Kenya and Rwanda: Masai Mara and Mountain Gorillas


Mountain gorilla youngster

When was the last time you had a once-in-a-lifetime experience?

This could be the next time! Join us on a unique journey to experience the famed Masai Mara in Kenya and follow that with a visit to Rwanda, home to the critically endangered Mountain Gorilla, where we can TWICE track these gentle giants. The Mountain Gorillas inhabit some of the most spectacular scenery on earth, high on the flanks of the Virunga Volcanoes. During our time in Rwanda we will meet both a representative from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and also a veterinarian from Gorilla Doctors and they will detail some of the threats facing these incredible animals. .

In keeping with the principles of responsible ecotourism:

We will make a donation to the conservation work of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

We will employ local people.

We will use locally owned and operated lodges and outfitters.

We will use local goods and services.

This is an ecotour that will make a difference to you and to the areas we visit.

Upcoming Dates
Saturday, May 13, 2017 to Sunday, May 21, 2017

Availability — This departure sponsored by the Houston Zoo - Open to enrollment

Saturday, May 20, 2017 to Sunday, May 28, 2017

Availability — This departure sponsored by the Houston Zoo is now FULL

Saturday, September 2, 2017 to Sunday, September 10, 2017

Availability — Open to enrollment

Saturday, October 21, 2017 to Sunday, October 29, 2017

Availability — Open to enrollment

Saturday, July 21, 2018 to Sunday, July 29, 2018

Availability — Open to enrollment

Saturday, August 18, 2018 to Sunday, August 26, 2018

Availability — Open to enrollment


Cost per person is $8,999
Single supplement is $1,250


Itinerary

Norfolk Hotel, Nairobi
Norfolk Hotel, Nairobi

Day 1: Arrival to Nairobi, Kenya

Plan to arrive in Nairobi, Kenya at a convenient time today and you will be met outside baggage claim and transfer immediately to the famed Norfolk Hotel, where Kings and Presidents have previously stayed. Enjoy our Welcome dinner at the Hotel this evening.

Overnight at Norfolk Hotel (D)
Little Governors Camp, Masai Mara
Little Governors Camp, Masai Mara

Day 2: Nairobi to Masai Mara

After a relaxed breakfast we depart for our 45-minute flight to the Masai Mara. Our destination is the exclusive Little Governor’s Camp in the Masai Mara. The Governors’ Collection of Camps are located in the heart of the best game viewing area of the Masai Mara. We should be at the Camp in time for lunch and once we have settled-in we will have the chance for a “Game Drive” before sunset. We shall enjoy dinner this evening back at the Camp overlooking the Masai Mara plains.

Overnight at Little Governor’s Camp (B,L,D)
Lion in Masai Mara
Lion in Masai Mara

Day 3: Masai Mara

An early morning game drive in the Park should reward us with the chance to see the wildlife and scenery this reserve is so famous for. We will of course also have great chances to see lions, cheetahs, elephant, giraffe, a variety of birds, hyena, buffalo and crocodiles. We shall plan on a short siesta around midday, and later this afternoon we will enjoy another game drive.

Overnight at Little Governor’s Camp (B,L,D)
Masai Mara scenery
Masai Mara scenery

Day 4: Masai Mara

We have another full day to explore the Masai Mara and to ensure we witness the full spectacle of this ecosystem. You could elect to take a sunrise Balloon Safari this morning, (at an extra cost) directly from our camp, with a champagne breakfast on the Mara. If you do not do the balloon safari of course we still plan to have an early morning game drive, a siesta and another game drive in the afternoon.

Overnight at Little Governor’s Camp (B,L,D)

Day 5: Masai Mara to Nairobi

This morning is our last game drive and after lunch we depart the Masai Mara for our flight back to Nairobi where we will spend another night at the Norfolk Hotel. At this time we will be reunited with any luggage we left behind with the concierge, as we can only carry 15 kilos on our flight in the small plane to/from the Masai Mara.

Overnight at the Norfolk Hotel (B,L,D)
Virunga Lodge
Virunga Lodge

Day 6: Nairobi to Virunga Lodge, Rwanda

This morning we transfer early to the Nairobi International Airport for our flight to Kigali, Rwanda. The RwandAir flight is included in your trip cost and departs Nairobi at 11:30am. Upon arrival in Rwanda we make a short visit to the Genocide Memorial before we drive to our base for the next three nights, the beautiful Virunga Lodge. The journey north goes through the beautiful terraced hillsides that characterize much of Rwanda¹s landscape, gradually climbing to the base of the awesome volcanoes, sometimes with as many as five peaks visible. We settle in this evening at our base for the next three nights, the dramatically located Virunga Lodge, overlooking the lakes of Bulera and Ruhondo. 

