The East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania are famous for their numerous safari destinations. The countries feature vast stretches of national parks and game reserves that offer splendid opportunities for adventure trippers and nature lovers.
But game drives aren’t the only things that these countries are known for. In this guide, we shall explore the top five most adventurous things to do whenever your dreams take you to East Africa.
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
There’s no better place to begin your tour of East Africa than in the territories of some of our distant cousins – the gorillas. Uganda is known for its abundance of mountain gorillas. It’s estimated that there are just about 1000 mountain gorillas still living on earth, and more than half of them are found in Uganda.
Uganda has two national parks that are dedicated to gorilla conservation. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to 17 of the 18 gorilla families living in the country, with the remaining one family residing in Mhahinga National Park.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located across the Albertine Rift Valley and is served with three airfields located at Kihiihi as well as an airfield in Kayonza and Nyakabande. A road trip from Kampala takes roughly 7 h 30 min.
There are four major trekking regions in the park, including Ruhika to the east, Buhoma to the north, Nkuringo to the south, and Rashaga to the west. This activity can be as exciting as watching the Kentucky Derby horse race, as well as it gives you the sense of adrenaline and enthusiasm for nature.
In total, Bwindi contains 90 mammal species, 11 of which are primates. Besides gorillas, another special highlight here is the black-and-white colobus monkey.
Towards the extreme southwestern region of Uganda lies the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. A road trip from Kampala or Entebbe to Mgahinga takes about 8-10.
Though Mgahinga only has one gorilla family, there’s a lot more wildlife to sight within the park.
The best time to consider gorilla trekking in Uganda is during the dry months of June to September and December to February.
Game Drives in Maasai Mara, Kenya
Maasai Mara is Kenya’s defining game reserve. The park is located in the southwestern plains of Kenya, some 280 kilometers from Nairobi. You can drive into the park from the capital, a 6-hour’s scenic road trip that meanders through the dusty Narok plains. However, the fastest way to get to Masai Mara is to take a one-hour flight from the JKIA or Wilson Airport into the Mara Serena Airport.
In 2017, Maasai Mara was feted Africa’s leading game park, and deservedly so. The park is famous for its broad diversity of wildlife, including Africa’s iconic Big 5.
Driving through the grassy Mara plains, you’ll also sight numerous cheetahs, leopards, antelopes, spotted hyenas, zebras, giraffes, hundreds of bird species, to mention but a few.
The best time to visit the Mara is between July and October, during the famous Great Migration. The migration sees over one million wildebeests, about half a million zebras, and thousands of other grazers crossing over from the neighboring Serengeti National Park, in pursuit of greener pastures.
The epicenter of this legendary migration is at the Mara River, which lies directly on the migratory route. As thousands of herds make their crossing, hundreds fall victim to stampede and the resident Nile crocodiles, in one of the most savage scenes in the animal world.
Camping at the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The Serengeti National Park is another excellent destination to go on a wildlife safari in East Africa. The 14,750 square kilometers park is located about 320 kilometers from Arusha. Tourists mostly fly from Arusha to a few airstrips located within and right outside the park, such as Senorera and Serengeti Kusini.
As it overlaps with Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, the Serengeti offers tourists an opportunity to extend their wildlife sightseeing tours into Kenya. But the park’s expansive size mostly makes it ideal for adventure seekers who’re looking to camp in the middle of nature. Indeed, setting a camp at the Serengeti will see you waking up to nothing but the sights and sounds of Mother Nature every morning.
The Serengeti is divided into three sections, all of which are perfect for remote camping. The Southern Serengeti plains, which is characterized by a treeless grassland, is a haven for grazing herds, such as wildebeest, zebras, antelopes, and buffalos. Camping here will also bring you closer to other exotic animals like the rock python and hyrax.
The Western Savanna section, which hosts the Grumeti River, is a favorite camping spot for sighting water dwellers like the Nile crocodiles and the hippopotamus.
Lastly, you can camp at the Northern Serengeti which borders the Mara River if you’re looking to experience the Great Migration.
July to August, which is the period of the Great Migration, is the ideal time to camp at the Serengeti.
Hiking Gorges and Volcanic Sites at Hell’s Gate National Park, Kenya
The Hell’s Gate National Park is located on the floor of the Rift Valley, about 70 km from Nairobi. Visitors generally access the park via road.
Hell’s Gate is famous for the iconic Hell’s Gate Gorge. The gorge is characterized by its red cliffs and contains two major volcanic plugs, namely, the Central Tower and Fischer’s Tower. But hiking this magnificent gorge isn’t the only attraction here. Hell’s Gate is also known for its numerous geothermal highlights, which include sites of extinct volcanoes and natural geysers. The Olkaria Geothermal Station is the main geothermal feature in the park. You can visit this station to uncover how power is generated from hot and pressurized water underground.
Hell’s Gate presents many other opportunities for nature lovers. You can sight several animals during your walking or cycling safaris, including baboons, leopards, gazelles, and over 100 species of birds. Nearby points of interest include the Hippo Point located some 7 km from the park, as well as the imposing Mount Longonot located about 30 km away.
The dry season of June to November is the ideal period to go on hiking, walking or cycling tours of Hell’s Gate.
Climbing the Rwenzori Mountain, Uganda
Rwenzori Mountain is located in Uganda’s south-western region, on the eastern section of the Western Albertine Rift Valley. The mountain is situated some 350 kilometers from Kampala, and a road drive from the city takes about 6 hours. Alternatively, you can take a 30-minutes flight into an airstrip in Kasese and maneuver the rest of the distance by road.
Considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are lots of activities to do here. However, conquering the third-highest peaks in Africa is surely the most interesting one.
The lower slopes of Rwenzori Mountain are characterized by bamboo, moorland, and moist montane vegetation, just the perfect vegetation for hikers. At the foot of the mountain is the Rwenzori National Park, which teems with all kinds of wildlife. The park is home to 70 mammal species, including four primates and 219 bird species, which include 19 Albertine Rift endemics. Some of the rare inhabitants of Rwenzori National Park include hyrax, chimpanzee, the black-and-white colobus monkeys, and the Rwenzori turaco.
The best months to climb the Rwenzori are the dry seasons between June and August, and between December and February.
Due to its rich abundance of flora and fauna, East Africa never runs out of adventure activities to do and exciting places to explore. However, the ones we’ve highlighted above are sure enough to pique your wanderlust.