hot desert of Samburu, lunch on Mount Kenya, and cocktails accompanied by one of the most brilliant sunsets of your life on the grassy savanna of the Maasai Mara.
And if this isn’t enough, you might just wake up early the next morning to float in a private hot air balloon on the Maasai Mara, taking in the seemingly endless plains, dotted with acacia trees. If you are lucky, you might witness the crossing of the Mara River by part of the millions-strong Great Migration, which stretches between Kenya and Tanzania. Many travelers choose to include both countries.
In Kenya, within relatively close distances from each other are some of the greatest natural phenomena in Africa, as well as a remarkably rich environmental diversity.
Maybe it was inevitable that Kenya would give birth to the classic Hemingway-style safari.
These natural wonders are all created by the 3,700-mile long Great Rift Valley. Here the earth’s tectonic forces are constantly trying to create new plates by splitting apart old ones. It is one of the few active rift valleys in the world and is the largest rift in the world that is not entirely underwater.
The Rift runs from Jordan to Mozambique, but nowhere is the Rift Valley more prominent than in Kenya. The heterogeneity of environments caused by all of this leads to an assortment of habitats and, therefore, a remarkable variety of wildlife.
Kenya is unequaled in Africa for its wealth of species. Beyond enormous herds of plains game, such as wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle, there are the Big Five and also many endangered species, like the rare Hirola Antelope (found only in Kenya). Its bird list numbers over 1,100 species, the most extensive in Africa.
The Mara is one of the most spectacular areas in Africa to view game in abundance and in the most African of settings. It was here that Out of Africa was filmed. This is Africa the way you have always imagined it. It all happens here, including one of the most exciting events of the Great Migration: the dramatic crossing of the Mara River. Wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle, in groups of thousands at a time, and up to two million over the course of one year, attempt to cross the river, infested with crocodiles and with predators in wait on the other side.
To the southeast of the Mara, Amboseli is a relatively small park with dense game and dramatic views of snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro. At 19,300 feet, besides being Africa’s tallest mountain, it is also the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. And it is a stunning backdrop for just about anything, but perhaps most especially for African wildlife.
Also in southeast Kenya, the savanna gives way to mountain ranges and the oft-bypassed Chyulu Hills. Aside from the abundance of wildlife, the terrain offers ample opportunity for horseback riding and mountain biking.
Running along the Great Rift are a series of soda lakes – so called for their high level of salt and other minerals. The best known are Bogoria and Nakuru. Flamingo love to feed on algae here. At times, you’ll see up to a million flamingoes at once.
We are happy to arrange an immersive experience at a camp for rescued orphan elephants, safari on horseback, or further explorations of Kenya’s landscape by hot air balloon or helicopter.
Just as rich as animal life in Kenya is tribal life. Perhaps the most famous, and the most dominant, are the much-photographed Maasai, who inhabited most of the Rift Valley until the arrival of the European colonists, and who gave their name to the Maasai Mara. Over 150,000 strong, they are fierce warriors and hunters. They live in semi-nomadic villages and their lives revolve around the rearing of cattle, which they believe are a gift of God to his chosen people.
They dress in vibrant colors, most famously in bright red, and wear elaborate beaded jewelry. They also shave their heads and wear body tattoos. Perhaps you might see the “adumu” or jumping dance, in which young men rocket themselves several feet into the air to show their strength.
There are over 50 tribal groups in Kenya. Some of the most interesting are in the north, including the gerontocratic Samburu, the desert-dwelling Rendille, the nomadic Turkana, and the camel-herding Gabra.
We are happy to arrange encounters with members of traditional tribal groups, including a visit to the Maasai Olympics, a brilliant conservation project working towards replacing traditional rites of passage into manhood, which have always focused on hunting, with competitions of spear throwing, sprinting, and the Maasai High jump.
One of the great legacies of tribal groups in Kenya, and elsewhere in Africa, is Rock Art. Often dating back thousands of years and found in caves and sheltered areas beneath overhanging rock, Rock Art was once a means for people to express themselves and record their lives. Most importantly, it functioned as part of the ritual of worship. Often, these works held hidden meaning. Kenya contains a number of important sites as well as an important center of research and documentation. We can arrange for you to meet the director of that center.
Going back further in time, Kenya was the cradle to, well, us. Many of the most important fossil discoveries of early man (hominid) and our ancestors have been made near Lake Turkana (northern Kenya) and the Tugen Hills (western Kenya) as well as in Olduvai Gorge in nearby Tanzania.
