Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s Top Tour Experiences

Democratic Republic of Congo has diverse wildlife species and offers by far some of the most outstanding tour experiences. The country is now part of the East African community adding to the great tourism diversity the region has. In the Congo you will find endemics that occur only there and can not be found in any other place.

The country is among the less traveled destinations and a lot of it is still untouched. This gives one an opportunity to enjoy exclusive tour experiences that range from primate treks to the rich culture and heritage experiences. Let us look at some of the highly rated tour experiences that you must be apart of when exploring the Congo.

Golden Monkey in Virunga National Park. Wildlife Tour Experiences
Golden Monkey in Virunga National Park. Photo by Steve Woods

Democratic Republic of Congo is among the 3 countries with mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas are primates with over 95% DNA similar to humans. This makes them among man’s closest wild relatives and mountain gorilla trekking tours are now among the highly demanded and sought after tour experiences in East Africa.

Mountain gorillas in Congo live in Virunga national park Africa’s oldest national park. The park is part of the great Virunga massif that is a chain of Volcanic mountains shared among the three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Mountain gorillas just like their name prefer to live in the forested mountains. They mainly feed on plant vegetation and bamboo shoots.

They live in families of up to 20 individuals or more that are led by a dominant male gorilla called Silverback. There are ten habituated mountain gorilla families that are open to tourism visitation. For now the park is currently closed due to insecurity issues but it offers incredible mountain gorilla tracking tour experiences. Unlike the other three gorilla parks, Virunga national park receives few tourists making it an ideal gorilla trekking destination especially for those who seek exclusive tour experiences.

Mount Nyiragongo is among world’s most active Volcanic mountains with its last eruption having happened in May 2021. The eruption was very destructive displacing over 364,000 people. Before the eruption mount Nyiragongo had gained momentum ranking among the leading adventurous tour activities in Virunga national park.

The mountain has a lava lake on it’s summit that is best seen early morning or in the evening. Hikers of this mountain would spend a night on the mountain summit to be able to catch a glimpse on the hot lava lake on the mountain. Much as hiking was temporarily halted, once open again the Nyiragongo will still offer by far the top mountain hiking tour experiences in the region.

It is over a year since the last eruption happened and so far no serious seismic action has been reported. We anticipate that by the end of next year maybe the mountain and park will be open again to tourism.

Democratic Republic of Congo is also home to the eastern lowland gorillas. Eastern lowland gorillas live in Kahuzi Beiga national park situated in Eastern Congo. These are endemic to the forested mountains of Kahuzi and Beiga and it is the only place to see them in the wild. Kahuzi Biega national park can be accessed via Rwanda to Bukavu on the shores of Lake Kivu.

Eastern lowland gorillas just like mountain gorillas live in families led by a dominant male gorillas. They are also vegetarian but are bigger in size compared to the mountain gorillas. Congo is therefore the only destination in the planet where you can enjoy two gorilla species tour experiences. Just like many other wildlife destinations in Congo, Kahuzi biega national offers exclusive tour experiences. There are few tourists to the park enabling one to enjoy the lowland gorilla trek without any disturbances.

For many other primates and savanna big five mammal experiences destination east Africa got you covered. You can visit Democratic Republic of Congo for the less disturbed and exclusive primate experiences. Kenya and Tanzania have the big five where you can enjoy classic savanna game drives. Uganda and Rwanda offer both the primates and savanna wildlife experiences.

Birding tour experiences

There are a number of bird species in Democratic Republic of Congo including endemics of the Albertine rift and the Congo forests. This makes the country among the ultimate birding safari destinations. Birding in the country is done in the major protected areas including Virunga national park. There are over 706 bird species recorded in the park. Some of the birds here include Yellow-Billed Barnet, Rwenzori Turaco, Narrow-tailed starling among others.

There are trails in the park that you can take on a birding expedition with chances of seeing other primates especially monkeys.

Other national treks in Congo also include golden monkey trekking in Virunga national park. The country much as it has gone through a number of insecurity issues it is still the best less disturbed wildlife destinations in East Africa. Tour experiences here can be enjoyed any time of the year. You can directly fly to Goma international airport if interested in Visiting Virunga national park. Alternatively you can fly into Kigali international airport and then connect to Virunga or Kahuzi Biega by road.

If interested in having a combined tour with Virunga and Kahuzi Biega you can connect to the two parks by Ferry along Lake Kivu.

