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Maasai Mara and the Mountain Gorillas

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Overland Maasai Mara and Mountain Gorillas safari

East Africa is all about wildlife and wilderness and this Overland Expedition to Maasai Mara and the Mountain Gorillas – Overland Safari suits the area perfectly. The days are bright and sunny, the air is clear and the night time star-scapes have to be seen to be believed! If you want to make your budget work hard this is the best value trip to explore the highlights of Kenya and visit the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda.

THIS TRIP IS AVAILABLE AS A CAMPING TRIP or USING LODGE & HOTEL ACCOMMODATION

– Small group overland trip.
– Kenya and Uganda. 14 days.
– Trip starts and ends in Nairobi.

Day 1 Maasai Mara National Reserve

The trip begins in Nairobi. Drive west and enter the Great Rift Valley; continue to Maasai Mara National Park, one of Africa’s most famous names: spectacular game viewing and wonderful photo-opportunities of this abundant wildlife. The Mara is home to large resident wildlife populations, including the Marsh Lions, made famous in the BBC’s Big Cat Diary as well as the annual migration of around two million wildebeest.

Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Route: Nairobi to Maasai Mara; 230km
Travel time: 6 to 7 hrs

A note about the Maasai Mara National Park
The Mara park covers some 1, 530 Km² which is about half the size of an average English county. It shares its southern border with the Serengeti National Park (Tanzania) and is surrounded on the other three sides by Maasai pastoral ranches and private concession land (Concession land = land used for wildlife conservation, exactly the same as the national park, but privately owned.) The Mara is not fenced and animals are free to come and go as they please. The terrain is primarily open savannah grassland with seasonal rivers.

Click here to To view the migration

The migration is a huge clockwise rotation of animals following the fresh growth of grass that is stimulated by the annual rain. The migration is in the Mara for about 3 months (July, Aug and Sept) before returning to the Serengeti and it’s one of the most impressive natural events in the world involving about 1½ million wildebeests, 360,000 Thomson’s gazelles and 190,000 zebras. These herbivorous pilgrims are followed by a block of hungry predators, most notably lions and hyenas.

All members of the ‘Big 5’ are found in the Maasai Mara, although the population of black rhinoceros is severely threatened, with only 37 individuals. Hippopotami are found in large pods. Cheetahs are resident along with buffalo, elephant and leopard. There are also over 450 bird species, including vultures, marabou storks, secretary birds, hornbills, crowned cranes, ostriches, Martial Eagles and African pygmy-falcons.

Overland Maasai Mara and Mountain Gorillas safari

Crossing ther Sand River, Maasai Mara

Day 2 Maasai Mara Safari

Today we spend the entire day exploring the Maasai Mara on game drives. The Mara is ideal big game country and offers some wonderful photographic opportunities.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Route: all day game drives in the Maasai Mara
Travel time: on safari

Day 3 Lake Nakuru

Today we will travel north to Lake Nakuru which is an alkaline lake and so perfect for huge flocks of flamingos. In addition to the flamingos, white rhino inhabit the savannah area around the lake, giving outstanding photo opportunities.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Route: The Mara to Lake Nakuru 180 km
Travel time: 5 hrs

 

Kenya Safari, gorilla safari. Overland Africa

Flamingos on Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Lake Nakuru National Park

The park is named after the alkaline lake that it encircles. Nakuru means ‘dry or dusty place’ in Maasai. Although it was initially established as a bird sanctuary, it is now home to a surprisingly large number of animal species, including the Big Four ( lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo) sadly there are no elephants. Lake Nakuru is famous for the vast flocks of flamingos (opening shot of “Out of Africa” was filmed here) which are attracted by the abundance of algae. It is also a sanctuary for black and white rhino.

