December through March are the warmest summer months. July and August are considered their winter and are the coolest months. September and October are springtime and weather again gets a little warmer.
In late July through September, you will see the annual migration of wildebeest into the Masai Mara. Although the sun is intense, early mornings and evenings can get quite cool, especially in the mountain areas.
Kenya is GMT + 3 hours in the winter, and GMT + 2 in the summer
Travel in East Africa normally begins and ends at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi or Kenya Moi International Airport in Mombasa.
Upon arrival, proceed through immigration and baggage claims and customs. Big Five personnel will be waiting for you with a Big Five sign with your name on it. We will help you with baggage and escort you to your hotel and assist with check-in formalities.
Kenyan Shilling (KES)
“I love being able to go on safari and know that in a short while, the ground will look as though I had never visited. That’s why I am drawn to solar powered camps in the conservancies of East Africa or the idea of mobile camping. As a child in Kenya, I used to ride horses in school and remember very clearly how amazing the bush experience was when there were no crowds, and no clamoring of diesel power tour buses. This unique safari experience through Kenya and part of Tanzania is designed to take you back to the first experiences I had growing up, where you can see the wild in pure innocence.” Ashish Sanghrajka, President
Day 1: Arrive Kilimanjaro, Tanzania / Arusha
Welcome to Kilimanjaro International Airport. After exiting the Customs & Immigrations Hall, you will be met by a Big Five Tours & Expeditions driver/guide who will assist you with your luggage. Then transfer you to the lovely Arusha Coffee Lodge, located in one of Tanzania’s largest coffee plantations. Arusha Coffee Lodge
Day 2: Arusha / Tarangire National Park / Manyara Ranch Conservancy
This morning, depart overland to Tarangire National Park, complete with picnic lunch. Tarangire is home to great herds of elephant. During the dry season up to 300 can be found along the dry river bed, digging for underground streams. Migratory wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, gazelle, hartebeest and eland flock to the remaining pools. In the rainy season, the animals spread out over 12,500 square miles. The swamps serve as host to 550 bird varieties. The park extends into two game-controlled areas so the wildlife can move freely. Following your game activities, head into what some call the future of safaris in Tanzania, Manyara Ranch, a 35,000-acre wildlife conservancy situated in the corridor between Tarangire and Manyara National Park. Originally established as a cattle ranch during Tanzania's colonial period, Manyara Ranch remains an operating ranch with a relatively small herd of beef cattle and black-headed sheep. In 2000, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) obtained management and conservation rights to the ranch to protect these wildlife corridors. In so doing, they established a working relationship with the traditional landowners, the local Maasai, developing community conservation projects and rehabilitating the ranch itself. The ranch is held in trust by the Tanzania Land Conservation Trust for the benefit of the local communities and Tanzania. Manyara Ranch Conservancy (B,L,D)
Day 3 & 4: Manyara Ranch Conservancy
Your experience here will be like none other, the conservancy provides guided game walks, day and night drives, and visits to partner villages (in an authentic setting). But a highlight here is a horseback exploration that takes guests out to ride with big game in the company of experienced guides. Enjoy bush breakfast and dinners and participative research activities to promote on-going conservation projects in collaboration with the African Wildlife Foundation. Manyara Ranch is composed of a variety of habitats, from open savannah, to acacia woodland, to bush and riverine forest that support a large diversity of wildlife, including groups of large bull elephants, breeding herds of giraffe, many lesser kudu, wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, oryx and eland. There are also predators, including lion, cheetah, leopard, hyena, jackal and bat-eared foxes. For many years, wild dogs have denned on the ranch. The resident game population is continually increased as wildlife moves through these migratory corridors. The large number of bird species includes many raptors. There are several large dams on the ranch that attract and retain wildlife within the conservancy area. On one of the days, your safari leads to an unforgettable night spent in a mobile fly camp. Manyara Ranch Conservancy (B,L,D)
Day 5: Manyara Ranch Conservancy / Ngorongoro Crater / Manyara Ranch Conservancy
