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Having lived in Africa for about 5 years, it gave me an extraordinary chance to explore the continent.  The wide open spaces.  The iconic African animals.  The beautiful people.  And the problems that the continent faced and still faces.  These were everyday  experiences living there.  But Kati has never been to eastern or southern Africa.  She has been to north Africa a few times, but has yet to experience the great savannahs. We had planned a trip to Kenya and Uganda this past September, but with Covid had to delay it.  So this coming September, Kati and I will travel to Kenya and Uganda.  We will go on a Gorilla Trek in Bwindi as well as camp in the Maasai Mara.  I have always loved Africa and this will be a chance for Kati to fall in love with it as well.  Africa is one of those continents you think twice before planning for an extended vacation because it’s often portrayed negatively in the news and on social media. We are here to demystify these untruths with the most travelled and preferred destinations in Africa. Once you visit these places, you’ll keep coming back for more every year, believe me.  Having a sundowner while a herd of Elephant cross your path, or coming across a lion kill is amazing and wonderful. For me, I feel that this is the way life should be.  I feel more alive and want to share that experience with Kati.  

East Africa is a sandwiched region comprising 3 countries namely; Uganda (a landlocked country), Kenya, (home to most African famous athletes) and Tanzania, the largest State in the region. All three countries share the great Lake Victoria, one of Africa’s largest lakes. Kenya and Tanzania are sisters from all sides, sharing the Indian Ocean shores from Malindi to Zanzibar’s Exotic islands in Tanzania. Both countries also share the great Mara – home to the Maasai people, the vast Serengeti Park, and the enchanting Amboseli National Park.

 In East Africa, you will experience incredibly varied landscapes, cultures, and exciting safari activities.

Why Vacation in East Africa this Christmas?

East Africa has increasingly become the choice destination for many tourists looking for a great adventure, assured security, and affordability. COVID19 Pandemic has hit the hospitality industry globally, necessitating highly discounted rates to attract bookings. This is a great opportunity for tourists to travel this Christmas.  But, whether or not you travel to East Africa this Christmas or anytime during the year,  you will experience great hospitality from its warm people as you get to see assorted wildlife in its natural habitat. Coupled with this, East Africa also boasts clean, white sandy beaches and some of the most coveted safaris in Africa. 

What East Africa Has to Offer

East Africa’s three main countries share similar cultures, traditions, faith, and languages. They’re also English speaking countries, so language is not a problem in this region.

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In this article, we’ll feature top destinations to vacation in East Africa.

 

UGANDA 

Awed by her beauty, Winston Churchill described Uganda as the “The Pearl of Africa” in My African Journey, a book he wrote and published in 1908. Uganda boasts of natural beauty and is graced by numerous tropical forests, hills, and rivers.  

 

Places to Visit/Unique Tourist Attractions 

While Uganda’s capital city is Kampala, your entry into the country will be through Entebbe Airport, a 40 km ride from Kampala. Entebbe Airport is famous for the 1976 Israeli Operation, dubbed Operation Thunderbolt.  

Bwindi Forest National Park

Over 300kms away is Bwindi Forest National Park, where you will experience one of the most sought after activities in Uganda; the Gorilla Trek, home to over 320 mountain gorillas. The vast park has three entry points from 3 different countries: Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo (DRC). The hike requires some level of physical fitness and endurance. If you are in great shape, you will enjoy this life-changing experience and get to view the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat as you trek through the grueling impenetrable forest terrain.

Bwindi

A Gorilla in Bwindi. The current cost of a Gorilla Trekking permit is $700 and very limited.

Kibale National Park

In the western part of Uganda lies the Kibale National Park in Fort Portal, with a fantastic view of an evergreen forest sitting on 296 miles of land. This is the home of a myriad of primates whom you will interact with, as well as other wild animals so be sure to carry your camera to capture breath-taking photos of the vast, beautiful landscapes that unfold expansively in this area. 

 

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

The southern depths of Uganda is home to the great stomping beasts of the plateaus: mountain gorillas.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to giant gorillas, which are not too easy to spot due to the densely indelibly green rainforests and cloud-shrouded volcanos. The area offers game sightings of exceptional mountain gorillas and other wild animals – golden monkeys, woodland elephants, jackals, and wild hogs.

