Read our African wildlife safari reviews to learn more about this trip.
Arrive at Kilimanjaro Airport, then fly by bush plane to Tarangire National Park. Settle into Sanctuary Swala, our luxury tented camp in Tarangire. We arrive in time for lunch in a dramatic setting amidst acacia trees, sweeping views of grasslands, and a waterhole that attracts all manner of thirsty wildlife.
We embark on our first thrilling game drive this afternoon, perhaps spotting elephants that often gather to drink at the Tarangire River. Zebra and kudu are also common here, and we occasionally see leopard lolling in a baobab tree. Thanks to our camp’s remote location, we seldom see other vehicles. We’ll pause for a traditional sundowner in the bush before returning to Swala for dinner.
Awake to the sound of the bush on your first magical morning. After tea or coffee on your deck and breakfast in the dining area, join us on a visit to the Gijadebung School, supported by Swala so it can provide education to village children. You may either have lunch with the winsome youngsters or return to our camp. Later, relax by the pool or witness the congregation of wildlife under the shade of acacias. We set out on another game drive this afternoon, perhaps spotting wildebeests, lions, or buffaloes. Share stories of your first memorable day around the campfire this evening.
After an early morning breakfast, we fly to what is perhaps the most famous game park on earth: the Serengeti. The flight transports you over the vast rolling grasslands and volcanic hills of Tanzania, where Maasai tend herds of cattle and giraffes browse on acacias. We land at the Kuro airstrip, where we are met for our transfer to Sanctuary Kusini. We’re sure to spot wildlife along the way, but lunch awaits.
Kusini is nestled among a series of kopjes, knobby rock formations that seem to pop out of the endless plains. Throughout our stay, we’ll have spectacular views of the Serengeti from the dining room platform. This afternoon, explore this magnificent park on a game drive.
You may either choose morning and afternoon drives that will keep you close to camp, or venture deep into the Serengeti on a full-day drive. Our morning drive lets us contribute to important cheetah research as we submit details about our sightings to the Serengeti Cheetah Project. Our full-day drive – spotlighted by a memorable picnic lunch in the bush – gives us a true sense of how vast the Serengeti is. Each year, 1.5 million wildebeest roam through here and the Masai Mara in search of fresh grazing ground, accompanied by countless more zebra and gazelle, It is the largest land migration on the planet, and we’ll have a front-row set from mid-December to April, when zebra and wildebeest give birth.
After a mesmerizing sunset, we climb to the top of our lodge’s kopje and turn our gaze skyward. On this “cosmic safari,” our camp manager helps us unravel secrets of the southern hemisphere’s night sky.
After a morning game drive, we take to the skies for exciting transfer flights that give us expansive views of the Serengeti, Arusha, and Masai Mara National Park. Once we land at Masai Mara, we take a short game drive en route to Sanctuary Olonana, 14 luxury tents with commanding views of the Mara River.
Kenya’s Masai Mara offers us the best opportunity to see the “Big Five”: lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhino. These iconic creatures were given this designation not for their size, but for their dangerousness and difficulty in hunting them. More than 300 bird species can also be spotted here along the river’s banks or high in the treetops. Wildebeest pass through from July to October.
After our morning game drive, we return to eco-friendly Olonana to choose from an array of options to help us enjoy this spectacular setting. On a walk with an expert naturalist, we learn about native plants, trees, and insects, and find out what to look for on the ground or in the flora to trace wildlife. If you prefer, just relax by the pool or take a treatment at the mini spa. Or help plant trees in the lodge’s nursery to help counter deforestation. For its environmental sensitivity, Olonana has earned a Silver Award from Ecotourism Kenya.
Our friends at Olonana give us myriad options to experience the African bush to its fullest. Before dawn, drive through the darkened plains to embark a hot-air balloon for a tranquil flight as the sun rises over the Mara. Your unforgettable morning culminates with breakfast and a champagne toast in a magical setting. Or fly to Lake Victoria where we try fishing for the legendary giant Nile perch amidst the lake’s tiny islands.
However you spend your last day, you’ll never forget your final evening. The Olonana staff has cleared a spot for us in the bush for an elegant dinner by candlelight, a sophisticated affair that would rival any city’s finest restaurant. After an exquisite meal served by smiling waiters, we retire fireside for brandies and liqueurs, the peaceful African night kissed by crackling flames.
After a final game drive this morning, we depart camp after lunch. Our small plane takes us to Wilson Airport in Nairobi, where an Orvis representative assists us to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Numerous guided activities are included, each designed to immerse you in the African landscape, see the famed wildlife, and enjoy the remote luxury of a camp under the African sky. The game drive is the heart of the action – rise early, see wildlife from a vehicle with an expert guide, stop to enjoy and take photos, and, in a few special cases, go for walks with expert guides. Sunrise and sunset game drives are the norm. Each of these lodges offers outstanding game drives, but there’s more. The following explains what you can expect at each. These activities are included in the safari price.