Indulge your sense of personal discovery as you near Ngorongoro Crater. In 1892, a German explorer was the first European to record seeing the crater. You will approach it in much the same way he did. Certainly one of the world’s most remarkable natural wonders, the crater’s steep unbroken rim drops some 2,000 feet into a 102-square-mile basin. This may have been one of the world’s tallest mountains until about two million years ago, when a massive volcano exploded, collapsing in on itself forming the massive crater. Today, Maasai pastoralists and their grazing cattle and goats share this landscape with 30,000 resident animals – lions, elephants, rhinos, wildebeest, and so much more. The day’s focus is the crater floor, reached by driving a rocky track down the steep side. Game viewing here is excellent throughout the year. You come startlingly close to some of the crater’s lions. This dramatic setting is where you savor your picnic lunch with buffalo, zebra, reedbuck and rhinos. Large flocks of flamingos hang out around the lake in the bottom of the crater. Return to your camp later this afternoon. Manyara Ranch Conservancy (B,L,D)
Day 6: Manyara Ranch Conservancy / Kilimanjaro / Nairobi / Olare Orok Conservancy (Masai Mara)
Arrive at Manyara airstrip for your short flight back to Kilimanjaro airport, where you take another short flight to Nairobi. From there, you fly to the famed Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, enjoying the panoramas of the Great Rift Valley. The Masai Mara Game Reserve is Kenya's most precious wildlife sanctuary. On arrival, you are transferred to your camp, one of just three camps currently operating within the private Olare Orok Conservancy. Your safari experience is enhanced by the fact that private conservancies have the lowest vehicle density – no mini-buses and only one guest room per 700 acres! Here, you escape the high tourist density found in national parks and reserves like the Masai Mara. Yet they retain the diversity of wildlife. Until recently, Olare Orok’s 30,000 acres of prime rolling grasslands and riverine forest were filled with rural homesteads and large herds of cattle and goats. The ecosystem was being overgrazed, risking the sustenance of both wildlife and domestic cattle, and to the detriment of both. Sustainability was at risk for both the people and the wildlife. Today, the homesteads, cattle and goats have moved, and herd sizes have been reduced accordingly. The conservancy has become a haven for big cats as well as a migration route and now offers some of East Africa's finest year-round game viewing. Mara Plains Camp (B,L,D)
Day 7 & 8: Olare Orok Conservancy
During morning and afternoon game drives, you explore savannas spotted with herds of buffalo, wildebeest, hartebeest, impala and gazelle. Dense thorn bush may hide browsing black rhino, and large numbers of giraffe and elephant patrol the edge of the woods. Hippos gather in the Mara River. Here, lion prides may be up to 20 strong. Night game drives offer a whole different atmosphere and feel of the bush as your search the darkness for elusive nocturnal species. Walking safaris are permitted in the conservancy, which is not true of the national parks. Walking the savannah in the company of a Maasai tracker gives you an entirely new experience of the African bush. If desired, you are also welcome to visit the Koiyaki Guide School, the only guide school in the region allowing young Maasai warriors an opportunity to enter the tourism industry, while allowing the young man to continue the traditions of his community. Mara Plains Camp (B,L,D)
Day 9: Olare Orok Conservancy / Chyulu Hills
Fly into Ol Donyo Lodge airstrip, where you are met by a guide at the airstrip before enjoying a short game drive to the first campsite nestled in thick acacia woodland. The Chyulu Hills offer some of the most stunning scenery in Africa; rolling extinct volcanic hills, acacia forests, and grassy plains all in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. This first game drive serves as an introduction to the area and its inhabitants; there are 38-recorded species of large mammals here and over 300 species of bird. Upon arrival into camp, you will have a brief camp orientation and introduction to the overall safari itinerary before enjoying lunch. This is where your horseback riding adventure really begins. You drive to the main stables of Ride Kenya main stables to meet the horses and staff. The riders are matched with horses, and then assessed as a group in a fenced arena, before heading out into the bush. (This riding program is not recommended for novice or non-riders.) The first afternoon ride sets off from the stables, and is designed to introduce riders to their horses and to the local ecosystem. You will pass through thick acacia forest, and out onto the savannah. Expect to ride at a variety of speeds and to see game such as giraffe, impala, elephant, warthog and gazelle. Arrive into your mobile camp at dusk. Relax and enjoy a drink by the fire, a hot shower and a three-course dinner. As the sun goes down, listen to the jackal and hyena calling as they commence their nocturnal hunts. Ride Kenya Mobile Camp (B,L,D)
Day 10: Chyulu Hills
