Please click on the following links to enjoy reading more about the countries of East Africa:
The Last True Eden
East Africa is a natural paradise, the “cradle of mankind' and the ethnic homeland of us all. A land of vivid contrasts it offers pristine wilderness and golden savannah, snow-capped peaks and volcano-studded valleys, wildlife-teeming plains and flamingo-pink lakes. Fringed by white beaches, and shaded by coconut palms, the silver ribbon of the Swahili coastline,
meanwhile, offers the ultimate tropical paradise. Set against the backdrop of the last of the great coastal rain forests, it is washed by the waves of the Indian Ocean, beneath which lie the coral gardens of one of the world's greatest barrier reefs - home to dolphins, turtles and gentle drifts of tropical fish.
Africa is the largest continent in the world, which can be simply divided into two main geographical regions: High Africa and Low Africa, which lie to either side of the line that runs diagonally across the continent from the mouth of the Congo River to the Red Sea coast in northern Ethiopia. East Africa lies in the plateau of High Africa and is dissected by one of the world's largest geological features: the Great Rift Valley - a 6.500 km fissure in the earth's crust that stretches from Turkey to Mozambique and features sheer escarpments and a chain of lakes, hot springs, steaming fissures and volcanic cones. Most of East Africa straddles the Equator with it running directly through Kenya and Uganda.
African vegetation can be classified according to rainfall and climate zones. The tropical rainforest zone, where the average annual rainfall is more than 1,270 mm (50 in), has a dense surface covering of shrubs, ferns, and mosses, above which tower evergreens, oil palms, and numerous species of tropical hardwood trees. A mountain forest zone, with average annual rainfall only slightly less than in the tropical rainforest, is found in the high mountains of Cameroon, Angola, eastern Africa, and parts of Ethiopia. Here a ground covering of shrubs gives way to oil palms, hardwood trees, and primitive conifers. A savannah woodland zone, with annual rainfall of 890 to 1,400 mm (35 to 55 in), covers vast areas with a layer of grass and fire-resistant shrubs, above which are found deciduous and leguminous fire-resistant trees. A savannah grassland zone, with annual rainfall of about 500 to 890 mm (20 to 35 in), is covered by low grasses and shrubs, and scattered, small deciduous trees. The thorn bush zone, steppe vegetation, with an annual rainfall of about 300 to 510 mm (12 to 20 in), has a thinner grass covering and a scattering of succulent or semi succulent trees. The sub desert scrub zone, with an annual rainfall of 130 to 300 mm (5 to 12 in), has a covering of grasses and scattered low shrubs. The zone of desert vegetation, found in areas with an annual rainfall of less than 130 mm (5 in), has sparse vegetation or none at all.
East Africa, and most particularly Kenya, is the uncontested 'Safari Capital of the World', and has been since the 1900's when royalty, aristocracy, politicians and movie stars flocked here to hunt the 'Big Five' (lion, rhino, buffalo, elephant and leopard). East Africa is also home to the greatest wildlife show on earth' the annual migration of some 2 million wildebeest and around half a million zebras between the plains of Tanzania's Serengeti and Kenya's Masai Mara. Among the many animals our visitors can hope to see are: cats great and small, vast herds of elephant, black and white rhino, giraffe, antelope, hyena, hippo, crocodile, monkeys, Oryx, kudu, jackal, gorillas, aardvark - to name but a few.
The Great Wildebeest Migration
Between early July and September each year the Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania is home to one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. The great wildebeest migration involves some 2 million wildebeest and around half a million zebras (accompanied by many thousands of gazelle) trekking north from the adjoining Serengeti National Park in Tanzania in search of fresh grazing. Following close behind are the lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and vultures. The crossing of the Mara River at full flood is the greatest test.
East Africa is the bird capital of the world. Kenya alone boasts 1,137 bird species and has the second-highest country bird-species-count (after the Congo) in Africa; and the fourth highest in the world. East Africa is also home to the world-famous Rift Valley lakes, where millions of greater and lesser flamingos frost the shores coral pink. Out on the savannah plains, crested cranes dance, whydah birds act out their elaborate courtship rituals and Secretary birds strut. Above them, eagles, vultures, kites and harriers soar, while deep within the last remnants of the rain forests, scarlet-winged turaco swoop, casqued hornbills call and one of the world's rarest birds, the elusive Narina's trogon lurks deep in the forest cover.
