Thanks to our small group size, we can get to the heart of our destination, visit places that other tours miss, and get to know the locals.
* Visit The Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, The World’s Most Successful Orphan Elephant Rescue Center
* At The Giraffe Centre, Hand-Feed Elegant Rothschild Giraffes From An Elevated Platform
* Enjoy Personal Game Drive Experiences In Safari Vehicles That Seat No More Than Seven
* Explore Samburu National Park, Known For Its Unique Wildlife
* Enjoy Leisurely Game Viewing At One Of Kenya’s Iconic Tree Lodges
* Travel To Lake Nakuru National Park, Known For Its Superb Birdlife
* Embark On A Boat Tour On Lake Naivasha, A Bird Lover’s Paradise
* Test Your Luck And See How Many Of The “Big Five” You’ll Spot In The Magical Masai Mara National Reserve
†Transfers are available for purchase for land only or on alternative flight dates
DAY 1, Tuesday – Depart for Kenya
Depart for Kenya
DAY 2, Wednesday – Arrive in Nairobi
Arrive in Nairobi, gateway to your thrilling safari in Kenya; transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is yours to rest and acclimate to your new time zone
DAY 3, Thursday – Elephant Orphanage and Giraffe Centre
After an orientation meeting with your Tour Manager, depart for a visit to the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage* to learn about how orphan elephants are raised here and later released into the wild.
Then, drive towards the Ngong Hills for a tour of the Karen Blixen Museum, once the farmhouse of the prominent author of Out of Africa. In the afternoon, continue to Kazuri Beads Workshop, which started as a tiny workshop making ceramic beads by hand.
Today this center produces fine examples of genuine African jewelry out of clay gathered from nearby Mt. Kenya. End the day at the Giraffe Centre where you hand-feed the Rothschild’s Giraffe and learn more about their extensive conservation efforts.
Dinner Tonight Is At A Local Restaurant
*Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage may be substituted with Nairobi Animal Orphanage
Overnight: Nairobi Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
DAY 4, Friday – Evening Game Drive in Samburu National Park
Travel north this morning towards Samburu National Park, known for its unique wildlife, rarely found in other Kenyan parks. Here, view different species of giraffe, zebra, beisa oryx and the long-necked gerenuk, along with lion, cheetah, and leopard.
En route, stop for lunch at the Trout Tree Restaurant. Arrive in Samburu, with its arid hills leading to the lush forested ravine of the Ewaso Nyiro River. This evening, set out on your first game drive returning to camp in time for dinner
Overnight: Samburu National Park Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 5, Saturday – Morning & Afternoon Game Drives in Samburu National Park
During the morning game drive today, perhaps you’ll see a lion, ostrich, or even a family of elephants wandering the hills. After lunch at the lodge, an afternoon drive takes you to a different area of the park. Return to the lodge for leisure time.
Tonight, after dinner, an interesting lecture and discussion with a Samburu naturalist. You’ll learn more about the principles and tribal traditions of the villagers living in the northern foothills of Mount Kenya
Overnight: Samburu National Park Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 6, Sunday – Game Viewing in Aberdare National Park
Today, travel southwest to the heart of Aberdare National Park. Arrive at The Ark, one of Kenya’s iconic tree lodges. The Ark is designed with layers of decks overlooking a floodlit watering hole and salt lick that attracts a huge amount of wildlife all day and night.
The many different balconies and lounges provide superb vantage points for game viewing. A ground level bunker provides excellent photographic opportunities and takes you up-close to the animals
Overnight: Aberdare National Park Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 7, Monday – Game Drive in Lake Nakuru National Park
Today, explore Lake Nakuru National Park. Drive to the edge of the lake to view thousands of birds feeding in the alkaline water, see the sweeping view from the top of Baboon Rocks, then look for warthogs and waterbucks.
Nakuru is also one of the best places in Kenya to see black and white rhino, and for making daytime leopard sightings. Afterward, continue to your lodge where you will spend the remainder of the evening at leisure
Overnight: Lake Naivasha Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 8, Tuesday – Lake Naivasha Boat Tour, Cooking Class
This morning, embark on a boat ride on the tranquil waters of Lake Naivasha, a bird lover’s paradise. You will encounter hippos wallowing in the water and an abundant number of birds.
