East Africa offers the ultimate safari experience with its beautiful grasslands, colorful local tribes, a variety of wildlife, spectacular scenery, luxurious camps, lodges, and much more. Consisting of countries such as Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and other regions, visitors get to check off items on their bucket lists ranging from famous parks to relaxing beaches.
The most popular safari destinations in Kenya are the Maasai Mara, Tsavo East National Park, and Amboseli. And while people excitingly venture into Tanzania’s famous Serengeti and Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools, one cannot help but wonder about the lesser-known safari parks in this region. The quieter destinations in East Africa are hidden gems, known for their breathtaking landscapes, healthy populations of wildlife, and fewer crowds.
If you are traveling to Africa and want to experience safaris, here are some of the lesser-known destinations to check out in East Africa:
Regarded as the ‘home of the safari’, Kenya has incredible wildlife parks and game reserves, as well as the gigantic Mount Kenya. The parks and other wilderness areas in the country have various highlights, such as wild dogs in Laikipia or the Great Migration in the Maasai Mara. Here are the top places in Kenya that also deserve the limelight:
Aberdare National Park
Situated in the Aberdare Mountain Range, the Aberdare National Park is a protected area. It is set to the east of the East African Rift Valley and encompasses higher areas. The park stretches over a huge variety of terrain and contains a range of landscapes, such as mountains and valleys intersected by streams, rivers, and majestic waterfalls. Found at the lower altitude of the park are Bamboo, Moorland, and dense rainforests.
Aberdare National Park offers a varied habitat for animals such as elephants, leopards, spotted hyenas, black rhinos, black and white Columbus monkeys, and bushbucks, to name a few. Visitors can also stumble upon rare sightings of a golden cat, African wild cats, the Giant Forest Hog, and the bongo. Home to over 250 species of birds such as Sparrow hawks, Jackson’s Francolin, plovers, sunbirds, and many more, visitors can enjoy a rewarding bird-watching experience.
Aside from walking safaris, visitors can indulge in trout fishing in rivers, picnics, trekking, and camping in the moorlands.
Meru National Park
Located east of Meru, Meru National Park covers an area of 240 square miles. The park has tall grass and lush swamps as a result of the abundant rainfall it receives. This magnificent park also has coursing rivers, khaki grasslands, and lavish jungles. Meru National Park was home to Elsa the Lioness. Conservationists Joy and George Adamson raised her, and she appeared in Born Free, an award-winning movie of the 1960s.
Seldom visited, the park has a remote and rugged atmosphere. Grevy’s Zebras, Bohor reedbucks, puff adders, elephants, pythons, and cobras roam freely, while more than 400 recorded species of birds are found here. There are dense riverine forests of Raffia palm and open grasslands in the park.
At Meru National Park, tourists can visit the former home of George and Joy Adamson as well as Elsa the Lioness. They can also enjoy vistas of the Tana River, Adamson’s waterfalls, and Mount Kenya.
The unspoiled wilderness and absence of mass tourism make Malawi a memorable safari destination. Plenty of animals and birds reside in Malawi’s beautiful parks and reserves. With almost nine national parks and wildlife reserves, here is the top place to visit to avoid crowds and enjoy game drives in peace:
Liwonde National Park
Also known as the Liwonde Wildlife Reserve, the Liwonde National Park is situated in Southern Malawi. This national park is renowned for its incredible wildlife reintroductions and translocations, which have given rise to a predator population. Although it measures only 220 sq. mi., Liwonde National Park has a beautiful riverine setting and exciting wildlife action.
One can witness herds of elephants, lions, rare wild dogs, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, kudu, bushbuck, and more. Black rhinos are occasionally spotted as well. There is a healthy population of hippos and Nile crocodiles who like to laze around in the Shire River. In Liwonde, one can observe over 350 bird species, including the brown-breasted Barnet, Lilian’s lovebird, and Pel’s fishing owl.
Visitors can enjoy traditional safaris and even opt for boat safaris along the Shire River.