East Africa is home to several hundred ethnic groups which can broadly be distinguished into two major language groups: Bantu and Nilotic. The coastal region is the home of the Swahili people.
There are several hundred distinct languages or dialects in East Africa. English is the “official' language in all of them while the lingua franca (common language) is Swahili (or Kiswahili). The term Swahili derives from the Arab word “Sahel', meaning coast, and the language came into being some 1,300 years ago when Arab and Persian traders settled on the East African coast. Since then the language has spread widely to become the “lingua franca' of East Africa. Basically a Bantu language, modern Swahili has incorporated thousands of foreign words, the majority of them being Arabic.
Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam and traditional beliefs.
Africa is generally agreed to be the cradle of the human race; genetic testing in recent years has confirmed archaeological finds. Some 5 million years ago a type of hominid, a close evolutionary ancestor of present-day humans, inhabited southern and eastern Africa. More than 1.5 million years ago this tool-making hominid developed into the more advanced forms Homo habilis and Homo erectus. The earliest true human being in Africa, Homo sapiens, dates from more than 200,000 years ago. A hunter-gatherer capable of making crude stone tools, Homo sapiens banded together with others to form nomadic groups; eventually these nomadic Khoisan-speaking peoples spread throughout the African continent.
The Art of Barter
Most craft traders are loath to give you a price. They prefer to ask you what you will pay for the item of your choice. If pressed, the price they offer will often be unrealistically high; more especially if you are white. One way to circumvent this is to ask for the trader's “BEST price', which may cut some of the wilder figures. There is, however, a “real' price, below which the trader will not go. Your job is to find this price. Methods differ. You can take the offered price, halve it, and haggle up from there. Or you can make an offer of a price that you feel happy with, and haggle from there. The acid test is in walking away. If the trader lets you walk, your offer really was unacceptable. If he/she calls after you - there is still room for negotiation!
GMT +3 all year-round. East Africa maintains an almost constant 12 hours of daylight. Sunrise is typically 06.30 and sunset at 18.45.
Cell phones in East Africa are also known as “mobiles' and are immensely popular, not least because of the inefficiency (and high cost) of the fixed line system. Most subscribers use the “pre-paid' service (“pay as you go' with “scratch cards' that can be purchased just about anywhere and in affordable denominations). East Africa uses the GSM 900 system (compatible with Europe and Australia but not North America). Handsets are easily and cheaply available, as are SIM cards (sold in a pre-paid starter packs from the relevant providers).
Do's and don'ts
Throughout East Africa it is generally an offence to: deface a banknote; urinate in public; sunbath topless; hire a prostitute; buy or take drugs; remove wildlife products, export products made from elephant, rhino or sea turtle derivatives, or to remove coral. Swearing and blasphemy are inadvisable. Visitors are requested to stand when the national anthems are played, or the national flags raised or lowered. They are also advised that photographing the president of any East African country without prior permission; or any military installation is not permitted. Bond or bail can be granted at the police or magistrate's discretion and all cases must be brought before a court.
It is considered courteous to ask people if you may take their picture before doing so, particularly in the more far-flung rural areas. A small (token) payment for the photograph may be expected, rather more as a form of polite appreciation than anything else.
Known as the “Cradle of Mankind', probable “Garden of Eden, and the place where, six million years ago, “Millennium Man' walked the Tugen Hills, Kenya is the ethnic homeland of us all. It was from the nurturing embrace of Kenya that we wandered forth to colonise the world, realise our destiny, and reach for the stars.
Motherland of mankind and the adopted home of over seventy different groups of ethnic migrants, who wandered here from Ethiopia, the Nile and the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, Kenya has emerged as a land of miraculously harmonious contrasts; tropical ice, teaming wilderness, vibrant culture and gentle tolerance. A place where, despite the burdens of poverty, drought and famine, the phrase “Hakuna Matata' (“no problem') embodies the national attitude; and a smile is the most valuable currency.
