Why You Should Visit Kenya Now 

Lioness and Cubs in Masai Mara. #VisitKenya, #Magical Kenya
Lions in Masai Mara Kenya. Photo by Olivier Ranrigo

Kenya is one of the countries in East Africa with diverse wildlife species and popularly known as Magical Kenya.  Its a Must Visit place for nature lovers and offers classic African safaris featuring a number of wildlife species. The country borders the Indian ocean and has a long coastline giving great chances for beach sports and activities.

Kenya opened its airport to international commercial flights 1st August 2020 after several months of lock down. This was due to the ongoing Corona Virus pandemic that has affected all economies worldwide. With the opening of Jomo Kenyatta international airport, you can visit Kenya for wildlife tours after several months of lock-down.

The variety of the game in Kenya ranges from Big Five animals, birds, reptiles evenly distributed over the beautiful landscapes. Most of these are seen while on game drives in the national parks.

Masai Mara is the most famous of all the national parks in Kenya with large populations of wild animals. Enjoy the wildebeest migration seeing millions of wildebeest move across the Serengeti and Mara Ecosystem looking for fresh pastures. This epic journey is enthusiastically awaited by the predators that hunt down the animals.

The Wildebeest migration is an adventure to look out for when you visit Kenya and East African in general. This can be enjoyed while on game drives in the park on organized wildlife tours.

Wildlife in Kenya can also be explored on Balloon Safaris also in Masai Mara National game reserve. This offers great aerial views of the animals below and the various landscapes the game reserve has.

Guided walking safaris or horseback riding allows you to get closer to wildlife enjoying sights and sounds of nature. Kenya has over twenty national parks all offering unique wildlife experiences. In case you are looking for a best post lock-down destination then Kenyan National Parks are places to be.

Water sport activities

Water Sports activities in Kenya are other alluring activities to this beautiful East African country. Kenya has a number of water bodies from lakes, rivers, the Indian Ocean offering opportunities for water sport activities.

Done activities include diving with sea animals like turtles, dolphins, sharks and to the coral reef gardens under the sea. Diving activities reduce in July and August as there are usually high sea tides and increased silting reducing visibility.

Most of these sea activities are done at Watamu Marine National park situated along the coast. The marine park has a number of diving sites making it an ideal place for even the learners. The reef at Watamu is near the shore and the coral gardens here can therefore be easily accessed.

Thrilling Adventures

Visit Kisite Mpunguti Marine game reserve where you can enjoy thrilling water sport activities with the marine wildlife species. The reserve is south of Mombasa with sea creatures like Manta Rays, the rare zebra sharks and other sea wildlife.

Thrilling adventures like snorkeling, Kite surfing,  sport fishing that can be done along the major water bodies in Kenya. White water rafting is a must for adventure tourists. Rafting is often done along River Tana that is just about 95 kilometers from Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. You can also do it along the Ewaso N’giro river where you even encounter the Savannas wildlife like  lions & elephants.

Beach Holidays

Kenya has beautiful white sand beaches ideal for beach holidays and beach sports like beach soccer and volleyball. The beaches offer havens where green sea turtles lay eggs and is ideal for those who want to sea them.

Explore the diverse Kenyan culture and heritage where you can have great cultural experiences while in Magical Kenya. Kenya has a diverse cultural background with a mixture of people including native Kenyans and the foreigners who settled there. They mainly include Asians, Indians, Europeans and other nationalities have continued to live in this beautiful country.

Authentic Kenyan culture can be experienced in the Villages where you get to meet some of the local and native people’s of Kenya.  Some have over the years preserved their culture for example the Masai and Turkana people. 

Cultural experiences are done after wildlife tours but you can still have a tailor made itinerary for culture and heritage. 

The economies are easing the lock-downs after the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic so visit Kenya for amazing wildlife safaris.  You can have game drives, water sporting activities and cultural encounters for the best of the East African travel memories. 

Mountain Gorilla Census Reveals an Increase in Population

Mountain Gorilla in Democratic Republic of Congo
Mountain Gorilla in Virunga National Park. Photo by Blue Skye Photos

A mountain gorilla census was conducted in 2018 in Bwindi Impenetrable forest in Uganda and Sarambwe reserve in the DRC.  This was aimed at establishing the mountain gorilla population in the two primates wildlife ecosystems. The mountain gorilla census results were released in December 2019 showing a steady increase of the mountain gorilla population. This is from an estimated 400 in the 2011 census to 459 as per the released results in December 2019.