Afterward, return to your lodge and attend a cooking class, led by a chef. Learn how to cook local dishes and later taste your own creations. Spend the remainder of the day at leisure
Overnight: Lake Naivasha Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 9, Wednesday – Afternoon Game Drive in the Masai Mara National Reserve
Early drive to Masai Mara National Reserve in the southwest corner of Kenya, renowned for its spectacular game viewing. The savannahs of the park are a backdrop to a diverse and abundant wildlife population throughout the entire year. Lunch at the camp, before going out on the afternoon game drive
Overnight: Masai Mara National Reserve Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 10, Thursday – Morning & Afternoon Game Drives in the Masai Mara National Reserve
Arise before dawn to participate in today’s optional Hot Air Balloon Safari. Take off in a hot air balloon as you watch the sunrise over the Masai Mara. Drift above the beautiful landscape, watching wild game roam the vast plains below. The finale is a champagne breakfast before returning back to camp. Today’s game drives through the Masai Mara reserve focus on the “Big Five” (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino), as well as antelopes, gazelles, hippos and a variety of birdlife. A dinner tonight celebrates your final night in the Mara
Optional: Sunrise Balloon Safari & Breakfast (AM) Overnight: Masai Mara National Reserve Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
DAY 11, Friday – Depart Kenya
Bid farewell to the Mara this morning and return to bustling Nairobi. Passengers with early evening flights will then be transferred directly to the airport. Passengers with late evening flights will have a day-use hotel room and be transferred to the airport later in the evening. Please select flights that depart no earlier than 6:30 PM
Day Use: Nairobi Meals: Breakfast
Is This Trip Right for You?
This is an active trip. This program covers a lot of ground each day. Expect to spend most of your time driving in safari vehicles that cannot be air-conditioned over roads that are often rough and bumpy. Only “bush toilets” are available during game drives.
There are many early mornings. Electricity in the camps is provided by generator and may not be available 24 hours a day. Many of the accommodations are built in the traditional local style and have no air-conditioning.
Passengers traveling from Kenya into Tanzania will be required to carry proof of yellow fever vaccination, and are encouraged to consult their health-care providers regarding malaria prophylaxis. We suggest you check with your health-care provider before signing up for this tour.
Some of our tours require walking or stairs between tents. Safari vehicles have high ground clearance and require agility to embark and disembark. During this tour, you may come into proximity of wild animals whose actions can be unpredictable.
Certain inherent risks are involved which should be considered at your own discretion. This is a Small Group program. For more information, click here.
Sunworld Safaris! I have worked on your request and below is our offer and proposal for the intended safari in August 2024 for your perusal. In-case you find this quote/itinerary not suitable for some reasonable reason, we are happy to amend it to suit your specific requirements. African Safari Vacation Itinerary (2024 Proposal)
The offered National Reserves / Parks are all unique in their own perspective and will offer distinct game viewing opportunities. Below please find a short description of each destination:
Nairobi: Your experience will begin with a night in Nairobi. I recommend accommodation at Four Points by Sheraton Hotel which is attached to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport – Complimentary arrival transfer! 😊
Lumo Conservancy: Borders Tsavo West National Park and offers some of the most stunning views in Kenya! The beautiful landscape of the Taita Hills, Mount Kilimanjaro and Mkomazi Reserve on the Tanzanian side are just some of the features.
The magical “Lion Rock” draws prides of lions on black, volcanic rock and offers the perfect photographic image ! Being a private conservancy (48,000 acres), it provides one with possibilities that a typical national reserve / park would not such as night game drives, reasonable off-road driving, guided bush / bird walks etc.
It is a birders paradise and 5 endemic species; not found anywhere else in the world can be seen there. This destination can easily be described as “OFF the beaten track” – something special with a combination of both wildlife / culture and away from the usual tourist crowds. I HIGHLY recommend Lumo Conservancy and accommodation at Leopards Lair Cottages for you.
Amboseli National Park: No Hollywood studio can make a beautiful backdrop for a safari, as you find it in the Amboseli National Park. While elephants, zebras and buffalos graze in the flat savannah, the Kilimanjaro glitters in the background. The park is 400 sq. kms, with its southern boundary along the Tanzanian border.
