SPECIAL FEATURE | Top 5 Things to do on a Summer Vacation in East AfricaEvery year, a number of people make the decision to take a summer vacation in Africa. Despite the fact that a large number of individuals do vacation during the summer months, there are even more that do not with a number of reasons such as cost. Many mistakenly believe that a vacation has to be an extravagant adventure. Another reason could be not being able to know where exactly to go or what to will do once they are at the planned destination.
Planning a summer vacation for instance to East Africa can be an easy task, but at the same time it can be difficult when it comes to choosing what you will do. The region has a number of classic destinations each offering unique activities that you can do which sometimes can become tricky to choose.
It all depends on what you need and want to get out of your summer vacation. The first step is not necessarily to choose a destination, but to choose a scenery. Would you like to go camping in the wilderness, sailing on the water, seeing birds and animals, visiting the locals or be relaxing at the beach? The things that you want to do on your safari vacation are vital to the selecting the perfect summer vacation destination. Here are the top eight things to do during your Summer Vacation in East Africa.
Primates Tracking in Uganda and Rwanda
Travellers to East Africa are drawn by a number of reasons including stunning landscape, green rolling hills, snow-capped mountains, rainforests, majestic rivers, massive lakes and unique wildlife among others. Many are drawn by the top primates of the region, mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.
Opportunities for Gorilla safaris, tracking chimpanzees among other primates in Uganda and Rwanda are unrivalled elsewhere in East Africa.
Mountain Gorillas are the most critically endangered primate species in the world and can only be found in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo with their remaining total population not exceeding 1200. The chimpanzee is our closet living relative, sharing 98% of our genes and much of our behaviour.
It is in Uganda that you find the highest number of primate species anywhere in the world. The best place here to see the rare mountain gorilla is at the 331 sq. km Bwindi National Park.
This park was formerly known as the Impenetrable Forest with good reason. The trees are thick and the forest thicker with dense undergrowth, creepers, bamboos and parasitic plants such as mistletoe and orchids. This environment is the habitat for mountain gorilla’s, chimpanzee, and 8 other species of primate. However, if you want to see more chimpanzees and other primates other than mountain gorillas, Kibale forest is the top place in East Africa. The forest is a renowned primate capital of the region and offers 13 primate species with both diurnals and nocturnal.
In Rwanda, mountain Gorillas are tracked in Volcanoes National park, Ruhengeri district and so the rare Golden monkeys, an endangered monkey species endemic to the Virunga Conservation Area. Chimpanzees in Rwanda are found in Nyungwe forest alongside other primate species.
Gorilla tracking is limited to small groups and the licenses/ permissions are issued to ensure minimum disruption to the routine of the animals. Tracking the gorillas is an arduous task and you should be prepared for up to 8 hours of hiking. Good physical condition is a must. You are advised to make arrangements 4-12 months prior to the date of your visit. Bwindi and Volcanoes are essentially rain forests and it is necessary to bring along a raincoat, walking boots and gloves.
Mountain Hiking in Tanzania and Uganda
Bored of the normal marked trails, come to a new adrenaline rush in East Africa: mountain hiking. Hiking several hundred feet above sea level will give you a taste for the extreme and the rush you are looking for. Mountain hiking isn’t much different than simple hiking. The only major difference is the endurance needed and the terrain you are hiking on. Over all the same gear is needed and the idea is much the same.
In Tanzania, the Snow-capped Kilimanjaro, floating above the clouds is no doubt one of the most beautiful and impressive sights in the natural world. The mountain is one of the Seven Top Summits of the world – it has the highest point on the African continent and is the highest freestanding mountain in the world. Going up the mountain, you move from tropical to artic conditions. There are five distinct climatic zones, with each zone taking approximately 3,300 feet. The zones are- the lower slopes, then forest, then moorland, alpine desert and the summit.
In Uganda, the fairly flat terrain of the country is interrupted to the west by the Rwenzori Mountains and to the east by Mount Elgon. Rwenzori, otherwise known as “Mountains of the Moon” has the third highest peak in Africa after Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro. The Rwenzori is part of the national park of the same name and contains 6 snow-capped peaks. You can hike the trails of this mountain without any special climbing equipment unless you want to go for the peaks. The mist covered mountain range stretches for about 80 km. On the other hand, Mount Elgon sits by the Kenyan border and is the shell of an ancient volcano. The main attractions here are the waterfalls, caves that were once used by indigenous people, hot springs, the mountains vegetation, the various peaks, the Suam Gorge and the caldera itself. After millions of years of erosion, the oval shaped caldera now measures roughly 7 by 8 kms, the largest in the world.
