What is it about East Africa that gets people coming back? Is it the fantastic wildlife, the thrilling wildebeest migration, the vast plains extending to the horizon or is it the ambiance that lets you free your intrepid spirit? We have rounded up the best places that are a must visit and will leave you wanting to visit again.
- Maasai Mara
- Lake Nakuru National Park and Lake Naivasha
- Mount Kilimanjaro
The Maasai Mara is regarded as the jewel of Kenya’s wildlife viewing and is one of the most popular tourism destinations in the world. The reserve is located in the Great Rift Valley in primarily open grassland. It covers 1 115 km² with beautiful vistas and all year wildlife on the endless plains. Wildlife tends to be most concentrated on the reserve’s western escarpment. The eastern end is closest to Nairobi and hence easily accessible.
Maasai Mara was made famous to the world during the 1980s by the movie Out of Africa which was based on the book written by Karen Blixen who then lived in Kenya. The Oscar winning film starred actress Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. It exposed to the world majestic views of endless plains teeming with wildlife.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is the Seventh Wonder of the World because of the annual wildebeest migration. Imagine the view and rhythm of about 1.3 million wildebeests moving in a stream into the Mara from Serengeti. Add to that over 200 000 zebra, almost 500 000 gazelles and other herds of animals and maybe you’ll have an idea of the thrilling adventure.
The annual circular route is a spectacular sight to behold and full of thrill as the animals migrate followed closely by their predators: you simply have to visit. There are other activities to do including game drives, hot air balloon rides, bird watching, wildlife photography, cultural visits to Maasai villages, and bush meals among others.
Lake Nakuru National Park is in the Rift Valley of Kenya, surrounded by wooded and bushy grassland. The park is famous for bird watching especially the flamingoes. The ecosystem provides for about 56 different species of mammals including the white rhino and buffaloes and also a wide variety of terrestrial birds numbering nearly 450 species.
The lake is world famous as the location of the greatest bird spectacle on earth – myriads of fuchsia pink flamingos whose number is countless, often more than a million – or even two million. They feed on the abundant algae, which thrives in the warm waters.
Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake in Nakuru County and part of the Rift Valley. The lake extends like a vast, sunlit sea. Stand on one side of it and you won't see the other; only clouds of water birds and the pinkened ears of hippos. The lake is characterized by cacti, sand olive trees and acacia trees. In these trees, you will find giraffes wandering around while the rhinos and buffaloes wallow in the swamps. You will also find the Colobus monkeys playing in the trees.
Beside the lake, lies Hell’s Gate National Park. The park was named for its massive cliffs framing active steam vents bubbling with hot springs of water. The park has wildlife and you can also do bird watching. A bonus: Mark Zuckerberg visited Lake Naivasha in 2016 on his tour to Kenya and loved it. Don’t be left out on this experience.
Mt. Kilimanjaro is not only the highest mountain in Africa with its peak at 5895 metres above sea level but the highest free-standing mountain in the world. You cannot visit East Africa and fail to go mountain climbing in Tanzania. There are seven routes for ascent up the mountain but the most popular are Machame, Marangu, Lemosho and Rongai routes. When choosing which routes to use, various factors should be considered:
- What do you want to get out of the climb
- Physical ability and fitness
- Aptitude hiking and mountaineering skills required
All the same, all the routes will get you the peak, Uhuru Peak. Along Lemosho route especially at the base of the mountain you may find some wildlife like elephants and buffalo. There are porters who help to carry the food and other luggage. So when you are doing this challenging adventure, remember to carry tips for these strong men. The view of the vast plains and sunrise at the peak is everything and will reward your hard work to get to the peak. The summit is considered to be the roof top of Africa.
Serengeti is one of Africa’s wildlife premier destinations and hosts the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world. It also renowned for its large lion population among other mammals and 500 bird species. The Ngorongoro Crater found in the Serengeti ecosystem is an old collapsed-in volcano. The area hosts more than 25000 large mammals therefore superb for game viewing. Drives through the endless plains will expose you to lots of wildlife such as lions, buffalos, gazelles, blue wildebeests among others. If you are looking for a wildlife safari, then you can’t afford to miss visiting the Serengeti ecosystem.
Rwanda provides the easiest access to gorilla trekking therefore suitable for a short period safari. Just over half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas are found in the Volcanoes National Park. The park is covered with incredible forest- mountains and six volcanoes. The Volcanoes National Park is only a few hours’ drive from Kigali therefore you won’t take a lot of time. Here you will find the mountain gorillas which are large with black coats. The open terrains and bamboo forests allows light into the surrounding making it good for photography.
The gorillas’ numbers have drastically reduced in the world, so this will be a precious trip.
Zanzibar is a collection of islands off the coast of Tanzania. The island is renowned for its variety of spices grown there and is sometimes referred to as the Spice Island. The Island’s rich history strongly influenced by Arabic culture and the white sand beaches are truly appealing.
There are lots of water activities to engage in. You could just relax at the idyllic beaches, swim, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, waterskiing or the traditional dhow sailing to off lying islands. Zanzibar is ideal for divers because of its warm, clear waters filled with marine life and the colorful coral reefs. You can also do a historical tour to Stone Town and enjoy the rich architecture built by the Arabs. It is a must visit for all, beach idlers or sea divers.