By Evelyn Masaba
With its beautiful landscapes, fascinating tribal cultures and abundant wildlife, travellers to East Africa are always assured of an over-the-top experience. If you have never explored the treasures that East Africa has to offer, here are a few of our favourites that we have rounded up — right from the depth of the Tanganyika to the hills of Kisoro.
Probably the first country name that springs to someone’s lips when you mention that you are coming to East Africa, Tanzania is a big, beautiful gem that you can never tire from exploring. The country not only has long stretches of tantalising white sandy beaches located on the shores of the Indian Ocean but also shares the magnificent Lake Tanganyika with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Zambia.
Tanzania is just what you will need for a long vacation filled with exploration and relaxation. Your long itinerary can start with a nice drive through the Ngorongoro Crater, which is home to over 26,000 animals — a great way to organise a game drive and see the vast volcanic caldera.
Travel above sea level and climb the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro (pictured above), and tour the three peaks and a crater and get the thrill of a lifetime.
Afterwards, you can find your way to the Mafia and Pemba islands for some scuba diving. Then, wander through Zanzibar and check out old cities such the Old Fort, which brings history to life. Another thing not to miss here is the Butterfly Centre, which is filled with wondrous butterfly species.
You can explore the country’s national parks such as Serengeti, the true home of the African safari. Pass by Lake Victoria for a fishing expedition, take a tour of the capital Dar es Salaam and end your travels by relaxing at the Mbudya Island.
There is always so much to see in Kenya, be it in the middle of Nairobi or just off in the expansive rift valley. You do not have to ask yourself what you can do when you get there; Kenya is a magical destination filled with nature’s bounties!
A travellers’ heaven, Kenya is located east of Uganda and north of Tanzania. Visitors to Kenya can get a taste of the actual wild right in the middle of Nairobi by visiting the Nairobi National Park, whose residents include lions, leopards and giraffes. From here you can pass by Uhuru Park for a calming step into history.
Go camping and trekking through the Masai Mara, one of the biggest destinations in East Africa, and enjoy a sight of the wildebeests. You can also explore the other national parks such as Tsavo East & West, Amboseli and Hell’s Gate and then climb Mount Kenya and set your eyes on the amazing glaciers.
Kenya’s coastline is not deprived of adventure either. Explore the Watamu Marine National Park, Nyali and Diani Beach, Mombasa Marine National Park and wind up with the ancient ruins and history-packed museums of the Ruins of Gedi.
A wild beauty that still stands out. That is how you can describe Rwanda, a country that is nestled right in the heart of Africa. Even though Rwanda boasts beautiful rolling hills and thick forests that are home to the iconic mountain gorillas, the fun about exploring the country as a traveller is seeing how fresh and clean it is and the rate at which Kigali has developed since the end of the 1994 genocide that left the country in tatters.
You can start the Rwandan adventure from the historical Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre that is filled with several images of the lives lost during the 1994 genocide, and then take a walk through the beautiful capital Kigali, which is the cleanest city in East Africa. Enjoy fresh air and views of the volcanoes in the Volcanoes National Park, which is home to several mountain gorillas.
When it comes to camping, Akagera National Park should be the best choice since it has several lodgings and many wild animals to see on your drive through the park.
Then there is the stunning Nyungwe rainforest, another gem that offers chimpanzee treks and views of several other wild animals. For an utterly different experience, end your journey with a visit to Lake Kivu, Rwanda’s biggest lake which offers tremendous fishing spots.
The Pearl of Africa is just what you need after a year of crazy working hours. You need to relax, see nature and meet several warm people and enjoy your time off. Right from Kampala to the high volcanic peaks of Mount Elgon, you will have something to keep you busy throughout your trip.
Kampala has a very active social life and you will find something to do every day and night. There are several bars and nightclubs that are open all night long every single day of the week. Some of the most amazing sights you can enjoy during the day include the Baha’i Worship House, Namirembe Cathedral (one of the oldest churches in the country) and the magnificent Gaddafi Mosque that can be seen from anywhere within the city.
Away from Kampala, climb one of the highest mountains in East Africa, Mount Rwenzori, and enjoy wonderful views of the Albertine region.
Then go to the national parks and enjoy sightings of several animal species such as giraffes, lions, buffalos, zebras, elephants, etc. Birders can check out Mabira Forest, which is home to several bird species while those interesting in trekking mountain gorillas can go to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in the country’s west.