The notion that humans originated in Africa is widely accepted today, but it was not always so. The finds of the Leakey family of Nairobi and other paleontologists working in these areas have changed the way we understand our evolution. We are happy to show you some of these sites, guided by people who have been involved in the digs.
And if that all sounds too dusty, Kenya offers miles and miles of coastline with excellent watersports, and the ancient Swahili island of Lamu. And, don’t forget, Zanzibar (in neighboring Tanzania) is only a short flight away.
Whether your interests lie on land or in water, in old bones or living tribes, or in some of the most amazing animal life you will ever see, we'll create a masterpiece just for you.
“Seeing is different than being told.”
In the 21st century, as we text from Rio or tweet from L.A., it is hard to believe that a phenomenon like the Great Migration takes place. And it’s thrilling to realize that you can witness it with your own eyes – and in great comfort.
Every year, like clockwork, two million animals follow their hard-wired natural instincts and risk their lives – many do not make it – to travel enormous distances (1,800 miles, actually) in search of lush green grass and fresh water. This Great Migration is a rhythmic drumbeat moving across the land, an inescapable cycle of survival, surrender, and rebirth.
The Migration is a year-round event: the animals move in a large circle every year, traversing both Kenya and Tanzania. And like The Migration, our travelers often combine both countries.
There are four distinct phases: the mating season (also known as the rut), the calving or birthing season in the southern Serengeti, the highly-dangerous crossing of the Mara River heading north into Kenya and the Maasai Mara, and what we like to call the “chill out” time, when the animals stay at home to rest up and roam the Serengeti before beginning the cycle again.
The Migration involves great herds of wildebeest joined by zebra, gazelle, and other animals. They won’t be left alone though, especially as they cross the treacherous Mara River. Lion, leopard, and cheetah will follow them and stake claim to their share of the spoils. Crocodile will patiently wait, hidden amongst the wet rocks of the river.
The Serengeti has it all – abundant wildlife and superb action and adventure – and all of this in a setting of sunburnt and lush plains, backdropped by towering mountains.
Many passengers choose to combine Kenya and Tanzania. But as a place that shares with its neighbor Kenya one of the greatest natural phenomena of our time, it is, quite frankly, easy to overlook everything else. Even without the Great Migration, Tanzania would be one of the great draws of Africa.
Let’s begin with our favorite place to end – the idyllic, Indian Ocean spice archipelago that was once the Sultanate of Zanzibar. With influences from Arab traders, Portuguese fishermen, British pirates, Persians, Indians, Chinese, and of course Africans (we won’t even discuss the Assyrians, Sumerians, or Romans who all set foot on the island eons ago), Zanzibar is steeped in history, visible at every turn.
The narrow streets of Stone Town, its main city, are lined with well-preserved palaces and mansions that are a blend of exotic architectural influences in a rich array of colors. You enter them through oversized, elaborately carved doors. Markets are filled with the aromas of the spices that brought Zanzibar its wealth, freshly-caught fish, food stalls, and woven baskets overflowing with tropical fruits.
David Livingstone, the guy who stumbled across Victoria Falls, was a missionary who spent much of his life fighting against the slave trade. He based his campaign in Stone Town.
And once you leave the capital, you are in a virtually endless paradise of the sweet, soft sands of miles and miles of wide Indian Ocean beaches, clear waters, and fishermen’s dhows sailing in front of a setting sun.
It is hard to imagine a more perfect place to catch your breath after a week or two on safari, before you return to reality.
The challenge, though, is to find the time to relax. Mainland Tanzania has more than enough to keep you busy – and thrilled.
Not far from the Serengeti sits the largest intact caldera in the world. The 2,000 foot deep Ngorongoro Crater is known worldwide for its density of game, with a permanent population of more than 30,000 animals. From your lodge’s perch overlooking the crater, getting to its floor will be a twisting and winding adventure unto itself.
From the depths of that crater, to standing on the rooftop of Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro’s snowy summit, at 19,300 feet, is an open invitation for climbers from around the world. Besides being Africa’s tallest peak, Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.