The world’s premier safari destination, Tanzania, offers a mesmerizing experience of the colorful Maasai culture, fascinating animal viewing, and epic views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the largest mountain in Africa. If you’re looking for a much more secluded and less busy safari destination, here are some of the places to visit in the country:
Ruaha National Park
Ruaha National Park encompasses nearly 8,000 square miles in central Tanzania and is the second-largest park in the country. It combines rich wildlife with open grasslands, hundreds of baobab trees, and the great River Ruaha. However, not many people visit Ruaha National Park, making safaris feel more exclusive than anywhere else.
As the dry season commences, waterbucks, gazelles, impalas, zebras, and other animals come to the river to quench their thirst, following their predators such as lions, leopards, wild dogs, cheetahs, and hyenas. There are more than 500 bird species spotted in the park, such as the endemic yellow-collared lovebird, the Ruaha red-billed hornbill, and the violet-crested turaco.
Visitors can embark on traditional game drives, guided nature walks, night game drives, and many more activities in the park.
Saadani National Park
Saadani National Park is a safari destination that is unusual and unique compared to any other park found in East Africa. It is the only bush-meets-beach sanctuary, and one can enjoy animals in the bush while appreciating the views of the Indian Ocean. Its ideal coastal location makes for an adventurous safari experience in Tanzania, where one can see both marine and wildland flora and fauna.
Saadani National Park is relatively small, measuring 1100 km sq. but it makes up for its size by offering different types of wildlife and terrain diversity. Large mammals, including lions, elephants, and buffalos, are found in around 30 species. Along with its fascinating history, the park’s coastal and river areas feature salt flats and mangroves.
Saadani is a special park that you can explore by jeeps, boats, or on foot, thanks to a mix of the Indian Ocean, white sand beaches, marine parks, and rivers.
Uganda has excellent terrain for different types of safaris because it is located right at the crux of the western jungle ecosystem and the eastern savannah. The national parks and reserves in this country have a huge variety of flora and fauna. Uganda’s main stars are the primate species that people can see in abundance. One of the most iconic places that also has the least tourist crowd is as follows:
Kidepo Valley National Park
In Northeast Uganda, Kidepo Valley National Park is sprawled over 1,442 square kilometers in the Karamoja region. The rugged and isolated wilderness of this park makes it one of the most prized yet least visited destinations. The Narus and Kidepo rivers break the pristine savannah landscape.
Over 77 mammals and about 400 bird species reside in Kidepo Valley National Park. Visitors can expect amazing wildlife sightings of lions, leopards, lesser kudu, cheetahs, elands, and herds of elephants on thrilling safaris. Kidepo witnesses Africa’s best birds of prey.
Game drives, nature walks, hiking, bird watching, and cultural encounters are the top activities visitors can enjoy at Kidepo Valley National Park.
Zambia, a place where walking safaris have seemingly emerged, has several concessions and parks that provide a unique safari adventure. It is also famed for its popular Victoria Falls, which has a spectacular viewpoint. With its craggy terrain and diverse fauna, the country has numerous remote parks and wilderness areas. Here is one such safari destination you should visit in Zambia:
Kasanka National Park and Bangweulu Wetlands
Kasanka National Park is one of the smallest parks in Zambia but has an array of wildlife species. The park has five perennial rivers and different types of habitats, such as Miombo Woodland, Evergreen Forest, Lake Basin Woodland, Dambos, and Papyrus Swamp.
Kasanka National Park is a conservation area and has a total of 114 mammal species, including the endangered blue monkey, wattled crane, and sitatunga. Here, birdwatching is one of the finest, along with an annual fruit bat migration, which is regarded as the largest congregation of mammals in Africa. The Ramsar Convention considers the Bangweulu Wetlands, situated in the north of Kasanka, as one of the important wetlands. The flora and fauna in this area are exceptional, and it houses the only remaining population of Black Lechwe.
Some of the exciting things to do at the park are game-watching from Fibwe Hide, fishing, and canoeing on the Luwombwa River.
These are some of the off-the-beaten-track safari destinations in East Africa that can help you explore Africa to the fullest.
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