Maasai Mara
East Africa
October 31–November 15, 2021
Tanzania and Southern Kenya—land of the Maasai and the “Big 5”


double occupancy
single supplement

Join San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance on this once-in-a-lifetime trip that includes visits to a World Heritage Site, conservation areas, a local village, national parks, and more, with opportunities to see diverse wildlife—including the "Big 5" most popular species—in their native environment!



Your journey begins as you board your overnight flight to Amsterdam, via Minneapolis-St. Paul. (Meals aloft)



Upon arrival in Arusha in the evening, you will be met by your Classic Escapes representative and transferred to your hotel, THE RIVERTREES LODGE. (Meals aloft)


Mto Wa Mbu Village/Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Depart this morning for the village of Mto Wa Mbu to learn the true value of ecotourism and how far your dollar goes. It is located on the shores of Lake Manyara and is a living example of one of the richest linguistic mixes in Africa. Home to over 90 tribes, Mto Wa Mbu is quite possibly the only place where you can hear Bantu, Nilotic, Khosian, and Cushitic accents spoken in the same marketplace, together with the diverse lifestyles and heritage of the people. The village, which few tourists visit, is a microcosm of life in rural Tanzania today. Following a lunch of traditional Tanzanian dishes served under banana trees in the heart of the village, explore the area with your village guides. Your leisurely stroll will take you through local homes, farmlands where banana, millet, cassava, and corn are grown, resident bars, a kindergarten, and a church. Afterward, head to the highlands and your stunning accommodation.



Ngorongoro Conservation Area/Ngorongoro Crater

Today you board your Land Rover for an amazing journey as you descend onto the floor of the crater, a World Heritage site, which is an extinct volcano and the largest unbroken caldera in the world. The crater (1,800 feet deep and 102 square miles) is a microcosm of East African scenery with abundant wildlife, including more than 25,000 larger animals, mostly herds of zebra and wildebeest. This is also the best place in Tanzania to see magnificent black-maned lions. This area offers an outstanding opportunity to see black rhinos, as they are protected around the clock. Over the years, the floor of this crater has become mostly savanna (grasslands), with a soda lake whose size changes depending on the rains that are the lifeline of this amazing land. On this lake, marvel at the colorful flamingos and a variety of other water birds—more than 100 species of birds found here that are not found in the Serengeti. Resident ostriches, crowned cranes, and kori bustards are joined seasonally by migrant flocks of shite and Abdim's storks. Patience may also reward you with glimpses of leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, elephants, warthogs, buffalo, impalas, hartebeests, elands, and many other antelopes. As you descend, you might be able to see the local Maasai as they take their cattle down the steep walls of the crater. It is their right, negotiated with the government and parks authority, to graze their cattle in about 75 percent of the crater floor. The mix of cattle with wildlife makes for some terrific photographs, and the interaction between domestic and wild animals is almost unbelievable. At the hippo pool, take a rest and enjoy your picnic lunch. Then, resume your wildlife viewing and look for that special photograph, before returning to the rim of the crater six hours later (regulations now specify that no one can stay longer than six hours daily on the crater floor) and drive to your lodge.



Tarangire National Park

Continue your adventure in Tanzania with your visit to Tarangire National Park, the third largest national park in Tanzania. The feeling that this is a special, almost magical place strikes you as soon as you enter Tarangire, and you witness your first baobab tree. Here, the gently rolling countryside is dotted with these majestic trees, which seem to dwarf the animals that feed beneath them. Called the “tree of life,” many myths and legends surround Adansonia digitata (Adansonia for the French surgeon Michel Adanson and digitata meaning hand-like, a reference to the shape of the leaves). Your guides will regale you with one or two of these tales as you pass through the park.

This stretch of Africa is spectacular in the dry season, when many of the migratory wildlife species come back to the permanent waters of the Tarangire River. Huge herds of wildebeest, zebras, elands, and oryx gather to stay in Tarangire until the onset of the rains, when they migrate again to good grazing areas. For those who love birds, Tarangire has over 300 bird species. But in addition to all those magnificent trees, birds, and other wildlife, Tarangire is superlative for another reason—elephants. Tarangire is home to the largest population of elephants in northern Tanzania, now numbering close to 2,500 individuals.