The chimpanzee that Jane Goodall has spent her life studying, completely changing our understanding of primates, are at Gombe, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania. Our closest primate relatives, chimpanzees, share 98% of our DNA. Yet, when Goodall started her work in 1957, they were still viewed as primitive. The chimps at Gombe helped us understand that they are our emotive, intelligent cousins. Also on Lake Tanganyika is remote Mahale, which has an even larger population of wild chimpanzee.
Western Tanzania also holds Lake Victoria, first discovered by Arab traders in the 12th century – the world’s largest tropical lake, the second largest lake in the world, and the source of the Nile.
The famous Selous is in southern Tanzania. The Selous is the largest game reserve in Africa and has large concentrations of the full spectrum of African animals, with especially large populations of elephant and buffalo. It also has populations of African wild dog.
The Rock Art in caves and overhanging cliff faces at Kondoa Irangi, in northern Tanzania, date back thousands of years. This art illustrates changes in the development of man from hunter-gatherer to the more domestic creatures we are today. Although it was discovered in 1908, its extent is not yet fully understood. It may hold up to 450 sites. Some are still used for ritual purposes by local tribal groups.
We can arrange for you to helicopter over the “Mountain of God,” a highly active volcano, as well as the nearby pink Lake Natron, a highly alkaline lake whose salt crust is often colored by the various salt-loving microorganisms that thrive there. The lake becomes even pinker towards the end of every year when up to 2.5 million flamingoes go there to breed.
With an expert, we can arrange for you to visit, Olduvai Gorge, a steep ravine in the Great Rift Valley, which is one of the most important human fossil sites in the world. Remains of 60 human ancestral species have been found here and the development of stone tools was established here. Finds date as far back as 2.1 million years.
Near Olduvai is one of the most interesting tribes among the 260 in Tanzania: the Hadzabe Bushmen. About 1,000 remain. The 400 who still live as hunter-gatherers are among the last true hunter-gatherers in the world. The Hadzabe are believed to have lived here continuously for tens of thousands of years. Their language bears no relationship to any other language, gene¬tic testing indicates that they may be one of the primary roots of our family tree – perhaps 100,000 years old. Moving back to the coast, we can also arrange for you to scuba dive among whale sharks, the largest fish in the world – over 40 feet at times – at Mafia Island off the coast. You can spend time with one of the world’s experts on these gentle giants.
Or visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara, two islands off the coast. The Great Palace of Kilwa was once the largest building in sub-Saharan Africa.
There’s only one “problem” with Tanzania: it’s just too hard to find time for it all.
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Conquering Kili is an amazing achievement.
But you need to be properly prepared for the trek. Start by selecting the route that's right for you.
9-Day Lemosho-Crater Camp Route (most favored by our travelers)
Why? It is the most scenic and least traveled route up Kilimanjaro. With a full seven days on the ascent, this route also provides maximum time for acclimatization and therefore the greatest chance of summit success.
You spend two nights pre-climb at a gorgeous private camp in Arusha National Park situated at an elevation of 6,500 feet. This gives your body a jump-start in the acclimatization process, a chance to get over jet-lag, and allows time for gear checks and optional “warm-up” hikes. Your climb commences at the Lemosho trailhead, (elevation 7,500'), then follows the Shira Route, overnighting at Forest Camp (9,300'), Shira Ridge (11,500'), Moir Camp (13,100'), and two nights at Lava Tower Camp (15,240'), which aids tremendously in acclimatization.
From there, you continue on the Western Breach Trail to climb from Arrow Glacier Camp (16,000') to Crater Camp (18,500'), your last campsite before we summit. This day is particularly stunning, but physically challenging as you ascend 2,800’ on switchback trails through steep rocky terrain. This section can require the occasional use of your hands for stability (porter assistance is available for extra help and peace of mind) as you navigate the rocky “staircase.” Most people will need between 7 to 8 hours to accomplish this stretch, including a few rest stops to snack and drink.
4-6-day Marangu Route— least recommended
The Marangu Route, also known as the “Coca Cola” or “Tourist” Route, is the shortest, cheapest, least scenic, most crowded, and most punishing way to climb the mountain. On the Marangu Route, climbers have the least chance of summit success as the dramatic changes in altitude leave little time for the body to acclimatize. Along this route, climbers stay in crowded dorms that accommodate up to 200 people. The summit day, from Kibo Hut, requires a difficult 8-9 hour hike to the peak, with climbers waking at midnight to set out in the cold for a grueling 4,000-foot ascent at high altitudes on a steep slope in the dark. Descent is another 5-7 hours by the same route, so not only do you have a terribly long day, but a very limited experience of the mountain. Approximately 40% of all Kili climbers choose this route and fewer than half of them make the summit.
