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Beyond Safaris: Things to Do in Kenya

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Nairobi Safari

In the previous post on this blog, I mentioned the need for Kenya to move beyond the traditional safaris and diversify its tourism product offering, or risk going stale. This may have created the impression that apart from wildlife safaris, there is nothing else for you to see and to do in Kenya. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. The country offers you plenty of holiday activities and other great reasons why you may want to travel to Kenya. Today’s post highlights a few of these opportunities.

1. Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE)
Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is one of Africa’s most important commercial hubs. This also makes it a key destination for business meetings, conferences and other events. Fortunately, the city has plenty of world class hotels and venues to meet this demand.
Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, Kenya

The Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, Kenya

The most famous, and by far the largest, conference venue in Nairobi is the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC). KICC is located in the city centre, within a walking distance of many of the city hotels. This makes it the ideal place if you are hosting a large event with participants

Besides KICC, most of the good hotels in Nairobi have great facilities for conferencing and meetings. The hotels include several respected regional and international brands, among them include Hilton, Intercontinental, Fairmont, Serena, and Sarova hotels. This is in addition to a number of equally high quality local hotels such as Safari Park, Fairview, and Jacaranda hotels among others. Every year, new hotels get established in Nairobi every year, some of which I mentioned in this old post. The newest entrants include Eka Hotel, The Boma, Hogmead, among many others. Even more are set to open in the next one or two years, including notable international brands like Radisson Blu and Kempinski.

But Nairobi is not the only venue for conferences and events in Kenya. All the other major cities, including Mombasa, Kisumu, and Nakuru, have good hotels where you can hold your meeting or exhibitions too. There are even plenty of excellent conference venues in smaller and less crowded towns like Limuru, just a short distance from Nairobi.

2. Sports Tourism
Kenya is the home of marathon champions and other world-class athletes. If you love athletics, you may want to travel to Kenya for one of the several annual marathons, half-marathons, and other athletic events. You will get to race against some of the best runners in the world as well as many upcoming athletes destined to be world beaters.

The most popular annual marathons in Kenya include the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon, the Safaricom Lewa Marathon, the Kass International Marathon in Eldoret, the Masai Mara Marathon, and the Ndakaini Dam half-marathon. There are also plenty of other less known, but equally competitive, marathons held all around the country.

Apart from athletics, Golf tourism is the other form of sports tourism you can enjoy in Kenya. There are more than 40 golf courses in Kenya, over a dozen of which are 18-hole courses.

The Muthaiga golf club is arguably the most renowned of these golf courses. Each year, the club hosts the Kenya Open, which is also part of the European PGA Challenge Cup. Other beautiful and popular courses include the Great Rift Valley Lodge, Karen Golf and Country Club, Nyali Golf and Country Club in Mombasa, and the recently opened Vipingo Ridge Golf Resort.

Two upcoming golf resorts -the Olerai Golf Resort near the Masai Mara and the Sergoit Golf and Wildlife Resort near Eldoret – underline the importance of golf tourism in Kenya.

3. Romantic Vacations
Did you know that Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton while on vacation in Kenya? Rutundu Logs cabin, the actual place where the Royal couple were staying, is set in a beautiful location on the slopes of Mount Kenya, only a short distance from the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. That in itself is testimony to the fact that Kenya is home to some nice hideaways for romantic vacations of all sorts.

Whether you want an ideal place for popping the question, honeymoon, or whatever romantic occasion, you will find something in the Kenya. Not just in the wild, but even more so in the coastal beaches. Some of the best romantic beach destinations in Kenya are in Lamu, Diani, Chale Island, and Wasini Island.

4. Adventure Travel
If you are an adrenaline junkie, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the wide array of adventure opportunities available to you in Kenya. The ultimate is perhaps the technical fifth class rock climbing and mountaineering at Mt. Kenya. Even though it is the second highest mountain in Africa after Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya is more difficult and technical to climb.

Skydiving is another notable adventure activity you can undertake in Kenya. The annual Diani skydiving Boogie (see this website) is considered by some experts as the skydivers’ Mecca. Whether you are a novice or a veteran skydiver, you should attend the boogie at least once in your life. What makes it most special is the atmospheric condition of the Indian ocean, which allows for a free fall of up to one minute.

Other adventure travel activities you can enjoy in Kenya include kayaking, white water rafting, and bungee jumping in the Sagana, Tana, and Athi rivers.

5. Water Sports
The Kenyan coast is not just ideal for beach holidays, it is also well suited for several water sports. Among the water sports you can engage in in Kenya include:

Water skiing (see this website for example)
Wind surfing (website)
Kite surfing (website)
Snorkeling (website)
Deep sea sport fishing (website)
Scuba diving (website)
And many many more

Although most beach hotels can help you arrange your watersports adventure, some are particularly more focused on such. They include Ocean Sports Resort in Watamu, the Majlis in Lamu, and Almanara resort in Diani.

