Day 1 En route
Your adventure begins today as you take your plane to Africa.
Days 2 & 3 Nairobi
Upon arrival in the Kenyan capital, we’ll be met by our Black Leopard Safari Director and driven to the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel, where most—if not all—of those potentates and royals stayed, dined, and chummed around before setting out on safari.
The next day will be a day of leisure spent by the pool recharging the batteries or sight seeing within the environs of Nairobi;a tour of the amazingly refreshing Giraffe Centre for some inter species camaraderie, and visit the former home of Karen Blixen, author—writing as Isak Dinesen— of Out of Africa, one of the most evocative books ever written about any earthly place. Lunch will be either back at the hotel or at Karen Blixen coffee gardens.
Days 4 & 5 Amboseli / Chyulu Hills
This morning you fly over the Athi Plains to the natural wonderland that is Amboseli National Park. Mount Kilimanjaro, the still-glaciated monarch of Africa, presides over Amboseli, thrusting three dizzying miles above the park’s grasslands. As Peter Matthiessen wrote in The Tree Where Man Was Born, “A snow peak in the tropics draws the heart to a fine shimmering painful point of joy.” Tortilis Camp is our base for visits to Maasai villages and game drives in this almost incomparably rich animal kingdom. Our spacious, luxuriously furnished, thatch-covered tents nestle under the huge and reposeful Tortilis acacia trees from which the camp takes its name. Unwinding on our veranda, we might, like Isak Dinesen, watch a parade of elephants “pacing along as if they had an appointment at the end of the world.” Alternatively, you can head out to Chyulu Hills and onto Kampi Ya Kanzi, a hidden gem off the beaten path. Kampi Ya Kanzi is where safari dreams come true.
Days 6 & 7 Lewa Safari Camp
Set high up on the Lakipia Plateau, graced with unendingly various views of lordly Mount Kenya, Lewa Safari Camp is the jewel of the famed Lewa Conservancy, which has helped create the template for the successful conservancy model of wildlife and habitat preservation. Lewa’s wide range of terrains support a full cast of predators and prey; it’s home to the world’s largest concentration of Grevy’s zebra, and its 130 happily roaming black and white rhinos are a testament to the Conservancy’s resolute and ingenious conservation efforts. Lewa Safari Camp’s 11 thatched roof tents are classically airy and simply, easefully luxurious. Each has a modern en suite bathroom and a large private verandah overlooking one of the continent’s vastest and most vibrant African landscapes.
Days 8 & 9 The Maasai Mara
This morning we’ll fly over the planetary rumple of the Great Rift Valley—it makes “the Grand Canyon look like a line scratched with a toothpick,” John Gunther wrote in Inside Africa—to the Maasai Mara, the northern sector of the bigger-than-Belgium Serengeti–Maasai Mara ecosystem, unquestionably the earth’s greatest haven for large mammals; more than 70 species of which go about their business in the oceanic Serengeti–Maasai Mara grasslands.
Based from equally splendid Bateleur Camp or Governor’s Il Moran Camp, we’ll game drive throughout the Mara, spend rewarding time with the local Maasai people, and make side trips to the Mara River and its tributaries for a gander at leviathan crocodiles and hippos. And we’ll have sundowners in the gentle evening warmth of Ms. Dinesen’s true world, breathing its clean and guileless air, watching Africa’s showy stars come out to dazzle, feeling like we might have dallied in these parts, 10,000 years ago.
On our second day in the Mara, we’ll sweep in a hot-air balloon above the siringet, or the “endless place,” as the Maasai call this great land (normally an additional cost, ballooning on the Black Leopard Ultimate Safari is an experience we encourage). And at flight’s end, a champagne breakfast; we’ll already be a little giddied by the plain’s beauty and our good fortune to be so welcome and at ease in its presence.
Days 10 & 11 The Serengeti
We fly to the Serengeti via Nairobi and Arusha, Tanzania. Three million or more large mammals—elephants, cheetahs, gazelles by the gazillions, wildebeest, zebras, giraffes “floating across the plain” (thanks, Ms. Dinesen), lions, rhinos, and going on 60 more species— inhabit the great grassland, its riverine forests, and bustling, set-piece kopjes, rock islands that pop up from the plain.
We’ll spend our two Serengeti nights in either the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti or Serengeti Under Canvas. The magnificently conceived Four Seasons is set on a fine collection of kopjes, looking out at what seems to be a golden eternity, with sunrise skies “banded with rose and lemon and the colour of flamingo wings,” as Elspeth Huxley wrote.
Serengeti Under Canvas is the ultimate in luxury camping, complete with a private butler service, chandeliers, silverware, crystal, ensuite flush w.c. and comfortable beds with fluffy duvets. Experience a classic Tanzanian safari in spectacular solitude and soothing comfort – with only the canvas walls of your tent separating you from the wonder of the Serengeti. Carefully positioned for close proximity to the wildlife herds of the Great Migration, the two &Beyond Serengeti Under Canvas camps provide the ultimate viewpoint for this amazing animal spectacle. With only nine tents nestled at each private campsite, enjoy the indulgence of complete comfort combined with the authenticity of nights spent in the African bush.
Day 12 & 13 Ngorongoro Crater
Today you depart on this lovely drive across the Crater Highlands and up to the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, perched on the rain-forested rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, one of our solar system’s greatest geographic ornaments.
In The Tree Where Man Was Born, Peter Matthiessen captured one of the crater’s enigmas: “How did the hippopotamus find its way up into the Crater Highlands, to blunder into the waters of Ngorongoro? Today one sees them there with wonder, encircled by steep walls.” Indeed, meandering around the softly lush caldera floor, we may feel like Professor George Edward Challenger and Lord John Roxton in Arthur Conan Doyle’s thriller The Lost World. True, we won’t see any Aardonyxes or Zupaysauri, but—as we often say—once you’ve really looked at a rhino, or contemplated the gigantic unlikeliness of an elephant, your old sadness at never having seen a dinosaur will be lightened.
Day 14 Depart Nairobi
After breakfast and a last look at the Edenic lands below, we’ll drive to Lake Manyara and hop on our flight to Nairobi, where we’ll have a day room at the Norfolk and get a bite to eat before being driven to the airport for our late flight out.
Day 15 Connect in Europe