A primate adventure like no other

The ultimate safari for any primate enthusiast, this journey takes you from Africa to Asia tracking some of the worlds most endearing primates, from mountain gorillas in Rwanda to orangutans in Borneo.

Destinations visited: Tanzania, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Borneo, Sumatra
Duration: 39 days
Cost: from £35,000 including international and internal flights, transfers and all meals.

Primate focus: chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, lowland gorillas, lemurs, Bornean orangutans and Sumatran orangutans

5 Destinations, 39 days, 6 primate species; this is the ultimate primate safari.

LEG 1: CHIMPANZEES IN TANZANIA

Your first stop is Tanzania, where you have three days to share the surrounding mountains and lake with numerous animals around the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Your main purpose here is tracking the chimpanzees each day and it is difficult not to be inspired by these cheeky creatures as they play, forage feed and fight, not too dissimilarly to humans. 

Tracking can take an hour or two, or maybe more. You follow the sounds of their chatters through the treetops until suddenly; they feel like they’re all around you. It is only then that you realise how similar they are to us. Youngsters play games and roll around on the floor, elder’s gesture in ways which make them look like they are having a human conversation and you might even spot a budding relationship or a couple on the rocks.

Other activities you can take part in during your time a Mahale Greystoke Camp include: forest hikes, swimming in the pools in the mountain waterfalls, kayaking, enjoy sundowners in a traditional dhow.

You have an hour to observe them and get wrapped up in their daily dramas before you have to head back. It is never enough.

On the sand shores of Lake Tanganyika, Nomads Greystoke Camp backs onto the jungle, home to the chimpanzees. Accommodation consists of just 6 exotic wooden bandas, each with private bathrooms and veranda. Although tracking the chimpanzees is the highlight, you can also enjoy snorkelling, fishing, swimming and more. 

Leg 2: Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda

Arriving in Rwanda from Tanzania, you embark on a journey north to the undulating landscape of Volcanoes National Park. As you venture into the park, you catch your first glimpse of the Virunga’s piercing the horizon, an unforgettable silhouette and true ‘island in the sky’. As the sun sets, you settle into your new accommodation which happens to be one of our favourites, the beautiful Virunga Lodge. You have four days here to track the gentle mountain gorillas and every day is completely different to the last.

Each day you are assigned a group to track and it can take anything from one to nine hours to track them. Terrain can be steep and muddy as you plough through the lush green flora, but as soon as you catch your first glimpse of these amazing animals, the hard work is forgotten. They go about their daily lives, playing and eating. Young gorillas may show off to their new guests whilst giant silverbacks eye you cautiously. Experience will vary depending on which family you are privileged to visit, but with four days here you can meet many of these amiable animals. 

You have just an hour to spend with the group each time you track them, and it never feels like enough. Make sure you remove yourself from your camera and really enjoy the experience.

With 360 degree views over lakes and volcanoes of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, Virunga Lodge has to be a firm favourite. There are just 8 stone and tile bandas, each very spacious and fitted to environmentally friendly standards. As well as tracking the gorillas, from here, you can track the golden monkeys, climb a volcano, hike to the waterfalls or visit a local village, school or community project.

Leg 3: Lowland Gorillas in the Congo

From tracking the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, you fly to Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo to start the next leg of your ultimate primate safari, tracking the lowland gorillas of the Congo. The lowland gorillas are adventurous, not settling in one area, making tracking them utterly thrilling. Their home ranges are relatively small, but they move quickly and cover quite a lot of ground. 

From Brazzaville, you enjoy a private charter to the M’boko Airstrip where you will be met on arrival and driven through thick forest on your way to your first Congo accommodation, Ngaga Camp. The next day, you depart on foot with your expert guide and tracker for your first excursion on the lookout for lowland gorillas. Starting at the point where the gorillas were last seen, you discover with the help of your expert tracker, how to successfully track these wonderful primates.

During your time at Ngaga Camp you can learn about the training of the trackers and how they play a role in gorilla conservation and enjoy a sundowner to the sounds of nocturnal wildlife. 

From Ngaga Camp, you move on to Lango Camp for a completely different experience. From here you can enjoy wildlife watching from the bais, game drives through the savannah or a piroque ride down the Lekoli River for sundowners. You can also experience river trips, night walks day and walks in search of primates, red river hogs, buffalo and other wildlife, even bongo, spotted hyena and golden cat.

Built from sustainable materials and inspired by designs of the BaAka Pygmy groups, Ngaga Camp is built to the highest environmental standards. There are just 6 rooms, right in the heart fo the Congo basinm each with wrap-around walkways and 360 degree views. Despite being in the middle of the jungle, the camp is quite luxurious.

Lango Camp is intimate and creative in style and gives you the opportunity to explore Odzala-Kokoua National Park in seclusion. With just 6 rooms for guests, rooms are similar to that at Ngaga Camp and include wrap-around walkways and 360 degree views, as well as a light environmental footprint.

Leg 4: Lemurs in Madagascar

Flying from the Congo to Madagascar, take a night off to relax before heading with your local wildlife guide to explore the fascinating national park of Andasibe. 

Wake each day to the eerie howls of the indri through the heavy rainforest mists. 