6. Voluntourism
I have mixed feelings about volunteer travel as it is currently practised in Kenya, moreso because I believe the best solutions for any local problems can only come from within Kenya. But in its purest state, the overall concept is noble. Voluntourism is a way to have a holiday while at the same time actively contributing to the betterment of the community in your destination. There are some few honest organizations out there through which you can offer to volunteer your skills to positively and genuinely benefit certain disadvantaged communities in Kenya.

Best Time to Go on an African Safari

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Depending on your travel needs, African safaris can be done at any time of the year. When planning an African safari, the dry and wet/rainy seasons are two essential seasons any traveler should put into consideration. However, seasons do vary from one country to another and this requires some bit of research if you plan to have an excellent African safari experience.

The dry season is regarded as the best time to go on an African safari. This means the typical African safari is perfectly conducted in the months of June, July, August, September and December, January, February. These dry months are ideal for visitors who wish to embark on primate experience, especially mountain gorilla trekking, chimpanzee tracking, golden monkey tracking in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For those going on a safari in Uganda, gorilla trekking in Uganda are done in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. For those going to Rwanda, the Volcanoes National Park is the best place to visit and in the DR Congo, the Virunga National Park is the best place to see mountain gorillas and Kahuzi Biega National Park is ideal for Eastern lowland gorilla trekking.

The dry season also offer the best game viewing experience to visitors on an African safari. The best places to consider for your game viewing experiences in Africa include among others Kruger National Park, Masai Mara National Reserve, Etosha National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Amboseli National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Serengeti National Park, Selous National Reserve.

The dry season is as well ideal for hiking or mountaineering experiences. The advantage with the dry season is that there is low rainfall received and most trails are kept relatively drier thus making it easier for hikers to explore the Rwenzori Mountain ranges, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya and many others.

For those of you who are interested in exploring and experiencing in-depth about whales in South Africa, the best time is usually in the months of June, July, August, September, October and November. South Africa is an exceptional place in the world that offers the best whale watching experiences.

To witness the great wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania, the best time to embark on an African safari is between July and October. The wildebeest migration is a unique wildlife experience which involves a huge concentration of wildebeests, zebras and Thomson gazelles migrating from the vast savannas of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park to Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve.

In case you are interested in discounted tours then April is the best month of the year for you go on an African safari to East Africa or Southern Africa. Plenty of rainfall is received during this month and most destinations receive fewer visitors. Most accommodation facilities are then forced to cut down on their accommodation rates as away to attract more visitors. Considerably, wet or rainy season in most African safari destinations occurs in April, March, May and October, November.

Bird watching in Africa is best conducted between November and March. For memorable birding safari experience, the best destination to consider include Botswana, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and in East Africa, January, February, March offer incredible bird watching experiences. In East Africa, the best destinations to visit for birding include Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and many more. In West Africa, bird watching trips are best done in Gambia, Cameroon and other places are best to explore from November to March when most migratory birds confine into Africa.

The disadvantage with the wet or rainy season is that most of the routes to Africa’s national parks and reserves where most African safaris are conducted tend to be muddy, slippery due to heavy rainfall. Given the nature of most African roads, it becomes challenging to navigate to your dream destination.

In summary, there is no specific best time to go on an African safari. To have excellent African safari experience, the dry/peak season and wet/rainy also known as the low season are two most essential seasons you need to put into consideration and definitely, you won’t be left in regrets. Get in touch with our reservation team and let’s plan your African safari together!

Mistakes to Avoid When Planning Uganda Safari

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The five biggest mistakes people make when booking a trip to Uganda and how to avoid them. When booking for a Uganda safari, mistakes are bound to be made regardless of whether you are first time traveler or repeat visitor. A successful Uganda safari is achievable but requires adequate planning, time yet the process can be frustrating.

With so much that you will be required to put together for a successful road trip in Uganda, mistakes are likely to be made but these can be avoided. This article brings you a detailed list of the five biggest mistakes people make when booking a trip to Uganda and how you can avoid them.

Booking a trip to Uganda at a wrong time/season

When booking for a trip to Uganda, the 2 seasons-the wet and dry seasons should be put into consideration. Not all seasons are perfect for road trips in Uganda and some holidaymakers have found themselves book trips at a wrong time/season hence ruining their whole experience. You can avoid by having your next road trip to Uganda booked at a right time.

Yes, Uganda is open to all travelers all year-round considering her conducive weather and climatic conditions but it is key to know the best time to travel for your Uganda safaris. Different trip activities are best conducted during a particular time or season of the year. As first time or repeat traveler, the dry season is undeniably the best time to plan or book a trip to Uganda.

The dry season is of no doubt the best time to take a trip to Uganda for Gorilla Trekking, Golden monkey Tracking, Game drive, Chimpanzee Tracking, Mountaineering or hiking and so on. This means that you can have your Uganda holiday tour booked during the dry months of June, July, August to September or December, January to February. Birding trips in Uganda are perfectly done during the rainy/wet months.

