Below are some of the major travel highlights for East Africa Safaris. For more in-depth attractions of each country on this route, click on the country names below or select a route to see the highlights on this section of the journey. Click on the icons below to focus on specific types of features (click again to return to all).
|In-depth highlights: Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda
|Volcanoes National Park
The Volcanoes National Park is a forested area in the Virunga Mountains that border Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is Rwanda's premier tourist attraction, with the mist-covered volcanoes of the Virungas being one of only two locations in the world where you can track a habituated family group of mountain gorillas (the other is Bwindi National Park in Uganda). It was here that Dian Fossey lived and died studying and protecting the gorillas, her efforts made famous in the film 'Gorillas in the Mist'. The opportunity to trek to a gorilla family and spend an hour in close proximity observing these remarkable creatures is one of the most thrilling wildlife experiences on Earth. Currently seven of the park's gorilla groups are habituated to tourists with eight permits available for each group every day. The park is also home to 75 other mammal species including elephant, buffalo and the endangered endemic Golden Monkey, a troop of which has also been habituated and can be tracked in the bamboo forests on the lower volcano slopes.
Rwanda has made remarkable progress since the 1994 genocide but it's important for both Rwandans and visitors alike to learn about what happened and remember the victims. The Kigali Memorial Centre, developed in association with the UK-based Aegis Trust, is a museum dedicated to telling the story genocide. It is an excellent but harrowing portrayal of the horrific events and a must see on any trip to Rwanda. The site at Gisozi is also the burial place for 250,000 genocide victims with several gardens and a Wall of Names also under construction. The churches at Nyamata and Ntarama south if Kigali were the sites of horrific massacres and are today disturbing memorials which contain the remains and possessions of thousands of the victims. Murambi near Gikongoro in southern Rwanda is perhaps the most disturbing of all the memorials - the school rooms which were the site of the slaughter of tens of thousands of Rwandans now contain hundreds of preserved bodies which were exhumed from mass graves at the site. An excellent new museum display at the site tells the story of the genocide, its build-up and victims.
Lake Bunyoni is the deepest crater lake in Africa, located in the south of Uganda near the Rwandan border. It is a beautiful setting that provides excellent bird watching opportunities, visits to the lake islands, swimming or hiking in the surrounding hills.
|Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in south-western Uganda comprises 330 km² of primeval forest in altitudes ranging from 1200 to 2800 metres. It's an area of remarkable biodiversity of plant life, birds and butterflies but the main draw is the mountain gorilla, of which there are approximately 300 in the park. This is one of only two locations in the world where you can track a habituated family group of mountain gorillas, probably the most exhilarating wildlife experience you can imagine, though it can take an arduous trek through the forest to find the gorillas. Bwindi is also home to other rare primates such as L'Hoest's monkey and the golden monkey.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
|Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park covers 2000 km² in western Uganda and is an area of extraordinary diversity in both landscape and fauna. Situated along the Kasinga Channel connecting Lakes George and Edward, the park comprises grasslands, crater lakes, tropical forests and papyrus swamps and is home to over 600 bird species and almost 100 mammals. These include the famous tree climbing lions, the Ugandan kob, sitatunga antelope, giant forest hog and topi, while boat trips along the Kasinga Channel allow for excellent bird watching as well as observing huge numbers of hippos, elephants and buffalo.
|Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park is an equatorial rainforest that has one of the highest concentration of primates in the world. The park contains 13 different species of primates, with the main draw being the 500 or so chimpanzees that live here which can be viewed on walking safaris. Other primates in Kibale include the black and white colobus monkey, red colobus, L'Hoest's monkey and the grey-cheeked mangabey. In addition the park has a huge diversity of butterflies and birds, including crowned eagles, yellow-mantled weavers, African grey parrot and the black bee-eater.
|Bujugali Falls and Jinja
Jinja is located at the source of the White Nile where it exits Lake Victoria. Here you can visit the source of the White Nile and the nearby Bujagali Falls. Jinja is also a major centre for adrenaline activities with excellent white water rafting on the Nile, bungee jumping and quad biking.
The Masai Mara is the finest wildlife reserve in Kenya and one of the most famous in all of Africa. Though quite small at just 1,500 km², the abundance of wildlife and the rolling plains and riverbank woodlands of the Mara make for great game drives. Part of the Serengeti ecosystem, it hosts the annual migration of wildebeest where immense herds head north from the Serengeti between July and October each year in search of fresh grazing lands. The huge numbers of wildebeest, zebra and gazelles means plentiful food for lions, leopards and cheetahs which can hunt in pristine wilderness. Other animals include elephant, black rhino, hyena and warthog while the Mara River is home to numerous hippos and crocodiles which prey on the game crossing the river during the Migration. The Mara isn't a national park which means the Masai people have retained their traditional way of life within the reserve, allowing visitors to see them herding cattle and learn of their culture during village visits, witnessing a wonderful harmony between people and nature.