French is widely spoken along with a number of Congolese native languages. English is also spoken but by few especially in towns. For easy communication and getting around it is advisable to get a local guide. The country can be visited any time of the year but the months of April, May and November have a lot of rainfall and double as a low tourist season. With the rainfall disturbances, some roads become impassable and tracking trails become hard to hike. This does not mean that you can not visit the country during these months. For birders it time when migratory birds set in.

There are many descent accommodation options in the major towns and near the parks that one can choose from. To avoid any inconveniences it is better to book lodging option within the proximity of the area you are visiting.

Rwanda Birding Safaris To Be Part of this August

Rwanda popularly is an incredible destination for birding safaris thanks to its wildlife diversity. Over the years the country has slowly emerged as a leading birding and wildlife destination in East Africa as adventure lovers Visit Rwanda to fulfil their bucket list desires.

Birding safaris are a niche in overall wildlife adventures giving one an opportunity to explore the various avian species. Rwanda is a diverse ecosystem ranging from open savanna’s, swamps and tropical rain forests that are all homes to various bird species.

Lets us look at the leading Rwanda birding safaris one must not miss while in Rwanda this August.

Great Blue Turaco Nyungwe National Park. Rwanda Birding safaris
Great Blue Turaco Nyungwe NP Rwanda. Photo by Eric Manzi

Nyungwe Forest Birding Safaris

Nyungwe forest is the regions oldest and best preserved rain forests comprising of a tropical rain forest, swamps, bogs and bamboo. At a land area of 1019 square kilometres, the forest is home to over 300 bird species and 13 primate species.

Forested national park has a number of bird species endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley and is recognised by Birdlife International as an Important Birding Area. It is Rwanda’s leading destination for birding safaris that can be complemented by primate treks in the park.

Notable birds in Nyungwe forest include the Rwenzori Turaco, Kivu ground thrush, Regal sunbird, great blue turaco, crowned hornbills, long crested eagles among others. Being a forested park birding safaris can be enjoyed on guided nature walks along the different trails in the forest.

August is among the best months to visit Rwanda as being in the middle of the dry season, hiking through the forest is easy. With this you have more chances of exploring the forests bird life and other wildlife species. The wet season from October to May is also a great time for birding safari species as the migratory birds set in.

While visiting Nyungwe for chimpanzee or other primate treks entree to add a birding safari as it is worth the adventure.

Akagera Birding Safaris

Akagera national park is the only savanna national park in Rwanda. The park is the regions largest protected wetland with over 480 bird species making it an ultimate destination for birding safaris. About 100 of the bird species are endemic to the park and can not be seen in any other place in Rwanda.

The park is located in the eastern part of the country just about a 3 hours drive from Kigali Rwanda’s capital city. Akagera national park ranks second after Nyungwe in Rwanda’s leading birding destinations. Birding safaris in Akagera are doable year out with the dry season a good time to see wetland bad as there is minimal rainfall disturbances and the wetlands can be easily accessed.

Notable birds in Akagera include grey crowned cranes, papyrus gonolek, Amur falcon, shoebill storks, African fish eagle, African Jacana, crested barbets among others. Those interested in migratory birds can visit the park from November to May.

As we enter the month of August, visit Rwanda and add birding safaris to Akagera on your bucket list.

Gishwati Mukura Birding Safaris

Giswhati Mukura is among the newest protected national parks in Rwanda. The forested park covers a land area of 34 square kilometres and comprises of two main forests Giswati and Mukura.

The forested park has over 200 bird species including the Albertine Rift Valley endemics. The park is past of an extension of the Virunga massif and had been greatly affected by deforestation. Over the years however there has been a lot of conservation efforts and the park has been fully restored open to nature enthusiast including birders.

Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes national park Rwanda is also a good place for birding in Rwanda. The park has over 180 bird species however many of these occur in Nyungwe forest as well. Some bird species can be seen while gorilla trekking or hiking in the park. Just like in Nyungwe forest, some Albertine endemic bird species can be seen in Volcanoes national park. Notable birds here include the Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori apalis, Rwenzori night jar, African long-earled owl among others. Volcanoes national park is most famous for the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. It among the few places on the planet where you can have a great primate experience.

Overall Destination Rwanda is an incredible place for an African safari. In Akagera national park you will be able to enjoy the big five mammals and classic African safaris. The park can be explored on game drives and boat cruises that are still great opportunities to see some of the birds in the park. On foot rhino tracking has been recently introduced in the park enabling one to track one of the big five mammals. Akagera has both Black and White rhinos that were reintroduced in the park as a move to restore the park’s wildlife species.