 

Overland Maasai Mara and Mountain Gorillas safari

Black rhino, Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Day 4 Lake Nakuru to Jinja

Leaving Lake Nakuru very early we head towards Uganda, briefly stopping for a photo at the equator. Later we arrive in Jinja on the shore of Lake Victoria where the Nile begins its 6,695 Km journey to the Mediterranean Sea.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Route: Lake Nakuru to Jinja 465 km
Travel time: (long day) 12 hrs including the border crossing

Day 5 Jinja to Masindi, Murchison Falls National Park

After a quick stop in the capital Kampala we drive north to Murchison Falls National Park. The name of the park is taken from the falls that lie within the park boundary. The powerful Nile flows over a series of rapids before being forced through a narrow gorge (6 m wide) and falls dramatically 120 m in a series of 3 cascades.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Route: 250 km

Kampala

This area was a favourite hunting ground for the Buganda King, Kabaka. The city was founded by the British who named it “Hills of the Impala” which was eventually distorted to Kampala. The city grew around a fort constructed by Frederick Lugard in 1890 for the British East Africa Company. In 1962 Kampala replaced Entebbe as the national capital. Much of the city was destroyed after the 1979 overthrow of Idi Amin and the subsequent civil war but is now rebuilt.

Day 6 Masindi, Lake Budongo Central Forest Reserve

Budongo Forest is the largest mahogany forest in the whole of East Africa and home to the largest population of chimps in Uganda; estimates put the population at between 600 and 700 individuals. In the morning meet up with your chimp guide who will take you on a forest trek to visit the wild chimps. Trekking group size is limited to 12 people. In the afternoon take a game drive in the National Park.

Meals:    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Route:    stationary; safari drives only.

 

Eye of the Elephant

Elephant in Kenya’s Maasai Mara national park

 

Day 7 Return to Kampala

Retrace your steps to the capital. On the way is Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary which is a 7,000 Ha conservation project. Rhino Fund Uganda is a breeding and release project that is battling to reintroduce rhinos to Uganda’s National Parks. Overnight is Kampala

Day 8, 9 & 10 Kampala to The Mountain Gorillas (Lake Bunyonyi)

Crossing the Equator once more we travel southwest to Lake Bunyonyi. This will be our base for the next 3 nights. Gorilla treks are strictly controlled so as to have minimal impact on the gorillas. A max of 8 people is allowed to visit a gorilla family each day, for a max of 1 hour. This means we need to be flexible and you may trek on any one of the days that we’re here. On days when you’re not gorilla trekking you can take a motor boat out to explore one of the islands in the lake or trek to Nyombi Village which is a traditional Pygmy village, where you can learn about their culture.

Lake Bunyonyi

Lake Bunyonyi (“Place of many little birds”) lies on the border between Uganda and Rwanda. This small lake is rumoured to be 900 m at its deepest, which if true would make it the second deepest in Africa. It is one of the few lakes in the region that is free of bilharzia and therefore safe for swimming. There are 29 islands out in the lake which make it picture-postcard pretty!

The Mountain Gorillas

The mountain gorilla is extremely endangered and while exact numbers are difficult to verify, it is estimated that there are only around 850 left. Visiting the gorillas is a great way to support them because the money spent on permits directly funds their protection. An extremely important part of the future conservation of the remaining gorillas rests in community development work – as local communities change their attitudes towards wildlife and start to protect rather than poach, the future of the mountain gorilla is improves.

Find out more about Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla permits are restricted so we require flexibility in both the tour itinerary and where we actually visit them. The home of the mountain gorillas is completely at odds with man-made borders and their range encompasses Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo). Whenever possible we visit the National Park in Uganda, but this ultimately depends on the availability of permits. If we are unable to obtain permits to visit the mountain gorillas in Uganda we will inform you before departure that the trip will travel to Rwanda.

Find out more about Uganda gorilla families

On your free day in Bunyonyi you will have the opportunity to participate in optional activities: a boat ride to the community of the Batwa (pygmies) who live on one of the islands; hiking trails are mapped and there are mountain bike trails.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Route: Lake Bunyonyi National Park to the starting point of the gorilla trek: ±125 km (in smaller safari vehicles)
Travel time: ±3-4 hrs

Leopard safari Kenya and Uganda

 

Day 11 Return to Kampala

Today is a travelling day: we return to Kampala where we overnight and prepare for tomorrow’s activities.

