There will be a trip briefing this afternoon/evening. Please bring with you your passport and insurance details, and your air ticket details. The briefing will cover all aspects of your trip and will include the distribution of any hired equipment you have booked.
In the morning we transfer by 4WD vehicles to Londorossi (2250 m), passing between the slopes of Kilimanjaro and the horseshoe-shaped volcanic crater of Mt. Meru (a distance of about 120 km). After completing the necessary registration formalities, we drive on for a short distance through farmland and plantations to reach the Lemosho roadhead. The last 5 km of the road to the park gate is of poor quality, particularly after rain, and the drive there should be considered part of the adventure. We often have our lunch in the glades before starting to walk. It is an easy day of walking up a small path through beautiful and lush forest, this area has a variety of game including buffalo. We camp at Lemosho Forest camp (2650 m). Approx 3-4 hours walking.
The trail starts out in the lush rich montane forest before ascending into the moorland zone of giant heather. The trail climbs steadily with views across the plains opening out as we reach the rim of the Shira Plateau. There is a tangible sense of wilderness especially if the afternoon mists come in. We camp in the centre of the plateau at Shira One (3550 m). Approx 6-7 hours walking.
A day to help acclimatisation and to explore the grassy moorland and the volcanic rock formations of the plateau. We walk to the summit of Shira Cathedral, a huge buttress of rock surrounded by steep spires and pinnacles. There is a tangible sense of wilderness here (especially when the afternoon mists come in!) and the views from our camp near Shira Hut (3840m) of Mt. Meru floating on the clouds are simply unforgettable. The afternoon is free to relax. Approx 4-5 hours walking.
A morning of gentle ascent and panoramic views, walking on lava ridges beneath the glaciers of the Western Breach. After lunch near the Lava Tower junction (4550m), we descend to the bottom of the Great Barranco valley (3900m), sheltered by towering cliffs and with extensive views of the plains far below. Approx 5-7 hours walking.
A short steep climb up the famed Barranco Wall leads us to an undulating trail on the south-eastern flank of Kibo, with superb vistas of the Southern Icefields. The terrain changes to volcanic scree, with pockets of lush vegetation in sheltered hollows, and a powerful sense of mountain wilderness. Our next camp is at Karanga (4000m) a short distance away, the valley floor has the last water point on the approach to Barafu, whilst we camp on the higher sides of the valley with views towards the glaciers of the southern icefields. Approx 4-5 hours walking.
The trail follows a path on compacted scree with wide views including the Barafu Ridge where our camp lies, the trail climbs unrelentingly to reach the Barafu campsite (4600m) for lunch. There is a short acclimatisation walk to the plateau at the bottom of the Southeast valley (4800m). The remainder of the day is spent resting in preparation for the final ascent before a very early night. Approx 3-5 hours walking.
We will start our ascent by torchlight around midnight so that we can be up on the Crater rim by sunrise. The steep climb over loose volcanic scree has some well-graded zigzags and a slow but steady pace will take us to Stella Point (5735m), in about five or six hours. We will rest there for a short time to enjoy the sunrise over Mawenzi. Those who are still feeling strong can make the two hour round trip from here along the crater rim to Uhuru Peak (5,895m), passing close to the spectacular glaciers and ice cliffs that still occupy most of the summit area. The descent to Barafu is surprisingly fast, and after some refreshment, we continue to descend to reach our final campsite (3800m) at Millenium camp. Most of us will be too tired to notice the beauty of the forest surrounding the crowded campsite. This is an extremely long and hard day with between 11 and 15 hours of walking at high altitude.
A sustained descent on a well-constructed path through lovely tropical forest alive with birdsong and boasting lush undergrowth with considerable botanical interest. Our route winds down to the National Park gate at Mweka (1650m); and on through coffee and banana farms to Mweka village. The shower, the beer, and the swimming pool are tantalisingly close! We return by bus to Arusha (a distance of about 100 km). It is recommended that you repack your bags and leave all your Kilimanjaro climb equipment at the hotel because of the small luggage allowance on the flight returning from the Serengeti. Approx 4-6 hours walking.
We leave our hotel early and drive to Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Ngorongoro is a special place in that it is a Conservation Area, not a National Park; this means that the whole area is managed for both the animals and the local Masai people who graze their cattle along side the indigenous wildlife. During the drive in Ngorongoro we have a chance to glimpse a bit of the Masai's lifestyle, which is so different to ours. After stopping at the entrance gate, where there is a chance to learn a bit more about this fascinating volcanic landscape, we will drive around the rim of the Crater itself, from here we can look down and see the herds of wildebeest or elephant. Finally we descend into the crater. We might have our lunch just before descending into the crater, or chose to wait a bit and take it down in the crater. The crater walls provide a natural sanctuary for the animals, which means there is plenty to see: lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard. The only animal you won't see in here is a giraffe whose long legs are unable to cope with the steep sides of the crater.
We head towards the Serengeti National Park en route there is an opportunity to visit Olduvai Gorge. It is within this steep sided ravine that Louis and Mary Leakey made some of the world's most important archaeological discoveries in the 1950s. Here in a small museum we are able to see evidence of our ancestors that have been dated up to 2.5 million years old. After lunch we drive into the Serengeti itself and the rest of the afternoon is spent game viewing in the vast plains that are broken only by stands of acacia trees and the occasional kopje. In December, January and February we will normally meet the migration with large herds of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle. There are always plenty of resident animals, such as giraffe, buffalo, and elephant, and many large predators such as lion, cheetah, and leopard. We spend tonight in a comfortable permanent camp where we can enjoy the immense Africa skies and fall asleep listening to the sound of the bush.
We have another full day here in this wonderful park rising early to make the most of our time here. There are excellent opportunities for game viewing around the nearby Seronera River, with crocodiles and hippos in the pools and large lion prides in the area. Our camp is excellently situated, so you have good chances of catching the migration, even outside the obvious months of December, January and February; in fact you might not need to go very far in July and August, since the herds often pass close to, and even through, the camp! In July a drive to the Western Corridor is an excellent opportunity to see the wildebeest cross the Grumeti River, home to some of the largest crocodiles in Africa. In August and September, a drive to the Northern part of Serengeti near Lobo, both gives a chance to view the migration and to see a scenic and little visited part of Serengeti.
Our final day, we leave the Serengeti National Park, but even the drive to the airport will offer us some game viewing opportunities. We fly from here to Arusha, where we will have a good lunch and collect any luggage (Kilimanjaro equipment) left at the hotel, and maybe enjoy a bit of shopping, before we head to the airport for our flight home for those on group flights.