Best Vacation Ever on Safari in Kenya

“This was my best vacation EVER. I’d gladly try another safari.” — Eric


I’d like to start by saying that this was my best vacation ever! We had great accommodations, great guides, great food and good weather. I’m glad we went to three different places. Of the three I liked Lewa best because it had a little bit of everything and had more activities.

HERE ARE SOME OF ERIC’S PHOTOS FROM LEWA

Eric’s HIGH-POINTS OF THE TRIP

  • The cats in the Masai Mara
  • The Walking Safari in Lewa
  • The trip to the waterfall in Lewa (pictured below)
  • All the elephants
  • The sundowners (Michelle & Eric enjoying one here to the left)
  • All the meals (FANTASTIC!)

PLEASANT SURPRISES

The local team in Nairobi was above and beyond GREAT. They held our extra bag and helped with everything. The hotel staff at all three lodges was very sociable. They were always there mingling with the guests. Our guides worked much harder than the other guides that we came upon to be sure we saw everything. They kept hunting for game, often for 6 hours. Let me reiterate, this was my best vacation EVER.  I’d gladly try another safari.

MORE OF ERIC’S PHOTOS

Kili’s Return to Rwanda – Gorillas & More!

Kili returned to Rwanda to find a country that has made tremendous progress toward its goal of being one of Africa’s leading countries and most dramatic stories of renewal. Rwanda has successfully positioned itself as a luxury destination with extraordinary wildlife and cultural experiences.

Aside from new luxury lodges near Volcanoes National Park, there are a lot experiences in Kigali and throughout the country that make Rwanda more than a gorilla extension.


Kigali

Kigali is a unique among African capitals, and it is clear from the moment you leave the airport. The roads are clean and in good condition, and the city center is safe and vibrant enough to have a walk through town. It has become an international hub and a shining example of progress. Here are some interesting experiences we recommend:

 

Azizi Life Cultural Tours

Inema Arts Center

Inema Arts Center

Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association

Kigali Genocide Memorial


Volcanoes

The area around Musanze, the nearest town to the gorilla trekking headquarters in Volcanoes National Park, has seen the most development with a number of breath-taking new luxury lodges as well as some old favorites. In addition to being a base for gorilla trekking, there are a lot of other things to do like visiting the Gorilla Doctors facility, the Dian Fossey Center, the spectacular twin lakes, the Iby’wacu Cultural Village or just having a walk around the Musanze town and markets.

 

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge

Singita Kwitonda Lodge

Singita Kwitonda Lodge

Bisate Lodge

Wilderness Safaris Bisate Lodge

Virunga Lodge

Volcanoes Virunga Lodge


Akagera

Akagera is a national park that is being successfully restored into a great conservation story, and we’re hearing excellent feedback from some of our first clients to visit the far northern corner of the park. Lions were re-introduced in 2015, and there has been excellent recent leopard sightings. This project is in collaboration with the Rwandan government and the surrounding local communities. You can learn more about this project here, and also on the African Parks website. If you’re up for visiting a unique area while also supporting groundbreaking conservation work, Akagera is at the top of our list!


Nyungwe

In addition to soon-to-reopen Gorilla’s Nest Lodge in Musanze, One & Only Resorts has introduced Nyungwe House in the south western corner of Rwanda, a spectacular option for including chimpanzee trekking in your Rwanda itinerary. Plus, they’re offering scenic helicopter transfers between Nyungwe and Volcanoes for an unbelievable bird’s eye view of Rwanda’s incredible topography.


Some of Kili’s Gorilla Trekking Photos

Learn about Kili’s Secret Safari

Lion Cuddles in the Serengeti

Green Season Safaris in Tanzania

While Tanzania is best known for being home to the iconic Serengeti plains, the Serengeti can be known for peak season crowds especially concentrated around river crossings and migratory herds.

However, we see the Serengeti as a 10-month destination with lots of options for shoulder season and off-peak travel which offers great value, expanded access to unique wilderness areas and a wider variety of activities.

Kazuri Beads

The Kazuri Story

 

Lady Susan Wood

Kazuri Founder – Lady Susan Wood had humble beginnings. Born (1918) in a mud hut in an African village, her parents were missionaries from England in the Ituri Forest. Lady Wood was sent to England in order to be educated and ended up marrying Michael Wood, a surgeon. They came to Kenya in 1947 and became dedicated to making a difference. Lady Wood started a coffee plantation on the Karen Blixen estate, famous from the award winning movie “Out of Africa” , which is at the foot of the Ngon’g Hills (about 30 minutes from the bustling Nairobi city center in Kenya). Lady Wood was a visionary and unsung hero of her time. She assisted her husband in founding the East African Flying Doctor Service, which expanded into the African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF) of which Michael Wood was Director General for 29 years. Michael Wood was knighted in 1985.

Kazuri Beads Origins

In 1975, Lady Wood set up a fledging business making beads in a small shed in her back garden. She started by hiring two disadvantaged women, and quickly realized that there were many more women who were in need of jobs. Henceforth, Kazuri Beads was created and began its long and successful journey as a help center for the needy women, especially single mothers who had no other source of income. In 1988, Kazuri became a factory and expanded hugely to include over 120 women and men. Here, women are trained and apply their skills to produce unique and beautiful beads and jewelry. The beads are made with clay from the Mt Kenya area, thus giving authenticity to the craft. The factory acts as a social gathering with the hum of voices continuing vibrating throughout the day. With unemployment so high, one jobholder often ends up providing for an “extended family” of 20 or more. Kazuri is a member of the Fair Trade Act.

Kazuri Beads Present Day

Today, Kazuri (the Swahili word for ‘small and beautiful’) produces a wide range of hand made and painted ceramic jewelry that shines with a kaleidoscope of African colors. Kazuri’s beautifully finished products are made to an international standard and are sold worldwide. These standards are maintained through high training regimens and a highly motivated management team.

In 2001, Mark and Regina Newman bought the company. Their goal is to further increase the size and maintain the central guiding philosophy … to provide employment opportunities for disadvantaged members of Kenyan Society.

 

Linda & John’s Quintessential African Experience

“There aren’t very many places where we’ve been and are dying to go back. Patagonia is one we’d go back to…but on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say Patagonia is a 5, and Africa is a 9.9.”  — Linda & John


East Africa with Parks MapFrom the moment we landed, East Africa made an impact. We’d been to Africa before, on what we called our ‘beginners’ trip which included Botswana, Victoria Falls and Kruger National Park, but this one was what we considered a ‘quintessential African experience.’ Every place we went; every day was filled with animal interactions, up close and personal. You name it – we saw it all!

The very first vision our bleary eyes saw after we stepped off the plane was Mt. Kilimanjaro. Seeing that mountain was the most impressive thing… so distant and seemingly so close, enshrouded with snow and clouds. It’s massive and interesting because being a volcano, it raises up from a low-level plane rather than from a graduation of foothills, which makes it unusual. I would conservatively guess it’s maybe 19,000 feet high, straight up from its base. It’s an impressive site, and a most memorable way to arrive. 

Unlimited Memories

It’s virtually impossible to pinpoint which particular memories to share from this trip because the experiences we had were so plentiful. For example, can you imagine this…at one point, we saw 7 or 8 lion cubs playing with each other while their moms were hunting. We stopped the car about 30 yards from them. I would never have anticipated that kind of proximity to an abundance of lion cubs without their mothers. We had lions literally walking by the safari car we were in..and could have reached out to touch them. The same with the elephants. We were blown away with the photo opps there. 