Choosing the wrong travel group

Traveling as a group is fun but when you land into a wrong travel group, you may regret taking a trip. You need to be keen when choosing the travel group to go for a holiday in Uganda. A group with similar travel desires/goals, same age bracket or that accommodates/understands everyone is the best to book a trip to Uganda with. Don’t travel with any group just because its members are on a trip. Yes, group safaris in Uganda come with great benefits like cost sharing but you must choose the right travel group to avoid ruining your experience.

Booking a Uganda tour with a wrong tour agent/operator

Booking a Uganda safari with a wrong tour agent or tour operator is undoubtedly one of the biggest mistakes travelers make. Yes, hundreds of tour operators are in Uganda, majority of which offer the same services but not all are worth booking a trip with. Others operate yet not registered. That is why it is important to confirm if the tour operator or agent you plan to book your trip in Uganda with is registered and trustworthy.

The other most important mistake you must avoid is arranging trips by yourself. Use a certified ground tour operator considering the wide knowledge the tour operators have not only on activities/experiences, destinations but also they help find and book accommodation on your behalf before you travel for actual trip in Uganda, arrange a rental car for your road trips to and from the destination etc.

Not taking the best itinerary

The travel itinerary/plan is an ultimate guide for all Uganda safaris and it is what guarantees you a smooth/a well-organized Uganda road trip. When booking a trip to Uganda, the mistake most travelers make is choosing wrong packages/travel plans. You need the best travel plan/package that guarantees you a flexible road trip such that you have opportunity to participate in other experiences or discover several more activities in various destinations.

Avoid packages that restrict your exploration and most preferably, go for long tours say 8 days Uganda safaris, 10 days Uganda tour, 15 days Uganda safari and more to give you room to explore what Uganda has to offer the world. And when considering booking a particular package, make sure that you have been provided with the correct quote.

Leaving behind essentials on their packing list

Before you make up your mind to book a trip to Uganda, it does take time and planning. Part of the process to achieve a complete Uganda tour is packing rightly but most travelers easily forget this significant step. Also, the common mistake among travelers is packing everything yet this isn’t necessary.

Essential items should be considered when packing for a trip in Uganda. If you plan to undertake say Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park or Chimpanzee Tracking adventure in Kibale National Park, the essentials to consider a must-pack include waterproof hiking/walking boots, insect repellent, camera with no flashlight, waterproof backpack, gardening gloves, rain jacket or poncho, first aid kit, long sleeved shirt, sweater, socks etc.

Guide to Primate Tracking in Africa

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Africa is one of the best destinations for primate safaris having the rich population of mountain gorillas in the world. It’s only in Uganda where you can track mountain gorillas in two different national parks this really satisfies visitors interested in double gorilla trekking due to the fact that they actually do the trek in totally different environments. These mountain gorilla based parks include Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga gorilla National park. The remaining mountain gorilla population is found both Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo in a conservation area called the Virunga region.

Gorillas

Gorilla trekking adventure has actually become a year-round activity since their habitat has been reduced so significantly, they could not roam far as they used to. However, gorilla trekking in the jungle is a little hard at times especially during the rainy season, the steep paths, mist and mud can make it almost impossible to go through. Very heavy rain also makes it more difficult to take good photos, and since you only have limited time with the gorillas, not more than an hour, it would be a shame not to get a good snapshot or two. The main rainy seasons in the region are from March to April and October to November that is in Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC.

Chimpanzees

The best primate safaris experience in Africa is obviously at Kibale Forest national Park in Uganda and Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest with two main activities chimpanzee tracking and Chimpanzee habituation experience. Like gorilla trekking, Chimps tracking can take place all year-round but also the rainy season makes walking in the remote ancient rain forests a little tougher and the photographic opportunities aren’t as pleasing as during the dry season (July – October and December – February). However, the rainy season also means the chimpanzees don’t have to roam too far to find water and they are easier to locate (February-June, November-mid December).

Where in the world can you See Mountain Gorillas?

With nearly 900 total population of mountain gorillas left in the world, seeing them in the wild is a moment of a lifetime, only a few trekkers have the chance to experience the few of the remaining gentle giants and rarest species on earth. This section will tell you where you can see mountain gorillas, how much the permit costs, and help you choose the best tour company to go with.

About 480 mountain gorillas inhabit an extinct volcanic region called the Virunga Range along the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in East Africa. The other about 420 mountain gorillas inhabit a nearby area of Bwindi in Uganda, a thick rainforest.

Uganda

The two parks in Uganda are; Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where you are able to experience gorilla tracking activity.

Mgahinga is situated on the extreme southwest corner of Uganda on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains. It borders the DRC and Rwanda. The park only covers 28 square miles so it’s quite small, but besides gorillas you can also see leopard, buffalo, bushbuck and the interesting golden monkeys.