With this, total mountain gorilla population is now estimated at 1063 gorillas when combined with those in the Virunga massif. The Virunga massif covers Volcanoes national park Rwanda, Mgahinga gorilla park Uganda and Virunga national park in DRC.

The Conservation Journey

The mountain gorilla conservation journey has not been an easy one but has over time yielded positive results. The population increase portrays conservation efforts as in 1980’s the population in the Virunga massif was as low as 240.

Many gorillas were killed in civil wars, poached and disease since they have a DNA similar to humans. The mountain gorilla habitats had been also encroached on which affected them further making their numbers shrink this low.

At the time, mountain gorillas had been listed as critically endangered primates species by the IUCN. There was therefore urgent need for mountain gorilla conservation to restore numbers and habitats for them.

A 2016 mountain gorilla census of the Virunga massif indicated gorilla population increase from 240 in the 1980’s to 604. With this, the mountain gorillas status in the IUCN Red list records was changed from critically endangered to endangered.

Mountain gorilla conservation has been supported by collaborative efforts from wildlife authorities in the 3 countries with the Mountain gorillas. With teams from these countries, surveys are easily done and with information sharing it makes the whole work very easy.

There has been more continued support from government and mountain gorilla conservation organizations like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Mountain Gorilla Tourism

The forested mountains of Bwindi and Virunga massif have habituated mountain gorilla families that are open to tourist visitation.

Because of need for conservation, only 8 tourists are allowed to track one mountain gorilla family per day. These tourists buy gorilla permits and part of the money from gorilla permits is used in mountain gorilla conservation.

Another percentage of the money from gorilla permits is given back to the community around the mountain gorilla national parks. This is because these people around where initially forest dwellers who entirely depended on the forests for livelihood. They were now resettled at the edge of the national parks to reduce on gorilla habitat encroachment and poaching.

 A gorilla tour to the misty mountains offers remarkable encounters that most tourists term as once in a life time experience.  Mountain gorilla tours  always leave lasting African safari  and primate tracking memories. 

A gorilla trek can be done any time of the year guided by trained ranger guides in gorilla national parks.

Mountain gorilla tours and safaris are on high demand therefore gorilla permits easily get fully booked. The peak travel seasons from July to September and from December to March is the most busy one.

You can have a Rwanda gorilla tour in Volcanoes national park that is a 3 hours drive from Kigali.  A Uganda gorilla tour can be enjoyed in Bwindi or Mgahinga gorilla park all located in the southwestern part of the country. Lastly, you can visit Virunga for a Virunga gorilla tour in DRC’s Virunga national park. 

We advocate for more conservation efforts towards all wildlife species including the endangered mountain gorillas.  We hope that in the next mountain gorilla census we will notice a further increase in the population. A number of baby gorilla births have been recorded in the three major mountain gorilla national parks.

Why A Post Covid 19 Lock-down Wildlife Safari in East Africa is Essential 

When the COVID19 pandemic outbreak was announced in December 2019, travel and tourism plus wildlife safari adventures were greatly affected.  These came to a standstill once governments instituted lock-downs prohibiting travel and social gatherings within the same country or town. For nature lovers, this was a setback as lock-downs were extended over a long time of up to 5 months.

As lock-downs are being eased and tourism slowly taking pace, a post COVID19 lock-down wildlife safari is very ideal.  The East African region is known worldwide for its wildlife wonders offering unique wildlife safari experiences.

Since lock-down was instated, there has been limited tourism activities in East African national parks enabling rejuvenation of wildlife. A wildlife safari to any of East Africa’s national parks now will be enjoyable offering fresh and exclusive encounters. We have listed some of the leading safari destinations you can opt for to revive your tourism love.  

Volcanoes national park situated in the northwestern part of Rwanda about a 3 hours drive from Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. The national park is a home to mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, over 180 bird species.

Mountain gorillas and golden monkey tracking are leading wildlife safari activities done in this park offering outstanding primate encounters. The mountain gorilla tracking experience starts with a briefing about the regulations to follow while in the forest. Tourists are then led to the forest as they enjoy the sound of nature from the birds and small insects. The hike takes 2 to 6 hours depending on the movement of the mountain gorilla. Tourists are given an hour in the presence of the gorillas taking photos keeping a 7 meters distance from them.