Away from the wildlife and in the city, a visit to Uganda will not be complete without a visit to Namugongo Martyrs ShrineMurchison fallsLake Bunyonyi, and Gaddafi Mosque. Located on Old Kampala Hill, the mosque showcases a blend of cultures, borrowed from European and Arab architecture with an African touch. If you are lucky to have access to the minaret, it offers a fantastic view of the capital city.

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Best Places to Stay in Uganda

When visiting Bwindi and Kabale game parks, make your bookings in advance to secure your hotel stay. Guided by your budget, below are a few affordable places to consider for your accommodation.

Buhoma Community Rest Camp

To fully explore Bwindi forest, Buhoma Community Rest Camp offers tented accommodation for as low as $30 for bed, shared accommodation, and slightly over $100 for self-contained accommodation.  Kati and I are staying here for a couple of nights during our Gorilla trek.

Buhoma Community Rest Camp

Buhoma Community Rest Camp

Bwindi Guest House 

With rates ranging between $45 and $100, this guest house within the Bwindi vicinity offers you a great opportunity to experience the gorilla treks at the heart of the national park.

Bushpig Backpackers

This low-cost lodging is perfect for hikers traveling on a restricted budget. Bushpig Backpackers offers you decent accommodation starting from $11 per night in dormitory-style housing. No privacy or meals offered. You have to buy food or eat at nearby restaurants.

 

KENYA 

Kenya is stunning. To relish the African Safari spirit, head to Nairobi, the bustling capital city, and gateway to an exciting vacation experience you will never forget. 

When you think about “safari,” think of the long distance runners, the spectacular wilder beast migration, and the elegant long jumping Maasai warriors. You can indulge in all these magical moments in a day. It’s an experience you don’t want to miss while visiting Kenya – enjoy the spirit of romance and adventure. The diversity of activities in Kenya dazzle all who visit, especially watching the country’s plentiful wildlife.

The Great Rift Valley, surrounded by calderas and mountain ranges, divides the country. To the east of this extensive valley, is the snow-cloaked equatorial crests of Mount Kenya and crystal-clear streams. To the west is Hell’s Gate National Park, with creepy caves and sizzles of natural hot springs and geysers.

Our top picks for Kenya Include:

 

Maasai Mara Game Reserve

Maasai Mara is perceived as a wonder of the world – renowned for the annual spectacular wildebeest migrations in Africa. Neighboring Tanzania, the Mara is the extension of the Serengeti National Park in the North and creates a wildlife corridor between them.

The reserve is named after the majestic, red-cloaked Maasai people, the original inhabitants of the land where they live and graze their animals in the park, an ancestral place for the tribesmen. Mara means “mottled” in the Maa language. 

The park is famed for the Great Wildebeest Migration, when thousands of Thomson’s gazelle gallop across the Mara River to and from Serengeti Park, from July to October.

In the Mara River, danger lurks as hungry hippos and crocodiles lie waiting for the frantic wildebeests. The park is also home to much other wildlife like herds of Zebras, lions, leopards, and the elusive cheetah. 

maasai mara

Zebra on the Mara

 Nairobi National Park

Nairobi National Park is exceptional. It sits in an expansive national reserve in the outskirts of the capital city; Nairobi. The park is only 15-minutes away from Kenya’s capital, where you can gaze at a snoozing pride of lions or the graceful giraffes strutting through the golden grass in the extensive National Park.

Visiting this park should top your to-do list if you’re staying in Nairobi if you can’t make it to the larger game reserves upcountry.

All the classic big five animals reside here, including buffalo, lion, elephant, the endangered rhinoceros, and the leopard.

The Safari Walk, a 2.5 km walk along a path with elevated barriers at the park, provides a gratifying chance to spot wildlife. You also get to see hundreds of bird species, including the beautiful kingfisher and the grey crowned crane.

Visit the Elephant Nursery and the Giraffe Centre, near the famed Giraffe Manor, where the long-necked beauties join you at breakfast and eat right out of your plate.

 

Mombasa 

Mombasa is the heart of the countries’ top tourist attraction. It’s a multi-ethnic tourist magnet. It’s also home to the biggest natural bay. The city’s inhabitants comprise a blend of the native Kenyans known as the Miji Kenda, Arabs, Portuguese, British, and Asian immigrants. Their influence spreads across architecture, the diverse cuisines, and the way of life in the coastal town.

