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Things to see and Do in East Africa

The top 10 things to see and do in East Africa according to safari experts are wildebeest migration, spotting the Big Five, watching wildlife on from the boat cruise, Masai tribe tour, gorilla trekking, chimpanzee tracking and walking safari, village walk, hiking Mount Kilimanjaro and hot air ballooning.

Both of these travel experiences encompass nature, wildlife, adventure and culture of the East African region. Ticking them off your bucket list means gain of lifetime memories. That could be achieved by taking the best of East African safari. This includes visiting Uganda or Rwanda gorillas and chimpanzees trekking safaris then Kenya and Tanzania for migration and Big Five safari. This means undertaking both road-based 4×4 game drives and fly-in safaris.

With this in mind, lets take a look at the top 10 things to do and see in East Africa according to safari experts.

The great Wildebeest migration safari

The first of the top 10 things to do in East Africa is witnessing migration of the wildebeests in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania and Kenya’s Masai Mara Wildlife Reserve. The great migration is the movement of 1.5 million wildebeests along with 200,000 zebras, 500,000 Thompson’s gazelles, 18000 elands. These animals follow their traditional routes in the Serengeti ecosystem in search of water and green pastures. Likely, there’s a high chance of seeing the great wildebeest either in Mara Triangle, Seronera Central and southern Serengeti National Park. However, given that the animals follow seasons, timing for the right season such as seeing the wildebeest at Mara River crossing is important. In addition, there’s need to book a specific type of tour such as Serengeti under canvas mobile camping safari, hot air ballooning and traditional 4×4 game drive safari. Either way, you stand a chance of witnessing the wildebeest migration.

When it comes timing for migration safari, the events of the wildebeests such as Mara and Grumeti river crossings and wildebeest calving season should be your guide. In addition to areas and safari lodges and camps for staying for wildebeest migration and when to travel. Getting all this right requires a carefully tailor-made east African safari either to Masai Mara Wildlife Reserve or Serengeti National Park.

Mountain gorilla trekking

The second of the top 10 things to do in East Africa is going for gorilla trekking safari in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. these are the only places in Africa where the world’s mountain gorilla population of 1063 individuals live. In particular, Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is famous for harboring 459 gorillas which is almost half the world’s gorilla population. Also, it has 22 gorilla families offering both gorilla trekking and gorilla habituation experiences at four different regions. The Bwindi gorilla trekking sectors are Buhoma the headquarters with 6 gorilla families, Ruhija with 4, Rushaga with 9 and Nkuringo 4. In addition to Bwindi, gorilla trekking in Uganda is also available in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. This park forms part of Virunga Mountain range best for solo travelers intending to do volcano hiking. Uganda gorilla permit cost is $700 per person for foreign non-residents available for booking through Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) or registered tour operator. Uganda gorilla safaris take place in western region which has 8 of 10 national parks in the country. So, when your trip is meticulously tailored, there’s a lot of other wildlife and cultural activities you can add to your gorilla safari. For example, chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest, Murchison falls boat cruise, Lake Mburo walking safari and spotting the tree climbing of Ishasha in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

On the other hand, gorilla trekking in Rwanda is conducted in Volcanoes National Park. With 12 gorilla families, easy accessibility from Kigali city and high-end lodges, Parc National des Volcans provides the best of East Africa luxury gorilla trekking safaris. Rwanda gorilla permit cost is $1,500 per person available for booking through Rwanda Development Board (RDB) or tour operator.

Generally, in both of these countries, the best time for gorilla trekking is dry season. That is from June to September and December to February. But gorillas can be visited anytime of the year. The low / rainy season in particular offers a chance to do gorilla trekking safaris on discounts. For example, the gorilla permit cost for Virunga National Park DR Congo in the low season is $200 compared to $450 during the high season. DR Congo gorilla safari also includes Nyiragongo hiking with Lake Kivu beach vacation.

Spotting the Big five mammals

The African Big 5 mammals are lion (the king of the jungle), leopard, Cape buffalo, rhinos and Elephants the largest of the land animals. Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park offer the best chances of spotting all the big five animals in East Africa. Usually, they can be seen with a full day game drive experience.

 On the other hand, Masai Mara wildlife reserve is known for having high number of East Africa’s big cats such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, African wild dogs and hyenas. Besides the national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and conservancies such as Ol Pejeta, Schardrack wildlife sanctuary in Kenya and Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in Uganda provide more intimate interaction with elephants and rhinos as well as giraffes. These sanctuaries support both wildlife conservation and economic development which is a good thing for responsible travel in East Africa.

