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Like all the splendid regions of the continent, East Africa is unique, with its own heartbeat, pace and magic. There you will find wild and open fields, an accelerating diversity of landscapes and nature so untouched it follows the most ancient rhythms. Massive hoards migrate as one, leaving their mark on the land, big cats roam and hunt in territories they proudly claim, big apes dominate in the rainforests and birds of all colours and embellishments cover the sky – it is a beautiful and savage Kingdom where only the admiring may enter.
Here’s a look at the best destinations in East Africa; the places that offer the most thorough exploration of its beauty and wildlife.
A safari vehicle approaches on the horizon at Masai Mara
A pocket of the vast Savannah wilderness, a preserved region of an ancient landscape, untamed and glorious, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is an unmissable stop on a trip to East Africa. Its sheer expanse – extending to and joining Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park – and untouched terrain, its remarkable wildlife population, all provide unmatched exploration.
Werner Schmäing – The four Banditos 4 sons of Notch, Masai Mara, Kenya
Situated in southwestern Kenya, along the Tanzanian border, it is home to the lion, cheetah, elephant, zebra and hippo and experiences the epic annual Great Migration of Wildebeest along its plains. The surrounding area has a scattering of Masaai villages (enkangs), which are a wonder to behold.
A Masaai warrior looks over the plains
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Volcanoes National Park in Rwana Photo credit: Getty Images
Some of the greatest cinema in the world has tried to capture the wonder of an encounter with a great ape. A lucky few have enjoyed this unforgettable experience in real life and never forgot the moment they came face-to-face with this majestic animal. Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda– the setting for the book and film Gorillas in the Mist – is home to approximately 400 of endangered Mountain gorillas. Here, these glorious creatures live peacefully and protected and can be tracked in their natural habitat.
A Mountain gorilla in the Rwandan rainforest Picture credit: Billy Hare
This national park in Rwanda is the oldest in Africa and has an abundance of wildlife hidden deep in dense Afromontane forest. Golden monkeys swing overhead, three-horned chameleons make their wide-eyed appearance and 178 bird species fill the skies as you journey in search of these great giants.
The Rwandan landscape at sunrise Photo credit: Maxime Niyomwungeri
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The magnificent plains of the Serengeti Photograph Photo credit: Greg du Toit
One of the most famous wildlife sanctuaries in the world; favoured for its splendid sights, expanse and abundance of diverse wildlife, the Serengeti National Park never fails to astound those lucky enough to explore its realms. The lion, cheetah, elephant and giraffe all call this East African sanctuary home, across a diversity of landscapes such as the Seronera Valley (the southern/central part) with its classic Savannah plains and scatterings of Acacia. The western corridor, where the Grumeti River flows, is marked by lush forests and dense bush while the north, Lobo area, meets with Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Here the Big 5 can be seen in all their glory and the annual migration of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra viewed at exhilarating proximity.
A herd of Wildebeest crosses the river during the Great Migration
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Uganda’s beautiful lush hills
33,100ha of steep mountain rainforest, home to half the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda is the remote wilderness of an adventurer’s dreams. This forest is one of only three places in the world when visitors can track these magnificent primates and is also sanctuary to the bushbuck, chimpanzee, African golden cat and gentle forest elephant.
Mountain gorilla at Bwindi National Park
Parts of this park extend to over 2,600m above sea level, providing an astonishing angles of the vast montage of Afromontane forest. This diverse ecosystem has nurtured an abundance of animal and plant life, including 350 birds and 120 mammal species. As with many East Africa destinations, Bwindi offers opportunities for bird-watching, mountain-biking and hiking and visits to nearby villages.
Within the thick forest canopy of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Gorillas roam Photo credit: Getty Images
If you’re interested in visiting more than one destination in this region, view these 11 East Africa Tour Ideas.
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An enthusiastic globe-trotter born in Mpumalanga, South Africa, Thanda is back in Cape Town after a year of amazing adventures abroad. When not scouring Soundcloud for her next music obsession, she’s plotting a weekend sho’t left or scrambling to keep track of friends who're scattered all over the world.
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