Enjoy a three-week wildlife and cultural adventure in East Africa, a region abounding with national parks, reserves, and tribal communities. The safari truck awaits as you set off into Kenya's most famous parks, like Masai Mara, to spot elephants, lions, cheetahs, and more. Then, cross into Tanzania for more thrilling game drives on the Serengeti and the volcanic crater at Ngorongoro before continuing deep into the Ugandan rainforest to witness the last remaining wild mountain gorillas in the world.


  • See Big Five safari animals at famous national parks like Masai Mara and Serengeti
  • Drive across the Ngorongoro, a natural menagerie home to rhinos, lions, and more
  • Visit a Maasai village, see tribal warriors in training, and share a traditional meal
  • Hike into the misty mountains of Bwindi as you track the noble mountain gorilla

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Nairobi (Kenya), Optional Elephant Orphanage Visit Nairobi
Day 2 Transfer to Aberdare National Park Aberdare National Park
Day 3 Aberdare Morning & Evening Game Drives Aberdare National Park
Day 4 Transfer to Nakuru National Park, Evening Game Drive Nakuru
Day 5 Transfer to Masai Mara National Reserve Masai Mara
Day 6 Sunrise Balloon Ride, Full-Day Safari  Masai Mara
Day 7 Maasai Culture Tour, Transfer to Nairobi Nairobi
Day 8 Transfer to Arusha (Tanzania) Arusha
Day 9 Transfer to Tarangire National Park, Afternoon Safari Tarangire National Park
Day 10 Tarangire Full-Day Safari Tarangire National Park
Day 11 Transfer to Serengeti National Park Serengeti National Park
Day 12 Serengeti Full-Day Safari Serengeti National Park
Day 13 Transfer to Ngorongoro Conservation Area Ngorongoro
Day 14 Ngorongoro Full-Day Safari Ngorongoro
Day 15 Transfer to Arusha, Visit the Shanga Foundation Arusha
Day 16 Transfer to Nairobi, Optional Visit to Giraffe Centre Nairobi
Day 17 Fly to Kampala (Uganda), Optional City Tour Kampala
Day 18 Transfer to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Day 19 Gorilla Tracking Adventure in Bwindi Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Day 20 Transfer to Kampala Kampala
Day 21 Transfer to Entebbe Airport, Depart   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Nairobi (Kenya), Optional Elephant Orphanage Visit

Meet rescued elephants, including little guys (photo courtesy of David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

Karibu! Welcome to Kenya! With over 50 national parks and reserves throughout the country, this is one of the greatest destinations in Africa for wildlife experiences. This is evident even in the capital of Nairobi, which features its own national park right in the city limits. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up for the ride into the city and your hotel. On the way there, keep an eye on the roadside, where you might spot giraffes and gazelles grazing near the park limits.

After checking into your hotel, you can choose to begin the wildlife adventures right away on a trip to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. Here, you'll see young elephants rescued and cared for until they're ready to be released back into the wild. On top of viewing the elephants, there's the option to sponsor an orphan. If you do, you can return later in the day to help feed and tuck your newly adopted elephant into bed. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 2: Transfer to Aberdare National Park

Relax with a cup of coffee and watch the wildlife passing by (photo courtesy of The Ark)
And you're off! This morning, you'll leave Nairobi on a four-hour drive north to Aberdare National Park. This 296 square-mile (767 sq km) protected area lies in the dazzling Aberdare Mountains, known for their diverse ecosystems and dramatic landscapes. You'll be staying at The Ark, a luxury safari lodge in the park. It's located next to a watering hole that attracts various animals, including elephant herds. If all goes according to plan, you'll arrive in time for lunch and can enjoy your meal while marveling at the wildlife just beyond the terrace.

Day 3: Aberdare Morning & Evening Game Drives

Brake for elephants while on safari in Aberdare

After a hearty bush breakfast, you'll hop in an open-topped 4WD vehicle and set off into the park. Aberdare, known as "The Majestic Moorland," is a great introduction to Kenya's natural beauty as it's defined by lush forested ravines and wide-open moorlands home to various animals. These include elephants, black rhinos, leopards, spotted hyenas, olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, warthogs, and bushbucks. During the drive, you'll see these animals and many others.