 

Must see places in Mombasa

Being a small island, Mombasa is connected to the mainland and adjoining towns and villages by bridges and ferries. 

Fort Jesus 

As one of the main tourist attractions enjoy sightseeing at the 16th-century Fort Jesus, where the Portuguese built a fort to safeguard the town from invaders. Walk through the narrow paths of Old Town, and see the ancient Swahili dwellings, street cuisines, and souvenir shops.

Other Mombasa tourist attractions include the Mombasa Go-Kart, serene walks at the Bamburi Nature Trail, and romantic moments at the secluded Butterfly Pavilion Park.

 

Diani 

Voted as one of the best in Africa, Diani Beach sits on Mombasa Island’s southern coast. In Diani, you will experience white sandy beaches that border the pristine waters of the Indian Ocean while swimming under the expansive blue sky.

Diani is the home of snorkeling and deep-sea diving for aquatic enthusiasts. Experience a little heaven on earth with stunning flora and fauna rooted deep in the ocean. Be sure to carry along your diving suit and snorkeling kit as they may not be readily available. 

Wasini Island is home to friendly Dolphins. Diani Dhow offers an excellent service to ferry visitors to and from the island to enjoy quality time with these wonderful creatures.

 

Best Places to Stay while in Kenya

From luxury hotels to motels and homestays, there is a lot to pick from. Below are a few of the places that you may want to book for your Christmas Holidays.

While in Nairobi, you can stay at:

Villa Rossa Kempinsky

The Giraffe Manor

The Boma Hotel

In the Outskirts:

The Saltlick Safari Lodge 

Lake Nakuru Lodge

At the coast

White sands Hotel – Mombasa 

The sands at Nomads – Diani

TANZANIA 

Tanzania is the largest of the three east African countries and is the home of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain standing at 5,895 meters. If you love hiking, this should be on your bucket list. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro will take you no less than 7 days to reach its peak. Many tour companies offer guided tours to the peak, but the government only allows registered guides or trekking agencies to accompany foreigners. There are, on average, 35,000 hikers climbing the huge mountain annually. It may be a crowded affair, and if you want to experience the hike in a less crowded atmosphere, there are alternative routes available

 Our Top Picks for Tanzania Include:

Zanzibar

A visit to Tanzania would not be complete without a visit to the enchanting Zanzibar – an archipelago that offers a beautiful experience of the rich culture from the residents. Zanzibar offers a mind-blowing experience for those that love aquatic life. The Dhow Inn and The Manta Resort are choice locations on a higher budget but worth every coin.

The Manta Resort offers a unique experience with its underwater room to wake up to a live aquatic view. It is quite a charming sight to behold. 

The Serengeti National Park

The park borders Kenya where the great migration begins in the Mara National Reserve. . This vast exclusive conservation area is a tourist hotspot to experience the ultimate African Safari. Serengeti Park is home to thousands of lions, making it a coveted spot for live site seeing. To explore the park, stay in lodges around the park for safe site seeing.

Serengeti

Serengeti is amazing.

Ngorongoro Conservation Crater

 

Ngorongoro Conservation Crater is home to the world’s largest and unharmed geological volcanic caldera. The crater is also home to the highest population of wild lions and black rhinos in the world. The conservation crater also hosts other wild animals like Leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas. 

 

 Best Places to stay in Tanzania:

Konokono Beach Resort Zanzibar

Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti

Ngorongoro Serena Safari lodge

 

 Conclusion

 

From elephants to dolphins, charming gorillas, and friendly giraffes, East Africa has it all. While you visit during Christmas, learn a few Swahili words like “Jambo,” “Hakuna Matata, ” and “Karibu nyumbani.” An East African vacation will definitely change your perspective of Africa – where you will experience unmatched hospitable locals, friendly animals, and serene beaches with plenty of water sports and amazing sea cuisines.

Whenever you chose to travel to East Africa, probably our biggest recommendation is to see when the great migration will occur in each country.  To see the most animals and truly an extraordinary event in nature, be sure not to miss  it.  Africa is incredible anytime of year, and it is a must-see for any nature or animal lover.

 

 

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