Great Migration Safari 2023: Kenya & Tanzania - 18 Days

Overview

Guided by Jim Heck

March 13 – 30, 2023

$19,535

Jim’s signature “Great Migration Safari” has operated annually for more than 40 years. There’s no more perfect itinerary or experienced guide!

The migration of wildebeest and zebra through the massive Mara/Serengeti/Ngorongoro ecosystem is a mostly continuous, circular movement following the rains. They bunch up into groups of sometimes 100,000 animals feasting on the nutrient grasses of the southern Serengeti plains, and the only time these 1-2 million animals stop moving is to calve.

You’ll also visit Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater. The awesome crater is the most visited game park in all of East Africa. In Kenya game parks include animals and habitat not found in northern Tanzania: The wondrous Great Northern Frontier is an Arizona-like environment with some of the rarest and most beautiful animals and birds on earth. The 11,000-foot high Aberdare Mountain range is a highland rain forest on the equator!

This is also an exceptional time for birding,too! More than 300 migrant species spend their winters here from the northern hemisphere, raising the area’s avifauna to one of the highest in the world!

Starting in Nairobi Jim introduces you to the dramatic history, politics and cultures of East Africa. Even in the bush Jim shows you more than animals! His passion for early man takes you into the nooks and crannies of Olduvai Gorge, where so many precious finds of early man were found.

Accommodations for the trip are mostly up-market. Despite this being the perfect time for seeing the great migration it’s considered a low tourist season. The lower prices make some of East Africa’s truly over-the-top accommodations reachable. This includes one of the most luxurious properties on the entire continent, Crater Lodge. (Jim’s staff refers to it as “Maasai Versailles.”)

For this safari, you can choose to visit Kenya & Tanzania or just Tanzania. The main Tanzanian safari visits several famous game parks but focuses mostly on the Serengeti. This is where the great migration is found, sustaining a greater biodiversity and range of scenery and habitats than anywhere else in Africa.  The optional week in Kenya is designed especially to show you habitats and animals that can’t be found in Tanzania! The wondrous Great Northern Frontier is an Arizona-like environment with some of the rarest and most beautiful animals and birds on earth. The 11,000-foot high Aberdare Mountain range is a highland rain forest on the equator! This lush and beautiful environment is filled with animals, rare birds and monkeys.

2023 Dates Sharing Single
Kenya March 13-20 $ 4,540 $ 5,360
Tanzania March 20-31 $ 12,995 $ 14,140

About your guide . . . . JIM HECK

Few people know Africa as well as Jim Heck. For nearly a half century he has worked, lived and guided in 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 Kulit. His companies have organized safaris into Africa for more than 10,000 visitors including most of the country’s major zoos and conservation organizations. And in 2016 he became the first American to be named an honorary senior elder by Kenya’s Maasai tribe.

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 time of Idi Amin. Jim has never lost a client or fired a gun.

Itinerary

Day 1
NAIROBI - Monday, March 13, 2023

Whenever you arrive Nairobi’s international Jomo Kenyatta Airport you’ll be personally met and privately transferred into the posh suburb of Karen for your overnight at Hemingway’s Resort.
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Day 2
NAIROBI - Tuesday, March 14

Today Jim takes you to several attractions very near the hotel. First stop will be the Karen Blixen Museum, the filming site for “Out of Africa” and the home for the author, Karen Blixen. From here you’ll visit the popular Giraffe Centre where Jim will discuss the remarkable DNA science regarding surprising historical understandings of Africa’s different species of giraffe as you hand-feed one of the rarest! A lunch stop will be made at a nearby mall before a visit to the Kazuri Beads Womens Cooperative, a now very famous single-Mom coop that produces bead and porcelain cutlery now sold worldwide. Return to the resort for an independent evening. Overnight at the Hemingway’s Resort.
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Day 3
ABERDARE - Wednesday, March 15

You leave the city for the bush after a visit to the famous National Museum. (Nairobi city is one of the busiest and often most congested cities on the continent, so be patient as you navigate the traffic!) The museum is full of Kenya’s natural history, cultures and art but it is truly among the world’s preeminent paleontological institutions. Virtually all successful early man scientists ultimately spend some time here and Jim will show you some of the most precious early bones displayed anywhere in the world. Time for a quick sandwich in the Deli before the afternoon drive into the highlands. Arrive the Aberdare Mountains in time for dinner. Overnight at the Aberdare Country Club.

