What to Expect During An East African Safari
We’ve all seen the Lion King, but how many of us have lived it? Seeing the rarest of animals roaming about in their natural surroundings, pretty impressive – right? East Africa is home to two of Africa’s most popular safari destinations – Kenya and Tanzania, plus a gorilla sanctuary in Uganda. If you get the chance to visit the Masai Mara in Kenya or Serengeti in Tanzania, both parks offer great viewings at any time of year because of the plethora of wildlife. That said, it is recommended to go during the dry seasons for the easiest animal sightings, as they will migrate to the watering holes.
Also, before we dive into the specifics, we realize that a safari adventure often comes with a hefty price tag. But if you do your research, most tour operators offer all-inclusive packages with a variety of price ranges to choose from. Or you can always plan your own itinerary with exactly what you want to see, with your budget in mind. Either way, African safaris are a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and we want to share ours with you.
Where we stayed: Loisaba Tented Camp in Laikipia, Kenya
Highlights: Masai Mara National Reserve, home to the Great Migration
The experience: Upon arrival at the airstrip, our tour operator greeted us with tea and snacks and we even met a warthog on our way to our tent. We weren’t sure what to expect, but wild animals are actually grazing right in front of your eyes. Right outside our tent we saw herds of zebras and many types of African antelopes (impalas, topis, plus many others). We even saw a rare sighting of a cheetah climbing a tree.
On our safari Jeep excursion, we were able to venture off the beaten path and found an elephant family roaming together, a unique rhino spotting, three lioness cuddling their seven cubs, packs of hyenas eating a zebra carcass and the magnificent “King of the Jungle” wandering about.
Our tour included breakfast picnics while watching safari sunrises and post-safari cocktails and dinner in an open air bar at night. Kenya was thrilling and magical.
When to go: The wildebeest migration is between July – October each year, however Kenya still has one of the most diverse wildlife populations all year round.
Where we stayed: Gorilla Sanctuary Forest Camp in southwest Uganda
Highlights: Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, famous for chimps and a dozen other primates; most notable for the 400 Bwindi gorillas, half of the world’s population of the endangered mountain gorillas
The experience: There was nothing quite like driving through the mountains in Uganda, watching the sun come up over the morning mist. We trekked through the dense jungle to experience gorillas of all sizes. Keep in mind that you’re in the jungle, up in the mountains. We hiked up and down mountain slopes to get to the gorillas, so you need to be prepared physically for the trek. The views at the top of the mountain will take your breath away, both literally and figuratively. But that moment you first hear the gorillas muttering through the leafage makes it all worth it. You come in close contact with these magnificent creatures and trust us when we say, your mind will be blown. Uganda was an exhilarating experience.
When to go: During the dry seasons, January – February or June – September.
Where we stayed: Ngorongoro Crater Lodge on the edge of the world famous “World Heritage Site” in the Serengeti
Highlights: The Serengeti, site of the Great Migration; Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak; Ngoronoro Crater, the world’s largest unbroken, unflooded volcanic caldera
The experience: Ngorongoro is home to the “Big Five” game. Picture beautiful leopards, massive rhinoceros, crocodiles, giraffes, monkeys, buffalo, hyenas and hundreds of pink flamingos all grazing around you. Here, the safari Jeeps stay on the roads, so you wait for the animals to come to you. The views of Mount Kilimanjaro are stunning to see while you wait for your shot to see unique creatures.
Our tour offered two daily game drives, walking safaris hikes where we were up close and personal with elephants and giraffes, plus so much more! If your budget allows, you can also get a unique bird’s eye view of the wildlife in a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti. Tanzania was remarkable.
When to go: The best time to visit is during the dry season, June – October.
Whichever route you decide to take, you won’t be disappointed. East African safaris should be on every traveler’s bucket list, which is why it was featured on our Top 5 Destinations of 2018.