East Africa Safaris: A Guide for First-Timers
If you’re planning your first African wildlife safari, East Africa is an excellent choice. It’s the pioneer destination where the concept of safaris originated. The word “safari” translates to “making a journey” in Swahili and refers to the long distances people traveled for trade routes.
Today, African safaris are popularized in film and literature through grand tales of adventure, romance, and thrills. Let’s explore the best East Africa Safaris can offer first-timers like you and your family.
Where to go
East Africa safaris offer a leisurely introduction to the continent for first-time travelers. It has wildlife, scenery, ambiance, and expertise to show for it. East Africa includes safari heavyweights like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and the Indian Ocean islands of Zanzibar and Seychelles.
The region is renowned for its massive concentrations of wild animals and stunning mountain scenery, including Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, the Rwenzori Mountains, and the Virunga Mountains. East Africa is also home to Lake Victoria, the world’s second-largest freshwater lake, and Lake Tanganyika, the world’s second-deepest lake.
Unforgettable Forest Adventures
In East Africa’s rainforest, you can witness rare primates on surreal gorilla trekking and chimpanzee tracking forest adventures that charm even seasoned and first-time African safari travelers. No other wildlife encounter can compete with observing endangered gorillas in their natural habitat and observing their captivating family dynamics.
The unearthly rainforests of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park are incredible destinations for gorilla trekking, offering visitors sustainable adventures well thought out to support wildlife and the entire rural ecosystems.
When To Visit
East Africa’s climate is surprisingly cool and dry for its latitude, making it a fantastic year-round safari destination. Its wide and open plains mean there is always game to see, no matter when you visit.
From the wide-open plains of Masai Mara to the enchanted misty jungles of the Virunga Mountains, take a look at our selection of the five best East Africa safaris for first-timers.
5 Unforgettable East Africa Safaris for First-Timers
The iconic destinations, Masai Mara in Kenya, Serengeti in Tanzania, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, and the tucked-away beaches in Zanzibar and Seychelles islands feature more on itineraries for first-timers.
Each one of our safari itineraries is tailor-made to the traveler’s style of travel. So the trips we’re suggesting here are meant to inspire your travel lust and engage our consultants to help you plan your first-time East African safari.
1. Kenya & Tanzania’s Iconic Migration Safari | 9 Days, 6 Destinations
This is one of the most famous East Africa Safaris for first-timers. Between July and November is traditionally thought of as the best season to view the migration. Between July and August, the wildebeest move into Kenya’s Masai Mara, crossing the Mara River in large numbers. These river crossings are among the most sought-after moments of the migration.
Recommended for 9-10 days, the safari trip kicks off in Kenya’s Masai Mara before heading south into Tanzania for the Serengeti, Lake Manyara, and the Ngorongoro Crater. Focused on the ‘big five’ wildlife experience, this trip is a great opportunity to witness the world-renowned wildebeest and zebra migration within the Serengeti-Mara triangle.
- Spectacular day and night game drives to find the ‘BIG FIVE’ game animals (Lion, Buffalo, Hippo, Leopard, and Rhino) and some other interesting wild game.
- Stay in the best collection of safari camps & lodges.
- Witness Africa’s biggest wildlife show, the great migration of Zebra and Wildebeest
- Nature walks, natives encounters, activating African stories, and delicious cuisine.
Couples, Honeymooners, Families & Groups
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2. Uganda’s Mountain Gorillas, Kenya & Tanzania’s Wilderness Game | 14 Days, 8 Destinations
If you’re a first-timer seeking an authentic safari experience that combines savannah and rainforest wilderness, this all-inclusive safari trip is perfect for you. The adventure, recommended for two weeks, focuses on cultural encounters, game-viewing, scenery, and gorilla trekking in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
- Gorilla trekking in Uganda‘s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
- Special cultural encounter with Batwa pygmies of Bwindi
- Lifechanging nature walk across Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
- Day game drive to seek out the magnificent BIG FIVE on the savanna plains
- Nigh game drives to find the elusive nocturnal animals.
