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rwanda and tanzania highlights

12-Day Big 5 & Gorilla Safari and Cultural Tour

Experience an African “Big 5” safari and track endangered mountain gorillas! On our Rwanda and Tanzania Highlights safari, you will enjoy a big game safari in Tanzania’s top parks, including Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and the world-famous Serengeti. After getting a full dose of lions, zebras, giraffes, elephants and more, continue your adventure in the land of a thousand hills – Rwanda – where you’ll trek in misty mountain forests for the largest primates on earth. And if this wasn’t enough, you’ll also hike to Dian Fossey’s gravesite, take scenic tours and enjoy fascinating cultural interactions with traditional tribes. As sustainability is one of our benchmarks, your visit will include support to local charities and conservation programs. You’ll have top notch guides, accommodations and food throughout.

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Day 1 – Arusha, Tanzania: On arrival at Kilimanjaro International Airport, you will be met and driven to your accommodation. Dinner and overnight here.

Deluxe: Arusha Coffee Lodge is located in a working coffee plantation and has 30 wooden chalets with spacious, airy and modern interiors nestled amongst the surrounding gardens and coffee trees. Vibrant gardens, a spa, a collection of boutiques, a swimming pool and two restaurants await.

Luxury: Hamerkop House is a private, 3 bedroom house located on a wildlife and golf estate situated halfway between Kilimanjaro International Airport and Arusha. Each en suite bedroom has a private veranda and lounge, complimentary Wi-Fi and private chefs to produce everything from delicious breakfasts to refreshing lunches, afternoon teas and dinners. Enjoy beautiful gardens to enjoy sundowner cocktails around the swimming pool.

Days 2 & 3 – Tarangire National Park: After breakfast, drive to Tarangire National Park, famous for its elephant herds and huge baobab trees. Enjoy a picnic lunch and an afternoon game drive before heading to your camp. Spend another full day and two nights here.

Deluxe: Kuro Tarangire is tucked into a grove of secluded riverside bush and elephants often pass right through camp. Seven light and stylish safari rooms, including one family room, are complete with comfortable beds, en suite bucket showers and flush toilets.You will enjoy guided walking safaris and day or night time game drives during your stay.

Luxury: Tarangire Treetops sits in a community wildlife area bordering Tarangire National Park. The elevated “treehouse” suites are perched high up with views over the adjacent baobab and marula trees, giving the camp an adventurous and exotic feel. Twenty suites, each with a private balcony, are lavishly furnished. Encasing an impressive baobab tree, the spacious and tranquil dining room, reception and lounge overlook the swimming pool and a waterhole that sees a steady flow of wild animal visitors. You can enjoy guided walking safaris, day or night time game drives, a Maasai boma visit and bush dining during your stay.

Day 4 – Lake Manyara: After breakfast, depart camp and game drive through the park. Continue to Lake Manyara National Park for an afternoon game drive and picnic lunch. Lake Manyara is famous for tree-climbing lions, as well as the thousands of flamingos that make their annual pilgrimage to the shores of the shallow lake. Drive to your selected accommodation for dinner and overnight.

Deluxe: The Plantation Lodge is located on landscaped grounds spanning more than 20 acres. All rooms and suites within the owner-run lodge are unique and have been furnished with great attention to detail. The excellent restaurant regales guests with choice fare every evening. After a safari, there are many ways of seeing out the day in a relaxed manner: bathing in the pool, indulging in a massage, going for a walk in the garden or enjoying a sundowner on the bar’s terrace.

Luxury: Gibb’s Farm imparts a sense of well-being, tranquility, and history—deeply rooted in African culture and community—in a warm, rustic luxury environment. A peaceful sanctuary to rejuvenate the senses while on safari in Tanzania, the farm features cozy, well-appointed cottages, breath-taking scenery and wildlife.  In addition, you can partake in unique cultural activities that allow you to fully experience the rhythms and beauty of the farm, community and nature.

Day 5 – Ngorongoro Crater: After breakfast, drive to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and spend the day exploring the famous Ngorongoro Crater with a picnic lunch. This 100-square-mile caldera is home to more than 20,000 large mammals like lions, leopards, elephants, zebras, wildebeest and the rare black rhino. Dinner and overnight at Plantation Lodge or Gibb’s Farm.

Days 6 & 7 – Serengeti: After breakfast, drive to the Serengeti. This giant ecosystem is home to millions of animals including lions, cheetah, leopards, buffalo, elephants, zebras, hippos, crocodiles and huge herds of wildebeest, often in migration. Enjoy a picnic lunch and an afternoon game drive in the Serengeti. Dinner and overnight at your seasonal tented camp. The camps move to be in the best possible location to view the wildebeest migration as it covers hundreds of miles of the Serengeti National Park each year, though they will not move during your stay.

Spend a full day exploring the Serengeti. You’ll set off early morning in search of the Great Migration herds, and the plethora of other wildlife that call the Serengeti home. Depending on what your group chooses, you’ll either return for lunch in camp, before heading out again in the afternoon. Or, you may decide to take a picnic lunch with you and spend the whole day exploring the Serengeti.

