Great Migration Safari 2023: Kenya & Tanzania

15 Days

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Overview

Guided by Jim Heck

March 5 – 19, 2023

$13,795

Jim’s signature “Great Migration Safari” has operated annually for more than 45 years. There’s no more perfect itinerary or experienced guide!

The great migration (mostly wildebeest and zebra) is a continuous, circular movement that follows the ebb and flow of the rains. Rains grow grass and that’s all the wildebeest eats. The unique sub-ecosystem south of the Seronera River, east of the Moru Kopjes, west of the Lemuta Hills and north of Olduvai Gorge has a topography, mini-climate and an altitude perfect to grow the unique grasses that deliver a powerful whack of nutrition and protein into the mother’s milk. That’s why 1-2 million wilde congregate in February-April to calve. It’s the only way to turn a helpless little 40-pound baby wildebeest into an awesome 175-pound running machine in a ridiculously short four months. (By the end of its second year, the wildebeest weighs 350 pounds.)

Jim has seen groups of 100,000 animals on these plains. Lions and cheetah constantly menace them. Hundreds of vultures soar in funnels above the kills. Giraffe and eland wander among the herds. Hundreds of thousands of beautiful gazelle are popping all over the place. The ghostly cries of the jackal and terrifying whoops of the hyaena never stop. It’s a 24×7 gargantuan battle for survival with sunrise a sudden, magnificent call to arms and sunset a cold warning that the cats are coming.  Jim has traveled all over Africa and the world and reports that nothing anywhere is as dramatic, beautiful or revealing of nature’s struggle for perfection!

The trip starts in Kenya where amazingly different terrain is home to very rare and beautiful animals found nowhere else: the reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra on the stunning semi-arid landscapes of the Great Northern Frontier. And you’ll see a host of heavily furred animals like the colobus monkey and giant forest hog in Kenya’s cold highland jungles.
The trip ends at the most famous geological and wildlife site in Africa, Ngorongoro Crater. Once the largest natural structure on earth, the volcano blew its stack about 3 million years ago eventually becoming a wildlife paradise.

If this is your first trip to Africa Jim hopes that all of your expectations and dreams will come true! If like many of Jim’s travelers you’re coming again, you already have goose bumps wondering what new and wondrous stuff is going to happen this time!  Jim is honored to be able to interpret the power of wild Africa to you, so certain in this peculiar beauty lies not just inspiration for ourselves but a roadmap to a more lasting and better world.

About your guide . . . . JIM HECK

At a 2016 surprise sunset ceremony along the Mara River, Maasai elders associated with the legendary Governor’s Camp pronounced Jim an “honorary elder.”
While not a singular honor it’s quite rare and affirmed how grateful the local Maasai are for Jim’s contribution to Kenyan development and tourism.

Few people know East Africa as well as Jim Heck. For nearly a half century he has worked, lived and guided in sub-Saharan Africa. His popular blog, Africa-Answerman, includes investigative journalism of some of Africa’s most critical news stories as well as anecdotes and features of daily African life. His award-winning novel, Chasm Gorge, will soon be followed by a second one, The World by Ole Sarut.

Jim was the first westerner allowed to leave Addis after the Red Terror; had canoes overturned among crocs and hippos on the Zambezi; been charged by an elephant that he hit with a plate of waldorf salad; lost in the jungles of Cameroun; marooned in the Ituri Forest and rescued by Rhodesian sanction busters; and was among the few outsiders to travel through Uganda during the rule of Idi Amin. Jim has never lost a client or fired a gun.

Itinerary

Whenever you arrive you’ll be personally met and privately transferred to Hemingway’s Resort. Join Jim for a safari briefing this evening in the upstairs terrace by the bar before dinner.
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CONSIDER COMING EARLY
A single night is included at Hemingway’s Resort before Jim takes you into the bush, but coming early is easily arranged (subject to hotel availability, so make your decision soon).

Come early just to wind down or to explore Nairobi. See the city independently using Nairobi’s amazingly good Ubers or have EWT arrange a complete inclusive tour with a professional private guide.

Near the resort is the famous Karen Blixen Museum, the set that was used to film Out of Africa and which beautifully portrays colonial life. Also nearby is the famous Giraffe Center, where you can hand feed the rare Rothschild Giraffe who often thanks you with a wet kiss! There’s also the Kazuri Beads Womens’ Cooperative nearby – now a global enterprise – a rags-to-riches venture of 100 single Moms to create some of the finest porcelain beads, kitchen cutlery and more which you can buy directly after touring the facility!

