The endless plains of Masai Mara in Kenya and Serengeti in Tanzania, together, form the most fascinating wildlife ecosystem anywhere in the world, and these plains are the default choice of global travellers when they think of the word “African safari”. While wildlife remains the primary reason to visit this wonderland, there are also many other plentiful reasons to visit it at least once in a lifetime. Here we present you with a list of the top 10 things to do on an East African safari.
1. See the Big 5
You expected this, didn’t you? While this is an obvious thing to do in East Africa, let us add our tidbits here.
Seeing the big 5 is fairly easy in these national parks, and almost any guide should be able to show them to you within a day or two. Or you could also see all these animals in a zoo near your place of stay and save all the $$$ on the expensive African vacation. Why do we say that? Well, if you are traveling a few thousand miles to Africa and wish to see these animals in their natural habitat, you would not just want to see them but also soak up the whole experience, right?
3 things built in to give you that perfect experience of a lifetime – One is a highly knowledgeable guide who not only shows you the animals but also shares his knowledge on animal behavior, tracks for you the rarest of birds, or anticipates and shows you a special moment like a hunt or mating with greater probability than the rest of the guides. Such guides are rare; trust us, and for a special experience, we only recommend you go with such guides. They also act as your interpreters of nature and wildlife and ensure that you go back with a lot more knowledge than you came with.
The second is the location of your stay. If you stay inside the park, you are closest to the wildlife, and during sunrise or sunset, you can be with your favorite pride of lions (well, you will have options!) or your favorite cheetah family! Also, staying in the middle of the wilderness with no civilization around for miles is an experience in itself that you should not miss.
The third is an excellent off-roading land cruiser that can beat the odd roads of the savannahs. Of course, like all good things in life, these come at a certain premium, but they are well worth their weight in gold for an experience to cherish for a lifetime!
2. Experience a hunt or a chase
Witnessing a hunt or chase is an off-shoot of the first experience, and this often comes true with a great guide and with the right place of your stay. When you see one for the first time, the feeling of that adrenaline rush cannot be described in words. But we can assure you that the moment will stay with you for the rest of your life, and this is one story you would like to narrate to your grandchildren!
3. Dinner under the stars
If you come back without falling in love with the African skies, then you have not ventured out of your hotel room and not seen the skies! While you experience the dawn, dusk, and daytime sky during your safaris, you can make it all the more special by opting for a bush dinner under the star-lit sky.
Imagine that at night you are in the middle of the same vast savannahs where you went on a safari during the day. There is just a neatly white cloth dining table and chairs with the finest of crockeries, and you hear sounds of all kinds of animals from all around you, while the Masais are guarding you in all directions and servicing your choicest of African delicacies, while some are doing their traditional dance for you, with nothing but the vast African skies above you. You are also free to dance with them under the stars and around your private bonfire. Well, we would not like to give further romantic or otherwise interpretations; we leave that to you and just recommend you get this experience once in your lifetime.
4. Breakfast with the Hippos and Crocs
Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer, do not read this literally, and we are not feeding you to Crocodiles or Hippos. We only meant that you must have a bush breakfast by the side of one of the iconic rivers, like the Grumeti River, Mara River, Talek River, Olare Olok River, etc. While you are spread out a neat table and chairs and have your sumptuous breakfast and champagne by the river, you also watch Hippos and Crocs chilling out in the river and possibly having their breakfast of a live kill (not you or your breakfast).
5. Jump taller than a Masai
Safaris are not just about seeing wildlife but also about having fun. When you have a local Masai guide as your driver (which you should), you will surely have lots of it. When they tell you some scary stories about animals, be prepared to discount some of them. You also learn a lot about the culture and traditions of Masai tribes from them, which in itself is an enriching experience. One of those is that the man who jumps the highest gets the girls for marriage. So, here is a Masai guide trying to woo two of our lady guests in his ways!
6. Do a balloon safari
Soaring up the skies in a hot air balloon and witnessing the beautiful world below with a bird’s eye view is quite an adventure in itself, but when that balloon happens to sail in the endless plains of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, the experience is not to be forgotten. You reach your balloon before sunrise, and as you are placed in your wooden cubicle and the balloon starts to soar, myriad thoughts often cross the minds of travelers – what if the balloon lands and falls between a pride of lions? What if we end up landing on the river amidst crocodiles? Can we meet a giraffe at his eye level and say hi?
7. Live the Animal Planet Experience
While the Big 5 and Big Cats certainly give a thrill to anyone, there are numerous other animals and birds not to be missed, and your Rockstar guide should let you experience most of them and share many interesting tidbits. Like, did you know there are 4 species of giraffes in the world and many subspecies? The Masai Giraffe, the Rothschild Giraffe, and the Reticulated Giraffe are some of the giraffes found in Kenya and Tanzania. The one you see in Masai Mara is the Masai Giraffe.
Did you know that the most dangerous land animal in Africa is not the lion or the leopard? It is the hippos! Despite being herbivorous, they have a very volatile temperament and the strongest bite force of all living mammals.
8. Sundowner in the Savannahs
You must have been to the best of restaurants and bars around the world and sampled the best of wines or single malts. What if the same is served to you in the middle of savannahs as you watch the sun setting before your eyes in your armchair? In our opinion, no bar in the world can match that experience.
9. Visit a Masai village
The Masai’s live in small mud-thatched villages, together with their cattle and smaller livestock. For many centuries, Masai has roamed these lands of Kenya and Tanzania, living a free, nomadic lifestyle. Their traditional lands are today’s national parks of Masai Mara and Serengeti.
Your experience of Masai Mara and Serengeti is not complete until you interact with these people and get to know their cultures and traditions. For eg, you will notice that the bright shukas (sheets) they wear are strongly contrasted with the greens and browns of the landscape.
While this appears against the common logic of wearing earth colours on safaris (which we also advise our guests to do), they wear such colours for a reason. You will also experience the Masai’s singing and dancing in their traditional way of rhythmic call-and-response style and the “jumping dance” or adumu! This is one of the rare opportunities globally where you get to interact so closely with an Aboriginal tribe while being completely safe and secure. Do cherish this opportunity!
10. Dine at the Carnivore Restaurant in Nairobi
This one is only for non-vegetarians and of the hardcore variety. You are likely to transit through Nairobi for your Masai Mara safari, or sometimes even for the Serengeti safari. If you have a night in Nairobi, and you are a meat addict, then there is no place better for you than a carnivore restaurant. Consistently listed as one of the most iconic restaurants in the world, Carnivore serves many kinds of exotic meats, including some farm-bred game meats. The irony is that the owner of this place is a staunch vegetarian!
11. The great (great great) migration
As they say, keep the best for last. So we thought to keep this wild spectacle at the end of this list. Every year, millions of wildebeests and zebras follow a cycle of life that starts from the south of Serengeti (Ndutu Plains) in Tanzania around January–February, when they give birth in millions.
These herds follow the movement of rains and greens to move northwards through March to June, and by the end of June, they reach the Mara-Serengeti border, finally entering Masai Mara from July to September. They often cross one of the deadly Mara rivers in herds of thousands, with crocs and lions waiting for easy meals, and that makes these rivers crossing the grandest spectacle in the natural world! If you have not seen it, you have missed something in life.
You are still reading this article? We thought by now you would have booked your tickets to Africa to experience it for yourself. For any African holiday consultation, our team is always at your service at [email protected]. And if you are looking for itinerary options, then check out our East Africa safari tours for a memorable adventure.
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