For Ellen’s 60th birthday, her wife Portia de Rossi, surprised her with a late May / early June 2018 trip to Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda and her own gorilla conservation center in Rwanda! Ellen is a super fan of famous gorilla researcher Dian Fossey and the new center will be called the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund!
DeGeneres had been waiting her whole life to make the trek. She’s said that the person she’d most like to interview would be the “Gorillas in the Mist” author who died in 1985. She’s also said that as a kid, she read every word of a 1970 National Geographic cover story on Fossey that detailed her research camp in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda.
The $10 million campus will be up and running in the next two years according to Tara Stinski – President and Chief Executive Officer at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
Ellen and Portia started over the weekend at Kenya’s Giraffe Manor – an exclusive boutique hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. Originally built in 1933 by the Macintosh Family, famous for their Macintosh Toffee, Giraffe Manor allows guests to get up close and personal with a bevy of giraffe! I am not much of a morning person but being able to share my breakfast with a long lashed beauty (other than my wife) is good reason to get out of bed. Betty, our favorite room, is located upstairs in the main house and has a fireplace, the original bathroom from the early 1930s, and a large balcony from which you can feed the giraffe. Often completely booked 1 year in advance some rooms are more basic than others. Bucket list all the way!
They then traveled to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park which is home to 12 habituated familys of gorillas. Gorilla viewing permits are US $1,500 per person for 1 hour with the gorillas. There are typically 6 to 8 travelers per group in addition to gorilla guides and porters. Travelers seeking a private experience can book an exclusive visit for US $15,000.
In Rwanda our friend’s at Wilderness Safaris hosted Ellen and Portia at their new Bisate Lodge. I was just there 8 weeks ago and perhaps they stayed in the same room I had! Awesome place. The spacious rooms, with double sided fireplaces and freestanding baths, look out over a gorgeous valley.
Also while in Rwanda Ellen was hosted by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda at his office in Village Urugwiro.
In Tanzania Ellen and Portia stayed in the ultra exclusive Singita Grumeti Reserve which is perfect in May / June to catch the million plus animal wildebeest migration. US billionaire Paul Tudor Jones purchased this heavily poached area adjoining the world famous Serengeti National Park and over the years has done a great job turning it into a superb wildlife viewing area. I particularly like Faru Faru Lodge and Sasakwa. I could live in Sasakwa’s rooms!
If you are interested in a similar trip read on…
I would suggest 2 nights at Giraffe Manor upon arrival Nairobi, Kenya.
Then we would fly you early morning to Kigali, Rwanda. It is a short helicopter flight or 2 to 3 hour drive to Bisate Lodge where we would recommend 3 nights with 2 gorilla treks (each trek is different – sometimes you get an hour with a large family of gorillas all around you. Other times you are following a small group of gorillas through the bamboo forest for the entire hour. Some days it rains… others it doesn’t).
After Bisate you would return to Kigali and we would arrange for your guide to take you to the Genocide Memorial – one of the most terrifically emotional experiences in Africa.
After a night in Kigali we would fly you right into Tanzania’s Serengeti and the Singita Grumeti Reserve where you can stay at Sasakwa, Faru Faru, Singita Explore, or Sabora Plains. If you want a private experience stay at Serengeti House or in the 4 bedroom Sasakwa Villa. We would suggest 3 to 5 nights in the Singita Grumeti Reserve.
From here we fly you to either Kilimanjaro or Nairobi from where you can catch your international flight homewards.
Depending upon the time of year this all inclusive 10 day trip would cost roughly US $15,000 per person including gorilla permits.
International flight costs would be extra and depend upon your departure city and class of service. You could estimate US $1,500 per person in economy and US $5,500 per person in business class.
If you have more time you could easily add 2 nights at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge – one of my top 5 favorite properties in Africa… or perhaps add 3 to 5 nights on Mnemba Private Island just of the coast of Zanzibar!