President’s Pick Africa Quest for Giants

President's Picks | Big Five Tours“Who says East and South must be separated? Who says a safari must follow conventional routing? Clearly the memo about following instead of leading never got to us. And, that is why I love the approach to this program that encompasses the spirit of Africa.”

 

 

While the world has been changing, we have been exploring.

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President’s Picks

COUNTRIES VISITED

South Africa

Rwanda & Uganda

Botswana

STARTING AT..

Price starts at $2500 Land per person, per day, double occupancy.

TOUR LENGTH

16

Tour Highlights/Full Description

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  • Take in Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, considered one of the world’s largest waterfalls in terms of width – more than a mile wide
  • Go on treks to encounter the endangered mountain gorilla, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure
  • Venture out on safari in Chobe National Park, known for elephant herds up to 500 as well lion, buffalo, cheetah and an amazing variety of antelope
  • Discover Botswana’s phenomenal Okavango Delta, a jewel in the Kalahari Desert and Africa’s largest oasis
  • Enjoy unique lodges and camps that offer unrivaled access to the stunning wildlife of Africa

Day 1: Arrive Johannesburg, South Africa
On arrival in Johannesburg, as you exit the aircraft look for our representative, holding a name-board with your surname on it. You are welcomed and assisted through airport formalities. Outside customs, you are met by our representative who will help with your luggage and accompany you to your hotel.

Known to the locals as “E’Goli” or City of Gold, Johannesburg is the pulsating heart of South Africa’s industrial and commercial life where gold mining continues. Fascinating sights include cultural visits to Soweto, the Apartheid Museum and even a working diamond mine. Sterkfontein in the Cradle of Humanity World Heritage Site is well worth a visit. Arts and craft galleries abound and this is a very good place to buy diamonds. Johannesburg is one of Africa’s biggest and most vibrant cities.

Your hotel is just a short walk from the arrival’s hall of Johannesburg’s largest international airport. The award-winning InterContinental Johannesburg O.R. Tambo Hotel offers 138 rooms that are impeccably appointed. Other amenities the Camelot Spa, an indoor heated swimming pool and a uniquely African dining experience at the hotel’s Quills Restaurant. Intercontinental Airport Hotel – Executive Room (B)

Day 2: Johannesburg / Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Your representative meets you at your hotel to assist you with your excess luggage for storage before escorting you to the check-in counter at OR Tambo Airport for your scheduled flight to Victoria Falls. On arrival in Victoria Falls, proceed through immigrations and obtain your visa. After collecting your luggage and exiting the Customs Hall, you are met for the transfer to your lodge.

Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is a sight not to be missed; particularly when the Zambezi River is in full flow (April to June/July). Over a mile of unbroken surging water plunges into the Zambezi gorge below. The pleasant town is compact enough to walk around and the falls are within easy walking distance. Victoria Falls is bordered by Zimbabwe and Zambia and each country offers a different viewing perspective. Towards the end of the dry season, from late September to January, the spectacle is best seen from the Zimbabwe side of the Victoria Falls.

A host of activities are offered centered around the falls, the magnificent Zambezi River and the Zambezi National Park. Enjoy guided tours of the falls, including a sunset boat cruise. For incredible views of the falls as well as the river consider the helicopter ‘Flight of Angels’ or for a unique experience, take a microlight ride or go bungee jumping. The wide gentle river above the falls is the perfect place for canoeing and fishing, while below the falls you savor some serious whitewater rafting or jet-boating. Game drives and horse riding can be done in the Zambezi National Park where you encounter elephant and buffalo. A day safari can be arranged in the wildlife rich Chobe National Park nearby.