Return to the lodge in time for lunch, after which you can relax. Then, head out on a late-afternoon/early-evening safari drive to spot some of the more elusive park residents, like giant forest hogs and the African golden cat. There are also more than 250 species of birds in Aberdare, including the Jackson's francolin, sparrow hawks, goshawks, eagles, sunbirds, and plovers. After witnessing the golden sunset over the park, you'll return to the lodge in time for a hearty bush dinner.

Day 4: Transfer to Nakuru National Park, Evening Game Drive

A water buffalo relaxes amid flocks of flamingoes in Nakuru

Say goodbye to Aberdare today as you set off on a 3-4 hour transfer west to Nakuru, a city on the lake of the same name. Leave the mist-covered forests and mountains behind as you drive through the valley's open grasslands and acacia woodlands. Your destination is Lake Nakuru National Park, a protected area located next to the city and which is famous for its large flocks of flamingoes and abundant wildlife. Upon arrival, you'll check into Lion Hill Hotel, a game lodge within the park featuring chalet-style rooms and private terraces offering prime views of Nakuru.

After settling in, you'll meet your driver and embark on an early evening safari around Nakuru. As the sun sets over the lake, the park comes alive with activity. One of the first sights you'll likely encounter is herds of buffalo congregating near water sources for an evening drink. Amid the acacia forests and open grasslands, you'll also spot grazing zebras and antelope, as well as the long necks of Rothschild's giraffes peaking above the treetops. If you're lucky, you might spot a few lions out for their evening hunt. At the end of the four-hour tour, you'll return to the lodge.

Day 5: Transfer to Masai Mara National Reserve

Visit Masai Mara during Jul-Nov, and you'll witness the Great Migration

The adventure continues this morning as you leave with your driver on a 5.5-hour ride south to the Masai Mara National Reserve. This 580-sq-mile (1,510 sq km) game reserve borders Serengeti National Park (in Tanzania), and together, they host the great migration of wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles that occurs from July to November. Named in honor of the Maasai tribespeople, the unspoiled savanna is home to significant numbers of lions, leopards, cheetahs, African bush elephants, rhinos, and more.

During the ride, you'll travel across the vast African plains and into the Kenyan highlands. One highlight along the way is the Great Rift Valley. Here, you can stop off at viewpoints offering jaw-dropping vistas of the valley's soda lakes and towering escarpments. Continue from the valley south toward the border and Masai Mara, where you'll check into the Sarova Mara Game Camp in the heart of the reserve. If you like, head to the bar and grab a cocktail or soft drink, which you can enjoy amid splendid views of the surrounding savanna grasslands and rolling hills.

Day 6: Sunrise Balloon Ride, Full-Day Safari 

Maasai Mara Hot Air Balloon Safari
See the full scope of Masai Mara's beautiful savannas on a balloon ride

The early wake-up call will be worth it as you head to a launch site for a sunrise hot-air balloon ride. Watch as the balloons slowly inflate, then jump into the basket and rise above the reserve's golden grasslands, winding river, and towering acacia trees as the sun starts to peek over the horizon. Keep an eye out for the wildlife just waking up and moving through the savanna, like herds of elephants or groups of buffalo. The flight usually lasts about an hour, and when you touch back down, you'll enjoy a luxurious bush breakfast, complete with Champagne, right on the savanna.

Be sure to fill up, as after the balloon ride, you'll hop in a 4WD vehicle for a full-day safari around Masai Mara. Early morning is a great time to go wildlife spotting since the animals are at their most active as they search for food. During this time, you can see the wildebeests grazing on the savanna and big cats hunting for prey. After a midday break, you'll head out again on an afternoon game drive to spot common animals in the park, like lions, elephants, and buffalo.

Day 7: Maasai Culture Tour, Transfer to Nairobi

Visit a traditional Maasai village for a cultural exchange

You've seen some incredible wildlife, now it's time to discover the ancient culture that defines this region. After breakfast, you'll visit a traditional village inhabited by Maasai people, the area's ancestral residents. Upon arrival, expect a warm welcome marked by lively songs and dances.