The area is home to more than just Elephants, and herds of wildebeest, zebra and impala that graze on the open plains. There are areas of acacia forest that make for good birding and are home to many small mammals. Cheetahs are also often sighted here. I would recommend accommodation at Kibo Safari Camp for you.
Lake Naivasha: The birdlife at Lake Naivasha is beautiful. Several animals can be found grazing in the lake environs, such as zebra, impala, giraffe, and hippos. The lake is ideally situated for some relaxation and a chance to enjoy a walk at wildlife infested Crescent Island. Crescent Island is situated in the middle of the freshwater lake.
It is quite an experience to walk amongst giraffe, antelope, wildebeest and gives you a new perspective of nature and animals close on foot. The island is accessed by boat, so you also get an opportunity to enjoy a boat ride while enjoying spectacular scenery. I would recommend accommodation at Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge for you.
Maasai Mara Game Reserve: Maasai Mara Game Reserve is a must visit destination as it guarantees rewarding game drives and it never fails in its sightings. I would HIGHLY recommend Maasai Mara Game Reserve and Mara Bush Camp Bush Wing for you. Mara Bush Camp Bush Wing is in a great location, right at the heart of the reserve. This area is great for game viewing throughout the year and offers better chances of spotting the elusive leopard amongst other wildlife.
The camp is in the lion and leopard territory hence you will have fantastic access to the big cats which roam in the area. Mara Bush Camp Bush Wing has five slightly small but beautifully simple furnished tents, blending into Mara Bush Camp (main camp). Mara Bush Camp Bush Wing is a lower budget option that we offer guests who still want to enjoy the fantastic location and facilities of Mara Bush Camp.
Transport: What makes us different from other operators is that we have a direct influence on the operation of a safari through our own fleet of custom safari built 4-wheel drive Landcruiser which are all 4 x 4 vehicles for any ground transportation. Our clients enjoy private and exclusive use of the vehicle and guide as well. This provides great flexibility throughout the trip as game drives are UNLIMITED and one can determine the length of your game drive. (Which can be half day, full day game viewing with picnic lunch or just morning and afternoon – as you prefer).
Which is important for any wildlife enthusiasts. Should any breakdown or mechanical problem occur, we are able to send an immediate replacement of vehicle from Nairobi. All the safari vehicles are designed with pop-up roof or roof hatches and ideal for safari work. Our vehicle seating configuration for a standard Landcruiser has a seating capacity of 06 guests’ seats (05 Guaranteed window seats) + driver.
Driver Guides: Our Driver/guides are equally important IF not the most important aspect to make the safari a success. As you can imagine, this aspect can make or break a good Safari. We pride ourselves in selecting some of the best driver / guides in the industry. Our English-speaking driver / guides are familiar with all routes and road conditions in the region.
They have eagle eyes and are ready to spend the entire day with you out in the bush. Our guides have done countless safaris in Kenya and are well experienced with all requirements. They have excellent knowledge on wildlife, local people and the fauna and flora of Kenya.
The Itinerary Would Be As Follows:
13 Nights / 14 Days Private Road Safari In Kenya
DAY 01 (01st August 2024): Arrival in Nairobi
DAY 02 (02nd August 2024): Drive from Nairobi to Lumo Conservancy. Accommodation at Leopards Lair Cottages on full board basis
DAY 03 & 04 (03rd & 04th August 2024): Full days in Lumo Conservancy. Accommodation at Leopards Lair Cottages on full board basis
DAY 05 (05th August 2024): Drive from Lumo Conservancy to Amboseli National Park. Accommodation at Kibo Safari Camp on full board basis
DAY 06 & 07 (06th & 07th August 2024): Full days in Amboseli National Park; Accommodation at Kibo Safari Camp on full board basis
DAY 08 (08th August 2024 ): Drive from Amboseli National Park to Lake Naivasha. Accommodation at Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge on full board basis
DAY 09 (09th August 2024): Drive from Lake Naivasha to Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Accommodation at Mara Bush Camp Bush Wing on full board basis
DAY 10 – 13 (10th – 13th August 2024): Full days in Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Accommodation at Mara Bush Camp Bush Wing on full board basis
DAY 14 (14th August 2024): Drive from Maasai Mara Game Reserve to Nairobi. Drop off at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport
End Of Itinerary
DAY 01 (01st August 2024): Arrival in Nairobi
Upon arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, you will be met by our representative. Once you exit the terminal, kindly look for a signboard with your name on it. If you wish to change money into the local currency, it would be advisable if you do it while at the airport.