Victoria Falls River Lodge was the first private game lodge to be built in the Zambezi National Park. Situated on the banks of the Zambezi River, the Zambezi Crescent Collection’s pioneer lodge is so close to the famous Victoria Falls that you can see the spray in the distance. With its choice of luxury accommodation options, Victoria Falls River Lodge caters to a wide range of preferences and is the ideally located to enable guests to participate in a significant variety of leisure and recreational activities (both on and off site) or simply sit back and unwind whilst enjoying the surrounding scenery. The lodge is open plan in design and positioned just back from the water’s edge, in view of the elephants’ natural evening route. Victoria Falls River Lodge – Luxury Tented Room (B,L,D)   

Day 3: Victoria Falls
The Victoria Falls reaches its zenith in May each year, a truly awesome experience – sights, sounds, smells combine for a humbling feeling of nature’s supreme masterpiece. Nothing prepares you for your first encounter. Morning and afternoon tours are possible. En route, you may be taken past the ‘Big Tree’ before walking through the rainforest with a qualified guide, who offers a brief history of the falls and point out the flora, fauna, birds and wildlife. Raincoats are provided when needed. You have the remainder of the day for other optional activities in the area. Victoria Falls River Lodge – Luxury Tented Room (B,L,D) 

Day 4: Victoria Falls / Chobe National Park, Botswana
Today you have a road transfer from Victoria Falls River Lodge across the Zimbabwe border to Chobe Chilwero in Botswana. Renowned for its impressive, migratory population of more than 50,000 elephants, Chobe National Park lies in the far northeast of Botswana, bordering the mighty Chobe River. It has distinct eco-systems with the arid hinterland in between. The Chobe riverfront area has fertile plains and thick forests, while the Savuti Channel lies to the southwest and the Linyanti Swamps occupy the northwest. This diversity of habitats provides a sanctuary to an astonishing array of African wildlife.

Sitting above the Chobe River, the lodge offers unparalleled panoramic views across the islands and floodplains as far across as Namibia. This is an incredibly luxurious lodge with just 15 guest cottages, as well as the only full spa on the Botswana safari route. Relax in the split-level swimming pool, unwind with a pampering session in the spa or enjoy the gourmet food that the lodge features. This Chobe Chilwero is a luxurious retreat in the heart of the bush, located on the edge of Chobe National Park, the second largest national park in Botswana, where some 80,000 elephants roam. From the lodge’s hilltop position, guests can enjoy far reaching panoramic views over the Chobe River and floodplain below. The main public area includes a lounge, library and dining room, linked to outdoor viewing patios. Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero – Pool Suite (B,L,D) 

Day 5: Chobe National Park
The Chobe river system is known for some of the best elephant viewing in Africa in the winter months (May to October), with huge herds of up to 500 or more at the end of the dry season. Lion are common and almost expected, with buffalo, cheetah and an amazing variety of antelope often sighted.  The Chobe River itself is alive with crocodile and hippo and marvelous birdlife, including kingfishers and bee-eaters. Languorous sunset cruises are a specialty of the Chobe river area as well as morning game drives in the park. Game drives in the northern park are shared. You enjoy the activities on offer by your lodge. Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero – Pool Suite (B,L,D) 

Day 6: Chobe National Park / Okavango Delta
After a morning activity, you are transferred to Kasane airport for your scheduled charter flight (seat in plane) to your camp in the Okavango Delta.

Please note that luggage allowance is strictly 44lbs per person in soft squashy bags including all hand luggage such as camera equipment)

Note on Charter Flights: Exact charter flight times are finalized the night before, depending on logistics. Therefore, you will only be given your exact departure time from camp on the previous evening. Usually this will be sometime in the mid to late morning but occasionally it is just after lunch.

The Okavango Delta is exceedingly beautiful. A jewel in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, the Okavango is Africa’s largest and most beautiful oasis; an isolated, lush green paradise with some of the richest wildlife in the world. The maze of waterways, lagoons, vast grassy plains and palm-fringed islands is home to crocodile, hippo, elephant, lion, leopard, hyena, giraffe, wild dog, rare antelope and, for serious birders, around 400 bird species. Wildlife is just one of many elements that combine to make the delta a treasure. It is the brooding quietness of the waterways, you may hear the plaintiff cry of the African fish eagle, see the Malachite kingfisher reflected in the translucent waters, catch the scent of the water lilies and the wonder at Okavango’s glorious sunsets.  Highlights include the elusive Sitatunga antelope, which has found refuge in this pristine wetland ecosystem while birds such as the African fish eagle  and many others provide spectacular viewing.