Bwindi impenetrable Forest National park is located in south-western Uganda and is home to about half of all worlds mountain gorillas. The park covers about 200 square miles of extremely dense rainforest and is a proclaimed World Heritage site. Part of the fun of tracking gorillas here is trying to follow them through the dense foliage. You can also get to see chimpanzees as well as 350 species of birds, most of which are endemic to Albertine rift.

Rwanda

Rwanda has one park in the North of the country encompassing its share of the mountain gorilla population: the Virunga National Park or Parc National des Volcans (PNV). The park covers an area of about 46 square miles and encompasses six volcanoes. Despite the terrible genocide in the early 1990’s the country is fairly stable and the park permit system is running smoothly. The PNV was where Dian Fossey set up her base and research center. Tracking gorillas in the PNV is slightly less strenuous than at Bwindi since the gorillas move around a little less. The more open terrain also allows more light for better photo opportunities than in Bwindi. Check out my gorilla tracking experience in Rwanda.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The DRC also has a section of the Virunga Mountains Park called the Parc National des Virunga. The DRC gorilla population suffered a major setback because several gorillas were brutally hacked to death in 2007. In 2012 a census showed the gorillas were doing better than expected despite the civil war raging around them in large part due to the amazing efforts of rangers putting their lives on the line at Virunga National Park. In 2014 the Director of the park was shot in an ambush, but survived and continues the effort to save the park from various rebel movements encroaching on their territory as well as oil-companies looking to gain drilling rights.

Tracking Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorilla tracking activity is not easy, nor are you guaranteed to see them. The trek to where the gorilla groups is at that time can take you through very dense vegetation, up steep slopes and can last several hours of the day. The dense vegetation is filled with burning and stinging nettles, so wearing gloves is ideal. Red ants are also common, please wear long socks to tuck your trousers into, jungle boots are recommended as well as rain jacket. Gorillas move around so they aren’t all that easy to track. The gorillas groups you will be likely to meet are habituated to humans which is why you are able to get quite close to them.

Some of gorilla tracking basic rules include:

  • You have to be over 15 years of age and above
  • You do not have to be sick or have any infectious disease
  • Only one hour is allowed with the gorillas and you have to keep a distance of at least 7 metres
  • Maximum number of visitors per day is 6-12 people per group
  • No flash photography is allowed
  • Trekkers must be fit and well equipped, which includes warm clothing for the wet cool climate high in the mountains.
  • No eating or drinking in the vicinity of the gorillas
  • No touching the gorillas (although they may decide to touch you)
  • No pointing at gorillas

Gorilla Permits

For one to track gorillas, you need an official permit handled by each of the national parks to meet the gentle giants. more often than not you have to obtain it several months in advance. If you contacted a tour company, it will be arranged for you.

In Uganda gorilla permits cost US$700 per day per person in all seasons starting 2018. You can get the permits from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) headquarters in Kampala (the capital of Uganda). It is possible to make an international booking for permits using email direct with UWA but they do not accept credit cards so it gets a bit complicated. See their web site for more details. To make it simple, you can just purchase your whole gorilla tour through a specialized company, like Gorilla hub tours ltd or Select Safaris Africa.

For the case of Rwanda you can get permits through the Rwanda Tourism Board offices (ORTPN) in Kigali or Ruhengeri (near the PNV). You can email at reservation@rwandatourism.com. The permits cost USD 1,500 per person per day. Most people will get their permits through a tour operator that arranges gorilla trekking Safaris. It is difficult to obtain a permit without booking a tour at the same time. Note that you need to book your gorilla permit early enough at least 3 months in advance, especially if you plan to go between June – October to avoid the disappointment since trekking permits are on a high demand.

Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC its best to just arrange your permit (US$400) and tour through tour companies. They will also be up to date on current security in the park. You can combine your visit with chimpanzee trekking and an amazing volcano trek.

Gorilla Trekking on a Honeymoon Holiday

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Gorilla Trekking is one of the memorable adventures in Uganda, Rwanda and D.R.Congo. Majority of honeymooners worldwide travel normally to tourism destinations with less active vacations mainly to the beaches like Mombasa, Seychelles for holiday but the fact that beaches are usually crowded makes them uncomfortable during the honeymoon moments. It is therefore possible to try out something different as you chill and rest after hassling with the wedding preparations.

You can go gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest as you celebrate your honeymoon adventure! Gorilla Trekking takes you to the serene environment which is cool, cloudy and misty looking for the rare and endangered mountain gorillas within the impenetrable jungles of the tropical rain forest. Just the two of you can explain this romantic feeling of sitting for full hour with the mountain gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi National park and Mgahinga National park or Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. It is just an adorable moment.

