Extend Your Trip
Thornybush Game Reserve: Quest for Africa's Big 5
4 nights from only $1545
Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!
Join O.A.T. for the Ultimate Africa travel adventure–we’ve combined our Ultimate Africa and Best of Kenya & Tanzania African safaris into one singular small-group travel adventure not to be missed. Travel Africa on a comprehensive, 34-day journey that spans five countries in Africa, and showcases the wildlife you’ve always dreamed of seeing.
Make It Your Adventure
Personalize your trip to meet your individual needs, from preferred flights and air routing, to “breaking away” to spend more time in a destination.
4 nights from only $1545
A 34,595 acre private and intimate game reserve, Thornybush is bursting with wildlife, housing more than 500 bird species and 140 species of mammals, including the famed “Big Five.” This rugged landscape—mostly open savanna, complemented by the beautiful Drakensberg Escarpment in the distance—borders Kruger National Park and is ideal for spotting the rich diversity of game here. And because this is a private, isolated reserve, you’ll be able to enjoy activities like going off-road in search of elusive wildlife without the crowds.View Extension Itinerary
You’ll depart the U.S. for an overnight flight to Johannesburg, South Africa.
This evening, arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa. You will be met and transferred to your hotel for an overnight stay. Here, you'll be joined by those who traveled on our optional Thornybush Game Reserve: Quest for Africa's Big 5 extension.
This morning, we’ll fly to Victoria Falls, arriving early afternoon.
We meet our Trip Leader at the Victoria Falls airport, and we drive across the border to our lodge in Botswana. After a briefing on our upcoming explorations, we'll enjoy a Welcome Dinner at the lodge this evening.
The next two days are devoted to seeking out game in Chobe National Park, the second-largest (and first-established) national park in the country. It's home to one of the world's largest elephant populations—the present herd is estimated at 50,000 animals. This enormous region offers variety in both wildlife and terrain. Riverine forest, flood plains, and mopane are home to large and small game. Elephant gather around baobab trees, drawn by the water stored in their bark.
Most of our safari days follow this general pattern: After our morning game viewing, we will spend siesta time quietly during the heat of the day, followed by teatime in the late afternoon. Next we head out for our afternoon game-viewing drive. In the evenings, just before sunset, we gather to soak in the views of the golden sun sinking behind a nearby watering hole.
This afternoon, in between our game-viewing drives, we’ll visit Mabele Village, where we’ll get to know the local people. While there, the village women will show us their weaving and we may even try our hands at the craft ourselves. We return to camp just before sunset and gather to soak in the views of the golden sun sinking behind a nearby watering hole. We then sit down to enjoy dinner together by candlelight.
Our safari schedule in Chobe today features a full-day game viewing drive in Chobe National Park—which has one of the greatest concentrations of game found on the African continent and is sure to be a highlight of our safari adventure. During a full day of game-viewing in the park, we may spot elephants, in addition to Cape buffalo, hippo, and crocodile. We will be out in our vehicles during lunchtime, so we will take along a picnic lunch.
Dinner tonight is a traditional South African braai, a meal similar to our barbecue but more closely connected to the outdoor life, culture, and laid-back lifestyle of southern Africans.
This morning, we'll board a minibus that takes us to Kasane, Botswana. From here, we catch a light aircraft flight to our camp in Botswana.
Our tented camp is adjacent to the border of the Moremi National Park in the northern region of the Delta. Upon arrival at camp we'll have a briefing about the lodge and surrounding area, followed by an included lunch.
Afterwards, you are free to relax until dinner or enjoy an included optional game-viewing activity.
We devote the next two days to in-depth exploration of the Okavango Delta. Today we explore the area on a game-viewing drive. In the Delta, we'll see a variety of birdlife, including the vibrantly plumed lilac-breasted roller and the similarly striking pygmy goose (actually a species of duck). The elusive Pel's fishing owl, though nocturnal, can sometimes be spotted here during the day. Hippos spend the days submerged in the Delta waters, and sitatunga and red lechwe frequent both the swamps and dry land. While on land, we are likely to see herds of buffalo, sable antelope, kudu, and elephant.
We'll have a picnic lunch, then return to our camp to enjoy our afternoon tea. After our next game-viewing excursion, we return to the lodge after sundown for dinner.