Leopard on a kill, Photo by Linda & John

Another day, we pulled right up to a leopard that was eating a small zebra it had killed, and then a lion came walking up. We thought certainly there’d be a conflict, but the leopard just calmly left. We also saw a pack of hyenas chasing two baby warthogs one night, so we were literally driving across the plains chasing them, keeping them in our headlights. 

The biggest surprise was when we went to our camp in the Serengeti. We thought that because of the time of year we were visiting, we would have missed the migration, but we quickly learned that the animals are constantly migrating. So depending on the time of the year, the strategy is to just go to the part of the Serengeti where they’re still migrating, and we saw it…thousands of animals moving slowly across the landscape. 

A Cut Above

Everywhere we went on our trip was amazing. The food was delicious –  the game meat was fantastically good, served like a filet mignon. There were abundant animal sightings, and the accommodations were definitely nice. But if I’m being honest, to us, everything else seemed to pale in comparison to our camp in the Masai Mara. 

Three things set this place apart. One was the absolute luxury of the accommodations. We had a gigantic copper bath with an adjacent indoor and outdoor shower. The place we stayed in was about 12-1400 square feet with a deck overlooking a stream where every day, hippos and crocs were floating and wading by for our viewing pleasure. 

Two, their commitment and ultra knowledge about all things photo…our driver was a Masai and extremely articulate and knowledgeable about photography, so we were able to capture everything we witnessed as if we worked for National Geographic. One afternoon at sunset, he even maneuvered our car simply to allow us to frame 5 giraffes against the setting sun. They will even lend you a top-end camera, or Swarovsky binoculars if you don’t have your own. 

And three, aside from the lodge, they also have 6, 7 or maybe 8 of the suites where people can stay in luxurious proximity to the natural surroundings. If we go back, we might just go straight there and stay for 10 days.

Permanently Altered

Travel…and we’re not the most widely traveled individuals…but it does invariably change you. The people you meet in Africa give you perspective on your personal background. You see the fragility of the  environment, and are moved by cultural experiences… It all expands your experiential universe. It makes you a better person for it. It definitely has had an impact. 

There aren’t very many places where we’ve been and are dying to go back. Patagonia is one we’d go back to…but on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say Patagonia is a 5, and Africa is a 9.9. Italy has an impact, various places in Europe certainly have an impact, but in terms of depth…Africa’s impact is more visceral than anything else. It’s a visceral, moving impact. Our friends want to go to Italy every year, and visiting the wine country, but they aren’t as interested in the natural world as we are, which is totally fine…and man made wonders are spectacular, but not as moving…to us…as seeing the beauty of nature. 

Some of Linda & John’s Photos

Borana’s Lengishu House

Borana has always been a special place; a truly family-oriented conservancy, adjacent to the world-renowned Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, that offers outstanding wildlife experiences as well as opportunities to explore a breathtaking landscape through a variety of activities. Borana also offers a range of exclusive-use safari homes and villas, and the newest is Lengishu House.

 


Lengishu_Fact_Sheet

Serendipity

On Location in Kenya with Parts Unknown


In March 2018, Kili McGowan, Next Adventure’s Managing Director, accompanied the Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown crew during their time on Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. This is her story and photos from that experience.

In the yellow WACO biplane over Lewa

In the yellow WACO biplane over Lewa



It was a rainy day.

Surprisingly, the day I met Anthony Bourdain – on safari – was fraught with an unseasonal rain storm that lasted for three months after a 5-year drought. The flooding was so bad in Nairobi it made headlines briefly in the US. We were sitting inside by a fire in the cozy main living room of Lewa Wilderness, a family-owned safari lodge on Lewa Conservancy.

You might say it was when I really met him, because in truth, I’d been introduced to Anthony the day before, just prior to the rain starting. It was arrival day for the shoot and while chatting with my dear friend Kamau Bell who had just arrived from the noise of Nairobi, Anthony walked right up and said hello as if it was just any other day for him. Easy, comfortable and casual…humble, and unlike any other celebrity encounter I’d had before.

A legacy

Anthony and Kamau were at Lewa to shoot what we now know to be one of the final episodes of Parts Unknown, the famous travel series that invites people to see the world through the lens of Anthony and his exceptional crew. Of course, Anthony had been to Africa countless times, but now the seasoned traveler “was dying to see how Kamau handles the heat, the spice, the crowds, the overwhelming rush of a whole new world”.

They started in Nairobi looking for examples of community empowerment and uplifting aspects of Kenya’s pride, politics and creativity. Naturally, they wanted a safari to match this perspective, and they were looking for a story at the intersection of tourism, conservation and local Kenyan engagement.

This perspective – one of hope, creativity and resilience – was a perfect match with one of our beloved destinations, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Northern Kenya. Established in 1995 by the Craig family, Lewa was originally a cattle ranch that has since grown to be one of the most successful rhino conservation projects in the world while also providing medical services to nearly 50,000 people.

northern rangelands trust lgoAs a conservation model, this patchwork of ranches has inspired the Northern Rangelands Trust which includes 35 community conservancies and 18 ethnic groups spread over 42,000 sq. kms. of Kenya’s wild northern frontier. Lewa is an epicenter of conversations about land and wildlife management, anti-poaching strategies, and secure, sustainable development. Lewa embodies a radical innovation of Kenya’s most foundational structures, and the lesson from Lewa is clear: to protect wildlife, you have to build clinics, support schools and empower local communities.

Uncovering the Story

We knew Anthony and his crew would find what they needed at Lewa. It just so happened that at the time of their visit, presidential politics were extremely precarious, and tensions were also growing in Kenya because of a 5-year drought the country had been experiencing. Managing and monitoring the needs of the communities as well as those of the animals and the sometimes constricting laws that surround land and water usage created desperate situations that were complex and palpable. Although a complex and sensitive issue, we knew that Parts Unknown was interested in capturing some of this story, and certainly how it was impacting the nation overall.

Travel – and the unforgettable gems that result from it – can be tricky. The ‘magical’ moments that travelers seek can be elusive in spite of the best laid plans. Our first sundowner shot with Anthony and Kamau, for example, was enshrouded in streaky grey clouds, but, rather than hang onto that disappointment, we proceeded with our schedule…capturing intimate audio from Anthony that perhaps today carries a bit of comfort that he knew his life was well-lived.

Seventeen f—ing years. As soon as the cameras turn off and the crew will be sitting around, we’ll be having a cocktail, I f— pinch myself. I cannot f— believe that I get to do this.

As luck would have it, magic did manage to find us the next day. In an almost prophetic way, there was a sighting of a male and female lion together on a hilltop where they’ve been spotted before…except this time, they almost immediately sauntered down the hill and walked directly toward our vehicle with Tony and Kamau following behind. After that fortuitous sighting, we continued on to Il Ngwesi Community Ranch for a celebratory lunch that was simple and profound. And then, it happened.

An Unexpected Gift

Coming from a direction that even the Maasai elders didn’t expect was an unlikely storm in an atypical month. Kenyans generally experience the ‘short rains’ in December, and the ‘long rains’ in April and May which is when the bulk of the precipitation happens, but this was March 2nd. The direction, the timing and the dramatic ending of Kenya’s drought was electrifying the country…in that very moment. And, it was captured by and with Anthony Bourdain. The entire community, the crew, even Kamau…everyone…was dancing in celebration of the unexpected gift.