Lake Nakuru is a beautiful national park, best know for its huge population of pink flamingos which are attracted to the algae of its soda lake - one of the greatest bird spectacles on earth where entire portions of the lake can be turned pink due to the vast numbers. Over 400 other bird species are also resident here, including 13 globally threatened species and is a major nesting and breeding ground for great white pelicans. On dry land, it's an excellent place to view black and white rhinos, as well as buffalo, cheetah, lion, greater kudu, zebra and the endangered Rothschild giraffe.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley
Lake Naivasha is a picturesque lake in the Great Rift Valley, that allows boat trips to view hippos and the abundant birdlife here, home to over 400 species. Nearby is Crescent Island Sanctuary where you can go on walking safari to view zebra, giraffe and wildebeest, Hell's Gate National Park for bike riding amidst spectacular canyons and hot springs and Elsamere, the former home of Joy Adamson of 'Born Free' fame, where you can learn about her life and work.
Mount Kenya is the second highest peak in Africa at 5199m. The trekking route up Mount Kenya has been described as more beautiful than that of Kilimanjaro. The trekking peak reached is Point Lenana at 4985m, higher are the technical peaks of Batian (5199m) and Nelion (5188m). For the less adventurous, the slopes of Mount Kenya makes for excellent hikes through grasslands, moorlands and dense forests.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest
|Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park is a small park but one with a rich diversity of game and birdlife. Set just north of the border with Tanzania, it has a spectacular setting in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, making it an ideal and popular spot for game viewing. There are over 50 mammal species, including elephant, leopard, lion, cheetah and buffalo as well as some 400 bird species.
|Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti is the quintessential East African national park and perhaps the most famous, covering some 15,000 km² of savannah plains. The Serengeti boasts the largest concentration of plains game in Africa, with an estimated three million large animals, including some 2,500 lions. It is famous as the location of the annual migration of huge herds of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles as they travel between here and the Masai Mara in Kenya in search of fresh grazing lands, offering excellent chances to see kills by predators seeking nourishment of their own.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Serengeti National Park
The Ngorongoro Crater in northern Tanzania is one of the most unique and exciting wildlife reserves in Africa. Ngorongoro is actually a caldera, formed from a collapsed volcano millions of years ago, which now forms a huge natural amphitheatre with perhaps the greatest permanent concentration of wildlife in Africa. The crater's steep walls (over 600 metres high) enclose a vast space of 260 km² which includes open savannah, swamps, forests and the Lake Magadi soda lake, attracting flamingos and other water birds. Most large African animals are found in the crater (exceptions being giraffe and white rhino) and the crater's walls, balance of species and permanent water source mean they rarely leave. Of particular note are some 30 black rhino, the largest concentration left in Africa, and its famous lion population, though the 60 or so lions found there today are apparently suffering from the effects of inbreeding. Leopards, elephants, buffalo, hippos, hyenas and various prey species also call the Ngorongoro Crater home. You may also spot Maasai tribesmen lead their cattle down the crater walls - they have grazing and watering rights in the crater.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Ngorongoro Conservation Area
|Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara National Park is one of the smaller of Tanzania's parks but has a diverse scenery ranging from dense woodlands to mountains, grassy floodplains and of course Lake Manyara itself. The park is famous for its elephant population while the lake provides great opportunities for bird watching, with a wide range of species including a population of flamingos. In addition leopards and the elusive tree-climbing lions may be seen in the forests, while blue and vervet monkeys are found in the park's mahogany and sausage trees.
Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa's highest mountain. It is a magnificent site, rising out of the surrounding plains, encircled in mountain forest, with its snowy peak 5,895m above sea level. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the great trekking challenges in the world. Though not requiring any specialist mountaineering skills, it is still a fairly arduous task, with oxygen levels at its peak only half those at sea level. The view from the top, with hundreds of miles of the plains of Tanzania and Kenya below you, make all the effort worthwhile though.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Kilimanjaro National Park
The exotic spice island of Zanzibar is one of the most evocative names in travel. Apart from Stone Town, the island comprises numerous spice plantations which can be visited with the chance to taste and buy numerous exotic spices. The island also has some of the most stunning beaches and waters you're ever likely to encounter with the chance to relax and view the marine wildlife by snorkelling or diving.
Stone Town on Zanzibar is a centuries old East African trading port. The town is a maze of narrow streets and passageways with the remains of beautiful homes built by Arab traders made rich by trading gold, ivory and slaves. Zanzibar was once the largest slave market on the east coast of Africa and the remains of the slave market can be visited, where a 19th century Anglican church now exists. Stone Town also has many quaint shops and bazaars, excellent for souvenir shopping and watching the dhow silhouettes in the sea at sunset is magical.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Stone Town of Zanzibar