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Day by Day Itinerary

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

Travel Africa on safari and experience east Africa’s stunning national parks ... its Maasai tribespeople, who can often be seen herding their cattle across the plains ... its big game, from lions to hippos ... the towering, cloud-shrouded peak of Mount Kilimanjaro ... and of course, the awe-inspiring migration of the wildebeest across the vast Serengeti plains. On this popular African safari, you'll discover all of this and more, as we explore the wild beauty of Kenya and Tanzania. Talk with local residents in a Maasai village and school, tour the home of Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa, and stay in intimate lodges in breathtaking locations—including the heart of the Serengeti.

Please Note: The itinerary below is for departures beginning July 2, 2014. If you reserved this adventure with an earlier departure, please refer to your Final Documents for your itinerary.

Nairobi Serengeti National Park Expand All
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    You depart the U.S. in the late afternoon on an overnight flight to Amsterdam.

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    Explore Nairobi at the start of your guided tour through Kenya and Tanzania

    We arrive in Amsterdam this morning. After a short layover, we fly to Nairobi, and arrive in the afternoon. We’ll gather at our hotel for a briefing and Welcome Drink with our Trip Leader. We’ll also be joined by fellow travelers who took our optional pre-trip extension, Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve.

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    After breakfast at the hotel, we travel to the nearby Karen region, named for famed author Karen Blixen. Our first stop is the Giraffe Center, where you can get close to these towering animals and photograph them. In 1974, Jock and Betty Leslie-Melville relocated five orphaned and rare Rothschild giraffe to their home here, which was quickly dubbed "Giraffe Manor." Over the years, the giraffe have thrived, and now have their own young. The center plays an important part in the conservation of the Rothschild giraffe species.

    Leaving the Giraffe Center, we visit a museum dedicated to Karen Blixen, who wrote Out of Africa under the pen name Isak Dinesen. The Kikuyu people she wrote about with great affection are still one of Kenya's major ethnic groups. The Danish writer, as you may know, "had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills," where she lived from 1914 to 1931. The Danish government gave her beautiful house to the country of Kenya upon its independence, and today it is a museum furnished with much of her original period furniture and is open to visitors. A visit to this museum offers a fascinating peek into the lives of early 20th-century Kenyan settlers.

    After enjoying a lunch at the Karen Country Lodge, we'll depart for the Lake Nakuru area, traveling through the Rift Valley, enjoying splendid views as we go. Our lodge is located just 12 miles from Lake Nakuru National Park, in a setting that boasts more than 430 different avian species.

    We'll arrive in time to enjoy a Welcome Dinner at the lodge this evening.

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    Today, we'll have breakfast a little earlier than usual so we can travel overland to Lake Nakuru National Park in time for a morning game-viewing excursion. Lake Nakuru is famous for the seasonal migration of vast rings of flamingos that often transform its placid waters into a shimmering sea of pink. The park is also home to a relatively large population of black and white rhinos. These are normally elusive due to their dwindling populations, but recent conservation efforts have made Lake Nakuru one of the most likely spots in East Africa to lay eyes on one of these stunning beasts.

    After lunch at our lodge, we embark on an afternoon nature walk. Be sure to keep those cameras ready—we'll have another great chance to explore the diverse landscape and colorful birdlife here. Dinner tonight is at our lodge.

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    Departing Nakuru, we leave the Great Rift Valley and continue overland to Amboseli National Park, set on the border of Tanzania and in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. We pause for a picnic lunch en route.

    On arriving at Amboseli, we check in at our permanent tented camp and then enjoy an afternoon game-viewing drive. The park shelters more than 400 bird species, including pelicans, flamingos, kingfishers, and ibis. But by far, elephants are the kings of the park. Amboseli's elephants, which are said to be among the largest in the country, are fond of the swamps, where they share the cool waters with the hippos that hide beneath the papyrus. Amboseli is also home to a large population of wildebeest and Burchell's zebra. We arrive at the camp close to dinnertime.

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    We rise early to enjoy a light breakfast in an open-air dining area, with views of the majestic snow-covered flattop of Mount Kilimanjaro, which forms a memorable backdrop to today’s explorations.

    After breakfast, we travel to a nearby Maasai village, and join the local children for their walk to school. At the school, we'll meet more students, take part in some morning activities, and discuss the school's future with the headmaster.