Dubbed the “Safari Capital of the World'; Kenya has over 40 national parks and reserves, and offers sanctuary to some of the world's most ancient and most threatened creatures. Named after Mount Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa, she shelters the last of the primordial rain forests and boasts more species of birds than almost anywhere else in the world. Stunning, scenic, steeped in history, a sportsman's paradise and a lover's idyll, Kenya has provided a playground for royalty, millionaires, aristocrats and eccentrics for centuries; and she still remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Offering the best of African travel, a Kenya safari unfailingly reveals the authenticity of the Africa wilderness, beautifully parading the array of Kenya wildlife and safari lodges.
It's not for the typical trappings of tourism, however, that Kenya is usually remembered; it's for her people. Time and time again, the careful questionnaires of the hotel industry reveal the same fact; that Kenya's visitors go away indelibly touched by the warmth, sincerity and generosity of the Kenyan people; and the poorer the person, the richer the welcome.
The 'Green City in the Sun', Nairobi, capital and largest city in Kenya will undoubtedly be on your agenda for your Kenyan safari as it is almost impossible to do anything in Kenya without paying a visit to the vibrant central hub. Popular Day Trips around Nairobi include: Giraffe Manor, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Karen Blixen Museum and Nairobi Museum. For a unique experience you can visit Nairobi National Park for a great day out, the only place in the world to boast a National Park within such close proximity to the city. During the evening eat at the Carnivore Restaurant, one of the most renowned eating experiences on the continent!
The Great Rift Valley
See this natural phenomenon for yourself and journey the length of Kenya. Take in alkaline lakes full of fluttering flamingos, shower in searing hot springs, and climb up a volcanic mountain or wander an island and walk amongst wildlife.
Take a trip to the world's largest tropical lake and kick back on un-spoilt beaches, visit secluded islands, sail across the waters on a dhow and fish for the massive Nile Perch! It's a trip well worth taking and will add to your Kenya adventure.
The Kenya Coast
From Diani Beach to Tiwi, Watamu to Lamu, Malindi to Kilifi, the Indian Ocean Coastline of Kenya has some beautiful beaches. Lamu Island is a small island off the north-east coast of Kenya. The waterfront Swahili town of Lamu is made up of historic Arabic-style buildings and narrow bustling streets. There are no cars on the island and Lamu is untouched by mass tourism. Watamu is located north of Mombasa, near Malindi. The nearby Arabuko Sokoke forest is a bird watchers paradise and the extensive inland Mida Creek hosts a wide variety of splendid birdlife. The beaches just north of Mombasa are popular with overseas visitors to Kenya wanting a tropical beach holiday. The North Coast is linked by a road bridge to Mombasa town and offers a variety of activities, restaurants and nightlife. Just south of Mombasa is the famous Diani beach, one of the most renowned on the East African Coast, with its long, soft, white sand making it a tropical paradise. There is also an offshore reef which is ideal for snorkelling and as this also keeps the waves low it is an ideal beach for paddling and swimming. The more remote and quieter Galu Beach is a few miles south of Diani.
Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake in Kenya, outside the town of Naivasha in Nakuru County, which lies north-west of Nairobi. It is part of the Great Rift Valley. The name derives from the local Masai name Nai'posha, meaning "rough water" because of the sudden storms which can arise. Between 1937 and 1950 the lake was used as a landing place for flying boats on the Imperial Airways passenger and mail route from Southampton in Britain to South Africa. It linked Kisumu and Nairobi. Joy Adamson, the author of Born Free, lived on the shores of the lake in the mid-1960s. Today the lake shores host a variety of international flower farms supplying fresh flowers to the world.
Lake Turkana, formerly known as Lake Rudolf, is a lake in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. Its far northern end crosses into Ethiopia. It is the world's largest permanent desert lake and the world's largest alkaline lake. By volume it is the world's fourth largest salt lake.