Furthermore, spotting big five mammals in Uganda is not straight forward as in Kenya or Tanzania. Instead, it involves visiting several savanna protected and doing both day and night game drive in places such as Murchison falls, Queen Elizabeth, Lake Mburo and Kidepo Valley National Parks.

Walking safaris

Vehicle based 4×4 game drive safari is great for spotting large mammals without worrying about your safety. But, experiencing the African bush on foot by guided walking safari is magical. Find some of the best walking safaris in East Africa. This is especially in areas with less predators such as walking safari in Uganda’s Lake Mburo National Park and Narus valley in Kidepo National Park north-east. Here, it involves watching impalas, giraffes, zebras and antelopes walk by in the African bush. The best Tanzania walking safari are done in Tarangire National Park. Known for large herds of elephants, Tarangire is in the northern circuit and combines well with safari in Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater. In addition, there are bush walks in Tarangire also include visiting the Masai villages and hiking Oldonyo Sambu Mountain.

Further, walking safari are available in private game reserves and concessions in Kenya and Tanzania. These provide exclusive and personalized experience. For example, Alex Walker’s original camp in central Serengeti National Park. Masai Mara walking safari is available in Mara Naboisho Conservancy, Elewana Ol Donyo lodge and Ol Kinyei conservancy.

Masai tribe cultural tour

The Masai people live only Kenya and Tanzania therefore visiting them is one of the top 10 things to do and see in East Africa. These people speak the masai language and cattle is central to their lifestyles. They are closely related to the Karamojong and Kelenjin of north-east Uganda. In particular, the Masai have distinctive cultural traditions including music, high jump dance and colored dress called Kikoy. As nomadic warriors, the Masai traditionally co-existed with wildlife. But, due to conservation, the government of Kenya and Tanzania has encouraged them to move away from their ancestral lands. As a result most of them now speak English and Swahili due to education. Nevertheless, they remain true to their culture which is now attracting visitors. So, a masai tribe cultural tour takes place in villages outside Masai Mara wildlife reserve. that is where you meet the Masai village elders at their homestead. The cultural experience involves a guided community walk and learning about their lifestyles.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

With an elevation of 5895 meters (19340 feet), Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa. It’s also unique for being a free-standing strato-volcano situated in northern Tanzania within the Great East African Rift Valley.

 Climbing Kilimanjaro all the 7 routes begin in Tanzania Arusha town. However, its in Amboseli National Park Kenya where the view is most spectacular often with opportunity to capture elephants. Climbing Kilimanjaro requires prior experience in high altitude hiking. However, each route is unique including those that are easier for inexperienced hikers.

By the way, Kilimanjaro, contrary to Rwenzori Mountain Range, is easiest to climb given that there’s 75% success rate of the 30,000 people who annually climb Kili. For example, the north circuit has the highest success rate and is the most spectacular in regard to scenery.

Marangu route is best for inexperienced hikers who don’t like camping. Lemoshi route is off-the-beaten path. Longai has high and low treks often with snow caps along the way. Shira, the most difficult route can be used by experienced high-altitude hikers.

Hot air balloon safaris

Hot air balloon involves flying above the tree tops in hydrogen-powered balloon for a full hour. It happens preferably in the early morning in order to experience the sunrise which is good for keen landscape photographers. Flying above different habitats such as Masai Mara River and the savanna wilderness below. There’s always a chance to spot mammals such as tall giraffes and wildebeest migration hot air balloon safari in Masai Mara Wildlife Reserve. Though pricy, it includes champagne style breakfast in the African bush plus guided game drive safaris.

Watching wildlife from the boat cruise

Contrary to traditional game drives, boat cruise safaris offer wildlife viewing on water bodies. For example, Murchison Falls Nile River boat cruise in Uganda is east Africa’s best water-based safari. Given that boat cruises aren’t available in Serengeti or Masai Mara, Uganda provides the best. In addition to Murchison falls, there are cruises in Lake Mburo, Kazinga channel and Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve on Lake Albert. Boat cruise safaris in Uganda are done in morning, afternoon and sundowner. There are double-decker and medium-sized boats used for different wildlife experiences such as birding especially searching for shoebill stork in Murchison falls and Lake Albert.

East Africa perhaps has much more to see and do than the list of things mentioned here. Getting a tailor-made East Africa safari package is the best thing to do to have a personal safari experience.

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Top 8 things to see & Do in Rwanda
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