This is how I ended up in front of a fire with the sound of raindrops on the roof, chatting with Anthony. Not surprisingly, we talked about travel. I was curious if there was a destination he found most surprising, and he told me about Iran…he said the people were kind, welcoming and embracing. We talked about respecting cultures and how when someone you just met offers you something to eat, you absolutely eat it. For Anthony, the first and final frontier was a culture’s food, and, to have an authentic adventure, one must be completely immersed in it.

That visit, now documented in one of his final episodes, will certainly be held as one of my most treasured memories. The rain we had was certainly symbolic of how his visit brought so many gifts to this hopeful place; from his company around that fire to the light that this episode will bring to Lewa and the surrounding communities and certainly to the ongoing story of Kenya’s beauty and resilience.

Learn more about visiting Lewa

Special thanks to Dawn Shalhoup at www.prpotion.com for helping tell this story.

Lewa Walking Wild

Lewa Walking Wild Fly Camping
Walking Wild is a camel safari outfit based out of Lewa Wilderness. This venture offers guests the unique opportunity to explore by foot the remote valleys, hills and plains of both Lewa and neighboring Maasai community conservation areas. Guests spend the days walking, whilst the camels and Maasai transport the camp, meeting up each evening for unforgettable nights camping out in the bush.

Sleeping tents are dome shade netting tents, PVC floor, 3 meters by 3 meters and 3.5 meters high, insect and reptile proof, with flysheet in case of rain. Bedding is a bedroll on the floor with sheets and blankets. Ablutions are two loos – short drop type and two showers canvas bucket type. This is a walking safari supported by camels, however camels can be ridden when the terrain or route allows.

Laikipia

The patchwork of private conservancies, ranches and farms knit together the Laikipia Plateau, the gateway to Kenya’s little-visited northern territory. Amid spectacular scenery, traditional ways of pastoral life coexist with an abundance of free-roaming wildlife. Laikipia has one of the biggest and most diverse mammal populations in Kenya—only the Masai Mara boasts more game. The big five are present, plus wide-ranging wild dogs; there’s even a chance of seeing the rare aquatic Sitatunga antelope. Laikipia is also home to about 25% of the world’s population of rare Grevy’s zebra and half of Kenya’s black rhino population. This is also the best place to view such northern species as reticulated giraffe, Somali ostrich, Beisa oryx, Jackson’s hartebeest and gerenuk. Numerous impala and Grant’s gazelle ensure healthy predator populations of lion, leopard and cheetah.

What to expect from Laikipia: Seclusion! Rawness! Rarity! The amazing thing about Laikipia is the cooperation between humans that make this wildlife habitat sustainable. The rugged beauty of the semi-arid deserts and escarpments is simply stunning. You will see rare animal species but rare visitors in Laikipia. Keep in mind that the plateau is high, with altitudes from 5,500 feet to 8,500 feet, so bring sweaters and jackets year round.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Set against the backdrop of snow-capped Mount Kenya, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a magical place for the ultimate Kenyan safari experience. The diversity of scenery from open plains, rolling hills, valleys, escarpments and rivers brings rich game viewing opportunities while supporting community initiatives and sustainable development. LWC is home to all of the “Big Five” and due to the establishment of a rhino sanctuary and breeding program in 1984, it is one of the only areas where visitors are almost guaranteed to see both the endangered black and white rhino. Through the protection and management of endangered species, the initiation and support of community conservation and development programs, and the education of neighboring areas in the value of wildlife, Lewa has become Kenya’s leading model for wildlife conservation on private land. LWC is leading the way for low-impact conservation tourism resulting in direct benefits for communities across the region.

Guests of the four lodges on the conservancy are welcome to walk with a trained guide, view the terrain and wildlife on horse or camelback or perhaps on a scenic flight. Some of these activities are at extra cost and not all are available at every property.

What to expect from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy: Remoteness! Culture! Rhinos! One big advantage of this conservancy is how few guests visit such an immense area. You will feel like this wilderness is your own private haven. There are many cultural experiences available from the various lodges on the LWC and most guests feel that they are respectful and authentically enriching.

Legendary Lodge

Legendary Lodge is one of a kind: it is a luxury property located on the outskirts of Arusha, set in a lush tropical garden surrounded by a working coffee farm. Enjoy inspiring views of Mount Meru from the privacy of your own garden cottage while their staff takes care of your every whim. Conveniently located, the lodge is a 10 minutes’ drive from the Arusha Airport and 1 to 2 hours’ drive from Kilimanjaro International Airport.

The Legendary Lodge offers the highest standard in accommodations and service. The ten garden cottages each have private verandahs and stunning views of Mount Meru that make for the perfect place to relax before or after a safari. The interiors have been designed with a unique blend of African style combined with Western comforts and old colonial luxury. Each ensuite cottage features comfortable split level living to include king size beds with mosquito nets, lounge with fireplace, satellite television, direct dial phone, broadband connection, complimentary mini-bar, fruit basket and coffee and tea station. The bathrooms have a vanity with double basins, bathtub, rain shower, separate toilet and the full range of amenities. The family cottages feature two ensuite bedrooms connected by a spacious living room, fully furnished with satellite television, dining room and kitchen. The family cottages also feature a wrap-around verandah and each one is enclosed in a private garden.

Indulge in gourmet meals served at the old farmhouse. Meal times are flexible and guests are accommodated at their convenience. Wake up calls are accompanied by freshly brewed coffee and tea along with a full English breakfast. Delicious lunches are followed by romantic candle-lit dinners, served with a selection of fine wines. The nearby recreation centre includes a fully equipped gym with aerobics studio, sauna, steam room, pool, tennis and squash courts as well as sports fields and a five-kilometre running track. Optional activities offered are a savory coffee tour, shopping at the nearby Cultural Heritage Center or an excursion to Arusha, Tarangire and Manyara National Parks or other nearby attractions. Legendary Spa offers a full range of professional services. After a long flight, ease your body into African time with a relaxing massage or reflexology treatment. After your safari, rehydrate your skin with a personalised face or body treatment. Whatever your pleasure, Legendary Lodge will ensure a truly legendary experience.

 



FACT SHEET LEGENDARY LODGE

Tanzania’s Mwiba Lodge

Mwiba, a secluded, sophisticated haven set among massive stone boulders, ancient coral trees and acacias, overlooking a rocky gorge on the Arugusinyai River, is the latest addition to the Legendary Expeditions portfolio. Set in harmony with this idyllic natural backdrop, Mwiba offers an unmatched experience in luxury adventure. This exclusive destination mixes both traditional and modern design elements, creating an inviting, sophisticated hideaway.

The interiors artfully integrate the natural surroundings with layer upon layer of textured creams paired with suede, tans and accents of chocolate and charcoal. From the linen dressed slope-armed sofas to ornately carved wooden leg tables and cascading lighting, the eight double suites all give way to a wide-open layout where each room flows to another.  The bathroom brings the outdoors inside with traditional canvas walls accented with copper fixtures, large soaking tubs with private outside showers, all with transporting views from hardwood plank decks.

The grey slate-lined infinity-edge pool overlooks three springs where guests can enjoy the sights and sounds of a constant parade of wildlife. Vast and privately controlled, this exquisite 129,530 acre wildlife reserve is vibrantly lush with color-infused botanicals, 33 freshwater springs and a diverse array of wildlife. Game drives, bush walks and cultural excursions to the local tribe’s village are just a few of the magical experiences that begin at Mwiba, where a world of adventure awaits.