Overnights at MARAMBOI TENTED CAMP. (B,L,D Daily)


Tarangire National Park/Arusha/Amboseli National Park

Today’s drive takes you back to Arusha in time for lunch. Afterward, drive toward the Namanga border, where you cross into Kenya and continue to Amboseli National Park, located at the foot of Africa's highest mountain: Mount Kilimanjaro. The snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro rises above a saucer of clouds and dominates every aspect of Amboseli. This park covers only 150 square miles, but despite its small size and its fragile ecosystem, it supports a wide range of mammals (well over 50 of the larger species) and birds (over 400 species). Years ago, this was the locale around which such famous writers as Ernest Hemingway and Robert Ruark spun their stories of big game in the wilds of Africa. This, too, is part of Maasailand, and it’s not unusual to see proud Maasai warriors or small children tending their cattle as you traverse their territory. In this land, wildlife and people have learned to coexist and thrive together, despite the harsh conditions. This is also the park that has been made famous by Cynthia Moss, the noted American naturalist and author, who has one of the longest-running studies on elephants. You might have seen some of the elephants that Cynthia has immortalized in her many books and the award-winning film Echo of the Elephants.

Overnights at the AMBOSELI SERENA SAFARI LODGE. (B,L,D Daily)


Lake Nakuru National Park /Lake Elmenteita/Hell’s Gate/Lake Naivasha/Crescent Island

Travel overland to Nairobi in time for lunch, and then continue to the heart of the Great Rift Valley, which roughly bisects Kenya from north to south, a huge geological fault line that stretches round one-sixth of the Earth’s circumference and is visible from far out in space. The landscape, with bubbling springs and geysers, is spectacular. Arrive at your spectacular tented camp and relax for the rest of the afternoon.

Spend the next day at Lake Nakuru National Park, a shallow alkaline body of water, once world-renowned for its huge concentration of flamingos. Today, there are not many flamingos left, but the park boasts a huge variety of other animals, including leopards—often found snoozing on the branches of magnificent yellow-barked acacias— and lions, buffalo, hippos, waterbucks, warthogs, baboons, endangered Rothschild’s giraffes (only found in this part of Kenya), white rhinos, and rare, protected black rhinos. For the bird-watching enthusiast, there are 450 species found in the park’s vicinity, with a big concentration of water birds, including marabou storks and pelicans.

The next day, take a walk at Hell’s Gate, so named because of this gorge’s interesting geological formation. If you’re adventurous, you’ll love the chance to get out and experience nature on foot. Famous for its natural hot geysers, the area is also a haven for ornithologists, with its eagle and vulture breeding grounds. During your walk, you may spot Verreaux's eagles, augur buzzards, and thousands of swifts; 103 bird species have been recorded in the park. The roaming wildlife will not let you down either: buffalo, Maasai giraffes, elands, hartebeest, lions, leopards, and some cheetahs are in the area, although not easily viewed. During your walk, your guide will point out the various plants and discuss their medicinal uses.

You will also be treated to a boat ride on Lake Naivasha, where hippos and water birds abound, en route to Crescent Island, which you can explore on foot. No predators are found on this island, so walking among the free-roaming antelope is sure to be a fun experience. This island, shaped like a quarter moon, is a sanctuary for herds of antelope and many species of birds. Over 350 bird species have been recorded, with Thomson's gazelles, waterbucks, monkeys, and other wildlife to keep them company.

Overnights at the LAKE ELMENTEITA SERENA.  (B,L,D Daily)

NOVEMBER 11/12/13

Maasai Mara / Northern Serengeti

Drive to the Maasai Mara, Kenya’s most famous wildlife reserve. It is classic savanna grassland, where animals are plentiful and the vistas spectacular. In this dreamlike land, wildlife roam free and the Maasai care for their herds, all sharing the same land with minimal conflict. You will have three days of wildlife-viewing opportunities in the Maasai Mara Reserve, also known as the “Jewel of Africa.” The reserve is inhabited by many of Africa's most popular wildlife species, including lions, cheetahs, elephants, leopards, black rhinos, and hippos. There are also over 500 resident species of birds in the park, including ostriches, larks, and sunbirds as well as the lovely lilac-breasted rollers.

