African Dawn is a 28-day tour that will show you many faces of this great continent. It’s a mix of diverse experiences and sights, from Lake Victoria and the source of the Nile in Uganda, to the rare mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park: from the tiny land-locked nation of Rwanda and on to Ethiopia – the cradle of civilisation. Our final destination of the journey is the exciting and little-visited nation of Eritrea.
Imagine an adventure that starts with the thrill of seeing Lake Victoria and the River Nile, as it starts its epic journey northwards; an adventure that continues across the ‘Mountains of the Moon’ and onto one of the great wildlife parks in Africa, Queen Elizabeth National Park; an adventure that then heads south through the islands of Lake Bunyonyi and on to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home of the rare mountain gorilla. Imagine a walk that will bring you into close contact with a gorilla family on the forested slopes of the mountains, and on to the tiny land-locked nation of Rwanda; an adventure that then moves eastward to Ethiopia, the cradle of civilisation, for arguably the most amazing festival in the world, Timkat, which celebrates the Baptism of Christ. Remarkable rock-hewn churches, medieval castles and ancient stelae also await us in this warm and hospitable East African nation, before we fly to little-visited Eritrea and its UNESCO listed capital Asmara, and Red Sea town of Massawa. Join us on this extraordinary and varied 28-day adventure!
Tour Fitness Level: Active
- Three-night stay at the magnificent Speke Resort on the shores of Lake Victoria
- Take a boat trip to the source of the Nile at Jinja
- Exclusive picnic at the spot where John Hanning Speke first saw the Nile
- Visit the chimpanzees at Kibale National Park
- Private Travel Directors’ BBQ on the shores of Lake Victoria
- Watch sunrise over the Rwenzori ranges ‘The Mountains of the Moon’
- Two-night stay at Queen Elizabeth National Park
- Explore the Kazinga Channel by boat and see hippo, crocodiles, water buffalo and an extraordinary concentration of birdlife
- Enjoy lunch with the students at a remote school sponsored by Travel Directors
- Visit the islands of Africa’s most beautiful lake, Bunyonyi
- Get up close to gorillas in their natural habitat at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park*
(* Due to Travel Directors’ close relationship with the park wardens we visit the nearest gorilla family, which is within an easy 45-minute trek from the start point.)
- Exclusive Travel Directors’ dinner at ‘Hotel Rwanda’ overlooking Kigali
- Visit the Iby Iwacu cultural village
- See the oldest discovered human skeleton ‘Lucy’ in the fantastic National Museum of Ethiopia
- Experience one of the greatest festivals in the world, Ethiopia’s Timkat, celebrating the baptism of Christ
- Visit the source of the Blue Nile at Bahir Dar
- Marvel at the paintings and artifacts of the island monasteries on Lake Tana
- Excursion to the Simien Mountains
- See the amazing and indigenous gelada baboons in their natural habitat
- Visit the holy city of Axum with its ancient stele, and building that houses the Ark of the Covenant
- Enjoy a private Travel Directors’ dinner with local Ethiopian students and priests
- Explore the eighth Wonder of the World, the amazing rock hewn churches of Lalibela
- Watch the finest sunset in Africa from an escarpment in Lalibela
- Full exploration of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed capital, Asmara
- Visit the fascinating Medeber recycling market
- Drive 120kms through canyons, valleys and deserts to the Red Sea
- Explore the former ‘Pearl of the Red Sea’, Massawa
- All flights between Australia and Africa
- All flights within Africa
- All ticketable air taxes (may be subject to change)
- Gorilla Permit (access to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park)
- All accommodation (twin share)
- Meals as specified
- Travel Directors’ tour leader throughout
- Expert local guides
- All entrance fees in specified sightseeing
- All local sightseeing as per itinerary
- All tips and gratuities
Please note that whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the above pricing, currency fluctuations beyond our control can affect final tour costs. A booking form is to be completed by all passengers, and a non-refundable deposit of AUD $2,000 paid at the time of booking. All escorted tours are based on a minimum group size of 10 people travelling.