MWIBA LODGE FACT SHEET

Mwiba Lodge Cultural Interaction

Legendary Serengeti Mobile Camp

Explore a rich landscape of inky blue skies, burnt orange sunsets and the soft neutrals of the African savannah. Within the largest of Tanzania’s national parks is a promise of luxury with premier accommodations and superb service that are Legendary Serengeti Camp.

SOUTH SERENGETI / MASWA: beginning of December until the end of April

WEST SERENGETI: middle of May through to middle of July

NORTH SERENGETI: middle of July to the end of November



LEGENDARY SERENGETI MOBILE FACT SHEET
Tree-scratching Lion

Bee & Chaz Capture Rare Safari Moments

On the way to the airstrip at Mara Plains we watched this baby gazelle being born on New Year’s Day. This is how this safari trip has gone. Every day something absolutely remarkable. — Bee & Chaz

As an old saying goes: The only way to have great ideas is to have a lot of ideas. We think the same applies to safaris and wildlife photography. The more time you spend in the bush, and the more photos you take, the better chance you’ll have of getting great shots.

Bee wanted to make sure she had the perfect camera for her safari, and she couldn’t have been happier with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. Olympus customer service went out of their way to make sure she had the newest technology without it being too heavy or unwieldy. We hesitate to guess how many photos Bee & Chaz took to narrow it down to these wonderful photos, but we can tell you where they were and a bit about their two most recent safaris.

White Browed Coucal vs Chameleon, Mara

White Browed Coucal vs Chameleon in the Mara

Our guide Duncan at Mara Plains saw the White Browed Coucal attacking this chameleon. We watched in wonder as he systematically tried to pull the chameleon off the bush by trying to unwrap its tail then pulling on the chameleon’s limbs. After some time in the epic struggle for life vs lunch, the coucal gave up and the chameleon survived…for the moment. — Bee & Chaz

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Family Safari Kid with Tortoise in Kruger

Family Safaris – Our Personal Picks

Family Safari for Kids in Kruger

Rainie’s Bush Walk in Kruger

As you might have guessed, the Next Adventure team fully supports taking the whole family on safari! As family safaris have grown in popularity, the options for quality family experiences have also grown. Some of the best camps and lodges now provide dedicated family spaces and phenomenal creative resources ensuring a safari with children or grandchildren is a pleasure for all.

The beauty of these family-friendly camps is that guests can spend quality time with the kids as well as finding time to pursue their own interests or just relax while in camp. Here are a few of Next Adventure’s favorite places to spend time in the bush with kids of all ages!


Jeremy’s Pick for Family Safaris: Imvelo’s Elephant Express

The combination of iconic Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls typically makes for a family trip of a lifetime! With Imvelo Safari Lodges, you get a tremendous value, comfortable accommodations and outstanding wildlife experiences in Hwange. Children ages 7 and up are welcome at all properties, and they will marvel at the wildlife and cultural programs which are integral to the Imvelo safari experience. Best of all, every family member will love the Elephant Express train transfer, a vintage open-air railcar that rides along the edge of Hwange National Park for truly unique wildlife viewing with a nostalgic twist!

Imvelo – Kids on Safari


Kili’s Pick for Family Safaris: Lamai Serengeti Lodge

One of my favorite options for families is the Lamai Serengeti Lodge, which sits tucked amongst the rocks of a kopje in the Northern Serengeti with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. It’s just a few miles from where the wildebeest cross the Mara River, and, for roughly a quarter of the year, between late July and October, this is where you’ll find the iconic seasonal migration. One of the advantages of this lodge is a range of options for families of different sizes, including the Main Lodge (8 tents, children 8 & up), the Private Camp (4 tents, children 5 & up) and the exclusive use Mkombe’s House (up to 4 adults, 6 children of any age). Private vehicles are available at main & Private camp at an additional cost while a private vehicle is included in Mkombe’s House. Walking is possible for children 12 and older. This is an ideal location to include on your family’s Tanzania safari!

Lamai Serengeti Lodge


Louise’s Pick for Family Safaris: Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge & EleFun Centre

Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge was one of my granddaughter’s first safari experiences when she was just 18 months old. To say that this luxury lodge is a perfect choice for kids of all ages is an understatement. The wildlife viewing in the renowned Sabi Sands is unparalleled, and the lodge excels at making families and kids feel right at home. Two newly opened luxury villas add to the ambiance and are exquisite, spacious, and perfect for a family stay. The rest of the 25 suites are equally charming and can accommodate families as well. The EleFun Centre is staffed by a professional childcare team and organizes age appropriate activities in the Junior Tracker (ages 4-8) and Junior Ranger (ages 9-12) programs. There is a play area and organized games for kids of all ages available all day long in addition to the formal programs.

Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge


Nicole’s Pick for Family Safaris: Lewa Wilderness

In the heart of Central Kenya’s Laikipia region, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is one of the most successful private conservation efforts. This rugged home to the Big 5 and many endangered and rare species has been part of the Craig Family legacy since 1972. Lewa Wilderness features 10 suites, four of which are specifically designed for family safaris, and children of all ages are welcome, little ones under age 5 stay for free. Lewa Wilderness is the hub of all activities on the conservancy, offering East Africa’s only open cockpit biplane and a stable yard of horses suited to all levels of experience. Guests can also camel ride among the wildlife, enjoy flexible game drives, take guided bush walks, visit the local community enhancement projects, and much more.

Lewa Wilderness


Whether you’re looking for adventure, education, relaxation or (D.) All of the above, there are so many wonderful family safari options! Get in touch today to start planning your perfect family safari.

A Crash of Buffalo on the Serengeti

Sorting through the Serengeti

Lion Cuddles in the Serengeti

Lion Cuddles in the Serengeti

With so many truly spectacular natural wonders within relatively close proximity, it’s no surprise the Northern Circuit and Tanzania’s Serengeti plains are such popular first-time safari destinations. Along with that popularity comes the crowds and an overwhelming array of options to consider:

  • What are the best camps and lodges for each season?
  • Why are some camps so expensive while others seem too cheap?
  • What order of destinations makes the most sense?
  • What is the most efficient way of getting around?
  • Where are the best guides or the best chefs or the best activities for kids?

Of course, the answer to all these questions is, it depends. It depends on you, your preferences and interests and how you envision your ideal safari. That’s why the team at Next Adventure invests so much in educational and familiarization trips throughout East and Southern Africa, and all of our safaris feature custom arrangements based on long running partnerships and our first-hand experience.

In November of 2016, Next Adventure’s Managing Director Kili McGowan spent 3 weeks on a comprehensive tour of some of Tanzania’s best camps and lodges. Read her trip report below, flip through her photos, and get in touch to find out what we would recommend for your safari on Tanzania’s Serengeti plains!


Serengeti – A Swahili word for Endless Plains or Extended Place

Just the sheer number of safari camps and lodges in the Serengeti is daunting, but, when you add that fact that many of them move locations with respect to the seasonal migration, the options can be dizzying. In mid-November, most camps that are not in permanent locations move toward the Ndutu area so they are in position for the expected wildebeest migration, one of Earth’s truly remarkable wildlife wonders.

