18 Day Mountain Gorillas and Masai Mara Safari
This epic 18 Day Mountain Gorillas and Masai Mara Safari will take you over the wildlife-filled grass plains of Kenya and compact national parks of Uganda before coming to a thrilling climax within the jungle-covered mountain slopes of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda and Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda.
The switch from Masai Mara safari to gorilla safari is near seamless with an inordinate amount of animal encounters allowing for one naturally exciting experience after the next.
From big cat predators, such as lions and cheetahs, to one of the greatest natural shows on the planet, the Great Migration, this tour is designed to maximise wildlife watching in some of East Africa’s premier national parks; with rhino spotting in Lake Nakuru National Park often only topped by gorilla trekking in the remote mountain foothills of Uganda.
This package includes the following
- Local English speaking guide/driver
- Accommodation incl. meals full board
- All transfers
- Big Game safari drives in both Kenya and Uganda
- Budongo Forest Chimpanzee tracking incl. permit (value USD 200)
- Ishasha – Morning safari in search of the tree climbing lions
- Gorilla tracking incl. license (worth USD 700)
- Park entrance fees
- Airport & Hotel Transfers
- Emergency hotline staffed 24/7 throughout your trip
Day 1 – Take your flight to Nairobi
Day 2 – Arrival and transfer to hotel
The Mountain Gorillas and Masai Mara Safari group arrives in Nairobi and will be met and transferred to the start hotel. Land Only clients should aim to arrive at the hotel this afternoon. This evening’s welcome briefing is the perfect opportunity to meet your guide and get to know your fellow travellers.
You’ll be staying at Kenya Comfort Suites or a similar – Standard Hotel
Day 3: Nairobi – Masai Mara Game Reserve
After loading our things onto the overland vehicle we depart Nairobi and travel approximately 7 hours into the Masai Mara, one of the most famous ecosystems in the world.
This vast grassland is teeming with life; plains game including wildebeest, gazelle, topi, zebra and buffalo abound in the rolling savannah, and never far away lay the predators; cheetah, lion and hyena.
Between mid-August to late October, one of the greatest spectacles on Earth takes place in the Mara – the annual migration of thousands of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra trampling their way across the long grass. Nothing is guaranteed on safari, but with the help of our brilliant guides, you should see and learn a huge amount about the Masai Mara’s resident wildlife as we game drive through the park this afternoon.
You’ll be staying at Mara Springs Camp or similar – Full-service Camping.
Day 4: Full day game drive in the Masai Mara
A full day game drive in the Masai Mara to increase our chances of encountering many of the wildlife species found in the reserve. We find a quiet spot inside the park to enjoy lunch by our vehicle, looking out across the plains. There is also an optional Hot Air Balloon Safari in time for sunrise (including champagne and breakfast).
You’ll be staying at the Makalia Falls Camp or similar – Full-service Camping.
Day 5: Masai Mara – Lake Nakuru National Park
We depart the Masai Mara in the morning after breakfast and drive to Lake Nakuru National Park, one of the finest small parks within Kenya, where we have an afternoon game drive.
Protected by an electric fence, the park is widely known for its impressive population of Black and White rhino which are relatively easy to spot on game drives in the open savannah. Fever trees line the park and are a well-known spot for leopards to laze in, whilst one of the most impressive sights is the vast flamingo population.
Owing to flooding the alkaline content of the lake has changed in recent years and as a result the flamingos no longer tend to be found in such large numbers, but this can change depending on the rainfall.
You’ll be staying at Nderit Campsite or similar – Full-service Camping.
Day 6: Big Game Drive in Lake Nakuru National Park
This morning we once again go in search of wildlife on a game drive in Lake Nakuru National Park. After lunch inside the park, we have a journey of around 3 hrs as we drive to Eldoret, one of Kenya’s larger cities, where we spend the night.
You’ll be staying at Green-Wood Campsite or similar – Full-service Camping.
Day 7: Lake Nakuru National Park – 250km to Jinja
Today there is a long drive of about 250km to Jinja, which should take about 8 hours, including a border crossing into Uganda. The border crossing can be slow but we leave plenty of time for this and you’ll no doubt find the experience interesting!
Located on the shores of Lake Victoria, Jinja is the adventure capital of Uganda and the source of the River Nile. The area is most famous for grade IV and V white-water rafting excursions but there are plenty of other adrenaline-fuelled activities here.
We stay at a tented camp in a well-equipped resort that has a stunning location high up on the banks of the Nile.
You’ll be staying at Adrift Camp or similar – Full-service Camping.
Day 8: Whitewater Rafting or Other Activities in Jinja
Today is free to choose from a range of optional activities. White-water rafting in Jinja is considered to be among the best in the world, with a half or full-day route that varies from quiet pools and forested islands to thunderous rapids and drops. There are several grade V rapids to navigate including ‘Big Brother’, ‘Overtime’ and ‘Silverback’.
If rafting doesn’t appeal, you can join a village walk, learn about a vibrant community project known as Soft Power which supports education, or visit the source of the White Nile.
You’ll be staying at Adrift Camp or similar – Full-service Camping
Day 9: Jinja – Murchison Falls National Park
We leave Jinja and drive to Murchison Falls National Park, a journey which should take us 6 hrs. Murchison Falls N.P. is the largest of Uganda’s national parks and covers an area of 5081 sq km, with rolling grasslands and wooded savannah.
Tomorrow we visit the top of the falls, where the river narrows from 50 metres to crash through a 7-metre gorge, falling 45 metres to the rocks below. A truly impressive sight!