Nyungwe forest national park is most famous for chimpanzee trekking and other primates. There are also a number of guided nature walks to the waterfalls and other leading trails for birding and other primate treks.

Visa Policy

For Visas, Rwanda has some of the friendliest visa policy where many can get the visa on arrival at the airport. The Rwanda single entry visa costs $30 per person the most affordable one in the region. In case you want to visit Uganda and Kenya then you can opt for the East African tourist visa that is multiple entry and can give you access to the three countries. There is a provision for online visa application but in case you fail to get the link you can still get the Visa upon arrival at the airport.

Accommodation

There are a number of accommodation facilities in the different wildlife and birding destinations in Rwanda. These range from budget to high end luxury options. The best time to visit Rwanda for either birding or general wildlife safari is in the dry season from June to October and from December to March. The dry season doubles as the peak tourist season and it is very important to book your accommodation and tour in advance as parks get fully booked sometimes.

Congo the Ultimate Primate Trekking Destination

The Democratic Republic of Congo is no doubt the ultimate primate trekking destination all thanks to the country’s wildlife diversity. Congo remains one of the less explored wildlife destination offering virgin and authentic wildlife experiences. The country is home to East Africa’s leading primates including endemics found in no other place on the planet.

Much as the country is disturbed by security issues, tourism activity is still ongoing in the Kahuzi Biega national park area. Virunga national park is still closed since the Mount Nyiragongo Erupted but we hope it will eventually be opened.

Let us briefly look at Congo’s major primates trekking experiences that make the country an ultimate primate trekking destination.

Chimpanzee at Lwiro Sanctuary. Congo Primate expeditions
Chimpanzee at Lwiro Sanctuary. Courtesy Photo

Democratic Republic of Congo is among the 3 countries on the planet with the remaining populations of mountain gorillas. These rare primate have over 95% DNA similar to humans and their total population is currently estimated at 1100. They in live in the Virunga massif a chain of volcanic mountains along the Uganda, Rwanda and DRC border and in Bwindi impenetrable forest.

The Virunga massif has over 600 mountain gorillas and rest of the population is in Bwindi impenetrable forest. The Virunga massif has 3 major gorilla parks Virunga national park included which is also Africa’s oldest national park.

Virunga national park has a number of habituated mountain gorillas families that are open to tourist visitation. Mountain gorilla trekking here is very enjoyable as you get to meet some of man’s wild relatives. Much the park is currently closed, it will open again with time when it is safe for visitation giving way to the much desired primate trekking expeditions.

Eastern lowland gorillas live in the forest mountains of Kahuzi Biega national park. These are the largest of the all the gorilla subspecies and also live in families headed by a dominant male called Silverback. Just like the mountain gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas are also vegetarian and depend on plant vegetation and wild fruits.

Eastern lowland gorilla offers a great primate trekking experience and an opportunity to see other wildlife species in the park. Kahuzi Biega national park is home other primates including chimpanzees, Colobus monkeys, L’hoest monkeys among others. There are also birding opportunities here as the park is home to over 400 bird species.

There are however lowland gorilla trekking regulations to be followed while in the park. Only tourists are allowed to track a gorilla family staying in their presence for a minimus of 1 hour. This is to limit behavioural change among the mountain gorillas which results from the long hours of human and mountain gorilla exposure. Since they have over 95% DNA similar to human beings they can easily adapt human behaviour.

One is also required to keep a distance of about 7 meters away from them as they can easily charge when they feel threatened. Flash photography is strictly not allowed and one is advised to wear clothes that blend with nature colours.

Lwiro Sanctuary is a rehabilitation centre for chimpanzees but it is also home to other wildlife species. The sanctuary is located just 4 kilometres from Kahuzi Biega national park in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite its wildlife diversity and abundance, the country has the highest rates of poaching in the region. Many wildlife species are poached to be sold for food in local markets while others are hunted for medicine.

The Lwiro sanctuary was therefore set up as home to look after primates especially chimpanzees that are rescued from the poachers. There are currently over 107 chimpanzees, various monkey species including red tailed monkeys, Patas monkeys, Blue monkeys among others. Other wildlife at Lwiro include porcupines, parrots that are highly poached in the Congo.