Typically, the ‘mobile camps’ open in December on the Southern plains. It is quite difficult to predict when the herds will arrive as their movements are very dependent on the rains and other environmental conditions. If one is planning travel during the shoulder season, we highly recommend combining two different regions in Serengeti to maximize your chance of spectacular sightings of the migration.

Southern Serengeti

I visited several properties in the Ndutu / Lake Masek area, most notably the new permanent property Lake Masek Tented Camp, which offers large spacious tents at a mid-range price point. Of course, peak season is December through March when the wildebeest migration and all of the accompanying wildlife drama are at its best, but Lake Masek offers guests year-round big 5 off-road game viewing in the shadow of Mount O’ldeani. Even though I was a bit early for the herds to have arrived, I was treated to an incredible sighting of three bull elephants hanging out in their ‘bachelor herds’ while dwarfing the rest of the animals around them.

Besides the seasonal herds, the Ndutu and Kakessio areas (further southeast from Ndutu, near Lake Eyasi) are well known for decent sightings of wild dogs. Two of our favorite mobile camps in the area are Alex Walker’s Serian Camps, Serengeti South and Serengeti Mobile Kusini. Each camp dedicates a private vehicle to every distinct booking, and they employ some of the best highly trained guides. Guests can hope to catch a glimpse of cheetah on the plains as well as other predators like lion, hyena and wild dog, especially when the herds are in residence (Dec-Mar).

Central Serengeti

Following my stay down south, my guide and I made our way to the Central Serengeti’s Moru Kopjes area. This region is strategic for catching the migration this time of year as it is between Seronera and Ndutu. My home for two nights was Nomad’s Serengeti Safari Camp, a fantastic mobile camp nestled in the kopjes (large rocky hills lying on the flat plains). This part of the Serengeti is just beautiful, and we were very lucky with our lion sightings here. It seemed like we kept finding different prides on every drive, and we even saw a wild black rhino–a rare sighting indeed! The camp itself, like Entamanu Ngorongoro, has a relaxed atmosphere, lovely public areas, and six well-appointed ensuite tents.

For a slightly larger and more permanent option, guests might enjoy the ten-roomed Serengeti Pioneer Camp. Also situated in the game-rich Moru Kopjes area, this lodge has a pool, individual dining, and an unbeatable view from its perch on top of a kopje. Another noteworthy camp in the Moru region is Dunia Camp, which has the unique distinction of an all female staff. The warm manager, highly trained guides, and each team member make a supreme effort to provide the best guest experience possible…and they succeed! Overall, visitors to the Serengeti will find the central area near Seronera/Moru excellent for high density game viewing year round, but they will have to compete with a lot more vehicles from other lodges as well.

Far from the crowds of the Central Serengeti lies the remote Namiri Plains Camp. A stay at this Eastern Serengeti gem makes guests feel like they have the Serengeti to themselves, as no other camp is within one hour’s drive of Namiri Plains. The flat open grasslands are prime habitat for cheetah and other big cats along with plenty of resident game. There is a coalition of six male lions nearby that make for exciting viewing and splendid photographic opportunities. Namiri is a year-round destination ideal for honeymooners and those seeking the hidden side of Serengeti.

Northern Serengeti

Moving North toward the Lobo area of the park, I had the chance to spend time at Elewana’s Serengeti Migration Camp. Don’t let the name fool you! This is a permanent ‘hybrid’ lodge that feels a little like a hotel and camp combined. The accessibility to Lobo airstrip, the delicious food, the swimming pool, amazing river views and plentiful wildlife activity make for an incredible Serengeti stay. This camp might be one of the best choices for families looking to spend time in the park.

Further north along the Kenyan border lies the Lamai wedge, a visually stunning landscape blessed with resident wildlife in the path of the migration. This area, along with Kogatende, typically sees the migration pass through in late June through August and then again when the herds come back from Kenya in late September-October. For travelers who are looking for good value in the Lamai region at a mid-range price point, the modern and fresh Lemala Kuria Hills Lodge is an excellent option. One of my favorite lodges in this area is a luxury camp, Lamai Serengeti, which discreetly blends twelve rooms into the nooks of a kopje. There are long walks between the rooms and the lodge, so this place is not ideal for people with mobility issues. The lodge itself offers simple hearty fare and feels like you are spending time in your friend’s living room…it’s that comfortable and relaxed. There is a resident lion pride right at camp and leopard sightings are common on game drives.

Adjacent to the Lamai Serengeti property is the private villa, Mkombe’s House. This is an ideal family property with two ensuite bedrooms juxtaposed with children’s rooms. Four adults and six children can comfortably occupy the house. Exclusive use of a guide and vehicle, a private chef, and pool are just a few of the amenities of this space. Flexibility is paramount, and there is no age limit for children. Mkombe’s House even provides car seats and high chairs for little ones!

As I flew away from the Serengeti on the long journey home, I had to marvel at the high quality service that Tanzania as a whole delivers to safari travelers. The people I met were very proud of their heritage and language, and they were warm, hospitable and eager to learn about the bigger world. The Highlands at Ngorongoro provided one of the most genuine culture interactions I have ever been part of, and the Serengeti offers a dizzying repository of wildlife diversity as it faces developmental challenges with new properties coming onto the scene each year. The robust lion populations and other cat sightings were highlights as well as the black rhino at Moru Kopjes. After this visit, I feel more invigorated and confident than ever to help Next Adventure travelers find the rare gems within the mainstream bustle of tourism in Tanzania.


With all these choices, which camps and lodges would I recommend for you? Call me to start planning your safari or to hear more about mine!

Read Part 1: Tanzania’s Northern Circuit Shines

Ele eating in the crater

Tanzania’s Northern Circuit Shines

Across the Ngorongoro Crater Floor

Across the Ngorongoro Crater Floor

With so many truly spectacular natural wonders within relatively close proximity, it’s no surprise Tanzania’s Northern Circuit and vast Serengeti plains are such popular first-time safari destinations. Along with that popularity comes the crowds and an overwhelming array of options to consider:

  • What are the best camps and lodges for each season?
  • Why are some camps so expensive while others seem too cheap?
  • What order of destinations makes the most sense?
  • What is the most efficient way of getting around?
  • Where are the best guides or the best chefs or the best activities for kids?

Of course, the answer to all these questions is, it depends. It depends on you, your preferences and interests and how you envision your ideal safari. That’s why the team at Next Adventure invests so much in educational and familiarization trips throughout East and Southern Africa, and all of our safaris feature custom arrangements based on long running partnerships and our first-hand experience.

In November of 2016, Next Adventure’s Managing Director Kili McGowan spent 3 weeks on a comprehensive tour of some of Tanzania’s best camps and lodges. Read her trip report below, flip through her photos, and get in touch to find out what we would recommend for your safari on Tanzania’s Northern Circuit!


Arusha

Touching down at Kilimanjaro Airport, I was full of excitement for the epic safari that lay before me. First, I needed to rest, and the nearby Rivertrees Country Inn provided just the right blend of understated luxury and comfort for my first night in Tanzania. The staff was attentive and full of Tanzanian hospitality. The restaurant welcomes a refreshing mix of Arusha residents and international guests, and the feel of the lodge is very local. I had a restful stay and believe that this is the perfect beginning or end to a safari in Tanzania – a mix of refreshment and convenience enhanced by plentiful birdlife and monkey antics in the gardens. Some of our other favorite places to land in Arusha are the Arusha Coffee Lodge or Lake Duluti Lodge.

