Just saying the names of East African safari destinations is bound to cause a serious case of wanderlust. Names like Serengeti and Masai Mara resonate with anyone who loves to travel, while less well-known places like Bwindi, Tarangire or Samburu offer the promise of unique, unforgettable safari experiences.
East Africa Safari Destinations
Despite its name, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is not quite as inaccessible as might be imagined. Indeed, given that the forest contains around half of all the world’s remaining mountain gorilla, Bwindi safaris are actually perfect for travellers wanting to experience one of Africa’s most moving and engaging species up close and personal.
The place that launched a thousand clips, and millions of images. There’s no more iconic safari destination than Kenya’s Masai Mara, with its eponymous tribespeople, millions of thundering hooves, and equal parts drama, magic and romance. Kenya itineraries without Masai Mara safaris are almost unthinkable, and every moment spent there is unforgettable.
Tanzania is an East African safari powerhouse, not least because in the Serengeti it features one of the greatest of all wilderness areas, and the backdrop for the annual Great Wildebeest Migration. Factor in Indian Ocean Islands, too, and it’s clear that Tanzania safaris can be all things to all people.
Volcanoes National Park is perhaps the quintessential Rwandan safari destination, and one of only a handful of places where iconic mountain gorilla can be encountered at close quarters. Volcanoes safaris enable an entry into the unique ecosystem on which the gorilla depend – a world of soaring summits and mysterious, misty forests.
Amboseli is known as Kenya’s land of giants, and it’s not hard to see why. Africa’s tallest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, towers over the national park, and it’s also one of the best places in East Africa to encounter elephant in numbers. No wonder people use superlatives to describe Amboseli safaris.
The Serengeti takes its name from a Maasai word meaning ‘where the land runs on forever’. It’s one of the most evocative and iconic safari destinations of all – not least because it’s the stage on which much of the drama of the Great Wildebeest Migration is played out each year.
Samburu is the ‘other Kenya’ – this semi-arid region in the north of the country feels very different to say the Masai Mara or Amboseli. It’s much drier and the scenery is more rugged. Even the wildlife is different, with species that aren’t found elsewhere in Kenya. What’s not to enjoy about Samburu safaris?
Descending into the Ngorongoro Crater from one of the luxury lodges perched on its rim is one of the most remarkable safari experiences available in Tanzania. Driving across an ancient volcanic caldera, the wildlife may seem familiar, but the setting is quite unique, and this makes for wonderful photographic opportunities.
Lake Elmenteita offers a more secluded safari destination than either of its neighbouring lakes (Naivasha and Nakuru), which can make it feel more exclusive. The unique volcanic landscape adds to the sense of being wonderfully removed from all that’s unimportant – and the unusual wildlife species seen on Lake Elmenteita safaris only reinforce this impression.
Rwanda has completed a remarkable transformation as a nation and has reinvented itself as a superb safari vacation destination. Rwanda safaris have traditionally focused on mountain gorilla encounters, but visits to the land of a thousand hills also offer more conventional – but no less remarkable – safari experiences, plus insights into its rich cultural heritage.
Lake Naivasha safaris take you to a literal and metaphorical oasis, offering a change of pace without any reduction in wildlife-viewing opportunities. Renowned for its spectacular birdlife, Naivasha nevertheless has a number of other feathers in its cap. While easily reached from Nairobi, it feels a million miles from the hustle of the city.
Uganda, an East African country known as ‘the pearl of Africa’, offers the warmest of welcomes and an incredible diversity of wildlife experiences. Uganda safaris can include savannah and mountain moments, excursions into cloud forests and discovering the source of the Nile. It’s this variety of habitats that explains Uganda’s remarkable biodiversity.
Ol Pejeta is a pioneering wildlife conservancy in Laikipia – Kenya’s high country. With the emphasis firmly on species conservation, Ol Pejeta safaris offer not only exceptional opportunities to view species that are scarce elsewhere, but also to learn about, contribute to and even participate in ground-breaking and impactful conservation projects.
Kenya has as good a claim as anywhere to being the country where modern safaris began, and where they’re done best, and it still regularly features high on travel magazines ‘must-visit’ lists. Kenya has been doing what it does best for decades, and yet there’s always something new to discover on Kenya safaris.
We spent 10 days in Kenya in a private vehicle for my husband and myself. Our lodging, transportation and guide were designed by Wildlife Safari out of Nairobi, Kenya and Australia (Tom Fernandes)... Once we arrived in Kenya, Wildlife Safari took care of us and Benson, our guide, was the best guide we could have wished for... | HEATHER B on Tripadvisor
Guide and vehicle waiting at the AndBeyond private airstrip. Five game drives. Our guide, Leonard, is excellent. His English is very good. He is personable and funny. He's very good at spotting game and finds the cheetah and rhino, two of our three missing big animals | CJDOTHEWORLD on TripAdvisor
10 day wildlife safari, very well organised and the guides couldn't have been more helpful, really was the trip of a lifetime | 920ANGELA15 on Tripadvisor