Meals:    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Route:    Lake Bunyonyi to Kampala 485 km
Travel time: 7 ½ hrs

Day 12 Jinja

Jinja is the centre for the water activities that take place on the Nile. The river activities include whitewater rafting, kayaking, and a variety of more sedate river cruises. Your guide will talk through the options and assist with the necessary arrangements. Non-river activities include horse riding and quad bikes.

Meals:  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Route:  Kampala to Jinja 84 Km

Travel time: 2 hrs

Jinja was a fishing village that happened to be on a long-distance trade route between Mombasa and the interior of Uganda. The British established their administrative centre here and as Lake Victoria’s importance as a transport route developed, combined with the Uganda Railway linking Kisumu in Kenyan to the lake, so the significance of Jinja grew.

In 1906 a street pattern was laid out and soon after Indian traders moved in who had originally been employed upon building the railway. Cotton and sugar estates benefitted from the facilities and the railway and the whole town flourished. In 1971 Idi Amin expelled all Indians, blaming them (incorrectly) for the economic woes of indigenous Ugandans. Much of Jinja’s architecture is Indian-influenced. Sadly, most of the detailed shop-fronts and buildings, along with many industrial concerns, fell apart with the exodus of the Indians. Indians are now returning to Uganda and re-establishing their roots.

Day 13 Eldoret, Kenya

Returning to Kenya we visit Eldoret in The Great Rift Valley. Eldoret town is at the foot of Mount Eldoret which dominates the region and reaches 2,100 m.

Meals:    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Route:    Jinja to Eldoret ±320 km
Travel time: ±7-8hrs plus border crossing

Eldoret

Eldoret, strangely, is a Kenyan town founded by Afrikaners in 1910. The town was originally known as “64” or “Sisibo” by local people, because it was established 64 miles from Londiani. Other European and Asian traders followed and an administrative centre was officially established in 1912 and named Eldoret. Nowadays Eldoret is the hometown of legendary Kenyan runners, the most renowned of whom is Kipchoge Keino. The high altitude is an ideal training ground for middle and long distance athletes.

 

Safari Kenya and Uganda. Cheetah

Cheetah cub

 

Day 14 Nairobi

The safari ends back in Nairobi, the largest city in East Africa. There’s an optional dinner where we can swap stories and exchange contact details.
Optional Activities: meal out in Nairobi.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Accommodation: own arrangements. Post overland accommodation can be booked through VentureCo.
Route: Eldoret to Nairobi ±350 km
Travel time: ±6-7 hrs

Nairobi

Nairobi is the capital and largest city in Kenya. The name “Nairobi” comes from the Maasai phrase “Enkare Nyirobi” which translates to “the place of cool waters”. Founded in 1899 as a simple rail depot on the railway linking Mombasa to Uganda, the town quickly grew to become the capital of British East Africa. During Kenya’s colonial period the city became a centre for the coffee, tea and sisal industries. Today it is the most populated city in East Africa, with an estimated population of 3 million. It is one of the most prominent cities in Africa politically and financially: home to many companies and organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme and the UN Office in Africa. It is also a hub for both business and culture. The Nairobi Stock Exchange is one of the largest in Africa, ranked fourth in terms of trading volume, and is capable of making 10 million trades a day.

What’s included?

The Maasai Mara safari
Gorilla permit (1 visit per person)
Budongo Central Forest Reserve chimp trek and boat cruise
Visit to Murchison Falls
Ziwa rhino walk
Pygmy village visit Kabale
Meals as indicated; prepared and served by the crew
Accommodation can be either camping or safari lodges
Registered guides accompany throughout

What’s excluded?

Dinner in Kampala on days 7 and 11
Dinner in Nairobi on day 14
Alcoholic drinks
Tips