Today, we continue to explore the Okavango Delta and the neighboring savannah. We'll split into groups and explore the area on two game-viewing drives, one before and one after an included lunch back at camp. This evening, we'll take part in a discussion about the ongoing conflict between humans and wildlife before we gather for dinner.
This morning, after an early breakfast, we fly by light aircraft from the Okavango Delta to Kasane Airport. We then travel to Livingstone, where we'll take a light aircraft transfer to Lufupa Tented Camp in Kafue National Park this afternoon. Our total transfer time is up to 6 hours. One of Zambia's most impressive parks, Kafue is one of the first to join an initiative to link the national parks of five African countries into what will eventually become a 108,000-square-mile park, to be known as the Kvango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (also the Okavango-Upper Zambezi TFCA). Our campsite is situated in the northern section of the park along the banks of the Kafue River, one of the three rivers nourishing the park. From the decks of our safari-style tented rooms, we can view the slow-moving river—where we might enjoy the chance to fish for beam and pike during our stay.
After we settle in, we enjoy a game-viewing excursion by 4x4 vehicle this evening. Kafue boasts a distinction that we'll appreciate on our game-viewing drives: It is home to 500 species of birds—as many in this park as in all of Europe. Our guides will help us keep our eyes peeled for Black-cheeked Lovebirds, Bohm’s Bee-eaters, Pel’s Fishing Owls, a variety of cranes, and Zambia’s only endemic species, the Chaplin’s Barbet. We return to camp in time for dinner. After dinner, we gather around the campfire to compare notes on the animals we saw today.
Today, we’ll enjoy two game-viewing excursions by boat or safari vehicle during the most temperate hours—early morning and late afternoon—when the wildlife is at its most active. In addition to the mammal species, Kafue boasts nearly 500 species of bird, including the Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Trumpeter Hornbill, and Grey Crowned Crane. Along the rivers that feed the park, we might also encounter the White-backed Night Heron, African Finfoot, or Saddle-billed Stork.
Between wildlife excursions, you may choose to linger at camp, enjoying Kafue River views at leisure, or elect to join our Trip Leader on a nature walk around the camp.
We gather for dinner this evening around the campfire.
Two more game-viewing excursions await you this morning, as you explore the outer reaches of the park by boat or safari vehicle. It's impossible to exhaust the discoveries at Kafue, one of the continent's largest national parks—at 8,600 square miles, it is roughly the size of the entire state of New Jersey. Kafue's habitats span riverine forests, floodplains, woodlands, and dambos (open grasslands). There will also be opportunities to fish along the banks, as well as a sundowner cruise in the afternoon.
We gather for dinner and a campfire tonight, swapping memories of all we've encountered.
This morning, after an early breakfast, we transfer overland to the airstrip for our chartered flight to Livingstone Airport. From here, we board a minibus that takes us to Victoria Falls, the departure point for our drive to Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe's largest park.
This outstanding area of African bush country boasts plentiful wildlife—yet remains relatively "undiscovered." Our camp is located in the northern section of Hwange National Park and each tented unit offers views of the Sinamatella River and surrounding hillside from the veranda. We'll have a packed lunch en route to our camp, arriving in the early afternoon.
Hwange is home to many diverse habitats, from teak forests to palm islands to vast savannah plains. Likewise, you may behold a rich menagerie of game that can include elephant, buffalo, eland, wildebeest, impala, lion, leopard, cheetah, and more than 400 known bird species. The park is also known for its herds of sable antelope, an elegant animal with large, graceful horns.
In the late afternoon, we gather to enjoy a talk regarding the unique geology and geography of Hwange National Park before dinner.
This morning, weather permitting, we have the opportunity to enjoy a game-viewing walk with one of our professional guides. During this walk, you will learn about the region's flora and the intricate cycle of life in the bush. We will look at spoors and learn to identify which animals have passed through the area. Our expert guides may also expound on everything from how elephant dung can be used as mosquito repellent to how the giraffe is able to eat leaves off of the thorny acacia trees.
Later, we journey into the bush once again for our afternoon game-viewing drive, taking advantage of dusk wildlife activity before returning to our camp after sundown.
This morning, we head for the nearby village for A Day in the Life of the Zimbabwean people. Our discoveries include a meeting with a village leader, who explains how local people live, tend to their animals, and raise their crops. We'll then sit down with villagers over refreshments for a roundtable discussion and join in some of their typical activities, like helping to carry straw or build a hut. We'll also spend some time at the local crafts market, where artisans create and sell traditional items like soapstone statues, hand-woven baskets, and wooden walking sticks.