- Flights & 4×4 vehicle transfers between destinations
- Best selection of safari camps and lodges on your itinerary
Couples, Honeymooners, Families & Groups
3. Rwanda Gorillas and Serengeti Wildlife Safari | 12 Days, 3 Destinations
If you’re a first-timer looking for an unforgettable East Africa safari, consider combining three iconic experiences: gorilla trekking in Rwanda, exploring the Serengeti plains, and visiting the awe-inspiring Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.
Start your adventure in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. Take a day to explore the city’s culture and learn about its history, including the tragic genocide. Next, head into the rainforest of Volcanoes National Park to meet the elusive mountain gorilla family.
After your gorilla trek, take a flight from Kigali to Serengeti and witness the great migration. Finally, spend three days exploring the Ngorongoro Crater before departing from Kilimanjaro International Airport. This safari is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories of East Africa.
- Rwanda’s Kigali Capital, immerse yourself in Rwanda’s genocide history and culture
- Meet the magnificent giant mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park
- Connecting small flight between Kigali and Serengeti
- Intercept the predictable path of the great migration in Serengeti
- Game drives to seek out the “BIG FIVE” game in Serengeti and Ngorongoro
- Stay in exclusive camps and safari lodges carefully selected for you
- Transportation, meals, and lodging all taken care of by the safari operator
This East African safari trip for first-timers is best recommended for couples, friends travelling together, honeymooners, families and groups.
4. Uganda’s Equatorial Wilderness & Primates Road Trip Safari | 12 Days, 5 Destinations
If you’re looking for a unique African adventure, Uganda offers an unforgettable mix of savannah and rainforest wilderness. This is an ideal trip for those experiencing their first safari, showcasing the best of Africa’s wildlife in forest and savanna.
During this Uganda safari, you’ll travel along the country’s most popular safari circuit. Starting from Entebbe, you’ll take the western route to explore Lake Mburo NP, a small but impressive national park, before venturing into the mountain jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Following an exciting gorilla trekking experience, you’ll embark on a canoe and hiking adventure before heading north to Queen Elizabeth NP’s savannah plains for a game drive and boat safari. The journey will then take you to Kibale Forest, the primate capital, before concluding with a visit to the magnificent Murchison Falls NP.
- 4×4 Safari cruiser road trip transfers between destinations. Look out for undulating scenery as you drive across the countryside.
- Chimpanzee tracking and twelve other primates in Kibale Forest NP
- Game drives and boat safaris to seek out the big and small game animals on the savanna plains.
- Mountain gorilla encounter in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
- Meet the locals and Pygmy community in Bwindi Impenetrable
- Calming nature walks
Solo travelers, Birders, couples, families and groups
5. Gorilla Encounter, Serengeti Big Game and Zanzibar’s Tucked Away Beaches | 16 Days, 4 Destinations
Imagine the thrill of encountering wild gorillas in their stunning alpine forests! This incredible experience begins in Kigali, the vibrant capital city of Rwanda. From there, you’ll be transported to the gorilla jungle to meet these majestic primates up close and personal.
Next, you’ll journey to Ngorongoro Crater, where you can unwind and savor the breathtaking scenery on safari drives. The Serengeti plains are a must-see destination in Tanzania, home to a wide variety of magnificent animals. You’ll have a few days to explore and witness the start of the awe-inspiring wildebeest migration.
Finally, your East Africa Safaris adventure concludes on the idyllic island of Zanzibar, where you can indulge in a luxurious, exclusive retreat in a secluded, untouched paradise.
- Entry through Kigali, Rwanda Capital, and exit through Zanzibar
- Local flight between Kigali and Kilimanjaro Int. Airport
- Unforgettable mountain gorilla encounter in Volcanoes National Park
- Watch Ngorongoro and Serengeti wildlife drama unfold on the savannah plains
- Relax in a truly remote and exclusive white-sand paradise of Zanzibar Island.