6-7-day Machame Route— too crowded
The Machame Route has over 20,000 climbers every year and it is beginning to surpass the Marangu Route in popularity. It is scenic, but overcrowded, and again allows only minimal time for the all-important acclimatization period that helps climbers reach the summit. This route begins in the south, climbs through rainforest up to the Shira Plateau, then treks east to Barafu. The summit day is similar to the Marangu “Tourist Route,” in that climbers wake at midnight and, if they make it, arrive at the summit roughly 8 hours later, hiking in less-than-ideal conditions. Some climbers see sunrise from Stella Point, but with the summit still an hour away, very few get to experience the sunrise on the summit.
A note about Barafu (15,331 feet):
This group campsite is used by many routes as the base for the summit bid and is often packed with so many climbers that tents almost touch each other. In the evening, Barafu is noisy and climbers get very little sleep here since camp staff stay up until 10:00 PM cleaning, then start morning tea preparation at 11:30 PM to get all climbers up at midnight for their early morning summit attempt. The site itself is on a rather bleak (and waterless) ridge that was clearly chosen because it offers the last semi-level tent sites before the summit. It is a terribly overused site, and despite the best efforts of the national park authorities, it is normally not very clean. Hopefully, any travelers on this route will have joined an outfitted trip professional enough to bring their own chemical toilets, but at present the public toilets are heavily used and can often be smelled from quite a distance. Climbers descending to the Mweka gate hike past Barafu.
6-7-day Rongai Route— brutal summit day
The Rongai Route approaches Kilimanjaro from the north, near the Kenya side. The first three days follow a route which, while remote and less traveled, is featureless and scenically uninteresting. This route then joins the crowded Marangu route to get to the summit. Once again, a long, difficult summit day from the Kibo Hut is required. The descent is via the Marangu Gate.
6-7-day Umbwe Route— only for experts
The Umbwe Route is a challenging route with few trekkers and is suggested only for experienced climbers who are short on time. The first two days are long and steep, although the views are breathtaking. This quick ascent is only recommended for climbers who have been to high altitude before and understand how their bodies react to rapid ascent. This route also includes the night at Barafu and the long, difficult summit day.
7-8-day Shira Route— starts too high
The Shira Route begins in the West, starting higher up the mountain than even Lemosho. Climbers drive from Arusha (4,200 feet) for approximately 5 hours and don’t begin hiking until they get to Shira Gate, which is at 11,800 feet! Driving to the plateau is too fast in one day and climbers can expect to have a hard time adjusting to the altitude. The route ends at Barafu with the challenging summit day of a 4,000 foot ascent followed by a 9,000 foot descent via Mweka.
7-9-day Lemosho Route— same brutal summit
The standard 7-day Lemosho Route (often called the Western Approach) typically starts with a 4-hour drive from Arusha (4,200') to Londorossi Gate (7,742') and then continues by vehicle for another hour to the Lemosho trailhead. At that point, trekkers get out of the vehicle for a scenic afternoon hike to Forest Camp (9,300 feet). This rapid ascent of 5,100' from Arusha is more than what we would recommend in one day. For the first few days, climbers enjoy stunning vistas as they cross the beautiful Shira Ridge to Shira Camp and Moir Hut. They will meet few other hikers along the way until they join the busy Machame route in Barranco Camp for the rest of their climb. This means approaching the summit from crowded Barafu and a summit day requiring a midnight wake-up for the 4,000 foot climb to the summit followed by the 9,000 foot descent via Mweka on the same day. Although this route has a scenic start, that experience is compromised by joining the overcrowded route up from Barafu to the summit.
Some 9-day variations do include an overnight camp in the high Crater Camp (18,500') after the summit, but this is a bit illogical since the advantage of overnighting in the crater is that it gives you an easy ascent day, with the chance to enjoy sunrise on top of Kilimanjaro. The optional hike to the Ash Pit and/or ability to summit a second time on the morning you wake up in the crater, is anti-climactic after having already made the summit the day before.
“When you realize the value of all life, you dwell on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.”
—Dian Fossey, champion of the mountain gorillas
Only 700 mountain gorillas remain on earth.
They were unknown to scientists until the 20th century.
To say they are dramatically endangered is an enormous understatement.