You’ll be staying at Red Chili Campsite or similar – Full-service Camping
Day 10: Game Drive & Boat Launch in Murchison Falls National Park
This morning we have an early morning game drive in search of wildlife in Murchison Falls N.P. We transfer by ferry to the north side of the Nile where we embark on our game drive. Murchison Falls N.P. is home to elephants, giraffe, buffalo and Uganda kobs, as well as the predators: lions and leopards.
After lunch we travel by boat up the Nile, passing hippos and crocodiles, searching for elephants and waterbuck that come to the river to drink. The cruise lasts about 3 hrs, and will travel upstream to the bottom of the falls, stopping near the ‘Devil’s Cauldron’, the place where the water bursts through the narrow gorge and creates an outstanding rainbow.
You’ll be staying at Red Chili Campsite or similar – Full-service Camping.
Day 11: Chimpanzee Tracking in Budongo Forest
We depart early this morning for Budongo Forest, which is home to the largest numbers of chimpanzees in Uganda; we will go on a trek in search of chimpanzees and other wildlife. The walking is fairly easy due to the well-maintained trails and reasonably flat terrain.
Whilst chimp trekking in the depths of the lush green forest, you will be surrounded by bird song and hope to see both Velvet and Colobus monkeys, wild pigs, forest elephants and of course the chimpanzee. Once a chimpanzee family is found, we will have an hour with these fascinating creatures, to watch them interact and play with each other.
You’ll be staying at the Kontiki Hotel Campsite or similar – Full-service
Day 12: Murchison Falls to Queen Elizabeth National Park
Today we have a long drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). The drive goes south along the eastern length of the Rwenzori Mountains, where, weather permitting, we can see the glaciated peaks. We gently descend into The Great Rift Valley and QENP.
The park resides in a fertile, equatorial area and has beautiful scenery. It is Uganda’s most popular and accessible savannah reserve, with a total area of 1978 square kilometres. It is primarily associated with grassy savannah plains, but this impressive park also includes within its boundaries leafy rainforests, dense papyrus swamps and natural volcanic crater lakes. As a result, it has one of the highest biodiversity ratings of any game reserve in the world, including a total of 95 recorded mammal species and more than 610 species of birds.
You’ll be staying at Irungu Forest Campsite or similar – Full-service Camping.
Day 13: Explore Queen Elizabeth National Park
This morning we will explore QENP on a game drive in search of wildlife including elephants, lions, buffalo, leopard, hyena, jackal, topi, kob, bushbuck and various others. In the afternoon there is an optional boat trip of about two hours along the Kazinga Channel to view some of the largest concentration of hippo in the world (reported to be about 30,000) and other game with excellent birding. The game drive will continue in the afternoon for those who do not join the boat trip.
You’ll be staying at Irungu Forest Campsite or similar – Full-service Camping
Day 14: Morning Game Drive – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
We have a final early morning game drive in QENP and depart after breakfast, heading for Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the Mountain gorillas. The journey is 300kms and takes 5-6 hours including stops along the way.
You’ll be staying at Lake Bunyonyi Campsite or similar – Full-service Camping.
Day 15: Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
You will probably remember today for the rest of your life as we spend a full hour in the company of a family of Mountain gorillas! Owing to the nature of the terrain and the need to explore to find the gorillas, our trek doesn’t follow a path and instead, our guides will cut a route through the undergrowth. After a safety briefing, we are assigned to a gorilla family group and begin our trek. You should expect a minimum of three hours walking on irregular terrain in order to find the gorillas; steep ascents and descents over muddy slopes are the norm.
Strong footwear is essential and we recommend hiring a local porter to help you carry your bag/camera equipment and provide a steady, supportive hand (porters will be arranged and paid for locally on the day).
Seeing wild Mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is an experience you will never forget. An adult male can weigh up to 195kg, a female up to 100kg, and a male can reach 1.7m in height. They are almost exclusively vegetarian and quite destructive eaters, which makes them unpopular with the farmers lower down the mountain slopes as they have been known to wreck a whole field of crops just to eat one plant. For this reason, and also because of poaching, the gorillas are very carefully protected.
Gorillas are gentle creatures and are not known to attack unless very severely provoked. The family groups that we trek to see are habituated to human presence but to prevent familiarisation our time with them is limited to one hour. The minimum distance that we must keep is 8 metres – we are not permitted any closer because gorillas are very susceptible to human disease. Please note that anyone with a cold or any similar ailment may not be permitted to join the trek.
You’ll be staying at Lake Bunyonyi Campsite or similar – Full-service Camping.
Day 16: Second Gorilla Trekking Experience (optional)
This morning there is the option of getting a second gorilla permit, though due to the limited number of permits, this should be obtained at the time of booking. For those who choose not to go on a second gorilla trek, there are other walks which you can do nearby or you can relax, reminiscing about the previous day’s encounters.
In the afternoon, we cross the border into Rwanda and head to Kigali (those on the second gorilla trek will typically be transferred seperately). Please note that on some departures, due to availability of permits, we may have to swap these two days over with the free day (and optional second gorilla trek) on day 14 and the included gorilla trek on day 15 or we may have to split the group to trek with gorillas across both days.
You’ll be staying at Beausejour Hotel or similar – Comfortable Hotel.
Day 17: Transfer to Kigali – Flight Back
Our trip comes to an end today after breakfast where we bid Rwanda and our group goodbye. Those on the group flights will be transferred to the airport for the flight to London.
No Accommodation on this day – Breakfast at hotel
Day 18: Arrive Home
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Start/End: Nairobi, Kenya – Kigali, Rwanda
Places Visited: Masai Mara, Nakuru, Jinja Source of Nile, Murchison Falls, Budongo Forest, Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest & Volcanoes N.P, Kigali City
Major Activities: Game Drive, Boat Safari, Lion Safari, Chimps Tracking and Gorilla Trekking