Next, we'll visit either the Ziga Primary School or St. Mary's Primary School (when in session), both of which are supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. Some children walk as far as four miles to get here every day. We have the unique opportunity to meet the teachers and share smiles with the children. We'll also enjoy an included lunch at the school.
We return to our camp for a siesta until teatime later in the afternoon. While we rest, we have the opportunity to watch game at the waterhole. From here, we get an up-close view of the wildlife as numerous species come to drink. Enjoy tea there, or return to the lodge.
As on previous days, we enjoy a game-viewing drive in the afternoon and return to our camp after sunset. This evening, we are treated to the captivating rhythms of an African drumming show along with dinner at our camp.
Join us this morning for an elective early morning game-viewing drive. After brunch, we drive to Victoria Falls. In the afternoon, we visit the largest curtain of water in the world—and one of the world's Seven Natural Wonders. These awe-inspiring cataracts, whose African name (Mosi-oa Tunya) means "the smoke that thunders," are nearly twice as high as Niagara, one and a half times as wide, and generate three times as much water. On a clear day, you can see the mist sprayed into the air from these crashing waters from more than 50 miles away. At peak flood times, 1.4 billion gallons of water per minute pass over its edge. We'll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in Victoria Falls.
On our guided tour, we explore walking trails and lookout points—each with different views. There are five main cataracts, including the most dramatic, the Main Falls and Devil's Cataract. The flora around the falls is naturally profuse: You'll see ebony, fig trees, and many flowering species. The rain forest surrounding the falls is particularly lush, fed by Victoria's perpetual spray. Dinner tonight is at our hotel.
If you like, you can join a combination of optional tours including a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls, as well as enjoy an orientation walk of the town of Victoria Falls later this morning. Here, you can find local handcrafts, such as the famous Shona stone carvings and a variety of wooden carvings. You'll also find a selection of brilliant African textiles, malachite, basketry, and more. This is one of the places where bartering is appropriate, often expected—and can be great fun. American goods like T-shirts, sweatshirts, and baseball caps with designer logos can be good “currency” here. Please ask your Trip Leader for advice about where else it may be appropriate to barter in this manner. This evening, we'll enjoy dinner while cruising along the Zambezi River.
After breakfast this morning, we’ll gather for a talk on the life of David Livingstone before we drive to the airport and board our flight to Johannesburg. After a brief meet and greet at our hotel, we'll have leisure time before dinner on our own.
We depart Johannesburg on a late-morning flight, arriving in Nairobi, Kenya this afternoon. We will be met and transferred to our hotel, where we'll enjoy a Welcome Drink and a briefing on our upcoming explorations.
With a morning at leisure, you can opt to enjoy this time to relax at our hotel. Or perhaps you'll decide to join our optional tour to Kibera, a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, where you'll meet the people who live here. Perhaps you'll also have a chance to discover the Nubian Quarter, which houses the descendants of soldiers who once fought for the British army and whose families first settled this land during World War I. Kibera comes from the Nubian word Kibra, meaning “land of forest.” Although they've struggled historically for tribal recognition by the government, the Nubian people have a significant legacy here.
Following lunch at a restaurant near the Nairobi National Museum, we'll delve a little deeper into Kenya's rich heritage during a tour of the 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.
Then, we explore one of Africa's most cosmopolitan cities—Nairobi—during a city walking tour with our Trip Leader. 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, you'll have time to freshen up at our hotel before we enjoy a Welcome Dinner together at a local restaurant.
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 in the Karen area, we'll depart for the Lake Nakuru area, traveling through the Rift Valley, enjoying splendid views as we go. Our lodge is located near Lake Nakuru National Park, in a setting that boasts more than 430 different avian species.
We'll arrive in time to enjoy dinner at the lodge this evening.
After breakfast, we'll travel overland to Lake Nakuru National Park in time for a morning game-viewing excursion. Lake Nakuru is 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.
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 enjoy a game-viewing drive en route to our camp. Along the way, we'll pause for a picnic lunch in the park.
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. Dinner is at our camp this evening.