DAY 02 (02nd August 2024): Nairobi – Lumo Conservancy
Pick up from Four Points by Sheraton Hotel at approx. 0700 hours and depart for Lumo Conservancy. Arrive at Leopards Lair Cottages in time for late lunch. We invite you for your first exciting game drive in the Conservancy in the afternoon. All meals and overnight at Leopards Lair Cottages (Full board basis).
DAY 03 & 04 (3rd & 4th August 2024): Full days at Lumo Conservancy
Full days at Lumo Wildlife Conservancy with unlimited game drives. Another advantage of the Lumo Conservancy is that you can cross over to Taita Hills Conservancy a few minutes’ drive away for game drives as well as enhanced clarity / wildlife viewing as there isn’t heavy vegetation in comparison to Tsavo West National Park. Surprisingly, you can spot some of the species confined north of the equator such as the Somali Ostrich and Beisa Oryx. All meals and overnight at Leopards Lair Cottages (Full board basis).
After breakfast, depart for Amboseli National Park. Arrive at your Camp in time for lunch. Enjoy your first exciting afternoon game drive in this scenic park, famous for its large elephant herds and unprecedented views of snowcapped Mount Kilimanjaro. Meals and overnight at Kibo Safari Camp (Full board basis).
Enjoy this exciting day in Amboseli National Park. We recommend that you get up early morning where one can experience excellent game viewing & an unprecedented view of the snowcapped Mount Kilimanjaro: Africa’s highest Mountain.
Full day with unlimited game drives in Amboseli National Park with packed breakfast or lunch if you like. You could also enjoy just a morning and afternoon game drive if you prefer or simply go out for a longer morning game drive or even a full day game drive. Meals and overnight at Kibo Safari Camp (Full board basis).
DAY 08 (08th August 2024 ): Amboseli National Park to Lake Naivasha
After breakfast, depart for Naivasha. Arrive in Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge in time for lunch. Enjoy a boat ride in the afternoon and a walk on the wildlife infested Crescent Island. Crescent Island is situated in the middle of the freshwater lake. It is quite an experience to walk amongst giraffe, antelope, wildebeest and gives you a new perspective of nature and animals close on foot. Dinner and overnight at Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge (Full board basis).
DAY 09 (09th August 2024): Lake Naivasha to Maasai Mara Game Reserve
Enjoy a scrumptious breakfast and depart for the famous Maasai Mara National Reserve to arrive in time for lunch at your Camp. After lunch, enjoy an extended afternoon game drive in the world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve. You may encounter some of the “Big Five” and you will most certainly be impressed by the wide variety of species present in this area.
The Maasai Mara has the highest concentration of land mammals compared to any other park or reserve in Kenya. Dinner and overnight at Mara Bush Camp Bush Wing (Full board basis).
DAY 10 – 13 (10th – 13th August 2024): Full days at Maasai Mara Game Reserve
Spend whole days with unlimited game drives exploring the Mara, home to the proud and traditional Maasai tribe. You will have a good chance of seeing herds of buffalo and zebra as well as hippos and many other animals and birds.
Enjoy picnic lunch out in the bush or return to camp for lunch should you so wish. Dinner and overnight at Mara Bush Camp Bush Wing (Full board basis).
DAY 14 (14th August 2024): Maasai Mara National Reserve – Nairobi
After breakfast, depart with a game drive en-route for Nairobi. Arrive in the afternoon and be transferred to the airport for your outbound departure flight.
End of Itinerary
Please note that 2024 rates are not yet out hence the quoted price is only indicative. This offer is just to begin with to give you an idea of what can be done, and we can always amend it to suit your requirements.
