Itinerary DAY 1 En Route
En route to Southern Africa for optional 17-day safari; otherwise, begin on Day 7 in Nairobi.
DAYS 2 TO 4 Wonders and beauties of Cape Town and environs
After a late afternoon or early evening arrival in South Africa’s second-largest and most scenic and snazzy city, we’ll settle into Cape Town’s grande dame hotel, the pink, very pretty, much-loved Mount Nelson.
Nelly, as it’s affectionately known, lies in the centre of City Bowl, the rocky natural amphitheatre that embraces old Cape Town. During our two full days we’ll make an excursion to the area’s famed Cape Winelands, lunching at an estate and strolling through one of the Winelands’ charming villages (whose names highlight their Dutch heritage: Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek). We’ll visit Cape Point Nature Reserve and, a little farther south, the Cape of Good Hope. And we’ll take the Aerial Cableway to the top of 3,500-foot Table Mountain, centre stage of Cape Town’s amazing amphitheatre. And we’ll visit and perhaps lend a hand at beloved Rosie’s Kitchen, where Cape Town’s less fortunate find friendship and lovingly prepared meals.
DAYS 5 & 6 Titanic Victoria Falls and the Royal Livingstone
A lovely flight northward delivers us to Victoria Falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke That Thunders,” not the highest or the widest but the world’s grandest and most booming waterfall, a large lakesworth of water flinging itself 360 feet straight down every minute of every day, right before our delighted eyes.
We have a couple of days to appreciate the Falls’ subtly shifting moods. We’ll cruise on the Zambezi River, watching elephants and giraffes enjoying their own sundowners, we’ll helicopter over the Falls on the Flight of Angels, and we’ll wander from one misty vantage point to another, returning for sustenance and leisure to our magnificent Royal Livingstone Hotel in Livingstone, Zambia, named for the almost mythic explorer David Livingstone.
DAY 7 Nairobi and the serene Hemingway’s hostelry
We fly northeast from Zambia and Victoria Falls to Nairobi and Hemingways, a quietly ravishing haven for lovers of old-style pananche mixed with modern amenities and great cuisine, wonderfully set in the lush suburb of Karen.
DAYS 8 TO 10 Lake Manyara and the epic Ngorongoro Crater
After visiting the nearby Karen Blixen Museum and the playful giants of the Giraffe Centre, we take a typically beautiful flight from Nairobi to Lake Manyara (to which we’ll be formally introduced in a couple of days), followed by a pleasant drive to The Manor at Ngorongoro, a marvelous 10-cottage, 20-suite retreat set within a 1500-acre Arabica coffee estate adjacent to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Those of us who began African Splendour in South Africa will recognize the Manor’s elegant Cape Dutch style; those who haven’t will simply be charmed. Our three nights at the Manor are a rare idyl.
We’ll enjoy a restful afternoon (or a very active one; the Manor offers horse backing, mountain biking, swimming in the Manor’s pool, and estate walks, among other enjoyments), before a classic high tea and dinner in the private dining room or wine cellar.
And the next day we visit one of the earth’s natural masterpieces. We’ve got a lot of affection for Ngorongoro. Here’s the essence of the crater’s tremendous charisma: 25,000 or so large and very viewable mammals—from apex predators to galumphing hippos—inhabit the crater’s 100-square-mile floor, and zigzagging up the old volcano’s forested wall to its rim, and gazing for the first or fifth time at the lush lands and their inhabitants in the crater below, is a great moment in any traveller’s life.
We’ll descend to the crater and excitedly roam from morning to afternoon, stopping at mid-day for a charmingly luxurious bush lunch, before heading back to a serene evening at the Manor.
Now we encounter Lake Manyara. Africa is blessed with epic lakes (Tanganyika is the world’s second deepest; all the Rift Lakes are gigantic stunners), but many, including Ernest Hemingway, consider the smaller gem of Lake Manyara—with its diamond-white alkali rim, its million or so coral-coloured flamingos, and the deep sapphire waters at its centre—the loveliest of all. After a relaxed (or active) morning at the Manor, we’ll embark on a fine afternoon of game viewing around the lake (many tree-climbing lions frequent Manyara’s Africa-embodying scrublands, mahogany forests, and bird-thronged marshlands). And after cocktails and canapés in the bush, we head back to the Manor for a final night before venturing to another masterpiece, the Serengeti.
DAYS 11 & 12 A lightening of spirit in the storied Serengeti
We feel much the same way about the Serengeti as we do about Ngorongoro, and if you’d like to read some praiseful prose about it, flip back to pretty much the same text we referenced above.
We’ll make far-ranging game drives in the Serengeti based from the stunningly deluxe Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, elevated above the great plain, giving us vast, endlessly stimulating views.
DAYS 13 TO 15 Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri in the Maasai Mara
Leaving the Serengeti, we fly via Arusha and Nairobi to the Maasai Mara, the northern, more verdant section of the single most salubrious wildlife habitat on this or any known planet, the Serengeti-Maasai Mara ecosystem.
Game drives in the Mara are especially fruitful. And our Mara headquarters, auspiciously set in one of the Mara’s prime migration pathways, is a jewel: Sir Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri, whose innovatively designed, yet very African tents resemble the tents of our youth like a Gulfstream G650 resembles a Piper Cub,” as we said a while back. Mzuri is auspiciously set next to one in one the Mara’s prime migration pathways.
DAYS 16 & 17 Return to Nairobi for flights home
After flying back to Nairobi, we’ll visit the Micato-AmericaShare Harambee Centre in the afternoon, relax in a day room at Hemingways or the equally refreshing Boma Nairobi, have a quiet dinner, and head out to Jomo Kenyatta Airport for our late evening flights home, where we arrive, tired but exalted, on Day 17 of this mightily splendid safari.
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