The area is famous for rolling grasslands and for the Mara River, which runs through the reserve from north to south. The reserve covers an area of 700 square miles and forms part of the Serengeti ecosystem. The Mara has one of the highest concentrations of cheetahs on the continent, as well as many magnificent black-maned lions.

While in the Mara, you will visit a Maasai Village to experience this nomadic tribe’s way of life and their unique culture.

Overnights at the MARA SERENA SAFARI LODGE.  (B,L,D Daily)


Maasai Mara/ Nairobi/ En Route

Enjoy a last chance to photograph that awesome sunrise before driving back to Nairobi (optional flight is available at $350 per person). A dayroom will be supplied for you at the CROWNE PLAZA NAIROBI before your transfer to the airport for your late evening flight to Amsterdam, connecting to your return flights home. (B, Meals Aloft)


Amsterdam/Los Angeles/ San Diego

This morning, your jet lands in Amsterdam. From here, connect with your flight back home to San Diego, via Los Angeles, bringing with you the memories of all the wonderful sights of East Africa.  (Meals Aloft)


  • Superior accommodations throughout as indicated or similar.
  • All meals on safari in Kenya and Tanzania; all other meals as specified.
  • All wildlife viewing by 4 X 4 vehicle with photo roof, driven by a naturalist guide. A window seat is guaranteed.
  • Complimentary bottled water in vehicles and during meals.
  • A specialist guide will accompany the group, with 10 travelers.
  • A host from San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance will accompany the group, with a minimum of 10 travelers.
  • All applicable hotel and lodge taxes and gratuities.
  • All park entry fees.
  • Complimentary luggage tags and passport wallet.
  • Complimentary emergency evacuation insurance.


  • Round-trip air transportation from San Diego to Arusha and returns from Nairobi, including taxes and fuel surcharges.
  • Optional flight from Mara to Nairobi (quoted separately).
  • Gratuities to driver/guides and other conveyance attendants. Gratuities should only be given as a reward for exceptional service, and at your discretion. We estimate $12 per person/per day for the specialist guide, $12 per person/per day for the safari driver, $10 per person/per day for the camp staff, and $3 per person for each arrival and departure transfer from the airport/hotel. These are daily per service estimates, and an exact tipping chart will be detailed on your final itinerary. 
  • Passport and visa fees and service charges for obtaining visas. Visas are required for US citizens traveling to Tanzania and Kenya.
  • Excess baggage charges levied by airlines.
  • Meals and beverages, other than specified.
  • Laundry and other items of a personal nature.
  • Personal and baggage insurance.
  • Cost for anything not specifically mentioned in the listing above.


Please call our tour operator,
Classic Escapes,


email them here

Cynthia Tuomi


Cynthia Tuomi, Director of Philanthropy, Campaign, Research, and Stewardship

Cynthia Tuomi, Director of Campaign, Research, and Stewardship for the Philanthropy Department at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance (SDZWA), is an avid world traveler who has visited 32 countries and whose adventures have extended from the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro to Budapest’s underground network of caves. She has lived in London, traveled extensively throughout Europe, gone on safari in Kenya and Tanzania, dived in Fiji and the Dominican Republic, and has spent two months exploring the east coast of Australia.

Cynthia is a San Diego native who has been frequenting the San Diego Zoo since she was an infant. She has worked in San Diego’s nonprofit community for the past 18 years, and her passion for wildlife and conservation led her to join the Zoo’s team in 2011. Since then she has helped generate support for a wide range of SDZWA projects and programs. She is a former competitive snowboarder who loves art and culture, backpacking, cooking, and yoga.  

Cynthia has previously led San Diego Zoo Wildlife Tours to China and Kenya, and has traveled to Indonesia on behalf of SDZWA. She is looking forward to sharing her knowledge of SDZWA’s conservation efforts to save many of East Africa’s great species and ensuring that your visit is one that you will remember for a lifetime!


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