by Thanda Mhlanga on April 13, 2018
5 min read

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.

Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Maasai Mara National Park

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 - Copy

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.

Masaai Mara warrior overlooking the plains near East Africa's Masaai Mara National Park

A Masaai warrior looks over the plains

Visitors will love:

  • Unspoiled nature and diverse landscapes, including sweeping Savannah plains, rolling hills and epic waterways
  • An abundance and diversity of wildlife, from big cats to great giants and meandering hoards
  • A front seat to the extraordinary Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra
  • A selection of luxury safari accommodations, all suited to individual tastes and style and offering game-viewing opportunities by foot, vehicle or air balloon

Wondering when’s the best time to visit Kenya? Click here:

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Panorama of the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, East Africa

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.

Behind the Lense - Billy Hare

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.

Misty landscape at sunrise in Rwanda, East Africa

The Rwandan landscape at sunrise
Photo credit: Maxime Niyomwungeri

Visitors will love:

  • Being immersed in the land of Mountain gorillas, where over 400 of these endangered primates live
  • The thrill of a guided nature walk through the oldest national park in Africa
  • Sighting creatures such as the three-horned chameleon, Rwenzori turacos and over 180 species of bird
  • Contributing to the preservation of critically-endangered Mountain gorilla

Want to know about more other destinations in Rwanda? Click here:

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The splendid Serengeti plains

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.

The Great Migration in the Serengeti

A herd of Wildebeest crosses the river during the Great Migration

Visitors will love:

  • Game-viewing all-year round
  • A glimpse of wildlife near rivers and waterholes
  • Seeing the Big 5 in action
  • Observing a trumpet of elephant, pride of lions or float of crocodile in their natural habitats
  • One of the most thrilling vantages of the Great Migration

Already planning your trip to Tanzania? Click here for tips:

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

panoramic view of Uganda's green hills

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.

Gorilla in Bwindi National Park, Uganda

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

Visitors will love:

 

If you’re interested in visiting more than one destination in this region, view these 11 East Africa Tour Ideas.