Traveling to Africa has been one of my long-term dreams come true. For last 3 years or so, I was researching on the same, checking for safari destination, costs and considering how to plan my African safari. But before I talk about this once in a lifetime East African safari adventure, let me start with some insights on Africa.
Myths & Misconceptions about Africa
Africa is a country
Whenever I have spoken to people about Kenya Tanzania, most of the times people have used the word south Africa in return. In India Africa means south Africa for many. Let me state here, South Africa is one of the nations/countries that is part of Africa. Africa is a continent and countries like Kenya Tanzania are East African nations of Africa.
Africa is dangerous, people are violent, not a safe place to be
When we talk about Africa, we are talking about a huge continent. Not all countries are at war and not all places are unsafe. With stories on civil wars, child soldiers, pirates, and revolutions, it’s no wonder that people fear to go to Africa. However, there is a different side to it. The way we treat Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India differently even though they all come under Asia, similarly all African nations can’t be treated in the same way.
Mauritius, Botswana, Ghana, Senegal, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, and Namibia are some of the most peaceful nations within Africa. Staying safe is a matter of common sense and please read travel warnings before concluding anything about Africa. For example, It is absolutely safe to go to safari destinations in Africa.
Africa is the origin of many diseases and is ridden with diseases
Diseases have taken millions of lives each year in Africa due to lack of childhood immunization and lack of basic healthcare. Many diseases in-fact originated from South America, Europe, and Asia but the outbreak in Africa has been impactful only because of lack of basic healthcare.
However, there has been a huge change since last decade. Most deadly diseases that plagued African nations once are completely preventable by vaccinations and simple hygiene today.
For travelers from the west, even the more exotic diseases of Africa namely, yellow fever, typhoid etc can be avoided simply by vaccination. And as far as Malaria is concerned, it can be avoided using prophylactics, sprays and body creams. For HIV/Aids you need to take the same precautions that you do take in your own home country.
Its always hot in Africa
Africa is not exclusively made of desert and Savannahs. There are high altitude mountains, rainforests and cool coastal peninsulas. Infact during winters, temperatures in sub Saharan regions plunge below freezing. Many African nations also record snow. Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains see enough snow to support a ski resort near Marrakesh.
We found Nairobi in May to have similar climate as Bangalore. While on roads in Kenya, there were a couple of stretches which made us feel as if we were in Europe.
All African countries are poor and need aid to develop
Africa is often painted with a sweeping stroke of doom and gloom. Bad news and sad stories sell more. There are many pre- conceived notions. Seychelles, Mauritius, Botswana, Namibia, Egypt and South Africa are some of the countries with a good standard of living and respectable GDP. Africa has four of the ten fastest growing economies in the world
Africa is cheap
Its not really cheap to travel in Africa. The cost of transport accommodation etc is almost at par with other places in other continents. Infact, safari destinations in Africa are a bit on a higher side because the season is limited to a few months and maintaining such properties in the middle of nowhere locations is a task in itself.
There is nothing to see apart from animals
That’s not true. We all know one of the oldest civilizations that developed around the Nile, the Egyptian civilization is from the same continent. Egypt has so much history, Nile river and Pyramids. Mauritius and Seychelles Zanzibar in Tanzania on the other hand are well known beach destinations.
For desert lovers, Namibia is the place to be, South Africa is one of the adventure capitals of the world and Marrakesh in Africa is well known cultural delight.
Food could be a big issue for travellers from the west
I never knew till my visit to east Africa that they have same rice, Lentils and chapati. Indian chapati is the same chapati in Swahili too. You do get the same tea, coffee and juices to drink. The same breads, eggs, pancakes and fruits to eat for breakfast and similar dishes for lunch and dinner. In East Africa, most good hotel chains are run by Indians so don’t worry, you will even find biryani, papad and pickle there.
Facts about Africa
- Africa is the world’s second largest in size and second most-populous continent
- It covers 6% of Earth’stotal surface area and 20% of its land area. about a fifth of the earth’s total landmass. This makes it larger than India, China, Mexico, USA and a huge chunk of Europe combined.
- Africa is the most centrally located continent in the world. Both the prime meridian (0 degrees longitude), and the equator (0 degrees latitude) cut across it.
- The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Seato the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and still has the shortest coastline compared to its land mass.
- There are approx. 54 fully recognized countries, nine territories and two independent states with limited or no recognition in the African continent
- There are an estimated 1500-2000 African languages spoken in African of which 10-11 are most spoken.
- Islam is the dominant religion in Africa. Christianity is the second.
- There are 135 UNESCO world heritage sites in Africa which are located in approx. 37 countries across Africa.
- World’s longest river Nile is in Africa. It is approx. 6600 km long and flows through 11 countries finally draining into Mediterranean sea.
- Madagascar island in Africa is the fourth largest island in the world.
- The Victoria Falls, located along the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The Zambezi River is the fall’s main water source.
- The second-largest freshwater lake in the world is lake Victoria of Africa.