Deluxe: Serengeti Safari Camp is effortlessly luxurious. The six tents, including one family tent, each have comfortable beds, hot safari-style bucket showers and a flush toilet. There’s a spacious bedroom, dressing area and chairs on the veranda where you can relax and enjoy the unfettered view of Africa before you.

Luxury: Nyasi Migrational Camp has eight en suite tents and a family tent. Decor is inspired by a love of nature and raw organic materials. Natural linen and earthy colors reflect the tranquility and peace of the environment, allowing you to feel connected to your surroundings as you follow the ever-moving migration.

Day 8 – Kigali, Rwanda: Enjoy your final game drive in the Serengeti. After lunch, transfer to the airstrip for your flight to Kigali, Rwanda (flight priced separately). Upon arrival at Kigali Airport, you will be met by a representative and transferred to your hotel. Overnight at your selected accommodation.

Deluxe: Four Points Kigali is located in the city’s financial district. This four-star hotel has 154 modern rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling windows, flat-screen TVs and complimentary high speed internet access. This evening enjoy dinner at one of their three restaurants and bars, reenergize at the 24-hour state-of-the-art fitness center, take a refreshing dip in the outdoor pool or pamper yourself with a rejuvenating massage. 

Luxury: The Retreat by Heaven is a 20-room luxury boutique hotel. The Retreat is Kigali’s first eco-friendly resort and features solar electricity, organic toiletries, locally-crafted furniture from a Tanzanian sustainable teak farm, outdoor showers, private terraces, a yoga and meditation deck, spa, large heated saltwater swimming pool with jacuzzi and diving rocks and an open-air fitness center. 

Day 9 – Volcanoes National Park: After breakfast, you will be met by a local representative and transferred to downtown Kigali for a city tour which includes the genocide memorial and craft centers. After lunch at a local restaurant (on your own account), drive north 2.5 hours through the Rwandan countryside to the foot of the Virunga Mountains. Arrive for dinner and overnight.

Deluxe: Virunga Lodge is perched high on a ridge with stunning views of the Virunga Volcanoes and the Musanze Valley to the west and Lake Bulera and Ruhondo to the east. Each of the ten luxurious bandas has a private terrace, an individual fire place, a luxury shower room with a double vanity and charging station. Fantastic food and exceptional personalized service by their carefully trained staff make it a premier accommodation choice for tracking the endangered mountain gorilla.

Luxury: Singita Kwitonda Lodge boasts breathtaking views of the Sabyinyo, Gahinga and Muhabura volcanoes. With its exceptional natural beauty, environmentally conscious luxury and transformative, purpose-driven experiences, the lodge was designed in response to this remarkable location, and the eight contemporary suites (as well as a private four-bedroom villa) are linked by volcanic rock pathways to the central lodge. Each room has a private terrace with a fireplace and heated plunge pool and the main area is home to a communal fire pit, interactive kitchen, bar-deli and wine cellar.

Day 10 – Gorilla Trek: After an early breakfast, take a short drive to park headquarters and meet with excellent local guides and trackers who will give a talk on the etiquette of gorilla trekking (permit included, based on availability). You then hike into the forest where the gorillas were seen the night before and track from that point. The trekking can take from one-to-six hours and climb to altitudes in excess of 7,500 feet. The terrain is rough and at times muddy. Although the hike is physically demanding, the beauty of the forest and surrounding scenery make the trekking worthwhile. Once the gorillas are located, all fatigue is forgotten, as the experience is often described as being the most profound natural history experience in the world. It can rain at a moment’s notice; hence waterproof clothing is essential including, zip lock bags for cameras and film. In the afternoon following lunch, enjoy a tour of Gorilla Guardians, an ex-poachers village. Dinner and overnight at your selected accommodation.

Note: One hour is permitted with the gorillas per trek. Gorilla sightings cannot be guaranteed. The minimum age is 15 years old. Tracking through the forest can be steep, wet and slippery. Gorilla permits are subject to availability.

Day 11 – Volcanoes National Park: After an early breakfast, return to the park headquarters where you will meet your guide for a trek to Dian Fossey’s grave (trek time: approx. 5-6 hours), which lies between Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes. Alternatively, opt for the second day of gorilla trekking (at an additional cost, based on permit availability). Following lunch at your lodge, enjoy a visit to twin lakes Burera and Ruhundo. Dinner and overnight at your selected accommodation.

Day 12 – Kigali/Depart: After breakfast, transfer to the Kigali airport for your onward flights.

Interested in this trip? Give us a call or drop us an email.

Quick Facts

Perfect for:

  • Perfect for Gorilla Trekking
  • Perfect for Cultural Visits
  • Perfect for Big 5/Wildlife Sightings
  • Duration 12 days
  • Departures Anytime
  • Accommodations Deluxe lodges and tented camps, city hotel
  • Fitness Rating Medium/Difficult
  • Activities Game drives, nature walks & hikes, cultural visits, gorilla trek
  • Safari Type Primates
  • Style Deluxe
  • Land-Only Price* $$$

*Pricing is per person and an estimate. Contact a Journey Specialist for a customized quote.
$ = <$5,000 | $$ = $5,000 – $9,999 | $$$ = $10,000 – $20,000 | $$$$ = >$20,000

Contact a Journey Specialist