Then, as you explore the village, you'll participate in activities that have been central to Maasai culture for generations. Listen to the elders share tales of their history, then sit down for a traditional Maasai meal. You'll also take a nature walk to witness the training of Maasai warriors and learn about their sustainable living practices.

Afterward, meet your driver and leave camp on a 4-5-hour drive back to Nairobi. It's a long drive but a scenic one, as you'll again pass the Great Rift Valley. Upon arrival in the city, you'll transfer to your hotel and have the rest of the day free.

Day 8: Transfer to Arusha (Tanzania)

Rising up out of Tanzania's coffee country is the Meru dormant volcano

It's time to bid a fond farewell to Kenya (for now) as you cross its southern border into Tanzania. It's a five-hour drive south to the city of Arusha. The ride there is a scenic adventure that spans some of East Africa's most gorgeous landscapes, including open plains, rolling hills, small towns, roadside markets, and traditional villages.

Eventually, you'll arrive in Arusha. This city is located in the middle of coffee country, at the foot of the 14,980-foot (4,566 m) Meru volcano. It's the gateway to some of Tanzania's most famed national parks and reserves, including the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro national parks. Your driver will leave you at your hotel, and you'll have the rest of the day free.

Day 9: Transfer to Tarangire National Park, Afternoon Safari

Travel between iconic baobab trees in Tarangire
Plan your trip to Kenya
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Rise early and set off on a two-hour drive south from Arusha to Tarangire National Park. This 1,000-square-mile (2,600 sq km) protected area may only be the sixth largest national park in the country, but there's no shortage of incredible wildlife here. It's one of Tanzania's finest birding destinations, with almost 500 avian species on record. Plus, during the migratory season, there are incredible numbers of plains game like wildebeests, antelope, and zebras.

You'll arrive around midday to check into your accommodation: the Maramboi Tented Lodge, where you can relax on your veranda or take a dip in the pool. Even while relaxing poolside or in your luxury tent, you'll be treated to views of exotic wildlife. Look out to the palm trees surrounding the property and you're sure to spot zebras, giraffes, warthogs, gazelles, and more.

After settling in and grabbing a bite to eat, you'll head out on your first safari in Tanzania, weaving between otherworldly baobab trees as you travel the plains in search of wildlife. Elephants are the main attraction here, with up to 3,000 roaming the park from June to November. Other common animals include giraffes, the Thompson's gazelle, greater and lesser kudus, elands, leopards, and cheetahs. At the end of the afternoon, you'll return to the lodge.

Day 10: Tarangire Full-Day Safari

Look up at the trees, and you might spot a lion or two

Enjoy another full-day safari adventure as you explore Tarangire beginning at dawn. As your 4WD vehicle crosses the plains, you'll witness the morning activities of the park's inhabitants, from stealthy nocturnal predators winding down their nightly hunts to the elegant herbivores setting out for early grazing.

Sightings of animals like lions, elephants, and cheetahs are common here, but the real prizes are the dwarf mongoose, oryx, and gerenuk (also called the "giraffe gazelle")—though sightings are quite rare. The best part is that because Tarangire is a quiet, often overlooked park, there are fewer crowds to witness the spectacle of its migrating residents. After a midday break for a picnic lunch, the game drive will continue until the sun sets over the savanna. 

Day 11: Transfer to Serengeti National Park

Enjoy the views from your luxury bungalow (photo courtesy of Serengeti Serena Lodge)

It's another big travel day as you leave Tarangire on a four-hour drive northwest to Serengeti National Park. As you travel, you'll pass through the Malanja Depression, a geological area marked by low-lying terrain in stark contrast to the surrounding highlands. Eventually, you'll reach the open plains of the Serengeti, which, like Masai Mara, play a central role in the annual Great Migration.

You'll arrive at the Serengeti Serena Lodge, a gorgeous bush lodge sitting on an acacia-lined ridge overlooking the savanna. After check-in, feel free to spend the rest of the day relaxing. If you like, take a refreshing dip in the lodge's infinity pool and enjoy a refreshing massage. In the evening, sit down for a gourmet dinner followed by a nightcap around the campfire.