On the day of gorilla trekking, you rise up for briefing before heading to the forest to begin searching for the gorillas which are quite mobile as they look for food. On the way, the birds keep singing romantic hymns of the jungle as if they know you are on honeymoon. Look at them as they search for what to eat, the other primates like the baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys also keep entertaining you . The time moment you get to see the gorillas, you get excited to the extent of forgetting your past fatigue. Take just there photographs and get back to the lodge carrying only memories of this adventure.

The gorilla trek normally takes a few hours though some times if you are unlucky you can take a whole day looking for the giant mountain gorillas. There are also several possible options that you can take after the trek.

Your guide can take you to the Batwa land and experience their culture. The Batwa were the forest dwellers who were living with the mountain gorillas within Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Families of the Batwa pygmies live close to Bwindi and therefore in case you still energy, you can take a walk to the Batwa land to enjoy the typical Africa moment with the local families. You will dance with the Batwa, learn about their norms and traditions, as well as have interesting performances that cover their authentic culture.

After the Batwa Experience, get back to your lodge for your overnight. It is quite a short moment but very memorable to couples. Make it a point to carry some souvenirs with you because there are interesting wall hangings that will remind you of your moments in Africa.  Don’t miss this memorable moment.

Top 10 Things to Do in Uganda

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Uganda is the pearl of Africa. This beautiful East African country is endowed with a lot of amazing things; food, birds,  gorillas and more. There are lots of amazing places to visit on a safari in Uganda including Kampala, Lake Victoria, Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, River Nile! There are lots of things to do in Uganda. Here are the most popular 10 adventures that you will enjoy in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa.

Go Birding in Uganda

Birds, birds, birds. I LOVE BIRDS! And Uganda has more than 1000 species: pretty, beautiful, stunning, huge, noisy, elegant, comical, graceful, they’re all here.

Wildlife Safaris

Elephants brought me to Uganda. (Yeah I know, most people would just get on a plane!)

Go Gorilla Trekking

Uganda is one of the only three countries in the world that host the endangered mountain gorillas. You can enjoy a gorilla trek through the tropical rain forest and the Uganda’s Gentle Giants within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. A gorilla permit goes for US$700 per person [per trek] and during the off-peak season, there are discounted prices of up to USD450 per person.

Adventures in Jinja

Jinja, Source of the Nile, interesting colonial architecture, a market that is less congested than Kampala’s – and location for some memorable weekends at Nile River Camp.

Raft the Mighty River Nile

The River Nile in Jinja is quite a big deal for Uganda visitors – “Bring it on!” I screamed on my first Grade 5 white water rafting expedition. Second time around, I invited a friend to take my place; third time rafting, and I bailed out as the biggest rapids approached! Feeling nervous, learning to trust your guide, screaming with laughter as you successfully (or not!) negotiate the rapids, you’ll certainly never forget a day on the Nile.

Cruises Along Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria – The world’s second largest freshwater lake – and the largest on the African continent – is where we taught our dogs to swim. Even as my feet crunched onto the tiny snails on the lake bed, I seem to have so far avoided Bilharzia! Can dogs catch it too?

Search for the Tree Climbing Lions

The search for the famed tree climbing lions in the Ishasha Sector is quite a breathtaking adventure – and a lot bigger in real life!

5 Great Sights to See Safaris of Africa Live!

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Serengeti National Park

There are literally hundreds of national parks and preserved wildlife areas in African safaris that you are sure to find yourself cramping all them into limited schedules. That way, you may see all. but would you rather experience safaris in excessively fast pace and never get the marvel from them or take one place at a time and leave the rest for another vacation and indulge yourself in true beauty. Well, that is practically a personal preference.

To trim down the possibility that you would not take pleasure from the safaris of Africa, we have listed five hottest destinations in this article.

Serengeti in Tanzania

This is the famous sight that we normally see in videos documenting the annual migration of animals to find fresher grounds. In fact, the event is duly ranked as one of the most wonderful occurrences in the world. Endless safaris are filled with animals, evoking the spirit of survival and wildlife, all longing to find some place to stay during the worst times of the year.

Masai Mara in Kenya

Wanting to see cats dominating the wildlife, go to Masai Mara, the haven for cheetahs, lions and leopards.

See them in action and see them near…this sight is most perfect for cat enthusiasts as they offer endless miles of vegetation which is conducive for survival. Not too mention, conducive for game viewing.

However, this is strictly not the perfect place if you want to be alone. Since it is popular, it had become the hottest sight for the outpour of tourists.

Kruger National Park in South Africa

For superb accommodation and sheer delight of seeing myriad of animals, plants and bird species, this park seems to be one of the perfect place to offer thrills that safaris in Africa may present. This is due to the reason that the park shelters diverse ecosystems that allow different species to coexist within a single location.

Selinda Reserve in Botswana

Though this haven is less popular among novice safari travelers, it is still the top choice of seasoned travelers who seem to return to the place over and over and over again. The high standard of accommodation and high concentration of species draws them towards this sanctuary.