Heading out into the rainforest early, you can witness them making their communication calls across the canopy. The indri are the largest of the lemurs, black and white in colour with a teddy bear like appearance. Other lemurs found here include the red-bellied lemur and lesser bamboo lemur, as well as nocturnal museums, such as the brown mouse lemur, greater dwarf lemur, sportive lemur, aye aye and Eastern woolly lemur. Other activities available during your time at Andasibe include trekking, canoeing and horse-back riding.

The last 4 days of your time in Madagascar are spent in the luxurious Relais and Chateau property of Anjajavy Lodge. Set within a private nature reserve, you are free to explore forested trails in search of the rich wildlife, including sifaka lemurs, chameleons and Cuvier’s oplure. When you’re not out tracking wildlife, you can enjoy the lodge’s pool, go water-skiing, try wind surfing, head out snorkelling, enjoy boat excursions, have a go at fishing, or visit one of the local communities.

Designed using local Malagasy architecture, Vakona Forest Lodge has 28 bungalows, each with its own terrace and external living room. The lodge is very comfortable, hidden amongst palm trees and bougainvilleas of their own planted garden.

Anjajavy Lodge is a unique Relais and Chateau property, and one of the most luxurious properties found in Madagascar, and can only be reached via their private airstrip. Located on an exceptionally beautiful coast, this remote beach resort has just 25 villas, each are two storeys high. We think of this lodge of having the perfect balance of wildlife and beach in the one place.

Leg 5: Orangutans in Borneo

From one unique island to another, you board a flight into one of just two places where orangutans can be found in the wild, Borneo. Your first night in Borneo will be spent at the beautiful Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort, located right on Pantai Dalit beach. The resort has its very own nature reserve and small orang-utan sanctuary, and is surrounded by 400 acres of lush vegetation. 

This is the perfect place to gather yourself together after your flight from Madagascar with some rest and relaxation, with, of course, some primate viewing thrown in!

Your next two days will be spent at the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary where orphaned and injured orang-utans are nursed to health to, hopefully, be released back into the wild. Although not in the wild, this is an excellent way of getting close to the intriguing ‘men of the forest’ as they explore their habitat. During your time at Sepilok, you can also visit the Sun Bear Conservation Centre and the Rainforest Discovery Centre.

You then move on to the Danum Valley, a fascinating example of how rainforests were in Borneo before impact from humans. Set up to protect the wildlife and ecosystems from logging, Danum Valley is a place of unparalleled diversity and home to wild orang-utans, red-leaf monkeys, gibbons, macaques, clouded leopards, sun bears, pygmy elephants, tarsiers and even the Sumatran rhino. The valley is about the size of Singapore and activities include canopy walkways, rainforest trails and waterfalls. You will explore in search of primates and other wildlife with your expert naturalist and guide who can help you track the valleys diverse species.

The Rasa Ria is a large resort with its own orang-utan sanctuary. Home to 420 beautifully furnished guest rooms, it is located about a 45 minute drive from the airport at Kota Kinabalu and provides luxurious accommodation with a pool and outdoor Jacuzzi. There is a big choice of rooms and suites here to choose from.

Sepilok Nature Resort is cosy lodge, set within tropical gardens, gives great access to the sanctuary. Rooms are wooden chalets, each with its own private veranda and bathroom. The restaurant has wonderful views into the tropical vegetation, and don’t be surprised to find an orangutan hanging out on your balcony in the mornings!

Borneo Rainforest Lodge is rustic and beautiful, set within the flora of the wildlife-rich Danum Valley, with 31 individual chalets for guests, each with an en-suite bathroom and shower. Your deluxe room will also have a balcony with either river or jungle views, as well as an outdoor hot tub – the perfect way to end your days.

Leg 6: Orangutans in Sumatra

From Borneo, you fly to Medan in Sumatra to experience the charismatic Sumatran orang-utans. Although similar to Bornean orang-utans, these are slightly different and are unfortunately considered to be Critically Endangered. Their fur is slightly paler and both males and females sport beards, with males also often having moustaches

There are considered to be less than 8,000 left in the wild today, making them harder to find. 

From Medan you pass through several small towns and also notice the vast palm oil plantations, before arriving in Bukit Lawang and being transferred to your lodge. Depending on what time you arrive you may have the chance to explore the village and the river. You will then have a full day to visit the Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre. Walk along the banks of the river about half an hour outside of the village of Bukit Lawang, cross the river by small canoe and climb the hillside to reach the feeding platform. After the feeding you will trek through the jungle to look for orang-utan in the wild. The terrain can be quite steep and hard work at times.

On the last full day on your ultimate primate safari and you head by jeep off road towards Tangkahan passing small villages and taking in the country¬side. This can be quite a bumpy ride, a journey you won’t forget in a hurry. Once you have arrived in Tangkahan you have to cross the river by canoe to reach the lodge. The afternoon will be spent on the back of an elephant passing through the plantations and the jungle and crossing the river. At the end of the trek you can bathe the elephants as they spray water to cool off. Alternatively have a swim in the unspoilt jungle river and take a shower under a jungle waterfall.

Accommodation is simple and peaceful here, set among Sumatran jungle with numerous nature trails at the edge of Gunung Leuser National Park. Fall asleep to the sounds of the jungle, then wake up to primates playing on the rooftop! The rooms are rustic, this is a real back to nature experience, but with wonderful staff.

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