05/01/2021 Australia – Dubai
Depart from your chosen Australian airport on the flight to Dubai.
06/01/2021 Dubai – Entebbe – Munyonyo (D)
On arrival in Dubai we connect with the flight to Entebbe.
Depart Dubai Emirates EK 729, 09.25
Arrive Entebbe 13.50
On arrival in Entebbe we transfer to Munyonyo, superbly situated on the banks of Lake Victoria. This evening we enjoy dinner on the terrace of our beautiful resort.
The Speke Resort
07/01/2021 Kampala (BLD)
After breakfast we take a city tour of Kampala including the markets. The afternoon is at leisure and in the evening we enjoy a BBQ at the edge of Lake Victoria.
08/01/2021 Source of the Nile: Jinja (BLD)
The main reservoir and source of the Nile, Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater lake in the world after Baikal in Eastern Siberia and is situated between the Western and Eastern Rift Valleys. Like Baikal, many rivers flow into Lake Victoria but only one flows out: the Nile. Today we drive to Jinja where we board a boat that takes us to the very spot where the Nile bubbles up from Lake Victoria and begins its epic journey to the Mediterranean. Lunch is a picnic beside a memorial to John Hanning Speke at the spot where he first saw the Nile.
09/01/2021 Kampala – Fort Portal (BLD)
This morning we drive through lush countryside and banana plantations as we pass Kibale Forest. After lunch at Fort Portal we enter Kibale National Park, home to 12 species of primates including a population of habituated chimpanzees. After visiting the chimps we drive into the Rwenzori Mountains – the famous Mountains of the Moon.
Mountains of the Moon Hotel & Resort
10/01/2021 Fort Portal – Queen Elizabeth National Park (BLD)
After breakfast we cross the Equator and enter Queen Elizabeth National Park. Here the country is untouched, with lush vegetation and rich in wildlife. To the west of our lodge lie the Rwenzoris, while to the east are the spectacularly raised Rift Valley Hills. The two are separated by the meandering Kazinga Channel that flows into the great George and Edward lakes.
Mweya Safari Lodge
Queen Elizabeth National Park
11/01/2021 Queen Elizabeth NP (BLD)
Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to lions, leopards, elephants, hippos, hyenas, crocodiles and waterbuck, as well as more than 600 species of birds that flock around the Kazinga Channel. This morning we enjoy an early sunrise game drive before returning to the lodge for breakfast. In the afternoon we take a boat ride to see the diverse animal and bird life of the Kazinga Channel.
12/01/2021 Queen Elizabeth NP – Kabale (BLD)
This morning we have another early morning game drive before leaving for the border town of Kabale. Passing many coffee and banana plantations en-route, we arrive in Kabale in the evening and transfer to our hotel.
13/01/2021 Kabale – Bwindi (BLD)
After breakfast we take a boat ride on beautiful Lake Bunyonyi and visit some of its lush islands. After lunch we board 4WD vehicles for the two hour journey to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Four Gorillas Lodge
Rubugri – Rushaga
14/01/2021 Bwindi (BLD)
After a short briefing from park rangers on gorilla protection and protocol, we enter Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Our exhilarating walk through the cultivated foothills of the mountains offers stirring views in all directions. Bwindi is home to an incredible diversity of flora and fauna, with some 120 mammal species and 350 species of bird. But the most famous inhabitants are the approximately 400 mountain gorillas who live in the densely forested mountain slopes. Our first contact with the gorillas will be unforgettable.
15/01/2021 Bwindi – Kigali (BLD)
After breakfast we head south to the Uganda/Rwanda border and, after completing customs and immigration formalities, we enter the tiny land-locked nation often referred to as ‘the Switzerland of Africa’. Shortly after crossing the border we arrive at the Iby Iwacu cultural village and enjoy a lively display of music and dance. After lunch we continue south to the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
Kigali Serena Hotel
16/01/2021 Kigali (BLD)
Kigali is a very pleasant modern city situated among rolling hills. Although it is home to a million people, it enjoys a very relaxed pace of life and it is extremely friendly and safe. Kigali and its people bear witness to a country that has successfully forged reconciliation and enjoyed social and economic stability for more than ten years. Today we take a walking tour of this delightful capital, passing by the presidential palace, craft markets and the famous ‘Hotel Rwanda’.
