East Africa has a spectacular geography. Divided from the rest of the continent by the African Great Lakes, and most of the continents tallest mountains.
A large human population epitomises Ethiopia. There is an influential ancient Christian tradition in the north contrasted by traditional nomadic tribes in the south. The country has old castles, stories of knights, and a feeling that you’ve stepped back into BC. Addis Ababa, the vast capital, is a hub for NGO’s and the African Union. The Simien National Park is stunning. Mountainous landscapes, steep roads and significant populations of wildlife including the gelada baboon, Walia ibex, lammergeiers and Simien fox (Ethiopian wolf).
With four national parks and guardians of some iconic species, Rwanda is one of the safest countries to visit in Africa. The grand old volcanoes in the north are known as the Virungas. The bamboo forests on the steep slopes form a perfect environment for the rare mountain gorillas and good populations of golden monkeys. Nyungwe National Park in the south is beautiful and is home to a healthy chimpanzee population and 12 species of primates. Akagera National Park has seen much investment into conservation in recent years, and now has a healthy population of wildlife including lion and rhino.
Bordered by South Sudan, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania. The country has ten national parks including Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Rwenzori Mountains (Mountains of the Moon). Like Rwanda, Uganda is home to the rare mountain gorillas and also many west and East African mammals.
With a tremendous diversity of wildlife, Kenya is famous for being the birthplace of safaris. Ecotourism plays a significant role in the country’s commerce. The geologically dramatic Great Rift Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Thirteen national parks and numerous reserves and conservancies allow wildlife to roam freely over large areas. Broadleaf forests along the coast give way to rich savanna and grasslands inland. The vast swathes of grass feed many ungulates, including large numbers of wildebeest and zebra. These, in turn, feed large predators including lion, leopard and cheetah. The annual wildebeest migration circulates through the Masai Mara to the Serengeti in Tanzania, all part of the same ecosystem. The Swahili culture heavily influences the long attractive coastline. Several islands, including Lamu Island, are easily reachable by air or boat. Thus far they’ve avoided some of the significant hotel developments that characterise parts of the mainland coastline.
Perhaps Tanzania’s most valuable asset is its vast wilderness areas that allow animals to roam freely in a way they cannot in more populated destinations. The great wildebeest migration takes place annually in the Serengeti National Park, circulating into neighbouring Masai Mara in Kenya. The Ngorongoro Crater is an extinct volcanic crater with wildlife coexisting with semi-nomadic Masaai pastoralists. Early hominid footprints in the area date back to 3.6 million years. The tallest free-standing mountain in the world, Mt Kilimanjaro, attracts many trekkers to its summit each year.
Zanzibar is just 15 miles off the mainland coast in the beautiful, warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Apart from the beach/ocean attractions, the old city Stone Town is a World Heritage Site. The architecture reflects cultures from Africa, the Arab region, India and Europe.