Total Cost Of Safari:
Based on 02 adults on exclusive use of a 4 x 4 safari equipped Toyota Land cruiser in August 2024
USD $7,250.00 Per adult sharing in a double/twin room/tent x 02 adults = USD $14,500.00
The Above Package Includes:
01-Night bed and breakfast accommodation at Four Points by Sheraton Hotel
03 Nights full board accommodation at Leopards Lair Cottages
03 Nights full board accommodation at Kibo Safari Camp
01-Night full board accommodation at Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge
05 Nights full board accommodation at Mara Bush Camp Bush Wing
Transport and exclusive use of a custom safari equipped Toyota 4 x 4 Land cruiser with roof hatches.
Services of a professional English-speaking driver / safari guide (member of KPSGA)
Unlimited Game Drives at Lumo Conservancy, Amboseli National Park and Maasai Mara Game Reserve
Boat Ride at Lake Naivasha
Walk on Crescent Island
Park entrance fees for Lumo Conservancy, Amboseli National Park and Maasai Mara Game Reserve
Excluded In The Above Package:
-Lunch or dinner on day 01
-Items of personal nature i.e., beverages, laundry, telephone, souvenirs etc.
-Travel / medical insurance
-Tips / gratuities for driver / guide and hotel staff
-Change in itinerary
-Any other item not mentioned above
I hope the above is in order and to your satisfaction.
Upon arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (Nairobi), you will be welcomed by a safari company representative. He will be waiting for you at the airport receiving area with a welcome sign and facilitate a shuttle to our hotel. We will have our first group meeting at dinner, which formally begins the tour.
1 Night: Four Points by Sheraton (D only).
Day 2-4: Samburu Game Reserve (January 19th-21st)
After breakfast, we drive (6 hours) to Samburu, arriving in time for lunch at our first luxury tent camp. After lunch, we enjoy our first game drive in Samburu National Reserve.
Samburu is one the loveliest reserves in terms of landscape and wildlife where you will have the chance to see rare animals such as the Grevy Zebra, the long-necked Gerenuk, Somali Ostrich, Reticulated Giraffe and the Beisa Oryx. We also have a chance to see our first big cats.
Day 5-6Sweetwaters/Ol Pejeta Conservancy (January 23rd-24th) After breakfast, we drive (3 hours) to Ol Pejeta Conservancy to arrive at the Sweetwaters Tented Camp in time for lunch.
The conservancy has a higher wildlife-to-area ratio than any Kenyan national park. The park has the highest densities of wildlife in Kenya outside of the Masai Mara. We will be concentrating on rhinos here.
The Conservancy boasts the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa and hosts large numbers of southern white rhinos. It also houses the two remaining northern white rhinos in the world. Many other “Big 5” species are available as well.
After breakfast we will head directly to (6-7 hours) to Lake Naivasha.
We will arrive in time for lunch. There are several species (vervet monkeys, zebra, giraffe, waterbuck roam freely) available at your doorstep to photograph on the Sopa grounds in the afternoon.
Afternoon walking safari.
1 night Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 8-9 Masai Mara (January 26th-27th)
After early breakfast, we will arrive at Lake Naivasha for a quick one- hour boat ride to capture images of the African Fish eagle, hopefully in morning light. We are off next (4 hours) to Masai Mara National Reserve and our next luxury tent camp.
Plans are to arrive in time for lunch. You will most certainly be impressed by the wide variety of species present within this famous area.
The Masai Mara has the highest concentration of land mammals compared to any other park or eserve in Kenya. This is where we hope to photograph most of the big cats.
As early as possible, we check out from Entim and game drive across the plains, photographing enroute towards our next base, our lodge overlooking the Mara River. We arrive at the Mara Serena lodge in time for lunch. We spend the next two days doing safari. Early morning starts, with days roving the plains to ensure access to one of
the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth.
After breakfast, we check out and drive to the Mara Serena air strip for our morning flight to Nairobi, arriving prior to lunch time. A company representative will be waiting, transferring us to the hotel with time for lunch and to freshen up at a day room as you prepare for your late afternoon/evening international flight home. The day rooms are available from 10:30 AM to 8:00 PM.
Transfer is provided by the Four Points shuttle to the airport for your flight back home.