A visit to the Lwiro Sanctuary is highly recommended for more exciting primate expeditions. The sanctuary can be visited after gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Biega national park.

Senkwekwe Gorilla Sanctuary Experience

Senkwekwe Mountain Gorilla Sanctuary is the only facility for orphaned mountain gorillas. It was set up in 2009 and now acts as home to mountain and lowland gorillas rescued from poaching or traps (snares) in the park.

A visit to the centre gives one more insight about mountain gorillas offering exclusive primate experiences. Looking after the gorillas here follows a routine that must be maintained for the safety and well being of the gorillas. They are given early morning breakfast and then left to go out and play. Later in the evening they are lured back into their sleeping area with food where they stay until the next morning.

While seeking for more intimate primate trekking experiences in Virunga national park ensure to add Senkwekwe Mountain Gorilla Sanctuary to your itinerary.

Golden Monkey trekking experiences

Golden monkeys are other rare primates species endemic to the Virunga massif. Just like their name golden monkeys are covered with golden fur and also live in families like other major primates. Congo is one of the few places where you can experience golden monkey trekking.

Other places with golden monkeys include Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park and Uganda’s Maghinga gorilla park. These are all part of the great Virunga massif.

Golden monkey experiences can be enjoyed in Virunga national park as you get to know more about these least explored primate species of the Virungas’.

As the security situation is slowly getting back to normal, many primate adventure travellers would love to Visit the Congo. For now Kahuzi Biega national park is open for those interested in Eastern Lowland gorillas. The Lwiro sanctuary is also currently open for Visitation. Virunga national park the most famous of all the primate parks will eventually open.

Visit East Africa’s other leading primate destinations that include Rwanda and Uganda. In Rwanda Nyungwe forest in the south western part of the country is home to 13 primates including the chimpanzees. For Mountain gorilla trekking then a visit to Volcanoes national park is very ideal. In Uganda, Kibale national park is popularly known as the primate capital of the world because of the parks high chimpanzee population as well as other primates.

Other popular chimpanzee trekking destinations in Uganda include Budongo forest, Kyambura forest, Kalinzu forest among others. For Mountain gorilla trekking, Uganda has 2 gorilla parks that are Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla park.

East African Birding Destinations to Visit this June

The East African region stands out in the many birding destinations world wide. The region has over 1500 recorded bird species including endemics that can not be found In any other places. East Africa’s diverse wildlife also Makes birding journeys in the region more memorable as you get to see a number of wildlife species including the big five mammals. As we kick start the peak tourist season, lets look at some of the birding destinations you should not miss visiting this June.

Shoebill Stork at Mabamba Swamp. Birding destinations
Shoebill Stork at Mabamba Swamp Uganda. Photo by Newman Dixon

Mabamba Swamp Uganda

Covering an area of 2424 hectares, Mabamba swamp is among Uganda’s best birding destinations. Its situated on the Northern shores of lake Victoria and comprises of marshes of papyrus, water Lillies among other swamp vegetation species. The swamp is home to over 300 bird species including the rare shoebill stork. Other notable birds here include the grey crowned cranes, Hammerkops, Egrets, African Jacana, Palm-nut Vulture, swamp flycatcher among others.

The beauty about birding in Mabamba is its done by motorized canoe riding through a maze of the thick swamp vegetation an adventurous activity in itself. Birders here are often interested in finding the shoebill stork as the wetland is the best place to see the shoebill stork in Uganda. The best time of birding is very early morning as the shoebill prefer hunting its favorite meal (Lung fish) around that time. Evenings are also great times for birding as you get to also enjoy the African sunset.

While in Uganda ensure to visit Mabamba for your ultimate birding excursion. Birding here is doable all year round. Incase you want general birding safaris in Uganda the best time to Visit is from November to April when migratory birds set in giving one a wide range of opportunities to watch.

Akagera national park is Rwanda’s only Savanna national park and an important birding Area in the country after Nyungwe forest. There are over 480 recorded bird species here with 100 endemics and can therefore not be found in any other national park. The parks diverse ecosystems of wetland, grasslands and woodlands gives it an advantage making it an excellent area for a birding safari.

Notable birds to see in Akagera include the African fish eagle, Africa Jacana, shoebill stork, booted eagle, crested barbet, grey crowned cranes, western reef heron among others. Birding journeys here are very much complemented by safari game drives featuring the big five mammals. The park now has both the White and black rhinos that were reintroduced in the park after they had gone extinct.