Day 12: Serengeti Full-Day Safari

A lion relaxes during sunset on the Serengeti
Spend the day exploring the Serengeti on a thrilling game drive. Navigate the rugged landscapes adorned with acacia trees in a 4WD vehicle, periodically stopping to marvel at the resident wildlife. Cruise by watering holes across the park to spot lions, elephants, zebras, and giraffes enjoying a morning and afternoon drink, and keep an eye on the sky to marvel at birds like vultures, storks, and hornbills, soaring above. Before darkness falls, return to the lodge to enjoy dinner and spend time around the campfire, discussing the day's adventure with the other guests.

Day 13: Transfer to Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Leave the Savanna plains and travel to the highlands of Ngorongoro

Leave the Serengeti plains this morning on a two-hour drive south to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This UNESCO-listed site encompasses a vast expanse of diverse landscapes, including grasslands, woodlands, forests, and the most famous landmark of all: the Ngorongoro Crater, one of the largest intact volcano calderas in the world. It's the perfect wildlife habitat, with steep walls enclosing an ecosystem teeming with animals, earning it the nickname "Africa's Eden."

Your accommodation here perfectly suits the environment, as you'll be staying at the Ngorongoro Farm House, a colonial-style property redesigned to offer the utmost in luxury and comfort. It sits on vast gardens and features expansive rooms with terraces and four-poster beds. After checking in, feel free to spend the rest of the day relaxing amid prime views of the crater.

Day 14: Ngorongoro Full-Day Safari

Expect to see the Big Five safari animals at Ngorongoro, like lions and rhinos

It's time for a full-day safari in Ngorongoro! One of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, this region teems with bull elephants, buffalo, rhinos, wildebeests, and the highest concentration of lions on the continent. You'll find plenty of rhinos in the park, as anti-poaching protocols mean they abound in this area. Ngorongoro is also special in that over 40,000 Masaai tribespeople live in the area, and their livestock grazes right alongside the endemic wildlife.

Starting at dawn, you'll spend the day here, racing across the plains in a 4WD vehicle in search of the most exotic specimens. You'll more than likely spot most, if not all, of the famed Big Five safari animals: lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards, and Cape buffalo. Lunch will be a picnic right on the crater floor, followed by more wildlife viewing throughout the afternoon. At the end of the day, you'll drive up to the crater rim to enjoy magnificent sunset views over this biodiverse wonderland. 

Day 15: Transfer to Arusha, Visit the Shanga Foundation

Shop for exquisite handcrafted items while supporting the local community

Meet your driver after breakfast and leave Ngorongoro on a three-hour drive back to Arusha. After settling into your hotel, you'll meet a guide for a trip to The Shanga Foundation. This community handicrafts project empowers locals with disabilities by providing training and employment opportunities in the creation of handcrafted, artisanal items.

Over three hours, you'll meet the artisans and see them at work. These talented individuals create various products, from Swahili beaded jewelry to woven textiles, blown glass, and paper crafts. The tour isn't only an opportunity to witness the creation of these beautiful items but also to understand the skill and artistry involved. In addition to observing, you can participate in interactive sessions to learn weaving techniques and other skills. Feel free to pick up some souvenirs at the on-site shop—each purchase directly supports the artisans and the foundation's work.

Day 16: Transfer to Nairobi, Optional Visit to Giraffe Centre

Make friends with giraffes in Nairobi

Leave with your driver this morning on the return drive to Kenya and Nairobi. This is mostly a transitional day, as you'll fly to Uganda tomorrow morning. However, if you like, after checking into your hotel, you can enjoy one last wildlife adventure in Kenya by visiting the Giraffe Centre.

Operated by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW), this sanctuary conserves Rothschild's giraffes by breeding and releasing them into the wild. When AFEW was founded in 1979, a mere 130 wild Rothschild's giraffes survived in Kenya, but today, thanks to this organization, that number is around 300. You can snap photos of the current residents from a raised viewing platform and even feed them. Also, there's a bird sanctuary and a self-guided nature trail.