Further afield is the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, and the city center itself including the old Stanley’s Café where the White Mischief colonials gathered on the weekends and enjoyed their Pims No. 1. The center city also has the Kenyatta Mausoleum, Parliament and the Memorial to the terrorist bombing of 1998.

So whether you come early just to relax or to pack in the sightseeing, EWT will help!

After an early checkout Jim guides you through the National Museum. Nairobi city is one of the busiest and often most congested cities on the continent, so a prompt start is required! The museum is right on the route out of the city.

The museum is most famous for its displays and warehousing of early man artifacts and bones. No paleontologist today can further her career without time spent here, for there are more early man items carefully curated and preserved than anywhere else on earth.

Jim’s favorite exhibit is the small, carefully monitored “Turkana Boy” room with some of the most dramatic original finds of early hominid on display. The museum also houses great examples of Kenya’s many peoples and cultures, as well as the fiberglassed preservation of Ahmed, the largest tusked elephant ever known! This gives Jim the chance to introduce you to the turbulent and widely misunderstood story of elephants before you actually begin to see them in the wild.

Time for a quick sandwich and coffee in the Deli before the afternoon drive into the highlands. Arrive the Aberdare Mountains in time for dinner. Overnight at the Aberdare Country Club.
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The day is spent game viewing in the Aberdare National Park. The beauty of this highland rain forest immediately appears right after entering the park. Gargantuan trees are covered with moss and squawking hornbills and other unusual birds fill the branches. You might see elephants pretty quickly along with buffalo and warthog. This enormous park has all the big-game but is important because of its rare monkeys and high altitude birds and antelope.

Where Jim actually decides to go will depend upon circumstances at the time. One option is to the very top of the mountain range, where at 11,000' feet there are a number of beautiful waterfalls.

Tonight is spent at The Ark tree hotel. Here the traditional format for game viewing is upended as the animals come to you!

The lodge is built over a natural water hole and salt lick. Flood lights which don’t bother the animals turn on at dusk and a never-ending parade of Africa unfolds throughout the night. A buzzer near your bedside wakes you to anything spectacular, but many find it difficult to leave the viewing areas for the sleep which comes so easily in the cold mountain air.
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Game view very early out of the park through ranching country towards Mt. Kenya, Africa’s second highest mountain. After time for ATMs and a quick coffee in the town of Nanyuki, the safari embarks on a really spectacular drive round Mt. Kenya past massive wheat and cut flower farms.

To the right of the road are the often striking views of glaciers and far below to the left is the seemingly endless desert that stretches for nearly 300 miles to the Ethiopian border. The descent from the mountain onto the desert is breath-taking. In a mere 40 minutes the safari leaves the cool, moist farmlands for an area similar to Arizona, much hotter and peppered everywhere with cactus.

At the base of the mountain is the important Arab town of Isiolo bustling with colorful markets and mosques which Jim used as the background to an important chapter of his novel, Chasm Gorge. After that it’s all desert.

At first you wonder why on earth you’re traveling through this desiccated landscape. But soon the road crosses the Ewaso Nyiro river which flows off the Aberdare and the desert blooms! Enormous amounts of big game – much of it extremely rare – is found here.

At the entry to the Kalama Conservancy Jim dismisses his own drivers and vehicles and you transfer into the open Landrovers with Samburu guides from the reserve.

It’s a short ride to Samburu Saruni Lodge for lunch. Then in the afternoon the local guides will drive you around this enchanting reserve with its rare game and spectacular scenery. Dinner and overnight at the lodge.
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The lodge is less than a few miles from Samburu National Park where you travel for morning game viewing. Samburu is a strikingly beautiful wilderness in a Mohajve desert made beautiful by the great Ewaso Nyiro River.

Huge palms rise from the banks and palmetto forests stretch out from the water’s edge. Elephant, impala, waterbuck and all the cats are here. More importantly there are extremely rare animals that can’t be seen in Tanzania: the reticulated giraffe and the Grevy’s zebra – there are less than 3,000 left in the world. Other animals rarely found in Tanzania include the beautiful gerenuk and oryx.

Since the lodge is just outside the reserve a number of other activities are possible, including camel rides and night time game drives. Activities, meals and overnight at Samburu Saruni Lodge.
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After some final game viewing on the way to the airstrip the safari takes a beautiful small aircraft flight to the top of the great Serengeti ecosystem, Kenya’s finest game reserve, the Maasai Mara. Weather-permitting you’ll have some breath-taking views of Mt. Kenya and shortly thereafter of the Great Rift Valley lakes. The 90-minute flight lands in the most productive game area of the Mara, the Salient.

Drivers with local 4x4s meet the flight and take everyone into camp for lunch before the afternoon game drive.