Birding safaris in Akagera can be done throughout the year with the dry season offering opportunities to see wetland birds among others. The wet season especially in November Is a great time to see migratory birds with these spanning upto April.

This wanderlust ecosystem is not only famous for its wildebeest migrations, big cats but also a birders haven. The park is located in northern Tanzania and together with Kenya’s Masai Mara form the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. Here the renown annual mass wildebeest migration takes place as wildebeest, Thompson gazelles, zebras, and many others move over the endless plains of the Serengeti.

There are over 500 bird species recorded in Serengeti alone with about 5 Endemic bird species found in no other place. Notable birds here include Fischer’s Lovebird, Kori Bustard, Secretary bird, silver bird, grey backed fiscal, among others. The best time for a birding safari adventure in Serengeti is from November to April when resident birds are nesting and in full plumage. The migratory birds also set in coming from as far as Europe and north Africa.

You can still enjoy a birding safari in the dry season when savanna game drives are very much enjoyable with less disturbances from the rains. Birding safari journeys in Serengeti are very enjoyable as you get to see more the park has to offer including East Africa’s most sought for wildlife species.

Lake Nakuru is strategically located on the floor of the great Rift Valley and is surrounded by wooded and bushy grasslands. The park covers a land area of 188 square kilometers and is among Kenya‘s Best wildlife and birding destinations. Its a soda lake previously famous for its thousands of flamingos that were driven away to other lakes by harsh climate conditions. They however still occur though in few numbers if compared to the past.

Pelicans however occur in large numbers as well other birds. Other Notable birds here include the greater blue-eared starling, Batuleur, crab-plover, grey crowned Cranes, Maccoa duck, great snipe among others. The best time for birding adventures around lake Nakuru is during the breeding season from November to April when birds are in full plumage. This is the time when migratory birds also set in giving one a variety of species to see.

The park is also home to other wildlife species including Rhinos, waterbucks, giraffes, buffaloes, zebras among others. While on a visit east Africa expedition you can check out the above featured birding destinations for your memorable wildlife expedition.

Other notable must visit birding ares include Nyungwe forest, Bwindi impenetrable national park, the Ngorongoro crater among others.

The Best of A Uganda Safari Adventure

Popularly Known as the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is one of the best East African safari destinations. Having a Uganda Safari Adventure this new year is highly recommended as you would get to explore the country’s major wildlife. As the world is slowly opening up after the COVID 19 lockdowns, tourists numbers are few making it a great time to have intimate safari experiences.

For a successful Uganda Safari adventure, there are some bucket list places and experiences you must be apart of. They include the following

Mountain Gorilla Bwindi Uganda Safari Adventure
Baby Mountain gorilla Bwindi. Courtesy Photo

Gorilla trekking is among the top desired Uganda safari adventure experiences. Mountain gorillas are apes with over 95% DNA similar to humans. On the entire planet, mountain gorillas can only be found in 3 countries that are Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mountain gorillas are endangered with their total population estimated at around 1000 gorillas. Almost half of that population live in Uganda’s Bwindi impenetrable national park. The park is located in southwestern Uganda and has 22 habituated gorilla families that are open to tourism.

While taking a Uganda safari adventure, gorilla trekking should be your number one safari activity to do. The trek enables you enjoy great scenic views as well as seeing other wildlife in the park especially birds.

Batwa Trail Experiences

The Batwa are pygmies and one of the native tribes of the Great Lakes region. They were initially living in the forest and only relied on the forest for food and survival. They were hunter gatherers however their activities were a threat to wildlife because of poaching. With the gazetting of the parks to conserve and protect wildlife, the Batwa were pushed at the edge of the forest and are occasionally allowed to go to the forest again.

The Batwa trail experience is one of the authentic cultural experiences while on a Uganda safari experience. The Batwa on this experience take you through their initial ways of life. They demonstrate their hunting and gathering skills, making fire using stones and perform folks about their culture.

The trails goes through the forest to the Ngarama cave that was once a home for the Batwa King. The Batwa trail is done in Mgahinga gorilla park another home for mountain gorillas.

Chimpanzee Trekking adventures

Uganda’s is one of the leading chimpanzee trekking destination worldwide. The country is home to the largest chimpanzee population in world. These live in the primate capital of the world Kibale forest national park.