    Upon our return to the village, we'll learn more about Maasai culture, including how they tend their livestock, make their natural medicines, and create their ceremonial dress. We'll take part in daily activities both inside and outside the boma huts and enjoy free time to mingle with the villagers.

    After bidding our Maasai hosts farewell, we return to our tented camp in time for lunch.

    After lunch and a short rest at our lodge, we embark on another game-viewing drive. Look for the elusive gerenuk, a delicate antelope with a long, giraffe-like neck that enables it to browse the middle branches of acacia trees. You may see families of giraffe, herds of zebra and antelope—and if you are lucky, you may spot the rare serval cat. Because Amboseli’s abundant elephants are tracked almost constantly by researchers, they largely escaped the ravages of 1980s poaching, so you are apt to see some older “tuskers” here. You’ll be fascinated by the abundant birdlife—from the colorful little lilac-breasted roller and the comical guinea fowl to graceful hawks and eagles. We return to the camp in the early evening in time to relax before we gather for dinner.

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    Discover delicious cuisine while on safari in Africa

    After breakfast, we depart for the Kenya-Tanzania border. We continue to the town of Arusha, Tanzania, where we lunch at the Shanga River House.

    We then transfer to Tarangire National Park, where we’ll stay in comfortable tents in a secluded area on Lake Burunge. Upon arrival, we’ll have the option to join a guided walk before dinner at the lodge.

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    Encounter diverse wildlife in Tarangire National Park

    Today we experience Tarangire's diversity on a full-day game-viewing drive, during which we'll pause to enjoy a boxed lunch in the park. As Tanzania's third-largest national park, it features nine distinct vegetation zones ranging from grassland to woodland, from deep gully vegetation to scattered rocky hilltops, Tarangire offers a diverse geological landscape, as well as diverse wildlife—including the largest recorded concentration of breeding bird species in the world. Baobab trees dot the landscape, and the valley of the Tarangire River dominates the entire scene. Each of our driver-guides has extensive knowledge of the behavior of the native animals.

    After our full day in the park, we’ll return to our camp for dinner this evening.

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    Explore Tanzania's Lake Manyara National Park with a Maasai tribesman

    Today, we embark on an early morning game-viewing drive at Lake Manyara National Park, in the heart of the Great Rift Valley. Encompassing an area of just 125 square miles, the park is relatively small, but is still one of East Africa’s most popular and beautiful wildlife sanctuaries. Lake Manyara National Park is home to one of the largest herds of elephants in Africa. Chances are also good we’ll see wildebeest, giraffe, blue monkeys, vervets, impala, zebra, buffalo, bushbuck, and baboons.

    We enjoy a picnic lunch in this scenic area before continuing on to Karatu. As we journey toward the Ngorongoro Highlands, the valley unfolds below us and we can see Lake Manyara stretching in the distance. We may see elephants or other wildlife along the roadside.

    We arrive at our lodge in the early evening. We then have time to relax or take a stroll through the extensive grounds before dinner.

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    This morning, we have the choice to enjoy a morning at leisure or experience a rare opportunity to visit two neighboring tribes on an optional tour with the Hadzabe and Datoga peoples. We’ll depart from Karatu with a packed breakfast and arrive at Lake Eyasi, where we’ll first spend time visiting with the Hadzabe tribe. These hunter-gatherers have changed very little in 10,000 years and use a clicking based dialect. From there, we’ll move on to discover the Datoga tribe. The Datoga are skilled farmers and craftsmen, and can be recognized by circular scarification patterns on their faces.

    We then return to our lodge, where we'll enjoy lunch before continuing our explorations of a Karatu village. We'll visit a local produce market and may have the opportunity to see other enterprises—such as coffee-roasting and clay brick-making.

    We enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Dinner is at our lodge tonight.

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    After breakfast, we travel to a local Iraqw village, where we'll spend the morning learning more about this tribe (whose people are only found near Karatu and Arusha) and its customs.

    We return to our lodge for lunch before setting out for a game-viewing en route to our camp in the Ngorongoro Conservation area. We enjoy dinner together at our camp this evening.