These lumbering giants are gentle by nature and very social. They can be affectionate, laugh, and even throw things when angry. Just like us. And, less like us, they beat their chests.
Most of the remaining mountain gorillas live in the volcanic mountains that straddle Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Most gorillas live in very remote areas and cannot be reached by humans. The number that can be reached by humans is extremely limited.
For a number of reasons, we feel the best opportunities are in Rwanda, where there are about 10 troops that can be reached on foot by humans and are habituated enough to stick around when they see us.
You have to work to see them. You trek through impressive mountainous rain-forests, dense with bamboo, tangled vines, and other vegetation, as well as birds and other primates. Your guide will help clear your path with a machete. The gorillas tend to move every day, normally within an area of about 16 square miles.
You will know you are close when you see damaged bamboo trees. The young tender shoots are a culinary favorite of the gorillas and they also like the sap in the older stems. When you get really close, you will know from the smell and the sound of these none-too-delicate animals as they move through the forests, playing and feeding.
When you come face-to-face with a troop (anywhere between 5 and 20 gorillas), the first one you notice might be the silverback – the dominant male in the troop. Up to 350 pounds in size, he is the guardian and decision-maker. He is named for the silver streak of hair on his back.
Whether it’s newborns (at four pounds), silly children playfully pounding their chests, mothers nursing, or teenagers swinging from tree to tree, these enormous animals – the mountain variety is larger than the lowlanders – are at once awe-inspiring and strangely familiar.
They move like we do, they interact socially like we do, and their expressions are like ours. We share about 98% of our DNA with them.
The gorillas carry an innate dignity that becomes apparent as you spend time with them.
The opportunity to be with these giant primates at such a close distance, in their virgin, natural habitat, unfettered and unblemished by humankind, is an enormous privilege. Few of us, their (arguably) more evolved cousins, will ever have the opportunity to do so.
“Mauritius was made first, and then heaven, and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.”
These two pieces of paradise are among the most unimaginably lovely island escapes in the world. It’s as if they were pulled right from a tourist brochure – you know, when they still printed them.
After the exhilaration and adrenaline-pounding adventures of your safari, the warm azure waters and pristine, powdery white beaches of an Indian Ocean retreat is the perfect way to indulge yourself before heading home.
Both countries have no shortage of luxurious properties, which are spacious and airy, and feature knock-your-socks-off views. Seychelles has two of the world’s most exclusive island havens. It’s all a question of knowing your way around.
Mauritius is pretty tempting for just about anyone: families, adventure seekers, golfers, and fishing enthusiasts. And perhaps most tempting of all if what you seek is a bit of pampering.
Its calm, clear waters, invite you to snorkel or dive in to a sea full of dazzling coral reefs, huge populations of brightly hued fish, dramatic underwater scenery, and even shipwrecks.
Here you can parasail, surf, kayak, and partake in just about any water-based sport imaginable. It’s also a great place for kiting.
Mauritius offers excellent deep-sea fishing and world-class salt-water fly fishing at St. Brandon’s, which was closed to foreigners until 2009.
You can explore the Moka Mountains via ATV, mountain bike, on foot, or on horseback. Visit the brilliantly-hued dunes known as the Terres des Sept Couleurs (Seven Colored Earths) or the excellent botanical gardens, famous for their enormous water lilies. They bloom only once a century.
The Mauritius horse racing club, the Champ de Mars, was founded in 1812, and is the oldest horse racing club in the Southern Hemisphere.
You may also want to golf here, as the island is known as a golfer’s paradise. That is, if you can find time for it.
If asked to pick one word to describe the Seychelles, it might be solitude.
The chain of 115 islands, many of them quite tiny, is so remote from the rest of the world (a thousand miles east of mainland Africa), it’s no wonder it was a favorite sanctuary for pirates – and their bounty – centuries ago.
The waves of the Indian Ocean lap at some of the finest beaches in the world, including Anse Lazio on Praslin and Anse Source d’Argent on La Digue.
There are tiny islands where you’ll barely see a car on the road all day and you can stroll or pedal to nearly-deserted beaches. Other islands are characterized by mountainous landscapes with lush tropical vegetation.
The Aldabra Atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the world’s largest population of giant tortoises, some as large as 550 pounds.
The surrounding underwater worlds are abundant in sea life and coral reefs. Scuba, snorkeling, and fishing are all excellent.