In some cases while mountain climbing, you might need to wear eye protection, depending on where you are hiking. In snowy conditions, blindness is common due to the glare, even on overcast days blindness can be a concern. Also in sunny conditions it is important to wear eye protection to protect your eyes.
Game Viewing and wild beast migrations in Kenya and Tanzania
Of the hundreds of awesome activities that East Africa has on offer on classic Africa safaris, probably the most popular activity is Game Viewing. Game viewing on any of the many National parks and game reserves in East Africa provides an opportunity to see wildlife in all their beauty in their natural habitat.
To start with Kenya, she is not renowned as the land of safari for nothing. The best place to visit here is the Maasai mara. They say you haven’t been on safari till you’ve been to the Mara. The Mara is arguably Africa’s crown jewel in terms of wildlife. The Maasai word ‘Mara’ means ‘spotted’ in English perhaps referring to the countless wild animals that dot this gently undulating 1510km² of grasslands. The park boasts the highest wildlife concentrate in the whole of Africa and one of the best places to see the “big five” elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo. Other popular destinations in Kenya for wildlife can include Aberdare, Samuru, Lake Nakuru and Nairobi National parks among others.
When it comes to Tanzania, the Serengeti just seems to roll on and on and on. The first sight of this natural wonderland is breath-taking. With its combination of plains, riverine forest and thorn scrub, Serengeti remains one of the most fascinating locations in the world to watch wildlife. Get a chance to see lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes all in plenty.
In Uganda, game viewing adventures are best in the Murchison Falls National Park. There is plenty to do at Murchison. Game viewing usually takes place early in the morning. Birding can go on for the whole day. There is a boat ride to the bottom of the falls or the Buligi circuit, a peninsula between the Victoria and Albert Niles, between the Victoria and Albert Niles which has the highest concentration of wildlife.
There are forest walks where one gets to see chimpanzees. The tree climbing lions of Uganda are also a gem for this landlocked country. They can be easily seen on the fig trees in the Isasha sector in Queen Elizabeth National park.
When it comes to the great migration around end of June, the yellowish green plains turn black as hordes of Wildebeest march unrelentingly towards the Kenyan border, destination Maasai Mara for the plush vegetation. The Wildebeest, Zebra and Thompson Gazelle begin the journey back to the Serengeti around November when the succulent grasslands of the Maasai Mara have been exhausted.
Water Rafting on the Nile, Uganda
Few can resist the enjoyment and excitement of river rafting. Taking some care and precautions while preparing for a rafting vacation could be what it takes to make it the best vacation ever. It is simply a blast and a great way to get away from the clutter of life.
Water Rafting in East Africa (with exclusion of Democratic Republic of Congo) is only on River Nile, in Jinja – Eastern side of Uganda. The Nile is the renowned longest river on earth seeing its source in Jinja just at the shores of Lake Victoria. There are many other activities like bungee jumping, ballooning the Nile, water sliding, zip lining, quad biking, canoeing, kayaking, sport fishing and more in and around the area, but white-water rafting is one of the most popular.
To those that have tasted it, River Nile offers a great scenery for white water rafting. The activity can be done all year round and rafting skill level is not so important to determine when to schedule your vacation. The rafting experiences range from mild, exciting and extreme and takes you through exciting rapids and falls such as Itanda falls and Kalagala falls among others.
Beach Holidays in Zanzibar and Uganda
Are you a beach lover? If you love the sand, the water, and the sun, you may be considered a beach lover, on a number of different levels. Individual who love the beach are more likely to select a beach for their next summer vacation destination. If you are interested in experiencing a vacation on the beach, there are a number of places to visit in East Africa during your vacation. The best is Zanzibar, an Island attached to Tanzania. Beach holidays in Tanzania can be done alone or integrated with other activities along. Kenya also offers great beaches at the coast and around Lake Victoria as so Uganda.
In Uganda, best beaches are found in Entebbe along the shores of Lake Victoria and at Ssese Island that becoming more popular for weekend retreats where you can do sun bathing, sport fishing and canoeing among others. In Rwanda, best beaches are found along the shores of Lake Kivu.
Meanwhile, you should note that in the summer months, a large number of individuals flock to the beaches along the coast and those of Zanzibar. This often results in beach overcrowding. If you do not mind be one of thousands of people at the beach, there shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you are looking for a private or romantic beach getaway, you may want to examine more secluded beach resorts such as in Uganda and Rwanda.