With the influx of the annual flood, the delta’s water levels rise steadily from May onwards, reaching further and further into the Kalahari sands, with its peak levels reached in August. Your camp offers an exceptional Botswana safari experience and allows you to enjoy luxurious solitude on its own Delta island within a 272,000-hectare/672,125-acre exclusive wildlife concession. With only nine tents, this intimate camp offers an exclusive experience steeped in the wonder and magic of this extraordinary ecosystem. Depending on the season, you can float gently along clear, intricate channels and explore the myriad islands of the Delta or embark on exception game drives from the light and airy base of this ethereal camp. &Beyond Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp – Tent (B,L,D)

Day 7: Okavango Delta
Go on a safari game drives on both day and night in search of Africa’s big five species – elephant, leopard, lion, buffalo and rhino; or opt for walking safaris for a completely different perspective of the African bush. Take to the air in a helicopter for thrilling views of the Okavango Delta. For bird watchers, the area is home to some 450 bird species, including the elusive pel’s fishing owl.

The camp employs state-of-the-art Tesla solar power plant that provides 80% of Xaranna’s total energy consumption using a solar photovoltaic (PV) hybrid system – the first of its kind in Botswana. This system incorporates a solar photovoltaic (PV) plant and a Tesla Powerpack Battery Energy Storage System (BESS). &Beyond Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp – Tent (B,L,D)  

Day 8: Okavango Delta / Moremi Game Reserve
Today you take another light aircraft charter flight (seat on plane) to your next camp. Situated on a private concession in the magnificent Okavango Delta, your camp boasts exclusive traversing rights over a vast stretch of land adjacent to the wildlife-rich Moremi Game Reserve. Set in a cool forest canopy of wild palms and gnarled fig trees, this lodge blends seamlessly with one of Africa’s most breath-taking landscapes. Behind the lodge, golden-grassed floodplains inhabited by a staggering variety of wildlife stretch into the distance, framed by lush palm islands and the spires of giant termite mounds. A channel of clear, cool waters runs directly in front of the elevated guest suites that offer unrestricted views over the shimmering beauty of the delta.

Adjacent to the Moremi Game Reserve, the lodge offers some of the most exceptional wildlife sightings in the delta, which guests can enjoy on day and night safaris, as well as bush walks. The architectural design brings guests closer to the exceptional natural beauty of the Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The lodge is situated on the edge of the delta’s permanent waterways, which means that the areas where game drives and walks take place always remain accessible, even when the delta waters are at their highest. The guest areas of the lodge rise out of the trees clad in a wooden skin of shingles and timber. Organic and handmade, the lodge blends perfectly with its surroundings. Stairs rising out of bower of trees lead into cool and spacious interior, ending on a terrace set just above ground level. A curved wooden roof soars overhead, creating a grand and immense sense of scale. High interiors let in the clear African light and the endless horizons. The main guest areas embrace the shelter of the delta forest, the twelve elegant guest suites peep out from beneath its canopy, raised above the fringes of papyrus that line the channels. &Beyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge – Suite (B,L,D)

Days 9/10: Moremi Game Reserve
Your days on safari offer you the opportunity to explore not only in 4×4 safari vehicles but also on foot and by mokoro dug-out canoe. Experience an Africa in its most natural, unspoiled and impressive condition. Game viewing is at its peak from July to October when seasonal pans dry up and the wildlife concentrates around permanent water sources. Its habitats are diverse, combining mopane woodland and acacia forests, floodplains and lagoons. It is home to nearly 500 species of bird, from water birds to forest dwellers, and a vast array of wildlife including Cape buffalo, Angolan giraffe, black rhinoceros, lion, elephant, hippopotamus, zebra, cheetah, hyena, jackal, impala, and red lechwe. Cape wild dogs inhabit this reserve and have been the subject of a project run in the area since 1989. &Beyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge – Suite (B,L,D)  