The Mara satisfies the most demanding imagination of what wild Africa should be: seemingly endless rolling grassland hills occasionally interrupted by a river lined with thick forests.

This is the wettest place in the Serengeti ecosystem. It rains here at least every other day except mid-October to mid-November. But also having the greatest altitude of the whole ecosystem (about a mile high) and soil subject to more erosion, the grasses that grow successfully here aren’t powerful enough for the special milk needed by mother wildebeest. So the great herds must leave this otherwise ideal area when the seasonal rains of the south can bring forth the more nutritious grasses. So no great herds here, now.

But there are huge numbers of all sorts of other animals which don’t migrate that reside in the Mara because of its otherwise near perfect conditions. Everything from elephant to hartebeest and every type of gazelle is found here. So be patient about the great herds and enjoy the absolutely staggering amount of wildlife that you will see! Meals and overnight at our Private Camp set perfectly right along the Mara River.
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Dawn game drive when the light is perfect for photography and the veld most active. Return to camp for a big breakfast and then immediately go out for a second morning game drive or relax in camp. After lunch the final afternoon game drive departs returning to camp at sunset. Meals and overnight at our Private Camp along the Mara River.
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HOT AIR BALLOON SAFARI
In place of the early morning game drive book a spectacular hot-air balloon safari over Africa's most beautiful wilderness! You'll be awakened around 5 a.m. with coffee and tea then taken to the lift-off site. The balloon sails up with the first winds of sunrise. The ride lasts about an hour before setting down in one of the prairies. A champagne breakfast is then served on the veld before game-driving back to camp in time for lunch.

The normal price of $495 per person is reduced to $410 per person if prepaid at the time you reserve the trip. Be sure to check the box on the Reservations Form.

After breakfast transfer to the airstrip for the journey into Tanzania. Jim will explain why it’s a bit irregular since the Mara River is the southern border of Kenya’s Mara Reserve and the northern border of Tanzania’s Serengeti. A bridge over the river connects the two gates into the respective national parks, but tourists have not been allowed to use the bridge since 1979!

So instead we take a puddle-jumper air flight from the Mara to a Kenyan border town called Migori, then a short bus ride across the border to Tarime, Tanzania, where we board a second flight into the central Serengeti arriving the Seronera airstrip before noon.

Seronera is the administrative center of the park and where most tourists stay and game view. The reason this area is so important is because of the little, winding Seronera River which at this point often turns back on itself providing an unusual amount of water to an otherwise pretty dry location. It’s also where the grasslands of the southern Serengeti come to an end and the thick bushland and acacia forests begin.

So there’s an enormous range of habitat and excellent conditions year-round for all sorts of animals. Game viewing along the acacia-lined Seronera river often finds multiple prides of lion and leopard! The woodlands hold topi and impala. There’s even croc and hippo in the river, so there’s a great range of animals and always splendid game viewing.

By the end of the day continue to our wonderful little camp located on a high bluff overlooking a grand valley for an absolutely perfect sunset around the camp fire. Dinner and overnight at Nyikani Camp.
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Jim plans game viewing after chatting with other guides the night before. The normal routine of going out at dawn and returning for breakfast is often changed. There might be an errant group of wild dog, or a lingering part of the migration, or a great congregation of croc on the Grumeti that takes more time than a simple morning game drive. In this case you’ll travel with picnics. Whatever is finally decided rest assured that you’re going to have some of the finest game viewing in Africa! Meals and overnight at Nyikani Camp.
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Today Jim takes the safari onto the southern grassland plains where historically – weather cooperating – the great herds are found. The journey travels either through the enchanting Moru Kopjes or the much starker great plains of The Gol. This decision will be based on the information from other guides and drivers at the time. Unfortunately there’s not time enough to visit both of these beautiful areas, the Moru known for its landscapes, traditional Maasai sites and reintroduced rhino; the Gol for its cats, especially cheetah.

A picnic will be carried and by the end of the day we’ll reach the only lakes area of the Serengeti, where the two large but shallow lakes of Masek and Ndutu intersect with heavy rains. Dinner and overnight at Ndutu Lodge.
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Two full days exploring this magical area in the southwest Serengeti which normally at this time of the year is jock-a-block full of the migration. If it’s a bit wetter than usual the masses of herbivores might be crowded around your lodge rooms! If it’s drier than usual a few longer game drives might be necessary. Meals and overnight at Ndutu Lodge.
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Another day with the migration in the southwest Serengeti, but there’s much more to see than just the main attraction. The lakes are surrounded by thick acacia woodlands filled with animals and the plains outside the forests are one of the best places to find cheetah. Wild dog live in the Kekesio Valley. Honey badgers are common in Hidden Valley near the Kusini Plains. And everywhere will be tens of thousands of gazelle. Meals and overnight at Ndutu Lodge.
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An incredibly exciting day as Jim guides you from the far western to far eastern Serengeti traversing a huge section of the great grassland plains. The entire area could be covered with migrating herds as your safari vehicles travel overland into the remote Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It's strictly off-roading!