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    This morning after breakfast, we depart for the Ngorongoro Crater. We'll enjoy a thrilling drive up the side of the crater, and then we'll descend 2,000 feet to the crater floor to explore this natural zoological park, and observe an extraordinary variety of wildlife: elephant, rhinoceros, lion, hyena, zebra, wildebeest, Thomson's gazelle, reedbuck, and buffalo. The lovely crested crane (similar to a peacock) can be found in great profusion here, and we may even spot a bat-eared fox. The balance of predator and prey in this extraordinary ecosystem is so precise that animals seldom leave. Our exact route is decided on the spot by our expert safari guides, depending on where the animals are.

    After a picnic lunch in view of a hippo pool, we'll begin our ascent from the crater floor, and travel through cloud forest on our way back to camp. We have some time at leisure, before enjoying dinner together this evening.

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    Explore Serengeti National Park on a safari in Africa

    This morning after breakfast, we'll explore Oldupai Gorge, preserved as part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It was here in 1959 that Louis and Mary Leakey discovered the fossil fragments that led them to a new understanding of human evolution. They developed the theory that this gorge was the home to Homo habilis, a race of early humans that survived other species to become the ancestors of all present-day humanity. 

    In the afternoon, we set out for Serengeti National Park, perhaps the most famous wildlife-viewing destination in Africa. We'll drive into the infinite expanse of the Serengeti Plain, where masses of wildlife roam the stunning landscape. We enjoy a game-viewing drive before arriving at our lodge in the late afternoon.

    The Serengeti stretches over 5,700 square miles of plains, riverine bush, and acacia woodland, with savanna grassland as the dominant environment.

    During the next few days, we venture out from our lodge in special safari vehicles to try and spot a wide range of wildlife species—lion, cheetah, hyena, and jackal stalk herds of gazelle, zebra, wildebeest, and impala. Comical warthog bend down on their front knees to graze and elegant cheetah rest in the shade of acacia trees after a hunt. Isolated rock groups, called kopjes, provide shelter to lion, leopard, and cheetah—and to the tiny rodent-like rock hyrax, closest relative of the elephant.

    We dine at the lodge this evening.

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    This morning, you may have the option of rising before dawn for a balloon flight. As you float high over the Serengeti, watch the morning sun wash across the plains. The views you'll observe during this one-hour ride are spectacular. After touchdown, celebrate with a Champagne breakfast.

    We explore the Serengeti wilderness area further today. The Serengeti’s varied landscape of savannas, grassy plains, and riparian woodlands make it one of the world’s most hospitable places for wildlife, which you will likely see in large numbers.

    We follow our standard safari schedule. Our day begins with coffee and tea, followed by a morning game-viewing drive. We return to our lodge for a late breakfast, time to rest, and afternoon tea. Then we head into the bush again when animals resume activity in the late afternoon.

    We return to our lodge for dinner.

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    We set out in the morning for a game-viewing drive. The great diversity of Serengeti wildlife is evident here—look for buffalo, hippopotamus, elephant, lion, giraffe, antelope, and Thompson's and Grant's gazelle. In certain seasons, you may also see the spectacular migration of the wildebeest herds, which travel from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara each year.

    We return to our lodge for lunch before having an option later this afternoon to join a nature walk to discover our surroundings. In the early evening, we share dinner together at our lodge.

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    After breakfast, we continue to explore the vast ecosystem of the Serengeti at a pace that allows us to truly focus on observing animal behavior and interaction.

    After the morning game-viewing drive, we enjoy a picnic lunch in the heart of the park, before continuing our game-viewing drive this afternoon.

    Our final night in the Serengeti is spent at our lodge, where we enjoy dinner under the vast expanse of the African skies.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast we head to a small airstrip in the Serengeti and enjoy a short but scenic flight to Arusha. Next, we depart for our hotel in Nairobi, enjoying a packed lunch en route. Or, board a flight to Selous Game Reserve (via Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar) to join our post-trip extension to Tanzania's Selous Game Reserve.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Discover cosmopolitan Nairobi during a guided city walking tour

    After breakfast, explore one of Africa’s most cosmopolitan cities—Nairobi—during a city walking tour. Though it began as a simple trading post for the British East Africa Company, today’s Nairobi is an active business and political capital with more than two million residents, and serves as the African headquarters for organizations, such as the United Nations Environment Program and the World Health Organization.