Day 11: Moremi Game Reserve / Maun / Johannesburg, South Africa
After a final morning activity, you are transferred to the local airstrip for your charter flight (seat in plane) to Maun and connect with your scheduled flight to Johannesburg. After clearing immigration, you are met by our representative and your stored luggage is returned to you. Relax for the reminded of the day. InterContinental Airport Hotel – Executive Room (B,L,D) 

Day 12: Johannesburg / Kigali, Rwanda
Early this morning, make your way back to the air terminal in time for your scheduled flight to Kigali. Upon arrival at Kigali International Airport, you are met by a representative who will assist you with customs and immigrations clearance before meeting your driver and guide, who transfer you to your hotel.

The five‐star Kigali Serena Hotel is ideally located on one of the city’s most charming boulevards. It is built around a polished granite atrium, showcasing the Rwandese cultural art. Relaxed yet elegant, the hotel centers on the executive lounge and bar, which opens onto a wide sundeck overlooking the newly refurbished swimming pool. Kigali Serena Hotel – Executive Suite (L,D)

Day 13: Kigali / Volcanoes National Park
After breakfast, you are taken on a Kigali City Tour which includes the Memorial Center and crafts centers. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before your three-hour drive north to Bisate Lodge where you will check in. The lodge is located in the natural amphitheater of an eroded volcanic cone. The area has dramatic views of the peaks of Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes, rearing up through the Afro-alpine forests of nearby Volcanoes National Park. The lodge accommodates just a dozen guests in sumptuous en suite Forest Villas that maximize comfort and views while retaining environmental principles and reflecting the culture of surrounding rural Rwanda.  It is an easy drive to Volcanoes National Park headquarters, where gorilla treks begin daily. Bisate’s vision of reforestation and rehabilitation means that you contribute to biodiversity conservation and local community engagement, which make far-reaching and positive impacts on an iconic endangered species: the mountain gorilla.  Aside from tracking one of the ten habituated gorilla groups, activities include visiting a Iby’wacu cultural village, the twin lakes of Buhondo and Burera, the lava tunnels of the Musanze Caves and Dianne Fossey’s grave. You may even see the endemic golden monkey. Bisate Lodge – Forest Villa (B,L,D) 

Note: Tracking permits as of this writing are US$1500.00 per person, per tracking trip and Golden monkey/chimp excursions are US$100.00 per person, per tracking trip.

Day 14: Volcanoes National Park
Following an early breakfast, you are picked up early for your first gorilla tracking trip. Join a briefing by your trackers before driving to the trail head for the start of this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.  Upon sighting the gorillas, you spend an unforgettable hour in their company. You watch as they go about their daily life, feeding, playing, resting and raising their young. Coming face to face with a giant silverback is truly be one of the most magical wildlife experiences on earth! Afterwards, head back to the trail base and drive to the lodge for lunch. The rest of the day is at leisure before dinner at the lodge. Bisate Lodge – Forest Villa (B,L,D)

Day 15: Volcanoes National Park
Following breakfast, you set out on a second gorilla tracking adventure, or you can opt to track golden monkeys, which usually takes from two to four hours. Once you come to the habituated families, you  spend an hour with them. Adult monkeys play in plain view, feeding on bamboo leaves and leaping from perch to perch and females carry their young, completely oblivious of the outsiders. Then, return to the lodge for lunch. You can opt to hike to research pioneer Dianne Fossey’s grave site. Later this afternoon, you are taken on a community walk before dinner. Bisate Lodge – Forest Villa (B,L,D)

Day 16: Volcanoes National Park / Kigali / Depart
Enjoy the morning at leisure before the drive back to Kigali, Take a tour of the local markets and art galleries in the city, and have lunch at a local restaurant. Later transfer to the airport for your departure flight. (B)

 

Land price, per person, double occupancy: Price starts from US$2,500 per person per day.  Tracking permits additional: As of this writing, Gorilla – $ 1,500 per person, per tracking; golden monkey/chimp $ 100.00 per person, per tracking. Internal airfare additional.

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