South Luangwa National Park in Zambia

This is one of Africa’s best kept secrets, which only waits for its own time to be. It is like a diamond that is about to be discovered amidst the roughness of the stones. Someday, as experts say, South Luangwa National Park will claim it proper place among the top vacation spots in Africa.

First Timers Travelers Guide to Uganda

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Uganda Homestay

Uganda is a landlocked country situated across the equator in East Africa. Due to its geographical location, Uganda has a tropical climate, with dry and rain seasons in a year. North eastern parts, Karamoja region experiences dry spells in its semi-arid Kidepo valley national park the true African wilderness.

What to Expect on Your Visit

In the western region where the altitudes are high, cold weather and high amounts of rainfall are expected due to tropical rain forests such as Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and the large amounts of snow on the peaks of Ruwenzori Mountains.

Uganda is a country of diverse wildlife and culture and is commonly referred to as the pearl of Africa. In the travel media, Uganda is well known for its mountain gorillas and most visitors would travel to this beautiful country mainly for gorilla tracking experience. There are 10 national parks and 13 wildlife reserves protecting diverse wildlife including more than 1000 species of birds and big 5 mammals. There are also interesting geographical points such as the official source of the Nile the world’s longest river and Lake Victoria the largest fresh water lake with tropical islands.

Beyond the wildlife and natural beauty, the people of Uganda are very friendly and welcoming and their country is politically safe and secure for travelers. You can obtain visa on arrival at Entebbe international airport given you have your documents, apply online or at Uganda diplomatic embassy, thus traveling to Uganda is hustle free. The capital city Kampala is located 40 km away from the airport.

When traveling to Uganda for the first time, you need an understanding of what to expect on a trip. You could land on information that’s little confusing about the political situation. But if dealing with the right kind of tour operators, your research will pay off. And you will arrive in Uganda aware of the culture, common words in local language and the nature of transportation.

How to book your safari to Uganda

If you are planning for a safari to Uganda, you can book your trip with a recognized tour operator or travel agent. Make sure that the agent you intend to deal with is registered and recognized. There are many tour companies in Uganda and you need only one that is trust worthy for you to deal with. In most cases, they have cars for hire to help you connect to your dream destination.

How to get to Uganda

When you think of a trip to Uganda, no need for you to worry because there are international and regional flights to help you get to magical country. The notable airlines for you to use include Brussels, Kenya Airways, British airways, KLM and many more. There are also other means of transportation in Uganda including regional coaches/buses to help you get to the pearl of Africa. You will need a valid passport and visa to get to Uganda. To get to the parks of your choice, there are many car rentals for you to help you reach to your dream destination and usually they come with professional driver guides.

Best time to visit Uganda

Uganda can be visited at any time of year. However, when planning for your safari, take note of the dry and wet season. The dry season is usually regarded as the best time for one to visit this magical destination and it starts from June to September and December to February. The wet season on the other hand is ideal on its own way especially for birders. This usually starts from March to May and from October to November.

What to pack for a safari to Uganda

For a successful road trip in Uganda, you to pack appropriately. Depending on what your travel needs are, for visitors on gorilla safari, the key items not to miss out in your packing list include long sleeved shirts or t-shirt, hat, camera with no flash light, sweater, waterproof hiking boots, water, energy giving snacks, rain jacket or poncho a mention but a few.

Visitor safety

Uganda like other states in the world isn’t 100 percent safe and normally, safety starts with you. Avoid walking at night alone or in dark corners within the city. In case of any need to eat something, avoid street food. There are many good restaurants or hotels for you to have food-this is just for your health as most of these street food may not be of high standard when it comes to hygiene.

Survival tips for first time travelers

Don’t show off your valuables such as money, smartphones, computers or cameras. Keep all your belongings and don’t leave them un attended in public places.

Carry cash in dollars and local currency Uganda shillings because payments in local markets, craft shops are made both in cash but credit cards are also use in lodges and hotels.

Accommodation

There are different types of accommodation in Uganda. In Kampala and around Entebbe town there are a variety of accommodations ranging from budget friendly hotels, mid-range and deluxe to luxury hotels.

In and around Uganda national parks, accommodations are unique. There are lodges, tented camps with traditional style such as grass thatched lodges, home stays which offer a taste of Uganda culture. Most accommodations provide free Wi-Fi in the main lounge but rarely in rooms. For those who prefer low cost accommodations, there are also guest houses.

The service level and amenities are different depending on the type of the accommodation. Generally amenities provided in rooms include drinking mineral water, sandals, bathing soap, bath tabs services. Personal items like tooth brushes are not provided.

For a more information about exploring the country, read the detailed Guide to Uganda, a one-stop travel guide to help you plan a perfect holiday to the Pearl of Africa.