Overnight at Virunga Lodge (B,L,D)
Mountain gorilla trekkers and silverback mountain gorilla
Mountain gorilla trekkers and silverback mountain gorilla

Day 7: Volcanoes National Park - 1st Gorilla Trek

Today we take our first Gorilla trek! We will arise early this morning and drive to the headquarters of Volcanoes National Park where we will meet our trackers and head up the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes. We may visit one of the ten habituated groups. No more than EIGHT people may visit any group on any given day, so we can rely on having an intimate experience with our group, whichever group we visit. Tracking the gorillas through the lush forested slopes of the Virungas is an absolutely magical experience. If you are lucky you can get to the gorillas, spend an hour with them, and be back at the base in time for a late lunch! Some gorilla families however are more elusive, and tracking can take a full day, especially when it is wet and muddy, so you should be able to hike for two to three hours on steep mountain trails.

This evening we meet the Rwanda-based Veterinarians from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, and hear about their efforts to protect the Mountain Gorillas. They will join us for cocktails and dinner, and they will share with us some of the stories, challenges, and successes of their important work.

Overnight at Virunga Lodge (B,L,D)
Mountain gorilla mother and baby
Mountain gorilla mother and baby

Day 8: Volcanoes National Park - Optional 2nd Gorilla trek

Today is a second chance to go trek the Mountain Gorillas (on payment of $750 supplement at time of booking), and we now know what to expect! If you do chose to trek to the Gorillas a second time you should be able to visit a different Gorilla group than your first visit - indeed the more athletic may even try to visit the Susa group which usually requires the longest and most challenging trek. Alternatively trek to the Dian Fossey Grave, or visit the endangered Golden monkeys that call the Volcanoes National park home. After returning today we may have time to visit the local market or Mwiko Elementary School. A representative from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International will join us for cocktails this evening and talk about their efforts to continue the legacy of Dian Fossey protecting these remarkable creatures, we then enjoy our Farewell Dinner together.

Overnight at Virunga Lodge (B,L,D)
Sunset at Virunga Volcanoes
Sunset at Virunga Volcanoes

Day 9: Virunga Lodge to Kigali and flights home

Breakfast and pack, then transfer to Kigali for your flights headed home.  Please make sure your homeward flight departs Kigali after 1pm.

(B)

Travel Information

Thanks for choosing Kenya and Rwanda with Terra Incognita Ecotours, Inc. It is our pleasure to help you plan for your upcoming ecotour. To ensure that your travel arrangements are made to your satisfaction, please take a few minutes to read through this information.

What you need to have with you on your trip:

Passport: If you are a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you will need a passport, valid for six months from the date of completion of your trip.

It is always a good idea to make a photocopy of your airline tickets and of the pages of your passport that have the number, your photograph and other pertinent information. Keep the copies separate from the originals.

Visas: If you are a U.K. or U.S.A. citizen you will need a visa for both Kenya and Rwanda, though for both countries the visa can be acquired on arrival. If you are not a U.K. or U.S.A. citizen, please consult the Kenya and Rwanda consulate or embassy nearest you for visa requirements to enter Kenya and Rwanda. If a visa is required, you are responsible for obtaining it, but importantly the Kenya visa can usually be acquired upon arrival at the Nairobi airport, but for the Rwanda visa you will have to apply on-line beforehand.

Documents for children under the age of 18, not traveling with both parents: Governments are increasingly requiring that minors under 18 years of age traveling alone, with grandparents, or with one parent/legal guardian only, carry a notarized document signed by both parents or by the parent/legal guardian not traveling with the child. We suggest you obtain such a document (noting the age of the child, relationship to traveling adult(s), dates of travel, and destination) to avoid potential problems. For example, in the case of divorce, the parent with legal custody must sign the permit, and the accompanying adult must carry proof of this fact. In addition, if the child’s surname differs from that of either parent, you may want to carry the child’s birth certificate.

Please note: You must be over 15 years of age to obtain a gorilla viewing permit.