Tarangire & Manyara

On my first morning, my private guide and I bumped along to Tarangire for about two hours, taking in the undulating hills and plains that welcome you to Tanzania’s Northern Circuit. Given that we know the Tarangire area quite well and our favorite lodges, Sanctuary Swala Camp and Oliver’s Camp are operating at the highest standards, on this trip I decided to investigate a private concession just outside Tarangire. I arrived at Little Chem Chem set amidst the Baobabs and overlooking the shore of Lake Burunge later that day. This intimate vintage safari camp is the perfect setting for big game walks, tracking animals across the plains, or visiting the village school where you can interact with students.

I enjoyed my chance to stretch my legs after being on the long haul flight and in the vehicle. This area between Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara National Park is home to elephant, buffalo, lion, cheetah, and plentiful plains game species. Seasonally (Dec-Mar), you can view flamingos and hopefully catch zebra and wildebeest calving. Game drives into Tarangire are possible from Little Chem Chem in addition to walking safaris on the private concession.

Sharing the concession to the West is Chem Chem Lodge, an elegant safari lodge known for exquisite culinary experiences and outstanding sundowners on the edge of Lake Manyara. While game drives can be arranged, Chem Chem is best for those who want to set out on foot with their Maasai guides and naturalists. Giraffe, zebra, and many bird species are often your companions on wilderness walks. Meaningful visits to community projects are often considered highlights by many guests. Both of the Chem Chem accommodations embrace the ‘slow safari’ concept where the sensual discovery of the wilderness is paramount. This location is an ideal reprieve from the busier mainstream wildlife viewing destinations and a chance to unwind in the natural beauty of the area while delving into the culture of the Maasai.

Ngorongoro Crater

Climbing the Great Rift escarpment into the higher altitudes of the Ngorongoro highlands, my next destination was Lemala Ngorongoro Camp, located on the crater rim in an Acacia forest on the Eastern side of the crater. This homey mobile camp has spacious tents with heavy duvets, hot water bottles, and gas heaters to combat the chilly evening temperatures. Along with fantastic service and escorted walks in the forest and along the rim, Lemala Ngorongoro offers quick access into the crater at Lemala gate. We were the first car through at 6am to explore the wonders on the crater floor while most other groups did not arrive until an hour later, allowing for excellent photographic conditions and a bit of uncrowded wildlife viewing! Although it can get congested with visitors, Ngorongoro Crater always delivers incredible wildlife sightings of elephant, hyena, eland, zebra and sometimes rhino. This little microcosm of the Tanzanian plains set against that dramatic crater wall is definitely a sight to behold!

Following a full day of exploring the crater, we headed deeper into the foothills and other craters of the region. Approximately 45-minutes north of the Ngorongoro Crater lies a new camp focusing on the culture and natural history of the area, Asilia Africa’s The Highlands at Ngorongoro. Exclusive and remote, The Highlands is an architectural wonder that maintains coziness and luxurious comfort for active travelers in a truly unique setting. The location of the camp, nestled along the Ol Moti Crater, has steep walks between the guest tents and the main lodge. Wood burning stoves keep the domed tents toasty warm and comfortable. Exemplary hosting at family-style meals makes everyone feel welcome and involved in whatever conversation is being held. This camp feels removed from the bustle of Ngorongoro Crater and offers many options for curious travelers looking for something a little different.

Whether trekking around the Ol Moti Crater or descending into the scenic Empakai Crater with it’s tiny lake dotted with flamingos, the naturalist guides at The Highlands are experts on the local flora and fauna. Perhaps the biggest strength of The Highlands is the unobtrusive and genuine village visits. These manyattas are not your typical commercial cultural experiences but authentic opportunities to learn about the Masai lifestyle from the villagers themselves. A guest might participate in bringing the herds into the boma or hearing a local legend from an elder. No matter what your experience, it will be unique as visits are spread among many surrounding backcountry villages.

Another new experience in the Ngorongoro Crater area lies on the Western rim near the Serena access road at Entamanu Ngorongoro, operated by Nomad Tanzania. Although it feels more ‘traditional’ than The Highlands with its proximity to the Crater itself, Entamanu delivers in every way. Without question, the camp has the best view of any crater property–gazing out over the expansive plains of the Serengeti. With no surrounding forest to obscure views, guests are treated to a 180 degree panorama of one of the most famous landscapes on earth…and did I mention the sunsets? Just stunning…on a continent where marking the end of the day with a cocktail and exquisite bites has become a truly important daily ritual, Entamanu shines.

The cushy barefoot luxury of the camp is evident in throughout all 6 tents as well as the huge main area that feels like a big cozy living room. The camp maintains the highest standards of environmental care–and it is completely removable. The design considered ‘leave no trace’ to be a very important theme of the camp while not sparing any creature comforts for guests. Again, the Nomad management and guides provide outstanding hosting, and they make the family-style meals and excursions truly memorable as guests are welcomed as members of the ‘tribe’. The activity focus of Entamanu is bush walking with armed Ngorongoro Conservation Area Rangers and the Nomad guide team along the rim which can be just as exciting as drives on the crater floor. Relationships with the nearby villages are blossoming and soon will be integrated into the guest experience.

An advantage to the Entamanu location is the nearby access to the famous Oldupai Gorge, where paleo-anthropologists Mary & Louis Leakey’s ground-breaking archaeological discoveries changed the way we think of our earliest ancestors. Following a quick breakfast at camp, we were able to be at Oldupai by 8 A.M., well before any other visitors arrived at the museum. Plans are in place for new facilities to open at Oldupai in the coming year. Once we toured the museum, there was ample time for a visit to Shifting Sands, the fascinating crescent shaped dunes of volcanic ash are a rare scientific phenomenon. From there, we continued down the escarpment and onto the vast plains of the Southern Serengeti National Park near Ndutu.


Get in touch to find out what we would recommend for your safari on Tanzania’s Northern Circuit, or continue reading Part 2: Sorting through the Serengeti

 

Mike & Sheila’s Serengeti Plains and Virungas Mountains

img_3488Mike & Sheila want to make sure we mention their ages (71 & 72) and these three points:

  1. Good guiding makes all the difference.
  2. A camping safari is a 24-hour experience.
  3. Tracking gorillas shouldn’t be intimidating

For their first safari back in 2011, we focused Mike & Sheila’s itinerary on a mobile camping safari in Botswana. It was a great fit. For this year’s trip we turned to East Africa, splitting their time between northern Tanzania, with camping and walking in the Serengeti, and tracking gorillas in Rwanda.

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Fig the leopard Kenya

Kenya – Our Personal Picks

Kili’s Pick: Mara Plains Camp, Olare Motorogi Conservancy, Masai Mara

There are many luxury camps throughout Kenya, but none captures the essence of Africa as well as Mara Plains Camp. Every single detail of the camp is exquisite and in harmony with the surroundings. Guests have the luxury of experience here, not just luxurious accommodations. There is maximum flexibility in what guests can do, unlimited explorations through the two massive conservancies plus the reserve, and attentiveness from the Great Plains team that make Mara Plains Camp a retreat rather than a lodge.

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Beyond Primates

Delving into Uganda’s Wildlife Havens

Uganda is renowned for tracking and viewing both the rare Mountain Gorilla and Chimpanzees. These experiences are epic and important to Uganda’s tourism economy. However, beyond the thick forests of Southwest Uganda and its famous primate excursions, there are parks equally worthy of exploration, both for bird and wildlife viewing and for spectacular natural beauty.