- World largest hot desert is of course Africa’s Sahara desert covering 9.1 million km2.
- The highest point in Africa is Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
- Both the world’s tallest and largest land animals come from Africa. They are the giraffe and African elephant, respectively.
- A single tribe in Kenya-called the “Kalenjin”-produces most of the world’s fastest long-distance runners
- And don’t consider Africa to be backward in terms of technology. There are more than 100 million Facebook users in Africa at present.
Where to go for best wildlife experience in Africa
Africa’s top 5 classic safari destinations along with most famous parks are
Kenya – Masai Mara
Tanzania – Serengeti
Botswana (one of the most expensive safari destinations)– Chobe National Park
South Africa – Kruger
Namibia- Etosha National park
However, Kenya Tanzania are literally the mecca of wildlife viewing. The annual migration of two million wildebeests plus hundreds of thousands of gazelles and zebras – followed by their predators in search of pasture and water – is one of the most impressive nature spectacles in the world which takes place between these two adjacent countries, Kenya and Tanzania. The animals make a 2000-kilometre trek between the Serengeti ecosystem from Tanzania to Kenya and then back.
National parks in East Africa – East Africa tour
The national parks fall primarily under the following countries
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda
Kenya : Masai Mara National Park, one of the most popular across the world is in Kenya and one can see Kenya’s most abundant wildlife here. Masai Mara in Savanah is a part of the vast Greater Serengeti, where massive herds of animals make an annual migration across the plains. Apart from Mara Kenya does have many other good quality parks with abundant wildlife including Samburu, Tsavo, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru
Tanzania: Serengeti National Park is almost 5 times Masai Mara in size and houses part of the Serengeti National Park — the best park to see great herds of wildlife. Besides, one of our most favorite places in Tanzania is Ngorongoro conservation area or Ngorongoro crater adjacent to Serengeti. Over 30,000 animals live in the crater; it has the densest lion population in the world.
Mount Kilimanjaro national park, Tarangire National Park, lake manyara are noteworthy sites too in Tanzania.
Uganda: If you are interested in primates, you should choose Uganda. It offers the opportunity to get a close look at Chimpanzees, Gorillas, and others in their natural habitats.
When to go for Africa safari
The best time to travel to Africa depends on your specific destination. Overall, it’s best (but most expensive) to travel in the dry season, which corresponds with the region’s winter. For east African nations, Kenya and Tanzania, the best time is, of course, the migration time which is from July to September.
Visas and vaccinations for Africa
Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa offer Visa on arrival for Indians. The only thing you need is the passport and itinerary. Visa cost per person is approx. $50 per person for both the countries.
Yellow fever vaccination is a must for East African and Southern African nations. You need to carry the yellow card when you travel to these destinations. At the time of your exit from the country, this will be checked.
African Safari- How to book
There are three options
All inclusive safari packages in Africa offered by tour operators– These are guided, custom made and tailor-made packages for families and groups inclusive of food, tours, excursions, and accommodation. The vehicle is either a minivan or 4 by 4 land cruiser for road trips. And you also have flying safaris, you can directly fly into some of the parks instead of driving.
Accommodation can vary from ultra-luxury suits/stylish tents to budget options/eco-lodges depending on the budget. You can also opt for mid-range options or a combination of all. This is the best way to travel for families with kids as well as for corporate groups.
There are many East Africa tour operators and online websites offering Safari tours in Africa. Important thing is to select a trusted safari tour operator in Africa to avoid any kind of scam. Travel Jaunts also offers African safari tour packages in Kenya and Tanzania with our partners in Africa who have a very high reputation and reviews. We have traveled with them and checked each and every facility that we offer.
Overland or Mobile Safaris– One typically stays in budget accommodations and travels in groups with other travellers. These are the cheapest type of organized tour safaris. These are usually participatory, you may be expected to pitch in with chores such as cooking meals or setting up camp. Intrepid travel and Acasia Africa are some of the operators in this category. Makes sense for solo travellers who can stay happily in budget places with basic facilities.
Self drive– For the most adventurous ones , you do have the option of self drive safari in Africa though it is only limited to public parks. You can opt foremost in expensive stay options ala carte meals and tour the wild on your own without any guide.
East Africa safari tour- our journey
I could have done Kenya long back but I was keen on doing Kenya along with Tanzania. Tanzania is a little more expensive destination than Kenya. If beach destinations interest you than you can also club your Tanzania safari with Zanzibar
With limited time at hand, we spent almost 15 days exclusively on Kenya Tanzania Safaris exploring various national parks. We booked our flights till Nairobi and then it was a complete road trip. You do have an option of flying safaris for those who can’t sit in the vehicles for long but for us, the whole tour was pretty comfortable and enjoyable. Driving through the parks is much more scenic and adventurous than flying into the park. The route that we followed was
Nairobi- Samburu- Nakuru-Masai Mara-Serengeti-Ngorongoro-Lake Manyara lake-Amboseli- Nairobi
Please click on the each of the national park above to read in details. Here are some memories of our East Africa tour.