We rise early to enjoy a light breakfast before traveling to experience A Day in the Life of a Maasai village and visit Amboseli Primary School (when in session). We will 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 an afternoon 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 our camp in the early evening in time to relax before we gather for dinner.
After breakfast, we depart for the Kenya-Tanzania border, enjoying a game-viewing drive en route. We continue to the town of Arusha, Tanzania, where we lunch at the Arusha Coffee Lodge.
We then transfer to Tarangire National Park, where we'll settle into our lodge. Upon arrival, we'll have the option to join a guided walk of our surroundings before dinner at our lodge.
Today, we rise early to 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 lodge for dinner this evening.
After breakfast this morning, we head north to Mto Wa Mbu village, located at the foot of the Rift Valley. In the early 1950s, the land around Mto Wa Mbu was irrigated, turning the dry and uninhabited area into a fertile, bustling community of Tanzanians from all over the country. Today, more than 120 tribes are represented here.
We’ll see this mix of cultures at play as we walk through the town, watching artists of various tribes at work creating crafts, woodcarvings, and paintings. We’ll also sample the local specialty, banana beer, at bar in town.
We enjoy lunch today at the Swahili Canteen, a popular local restaurant where traditional Tanzanian fare is cooked over a jiko, a charcoal-burning stove. We'll savor a spread that may include fish, chicken, spinach in peanut sauce, ugali (maize meal) and pili pili (chili sauce).
Later, we’ll walk to the shore of Lake Manyara to see the view and get a glimpse of our adventures here tomorrow.
We depart Mto Wa Mbu for Karatu, arriving late this afternoon. Dinner will be at our lodge this evening.
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 known for its tree-climbing lions. Chances are also good we'll see wildebeest, giraffe, blue monkeys, vervets, impala, zebra, buffalo, bushbuck, and baboons.
We’ll stop at the park’s hippo pool, then enjoy a picnic lunch by the hot springs. From here, we’ll get a unique perspective of the nearby wetlands as we walk along a boardwalk.
As we make our way back to Karatu, we’ll see the valley unfold below us and with Lake Manyara stretching in the distance. We may see baboons or other wildlife along the roadside.
We arrive at our lodge with some time to rest or take a stroll through the extensive grounds before dinner.
This morning, we experience a rare opportunity to visit two neighboring tribes: 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 nearby.
We enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Dinner is at our lodge tonight.
After breakfast, we depart on a morning game drive through the Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage. We'll discover the diverse flora and fauna that make up this vast expanse of highland plains, savannah, savannah woodlands, and forests. Then, we'll enjoy lunch at a picnic site before beginning our climb through the cloud forest and out of the Crater floor.
We'll return to our lodge in the late afternoon for time at leisure before dinner.
This morning after breakfast, we'll set out for Serengeti National Park, perhaps the most famous wildlife-viewing destination in Africa. We'll embark on a game-viewing drive into the infinite expanse of the Serengeti Plain, where masses of wildlife roam the stunning landscape. We enjoy lunch in the park and another game-viewing drive en route to our lodge, where we'll arrive by 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 our 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.
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. On this optional tour, you'll celebrate with a Champagne toast. After touchdown, enjoy a special breakfast out on the plains with your fellow travelers.
For those who did not take the optional balloon tour, we'll set out on an early-morning game-viewing drive with a packed breakfast. The Serengeti's varied landscape of savannahs, 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.
Those on the optional tour will then join the rest of the group as we continue our game drive, followed by a picnic lunch. Then, we all head into the bush again for an afternoon game-viewing drive when animals resume activity.
Dinner is at our lodge this evening.
We set out in the morning for a game-viewing drive, enjoy a relaxing lunch back at the lodge, and then return to the bush in the afternoon for a second game-viewing drive. The great diversity of Serengeti wildlife is also evident here—look for buffalo, hippopotamus, elephant, lion, giraffe, antelope, and Thomson'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 in the early evening and gather for dinner.
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 return to our lodge before heading out to enjoy one more game-viewing drive with a packed lunch in the park.
Our final night in the Serengeti is spent at our lodge, where we enjoy our Farewell Dinner under the vast expanse of the African skies.
Today, we rise early, departing the Serengeti for our flight to Arusha, where we'll enjoy lunch at our hotel for the day.
Later this afternoon, we'll check out and travel overland to Kilimanjaro International Airport for our overnight flight back to the U.S.