I was fortunate to join clients recently on a safari to Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks and to continue afterwards on my own to check out the remote Kidepo National Park in northeastern Uganda.

Murchison Falls
Our small group left Entebbe after a refreshing night at the Protea Entebbe Hotel. Our overland journey (about 5-6 hours, flights are also available) took us north to Murchison Falls National Park. Created in 1926 to protect the grasslands surrounding the Nile River and most known for the Falls themselves, Murchison offers guests a wide variety of activities and game viewing options.

Of course, the highlight is witnessing the Nile River blast through a narrow gorge and cascade into a placid river below. Guests can marvel and take photos from the top or the bottom of the falls. The boat cruise to the base of the Falls guarantees you’ll get wet from spray, but it offers a spectacular perspective on the thundering waterfall.

The area is a birder’s paradise, with Bee Eaters nesting in cliffs along the waterway and opportunities to see the rare Shoebill Stork. Nearby game viewing includes huge numbers of hippos, crocodiles, buffalo, herds of antelope and much more! We all very much enjoyed the Delta Point where where the Victoria Nile passes through the northern tip of Lake Albert to become the Albert Nile. The cruise ends at the Lake Albert community where guests glimpse local lifestyles and hard working fishing villages.

Murchison Falls offers the best of traditional game viewing in Uganda. Visitors to the park are likely to encounter lion, giraffe, large elephant herds, and plentiful plains game when on game drives by vehicle.

In the evenings, you can relax overlooking the river—from the luxury lodges like Paraa Safari Lodge or the more intimate luxury tented camp, Baker’s Lodge, which features 8 exquisite tents. Three nights in Murchison allows you time to appreciate this amazing park.

Kibale
Heading to Kibale Forest National Park in the Rift Valley (about 8 hours by road), we passed many small villages and towns on our scenic drive. Our destination was the splendid Ndali Lodge, perched on a ridge of an extinct volcano overlooking kettle lakes that dot the landscape. This small lodge of 8 cottages offers fine dining, genuine hospitality and exquisite views of the Rwenzori Mountains. From here, we went for a morning trek to locate wild chimpanzees in their forest habitat. Walking along cleared trails with a local guide, it is virtually guaranteed to find a troop of chimpanzees either in the trees or (more rarely) moving on the ground.

As with all primate viewing regulated by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, we were allowed to observe the chimpanzees for one hour before moving on to other activities in and around Kibale. Our afternoon included a wonderful community walk around the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, spying some of the smaller creatures and bird life in the area.

Queen Elizabeth
A short drive the following day took us to the Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP)—there again we took to the water to maximize our game viewing experience. Along the Kazinga Channel, which connects Lake Edward with Lake George, wildlife congregates and birds literally flock together. Elephants frolicked, buffalo grazed and hippos spy hopped during our languid exploration.

Guests here can enjoy another trek for chimpanzees in Kyambura Gorge or explore the woodlands of the southern sector of the park, called Ishasha. We chose to stay one night at the delightful classic tented camp, Ishasha Wilderness Camp, which was tucked into a thicket of trees along the cool riverbanks of the Ntungwe River.

The Ishasha sector is famed for tree-climbing lions which we were lucky to see before heading down to Bwindi for our gorilla trekking experience. Although the game concentration was light compared to Murchison Falls, we still enjoyed the natural beauty of the park and recommend visiting QENP.

Bwindi
Winding upward through tea plantations and beautiful mountain forests, we arrived at the aptly named Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Each day, small groups of intrepid travelers join expert park rangers and trackers to search out families of gorillas living on the steep cool slopes.

Visitors should be in good health (gorillas can catch our colds and coughs!) and also reasonably fit. Treks can be arduous and may last many hours covering rugged bushwhacking terrain. Your Bwindi team will do their best to clear the trail for you, but vines and foliage will reach out for your clothes and seek to slow your pace even more than the incline!

That said, the effort—whether one hour of trekking or five—is so worth it when you turn a corner and find a gorilla family observing you as much as you observe them. Juveniles may tumble and play in a tree, a mother may cradle her infant as she munches on leaves, all while a somber silverback watches you intensely with deep brown eyes. He acknowledges your presence while sitting sentry and keeping his family safe.

Gazing on these magnificent animals as they peacefully make their way through their mountainous home is one of the most profound and emotional wildlife encounters I’ve experienced. It is humbling, breath-taking, and powerful…and it’s over in the blink of an eye. The hour flies by and suddenly you are euphorically hiking back toward the park headquarters—full of adrenaline and excitement over all you have just been part of.

Kidepo
You’d think gorilla tracking and chimpanzee tracking would be enough in Uganda. However, more wonder was revealed to me when I bid farewell to the group and ventured to Kidepo Valley National Park in the Northern reaches of Uganda. Just a two-hour flight from Entebbe, this stunning hidden gem of a park awaits.

Kidepo is an enormous park dominated by mountains and valleys with stretches of semi-arid plains tucked between them. I’ve seen natural beauty throughout the continent of Africa but Kidepo—by far—is the prettiest park I have seen. The remoteness and true wilderness feel of the park is enhanced by wonderful game viewing, outstanding accommodation, and genuine community interactions.

For those who have been to Kenya, imagine the marriage of the rugged dryness of the Samburu area with the abundant wildlife on the plains of Masai Mara—that is essentially Kidepo. Massive herds of buffalo and elephants wander the savannas, and predators like cheetah and lion intently follow those herds. Gorgeous Ugandan Kob and towering giraffe were some of the highlights. From our perch at the luxurious Apoka Lodge we could see zebra and other plains game on the expanses below.

Perhaps one of the most unexpected delights of my Kidepo visit was spending time in the local village with the Karamajong people of the region. They share some of the qualities and beliefs of the neighboring Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania, but they have their own fascinating traditions and unique culture to share with visitors. In a most authentic and unobtrusive way, guests to Kidepo can mingle with the Karamajong community to learn about their way of life.

Uganda has such a reputation as a destination for those interested in primates but I found it to be so much more than that. Gorgeous uncrowded natural areas, diverse bird and wildlife viewing, and respectful community initiatives set this destination apart from any other in Africa. I hope that more travelers make time to include the unique areas of Murchison Falls and Kidepo in addition to the primate rich circuit of Kibale, Queen Elizabeth, and Bwindi National Parks. The discoveries you will find in all of these places will make for an unparalleled safari experience.

Call to begin planning your exploration of Uganda’s wildlife havens!

Entering the Virungas Mountains

Jeremy’s Rwanda Gorilla Experience

Rwanda is so many things, and my time there was magical. Here’s the first video from my visit, starting with the gorilla tracking experience. I did two treks: first to the Susa group, and then to the Hirwa group.

The Susa trek was nearly a two hour climb into the misty highland. It is the largest tourist-accessible group with multiple silverbacks, some young babies and a rare set of twins, and it is one of the original groups studied by Diane Fossey. The hike was exhausting and my legs were shaky with fatigue, but it was so rewarding to spend an hour observing the young gorillas tumbling around.

Hirwa Family Tree

Hirwa Family Tree

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Safari Portraits by Bruce M.

Bruce and Patty’s South Africa, Uganda and Kenya Safari

Bruce & Patty first travelled with us 5 years ago on a Wilderness Dawning camping safari. This time around they wanted to return to some of their favorite camps on a self-driving safari in Kruger National Park.