An East African nation composed of 26 regions, consisting of the mainland (formerly known as Tanganyika and Zanzibar that united in 1964) and the Island of Zanzibar. The country is blessed with beautiful and scenic terrain including the expansive Serengeti Woodlands and Grasslands. The Serengeti, recently voted one of the new "Seven Wonders of the World" hosts the largest animal migration in the World, this annual spectacle involves millions of wildebeest and zebra along with their predators. Tanzania is also home to the famous snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro which is the highest peak on the African continent. The Tanzanian coastline along the Indian Ocean and the Zanzibar Archipelago, offers a number of impressive pristine beaches together with a tropical climate. Tanzania is also home to a variety of different tribes and cultures including the Masai, who live in the North on the Serengeti plains and who are always happy to share their cultural traditions with visitors.
In addition to such sites as the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is also home to the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater which is part of the World Heritage Site, this crater, with walls in excess of two thousand feet, is home to a number of animals including the "big five" and an astonishing variety of bird species. Nearby, visitors can also visit the "Oldupai Gorge" (more commonly known as Olduvai Gorge), sometimes known as "The Cradle of Mankind", this Gorge is more than 40 kilometres long and is a world famous prehistoric site with some of the earliest recorded human fossilised footprints, estimated to be over 3.75 million years old! Tanzania is also home to another "World Heritage Site" - Lake Manyara Reserve which features the famous tree climbing lions and a number of National Parks including: Tarangire Park, Ruaha, Katavi and Mikumi. Naturally these parks offer a wide variety of different animals and birds which would suit any nature enthusiast and as they are still relatively unknown they offer a quieter safari experience. Popular Destinations Olduvai Gorge Archaeological Visit The most famous archaeological site in East Africa. The gorge was made famous over the years through the excavations of Louis and Mary Leaky who found the remains of early man Homo habilis on this site. Located on the edge of the Serengeti National park it is easily combined within a Serengeti and Ngorongoro Tour.
A beautiful un-spoilt spot on the Tanzanian coastline, Bagamoyo played various historical roles, including being a slave and ivory port, it was also the German Headquarters in 1891. Explorers such as Burton, Speke, Grant, Livingston and Stanley all passed through this town. The name Bagamoyo comes from the Swahili words "bwaga moyo'; which means 'lay down your heart'a expression of despair by the people who were captured as slaves of knowing they face a long uncertain future. Bagamoyo lies 75 kilometres north of Dar es Salaam. The Bagamoyo Church was built in 1868 and considered to be the first church in East Coast of Africa.
Lushoto & Usambara Mountains
Nestled up in the Usambara Mountains; this region offers wide vistas, a cool climate, winding paths and picturesque villages and is one of Tanzania's Highlights. Lushoto the main bustling town has lots of opportunities for exploring the area including a hike up to the Irente Viewpoint overlooking the Masai Steppe, a visit to Irente Farm and shopping in the colourful markets of this spectacular mountain region.
It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25 “50 kilometers off the coast of the mainland, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones: Unguja (the main island, referred to informally as Zanzibar), and Pemba. The capital of Zanzibar, located on the island of Unguja, is Zanzibar City. Its historic centre, known as Stone Town, is a World Heritage Site and is claimed to be the only functioning ancient town in East Africa. Zanzibar's main industries are spices, raffia and tourism. In particular, the islands produce cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and black pepper. For this reason, the islands are called the Spice Islands.
These are some of the many highlights of a visit to Zanzibar: Historic Stone Town, The Night Markets, Jozani Forest (Red Colobus Monkeys), Nungwi and Kendwa beaches, Spice Plantation Tour, Prison Island visit, Dive/Snorkel at Mnemba Atol, Beit El-Ajaib the House of Wonders, The Old Fort, Palace Museum and a Dolphin Tour.
Uganda has always been viewed as the ultimate African gem. It was to Uganda that the early explorers were attracted; and Uganda was the objective of one of the greatest engineering feats of history, the so-called “Lunatic Express', the railway, which in 1899 finally reached the shores of Lake Victoria, 1,000 kilometres from Mombasa on the Kenyan coast.
Blessed with one of the most delightful climates in the world, Uganda occupies a serene green plateau, which lies between the eastern and western branches of the Great Rift Valley. Thought by many to be Africa's finest birding destination, Uganda boasts over 1,000 species, which in relation to her relatively compact size (236,580 square kilometres) is a tribute not only to her fertility, but also to the diversity of her landscape.