Gorillas have 95% DNA similar to humans therefore meeting gorillas in the wild is a unique man and wildlife encounter. This an excellent way of getting over the anxiety that pilled over during the COVID19 lock-down.  

Golden monkey tracking also starts with a briefing and then tourists are guided to the forest to meet them. Golden monkeys are covered in golden fur and live in the bamboo forest. They are pure vegetarians that mostly feed on bamboo shoots. For birders, you can’t miss out on seeing the major bird species while on a guided walk.

Mountain Gorilla- Wildlife Safari Rwanda
Gorilla in Volcanoes NP. Photo by Eric Manzi

Other Wildlife Safari Adventures in Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes national park has a number of mountains where one can do hiking for those interested in mountain climbing. Mount Bisoke has a crater lake and can be hiked in one day (a return trip). There is also Mount Karisimbi that is hiked in two days, spending a night in the mountain. While on the mountain hikes you are rewarded with scenic views of the Virunga volcanoes and the surrounding environment.

The views are priceless and refreshing therefore ensure to include volcanoes national park on your post COVID19 wildlife safari destinations. Remember to wear a mask and test for COVID19 because mountain gorillas can contact human diseases and need protection.

This beautiful safari destination is located in western Uganda just 4 hours drive from Kampala Uganda’s capital city. Lake Mburo National park has diverse wildlife species savanna wildlife like antelopes, over 315 bird species.

The park is an ideal escape for a post COVID19 lock-down with game drives where most wildlife is seen. Boat cruises are done on lake Mburo where you see animals especially hippos that spend time in the shallow waters. You can have guided nature walks here bringing you up-closer to animals like zebras and antelopes.  

There is horseback riding in this beautiful park with horses owned by Mihingo lodge.  Ensure to book for this activity in advance as priority is given to Mihingo Lodge guests. You can also do a cycling wildlife safari in the park but should also be booked in advance.  Lake Mburo national park is situated near the Ankole community where one can have a cultural experience.  You will get an opportunity to milk a cow and get to know more about the local people’s culture.

The park is easily accessed by road and the nearest savanna park to get to from Kampala. For those looking for relaxing nature encounters after lock-down, there could be no other option than this.

Lake Mburo National Park. Wildlife Safari Uganda
Views of Lake Mburo NP from Mihingo Lodge Swimming Pool

If in Kigali you can also visit Akagera National park that is located in the eastern part of Rwanda. This is only Savanna national park in Rwanda with Africa’s finest wildlife species. Often seen animals include lions, Rhinos, Elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, leopards, antelopes including Topis, water-bucks among others.

The park offers an opportunity for a boat cruise along lake Ihema where you see crocodiles and hippos.  There are also as primates like baboons and various bird species in Akagera national park.  Major activities in this park include game drives, boat cruises along Lake Ihema and birding excursions.

Those who want to stay overnight in the park can stay in the major lodges in the park.  The lodges in Akagera national park include Akagera game lodge, Ruzizi Tented Camp and the new Magashi Camp.

The time people have spent without working because of the lock-down has left many bankrupt which has greatly affected tourism. The above suggested post COVID19 wildlife safari destinations can be explored in a day a thus less spending yet enjoying. If your budget allows, you can spend a night in the park as people have been locked down for long. A night or day excursion in the park is very important at this point in time for nature lovers.  

Beautiful Less Explored East African Wildlife Destinations 

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. 

Eland in Selous Game Reserve Tanzania. Tanzania Wildlife Safaris
Eland in Selous Game Reserve Tanzania. Courtesy Photo

Wildlife Activities

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.

Accommodation

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.

Nyungwe National Park Rwanda. Land of A thousand Hills
Tropical Rain-forest in Nyungwe. Courtesy Photo

Getting There

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.  

Accommodation

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.

Elephants in Aberdare Mountain National Park. East African Wildlife
Elephants in Aberdare National Park Kenya. Courtesy Photo

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. 

Giraffes in Kidepo Valley NP, East African Wildlife
Giraffes in Kidepo Valley NP. Photo by Jonathan Benaiah

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. 

Getting there

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.

Accommodation

The lodges in the park offer great service and include Apoka Safari Lodge, Adere Safari Lodge and Ngamoru Safari Lodge.

Anyone seeking intimate and less crowded African safaris should include Kidepo valley national park on the bucket list.