    After our walk, we’ll enjoy lunch at a typical Kenyan restaurant near our hotel.

    This afternoon, delve a little deeper into Kenya’s rich heritage during a visit to Nairobi National Museum, where a host of exhibits showcase the best of east Africa’s past and present, from natural and cultural wonders to a fascinating history that archaeologists say extends back as far as the origin of our species.

    You will have a day room available for the remainder of the afternoon, and dinner at a local restaurant is included. This evening, you fly from Nairobi to Amsterdam, where you connect for your flight back to the U.S. which arrives the next day.

     

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Ratings based on percentage of travelers who rated these features "Excellent".

Overall Trip Excellence
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Trip Leader Excellence
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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.  Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.


What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 7 locations in 16 days with one 1-night stay
  • International flights to Amsterdam en route to Nairobi depart late in the day for an overnight flight, and 1 internal flights
  • Airport transfers in Nairobi take approximately 1 hour

Physical requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be able to walk 1-2 miles unassisted and participate in 2-4 hours of physical activities each day
  • Traveling in a safari vehicle over roads in poor condition can cause problems for travelers with back and leg pain
  • Not appropriate for travelers in need of CPAP machine

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 50-100°F
  • The hottest months are October-February, and May brings heavy rains, with the short rains coming in November

Terrain

  • Travel over  bumpy, dusty terrain during overland transfers and game-viewing drives, and camp in tents built on uneven terrain

Transportation

  • Travel by 18-passenger coach, 5- or 7-seater closed minivans in Kenya (with roof hatches, hard seats, and no air-conditioning), and closed Land Cruisers in Tanzania
  • 1 internal flight (1-2 hours long), several 8-10 hour days in safari vehicles
  • 15-passenger aircraft with small seats

Accommodations & Facilities

  • We spend 14 nights in comfortable but basic lodges and tented camps
  • Our lodges use generator electricity and lantern lighting at night, and do not have air-conditioning. There could be a 1- to 5-minute walk from our tents to the main lodge
  • All accommodations feature private baths

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • Kenya: Visa required.
  • Tanzania: Visa required. For this itinerary, Tanzania also requires proof of a yellow fever vaccination.

Travelers who are booked on this adventure will be sent a complete Visa Packet— with instructions, applications, and a list of visa fees—approximately 100 days prior to their departure. (Because many countries limit the validity of their visa from the date it is issued, or have a specific time window for when you can apply, we do not recommend applying too early.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

Proof of a yellow fever vaccination is required for this adventure. It is a legal entry requirement for Tanzania, and cannot be waived.

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • InterContinental Nairobi

    Nairobi, Kenya

    Centrally located in the heart of downtown Nairobi, the InterContinental offers a variety of restaurants, an outdoor swimming pool, and cocktail lounge. Your air-conditioned room features cable TV, safe, telephone, minibar, and a private bath with shower and hair dryer.

  • Lake Elementaita Lodge

    Naivasha, Kenya

    The Lake Elementaita Lodge is colorfully decorated with vibrant flowers, well-manicured lawns, and rock gardens. A variety of wildlife, including birds chirping in the trees and monkeys clambering along the lawns and paths, contributes to the lodge’s unique ambiance. The lodge has an on-site restaurant and bar, and each of its 33 rooms features a balcony and private bath.

  • Sentrim Amboseli Tented Camp

    Amboseli National Park, Kenya

    Located in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, this camp features 60 tents with secluded verandas. Each tent offers a private bath with hot shower, as well as conveniences like coffee- and tea-making facilities, a fan, and hair dryer. During your stay, take a dip in the free-form swimming pool, browse the bookshop, or quench your thirst in the comfortable bar and lounge.

  • Kirurumu Tarangire Lodge

    Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

    Just a 15-minute drive from the entrance to Tarangire National Park, our tented campsite offers expansive views of the area's flood plain—a fertile feeding ground for elephants during wet seasons. Each of the 10 tented cottages features an en suite bath and veranda. The bar boasts views of the surrounding park area.

  • Country Lodge Karatu

    Karatu, Tanzania

    This private lodge is located on the outskirts of Karatu in a garden setting nestled in the heart of Tanzania's scenic Ngorongoro Highlands. Each of the 22 rooms has a private bath and fireplace. From your veranda, you can take in the views of the lodge's grounds, replete with brightly colored bougainvillea, trees, and tropical flora. The main building features a restaurant, bar, and lounge with a fireplace.