Swala - Tarangire National Park
Tarangire is famed for its large concentrations of elephant and spectacular baobabs of every shape and color. The river is the park’s lifeline and attracts much of the game to its banks. You may also find some of the many leopard that rest by day in the shady trees. The park is also home to kudu with their immense spiral horns, and oryx with their equally lengthy rapier horns. These shy, show-stopping antelope are common in Tarangire, where Sanctuary's expert driver-guides can get visitors close to the herds without disturbing them. The low volume of visitors to the park offers a truly unique and private experience and our customized open safari vehicles offer unobstructed viewing and great photography opportunities.
Visit to a School
As part of their commitment to the local community, the staff and management team at Sanctuary Swala have initiated a pioneering community conservation project that included building the Gijedabung Primary School in the nearby village of Mamire, which borders Tarangire National Park. The camp organized the construction of classrooms and other facilities, paying local villagers to produce the concrete building blocks needed. When school is in term; meet the children and you can also meet the people who live in the village nearby. Learn about the bee-keeping project that provides valuable income while conserving the environment. Sanctuary Swala works closely with the local people, offering employment and buying materials from local enterprises. We hope that future generations of safari guides, doctors and business leaders will emerge from the school and we continue supporting eco-friendly projects run by the local communities in the area.
In contributing to conservation outside of Tanzania's national parks, Sanctuary Swala has developed a beekeeping project located in the village of Mwika on the border of Tarangire National Park. Through beekeeping we are able to preserve the natural environment whilst providing a valuable source of income to the community. Sanctuary Swala not only provided the village with the materials to make the hives, but with the knowledge and the equipment to keep bees which produce organic acacia honey. The honey that is harvested is sold through Sanctuary Swala with all proceeds going back to the project. With the success of the first harvest of honey in August 2010 the project has plans to develop and grow to over 100 hives in the next 3 years, providing more families with income from a traditional foodstuff. Whilst at Sanctuary Swala you have the opportunity to meet with the beekeepers on a visit to Mwika village and learn firsthand how the project operates.
Enjoy the warmth of the campfire and sip cocktails as the sun sets in the horizon. Watch as antelope, elephant and rare kudu antelope come right up to the camp to drink at the nearby waterhole. Leopard are often seen among the massive baobabs nearby.
Bush Breakfasts, Picnics, and Dinners
You may have decided with your guide to take a picnic breakfast or lunch with you on your morning game drive, but it is equally lovely to enjoy a bush dinner in the evening. A secluded clearing is prepared for a traditional East African meal in the middle of the Tarangire bush. With a sundowner in hand watch as the sun swiftly sinks and your setting becomes illuminated by a magnificent log fire. Once you have settled into your surroundings let our chef introduce you to traditional Swahili fare and experience a memorable evening under the African night sky.
Kusini – Serengeti National Park
Sanctuary Kusini is one of the great places in the world to see large predators – lion, cheetah and leopard often lie in the kopjes nearby camp. Between January and March the great migration returns to the area around Kusini and wildebeest and zebra cover the plains as they give birth to their young. The treeless plains in this area provide the perfect habitat for cheetah who have made his area of the park their permanent home. Our experienced guides know every inch of the territory around the camp and this remote corner of the vast eco-system never disappoints - buffalo, elephant, the rare wild dog, hyena and giraffe, all can be seen close to the camp. There are no other camps round here so adventurous travelers can be sure of unobstructed viewing from our customized safari vehicles. Bird life at Sanctuary Kusini is particularly good on the forest edge where woodpeckers and brightly colored kingfishers can often be seen.
Enjoy cocktails served on top of the nearby kopje after your evening game drive and watch as the sun sets over the vast Serengeti plains. You might even see a night animal like an aardvark, an aardwolf or a bush baby.
Bush Breakfasts, Picnics, and Dinners
For the early riser, take in the spectacular sunrises from the top of the kopje at Sanctuary Kusini, while sipping freshly made juices and watching the sun magically color the woodland and short grass plains around the camp. Then spend the whole day game viewing and stop at a specially chosen spot where your guide will set up a delicious picnic lunch. The location of the mess tent on top of a rocky outcrop is so sensational that we rarely offer bush dinners as we already have that perfect setting.