Emergency Contact number while on your ecotour:

Call COLLECT (813) 476-2810

Security: Certain areas of Kenya are experiencing security issues, notably along the Somalia border area, and we will not be visiting (or close to) any of these areas. There are currently no security problems in Rwanda. After the tragedy of the genocide in 1994, Rwanda has now stabilized and welcomes visitors. Please feel free to check with the US State Department for any updates or change in conditions.

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

The highlight of the Rwanda ecotour is undoubtedly the opportunity to trek the endangered Mountain Gorilla, and there is no doubt a face-to-face encounter with these gentle creatures is the most sensational wildlife experience of them all. During your safari you will have TWO opportunities to go on a Gorilla Trek. In order to participate in a Gorilla Trek, viewing permits must be obtained in advance, and they are extremely limited in number, so advance booking is essential to ensure permits can be obtained. Currently the viewing permits cost $750 per person (effective June 1, 2012), per day, and the cost of ONE permit is included in your ecotour.

The Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is perhaps the World’s most endangered ape, with approximately 880 animals, and they are only found in small portions of protected afro-montane forests in north-west Rwanda, south-west Uganda and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Half the population lives in the area of the Virunga volcanoes, and the other half lives in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, although located close to one another, expanding agriculture and the clearing of forest habitat means these two populations are now isolated from one another. It is within the Virunga range where you will have a unique opportunity to see gorillas in the wild.

Gorilla trekking is tightly controlled and regulated for the safety of the visitor and importantly for the safety of the Mountain Gorillas. A maximum of 8 visitors may visit a group of habituated Gorillas on any given day, this minimizes behavioral disturbance and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases.

Gorilla Groups:

There are currently TEN groups habituated to visitors in Rwanda.

  • Including the following:
  • Amahoro group - 18 individuals located on the Visoke volcano.
  • Hirwa group - 17 individuals located on the Sabinyo volcano.
  • Umubano group - 12 individuals located on the Visoke volcano.
  • Ugenda group - 11 individuals located on the Visoke volcano.
  • Bwenge group - 10 individuals located on the Visoke volcano.
  • Sabyinyo group - 14 individuals located between the Sabinyo and Visoke volcanoes.
  • Susa group - 35 individuals located high on the Karisimbi volcano (long and strenuous hike).
  • Agashya group - 25 individuals located on the Sabinyo volcano.
  • Kwitonda group - 24 individuals located on the Sabinyo volcano, sometimes in Democratic Republic of Congo and thus off-limits.

Only the Park Authorities will assign which gorilla group you will visit.

You will trek from the Park Headquarters to where the guides observed the Gorillas the day before, from there you will track the Gorillas. The trails may be very muddy, slippery and portions will be quite steep and strenuous.

Gorilla Viewing Rules:

  • Keep a minimum of 21 feet (7 metres) from the Gorillas - this is to protect them from catching diseases.
  • Do NOT remove anything from the park e.g., flowers, fruit, porcupine quills, etc.
  • Keep your voices down at all times.
  • No Flash photography is allowed.
  • Do NOT eat or drink when close to the gorillas - this is a disease risk.
  • Do NOT touch the Gorillas - they are wild animals.
  • The maximum time you can spend with the gorillas is ONE hour, however if the gorillas become agitated or nervous the guide will finish the visit early.
  • If you are feeling ill, or are carrying a contagious disease, please volunteer to stay behind. An alternative visit will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded your viewing permit money.
  • Do NOT spit in the park and go to the bathroom only as instructed by your guide.
  • Do not leave anything in the park, if you pack it in, pack it out!
  • Obey the local guide instructions at all times, for the safety of the Gorillas and visitors.

Practical Information

Currency: Rates effective January 2016. The currency of Kenya is the Kenya Shilling (KES) and 1 USD = 102 KES. The currency of Rwanda is the Rwanda Franc (RWF) and 1 USD = 750 RWF. Importantly if you bring US dollars the bills must be in mint condition - crisp, clean, no rips, no writing - if you wish to exchange them for local currency.

Major credit cards are generally accepted at hotels, some restaurants and larger stores. U.S. dollars are of course widely accepted in both Kenya and Rwanda, so we suggest you carry U.S. currency in small denominations for smaller purchases such as refreshments or other miscellaneous expenses.

Health: All information we obtain regarding health precautions is received from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta at 404.332.4559 or www.cdc.gov.

