Gorillas? Check. Mountain climbing? Check. Whitewater rafting? Check. East African safari? Double check. Your adventure travel in East Africa starts here. Karibu sana! (You are welcome!)
East Africa is comprised of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan. A number of languages are spoken (from Swahili to French to English to Arabic) and there's a wide variety of cultures (Kenya alone has over 45 tribes!), so you won't have to worry about monotony here. Landscapes that flow from beaches to mountains set the scene for a destination where every adventurer will be able to find the thrills to make their heart pound.
Pack your carabiners and your binoculars! East Africa is packed with activities for any adventure traveler. From going on safari and witnessing some of the world's most magnificent wildlife to bungee jumping from incredible heights, this region is thrilling to say the least.
Go on Safari
Quintessential wildlife-on-the-plains with a lone Baobab Tree images are actually East Africa. The region is known for its sprawling Serengeti and landscape full of wildlife. Spot the Big 5 (rhino, leopard, elephant, buffalo and lion), spend your nights under the stars, and snap as many photos as you can.
While safari camps are often associated with luxury, many budget options are also available. Just be sure to check that your tour operator/accommodation includes everything you want to get out of your safari experience at a price that's good for you.
White-water Rafting and Paddling
Adventure travelers looking for the best rivers in the world will find them here in East Africa. With the Nile cutting right through, adrenaline comes with the package. Touch ground in Uganda to catch the world’s most unique northern-bound river rapids, and spend the rest of your evening watching the sunset over the river while drinking Uganda’s finest, Nile Special Beer.
Kayakers will also find plenty to do in the region. River expeditions--whether one day or several--often cater to various levels, meaning an experienced paddler and a novice white-water rafter can have fun on the same trip.
East Africa is home to a string of mountains boasting some of the continent's hight peaks: Mount Keru, Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon, and Mount Kilimanjaro are among the most popular. For true adventurers, climbing "Kili" is the ultimate conquest. Trails range from not-so-easy to extreme. Join an organized tour with a knowledgeable guide for the most convenient -- and safest -- mountain climbing expedition.
Follow the paths of our favorite primate relatives into the mountains of East Africa. Uganda, Rwanda, and a portion of the DR of Congo are the best spots to encounter Mountain Gorillas as they roam free in the wild. Permits can be pricey, and the number of people allowed into Gorilla habitats are restricted to preserve the environment and the animals' welfare, so joining a reputable tour company is essential.
Due to the rich cultural landscape of East Africa, travelers can take a break from high-energy activities and meet one of many local tribes who have long lived in the region. Masaai Mara excursions are popular, and many tribes take advantage of the opportunity to share their culture with foreign visitors. You'll need to join a reputable organized tour to ensure that your encounter remains respectful and not unintentionally obtrusive.
Best Time to Visit East Africa
East Africa has its dry seasons and rainy seasons. The hottest time of year is known as the dry season, which runs from December to March. If your adventure is rock climbing, trekking or a safari, go in the dry season.
The most rain falls between April and June and again in November and December. If your adventure includes rapids, waterfalls and a general need for H2O, it’s best to go during one of the rainy seasons.
What to Look for In a Tour
There are a seemingly unlimited number of options when it comes to planning your trip. After you’ve decided how long you want to spend in the region, you should decide whether you’d like to go for an all-inclusive package (multi-day travel, planned itinerary, accommodations included) or choose your own adventure, a la carte. All are available in East Africa.
When embarking on adventure activities that have the potential to be dangerous if not done properly (such as rafting, mountain climbing, or safaris that bring you into close proximity with wild animals), join a tour provider that comes highly recommended.
Average Tour Costs
Safaris can range from $300 to $1,000 depending on the length and your level of accommodation. Gorilla trekking can easily cost you $1,000 when you include the national park permit, hiring a car and paying the guide. Some of the more affordable adventure activities, like white-water rafting on the Nile River, range from $150 - $250, and All-Terrain Vehicles or hiking some of the lower-profile mountains (not Kilimanjaro) range from $50 - $100.
Most multi-day excursions include the basics, so accommodation, food, and essential gear rental will likely be included. If you prefer not to do an all-inclusive package, it is also possible to book day tours for adventurous activities, which will still include essential gear.
For gorilla trekking, mountain climbing, and other excursions into national parks, a permit and/or entry fee will be required, and this is not always included in tour packages (even all-inclusive trips). These can be as steep as $600, so budget wisely!
When it comes to safaris, some add-ons to anticipate are additional fees to see specific animals (i.e. entry to the Giraffe Sanctuary or a permit to see the rhinos) as well as adding days to your original itinerary. Some travelers like to hire their own safari jeep, which is also an additional cost.
Be sure to double check whether your activity includes meals and lodging. If not, bring extra bucks to cover those expenses.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
There are a lot of items you can buy in East Africa (sleeping bag, canteen, backpack), but if you’re a die-hard mountain climber, expert kayaker, or any other sort of pro-adventurer, you’ll be a lot more satisfied bringing your personal gear from home. If you prefer to travel light, most excursion hubs will rent out equipment to you, for a price.
Dry bags, quick dry towels, and compression bags make for lightweight, condensed packing and really come in handy in a pinch! Buy yourself a UV light water purifier in case there is no clean water for sale. Do not drink the tap water in East Africa.
You should plan to see a travel health specialist as early as possible before your trip; it's preferable to see a travel doctor 4-6 weeks before travel. The CDC recommends the following vaccinations for various countries in the region:
- Yellow Fever: You must get a Yellow Fever certificate for entry into East Africa
- Routine Vaccines: Make sure you are up-to-date on all your routine vaccinations
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Forget what you’ve seen in the movies; East Africa is a surprisingly safe place to travel. The people are incredibly hospitable, warm, and welcoming. If your travels take you to a bigger city like Kampala, make sure to keep your valuables close by or, better yet, at home. Pickpockets are very stealthy, but rarely aggressive. Muggings are more common in Nairobi, so it’s recommended that you hire a private car or take Über to get around the city at night.
That being said, adventure travel companies in East Africa have your safety as the number one priority. Your trusty guides will always have your well-being in mind and will give you on-site safety tips for whatever your adventure may be.
Accidents happen, even when on vacation. The first thing you should do before hopping on that plane is to purchase travel insurance. This will ensure that if an accident or injury occurs, you’ll be able to get medical treatment right away. If you’re going white-water rafting or doing another type of extreme sport, be should to double check that your insurance covers that activity (some don’t!)