Day Room until 8:00 PM (staying before 10:30 AM or after 8:00 PM will require overnight rate) Four Points by Sheraton (L only)
* Park entrance fees as per the itinerary
* All meals indicated above per lodging (B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; D=Dinner)
* All day safaris and services of professional driver guides
* All airport transfers
* Emergency Evacuation insurance
* Mineral water during game drives
* Professional photographic guidance: wildlife photographer Ken Conger will be
providing support/advice on a rotational basis throughout the itinerary
* Only 2 people per Landcruiser (except on the days when Ken joins you)
What’s Not Included:
* International flights to and from Nairobi
* Extra hotel nights in Nairobi before and after formal tour (begins Day 1 with
dinner at the Stanley Sarova and ends with lunch/day room at the Sheraton)
* Optional activities (e.g., Masai village visit; balloon rides; night safari Ol Pejeta)
* Entry visas for Kenya
* Personal travel insurance
* All items of personal nature including telephone calls and internet usage
* All type drinks (we must pay for bottled water at meals)
➢ If the US requires negative PCR-based COVID-19 test for reentry, we can book the same while at Four Points by Sheraton with results within 5 hours at an extra cost of $100.
Price: $8,600 (50% deposit due July 1st, 2023; remaining due November 1st, 2023)
The Tour Cancellation/Refund Policy:
* Cancellation Fee For 120 Days And Over – No Cancelation Fee Charge (Bank And Wire Transfer Charges Only)
* Cancellation Fee From 120 And 90 Days– 25% Deposit Cancelation Fee
* Cancellation Fee From 89 – 61 Days – 75% Deposit Cancellation Fee
* Cancellation Fee From 60 – 00 Days – 100% Of Payment
The Best Way To See Africa’s Great Migration, On A Safari Without The Crowds
Usawa Camp in the Serengeti takes the mobile lodge concept—in which tents get packed up and moved to new locations daily—from bare-bones to ultra-luxe.
We were in hot pursuit. Dust rose up behind our Land Cruiser in a massive cloud as our guide Chrisple Sikawa manhandled the steering wheel like a ship captain charting dangerous waters.
We had just seen thousands of wildebeests crowding the edge of a small cliff like a great swarm of bees. Below them: the mighty, crocodile-filled Mara River. Would they cross? Sikawa suspected they might. But this was not the best place to see it.
My husband, John, and I were racing across the grasslands hoping to catch sight of the great migration, the legendary annual 1,200-mile-long journey of roughly 1.2 million wildebeests between southern Tanzania and Kenya’s Masai Mara reserve.
It’s easy for travelers to feel like they’re one of 1.2 million onlookers in this phenomenon, but not us: As guests at the just-opened Usawa, a mobile camp in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, we had the rare treat of having the landscape almost fully to ourselves.
Still, on that day, it was not to be. After zigzagging across the savanna, we waited. And waited. The wildebeests went left, then right, up, then down. But they did not cross. As the sun began to set, we—like the great mass of animals—retreated.
People do not come to the Serengeti to be disappointed. In addition to playing host to the great migration for most of the year, the park is filled with cheetahs, lions, leopards, African buffalos and a growing population of devastatingly endangered rhinos.
It’s just about as close to a sure thing as it gets in the wild—which is why more than 500,000 tourists visit every year. It’s also the reason tour outfitters and safari lodge companies are in a constant race to offer the best and most crowd-free way to experience the spectacle.
The South Africa-based luxury safari operator Wilderness may have just cracked the code. Usawa, the company’s new camp, opened on July 26 on a remote hill in the Serengeti’s Bologonja region.
It transforms the tried-and-true mobile safari lodge concept—where tents are designed to be packed up and moved to new locations, without a trace—from a necessarily amenity-light option to a truly five-star experience.
“Mobile camps in the Serengeti are usually of a lower standard, while more luxurious camps are considered semi-permanent, only moving twice a year from north to south,” says Raphael Mauget, general manager of Wilderness Tanzania. Usawa’s competitive edge?
At any given time, between two and three identical camps will be in operation, so you can sip South African syrah, dine on Swahili barbecue and explore the great expanses just beyond your tent while the next Usawa location prepares for your arrival.