They also planned their own visit to Uganda for Gorilla-tracking, and we wrapped their month-long safari up with a few days camping in Kenya.

Here are their top 7 moments…

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Our Rock – Kenya’s Maasai Mara – Photo by Taylor Phillips

Anisa & Taylor’s Semi-Extreme Honeymoon Safari

Both Anisa & Taylor were eager to get out of the vehicle and experience the African wilderness first hand. Check out this awesome video to see how they did…

Not only did we arrange a variety of activities, we also developed their itinerary around a diversity of environments and camp styles. We opted for private or community-owned reserves allowing for greater flexibility, privacy and special arrangements like impromptu picnic lunches, romantic bush dinners, private vehicles and specialist guides.

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Fig the Leopard - Olare Motorogi Conservancy - Kenya

Kili’s Kenya Safari – October 2013 – Trip Report

After a few days of meetings in Nairobi and a stay at the lovely new Hemingways Hotel, my Kenyan safari began with a flight past Mt Kenya to the Northern Laikipia Plateau. Here, I spent 2 nights at Sabuk Lodge perched on a cliff overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro River. This privately-owned lodge remains a family home run by the entertaining owner, Verity, who hosts all the meals regaling with stories of her rich history in the safari industry. Verity coordinates each guest’s schedule with unique adventure activities such as walking or hiking excursions and Masai-guided camel safaris with stunning views of the Laikipia plains, Mount Kenya, the Karisa Hills and the Mathews Mountains in the North.

For me, the real highlight was a surprise breakfast out in the bush after we had just walked past a breeding herd of female elephants and their young. I also really enjoyed jumping into the Ewaso Nyiro River for a refreshing swim in the heat of the day and can’t wait to return to do a longer overnight walking safari sleeping out with a simple mosquito net under the stars!

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Elephant in Marsh - Camp Shawu - Kruger - South Africa

Memories and Photos from Bill & Cindy

We asked Will & Cindy if they would share some of their stories and pictures from their past trips, and we got this wonderful array of safari memories and their ten best pictures from over the years…

We’ve done three African Safaris with Next Adventure, as well as a more recent India trip that Kili and Louise planned for us. We have so many stories…

The glass-walled cabins in a forest where I opened my eyes from bed in the middle of the night and was looking directly into the eyes of SOME large animal on the other side of the glass, having baboons swarm our jeep in Kruger with “Old Bob” and refuse to leave without handouts…

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Chindeni Veranda Zambia

Small Safari Camps for Groups & Families

Traveling with your family or a small group of friends can be complicated: making restaurant reservations for a group can be tough or impossible, getting around isn’t easy with tourist maps and a couple of rental cars, and hotel arrangements for groups are expensive and inconvenient. Families and small groups of friends can avoid those complications and experience some great benefits by teaming up on an African safari.

Safari Houses can be a great choice, but one of the most authentic safari options for families and small groups is to buy-out or exclusively reserve small tented camps or private mobile safaris.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Chindeni Bushcamp – Zambia

Sublime, peaceful, tranquil and perfect are just a few of the words guests use to describe Chindeni Bushcamp. Located on the edge of an oxbow lagoon in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, Chindeni Bushcamp accommodates up to eight guests in classic canvas tents with vaulted ceilings and private verandas that reach out over the lagoon.

Spend the day watching birds, hippo and elephant visit the lagoon, or go deeper into one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in Africa on a guided walking safari or game drive.

Naibor Tented Camp – Kenya

Somewhere in the middle of the vast Masai Mara Game Reserve’s 1500 square kilometers sits a small collection of luxury tented camps called Naibor. With three separate camps, Naibor is a great choice for a group or family to explore the Mara. It is perfectly situated to experience the wildebeest migration crossing over the Mara river, plus cultural visits to the nearby Masai communities just outside the reserve can be arranged.

Of course, spectacular sundowners are on the menu, but guests can also enjoy a “bush meal” far out in the rolling grasslands.

Wilderness Dawning Mobile Safaris – Botswana

Wilderness Dawning offers the adventurous family or group 10-day & 14-day overland safaris that “endeavor to enrich our guests and enhance their love of Africa.” Days are spent with some of the best guides in the business game-driving through Botswana’s renowned wilderness areas including Nxai Pan, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango and Chobe National Park.

Experiencing diverse habitats and a tremendous variety of wildlife while relaxing night after night in a rustic camp under the stars makes Wilderness Dawning’s mobile safaris the ultimate adventure.

Selinda Explorers Camp is also a great tented camp option for families and groups. Read about it here as a Featured Destination.

Get in touch to learn more about these or other safari options for families and small groups.

Photos are courtesy of the camps.

Chongwe House - Zambia

The African Safari House

When our clients come home from safari, they usually say, “We’re going back?” followed by, “Next time, we’re taking friends.” Increasingly, families and small groups of friends are taking advantage of the benefits of sharing a safari. Traveling as a small private group opens up a world of value and possibilities unavailable to couples or solo travelers.

The growing availability of “Safari Houses” is one of the most exciting new offerings for safari goers. These private, exclusive-use accommodations are specifically designed to allow for the privacy and personalized service families and small groups enjoy. Safari Houses can usually accommodate 8-12 guests, and they can come with exclusive amenities like customized activities, flexible schedules, private vehicles, specialist guides and a dedicated house manager, personal chef and dining team.

Here are three of our favorite Safari Houses:

Chongwe Safari House – Zambia

Located on Zambia’s Chongwe River near the Lower Zambezi National Park, Chongwe River House sets the standard for the classic African Safari House. This four-bedroom house looks like it has literally grown out of the riverbank. Earthen walls mimic the lines of the surrounding terrain, and the sitting room furniture was carved from a single fallen winterthorn tree.

Wildlife viewing doesn’t get any better than in the Lower Zambezi with hundreds of species of bird, large herds of elephant and lion and leopard viewing.

The Villa at Grootbos – South Africa

The Villa at the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve might be one of the most unique and distinctive Safari Houses in Africa. Located 2 hours from Cape Town in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, Grootbos is a luxury eco destination that has grown from one family’s passion for the unprecedented marine and botanical diversity found on the Southern tip of Africa.

The Villa offers spectacular views, stunning contemporary design and architecture, and exclusive opportunities to explore: guided fynbos nature tours, Milkwood forest walks, breathtaking coastal drives, marine safaris, wine tours and tastings and cliff-side cave excursions.

Singita Serengeti House – Tanzania

Singita Serengeti House sits on the slopes of the Sasakwa Hill, near the world-renowned Singita Sasakwa Lodge, with a wide, endless, unobstructed view of the 350,000-acre Grumeti Reserve and the wild Serengeti Plains. This private, exclusive-use lodge accommodates 8 guests with 2 suites in the expansive main house and a garden suite on each side.

The decor is a stimulating mix of contemporary European design with classic safari artifacts and details, and the world-class amenities include a private 25-meter infinity pool, a tennis court, an 18-horse equestrian center, and one of the most extensive wine cellars in all of Africa.

Each one of these Safari Houses boasts extensive children’s activities like tracking animals, star-gazing, flower-pressing, cooking and baking, young ranger programs as well as babysitting services and kid-friendly menus.

To learn more about these and other Safari House options, get in touch.

Click here for more safari options for families and small groups.

Photos are courtesy of the camps.