  • Mbalageti Lodge

    Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

    Located atop a hill in the western corridor of Serengeti National Park, this 24-room lodge boasts panoramic views of the Serengeti Plains and Mbalageti River. Amenities include a spa, restaurant, bar, lounge, and a pool with a 360-degree view of the park. Rooms feature a safe, a small veranda, and private bath.

  • Rhino Lodge

    Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

    Located on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater rim, the Rhino Lodge is a great base for our explorations of this conservation area. Each of the 24 guest rooms includes an en suite bath with shower and flush toilet as well as a veranda overlooking montane forest. The main lodge features a dining area and two fire pits. After dinner, guests may be treated to a traditional dance performance by Maasai staff.

Extensions

  • Osoita Lodge

    Nairobe, Kenya

    Located adjacent to Nairobi National Park, Osoita Lodge has 16 rooms on two levels, each quipped with private baths, digital safes, and wireless Internet. The lodge grounds boast a private swimming pool, in addition to a restaurant, bar, and beer and barbecue garden for guests. Thatched palm roofs, traditional African furniture, and Maasai artwork make for an authentic and comfortable stay.

  • Sentrim Masai Mara Lodge

    Masai Mara Game Reserve

    Located on the border of the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Sentrim Lodge features a reception area, restaurant, bar, and lounge. With 10 tents set among acacia trees, the lodge is the perfect size for our group. Each spacious tent features an en suite bath, hot and cold shower, and a private balcony for views of the surrounding hills and wildlife.

  • Selous Riverside Safari Camp

    Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

    Located on the banks of the Rufiji River, Selous Riverside Safari Camp offers great views of the untouched African wilderness. Each of its 10 tented lodges features a private bath with shower and verandas that overlook the king palm trees lining the river.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two adventures to maximize your value. Here are more ways to create the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

  • Extend your adventure and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip extensions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your adventure
  • Choose to “break away” before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent traveler miles

The air options listed above will involve an additional fee of $100 per person for confirmed requests (as well as incremental airfare costs based on your specific choice).

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $5095
w/ standard air $6695

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in Kenya & Tanzania

Here’s how OAT travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our The Best of Kenya & Tanzania adventure. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite OAT trip photos.

  Encounter a herd of elephants on a safari in Amboseli National Park  

It’s photo-op time as travelers snap pictures from the vantage point of a 4x4 vehicle in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. The photo of the photographers was taken by 6-time traveler Alfred Frederick (Rick) Seaman from Charlottesville, Virginia.

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How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to: OATtravelerphotos@oattravel.com.

Please be sure to include the name of your OAT adventure, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.

Partner since: 2010
Total donated: $140,957

Making a difference in Africa

Simply by traveling with OAT, you support the work of the nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation. Alan and Harriet Lewis created the Foundation with the mission of changing people's lives through travel — which includes both the travelers who journey with OAT, and the local people who welcome us so warmly into their homelands.

Learn more about our work in Africa, and what you'll experience during your itinerary:

A Day in the Life of Amboseli Maasai Village

Posing with a line of native Maasai villagers in the Amboseli National Park - June 2004

Your visit to the Amboseli Primary School is just one aspect of your Day in the Life experience, which is featured on most OAT itineraries. Each Day in the Life is specifically tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, Amboseli Maasai Village. You’ll get to know the local people through conversation and hands-on activities, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

Read More

A Day in the Life of Amboseli Maasai Village

Your visit to the Amboseli Primary School is just one aspect of your Day in the Life experience, which is featured on most OAT itineraries. Each Day in the Life is specifically tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, Amboseli Maasai Village. You’ll get to know the local people through conversation and hands-on activities, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

"OAT permitted us first hand experience on a personal and one-on-one level. Sharing with each other connects and enriches one’s existence on a global level."

