If you’ve ever daydreamed about seeing African wildlife, chances are you were picturing an East Africa Safari in your mind. This is the Africa of rolling plains, lone acacia trees and thundering hooves. It’s the setting for classic tales of African romance from ‘Out of Africa’ to ‘I dreamed of Africa’ and home to some of the most indulgent safari accommodation anywhere.
East Africa is where safari began, and many would argue that the original is still the best. Imagine billowing white mosquito nets, morning coffee brought to your tent on a silver tray, and proud warriors watching over their herds and you’ve just begun to get an idea of the beauty, mystery and magic of an East Africa Safari. Even the word ‘safari’ comes from here: it’s time to go back to the source.
Ethiopia may be geographically part of East Africa, but it is culturally distinct and provides a wonderful contrast to its neighbors. Yes, there is wildlife here – including Walia ibex and the endangered Simien wolf, but it is Ethiopia’s compelling history and unique culture that draws visitors. Ethiopia’s history is ever-present, and the faith of its people has given rise to intricately carved obelisks and the astonishing rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.
Kenya has everything, from prolific wildlife to sultry coastal cities. Kenya’s people have stayed true to their traditions, meaning that you can take tea with Maasai warriors mid-game drive, or drift off to sleep in a traditional Swahili four-poster bed in an oceanside mansion.
Rwanda’s main drawcard is, of course, the opportunity to trek to see the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. Rwanda is rapidly establishing itself as a prime primate destination – it’s also the best place in Africa to see golden monkeys. Conservation initiatives have put Akagera National Park back on the map, which has now become a Big 5 destination.
Tanzania, like its northern neighbor Kenya, offers excellent beach and bush experiences. However, it is very much its own country, with unique reserves like Tarangire (with its baobabs and huge elephant herds), the Selous (for when you want to get away from the crowds), and Rubondo Island (where you can be a part of the island’s chimpanzee habituation process).
Uganda is known for its mountain gorillas in Bwindi National Park and its chimpanzees in Kibale National Park. But there is much more to Uganda than its famous residents. Witness the Nile River squeeze through a 23-foot wide gap in Murchison Falls. Whitewater raft in Jinja, which is said to be the source of the Nile. Long known as ‘the pearl of Africa,’ Uganda continues to beguile modern-day visitors with smiles and natural beauty.