An East Africa Safari Travel Guide : A Comprehensive Guide : Many people associate safaris with East Africa, with its sweeping plains, spectacular wildlife, and wonderful Out of Africa vibe. The postcard beauty is undeniably appealing, but it’s also home to some of the continent’s most dramatic wildlife encounters, including the Great Migration, gorilla trekking, and the Big Five, to mention a few. But first, let’s get back to the basics: what countries do we mean when we say East Africa? What should you do? How should you begin organizing a safari for them? And what kind of wildlife can you expect? Continue reading for our ultimate East Africa safari guide.

Animals in Ngorongoro Crater

FIRST THINGS FIRST…

So, what exactly do we mean when we say East Africa? Kenya and Tanzania have traditionally been referred to as the region. Both are iconic in their own right and very much in the heart of East Africa, making them two of the most famous safari countries on the continent. However, today, East Africa often includes Rwanda and Uganda, both of which have become considerably more accessible in recent years and both of which provide fantastic gorilla trekking experiences. For the purposes of our East Africa safari guide, we’ll provide ideas and tips for all four.

  1. An East Africa Safari Travel Guide : KENYA SAFARI

There is no better place to begin when discussing classic safari destinations than Kenya. Kenya is a gem for both first-time visitors and those who have been on safari 50 times, and it truly does have a little bit of everything, from epic wildlife to pristine beaches and vast savannah to craggy mountains (the second highest in Africa, if we’re being specific!). In Kenya, you’ll most likely fly to the many parks and reserves, although driving is also an option. Talk to us for more information.

What should I see and do?

Without including the Masai Mara, our East Africa safari tour would be incomplete. This is the spot to visit in Kenya if you want to see the Big Five. It’s also the site of the Great Migration, when hundreds of thousands of wildebeests moved from Tanzania in search of fresh grass, bringing drama and excitement with them! Then there’s Laikipia, with its world-class conservation and game viewing; Samburu, with its colorful warriors and walking safaris; and Amboseli and the Chyulu Hills.

How do I do it?

If you want to witness the Great Migration in the Masai Mara, you’ll need to travel between July and October, and our Classic Kenya tour is perfect for you. Kenya is also an excellent destination for some seaside R&R at the end of your safari, thanks to its near-perfect coastline and the beaches of Diani, Msambweni, and Lamu. And, for something a little more daring, how about visiting Matthew’s Range on the Wilds of Northern Kenya trip or Meru on the Road Less Traveled?

  1. An East Africa Safari Travel Guide : TANZANIA SAFARI

Tanzania is another one of those fantastic countries that offers something for everyone, and despite having wildlife worthy of an Attenborough documentary, there are also lots of hidden gems to discover on your own terms, away from the masses. Spicy Zanzibar and her equally beautiful sister islands are right off the coast if you want some cocktail-sipping, sunset-watching, chill-out time. Did we mention Tanzania has a relatively strong road network, making it one of the greatest countries in East Africa for a driving safari?

What should I see and do?

Tanzania, along with Kenya’s Masai Mara, hosts the second stage of the Great Migration, and the Serengeti is the place to go if seeing the wildebeest migration is on your bucket list. The nearby Ngorongoro Crater is also a highlight of Tanzania (the wildlife is magnificent), and the surrounding mountains and valleys provide for fantastic walking safaris. A boat excursion down the rushing Rufiji River in the Selous or a trip to Ruaha for more trekking and to view 10% of the world’s lion population in one baobab-filled park are not to be missed farther south.

How do I do it?

To make things easier for our East Africa safari tour, we’ll divide Tanzania into four categories. The Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and other wildlife can be found in the north. For the best way up here, try the Best Tanzania Great Migration Safari—and perhaps include some beach time at the coast as well. Our journey off the beaten track in southern Tanzania does just what it says on the box and takes you throughout the southern half of the nation to Ruaha and Selous, whereas The Wild West takes you via Katavi and to Mahale for up-close-and-personal chimp adventures.