Spectacular scenery as you approach the Lemuta Plains, a domain of the few remaining traditional Maasai people, and a part of the Serengeti that hardly more than a handful of tourists ever see. Few guides or drivers know how to navigate these remote and wondrous lands.

If the grasses are wet it's wall-to-wall wilde and zebra. If it’s dry there are only the hundreds of thousands of Thomson's gazelle which don't migrate, lots of ostrich and huge herds of giant eland. Jim might spot a pond tucked into the plains, and his vehicles slowly search for the hyaena hiding in wait.

Lunch is taken atop one of the billion-year-old kopjes, or rocky outcrops that is the trademark of this ancient, fecund land. The views leave people breathless.

After lunch head towards mighty Ngorongoro. First stop is “Shifting Sands,” one of seven magical hills that walk across the veld on their own! Then it’s Olduvai Gorge, one of Jim’ favorite stops! He’ll try to get you to the actual site where “Nutcracker Man’s” discovery in 1959 changed the science of paleontology and put East Africa firmly at the center of the map of where “man was born.”

Finally climb the spectacular rim of Ngorongoro Crater, arriving at the “Maasai Versailles” for dinner and overnight. Crater Lodge is Tanzania’s most luxurious property and among Africa’s most famous.
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Dawn game drive in the amazing Ngorongoro Crater National Park. The 102 sq. mile crater is a volcanic caldera that is one of the most spectacular sites in the world. The crater floor is dense with animals including Africa's greatest concentration of cats and its largest number of free-ranging black rhino.

Enjoy a special picnic breakfast on the crater floor before returning to Crater Lodge for a late lunch. Relax this afternoon and then join Jim for sundowners as he reviews the wondrous journey you’re just ending! Meals and overnight at Crater Lodge.
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DISCOUNTED EXTENDED STAY AT CRATER LODGE
The safari ends with two nights at Crater Lodge. Extend your stay here! Even though Jim's staff and vehicles will leave with the safari, you'll be well cared for by the lodge's drivers and vehicles if you stay an extra night. The cost includes daily game drives in the crater other local options plus a private transfer to the Manyara airstrip where EWT will then make arrangements for your journey home or beyond.

The normal daily price of $1325 (+ $215 in government fees = $1540 per person) is reduced to $1275 per person per night if prepaid at the time you reserve the trip. Be sure to check the box on the Reservations Form.

Drive to northern Tanzania’s most important city, Arusha, where you’ll get a glimpse of modern life in Tanzania. Time for shopping and visiting the interesting Cultural Center, a combination super curio store and enormous art gallery which displays both local artists as well as others from many different parts of the continent. This is also one of the most reliable places to buy Tanzanite. Enjoy your sack lunch in the facility or purchase a sit-down lunch before continuing in the afternoon to Airport Planet Lodge near Kilimanjaro Airport.

Freshen up, take a shower and repack before the evening departures to Europe. (If your flight arrangements require that you stay longer, this is easily arranged.) The lodge shuttles guests to the airport on demand.
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DEPARTING FROM NAIROBI
Some travelers may do better departing from Nairobi than Kilimanjaro. EWT is an expert in flight arrangements to and from East Africa. Particularly post-Covid many of the best deals and most seamless connections are in and out of Nairobi, rather than Kilimanjaro airport where the safari technically ends. Consult with EWT to make your departure as easy as your arrival. Traveling back to Nairobi for your departure is routine.

Cost Includes

  • Accommodations and meals as named
  • Transport in specially outfitted 4x4 safari vehicles with pop-top roofs operated by professionally-trained, English-speaking driver/guides
  • All government fees including park entrance fees, property concession fees, transport fees and V.A.T.
  • Comprehensive guiding by Jim Heck after a minimum of six persons are reserved. If fewer reserve the trip will be guided by someone else.

Additional Expenses Not Included

  • Costs of local air fares within Kenya and Tanzania which can change at any time before purchase: those fares as of September 10, 2022, are shown in the blue-shaded column labeled “Local Air1” on the Reservation Form. You may lock in air fares by paying them at any time.
  • All international air fares
  • Visas
  • Tipping (Jim Heck does not accept tips)
  • The costs of obtaining requisite inoculations and documentation
  • Some meals and most beverages
  • Personal items like medical preparations or gear