As the migration moves, so do guests. The great migration takes places year-round, typically crossing the Mara from south to north from August through September, then in the reverse direction from October to November; from January to March, the camps move in other parts of the region where guests can glimpse the same animals birthing 8,000 calves each day.
Of course, nature is anything but predictable—even in the Serengeti—as John and I found out on that first unfulfilled crossing. But no matter: At Usawa, we felt the movement of the great migration in other ways.
Our tent—one of six, all composed of overlapping canvas and mesh—felt totally open to nature, allowing us nearly 360-degree views of the savanna where the great migration’s herds regularly passed.
From our hammock, and even our bed, the sounds, scents and sensations of the bush were ever present in the trumpeting of elephants, sage-scented breezes and the distant howls of big cats.
The design is a stylish—and sustainable—take on the classic safari aesthetic, with lamps carved from acacia trees and furniture made from upcycled plastic.
It’s masterminded by Luxury Frontiers, a company that’s built its name on upgrading glamping to befit such hotels as Amangiri in Utah or Nayara Tented Camp in Costa Rica. But the details are all local.
Glassware and textiles were crafted by the artisans of nonprofit Sanaa in Arusha, while colorful blankets and woven-basket stools from Joyce Weaving Products provide new income and resources to Tanzanian women.
Elevated cuisine, which is typically hard to pull off at most mobile camps, rises to the level of some of the bush’s most luxurious lodges and puts a focus on produce and protein sourced from nearby communities.
During our stay, fresh passion fruit and mango were breakfast staples, as well as sweet additions to rich chocolate ganache tarts after dinner. Zanzibari spices enlivened everything from the pilau rice to the tilapia—and even the coffee.
One evening a traditional Swahili barbecue included such delights as mtori, a sweet and savory banana soup that warranted seconds and thirds.
All six tents, plus the communal main tent, are solar-powered, use mobile septic tanks, operate completely off-grid and can be built and broken down using only manpower.
Unlike most luxury camps, which build underground sewage and power systems for more brick-and-mortar-style accommodations, Usawa adapts the leave-no-trace environmentalism of roving camps to more high-end accommodations—a win-win for the ecosystem and discerning guests.
“Within a few months, I expect any of these locations will be completely grown back over,” Mauget says. “We’ll have to rely on GPS when we come back the following year because there will be absolutely no trace of us having been here.”
The light footprint means local wildlife weren’t scared away by construction, and we were able to see a plethora of wildlife right from camp: elephants noisily breaking tree branches for dinner; zebras casually munching on long grass just steps away; dozens of wildebeests arriving suddenly, moments after a rain shower.
Still, some luxuries just aren’t eco-friendly and must be done without, or at least adapted. Case in point: hot water, which isn’t easily procured without proper plumbing.
At Usawa, there’s no turning on the taps for the relief of a steamy shower after a dusty day in the bush; instead we had to inform staff of our intention to bathe, then wait some 15 minutes for a pair of men to fill the buckets behind our tent with freshly heated water.
You turn the shower “on” by pulling a chain—forget about controlling the temperature. This was just the right amount of roughing it for us, though for some it might be a tad too rustic for a vacation that starts at $950 a person per night.
John and I, however, found such mild inconveniences to be part and parcel of an experience that felt blissfully connected to nature. We felt it one day when, just a handful of miles from Usawa, we watched a mother cheetah and her cubs feasting on a Thomson’s gazelle, vultures soaring ominously overhead.
That afternoon we patiently waited outside a cluster of bushes for a leopard to peek its head out. Another morning we took to the savannah on foot, hiking straight from camp—and spotted a leopard sprinting across the opposite hillside 100 yards away.
And finally, on our last day, we got our crossing. Using his gut, experience and, we suspected, hot leads conveyed in Swahili over his radio, Sikawa led us through a whirlwind of dust back to the same spot where days earlier the wildebeests had failed to put on a show.
This time they were bolder, racing down the promontory, splashing into the river and safely emerging on the other side right in front of us, mewing and bucking all the while.
The spectacle lasted for close to an hour. The sheer magnitude left us in awe. It was the moment we had all been waiting for—and the one Usawa was built for.