By Carissa Hickok
East Africa boasts some of the most world famous safari parks – Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Maasai Mara, Amboseli, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – just to name a few. Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Maasai Mara are home to the Annual Wildebeest Migration, one of the most unique attractions in the world and certainly not found anywhere else. Wherever you decide to go, be sure to bring a camera and extra batteries and memory cards to capture all the sights and sounds. And don’t forget your sun block and insect repellent no matter what month you are going. Do your research and book with a reputable travel agency months in advance to ensure a smooth trip. Most, if not all, of the parks offer open campsites or lodges where you can live among the animals – a thrilling and at times terrifying in the most exciting experience.
The Maasai Mara National Park in southwest Kenya stretches 583 sq. miles and is home to an abundance of Big Cats and the Maasai Mara people. The Maasai Mara are known for their colorful clothing and fierce warrior reputation. They are a semi-nomadic cattle rearing people who have retained many of their tribal traditions and maintained their way of life. Maasai Mara is a 4-5 hour drive from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, or a 45-minute flight from Nairobi.
Amboseli National Park covers 244 sq. miles and is home to elephants roaming the grassland plains with Mount Kilimanjaro looming in the background. You can find the Big Five (lion, elephant, cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros) here. Amboseli is about a 4 hour drive from Nairobi or a 45-minute flight from Nairobi.
Seregenti National Park in Tanzania stretches for 5,700 sq. miles of acacia speckled savanna, dense riverine woodland, and dry rolling grassland. The Serengeti ecosystem follows the rhythm of the rain as herds of grazers follow the rainfall and the briefly rich forage. Serengeti is home to millions of hoofed animals – wildebeests, zebras, giraffes, and gazelles – and their predators. Serengeti is a 4-5 hour drive from Arusha, Tanzania or a 30-60 minute flight from Arusha. If you decide to drive, you may opt to break up the drive by stopping in Lake Manyara or Ngorongoro along the way.
The Ngorongoro Crater was formed by the molten lava that flew from the Ngorongoro volcano which formed a dome that later collapsed. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area covers 3,200 sq. miles and the crater floor rests 6,000 feet above sea level. You can find the Big Five here as well as around 30,000 large mammals live on the crater floor, mainly zebras and wildebeests. Ngorongoro is about 4 hours away from Arusha by car or 45 minutes by air.
If you are more interested in gorilla trekking, you can do so at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda or Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Other safari destinations in Uganda include Murchison Falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park where you are sure to see some big game. You can also go chimpanzee trekking in Queen Elizabeth or Kibale Forest National Park.
Carissa enjoys traveling so much that she left the corporate world to work as a freelancer, which allows her to up and go on a regular basis. She lives with her dachshund, Daphne in central Florida.