The “Land of Lakes 25 per cent of Uganda's entire surface is covered by a glittering skein of lakes and rivers, earning her the title "The Land of Lakes. They include the mighty Nile, which rises in Jinja, and the world's second-largest freshwater lake, Lake Victoria.
The Switzerland of Africa, as to scenery, Uganda has been dubbed “The Switzerland of Africa thanks to its impressive mountain ranges, which include the legendary “Mountains of the Moon, the snow-capped Ruwenzori's, and the enormous and immeasurably ancient Mount Elgon which, at 4,321 metres is all that remains of a massive volcano, now extinct, which forms the boundary between Uganda and Kenya.
Moorland to rainforests, savannah to swamp, the meeting point of the East African savannah and the West African rainforest, Uganda's vegetation is immensely diverse stretching from snow-capped peaks and Afro-alpine moorlands to dense rainforests, golden savannah and semi-arid landscapes. Incredibly fertile, agriculture is the dominant sector of Uganda's economy, contributing more than 70 per cent of gross domestic product and providing a livelihood for 90 per cent of the population.
A diversity of wildlife, although not as plentiful as that of its neighbours, Uganda's wildlife definitely has the edge on them in terms of diversity. Its pristine rainforests protect a wealth of wildlife including an astonishing number of primate species. Indeed, of the few thousand mountain gorillas that remain on earth, over half of them live in Uganda. Uganda is also one of the top places in the world to see chimpanzee, which are abundant in the Kibale Forest National Park, the Budongo Forest, and in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Murchison Falls National Park, meanwhile, is thought by many to be one of the most exciting wildlife experiences Africa has to offer and is THE place to see hippos and crocodiles.
A warm and welcoming people, human presence in Uganda goes back over 500,000 years, and Uganda's cultural history is one of the richest in the world. Today, still ruled by the Buganda, the Ugandan King, who maintains his glittering royal court at Bulange, just outside Kampala, the Ugandan people are one of the most warmly welcoming and gently gracious in the world. Speaking over forty languages, they can broadly be divided into four major language groups, Bantu, Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic and Sudanic.
Source of the White Nile “ East Africa's Adventure Centre, this busy little town is the hub to most of the adventure activities offered in Uganda. A short drive to Bujagali on the shore of the Nile River and you are not only in one of the most scenic places in the country but the place where you can white-water raft, canoe/kayak, quad bike, horse ride, jet boat, bungee jump ............ FUN!!!!!
Lake Bunyonyi is a serpentine lake that extends towards Rwanda over a distance of 25km. Dotted with at least 20 small islands and encircled by steep terraced hills, Bunyonyi is a magical spot. There are a few remaining Batwa Pygmies living in communities around the lake. Canoeing and walking in this stunning location are both exceptional.
Sprawling along the Lake Victoria shore some 35km south of Kampala, Entebbe exudes an atmosphere of tropical languor. This is where Uganda's international airport is situated and hosts an excellent tropical botanical garden.
Hairy Lemon Island
A small private island in the Nile River, with an abundance of birdlife, red-tailed monkeys and monitor lizards. About 15mins paddle away is the “Nile Special reportedly one of the best play holes for kayakers in the world. Fire flies buzz in the starry night sky and the roar of the surrounding rapids lull you to sleep.
The land of a thousand hillsÂ with its stunning landscape including dramatic volcanoes, thick rainforest and vast lakes, Rwanda ensures that travellers have a truly unforgettable time. As a small Central African nation situated to the west of Tanzania, Rwanda is a western arm of the Great Rift Valley and on the watershed between the Nile and the Congo - Africa's two largest rivers. Its physical beauty is unique on the African Continent with vibrant green grasslands, dazzling riverine forests and breathtaking mountain views.
Rwanda is a must-see for anyone looking for an exhilarating safari adventure. A highlight to any Rwanda holiday is a gorilla safari through the rainforest to track and observe the endangered Mountain Gorillas that inhabit the Parc National des Volcans. Mountain Gorillas are on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species and are classified as “critically endangered with just 790 individuals currently recorded.