17/01/2021 Kigali – Addis Ababa (BLD)
This morning is at leisure and after lunch we transfer to the airport for our flight to Addis Ababa.
Depart Kigali Ethiopian Airlines ET 816, 15.25
Arrive Addis Ababa 20.20
Welcome to the ‘Cradle of Civilisation’! Ethiopia is one of the world’s most extraordinary, yet least visited, countries. Lying in the mountains at an elevation of 2,500m, Addis Ababa is the third highest capital city in the world. It enjoys a superb climate with an average year-round temperature of 25 degrees. On arrival in Addis Ababa we transfer to our hotel, where we enjoy a late dinner.
Best Western Plus
18/01/2021 Addis Ababa (BLD)
This morning we visit the fascinating National Museum where the oldest human skeleton ‘Lucy’ is on display. Today is also the start of the Timkat Festival and in the afternoon we join the throng of white-veiled worshippers as they dance and sing in the streets to the beating of drums. The Arc of the Covenant is paraded through the streets and the procession then moves to a water source where the festival proper will take place early in the morning.
19/01/2021 Addis Ababa – Bahir Dar (BLD)
Today the festival reaches its climax as priests in satin robes and the Patriarch celebrate a communal service and bless the pool of holy water. Thousands of joyous people throng to the compound waiting for a drop of holy water which priests spray into the crowd. It is a truly remarkable spectacle and the atmosphere is one of great excitement and joy. We are privileged to view this extraordinary festival from within the compound with the priests and Patriarch. Returning to our hotel we enjoy lunch before transferring to the airport for our flight to Bahir Dar.
Depart Addis Ababa Ethiopian Airlines ET 140, 16.00
Arrive Bahir Dar 17.00
On arrival in Bahir Dar we transfer to our hotel.
20/01/2021 Bahir Dar (BLD)
Bahir Dar was the capital of Ethiopia in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. This attractive town, situated on the shores of Lake Tana, was, and still is, an important commercial centre. Today we head to the Blue Nile Falls and the source of the Blue Nile.
21/01/2021 Bahir Dar – Gorgora – Gondar (BLD)
Today we board a boat to explore Lake Tana’s famous island monasteries, founded in the Middle Ages. In the afternoon we visit local villages as well as the colourful marketplace, where traditional wares such as baskets, pottery and hand-woven clothes are traded. We continue by boat to the northern shore of Lake Tana and the town of Gorgora, where we disembark and continue by road to the fabled highland city of Gondar, popularly known as ‘Ethiopia’s Camelot’.
Inn of the Four Sisters
22/01/2021 Gondar (BLD)
Gondar was the 17th- and 18th-century capital of Ethiopia. Founded by Emperor Fasilidas around 1635, the city is famous for its stunning medieval castles and beautiful churches. This morning we explore this amazing UNESCO World Heritage listed complex. Later we drive to Kossoye, where we enjoy stunning views of the beautiful Simien Mountains. Here canyons, gorges and soaring 4,000m peaks create a startling wilderness. In places the dramatic topography, dominated by basalt lava flows, is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. We visit remote villages in the mountains where the way of life has changed little over the centuries. In the evening we enjoy an exclusive dinner in the grounds of Gondar Castle.
23/01/2021 Gondar – Axum (BLD)
After breakfast we embark on an astonishing drive through deep canyons gouging high plateau lands for hundreds of kilometres. This is some of Africa’s most spectacular scenery. The road to Axum, originally cut by the Italian occupiers in the 1930s, is a masterpiece of road building! Its dramatic switchbacks supported by extensive brick work are truly impressive. Ears pop with endless pressure changes as the road winds down, across, then up again in a seemingly endless series of mountains and valleys. By mid-afternoon we reach Axum.