Although you’re not in a game park, yet, rest assured your night will be filled with the haunting calls of the tree hyrax and yelping screams of the bush baby!
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Day 4
ABERDARE - Thursday, March 16

The day is spent game viewing in Aberdare National Park. Enter the park through the west side where you’ll be surrounded by beautiful tea plantations. Kenya exports more tea than any other country and Jim will give you a short history of the industry. (India produces more tea but consumes most of it, so the world’s second-largest producer, Kenya, becomes its largest exporter.) Once inside the gate the animal viewing begins! The enormous Aberdare has all the big-game but is notable for its rare monkeys and ridiculously colorful high altitude birds and very rare antelope. There’s also buffalo, elephant, impala, several kinds of duikers, warthog and bushpig, giant forest hog, hyaena and leopard! By the end of the afternoon the safari arrives 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 seem to bother the animals come on at dusk and a never-ending parade of Africa unfolds throughout the night. There’s a buzzer which you can activate near your bedside to wake 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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Day 5
Mt. KENYA - Friday, March 17

Game view very early out of the park through ranching country towards Mt. Kenya, Africa’s second highest mountain. Time-permitting you’ll visit another single-Mom cooperative, the Nanyuki Weavers, where beautiful handcrafted woollen products are for sale. Check-in to the famous Mt. Kenya Safari Club in time for lunch. The Club is one of the most famous resorts in Kenya, built by William Holden and developed by Stephanie Powers. Today it includes much more than the original film studio, including tennis and squash courts and a 9-hole golf course. The setting in the thick forests of Mt. Kenya is beautiful. You can enjoy any of a number of the hotel’s amenities this afternoon or book a visit to its famous Wildlife Sanctuary where staff will explain rearing and reintroducing such animals as the rhino. Dinner and overnight at the Club.
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Day 6
SAMBURU - Saturday, March 18

After an early breakfast the safari embarks on one of the most spectacular drives on safari! Round Mt. Kenya through 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. After that it’s desert. At first you wonder why on earth you’re traveling through this desiccated landscape. But after a short while 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’ll 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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Day 7
SAMBURU - Sunday, March 19

The lodge is less than five miles from the border of Samburu National Park where you travel for morning game viewing. Samburu is a strikingly beautiful wilderness in a Mohajve desert cut by the great Ewaso Nyiro. 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 species unlikely to be found in Tanzania include the beautiful gerenuk and oryx. Since our 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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Day 8
KARATU - Monday, March 20

Early game viewing to the airstrip for the morning flight back to Nairobi-Wilson. After about an hour you then continue on an international flight to Tanzania, where you will meet up with those who came for the Tanzania tour, and everyone boards a local flight to Manyara. Weather-permitting there will be some spectacular views of Africa’s tallest mountain, Kilimanjaro. The Manyara airstrip is spectacularly located on the very edge of the Great Rift Valley. The Rift is one of the few geological features that is easily spotted from outer space, a huge cleavage in the continent. From the airstrip Jim’s safari vehicles transfer you through rich agricultural lands to the main farming town of Karatu for two spectacular nights at Gibb’s Farm.
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Day 9
KARATU - Tuesday, March 21

Dawn game drive in Lake Manyara National Park with a picnic breakfast. The park is located right below the Great Rift Valley and provides an enormous range of habitats from the high heavily forested rim through massive forests to the shore of the great Lake Manyara. It’s known for its ‘lions-in-the-trees’, abundant forest creatures and lots of baboon. There is a greater biodiversity of large trees in this little park than in most Midwest States creating a virtual fantasy land of tropical beauty. Enjoy breakfast along the lake shore usually with a view of millions of flamingoes. Return to the lodge for a late lunch with the remainder of the afternoon free. Many people take an afternoon tour of the local town and there are also free tours of the organic vegetable and flower farm, walks with park rangers into the beautiful forests of Ngorongoro, mountain biking and a variety of spa treatments. Many travelers rate Gibb’s among their favorite spots, often comparing the beautiful cottages and scenery to Tuscany. Meals and overnight at Gibb’s Farm.
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Day 10
SERENGETI: Seronera - Wednesday, March 22

After breakfast transfer to the Manyara airstrip for the late morning flight into the Serengeti. The flight lands at the central Serengeti airstrip at Seronera. This is the administrative center of the park and where most tourists stay. Travel to the Welcome Center for a picnic lunch before beginning afternoon game viewing. 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 that overlooks a grand valley for an absolutely perfect sunset around the camp fire. Dinner and overnight at Nyikani Camp.
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Day 11
SERENGETI: Seronera - Thursday, March 23

Jim plans game viewing after chatting with the drivers and other guides the night before. The normal routine is to go out at dawn when the light is so good and any kills might be still active, then return to camp for a late breakfast. After lunch an afternoon run is made. But there might be information about an errant group of wild dog, or a lingering part of the migration, or a great congregation of croc on the Grumeti. And this might require a longer game drive in which case you’ll travel with picnics.

Whatever you do rest assured you’re going to have some of the finest game viewing in Africa! Meals and overnight at Nyikani Camp.
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Day 12
MORU - Friday, March 24

Where you spend the morning will depend upon where Jim hopes the best game viewing will be, staying around the Seronera area or proceeding onto the Moru Kopjes where the group will spend the next two nights. It’s likely that you’ll have a picnic lunch enroute. By the end of the day the safari will reach the Moru Kopjes, an area of the western edge of the spine of the Serengeti that many consider among its most beautiful areas. “Kopjes” is Afrikaans for “Head” and reflects the giant boulders found among the woodlands here. They collect into amazing formations creating truly scenic landscapes. They’re also favorites of lions and leopards!