Chimpanzee trekking here is exclusive and offers an opportunity to see other primates including red tailed and Colobus monkeys among others. Chimpanzees in Kibale National park can be explored by a normal chimpanzee trek with the first shift starting in the morning till mid day and the afternoon session starting at 2:00 pm. The morning and afternoon chimpanzee trekking sessions take 2 to 4 hours of trekking. Once you get to the chimpanzees you will be allowed in their presence for an hour. 

The chimpanzee habituation experience is the other activity in which chimpanzees in the park can be explored. This is a full day activity that starts in the morning and gives you 4 hours in the presence of the chimpanzees. In the habituation experience you follow the chimpanzee’s days’ routine and activities. The experience is a great opportunity to explore mans’ closest primates.

Uganda has a variety of savanna wildlife and majority of the country’s national parks and game reserves have a savanna ecosystem. Savanna’s big five mammals that include lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffaloes can be seen while on a Uganda Safari adventure.

Uganda’s most isolated national park Kidepo Valley National Park offers one of the most exclusive and classic game drives on the African continent. The park is located north east of Uganda near the border with South Sudan. Game drives here are very rewarding with wildlife including cheetahs, lions, leopards, giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, zebras among others.

Murchison falls National park is another great place to enjoy a Uganda safari adventure featuring the big cats and big five mammals. Most game drives here are done in the northern sector of the park with the highest concentration of wildlife.

All these can be done throughout the year with best experiences and photography happening in the dry season.

Birding Journeys

Uganda is a birders haven and a Uganda safari adventure is usually incomplete without a birding safari experience. Some of the worlds’ rarest and endemic bird species are found in Uganda.

The country has a number of ramsar sites that are ideal of a birding safari adventure. Major national parks’ ecosystems are also habitats for the various bird species. The Mabamba swamp in Entebbe is among the leading birding destinations in Uganda. It’s home to the rare shoebill stork and many other bird species.

Visit Uganda and be a part of the never ending safari adventures in the Pearl of Africa.

Uganda National Parks Now Fully Open For Tourism Amidst COVID 19 Crisis

Chimpanzee in Kibale Forest National Park Uganda
Chimpanzee in Kibale Forest NP Uganda. Photo by Alex Mushabe

Uganda just like any other country in the world was hit by the Corona Virus disease outbreak which prompted the closure of tourism and national parks. Many COVID 19 cases have been reported daily with the total cases currently standing at 3667 with 1608 recoveries and 41 deaths.

It should be remembered that Uganda lock down its economy in March this year to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

In June the Uganda Wildlife Authority started opening up slowly for tourism as domestic tourists were allowed to visit the savanna national parks. For the primates in Uganda given that the major primates (Chimpanzees and mountain gorillas) have over 95% DNA similar to humans, the primates national parks remained closed

The continued closure of the primate parks was done to ensure better standard operating procedures are put in place to ensure the safety of primates as they could easily contract the disease from humans.

After several engagements with the various stakeholders and the Ministry, all national parks in Uganda including the primates parks have been officially fully opened for tourist visitation.

Guidelines to be Followed

All national parks are mandated to do temperature screening using non-contact infra red thermometers at key tourism entry points

Its mandatory to have hand washing and sanitizing points and major park entries

All tourists are mandated to wear a face mask while inside the national parks

Social distancing will continue to be observed especially in tourist vehicles and boats in national parks as they will only be allowed to carry half capacity of the usual numbers.

With all national parks now fully open, Uganda now joins the other three East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda that opened their economies for business and tourism.

There is hope that Entebbe international airport will open up for international commercial flights on 1st October 2020 which will great improve tourism as many people having been waiting to travel and explore again.

Uganda is one of the leading wildlife destinations in East Africa with a number of wildlife attractions and a unique culture of the people. Wildlife tours in Uganda feature tourist activities like game drives, nature walks, boat cruises, balloon safaris and primate trekking. These offer great wildlife encounters and its what travel enthusiast need after several months of lock down.

Post Lock down Safari Adventures in East Africa

Wildebeest Migration. Tanzanian Safari Experiences
Wildebeest River Crossing. Photo by George the Explorer

The end of year 2019 hit the world with the Corona virus disease forcing many to cancel their safari adventures. The disease spread very fast around the globe forcing a number of countries to lock-down their economies.

The tourism and travel sector were among the most affected as airports were closed shattering hopes of adventure travelers. After over 5 months of lock-down, there is hope to the tourism industry as economies are opening up once again. 