5 Incredible Wildlife Experiences Not to Miss in Africa

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The African continent is one of the best places to see wildlife in its natural habitats. With some of the best kept national parks and wildlife reserves, there are lots of wildlife experiences that you cannot miss if you are a wildlife lover! From the popular wildebeest migration to unrated gorilla trekking in the Virunga Forests, there are several wildlife experiences that do not miss on the bucket list of most safari goers! Here are 5 wildlife safaris that will force you to go on an African safari;

Trek to Spot Mountain Gorillas in the Wild

Mountain gorillas are our second closest living relatives! Sharing a lot of human DNA, looking into the pensive eyes of these distant cousins is one of the best wildlife experiences. While on a gorilla trek, you will see the mighty King Kong and meet them right in their natural habitat. This is an experience that will never fade from your memory and you will never forget.

There are just a thousand mountain gorillas left in the world. These great apes are located in only three countries. These great apes are protected in four well protected national parks and these are the only locations where you can do this awe-inspiring trek: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Though a gorilla safari does not come at a cheap price, it is the most popular adventure that travelers seek from Uganda and Rwanda. A gorilla permit costs US$1500 in Rwanda, US$600 in Uganda, and US$400 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The chance to meet the gorillas up close is a life-changing activity that you should not miss.

 

The Great Wildebeest Migration

Never ever miss the Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania! The annual wildebeest migration is one of the unique wildlife safari experiences that you should not miss in Africa. This natural phenomenon occurs in two reknowned national parks; the Serengeti National Park of Rwanda and Masai Mara National Park of Kenya.

Walk With Lions

Walking with lions definitely belongs to one of the craziest encounters you can imagine. There are two major places in the world where you can walk with Lions on an African Safari; Mauritius and Zimbabwe.

Trek with Rhinos in Uganda

After Uganda was struck by the Bush War a few decades ago, rhinos completely vanished from the country. In efforts to bring these fascinating animals back to their homeland, rhinos from zoos all across the world were brought into Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in 2005.

Spread across seven thousand hectares of land, the sanctuary is home to the only wild rhinos in Uganda. The sanctuary is so big that it resembles their natural habitat and visitors have to trek with rangers for several kilometers in the bush before being able to spot them.

Best 10 National Parks in East Africa

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Pride of Lions in Masai Mara

The East African region contains 5 countries which include Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. These countries together hold diverse wildlife, beautiful landscapes and culture. The wildlife can be enjoyed in national parks of different countries in a number of ways such as such as going on a safari, primate trekking adventures, hiking. The best way to that is to obtain the East African Single Tourist visa which grants you free entry and exit into Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. Unfortunately Tanzania hasn’t joined, so you will have to purchase a separate Tanzania tourist visa.

With so many things to do and see, it can be difficult to decide the parks to visit. This list can help you choose the wildlife and attractions you want to see on a safari.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (South Western Uganda)

One of the biologically diverse places, this UNESCO world heritage site Bwindi impenetrable National Park is where half of the world’s mountain gorilla population lives. The most sought after wildlife encounter on earth is likely to be seeing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. The main visitor activity is gorilla trekking which provides opportunity to see some of the 17 habituated mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. The best time for a gorilla safari in the park is during the dry season from December to February and June to September. Planning to do gorilla trekking in this park, you have to book a gorilla permit and accommodation three months in advance due to get the best of your interest.

Bwindi is located in south western Uganda about 502 km from the capital Kampala. By road the journey takes 8-10 hours but includes stopovers such as equator crossing experiment, drum making experience plus friendly locals and scenery. However coming from Kigali Rwanda provide the quick access to Bwindi by 3 hours drive. Travelers can fly with Rwanda Air and then cross over to Uganda for gorilla trekking. In addition to gorilla trekking, tourists can take village walks in the local communities. There are Bakiga and Batwa pygmies offering cultural encounters. you get to learn about their traditions, food, dance performances and arts and crafts.

Serengeti National Park (Tanzania)

2 million wildebeests along with zebra, grant’s gazelles and other antelopes set off from Serengeti national park and thus this park provides the best chances to see the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth. The wildebeest migration is the most sought after experience as the animals move between Serengeti ecosystem and Masai Mara reserve in Kenya in search of green pastures and water. The best time to view wildebeest is during December to February and June to July.

That’s not all; in addition to the wildebeest migration, Serengeti is home to diverse wildlife including the big five African mammals. That is the elephants, buffalo, black rhino and the largest population of lions. Other animals include cheetah and about 500 species of birds including ostrich. Guided game drive safari offer the best chance to spot wildlife morning and evening. Black rhinos and are not frequently seen in this park but are largely found in the neighboring Ngorongoro crater.

Serengeti is very huge area covering an area of 14, 763 sq km. The beautiful savannah wilderness is dotted by granite rocks, yellow fever acacia, and lush palm trees and swampy areas around the Grumeti River and Serenore valley.