  1. An East Africa Safari Travel Guide : RWANDA SAFARI

Rwanda is quickly becoming one of our favorite places to visit, and we’re not just saying so since we’re writing an East Africa safari guide! The country’s stormy past should not be overlooked, but now you’ll discover a country full of smiles and warm-hearted people, gorilla-packed forests, breathtaking landscapes, and, more recently, national parks to rival any others in East Africa. What is our piece of advice? Don’t believe anyone who says Rwanda isn’t suitable for first-time visitors or a decent site for a safari. They are incorrect!

What should I see and do?

Volcanoes National Park should be on everyone’s must-see list when visiting Rwanda. It’s a lovely place where you can travel alongside mountain gorillas and witness golden monkeys and even elephants. It’s almost always enveloped in mist. If that isn’t enough primates for you, go to Nyungwe Forest National Park and hike with the chimps who hang (loudly) from the trees. But, as this article will demonstrate, Rwanda is much more than its cuddly primates. Consider visiting the genocide memorial in Kigali, relaxing on the shores of Lake Kivu, or becoming involved in ground-breaking conservation efforts (and wildlife viewing) in Akagera, the country’s newest and most exciting park.

How do I do it?

Getting around Rwanda usually entails a combination of flying and driving. In certain circumstances, expect long and dusty travels, but the benefits at the end are always worth the bumps. The Full Works trip is an excellent starting place for Rwanda, and for optimal wildlife viewing, don’t be afraid to include a stay at Akagera as well. Rwanda has good transport ties with Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, so if you want to combine gorilla trekking with a typical Big Five safari, consider a Rwanda and Tanzania combination (which also includes some beach time in lovely Zanzibar) or wildlife in Uganda to mix and match your animals…

  1. An East Africa Safari Travel Guide : UGANDA SAFARI

Uganda is the final stop on our East Africa safari guide. What the country lacks in roads and restaurants, it more than makes up for in bucket-list adventures as a relatively new addition to the safari scene. Gorilla trekking may have placed Uganda on the map, but go deeper and you’ll discover various adventures, harsh and distant safaris, and a slew of fascinating primates all wrapped up in an emerald-green package.

What should I see and do?

An East Africa Safari Travel Guide
Gorilla Trekking

We’ll begin with the most important: gorilla trekking. The major site in Uganda to track down the primates is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and a significant advantage of trekking here is the significantly lower cost of permits compared to Rwanda. If you’re going to see the gorillas, you should also go see the chimps in Kibale, and adrenaline seekers should add Jinja to their agenda for some white-water rafting and bungee jumping. Nature enthusiasts should go straight to Queen Elizabeth National Park to see tree-climbing lions and other fantastical creatures.

How do I do it?

Traveling in Uganda is comparable to Rwanda, and you’ll most likely be on a mix of automobiles and flights. Again, the distances can be long at times, but they are usually broken up by many breaks and made more delightful by the breathtaking scenery. Now for trips: if you’re looking for primates, try Primates of Uganda, which includes visits to both Kibale for chimpanzees and Bwindi for gorillas. This tour will take you off the beaten path to Kidepo Valley, whereas the Source of the Nile will take you right to where the name says. But what if you want to relax in the sun, especially on a white-sand beach with the Indian Ocean lapping at your toes? Of course we can do it because it’s right here!

WHAT TO EXPECT ON YOUR EAST AFRICA SAFARI

The first thing to understand is that a safari is, by definition, a voyage, and one in a very different environment than, say, a trip to Disney World. Most first-time safari-goers are understandably concerned about their safety, but by just following your guide’s instructions and not doing anything silly, your safety should not be jeopardized at all on a safari. You should keep in mind that going on safari will most likely take you out of your comfort zone.

Dust, mosquitoes, noisy animals, bumpy game drives, and early mornings are all to be expected. However, these are minor inconveniences in comparison to witnessing a lion kill a wildebeest calf right in front of your eyes or being captivated by the sight and sound of an elephant plucking leaves off a tree and noisily scoffing them down a few meters away. The perfect serenity of sitting around a blazing fire, sipping a drink while gazing up at the brilliant sky studded with stars, and hearing a lion roar in the distance is not to be overlooked! The reality is that you will enjoy Africa.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF SAFARIS IS EAST AFRICA

The type of safari you can go on depends on the location of the camp and, of course, the season you visit. Small tented camps (which are usually seasonal, meaning they aren’t open all year) and massive permanent buildings with several rooms are all options. Game viewing can be done on foot, in cars, or even on horseback, depending on the terrain and animals in the area.