Day 17: Fly to Kampala (Uganda), Optional City Tour

Visit the infamous torture chambers at Kabaka's Palace if you dare

Get ready for the thrilling third and final act of this grand East Africa adventure, which will take you to the misty mountains of Uganda. Transfer to the airport in Nairobi this morning for the one-hour flight to Entebbe, a Ugandan town on the shores of Lake Victoria. A driver will pick you up at the terminal for the hourlong ride north to Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

Once you settle into your new hotel, you can venture back out for an optional guided tour of the city. Start at the Uganda Museum to browse the treasure trove of artifacts and exhibits showcasing the country's history, culture, and biodiversity. Afterward, hop on a traditional boda-boda bicycle or moto taxi and weave between traffic on your way to highlights like Kabaka's Palace. Since 1885, this has been the residence of the king of the Buganda, a subnational kingdom within Uganda.

Most of the palace is off-limits, but one section you can enter is the torture chambers, also known as the "dark dungeons." During the reign of various kabakas (kings) of the Buganda Kingdom, these underground chambers beneath the palace were reportedly used to detain and torture individuals perceived as threats to the monarchy or political rivals. After the tour, feel free to stop and enjoy local cuisine, like a rolex (a chapati roll filled with eggs, tomatoes, and onions) or luwombo, a traditional Ugandan dish of meat, peanuts, and beans wrapped in a banana leaf.

Day 18: Transfer to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Enjoy total comfort in Bwindi (photo courtesy of Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp)

After one night in Kampala, you'll leave early on a 7-8-hour ride to the southernmost end of Uganda and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Located at the edge of the Rift Valley, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a pristine biological and botanical ecosystem covering 128 square miles (331 sq km). It protects ancient rainforests that are a habitat for around 400 wild mountain gorillas, representing about half the world's population of these apes.

The long drive to Bwindi is packed with scenery as you travel south over rolling hills, past small villages, and through tea plantations. Make quick stops along the way to take pictures or grab something to eat. As the journey progresses, you'll see the topography evolve into the dense forests and misty hills surrounding the "impenetrable forest."

Upon arrival at the northwestern end of the park, you'll check into the luxurious and secluded Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp. Then, spend the rest of the day enjoying the lodging's amenities. You can unwind at the spa, grab a cocktail from the bar, and then sit down for a delicious dinner around the campfire to end the night.

Day 19: Gorilla Tracking Adventure in Bwindi

Gorilla Tracking in Bwindi
Witness entire families of mountain gorillas in the wild

Leave early this morning on a hike deep into the park to try and spot troops of mountain gorillas. The unique topography of these misty mountains ensures that this is one of the only places in the world where you can see these animals in their natural environment. The forest here is known as "impenetrable" due to the endless bamboo and thick ground cover of plant growth that has historically kept outsiders from entering the gorillas' communities. Today, though, your guides will lead you right to them.

It begins at the park headquarters with a safety briefing covering the do's and don'ts regarding interactions with the gorillas. After the briefing, your group will assemble, and you'll hike into the forest with researchers and guides. Once you locate the gorillas, you'll spend up to four hours observing and photographing them—though you must keep a distance of at least 23 feet (7 m).

During your time with the apes, the guides will point out their behavior as the researchers monitor their social activities. If conditions allow for it, you may help the researchers collect samples, name primate group members, and perhaps attempt a few of the 16 types of gorilla calls. After this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you'll hike back down to camp.

Day 20: Transfer to Kampala

Time to say goodbye to Bwindi
After the bucket-list experience of spending time with mountain gorillas in the wild, it's time to return to city life. In the morning, you'll leave Bwindi's mist-shrouded forests as you head down from the mountains on the long drive back to Kampala. There, you'll check into your hotel and will have the evening free.

Day 21: Transfer to Entebbe Airport, Depart 

The sun setting over Bwindi Impenetrable Forest 
Your adventurous three-week journey across East Africa has reached its conclusion here in Uganda. After breakfast, a driver will pick you up for the one-hour ride south to Entebbe and the international airport. There, you'll board your flight home. Safe travels!

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Map of East Africa Safari Adventures & Gorilla Trecking: Kenya, Tanzania & Uganda - 21 Days
Map of East Africa Safari Adventures & Gorilla Trecking: Kenya, Tanzania & Uganda - 21 Days