The game here is abundant, including large numbers of elephant, giraffe and impala. The great herds are still expected to be further south, but if the weather has been unusual, visiting both Seronera and Moru is sure to intersect them, anyway! Dinner and overnight at Serengeti Pioneer Camp.
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Day 13
MORU - Saturday, March 25

This is not only an area with lots of game, beautiful woodlands and scenic landscapes – it was once the sacred home of the Maasai. Jim leads you on a walk up one of these giant boulders to a magical, “singing rock” and tells you the story of the Maasai eviction from the area that led to the tripling of the wildebeest population. Afterwards you’ll visit some nearby cave paintings! (In 2019 Jim was throwing rocks and shouting to make sure the caves were safe before letting the rest of the group join him when a mother lion appeared from within the cave with her cubs!) Moru is also where authorities are trying to reintroduce black rhino, so there’s a chance of finding these monsters here! Meals and overnight at Serengeti Pioneer Camp.
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Day 14
SERENGETI: Southwest Lakes - Sunday, March 26

If the weather has been normal, today begins the search for the great herds and their calving areas. The really nutrient southern grassland plains begin just south of Moru and there are several ways to get to them. Jim will make that determination from information at the time. It’s possible that you’ll take the main Serengeti road and stop at the Naabi Hill entrance center where you can climb the area’s highest kopjes for extraordinary sweeps of landscape all around you. Jim might also take you via the Kusini plains through some very thick woodlands. If the herds are where they normally are, you’ll reach the southwest lakes for lunch. This is a relatively small area in the middle of the vast Serengeti: It looks out of place, but in fact has an incredibly strategic value for the great migration, and that’s why Jim brings you here. The two large lakes, Masek and Ndutu, are an important watering station for the great herds. After lunch the afternoon game drive will concentrate on the woodlands around the lake, great for leopard! But the herds could actually be here, literally surrounding your room! Meals and overnight at Ndutu Lodge.
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Day 15
SERENGETI: Southwest Lakes - Monday, March 27

The entire day is spent game viewing. The lakes are surrounded by thick acacia woodlands filled with animals and the plains outside the forests are one of the finest places in Africa to find cheetah. Normally at this time of the year the migration will be somewhere nearby, but it is so weather-dependent that a season a bit wetter than usual would mean the masses of herbivores are still right outside the lodge. Depending upon the information Jim and your driver/guides have gathered, you might take a picnic for long excursion into the Kusini Plains or even as far as the Kekesio Valley where wild dog live! Meals and overnight at Ndutu Lodge.
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Day 16
NGORONGORO - Tuesday, March 28

An incredibly exciting day as you travel from the western to eastern Serengeti traversing a huge section of the great grassland plains. The entire area could be covered with migrating herds. There could be zebra and wildebeest and all sorts of gazelle for the entire day as your safari vehicles travel overland into the remote Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It’s strictly off-roading! Spectacular scenery as you enter the Lemuta Plains, a domain of the few remaining traditional Maasai people. From time to time Jim is able to introduce you to these proud herders. Few guides or drivers are capable of navigating these remote and wondrous lands. Sometimes it’s wall-to-wall animals, including the hundreds of thousands of Thomson’s gazelle which don’t migrate. From time to time Jim spots a pond resting on 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 north to the mighty Ngorongoro. First stop is “Shifting Sands,” one of seven magical hills that walk across the veld on their own! Then it’s to 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 on the map of where “man was born.” In the museum he’ll give you a short summary of the periods of evolution. Continue then up the spectacular rim of Ngorongoro Crater, arriving “Maasai Versailles” for dinner and overnight. Crater Lodge is probably Tanzania’s most luxurious property and certainly among Africa’s most famous.
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Day 17
NGORONGORO - Wednesday, March 29

Dawn game drive in 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. There’s a reason to get down early! 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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Day 18
ARUSHA - Thursday, March 30

Drive back to Arusha town this morning. This is northern Tanzania’s largest and most important city, so you’ll get a glimpse of daily modern life in Tanzania. Time for shopping and visiting the interesting Cultural Center. This is a combination super curio store and enormous art gallery which displays both local artists and some from all over the continent. You can 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 where rooms are available until the evening departures home.
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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

  • The costs of local air fares within Kenya and Tanzania. Currently (Feb 2022) the local air prices are approximately $577 in Kenya and $180 in Tanzania.
  • All international air fares
  • Visas
  • Tipping (Jim Heck does not accept tips)
  • Some meals and most beverages
  • The costs of obtaining requisite inoculations and documentation
  • Any costs for testing or other requisite tasks associated with Covid-19 or any other pandemic