Lois & Albert Baccari
East Greenville, Pennsylvania

Meet the People of Amboseli Maasai Village

Posing with a line of native Maasai villagers in the Amboseli National Park - June 2004

Our Day in the Life of a Maasai Village begins with a visit to a local school supported by the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative. We’ll meet the extraordinary students and teachers of the Amboseli Primary School, where the children will greet us by singing their national anthem. We’ll join the school’s young students in their classrooms and see how they’re thriving in their lessons despite the obstacles they face, including a recent drought. We’ll also get the chance to meet with faculty members—a teacher will give us a special tour of the school, and the headmaster will speak with us about the school’s history and future goals.

Then, we leave the children to their lessons and walk to the village itself, known in Maasai as a boma. We witness the villagers' everyday activities, such as drawing water from a hand-dug well, starting a fire with an acacia stick and zebra dung, herding and milking goats, plastering the wall of a hut, and creating the beautiful beaded jewelery for which Maasai women are world renowned. We'll also enjoy tea and plenty of opportunities to ask questions about life in this close-knit community.

As the day comes to an end, we hope you’ll have gained a unique perspective on what life is like in a Maasai community, and an appreciation for the welcoming and resolute people who live here.

Grand Circle Foundation

Supporting a World Classroom: Africa

Shelby Thompson with school girls from the Kajido Girls Boarding School

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. In Kenya, you’ll visit one of the schools funded by Grand Circle Foundation: Amboseli Primary School or Lemong'o Primary School. Our projects here have included digging a well with a hand pump, and improving plumbing.

Read More

Supporting a World Classroom: Africa

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation’s World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society’s most precious resources: its children. In Kenya, you’ll visit one of the schools funded by Grand Circle Foundation: Amboseli Primary School or Lemong'o Primary School. Our projects here have included digging a well with a hand pump, and improving plumbing.

"The visit to Amboseli School was a highlight! The children touched our hearts. We observed the headmaster teaching and he does an excellent job. There were two young Maasai women at the school who received a high school education and who volunteer in the school."

Hazel & Raymond Rachkowski
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Amboseli Primary School

Partner since: 2010 • Total donated: $65,685

Shelby Thompson with school girls from the Kajido Girls Boarding School

When we first began our partnership with the Amboseli Primary School, the school's most pressing priority was a new hand pump for the village well. Upon investigation, we decided to build the village a brand new well—which required workers to dig an astounding 140 feet before striking water. Our support has also helped fund solar lighting, water filters, teacher supplies, and books. There is still a great deal to be done—including the purchase of uniforms and additional textbooks and supplies for the school.

Lemong'o Primary School

Partner since: 2014

Lemong'o Primary School

The newly formed partnership with the Lemong'o Primary began in 2014 and hopes to bring much needed support to this small school. With just 63 children enrolled, ages 6-10, Lemong'o currently receives very little government funding and is in need of textbooks, exercise books, and writing utensils for their students. Grand Circle Foundation hopes that this partnership will provide for the school's needs for years to come.

Due to the young age of the students, small gifts such as toys, crayons, pencils, and chalk are welcomed.

School in session:

Year-round, with vacation periods from early April through early May, early August through early September, and late November through early January.

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Composition books
  • Pencils and erasers
  • Chalk for the chalkboard
  • English-language textbooks
  • Photos and postcards from your home town
  • Books on environmentally friendly areas
Grand Circle Foundation

Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

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Private Departures

Explore Kenya in an Exclusive Group

Reserve a Private Departure of The Best of Kenya & Tanzania for your exclusive group of as few as 8 travelers, and enjoy a truly special adventure for just you and your family or friends—for an additional $500 per person.

For more details—or to reserve your Private Departure—call your Group Sales Account Representative toll-free at 1-800-353-6262 and select Option #3.

Please note: Some restrictions apply. See our Private Departures page for details.

Meeting the Maasai

The people and culture of East Africa's well-known tribe


The more cattle a Maasai man has, the richer he is, the better fed his family, and the more respect he commands.

Even if you haven’t met a Maasai warrior, you’ve probably seen one. Called moran, the tall, handsome figure in his distinctive red and blue robe, standing on one foot, gazing across the savannah at his cattle, is one of the most iconic images of tribal Africa—though today, you might just as easily see this elegant figure standing in the plains with a cell phone in hand. It’s that dichotomy—an ancient semi-nomadic lifestyle butting up against encroaching modernity—that 21st century Maasai society must resolve.