Most visitors come to Africa looking for the wildlife and the beauty, yet strangely one of the most spectacular sights of all is hardly ever mentioned - the African night sky, offering some of the best star gazing in the world. In the evening after supper, sit on a comfortable cushion up on top of a large granite rock and allow your guide to uncover the universe. With a green laser pointer to show you the way, embark on a walk through the stars where you can look back millions of years in time and get lost in the beauty of the night sky.
Serengeti Cheetah Watch
A unique activity has been developed at Sanctuary Kusini where guests can contribute to the Serengeti Cheetah Project by monitoring the cheetah of this vast national park. Venture out into this remote region of the Serengeti with an expert guide in search of cheetah. Your guide will introduce you to the cheetah's habitat and teach you how to correctly identify and photograph the cheetah you spot and record their behavior and location. Your contribution to the project could uncover new movement patterns and aid development of conservation programs.
Olonana – Maasai Mara
At Sanctuary Olonana game viewing starts from the camp. A pod of hippos lives permanently in the river just below camp and many other species come to drink there. Sanctuary's experienced guides take you to all the hidden spots and our customized open safari vehicles offer all-round views, allowing for excellent photography opportunities. The Mara's rich eco-system includes acacia studded savannah, riparian forest and woodland which attract more than 300 bird species and a stunning variety of animal life all year round.
Cultural Visit to Maasai Village – Kenya/Olonana
Visitors to the village get an insight into the vibrant and still traditional way of life of the Maasai. Learn about the medicinal plants that grow here, the importance of cattle and the stages of life through which all Maasai pass, from young boy or girl to respected elder. Accompanied by an experienced Maasai guide you are invited to visit the village which is built along traditional lines; complete with cattle enclosure, outer palisade and mud and cow dung huts. Meet the elders, their wives and families and learn about the social structure of the homestead, the role of women in their society and many more aspects of their daily life. Interaction and discussion is encouraged, so whether the ladies are building a hut, the warriors are dancing or making fire with stones and sticks, guests are free to join in.
Nature Walk – Kenya/Olonana
Walk with our naturalist and learn about plants, trees and insects and their use in the daily lives of the Maasai tribe. Visit our award-winning wetlands which cleanses wastewater naturally before returning it to the environment. There is an opportunity to plant a tree, leaving a positive mark in Africa. A nature walk will guide you into a complete sense of connection and appreciation for even the smallest things in nature. Our naturalist shares his intimate knowledge of the surrounding environment and how many of the trees and plants are used for medicinal purposes. Watch the hippos, learn to identify the birds from their song, listen for and see small animals as they rustle through the trees, stop and learn about insects and even the fascinating system ants have, to build and maintain their ant-hills. Your guide will also point out animal signs which are everywhere, but not that easily noticed.
As the afternoon game drive comes to an end, drive to a specially chosen vantage point overlooking the Mara plains. Drinks are served as you take in the beauty of the rapid sunset coloring the acacia dotted plains and transforming the world in a matter of minutes. Enjoy the warmth of the fire and discuss the day's adventures as waiters serve canapés and a selection of drinks, with the spectacular setting sun on the horizon.
Bush Breakfasts, Picnics, and Dinners
You may have decided with your guide to take a picnic breakfast or lunch with you but equally nice in the evening is to enjoy a bush dinner. A private and secluded clearing is prepared for an elegant dinner in the middle of the African bush. As the sun swiftly sinks, the setting is illuminated by a magnificent log fire and at full moon the set glows with almost luminescent silver light. The table setting is as sophisticated and elegant as found in the finest restaurants with dainty wild flower arrangements that grace starched white table linen. Candles flicker in the darkness, throwing golden lights on the table cloth as smiling waiters serve a delicious dinner. After dinner, retire to the warmth of the campfire where brandies and liqueurs are served as guests relax and absorb the peace and beauty of an African night.
Visit to a School – Kenya/Olonana
More and more popular are the visits organized by our guides to a variety of local schools during school term. These visits are free but we would recommend a donation to the school of anything upward of $15 per person.
A few activities are not included in the price, but they are offered seasonally and depending on the weather and other factors. Here are some optional activities and approximate costs:
Seasonal Hot Air Balloon Safari - Kusini/Tanzania, Olonana/Kenya
Fly over the southern Serengeti or the Maasai Mara in a hot air balloon. Rise very early and depart camp well before sunrise to be at the balloon launch site for a sunrise start, when the wind is calm and the low light illuminates the plains. The flight lasts about 90 minutes and then you celebrate with a toast after landing. The balloon basket holds up to 16 passengers. N.B. the drive to the Serengeti launch site takes about 90 minutes. The Maasai Mara launch is closer to camp, but each requires an early morning start.
Price: $500 per person.
