Combining 2 nights Virunga Lodge, 1 night Retreat Boutique, 3 nights Rubondo Island Camp, 3 nights Kimondo Migration Camp
Arrive at Kigali International Airport and meet your personal safari guide and 4×4 vehicle, departing by road for the Volcanoes National Park. The journey takes approximately three hours, passing through rolling hills which are covered in a patchwork quilt of small fields and farms. You will stay for two nights in the charming Virunga Lodge, with sweeping views over the Virunga Volcanoes to one side and the twin lakes Bulera and Ruhondo to the other. Enjoy lunch here and an afternoon at leisure.
Occupying a dramatic hillside position, Virunga Lodge boasts unforgettable views in this dramatic corner of Rwanda. It has a rustic style of luxury and warm hospitality that make it a superb choice for your gorilla-tracking adventures. There are ten guest rooms, including two deluxe bandas suitable for families, all with a personal butler service. There is WiFi and a spa in the main lodge, and a sun terrace for soaking up the panorama.
An early start today, driving to the nearby park headquarters to be assigned your gorilla trekking group and meet your ranger guide who will brief you on the trek and rules of behaviour once you encounter the gorillas. Each trekking group has a maximum of eight people, and you will either set off directly from the park headquarters on foot or drive a short distance to start your walk. The trek takes anything from 1 to 5 hours to reach the gorilla family, and a similar duration back to the park headquarters, so a good level of fitness is needed, and you will be walking through dense rainforest vegetation on uneven ground, so good ankle boots are recommended.
You can spend up to one hour with the mountain gorillas once you have reached them, watching as they browse for food, youngsters playing, young silverbacks play-fighting and quite often adults simply languorously lounging around. Seeing the gorillas in their own environment is one of the most remarkable wildlife experiences in the world, and the time will fly by, so enjoy every second and don’t spend all of it behind your camera lens! Return, elated and tired, to your guide and the rest of the day is yours to spend as you wish – freshening up and relaxing, or exploring the vicinity near the lodge.
After a relaxed breakfast, set off by road with your guide for Kigali, where you will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. This afternoon you will take in a city tour, exploring some of the markets and sights of this bustling and vibrant city. You will also spend an hour or two at the Genocide Memorial Museum, where the survivors of the 1990 Rwandan genocide tell the story in their own way through various very moving and enlightening exhibits, as well as insight into the rebuilding of the country since then.
This well-appointed small hotel is centrally located in Kigali, ideal for sightseeing or as a first- or last-night stopover. There are 22 rooms each with Wi-Fi, air-conditioning (except one room) and several family rooms. A spa, swimming pool and restaurant with delicious fusion cuisine are available for guests to enjoy.
Set off early for the airport for your 06h00 flight to Rubondo Island on Tanzania’s Lake Victoria, a flight of approximately two hours, stopping en route at Bukoba to complete immigration formalities. The friendly team from Rubondo Island Camp await you and will drive you through the forest to the camp, where you can relax before a leisurely lunch overlooking the lake. This afternoon, you can choose from a relaxing time beside the swimming pool, or learning about the island’s chimpanzees in The Nest information centre, or enjoying a guided nature walk if you wish to stretch your legs. The island is home to a wide variety of unique wildlife including sitatunga, African grey parrot, forest elephant and spotted-necked otters.
Each of the 8 individually crafted cottages are shaded by lush indigenous forest, while Lake Victoria winks her welcome through the trees. The small and exclusive camp offers unrivalled access to this one-of-a-kind destination, with forest walks, game-watching, birding excursions, canoe trips, trekking through wild and unexplored forest territory, catch-and-release fishing, and a host of other eco-sensitive activities. Elephants roam wild, colourful birds and butterflies flit through the boughs of pristine indigenous forest, and the waters teem with the iconic Nile perch. This unique corner of Africa may be the ultimate destination for those seeking the ultimate wilderness adventure.
Spend today with a guide in search of the chimpanzees on the island, as part of the chimp habituation experience. Sightings are not guaranteed as the habituation is still a work in progress, but there are several individuals who are becoming much less shy around visitors, and if you are lucky enough to enjoy a sighting, it is in the knowledge that you are amongst the first travelers to spend time with these primate cousins on the island. The walking requires a reasonable level of fitness, although there is not the altitude or steep-sided mountain slopes to contend with that you’ve experienced in Rwanda, as the vegetation can be very thick and you sometimes need to keep up a good pace to reach the chimpanzees.
A day to enjoy other activities on Rubondo Island – there are two boats to explore the lake on, either to get a good view of the hippos, crocodiles and birdlife including fish eagles or to enjoy some Nile perch fishing. It is also possible to visit Muganza village, which takes 1 hrs by boat, where Asilia sponsors the local school and supports a vegetable garden initiative, and the home of many of the camp.