Please note that Terra Incognita Ecotours, Inc., as a travel company, is in no way authorized to prescribe any inoculations or medications. We recommend that you consult your personal physician or a travel clinic specialist for medical advice, showing him or her the brochure that indicates the places you will be visiting. Your physician is most familiar with your personal medical history and is best qualified to determine your particular needs. It is always advisable to have physical and dental check-ups before you leave.

At the present time, several immunizations are recommended/required for this ecotour, (e..g., Yellow Fever) and the CDC recommends that the normal "childhood" vaccines should also be up to date: Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR Vaccine), Diphtheria, Tetanus, Perturssia (DTP Vaccine) and Polio vaccine.

Swimming: There is an opportunity to swim during the ecotour, at the Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, but there are no other swimming opportunities.

Time Difference: Kenya is eight hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, but during Daylight Savings Time (March - November) the time difference can be reduced by one hour. Rwanda is seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, but during Daylight Savings Time (March - November) the time difference can be reduced by one hour.

Weather: Both Kenya and Rwanda are located close to the Equator, daytime temperatures can reach 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but, due to the high altitudes (5,000 to 9,000 feet) you will be visiting, the mornings and evenings are cooler and nights can feel a little cold. Please remember that the sun’s rays are more vertical than you may be used to, so you can sunburn more easily, and the additional altitude makes the sun’s rays even stronger. Be very careful of the midday sun.

In Kenya the temperate Rift Valley has perhaps the most agreeable climate in the country. Average temperatures vary from a minimum of 50°F to a maximum of 80°F and the rainfall is in essentially two seasons – late-March to the beginning of June (the ‘long rains’) and October to the end of November (the ‘short rains’). Similarly there are two seasons in Rwanda; the long dry season (June to September) and the wet season, which can be divided into the big rains (mid-February to June) and the small rains (mid-September to mid-December). However, due to the high altitude, rain is possible at any time of year, and the weather can change quite quickly. Typically in the rainy season it rains in the afternoons and the mornings are bright and sunny. Although one can almost depend on clear, sunny weather, there are occasional unseasonable storms, and brief but intense rain showers occur regularly in the tropical regions during any season.

Male lion in Masai Mara Lioness and cubs, Masai Mara Leopard in Masai Mara

Lodging Info

The Norfolk Hotel

The Norfolk Hotel has played a leading role in Kenya's colorful history, and continues to be Nairobi's finest and best-known hotel. The town and later the modern city of Nairobi grew up around The Norfolk, which still has its own private tropical gardens. The hotel is still the traditional starting point for safaris and the Lord Delamere Terrace is modern Nairobi's most famous meeting place, where drinks and light meals are served continuously from morning until midnight.

The Norfolk was expanded in 1999 and subsequently renovated in time for its centennial, which it celebrated in 2004. The hotel now offers accommodations in 168 guest rooms and suites, has three Conference rooms, a heated outdoor swimming pool, health club and gym, sauna and steam room, beauty salon, book shop and gift shops.

Little Governor’s Camp

Little Governors’ is intimate in character, with just 17 luxury en-suite tents tucked around a large watering hole that teems with both birds and wildlife. The camp is approached by a boat ride across the Mara River, then an escorted walk through the riverine forest. Vehicles are left on the far river bank, and the camp is therefore quiet and undisturbed. The guest tents at Little Governors’ have recently been renovated and now have great wooden decks with large verandahs for guests to enjoy the constant game activity that takes place around the watering hole at the camp. All Governors’ properties are unfenced, and at Little Governors’ there is a resident family of warthogs that wander freely through the camp. Guests may need to make way for elephants which sometimes visit the camp at lunch time.

Virunga Lodge

In a spectacular location overlooking the Virunga volcanoes and shimmering lakes Ruhondo and Bulera. The magnificent Virunga Lodge, set on a stunning hillside, has eight luxury bandas with a panoramic view of the Virunga volcanoes and the lakes Ruhondo and Bulera. The terraced gardens on this high ridge are now well established, with a magical sunken paradise garden as their focal point. Aside from Gorilla treks, guests here can climb a volcano, track the golden monkey, visit Dian Fossey's grave or go for gentle strolls around the picturesque villages near the lakes. This is an eco-lodge, so relies on solar power for all electricity generated and also harvests rainwater for use in the showers and toilets. Three hours' drive from Kigali.