Their semi-nomadic lifestyle makes it difficult to obtain an accurate census, but recent estimates suggest that there are about 900,000 Maasai people living today across Kenya and Tanzania. The Maasai originated in the lower Nile valley near Lake Turkana, and began migrating south during the 15th century.

Their society was based entirely on cattle herding—a role that the Maasai believe was bestowed on them by a single god, whom they call Engai (or Ngai). The more cattle a man has, the richer he is, the better fed his family, and the more respect he commands. Until recently, the Maasai were notorious cattle rustlers, frequently raiding neighboring tribes to poach the precious livestock. The ensuing fights added to the Maasai’s reputation as fierce warriors, though the Maasai themselves did not view this as thievery, since they believe they are merely reclaiming their rightful legacy.

A Maasai’s coming-of-age

Of course, cattle need to graze, so the Maasai became semi-nomadic people, moving with the herds as they sought greener pastures. Families traditionally live in kraals or manyattas, which are clusters of circular huts surrounded by stockade fences, with corrals for livestock. Women build the dwellings, fetch water and firewood, feed livestock, milk cows, and cook, while the men tend to the cattle. By the age of four, a young Maasai boy may be in charge of calves or goats; by twelve he will be taking them far afield to new pastures.

It’s also about this time when the young Maasai boys begin preparation for the most important rite of passage: becoming a warrior. They will spend months at a time in the bush, living together with members of their age-set (the central social unit) in special manyatta where they undergo many trials to help overcome pride, selfishness, and egotism. They must learn to share their cattle, and make periodic visits back to the village where they are expected to provide cattle for celebrations and sacrifices. For Maasai children the endurance of pain is meant as preparation for adulthood—removal of canine teeth, ear and body piercing, tattooing, ritual body burns, and even beatings. The process culminates with emorata, or ritual circumcision, which boys must undergo without anesthesia.

Until recently most Maasai girls also underwent female circumcision, or more accurately, excision, in which the clitoris and labia were cut. For girls the ritual is longer and more painful, with more debilitating aftereffects. Still, it was considered essential preparation for marriage and childbirth, ensuring that the girl would fetch a handsome brideprice (which warriors must pay for the privilege of marrying). If a girl became pregnant prior to circumcision, she was banished for life. The practice is highly controversial, and though it is now illegal in Kenya and Tanzania, it persists in many enclaves. Recently, activists have had some success introducing a new “cutting with words” ceremony that replaces the physical mutilation with singing and dancing—while still conferring marriageable status upon the girl.

Marriage is a hugely important institution, though a far different one from here in the west. Since wealth is measured not just in cattle but in children, Maasai men were traditionally encouraged to take several wives—a practical adaptation to high infant and warrior mortality rates. By the same token, men must share their wives with any visiting member of their age-set and accept any resulting child as their own. (Women do have a say as to whose bed they will share, and their ability to produce many children is a badge of honor.)

Surviving in the modern world

To everything there is a season, and now, the Maasai must turn from their pastoral culture to new ways of living. From its peak in the mid-19th century, Maasai territories have been reduced to a fraction of their size. British and German colonialists forced them into smaller settlements; later, the governments of Kenya and Tanzania began taking more and more Maasai land for game parks, private farms and ranches, and hunting concessions. The problem of dwindling pasture land has been compounded by conservation efforts, which make it illegal for Maasai (or anyone) to kill lions and other predators that frequently attack their cattle.

It’s not the first time the Maasai have faced privation. The tribe was nearly decimated between 1887 and 1903, a period called the “Maasai Emutai,” when epidemics of rinderpest and bovine pneumonia killed off eighty percent of their herds, causing widespread famine. This was followed by a smallpox epidemic and drought. Nearly two thirds of the Maasai perished during this scourge. Ironically, the Maasai’s ability to herd and farm in desert and scrubland has recently prompted many global experts to view it as a model for adapting to climate change.

Will the Maasai prevail? Today, many have turned to farming or selling traditional medicines, crafts, and dairy products. More and more children are seeking formal education, and gravitating towards urban areas to work as security guards, store clerks, or other wage earners—occupations once scorned as undignified. Still even the most assimilated of this generation routinely visit their old villages, don Maasai robes, and celebrate the traditions of their youth. That goes for the privileged few who receive educations abroad, too. As the old Maasai proverb says, “A zebra takes its stripes wherever it goes.”