Depart at dawn on horseback for a morning exploration of the forest and savannah around camp. The forest is thick with umbrella-shaped acacia tortilis, where giraffe browse and antelope abound. The dawn chorus of birdsongs rings in the background as you and your horse set in the first light of the new day. The footing is ideal for horse riding; coarse volcanic soil that is firm yet forgiving under hoof, allowing riders an opportunity to enjoy the horses’ schooling and fitness; long trots and canters can be supplemented with some cross-country style jumping over fallen trees and fences, for the more skilled riders. As nomadic Maasai people own the land here, you will ride past some villages. The traditional Maasai culture is fascinating to see first-hand. Emerge from the forest, and traverse the wide-open Mbirikani plains, dotted with wildlife. The plains stretch for 70 miles before Mount Kilimanjaro rises up on the distant horizon. Enjoy a full English breakfast under the shade of an acacia tree before riding back to camp. A few hours rest in the heat of the day follows a late lunch in camp. Tonight, an evening walk is offered to stretch out riding muscles, and to learn more about the local flora and fauna. There is even a chance to track and locate some of the forest’s resident bull elephants; several of which are known to be the largest elephant ‘tuskers’ left in Africa today. Ride Kenya Mobile Camp (B,L,D)
Day 11: Chyulu Hills / Chyulu East National Park
Leave camp early on horseback and proceed through the acacia forest up towards Chyulu East National Park. Taking a packed breakfast in the saddlebags allows the ride to be flexible and to enjoy wandering with the game on their daily movements. Kicking up wildlife in the forest is thrilling; from small sightings like flocks of guinea-fowl, pairs of dik-dik or packs of jackal, to the huge bulk of a herd of eland, oryx or elephant. The ride soon leaves the thick acacia forests, and begins to pass through seemingly endless stands of whistling thorn acacia on the ascent up into the Chyulu Hills. This is a place to see cheetah, gerenuk, zebra, wildebeest and Coke’s hartebeest. This morning’s ride is long, exciting and fast, with plenty of chance to canter, gallop and jump. The ride ascends about 2,000 feet above the plains with stunning views stretching for 90 miles on a clear day. Arrive into Crater camp for a late lunch. This camp is nestled into a forest next to a large extinct volcanic crater, overlooking the quintessential East African plains that lead up to Mount Kilimanjaro. In the later afternoon, take the opportunity to climb the volcanic crater in pursuit of a sighting the very rare Verreaux’s Eagle, which nests in the nearly inaccessible rocky outcrops at the rim. Or, explore the lava tubes under the crater, which lie within walking distance of the camp. These jagged caves stretch for miles as they lead away from the crater and have been used for generations of hunter-gatherers as shelter. Enjoy sunset in this most spectacular campsite. Ride Kenya Mobile Camp (B,L,D)
Day 12: Chyulu East National Park / Mist Forest
Depart after breakfast on today’s ride as you ascend another 2,000 feet higher into the Chyulu Hills. There is a noticeable change in climate and temperature as you reach over 7,000 feet above sea level. The ride is dominated by incredible vistas of the vast wilderness of Tsavo East National Park to the east, and Mount Kilimanjaro and Amboseli National Park to the west. Today’s riding traverses steep slopes and valleys and you may need to lead your horse at times. Due to the altitude of the area, clouds often sit on the top of the Chyulu Hills. Consistent moisture has created pockets of mist forest that dot the summits of the hills. Enjoy a picnic lunch just outside one of the largest mist forests. After lunch, set out to explore this fascinating environment on foot in search of buffalo, leopard, Syke’s monkey and the giant forest hog. Back on the horses, you ride down out of the hills, passing a few subsistence farmers’ villages en route. Most of the farmers are Kamba people, who make a living with maize farming on the hillside. Rural school children are likely to spot the horses and follow them for a while, giggling and running along beside. Arrive in the late afternoon to Olecuto Camp. Enjoy a well-earned drink and rest in stunning scenery. Ride Kenya Mobile Camp (B,L,D)
Day 13 & 14: Mist Forest
The next two days, you explore the forests of Olecutu on horseback. This beautiful and remote area supports herds of giraffe, gazelle, zebra and wildebeest. You may spot ostrich and Kori bustard bathing in the red dust. You discover the Inchalai Swamps, where breeding herds of elephant come to drink at night. You might catch the elephants returning to the thick lava flow where they seek refuge during the day. Maasai herdsmen and women also bring their livestock to the swamps for water. Enjoy a barbecue lunch atop rocky outcroppings before riding out across the vast savannah to the camp. Ride Kenya Mobile Camp (B,L,D)
Day 15: Chyulu Hills / Nairobi / Depart
Today you will fly to Nairobi’s Wilson Airport in Nairobi. Upon arrival, you are greeted and transferred to a local restaurant for lunch. Continue to your hotel where a dayroom awaits for your convenience. This afternoon, visit the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Trust and Orphanage, where you will have a heart-warming, VIP visit to see an orphaned baby elephant or rhino that has been fostered by Big Five on your behalf. After a farewell dinner, you will transfer to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to board your departing flight home. Ole Sereni Hotel - Dayroom (B,L,D)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: $16,250