Some East African countries that are worlds’ leading wildlife destinations have responded positively to restarting tourism.  So far Kenya, Rwanda & Tanzania have open to international travelers and those interested in safari adventures can visit.

Below are your favorite East African wild places where you can have the best post lock-down break.

Located in the great rift valley region is the famous Masai Mara game reserve an ecosystem with diverse wildlife species. The Reserve is inhabited by over 95 mammal species, 400 bird species a number of reptiles and amphibian species. A combination of all these make safari adventures in the game reserve worthwhile.

Safari Adventures in Masai Mara

Masai Mara game reserve is one of the best places to see predators like lions, hyenas, leopards and cheetahs.

The predators take an advantage of the wildebeest migration a mass movement of over 1.5 million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles.  These move annually from the Serengeti plains of northern Tanzania across the border into Kenya searching for pastures. 

These natural wonders attracts various tourists and would be one of the best post lock-down safari adventures to opt for. Wildlife in Masai Mara can be enjoyed on game drives  where you see animals and birds the reserve has.

Safari adventures you engage in here include game drives, balloon safaris, guided nature walks, cultural encounters, camping, birding among others.

Best time to Visit

The best time to have a wildlife tour in Masai Mara is in the dry season from June to November.  In the wet season from December to May, you can still visit the park and have a great time.

Getting There

Kenya opened the airport to international travelers on 1st August 2020 and you can therefore a safari to Masai Mara.  Those who are in Kenya already can directly drive to the reserve for safaris after 5 months of lock-down.

Masai Mara can be accessed by road and air transport from Nairobi Kenya’s capital city. Main airstrips in the reserve include Mara Serena airstrip and Kichwa Tembo airstrip which reduces on the travel time.  A road trip is also rewarding as you start your wildlife experiences as soon as you enter the game reserve.  

Rwanda Safari Adventures

Just like Kenya, Rwanda also opened the airport to international travelers on 1st August 2020. Rwanda gorilla tours are among the most rewarding wildlife safari adventures while in East Africa.

In Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park  you can have ultimate post lock-down tours to meet the mountain gorillas. The mountain gorilla population is now 1063 and Volcanoes national park Rwanda is among the best places to see them. The park has over 10 habituated mountain gorilla families that are open to tourist visitation. 

Note that only 8 tourists are allowed to track one gorilla family per day. Tourists are allowed in the presence of the gorillas for one hour after a 2 to 6 hours hike. 

While on the hike, you get to see other wildlife species like birds and if lucky can spot forest elephants. Volcanoes national park has other primates like golden monkeys and you can have tailor made itineraries featuring them. Wildlife activities you can enjoy in the park include mountain gorilla tracking, birding, guided nature walks in the park.

Other Rwanda Safari Adventures

You can also opt for mountain hiking with a hike to mount Karisimbi and have an overnight in the mountain. For cultural experiences, visit the gorilla guardian village where you will get to know more about the local peoples’ culture.

You can visit Nyungwe national park further south to meet the chimpanzees, have a canopy walk and other primates.  For a combined primate and wildlife safari experience in Rwanda you can add Akagera national park to the itinerary.

Now that the airport is open, visit Rwanda for exclusive post lock-down safari adventures.

Tanzania was against all odds of lock-down and totally refused to close its border to international travelers.  While other countries lock-down economies, Tanzania was open and welcoming those interested in exploring the wildlife destinations in the country.

Now that other countries are opening up airports, travel has increased and you can visit Tanzania’s Seregenti National park. Tanzania has many safari destinations but Serengeti takes the number one spot of the Must visit places while in Tanzania.

Serengeti Safari Adventures

Serengeti is the genesis of the wildebeest migration exodus of animals up-north across the border to Masai Mara game reserve. This is not your usual exodus but a mass movement of millions of animals. Animals on the migration include gazelles, zebras, and wildebeest as they look for fresh grazing grounds.

While in Serengeti you can have endless game drives following the wildebeest migration and spotting the predators. Major predators in Serengeti include lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, crocodiles. Savanna wildlife giants like Elephants, hippos can also be seen here in large herds plus a number of bird species.

Serengeti can be visited any time of the year but if best experiences can be enjoyed from June to September. This is the best time to witness the wildebeest migration and predator action. 

For now these three East African countries are very open for both local and international tourism. They are very highly recommended destinations as the world of tourism regains momentum.

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.