Enjoy a final breakfast overlooking the lake before the drive to the airstrip for your morning flight across to the Serengeti National Park for the final stage of your adventurous safari. The flight takes approximately two hours, depending on how many stops the plane makes on the way to drop off/pick up passengers. You will be staying at Kimondo Migration Camp, which moves around the Serengeti at different times of the year to put you in the best position to try to see the 2 million- strong herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle that make up the Great Migration. Enjoy lunch in camp and a siesta before going on an afternoon game drive, enjoying the distinct change of scenery from the rainforests and lakes that you have been exploring so far.
As the Great Migration moves with the seasons, so Kimondo follows to ensure guests always have a front row seat to nature’s greatest spectacle. With nine spacious tents, complete with full en-suite facilities, Kimondo treats its guests to a uniquely personal and authentic East African experience in two fantastic locations in the Serengeti.
Enjoy morning and afternoon game drives with the knowledgeable guides from Kimondo, timing your wildlife-viewing around the parts of the day when the wildlife is most active, and returning to camp for a rest in the shade during the heat of the day. When the camp is in the northern Serengeti, you have the chance of witnessing a river crossing, with all of the drama and anticipation you’ll have seen on wildlife documentaries, whereas when the camp is in the southern Serengeti, the wildlife are less active but are giving birth to their young and gathering up strength for the long march ahead. Whatever time of year, seeing the mega-herds is a spectacular sight, and there is plentiful resident wildlife to keep you more than entertained aside from this, too.
After breakfast you will say your farewells to the Kimondo team before you are driven to the nearby airstrip for your flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport at Arusha, where your safari comes to a close.
“The trip itinerary that Penwell Safaris put together for me was the perfect balance of cultural and environmental explorations. Each camp I stayed in, from the Ngorongoro Crater to Central and Southern Serengeti, to the island of Rubondo, had a team of knowledgeable and friendly staff who celebrated the natural beauty of their surroundings. Their love and respect for their country inspired me to take in every moment with complete awe and appreciation for the diverse, intelligent ecosystems and majestic wildlife that thrived in the Bowl of Plenty and endless plains of the bush. Driving through thousands of wildebeests and zebras while they fed on grass and instinctively migrated through the great Serengeti was an overwhelming sight to behold with muffled sounds of hoofs and grunts, yet deeply peaceful at the same time. It sometimes took my breath away. Even the industrious dung beetles rolling their dung balls were as exciting to observe as the the big five and scavenging hyenas. But the strikingly beautiful faces and welcoming attitude of the Tanzanian people were the icing on the cake. Pure joy and a sense of belonging came through every “Mambo” greeting they shared with each other and with us as we wandered through their vast, abundant land. My trip was a life-affirming adventure that I would recommend to anyone. And I plan to go back for more!”
— Sue Baile
“We traveled to Africa in August 2018 and visited Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania. The tours were very well organized and could not have asked for a better experience or accommodations. Every guide and driver we had were knowledgeable, personable, and funny. They really wanted you to have the best Safari experience possible. In Uganda, it was such a great experience to see the gorillas in the rain forest. It was a hard trek but totally worth the experience. We got to see so much wildlife in Tanzania (lions, zebra, cape buffalo, hyena, jackals, cheetah, elephant and so much more), but most importantly we were lucky to see 5 Wildebeest migrations across the river!
We were really impressed with the food offerings and the chef at each camp was sensitive to the dietary needs of our party (vegetarian for one traveler and lactose sensitivity to another). From the early morning game drives and morning tea in the bush, to afternoon lunches at the camps, to beautiful sundowners in the evening, and delicious dinners we felt catered to at every stop. The staff at each camp was amazing! We look forward to our next trip over to Africa!”
— Marc Foreman
“I could not describe how magnificent my experience was on a 10 day safari through the Serengeti with Kathy. Of all of my world travels, this was the most memorable trip. From sundowners on top of beautiful rock structures, to an extraordinary lakeside breakfast watching the sunrise to the thrill of watching a cheetah hunt and kill. Every moment of the trip was memorable. Kathy brings a breadth of experience and opportunity that few other African safari companies can provide. I cannot plan my next trip soon enough! Happy Travels! Asante.”
— Michael Wilcox
“I met Kathy back in the late 1980s. One day 5 friends began talking about taking a trip together and Kathy mentioned Africa. How could anyone say “no” to tagging along with Kathy, since she was/is a world traveler and traveled to Africa tons of times. Kathy said she loved planning the trip and managed it all, from phone calls and tons of emails. She asked us if we wanted to rough it, go glamping or a bit of both. She arranged the entire trip and Oh Em Gee, WOW!! That was THE trip of a lifetime! We traveled to Arusha, where we met up with THE BEST safari guide (father, brother & uncle) there is, Jadim George Luangila. This was an amazing trip filled with wonderful people, 100% white glove customer care, the most beautiful animal kingdom you will ever witness, along with the most gorgeous night skies.
When you get that desire to travel to Africa, it’s a MUST you call Kathy Harvey!”
— Lisa Goldman