Yared Zema International Hotel
24/01/2021 Axum (BLD)
Axum is the oldest and holiest city in Ethiopia and was the country’s capital during the reign of the legendary Queen of Sheba in the 10th century BC. Today we visit the palace and bath of the Queen of Sheba, the Zion Cathedral – where the original Arc of the Covenant is said to be housed – and Stele Park, where magnificent and mysterious obelisks have stood since the 3rd century.
25/01/2021 Axum – Lalibela (BLD)
An early start today as we travel just outside of Axum to the historic and spectacular Adwa Mountains. It was here in 1896 that King Menelik II decisively defeated the Italian invaders and forced them out of Ethiopia, in the triumphant Battle of Adwa. After our visit here we transfer to the airport for our flight to Lalibela.
Depart Axum Ethiopian Airlines ET 123, 12.10
Arrive Lalibela 12.50
UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lalibela is one of the world’s most extraordinary ancient sites and is simply breathtaking. A total of 13 churches were chiselled out of solid red volcanic rock more than 1,000 years ago. A complex and bewildering labyrinth of tunnels connect the churches with narrow passageways, offset crypts, grottoes and galleries. Throughout this mysterious and wonderful settlement priests go about their timeless work, seemingly unaware of their extraordinary surroundings. This afternoon we visit the first group of churches.
26/01/2021 Lalibela (BLD)
This morning we visit the second group of churches including the awe-inspiring rock-hewn Bet Gyorgis, the ‘House of St George’. We then explore the town of Lalibela and its amazing market. In the evening we enjoy an exclusive dinner with local priests and students, followed by a bonfire and display of traditional dancing.
27/01/2021 Lalibela – Addis Ababa – Asmara (BD)
This morning we fly from Lalibela to the Eritrean capital Asmara, via Addis Ababa.
Depart Lalibela Ethiopian Airlines ET 126, 10.00
Arrive Addis Ababa 11.00
Depart Addis Ababa Ethiopian Airlines ET 314, 15.45
Arrive Asmara 17.10
On arrival in Asmara we transfer to our hotel.
Hotel Albergo Italia
28/01/2021 Asmara (BLD)
Asmara is located on a highland plateau in the centre of Eritrea. It is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a colonial planned city, which resulted from phases of planning between 1893 and 1941 under the Italian colonial occupation. It is dotted with art deco and modernist architecture and well planned public spaces, which have resulted in its UNESCO World Heritage listing. Today we enjoy a city tour including the spice market and the Medebar market – an open-air workshop where everything is recycled: rubber tyres are made into sandals and waste metal is made into buckets and coffee pots.
29/01/2021 Asmara – Massawa (BLD)
Today we drive down from the highlands and through several canyons as we cover the 100km that will take us to sea level and the Red Sea town of Massawa. In stark contrast to Asmara, Massawa has more of an Arab feel to it, with its low white-washed buildings and porticoes. Once referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Red Sea’ Massawa’s vibrance and charm have faded somewhat since the 1991 War for Independence, but its historic Ottoman, Egyptian and Italian architecture still conjure up an air of its past glory. Late afternoon we take a walking tour of the old town and its Ottoman houses.
Grand Dahlak Hotel
30/01/2021 Massawa – Asmara (BLD)
After breakfast we continue our city tour of Massawa including the Friday market. We then board our coach for the three hour journey back to Asmara. In the evening we enjoy a farewell dinner.
31/01/2021 Asmara – Dubai
An early start this morning as we transfer to the airport for our flight to Dubai.
Depart Asmara EK 2181, 07.55
Arrive Dubai 12.30
In Dubai we connect with the flight to our chosen Australian capital city.
01/02/2021 Dubai – Australia
We arrive home in Australia today.
How long is the flight from Australia to Entebbe?
Total flying time to Dubai is between 11 and 15 hours, depending on your Australian capital city of departure. Flight time from Dubai to Entebbe is 7.5 hours.
