There are many less explored East African Wildlife Safari destinations despite the popularity of the region. Wildlife safaris in East Africa have gained momentum over the years becoming a new normal for nature lovers.
East African Countries because of their diverse wildlife have become Africa’s leading safari destinations as seen in increasing tourist arrivals. Local tourists in East African Wildlife destinations have also increased as people seek to reconnect with nature.
Most visited national parks include Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystems for Wildebeest migration and the Big Five mammals. Bwindi Impenetrable in Uganda and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda are famous for Mountain gorillas. Ngoro Ngoro Crater in Tanzania is famous for the Big five and the beautiful scenic views. Murchison falls National Park in Uganda is famous for the diverse wildlife species, the strongest waterfalls among others.
Many other East African wildlife destinations remain less explored yet they equally offer great wildlife one on one safari encounters. Lets look at some of these places.
Selous is Africa’s largest game reserve situated in Tanzania covering a total area of 50,000 square kilometers. The reserve has undisturbed diverse wildlife making it East Africa’s must visit destination for those seeking intimate and classic safaris.
Common animals in Selous Game Reserve include Africa’s big five that are the Elephants, Rhinos, Lions, Buffaloes and leopards. Others include Giraffes, Nile crocodiles, Hippos, wild dogs, spotted hyenas, wildebeest, Zebras and antelopes like impalas, elands, water-bucks and bush-bucks.
Game drives are most common with encounters of Africa’s Savanna wildlife. Boat cruises are also done along rivers and channels enabling tourists to see animals like Crocodiles and Hippos. Selous game reserve has one of the highest hippo populations in East Africa thus an ideal place to see hippos.
Nature walks are great options for those interested in close one on one encounters with wildlife. Wildlife you see while on foot guided nature walks include elephants, buffaloes, zebras and sometimes lions. There are overnight fly-camping excursions for those interested in nocturnal wildlife and like to sleep out hearing animal roars. These are arranged by lodges therefore ensure to book in advance.
For Birders, Selous Game reserve has over 440 recorded bird species. Various bird species are often seen flying around the Miombo woodlands, lakes, Swamps and rivers in Selous game reserve. Commonly seen birds include Fish Eagles, Turacos, white-crowned plovers, Ibises, yellow-billed storks, horn bills, Egrets, herons and so many others.
To avoid humans and wildlife conflicts, no local human settlement is allowed in the game reserve. This has enabled wildlife conservation and its why the reserve has large populations of different wildlife species.
Best time to Visit
The best time to visit Selous game reserve is in the dry season from July to November. During the dry season its a easy to do the major wildlife activities with no or minimal rainfall disturbances. Selous game reserve can also be visited in the wet season as they are usually good times for birding.
There are a number of tented camps and lodges that offer great services and are always ready to compliment safaris. Many of the accommodation facilities are concentrated in the northern part of the reserve. Some of them include; Selous Serena Camp, Sand Rivers Selous, Selous Rufiji River Camp and many others.
Depending on where you are in Tanzania, the game reserve can be accessed by road or a domestic scheduled flight.
Located in southwestern Rwanda, Nyungwe forest national park has one of Africa’s oldest rain forests. The forested park is a home to primates like chimpanzees, Vervet monkeys, l’hoest monkeys, owl-faced monkeys, red-tailed and blue monkeys. There are over 320 bird species in the forest and most of which endemic to the Albertine rift valley.
Nyungwe park has well developed trails that are followed while on adventures seeking to explore the parks’ hidden wildlife treasures. The tourism potential of Nyungwe national park has not been fully explored as there is still so much uncover. There are over 70 mammal species recorded here including the rarely seen Mongoose, Serval cats, leopard and giant forest hogs.
Activities in Nyungwe Forest
Chimpanzee tracking is the common tourist activity done in Nyungwe forest national park. There are other primate trekking in search for Colobus and L’hoest monkeys plus other primates in the Park.
Birding, guided nature walks and canopy walks are also available in the park where you get to meet rarely seen wildlife species.
There are extensive tea plantations at the edge of the park giving opportunities for one to learn about tea growing. You also get to interact with local people in the area getting to know more about their ways of life. Those interested in exclusive primates, birding and nature encounters, Nyungwe forest national park is an ideal place to visit.
The park can be accessed by road from Kigali in a long drive taking a 6 to 7 hours. This gives one an opportunity to explore the Rwandan countryside and beautiful scenery of the interlocking highlands. You can fly to Kamembe airstrip and connect to the park in an hours drive to avoid the long drives.
While visiting Nyungwe Forest Park you can stay at Gisakura guesthouse which is the main budget accommodation option available. Nyungwe Top View hotel and Emeraude resort are mid range and Only&Only Nyungwe House is the luxury option. All these are within the vicinity of the park and offer great services.
This national park is located in Aberdare mountain ranges in central Kenya about 160 kilometers from Nairobi Kenya’s capital city. The park is located east of the great East African rift valley. It’s very mountainous with altitudes ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 meters above sea level.
Aberdare national park has various landscapes which makes it a unique East African wildlife destination. The park offers scenic views of the steep slopes, V-shaped valleys that are crossed by water streams and rivers.
Some rivers and water streams form waterfalls in the national park the most popular waterfalls being Karuru waterfalls. Different vegetation types flourish in Aberdare national park ranging from Savanna grasslands and tropical rain-forests at the lower mountain slopes. Bamboo forests, heath and moorland vegetation flourish as you go to the higher mountain slopes.
Wildlife & Activities
Aberdare national park is home to various wildlife commonly seen being forest elephants, buffaloes, black rhinos, lions and forest hogs. Rare animal sightings include leopards, elands, duikers, Jackals, wild-dogs, bush-bucks, African golden cats and bongos.
There are over 250 bird species recorded in the park. Common birds include Sun-birds, plovers, Sparrow hawks, Aberdare Cisticola, African yellow warblers, crowned eagles, African goshawk and African paradise flycatchers.
Primates also exist in Aberdare and some of them include Olive baboons, sykes monkeys, colobus monkeys and olive baboons.
The wildlife here is seen while on game drives, guided nature walks, birding and mountain hiking.
This is the most isolated national park in Uganda located in the northeastern part. With a land area of 1,442 square kilometers, the park is home to over 77 mammals and 475 birds species.
The northeastern part of Uganda is semi arid but very magnificent with unique wildlife. With this, Kidepo valley national park has often been referred to as the True African Wilderness.
Wildlife & Activities
Kidepo valley national park is a ideal place for rewarding game drives and an excellent East African Wildlife destination. While here look out for Lions often seen sitting on rock outcrops within the park.
There are buffaloes, zebras, elephants, leopards, jackals, bush pigs, giraffes, antelopes that include elands, Uganda kobs, oribis and many others.
Most of these animals live in the Narus valley that has the park’s permanent water points throughout the year. The Narus valley is thus an ideal place for game drives and birding. There are also guided nature walks in Kidepo valley to the mountain areas for those interested in mountain climbing.
Some walks are also done through the Narus valley to the neighboring Karamojong communities which offer a unique cultural experiences. The Karamojong are some of the few African communities that have over the years stuck to their original cultural practices.
Given that the park is isolated, it takes an 8 to 10 hours drive to get there. This involves en route stop overs for photography and also for a lunch break. Once can also fly from Entebbe international airport or other airstrips into the park and then head to the lodge.