East Africa, a treasure trove of African wildlife, offers some of the most wildlife-viewing spots in Africa. The plains of East Africa are alive with thousands of different species of wildlife including wildebeest, zebra, lion, cheetah and even extremely rare cross-river gorilla that is said to number only 200 in population worldwide.
Here I list some of the leading wildlife parks in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. A safari itinerary to any or some of these parks will certainly yield optimum, value-for-money safaris for those that travel to see wild animals as their main interest.
The Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The Serengeti is synonymous with the wildlife safari. This world famous reserve hosts the greatest migration of large mammals on our planet. Over 1 million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle transverse the grasslands in search of fresh grazing. Predators, such as lion, hyena, leopard and cheetah, follow in their wake while crocodile wait in ambush at popular crossing points on the Mara River. To the east of the Serengeti, the fabled Ngorongoro Crater promises a “wall-to-wall” wildlife-viewing spectacle. To get to Serengeti from Arusha, you will need to drive for about 6 hours or take a schedule flight that takes about 1 hour.
Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania
This is the largest protected area in Africa, covering over 50,000 square kilometers. Elephants, sable antelopes and buffalo wander its woodlands and palm-studded grasslands, while boat trips along the Rufiji River take you past dozing pods of hippos and through forested gorges where blue monkeys peek from the canopy. The Selous reserve is abundant with predators that include Africa’s largest population of wild dog. To get to Selous Game Reserve from Dar es Salaam, you will drive for between 7 and 9 hours, but only in the dry season, or one and half hour flight from Dar es Salaam.
Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
Queen Elizabeth National Park is the embodiment of Uganda’s natural riches. It is an ecological gem. Sandwiched between lakes Edward and George, where eastern savannah meets western rain forest, this beautiful reserve abounds with plains game, while its forests are alive with monkeys. In Chambura Gorge you can even track chimpanzee on foot. You can take a trip down the Kazinga to view hippo, crocodile and elephant. Queen Elizabeth park is between 5 and 6 hours drive from Kampala on a surfaced road via Mbarara. The park can also be reached on a dirt road from Bwindi.
Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya
Situated in the heart of the Great Rift Valley, with an area of 1,812 square. Kilometers, limited to the East by the Talek river and Loita plains, Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya’s leading Game Reserve, lies on the border between Kenya and Tanzania and is the northern extension to the renowned Serengeti plain.
The Masai Mara is a panorama of rolling hills, plains and woodlands. The area is well watered by the Mara river that almost ensures a permanent population of wildlife including the lion, cheetah, elephant, leopard, Thomson and Grant gazelle, topis, buffalo and many others.
Besides this abundance, the main Mara main attraction is the annual migration, which takes place between July and September. Over a million wildebeest, more than two hundred thousand zebra with their attendant predators cross the Mara River and spread across the plains in a seemingly endless procession. To get to Masai Mara from Nairobi, you will drive 4-5 hours or take a 45 minute flight.
Volcanoes National Park / Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda
An up-close, face-to-face encounter with a family of mountain gorilla is said to be the most impressive experiences by those who meet with the endangered wildlife. Few people can get the memory of the gaze from them. The Parc National des Volcans protects steep forested slopes in the Virungas, one of the last strongholds for this endangered species – the mountain gorillas. Trekkers pass through lush cultivated foothills, with fine views of the magnificent peaks beyond, before entering the national park. The dense rain forest, alive with the calls of forest birds and golden monkeys, quickly closes around you. The trail continues, probing the forest, until the soft grunting of a silverback announces that gorillas are nearby. Slowly, the guide leads you into a clearing where you come fact to fact with these gently giants.
Gorilla tracking tours begin at the base town of Musanze which is a 90 minute drive from Kigali. You can get vehicles for hire to Musanze. By road, Musanze is also about 45 minutes away from Gisenyi town from where you can view Lake Kivu.