Top 10 East African Safaris

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you’d better be running!”

1. Masai Mara

The crème de la crème of safaris, the Masai Mara offers what is commonly (and incorrectly) know as the annual wildebeest migration. This migration is far from an annual occurrence and is in fact the continuous movement of thousands of wildebeest back and forth across the Kenyan and Tanzanian plains in search of the proverbial greener pasture. Around August the wildebeest get to the Masai Mara River and if you’re lucky, you witness a blood fest. Hungry starving crocodiles lie in wait and the lions not to be outdone silently stalk the herds of wildebeest, preying on its weakest members. Most safaris pale in comparison to this mega event.

2. Amboseli National Park

This is the only safari that comes even close to competing with the Masai Mara for postcard space. With Kilimanjaro in the background and tons of elephants, giraffes and lions in the park, pictures don’t get more iconic than this. Standing at almost 6000m above sea level, Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding mountain in the World and the tallest mountain in Africa. As can be expected, tall mountains don’t like to be spotted unless the weather Gods say so. Patience (something I lack) is the key to this Kodak moment.

3. Hells Gate

The only bicycle safari in East Africa. There’s no feeling as liberating as hopping on your bicycle and riding out on a safari. Despite the morbid name, Hells gate is (relatively) safe with no predatory animals around. Warthogs, zebra, giraffe and the odd wildebeest are scattered around the park. A gorge at the center offers a scenic trek through volcanic springs. Steam coming out of the geysers contributed to this park’s unconventional name.

4. Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater was formed when a giant volcano, about the size of Kilimanjaro, erupted and collapsed on itself. With plenty of water and vegetation, the crater is a feeding paradise for grazing animals. And where there are grazing animals, there are predators. Hippos, zebra, lions, hyenas – this crater has it all. The only animal missing out on the feeding extravaganza is the giraffe. Bony long rickety legs might be ideal for reaching the high hanging fruit, but not so much with steep slopes. This whole mini-ecosystem hangs in perfect balance and you can’t help but marvel at the circle of life.

5. Lake Nakuru

As Kenya’s premium national park, entrance is priced at a hefty 50$ for non-residents. The park is well maintained and quite small in comparison to the other parks. This means that animals can no longer remain hidden for too long. So this is where you get to spot rhino – definitely the hardest of the big 5 (rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard) to find. If you’re lucky you’ll see both white and black rhino. While white rhino are relatively unperturbed with human company, black rhino are very aggressive and would topple a vehicle without batting an eye. Fortunately, they prefer to shy away from the spotlight and usually avoid noisy annoying tourists.

6. Aberdare National Park

If you’re looking for a novelty safari, this is the place to be. The Ark is a hotel located in the middle of Aberdare National Park. Shaped as a boat and named after Noah’s legendary exploits, this hotel is located right next to a salt field and watering hole. Animals drop by at various times to drink water or lick salt off the ground. Floodlights and glass walled galleries offer a close up view of exotic animals that drop by for a salt fix. Buzzers in the rooms wake you up in the middle of the night when the more elusive animals (leopard, rhino, etc) show up.

7. Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara is home to the famous tree-climbing lions. The southern Serengeti in Tanzania is the only place in the world where lions climb into the trees. While no one knows for sure why the lions climb into the trees, one theory has it that the lions started climbing into the trees to get away from the nasty tse-tse flies.

8. Lake Bogoria

One of the lakes along the Great Rift Valley, Lake Bogoria is home to one of the World’s largest populations of lesser flamingos. The birds feed on a certain algae that grow in only highly alkaline water. The volcanic Lake Bogoria offers perfect conditions. This National Park also boasts of the highest concentration of geysers in Africa.

9. Tarangire National Park

Huge baobab trees are scattered throughout the park. Rumored to be oldest tree on Earth, this is hard to prove since the tree doesn’t produce rings that allow us to verify its age. The oldest baobab is estimated to be 6000 years old. With the land drying out during the summer months, the Tarangire River is a lifesaver for all the animals. Elephants have colonized huge stretches. A few birds prefer to take a dip and then bask in the sun.

10. Nairobi National Park

Anyone familiar with East Africa would wonder why this was included in my list. Other than lion, giraffe, water buffalo and other regulars, the Nairobi National Park doesn’t match up to the likes of the Masai Mara. However, how many cities have it’s own National Park and safari? None I’m guessing. For a city of 3 million, a National Park in your backyard  is a huge achievement. The co-existence of man and animals is a reality here. Other attractions include giraffe feeding, the elephant orphanage and a zoo.
Do you think any other safari should be included in this list? Let me know..

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