by Thanda Mhlanga on April 30, 2018
5 min read

The most visited attractions in East Africa are a collection of everything glorious about the continent; majestic people, ancient landscapes, unforgettable experiences and sublime wildlife.

Mt Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania

The picturesque Savannah in Kenya with Kilimanjaro in the background

Majestic Mount Kilimanjaro from the Savannah
Photo credit: Sergey Pesterev

With its distinction as the highest mountain in Africa, it’s no mystery why Mount Kilimanjaro draws an approximated 35 000 climbers each year. A part of the Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania, it was recognised by the World Travel Awards for three consecutive years (2015/6/7) as Africa’s Leading Tourist Attraction – it’s also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.
At 5,895 metres, it is one of the Seven Summits; the highest mountains in each of the seven continents. Every year thousands journey to this epic peak to brave its height and the elements. A reported two-thirds make it and many return, unable to resist the challenge it presents.

• Mount Kilimanjaro, nicknamed Kili, is actually a Stratovolcano – a conical volcano built on layers of lava and volcanic ash.
• Kili is a dormant volcano made up of 3 volcanic cones, Shira, Kibo and Mawenzi.
• It’s positioned 320 km south of the equator
• There are six official routes up the mountain

Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Games drives at Maasai Mara National Park are one of the reasons it is a top attraction in East Africa

The breathtaking Maasai Mara plains

An expansive wilderness with a plethora of wildlife and sights, Maasai Mara National Reserve is the adventure playground of choice for an estimated 290 000 tourists each year. Drawing them to this landscape is its Savannah plains, animals that include lions, cheetahs, elephants and hippos and, without a doubt, the epic annual migration of Wildebeest – an event so grand that photographs scarcely capture its fullness.

To learn more about this extraordinary event read our blog on 36 Things You Should Know About the Great Wildebeest Migration.

The Maasai are not only native to this land but also its caretakers

Maasai warriors near Lake Manyara
Picture credit: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Maasai Mara is a preserved area in southwestern Kenya identifiable through its rolling hills, grassy plains and the Mara and Talek rivers running through it. Also a wonder to behold are the villages (enkangs) of the mighty Maasai people that dot the area, one of the most wondrous attractions in East Africa. A Maasai safari opens visitors up to a large concentration of game and endless photographic opportunities. Named after its native inhabitants’ own description – the word “Mara” is Maa (the Maasai language) for “spotted” – of the area’s speckled appearance and diverse landscape, the preservation still honours the Maasai’s ancient ways and reverence for nature. For many visitors, it’s not just the wildlife and landscapes but the experience of authentic Africa that brings them to this land.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The Serengeti's wildlife population and diversity unparalleled which is why it's one of the leading East African attractions

Elephants in the Serengeti
Photo credit: Beverley Joubert

This vast wilderness, 14 750 square kilometres of grassland plains, woodlands, riverine forest and Savanna, is where nearly 100 000 international visitors flock each year. The Serengeti National Park has the oldest ecosystem in the world and an unparalleled diversity of flora and fauna – there’s a reason why the word “Serengeti” invokes images of an untamed wilderness and why it’s one of the most well-known attractions in East Africa.

The animals, vegetation and waterways of the Serengeti are the same as they were more than a million years ago. It is also here that the oldest human remains were found (2 million years old) by renowned archaeologist Dr Leaky. These plains are also the ancestral land of the Maasai whose ancient ways endure in the communities in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Young maasai warrior

The glorious Maasai people
Photo credit: Softkenya

This park has 500 bird species that include lovebirds, crowned crane, secretary bird and ostrich. Meanwhile lions and cheetahs roam the land and leopards can be found on the trees near the Seronera River. Each year, the annual migration – millions of wildebeest, zebra and more – marks this terrain and serves a feast for the crocodiles of the Mara River. From herds of elephant, gazelle, zebra, impala and eland, this wilderness puts on a spectacle for enthralled revelers year in and out.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of the most unforgettable attractions in East Africa

The misty hills that are home to majestic gorillas
Photo credit: Uganda Tourism Centre

On the hills of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies one of the oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests on the continent. Dating back 250 000 years and home to over 400 mountain gorillas, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is an unforgettable destination, which last year alone drew 40 000 trekkers. The national park itself is home to 120 mammals, including baboons, chimpanzees and elephants, and 350 bird species. Named one of the Best Parks in Africa by CNN last year, it’s also one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and a popular honeymoon destination.

Already one of the most favoured attractions in East Africa, Bwindi forest looks set to be even more popular after its feature in the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther. Scenes from the area were used in the making of the movie, which means a visit there offers a real-life glimpse of Wakanda while you enjoy one of the 35 African Experiences You Need To Have Before You Die.

Gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable forest

A family of gorillas in the forest

  • Some 70% of visitors opt to access this forest from Kigali, Rwanda by driving into southern areas such as Rushanga, which is a shorter trip that the one from Entebbe or Kampala. Some choose to get the most of this region by visiting all the top attractions in East Africa via a Kenyan safari then a short flight to Kigali for a Rwandan adventure before driving into Uganda.
  • Charter flights to Bwindi are available from Entebbe International Airport.

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