When some one mentions destination East Africa, there are a number of bucket list adventures that come to mind. The region has diverse wildlife species and is currently a must visit for nature lovers. The past years have been hard with the COVID 19 Pandemic effects but the year 2023 will be a great year as many countries have fully recovered from COVID. With this, an African safari is highly recommended as you get to tick some adventure activities off your bucket list. Let us look at the top experiences that you must not visit while in East Africa.
This primate trekking experience tops the bucket list of many travelers to the region. Mountain gorillas live in the forested mountains of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga massif. They have over 95% DNA similar to humans and are therefore among man’s closest wild relatives. Mountain gorillas live in families that are headed by a dominant male called Silverback and can be up to 20 individuals in one family.
They are pure vegetarians with their diet mainly comprised of plant vegetation, wild fruits, and bamboo shoots. Meeting the mountain gorillas in their most preferred habitats is very remarkable and a once-in-a-lifetime experience you must do while in East Africa. There are 4 main gorilla national parks in the region. They include Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable national parks in Uganda, and Virunga national park in DRC.
Because of the ongoing civil conflict in DRC, Virunga national park is currently closed and at the moment even gorilla trekking adventures are not possible. But the other three national parks are safe and open for tourist visitation. Important to note is that gorilla trekking is highly demanded and it is important to book the permits in advance.
This annual animal migration in Serengeti and Masai mara is an interesting event that is highly anticipated by wildlife enthusiasts. Millions of wildebeest, hundreds of Thompson gazelles, zebras and other major grazers move over the Serengeti and Masai mara ecosystem for fresh pasture. They stretch over the open plains in a journey that attracts predators, especially the big cats as they seek to get prey for their own survival.
The wildebeest migration is a life and death journey that as many are hunted, many are also given birth to especially in January. This rejuvenates the herbivores’ crowds and the migration cycle continues. Seeing animals in large numbers as it usually is the case for the migration is incredible. It is very ideal for wildlife viewing as game drives in national parks are all about that. On the wildebeest migration however it is even more impressive with not only the numbers but the variety of wildlife species present.
Crossings of the Mara and Gremeti Rivers are a game changer as the wildebeest meet their other major obstacle on the course, the Nile crocodiles. Some are giants and have over the years thrived on the wildebeest migration as they also readily take down their prey as the major grazers attempt to cross the Rivers.
The best time to catch with the wildebeest migration is from September to June. This time features the calving period, the River crossings and a start of the journey back up north through central and western Serengeti. It is important to know where the wildebeest are in a particular month to book the most appropriate accommodation. There are some temporary under canvas tents that move with the migration and can be great options to consider. Visit East Africa this coming year and get the wildebeest migration off your bucket list!
An African safari without the big five mammals is usually not considered a successful one. Africa’s and savanna’s big five mammals include elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards, and Rhinos. All of these have over the years been threatened by poaching, and habitat loss due to encroachment because of the increasing human population among other factors. Because of these, the population of major wildlife species has greatly reduced but destination east Africa thankfully still has many of these species.
In some places, species like the rhinos had gone extinct because rhinos are highly poached for medical purposes. These have however been reintroduced to foster conservation and ensure an ecosystem balance. A case in point is Rwanda’s Akagera national park which now has both black and white rhinos. The park now has all the big five mammals and safari game drives are very enjoyable. In Uganda’s Murchison falls national park, there are four of the big five with the exception of the rhinos. These however live at the Ziwa rhino sanctuary in Nakasongola about a 2 hours drive from the park. With this, you are able to experience the big five while on an adventure safari in Uganda. All safaris to Murchison falls national park features a stop over at the rhino sanctuary for rhino tracking.
Kenya and Tanzania’s wilderness’ beat Uganda and Rwanda when it comes to the big five. In Kenya’s Masai Mara national reserve, you get to see all of these and more while on game drives. In Tanzania, safari destinations like Serengeti, Selous, Ruaha, Tarangire, and many others have all or four of the big five. Here you get to enjoy classic African safaris either on game drives, nature walks, or hot air balloon safaris. Selous and Ruaha are among the less traveled paths and offer exclusive safari adventures.
East Africa is a birders’ haven and a variety of bird species. The various ecosystems in the area are home to the many bird species including endemics that occur only in the region. There are various important birding areas including Nyungwe forest in Rwanda, Akagera national park that is the largest protected wetland in the area among others.
In the open plains of the vast savanna are a number of bird species. Many of these are seen on birding safaris in the different protected area. The best birding season in the reason is from November to May when the migratory birds from Europe are in the region as well.
Birding in East Africa is very rewarding and highly recommended among the must do bucket list adventures in the region.