Tourists can get to the park from Arusha or Nairobi. Fly to Kilimanjaro airport and then again by charter plane to the park.  The road from Arusha is dirt and bumpy to Serengeti is 300 km taking 8 hours.

Masai Mara Reserve –Kenya

Explore the Land of the Masai People. The Masai-Mara wildlife reserve is one of the best places in Africa to see the big cats such as leopard, lion and cheetahs. It is found in the great east African rift valley floor contiguous with Serengeti national park. The great wildebeest migration also happens in this park during the month of July to September.

Masai Mara is Kenya’s true natural wonder incredibly diverse with hills and plateaus, rift valley escarpments, lush savannah grasslands and acacia woodlands. These habitats provide home to large mammals which include elephant, rhino, buffalo, zebra, giraffe and various antelope species. The wildlife is surrounded by the Masai cattle warriors. It wouldn’t be a complete wildlife safari without visiting the masi villages to learn their unique culture and grab souvenirs.

Nairobi National Park – Kenya

Located less than 40 minutes drive outside Nairobi Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi national park is 117 sq km park but home to endangered black rhinos. Successful conservation and protection of more than 50 black rhinos make this park one of the best in East Africa. Other animals include lions, cheetahs, hyenas, buffaloes, zebras, ostrich, giraffes, and gazelles. Such a small park with abundant wildlife including 400 species of birds, and less than 10 minutes drive from Nairobi, so you have no excuse whatsoever to get there. If you are into wildlife viewing for any short amount of time while in Nairobi, you can do half day safari for game viewing. Animals can be viewed against the backdrop of the city and perhaps you could get that postcard shot of a rhino, giraffe, lion, or zebra. Get on the way by public bus or safari vehicle from Monday to Sunday and secure entrance with rangers for amazing wildlife viewing.

Murchison Falls National park- Uganda

Uganda’s largest conservation area, Murchison Falls National park is located at the northern tip of the Albertine rift valley. The park is bisected by river Nile creating Murchison waterfalls, the world’s strongest waterfall which is a magnificent feature of this park. The Nile creates diverse habitats such as the Albert-Nile delta wetland, savannah, rain forests, and palm forests. It is one of the wildlife rich areas. More than 75 mammals are recorded in the park including African elephants, buffalo, lion, leopard, white rhino, giraffe, and Uganda kob.

The Nile divides the park into north and south. Game viewing is mostly done in the northern part towards the Albert-Nile delta wetland and so you will have to cross the river by ferry. In the south of the park, there are chimpanzees in Budongo forest reserve. This park stands out with opportunities for tourists to do game drives, river Nile boat cruises to see hippos and crocodiles, as well do chimpanzee trekking in the south Budongo forest.

It is a great birding destination too, more than 451 species of bird that include shoebill stork, African fish eagle, Abyssinian ground hornbill, goliath heron, African darter, white faced whistling duck, martial eagle among others.

You can visit this park by minimum 3 days if you are not doing a trip around western Uganda. The park is located 4 hours drive from Kampala. En route to the park, you have the chance to stop at Ziwa rhino sanctuary for guided rhino trekking on foot with rangers. The top of the falls view is breathtaking when you hike to cliff above the waterfalls.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area – Tanzania

This UNESCO world heritage site Ngorongoro crater is referred to as the cradle of mankind. Traces of first known human species to live on earth about 2 million years ago were discovered at Olduvai Gorge by Dr. Louis leaky. Ngorongoro crater is home to over 25,000 mammals. The rich wildlife and human history has put Ngorongoro on the list of African natural wonders.

It is known as the best place in Tanzania to spot the big five African mammals. A pride of more than 50 lions lives within the crater along with predators like hyena and leopard. The crater is not actually a lake but an intact caldera up to 12 miles wide and it’s where much of the wildlife. Good enough, some of the luxury lodges enable visitors to sleep in the caldera rim and wake up to sunrise and game viewing with the best chance to see black rhinos and the big five too. the wildebeest migration also passes through the crater though not in big numbers as in Serengeti or Masai Mara.

Volcanoes National Park – Rwanda

The Volcanoes National Park is home to mountain gorillas and these are the main attractions for any trip to Rwanda. Very easy to access by 2 hours drive from Kigali international airport, for travelers with limited time, volcanoes provide the best chance for gorilla trekking safari for a day or just 2. There are 10 habituated gorilla families which are found within the park. The price of a gorilla trekking permit was recently hiked to US$1500 per person. This was a quest to avoid overcrowding and that’s how Rwanda takes conservation very serious. Gorilla numbers in Virunga massif have increased to 604 with new census results, and partly volcanoes is boosting gorilla conservation. The park is part of the Virunga massif which straddles the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo. This area is home to golden monkeys, another endangered primate to see on top of the gorillas. The Virunga volcanoes also provide great hiking opportunities.