Game Drives at Night – Swala/Tanzania
Night game drives are the exception in Tanzania and Kenya, but we do offer it in Tarangire National Park. As dusk falls, relax in the comfort of Swala's customized safari vehicle as you venture into the park transformed by night. Search for nocturnal animals rarely seen as this is one of the few places in northern Tanzania where you can enjoy a safari by moonlight. At night, you may encounter an African wild cat, the elusive leopard or feel the round eyes of a bushbaby peering down at you as the moon rises into the sky. With specialized lighting you will be able to look for lion and hyena, as well as smaller creatures such as spotted genet, serval, bat eared foxes, owls and nightjars.
Price: $80 per person.
Flying Excursion to Lake Victoria – Olonana/Kenya
When in the Maasai Mara, you may fly by light aircraft to Lake Victoria and enjoy a full English breakfast on arrival at the islands of either Mfangano or Rusinga. Try fishing for the legendary giant Nile perch, explore the myriad of tiny islands or stop at a traditional fishing village and see how the villagers live from day to day. Lake Victoria is a spectacular sight, it is Africa's largest lake and the world's second widest freshwater lake. Birdlife is abundant and includes the spectacular fish eagles which can be seen perching high in the treetops or dramatically swooping across the lake as they capture fish in their fiery talons. An experienced and knowledgeable fisherman captains each boat as you head out into the lake in search of the legendary giant Nile perch found in these waters -Nile perch weighing over 150 lb are regularly caught. Stop at a traditional fishing village before returning to the airstrip for your flight back to the Mara.
Price: $500 person per trip.
Three remote lodges that cater to all your senses, ideally located for excellent game viewing.
Twelve individual tent cabins shaded by acacia trees and built on platforms. Each spacious tent cabin has a private bath, a big canopied bed, a comfortable sofa, and views of the countryside. You’ll be treated to excellent meals in the main dining area beneath a huge baobab tree, the icon of the African plains. It wouldn’t be unusual to see zebra grazing on the grasslands while you enjoy dinner.
Sanctuary Kusini is the only permanent tented camp in the southern Serengeti and provides extraordinary views of the plains below. Set on a rocky outcrop, or kopje, the twelve tented bush camp is so remote that it needs its own airstrip.
Sanctuary Kusini offers an outstanding Serengeti experience. Every year wildebeest congregate on the camp's "doorstep" in this unspoiled and remote part of the Serengeti during the calving season. The site for Sanctuary Kusini was decided upon only after a great deal of research and the camp is built on a raised kopje surrounded by woodland - providing stunning views of the plains below from the main deck. Zebra, cape buffalo, lion and cheetah are a common sight year-round. The communal tent has a library, sitting room, dining room and verandah. Bush breakfasts and sundowners are served on the giant boulders of the kopje overlooking the endless plains for which the Serengeti is so famed.
The twelve tents at Sanctuary Kusini are shaded from the sun by acacia trees, and all are positioned carefully with thought out views of the surrounding plains. Each tent has its own personal attendant to look after guests during their stay. The private wooden verandah with comfortable furniture is the ideal spot to relax for a sundowner after a hot restorative shower.
Olonana is an award-winning tented camp on a private stretch of the Mara River, at the foot of the impressive Siria Escarpment close to where the famous last scene from "Out of Africa" was filmed. Located close to the border with Tanzania, the game concentration is high - and during the annual wildebeest migration, the action happens right on the camp's doorstep.
This small and exclusive camp, the first of Sanctuary's luxury safari properties, was built along sustainable lines which, along with our innovative wetlands and tree-planting projects, have earned Sanctuary Olonana a gold award from Ecotourism Kenya.
The Masai Mara is fabulous for seeing big cats, their prey and all the Big Five. It is also the stage for the greatest show on Earth - the wildebeest migration. From around July to October grunting herds of wildebeest and zebra cover the plains, often crossing the river between Tanzania and Kenya, attended by crocodile, lion and cheetah.
Olonana's main dining room and veranda command views over a dramatic stretch of the Mara River. See, and hear, the family of noisy hippos who colonize the banks below the camp. Experience first hand the sheer scale of the annual wildebeest migration across East Africa. The camp has a library, a pool and even an organic garden where much of the food served in camp is grown. And who could forget the mini-spa where guests can experience traditional African remedies alongside French marine therapies from Thalgo.
The fourteen canvas tents at Sanctuary Olonana are extremely comfortable and spacious. All have parquet floors, four-poster beds and private verandas overlooking the river.
8-day safari starting at $6990, including bush plane flights in Africa (valued at $1510).
|February - March||$7490||$1700|
|September - October||$8490||$1900|
Rates are per person, double occupancy, and include flights between camps worth $1510 and park fees.