My most recent trip to East Africa was unforgettable! I not only crossed off THREE travel bucket-list experiences I’ve been wanting to do forever, I also saw an incredible amount of wildlife, visited a new country, met some wonderful friends and learned a lot!

My adventure started in Rwanda, the “land of a thousand hills.” My mom and I were instantly welcomed at The Retreat- a luxury boutique hotel and spa nestled in the heart of Kigali. The Obama’s stayed here when they were on vacation and we were informed got their same room! A spacious suite with it’s own heated plunge pool and two outdoor showers. It was heaven and the complimentary massage after a long flight was a real plus!

During our day tour we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial and learned about the devastating 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. We took a coffee break at Question Coffee, a lively coffee shop that is female run and operated. This business employs thousands! It was delicious and it’s story is heartwarming. Next, we took a very scenic drive to Volcanoes National Park where we would go gorilla trekking!

Our hotel, Virunga Lodge, was set among the clouds and straight out of a movie! I could see for miles and enjoyed the panoramic views of the Virunga Volcanoes and the twin lakes. The accommodations were luxurious and spacious. I enjoyed eating dinner at a table with others, we met some great friends that we still keep in touch with today. I enjoyed the traditional dance performance one night and had a blast learning new dance moves.

The following day we went gorilla trekking, an experience I’ve dreamed about for years! Rwanda’s landscape consists of lush forests and volcanic peaks. I love to hike and was up for the challenge! I could hardly sleep the night before in anticipation. We hiked up a muddy, yet beautiful mountain. I enjoyed the views while cautiously waiting to encounter a gorilla. About 1.5 hours into our hike I saw a dark mass darting in the trees and I knew that was a gorilla! Our guide huddled us all together in an enclave where a family of 21 gorillas were hanging out, playing and eating. It was so fun watching the baby gorillas run circles around each and the adults eating and sleeping. I could’ve watched them for hours in awe! We got to spend an hour with the gorillas but it felt much longer. I was surprised how close we got to these gentle giants, at one point a young gorilla was playing with my shoes! It was truly an experience I will never forget!

Next stop was Zanzibar! A place I heard so much about and always wanted to visit. We spent the first few nights in Stone town, the historic center of Zanzibar and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was amazed at the well preserved architecture and many cultural influences such as African, Arab, Indian and European. The food was delicious and I took so many pictures of the unique wooden doors! Next, we headed to the beach and stayed at the luxurious Elewana Kilindi Zanzibar. This is the ultimate romantic spot- secluded with beautiful scenery and great food and service. I enjoyed my own private pool and deck where I watched monkeys swinging from branch to branch while staring out over the turquoise Indian Ocean. We went sailing one evening where we watched the sunset while drinking cocktails. It was magical!

The next stop was inland Tanzania. We spent two nights in the remote southern reaches of Tarangire National Park. We saw loads of wildlife on safari and I loved waking up to beautiful sunrises! We ventured over to The Highlands on the outskirts of Ngorongoro Crater. The drive was spectacular! I loved seeing miles of fields with mountains in the background. The crater was formed by the collapse of a volcano millions of years ago. The diverse ecosystem supports  a variety of wildlife including the Big Five. I loved my dome with my cozy fireplace and great views! One day we visited a Maasai tribe and learned about their culture and way of life. I really enjoyed going on safari here…we spotted a leopard and black rhino! I enjoyed a picnic lunch in a surreal setting with delicious food and our amazing guides. The Ngorongoro Crater is a must-visit!

Last but certainly not least we drove towards the Serengeti to stay at female owned and operated Dunia. This was the most scenic and beautiful drive of my life! We lucked out and saw the Great Migration- an experience I will never forget! Millions of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle moved across the great plains right in front of our eyes. I was speechless! This natural phenomenon is driven by instinct and environmental factors such as the search for food, water and breeding grounds. We also saw lions on our drive to Dunia.

I was in awe of the serene and magical setting of Dunia Camp-located in the heart of the Serengeti. A limited number of luxurious guest tents offers an intimate and authentic experience. The food here was the best so far on our trip and I enjoyed the evening entertainment one night (lots of dancing and singing). The women working here couldn’t have been friendlier. I can’t wait to return! On our game drive we saw 30 lions one morning. We almost witnessed a kill as a pride of lions circled around two wildebeests. It was thrilling to say the least! We also witnessed lots of zebras, cheetahs, giraffes and elephants. The Serengeti is characterized by stunning landscapes which includes vast plains, savannas, rocky outcrops and riverine forests. I finally realized what makes this place so unbelievably special!

I had a wonderful trip to East Africa. We trekked with gorillas, visited a local Masai tribe, lounged at a serene beach on the coast, ate amazing Arab food, witnessed the Great Migration, saw the big five and stayed at some truly unique and magical lodges! I can’t recommend a trip to this unique and magical part of the world enough. Reach out if you want to chat more about my experience. Let me help you book the Africa trip of your dreams!