Where to go on safari in East Africa

East Africa’s breathtaking landmarks are just enough to lure you in for a lifetime holiday. But how do you choose where to go for your first-time safari? Here's how to select.

The most crucial stage in planning your East Africa safari is usually choosing where to go. Nkuringo Safaris operates only in East Africa and our main offices are located in Uganda, so we’re biased towards the destinations we understand pretty well to give you the most memorable journey of your life. However, we try to summarise everything you need to choose which safari destination suits your style of travel.

In quick summary, you must know that two of the pioneer and most popular African safari destinations are found in East Africa. The other two offer the most accessible and most spectacular primates experience on the continent.

Where in East Africa Should You Go on Safari?

East Africa’s breathtaking landmarks are just enough to lure you in for a lifetime holiday, ranging from snow-capped Kilimanjaro to the lava-spewing Virungas; from the oceanic expanses of lakes Victoria and Tanganyika to an endless succession of idyllic Indian Ocean beaches; from the arid plains of northern Kenya to the steamy rainforests of western Uganda.

For the culture buffs, its cultural diversity embraces relict hunter-gatherers such as the Hadza and Batwa in southwestern Uganda highlands. The red-robed traditional pastoralists such as the Maasai and Samburu flourish in Kenya and Tanzania’s rift valley plains.

The Arab-tinged Swahili of Zanzibar and Lamu show off a successful cultural unification of the late nineteenth-century traders. The centralized medieval kingdoms of Uganda and the cosmopolitan modernity of cities such as Nairobi, Kigali, Kampala, and Dar es Salaam.

Above all, however, East Africa is renowned for its peerless wildlife concentrations, epitomized by the annual wildebeest migration across the Serengeti-Mara plains, and the million-strong flamingo flocks form a pink swathe around lakes Nakuru and Bogoria.

And it’s not only the Serengeti: there’s also the immense Selous-Niassa ecosystem with its estimated 60,000 elephants, the buffalo-studded plains of Katavi, the antelope havens of Ruaha and Samburu, and the yawning hippos and armour-plated cross that swim in the Nile below Murchison Falls — not to mention the primate-rich rainforests that line the Congolese border, with their habituated mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.

East Africa also remains one of the last places on earth where the immense mammal herds that once roamed our entire planet still exist in prehistoric numbers protected within a network of 100+ national parks and reserves.

Still, where should you go on safari? I say visit them all. But let me give you a brief about the four East African destinations.

On safari drive in Masai Mara - where to go on safari in East Africa

Kenya

Wildebeest Migration, Big Game Drives & Coastal Holidays.

Best time of year: May-Nov
Duration: 4-14 nights
Price: USD 2100 to USD 20800 per person

Kenya, the pioneer safari destination, ranks top as a leading African safari destination. It’s hard to talk about Africa safari without mentioning Kenya somehow. With the world’s most spectacular wildlife show showcased annually across the Mara plains, Kenya takes up the number two position right below Botswana, according to Safari Bookings, a giant online tour agency website.

Kenya is an excellent addition to gorilla trekking in neighboring Uganda or Rwanda. But if you want to wander only around the savannah wild, the destination on its own is fulfilling. You don’t have to cross any borders but find a blissful wild adventure within the Swahili nation. And if you’re done with the Haminway-wandering, the coastal beaches provide a perfect getaway vacation to end your classic safari.

Kenya is the original destination of the budget-packaged safari. Despite efforts to improve this image in recent decades, most of the best-known reserves still have significant vehicle traffic and tonality issues in core areas, these days driven by demand from emerging markets in India and the Far East.

However, quality Africa safari trips are still very much a possibility, especially in the network of peaceful private conservancies.

Try this one: The Classic Kenya Luxury Safari.

Most travelers to Kenya visit the Maasai Mara to the southwest. Still, other quality safari areas are to the southeast (Amboseli and Tsavo) and the north (Meru, Lewa, Samburu, Laikipia, and Mathew’s Range). Light aircraft connects all these areas, making for easy and relaxing safari trips.

By light aircraft between destinations, a safari in Kenya combines effortlessly with primates tracking in Uganda or Rwanda and tropical beaches on the East African coast.

See this one: Visit Masai Mara & Gorillas in Uganda Safari

The great migration in Serengeti Tanzania, where to go on safari in east africa

Tanzania

Classic Game Drives, Coastal Holidays, and Kilimanjaro Summit Climb

Best time of year: May-Mar
Duration: 4-12 nights
Price: USD 3150 to USD 21950 per person

A Tanzania safari visits a virtual litany of Africa’s most evocative place names on the continent. Tanzania is a classic ‘out of Africa’ remarkable destination, with an incredible share of Africa’s wildlife highlights, including Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Selous, Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Gombe Stream, Dar es Salaam, Kilwa, Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Malawi, the Rift Valley, the Maasai Steppe are some of the country’s most evocative places to visit.

Tanzania is the Africa safari destination you have always dreamed about: vast plains teeming with wild animals; rainforests alive with cackling birds and monkeys; Kilimanjaro’s snow-capped peak rising dramatically above the flat scrubland; colorful Maasai herding their cattle alongside herds of grazing wildebeest; perfect palm-lined beaches lapped by the clear warm waters of the Indian Ocean stretching as far as the eye can see.