Is personal security a problem on this tour?
Security is not a big problem, however we remind our guests to take sensible precautions. These include not wearing ostentatious jewellery, not showing or counting money in public, and not going to certain areas at night. Basically it’s a case of using common sense, particularly in large cities.
Is the gorilla permit included in the tour cost?
Yes. These permits are bought well in advance of the tour due to the high demand for them. Only a limited number of people can see the gorillas on any given day.
How long does it take to get to the gorillas?
The trek to the gorillas can take up to two hours or even longer, depending on which gorilla family we visit. We normally visit one of the closer families, usually within a 45-minute trek from the start point. However, it is wise to be prepared for a longer, more challenging hike.
What kind of clothing should I take?
For game drives, comfortable clothing in earthy colours is best. Layering is recommended as it can be quite cool on early morning game drives. For trekking to the gorillas, comfortable walking boots, long-sleeved shirts and long trousers are best as some vegetation is prickly and can sting bare skin. Wet weather gear is recommended
How much spending money do I need for the entire trip?
Because almost everything is included, USD $500 per person is usually ample for the whole journey. However, if you’re a keen shopper and like to buy lots of gifts and souvenirs, you may require more.
Are credit cards acceptable?
Credit cards are not always accepted and ATMs will not be readily available. Cash in small denominations of USD is recommended.
Do I need vaccinations for this journey?
A yellow fever vaccination is mandatory, and you must carry the vaccination certificate with you as it is required by Australian authorities on re-entry. Tetanus should always be up to date and medication for malaria prevention is highly recommended. Insect repellent is essential. You should also seek advice from your doctor. NOTE: Due to the sensitive nature of visiting the gorillas, please be aware that if you show signs of illness/cold/flu, you may not be permitted to see them. We suggest you dose up on vitamins and consider cold and flu medication at the first sign of a sniffle.
Is the water safe to drink en-route and what is the general standard of hygiene?
We err on the side of caution on all of our tours and advise travellers to drink only bottled water. This is easy to obtain everywhere. The hotels and restaurants we use are all of a high standard in terms of hygiene. We recommend the use of hand sanitizer before each meal and occasionally during the day as we will be handling local money and visiting public places.
What is the climate like in January?
The weather will be pleasantly warm most of the time throughout the tour, with slightly higher temperatures in Uganda. It can be quite cool in the evenings.
If I want to travel to Africa before or after the group departs, is this possible?
It is possible, with reasonable notice, to fly to Dubai ahead of the group or stay on after the group has departed.
Do I need visas?
An Australian passport holder will need a visa for Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Eritrea. These are included in the tour cost.
A lot of companies have many expensive optional extras on their tours. Do you?
We don’t believe in a lot of expensive ‘optional tours’. Our itineraries are designed to make the best possible use of time and to include all the must-see sights, plus additional surprises. Therefore practically everything is included in the tour cost.
What is the standard of hotels like on this tour?
We endeavour to use centrally located hotels throughout. The hotels on this trip are generally rated 4 star and of a high standard. In smaller regional areas, with fewer hotels, we use the best available.
What currency should I take and are travellers cheques a good idea?
The currency for this journey is US dollars. They should be in low denominations, clean and undamaged. We do not recommend travellers cheques in Africa as it can be very difficult and time-consuming to change them.
Are internet facilities available en-route?
Internet facilities are available in all the major centres. However in the country areas there is limited or no internet access.
Do mobile telephones work?
Telstra and Optus mobiles generally work throughout the entire journey. You will need to ensure you have global roaming and a tri-band phone. Contact your service provider for further information.
How much should we tip the guides and porters?
There is no need to tip guides or porters as all tipping and gratuities are included in the tour cost.
Listed below is a selection of books which you may wish to read prior to, or during, your journey.
Spectrum Guide to Ethiopia
The Hospital by the River
Dr Catherine Hamlin
Off the Beaten Trail
Woman in the Mists
The Last King of Scotland
Shake Hands with the Devil
Uganda 4th The Bradt Travel Guide