 Safaris by boat are frequently available if camps are located near rivers and bodies of water. East Africa has two seasons: a dry season, which is more popular for safaris, and a wet season, commonly known as the green season.

Animals congregate around waterholes during the dry season, and the less dense bush makes them easier to spot. Focus East Africa Tours provides a wide range of safari types, including family and romantic safaris, classic and active safaris, and the chance to have a fully exclusive safari.

HOW TO TRAVEL TO EAST AFRICA

East Africa is easily accessible from the United States, Europe, and the East. The first thing you should usually do, even before you purchase your flights, is get travel insurance. This will cover you for anything unforeseen, particularly anything that may occur before you travel. Choose coverage that protects you not only while you’re gone but also if you have to cancel the trip for any reason. You will also need to do some research ahead of time to determine what vaccines or medical precautions you may need to take before traveling to East Africa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are an excellent resource in this area and a wonderful place to begin your investigation.

Once in the region, you will most likely have to board connecting flights, as well as maybe extra small plane flights, boat voyages, or long automobile rides, to reach your final location in camp. If you are traveling in a group and will be joining a small plane en route, you might consider booking a freight seat, which will provide you with an extra 75 kg of luggage. This is especially useful if you’re going on a photographic safari with extra gear. Internet access is not as common in East Africa as cell phone coverage, so plan ahead of time that you will not be able to access the internet at all times while on safari. To be honest, this is most likely a blessing in disguise and an excellent time for you to embark on a digital detox.

 WHAT TO BRING? PACKING LIST FOR YOUR EAST AFRICA SAFARI

You’ve probably seen photographs of people on safari wearing khakis and subdued tans. This is not only a Safari Chic look; these are the most appropriate colors to wear while in the wilderness. Brighter colors, such as blue or red, have been shown to attract insects, but tans reveal dirt less visibly and do not absorb heat as well as darker colors. All of our campgrounds include daily laundry service, so you can probably bring a lot less. Footwear is also critical. You’ll be spending most of your time outside and may even go on a walking safari, so invest in a decent pair of boots or walking shoes that you’ve worn before your trip. If your safari falls during the rainy season, you will most likely encounter considerably more insects than during the dry season; thus, insect repellent spray or cream is essential; Most Camps and lodges provide this, so you do not need to bring your own.

You will undoubtedly want to capture every minute of your safari on video or film, so carry a good-quality camera with you. However, remember that a wonderful camera is useless without charged batteries or memory cards with enough storage for your National Geographic-worthy material. Plan ahead of time your electronic storage strategy. A good set of binoculars is another crucial piece of equipment. Even if you want to get up close and personal with the beautiful animals of East Africa, they won’t all be close enough to touch, so a pair of binoculars is really useful equipment to bring with you. Furthermore, you may discover that you are an ornithologist at heart, and your binoculars will give you hours of bird-watching enjoyment.

A TYPICAL DAY ON SAFARI

Focus East Africa Tours organizes and manages genuine East African safaris in Kenya, Uganda, D.R.C and Tanzania. The best times to see wildlife are in the colder early mornings and late afternoons, when the animals are most active. Your day may begin slightly earlier or later, depending on the season, but the general rhythm of life in camp is focused on providing you with the best possible game-viewing experience. If you have reserved a private game-viewing vehicle, talk to your guide about your specific timetable preferences.

A typical day might look something like this:

  • 05:30–06:00–Wake-up call with hot tea and coffee
  • 06:30–07:00: Depart for a morning game drive or walk and take a picnic breakfast with you.
  • 09:30–11:30–Arrive back in camp after game viewing, followed by breakfast (if you are hungry).
  • 13:00: Lunch
  • 13:30–16:00: Siesta time: read a book or just relax.
  • 16:00: Afternoon tea
  • 16:30: Depart for an afternoon or evening game drive or walk with sundowners.
  • 18:30–Arrive back in camp.
  • 19:30—Drinks followed by dinner under the stars
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