Whether you chose to stick to the conventional Serengeti-Ngorongoro-Zanzibar tourist circuit, strikeout to the more offbeat likes of lakes Natron and Eyazi, visit the mysterious rock art of Kondoa, or track to the breathless peak of Kilimanjaro, a Tanzania safari will bring your dreams of Africa to life in unimagined experiences.

Tanzania also contains several remote reserves (Selous, Ruaha, Katavi), accessed by light aircraft, providing easy and pure safari experiences.

The chimpanzee tracking in the very remote Mahale Mountains is the best primate experience in Africa. The gorilla areas in neighboring Uganda and Rwanda are also easily reachable.

Most importantly, Tanzania is the prime location for safari and tropical beach combinations, with a fantastic coastline centered on the island of Zanzibar.

By light aircraft, a safari in Tanzania combines effortlessly with Uganda and Rwanda gorilla trekking adventures. It’s also one of the common East Africa destinations added to the tropical coastal holidays on Zanzibar island beaches.

One of our top sellers: Photo Safari in Tanzania & Uganda

watching gorillas in Rwanda's Volcanoes NAtional park - where to go on safari

Rwanda

See mountain gorillas and experience culture

Best time of year: Dec-Jan and Jun-Aug
Duration: 4-12 nights
Price: USD 3450 to USD 17800 per person

Surrounded by Tanzania, Burundi, DRC, and Uganda, Rwanda is a highly populous little country best known for its mountain scenery, tropical forests, mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, and cultural interaction, plus some modest savanna safari.

Sprinting away from the tourist hordes that flock to Kenya and Tanzania, Rwanda has emerged as one of East Africa’s premier safari destinations. With a capital city transformed and world-renowned attractions which teem with wildlife and spectacular display of African culture, a Rwanda gorilla safari vacation is the perfect getaway and relaxation you might need after this fretful pandemic. Visit Rwanda and go gorilla trekking in one of the most revered rainforest jungles on planet earth.

Volcanoes National Park is Rwanda’s tourism jewel, home to magnificent mountain gorillas. Thousands visit Rwanda every year to spend that once-in-a-lifetime hour with the great apes, and Nkuringo Safaris is proud to be a part of those precious moments.

However, Rwanda has a deliberate strategy of low-volume high-cost tourism, with some lodges at the very top end of the price spectrum. If you’re looking for high-quality, high-end lodges from which to go on a safari holiday, then Rwanda is almost certainly the best option.

On the extreme burrow end, there are few lower-end accommodation options, but by the time the cost of transport and permits are added, all trips to Rwanda tend to work out unavoidably pricey.

By Road, a safari in Rwanda combines easily with Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth Nationa Park for savannah game drives.

For example: Uganda & Rwanda Primate Safari.

By light aircraft, Rwanda combines well with the classic game safari and tropical beaches in Kenya and Tanzania.

For example: Safari in Serengeti & Gorillas in Volcanoes.

Gorilla trekking in uganda

Uganda

Mountain gorillas, chimpanzees & primates watching combined with classic game safaris

Best time of year: Jun-Mar
Duration: 4-14 nights
Price: USD 2150 to USD 14150 per person

Uganda combines everything the other three countries offer in its tinyness. Uganda is a land-locked East Africa destination in the west of Kenya, northwest of Tanzania, north of Rwanda, and east of DR Congo.

Travelers chose Uganda for its intense mountain gorillas and chimpanzee trekking experiences. But it also contains excellent Rift Valley scenery and savannah safari reserves. Uganda offers a wide range of accommodation choices, from decent-budget lodges and luxury lodges and camps.

You can’t visit Uganda for a couple of days and pretend to have explored its magnificence; you need more than two weeks to explore Africa’s pearl.

Top 5 Safari Lodges in Uganda

However, most first-time visitors stay for only a few nights to go gorilla tracking, then head off to other countries for their ubiquitous safari offerings, most commonly the Serengeti-Mara area.

But Uganda is a rewarding single destination offering raw destination experiences that provide more privacy than other East African destinations. It’It’s Uganda where only you could be on a savannah game drive without intrusion from other travelers.

Stay longer and adequately explore the country’s rewarding attractions. In the southwestern region, you can combine gorilla trekking and cultural experiences in Bwindi with chimpanzee tracking in Kibale and savannah game drives and boat safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Further north, stunning scenery and larger wildlife numbers in Murchison Falls NP and the superbly remote Kidepo Valley.

Safari in Uganda combines effortlessly with safari and tropical beaches in Kenya and Tanzania because of easy Great Migration adventures and connecting flight logistics.

Try these customizable journeys:

Planning your first safari in East Africa

Planning your first safari shouldn’t be a hustle if you are using s reputable safari company like Nkuringo Safaris to guide you on where to go for your safari holiday. We understand the region and partner with a great selection of properties that mind your ultimate experience.

From Uganda’s rainforest jungles vibrant with primates to Kenya’s plethora of plains wild, our safari specialists will plan with you the most memorable journey of your life. Send us an email at info@nkuringosafaris.com for a free consult.

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