Sitting with the mountain gorilla is one of the most amazing wildlife experiences you will ever have. A dominant male silverback can weigh over 200 kilos and is the largest living primate. He will control our meeting as well as deciding when his group will eat, sleep and move on. His females care for their young with affection and playfulness but also with discipline. They are very curious, and are capable of making over 25 different vocalisations, including chuckling and purring. Communication also includes posturing, chest beating and if all else fails “ the charge! The privilege of spending an hour with this family group is an experience that you will never forget.
This memorial tells the story of the1994 Rwanda genocide where an estimated 800,000 people died. The story is told through story boards, photographs, identification cards, collections of bones, video artefacts and a number of grave sites. The memorial has been presented in a very moving way and you cannot help but find it extremely heart-rending.
People living around Rwanda's many lakes try to make a living out of what these lakes have to offer. People use traditional fishing methods at the twin lakes Burera and Ruhondo. The work is carried out either from the lake shore or from hand-made traditional canoes that consist of a single piece of wood. Enjoy the nice scenery and excellent birding opportunities. Bring a packed lunch and have a picnic on the island.
Karisoke Research Centre and Dianne Fossey Grave
The Mountain Gorillas survive thanks to Dianne Fossey, a researcher who was buried at her research centre alongside these mountain gorillas to which she dedicated her life. The trail leading to her tomb and Karisoke Research Centre is a beautiful yet challenging two hour hike up steep slopes where orchids, birdlife and even occasional mountain gorillas can be seen.
Kigali is Rwanda's rapidly expanding Capital city and an increasingly important centre of commerce and trade, yet it has retained the pleasant feel of a garden city with a low-rise centre, green spaces and elegant boulevards. A busy and vibrant craft market at the centre offers a colourful insight into Rwandan life and is a great spot for unique hand-crafted souvenirs.
As one of Africa's spectacular Great Lakes, Lake Kivu has beautiful sandy shores and wonderful views. It is the perfect place to relax after any Rwandan adventure. Lake Kivu is located in the west of Rwanda and is surrounded by steep terraced slopes and the picturesque mountain scenery of the Virungas. Numerous lakeside resort towns are developing around its shores. The town of Gisenyi is on Lake Kivu's northern shore which has the best, largest sandy beaches. The area has a growing focus on tourism with many leisure activities available. Visitors can enjoy many water-based pursuits from the hotels such as catamarans, kayaking and windsurfing and there are no crocodiles or hippos so swimming is safe. Organised boat excursions offer a pleasant way to spend some time relaxing on the water, and these also give visitors an insight into rural life in the villages at the lake's edge.
East African Cultural & Historical Sites
Kenya's World Heritage Sites:
Fort Jesus (16th century Portuguese Fort)
Gedi Ruins (13th century Swahili Town)
Koobi Fora (3 million-year-old paleontological site)
Lamu (16th century Swahili Port)
Mount Kenya (Kenya's highest mountain)
Hells Gate National Park (geothermal area)
Masai Mara National Reserve (scene of the annual migration of the wildebeest)
Kenya's Historical Sites
Kenya has over 400 historical sites ranging from prehistoric fossils and petrified forests, to 14th century slave trading settlements, Islamic ruins and 16th century Portuguese Forts.
Sites of historical interest in Tanzania
The National Museum of Dar es Salaam
The Catholic Mission and Prison of Bagamoyo
Ujijii Cultural Centre
The Amboni Caves and Hot Springs
The Tongoni Ruins
The National Museum of Zanzibar including: The Kidichi Persian Baths, The House of Wonders, The Arab Fort, Livingstone's House, Mangapwani Slaves Caves, The Maruhubi Palace, The Old Slave Market and the People's Palace
Sites of Historical Interest in Uganda
The Uganda National Museum Kampala
Bigo Bya Mugenyi
Kabaka Mwanga's Lake
The Kakoro Rock Paintings
The Kasubi Tombs
The Mparo Tombs
The Munsa Earthworks
The Namugongo Shrine
The Nkokonjeru Tomb
The Nyero Rock Paintings