East Africa has been ranked by top tourist reviewers as the top tourist destination worldwide and is indeed a tourist and wildlife hotspot. Three of East Africa’s countries- Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda- are ranked among Africa’s top 10 African safari tour destinations.
Serengeti National Park is not just East Africa’s top safari destination but Africa’s in general. and is synonymous with wildlife and classic African scenery. It is Tanzania’s oldest park and home to the spectacular wildebeest migrations and offers top-class wildlife viewing throughout the year.
While at Serengeti, you will be able to see all the major safari animals in great numbers during the migration. Cheetah and four of the Big 5 (Rhinos, Elephants, Lions, Leopards, and Buffalos), many other predators including spotted hyena, jackal and bat-eared fox.
For a better experience, aim drier seasons of June to October. The most sought after incredible wildebeest migration happens around June and July. If you’re keen on seeing predators in action, visit in late January or February. This is the hiatus in the annual rains, when the wildebeests calve.
Also found in Tanzania, Ngorongoro Crater along with the Serengeti and three other national parks offer the Northern circuit classic annual wildebeest immigration classic safari experience if well timed.
If your main goal is to see the big 5 in a day -and in huge numbers, the Ngorongoro crater is the best bet. The only exception is the giraffe, which is present in the Conservation Area, but not in the crater because of the unfriendly steep descent.
Wildlife viewing is excellent in the crater throughout the year. The scenery of the crater is most spectacular in the Wet season, from November to May. From March to May the rains can be continuous for days.
Masai Mara is definitely Kenya’s jewel when it comes to safari tours. the Mara is a fantastic reserve for predators, in particular, cheetah, Leopard, spotted hyena and prides of 20-plus lion, whose high degree of habituation makes them easy to watch and photograph.
Although there’s always wildlife throughout the year, including large numbers of buffalo, zebra and various antelope, as well as a solid population of elephant and a few relict black rhinos, the best time to visit is between July and October when the wildebeest migration crosses over from Tanzania. They make their way from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara somewhere around July and August, and usually, arrive in September. They slowly head back into the Serengeti again around October. The crossing of the Mara River along the way is one of the highlights of this spectacular event and offers tourists unforgettable sightings of these manically braying, croc-dodging beasts as they cross the Mara River.
Kidepo Valley National park is the first Ugandan safari destination on Safari Booking’s “50 Best African Safari Parks.” Although Kidepo is located in a remote corner of the country, which is rarely visited by tourists (due to the expense and difficulty of getting there), it boasts of 77 mammal species some of which you will not find anywhere else in the country.
Kidepo Valley National Park lies in the rugged, semi-arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya, some 700km from Kampala. Plus, the large, open plains make Kidepo feel more like parks in neighboring countries than in Uganda making Kidepo the ultimate Ugandan safari destination.
Kidepo has over twenty species of predator: Lion and leopard, Elephant, Burchell’s zebra, buffalo and Rothschild’s giraffe, and twelve antelope species are all regularly seen.
The Kidepo contains two rivers – Kidepo and Narus – and during the dry season (September to March), these rivers dry up and disappear, leaving just pools for the wildlife. This is when animals go searching for a dependable source of water, and it is the best time to go wildlife watching in Kidepo national park.
Kidepo is also spectacular during the rainy seasons because that is when the dust and heat tend to get washed away, and birding is even better.
Ruaha National Park is the largest national park in Tanzania encompassing Rungwa Game Reserve, Usangu Game Reserve, and several other protected areas.
But that’s not why it’s the 5th best African Safari destination. While at Ruaha you will regularly see all big cats (lions, leopards, cheetah) and the endangered wild dogs. Ruaha is also one of the Tanzania birds’ paradise with more than 571species and some of them are known to be migrants from within and outside Africa.
Ruaha is believed to have the highest concentration of elephants than any National Park in East Africa. Other animals in the park include lions, leopards, cheetah, giraffes, zebras, elands, impala, bat-eared foxes, and Jackals.
Several antelope species that are rare or absent in northern Tanzania, such as greater and lesser kudu, roan and sable antelope, are often encountered.
The dry season which occurs from May to October is the most ideal period to tour Ruaha if you prefer a hustle-free safari. However, if you are the adventurous type, you should be fine with any month of the year.
Selous Game reserve is the largest game reserve and the second largest conservation area in Africa. It has been estimated to be four times bigger than the Serengeti. However, most of it has been set aside for hunting.
The animal viewing area that is open to the public is relatively small but very rewarding, with many predator sightings and excellent boat safaris on the Rufiji River.
Selous Game reserve contains globally significant populations of about 106,300 African elephants, 2,135 black rhinoceros and wild hunting dogs. It also includes one of the world’s largest known populations of hippopotamus (18,200) and Buffalo (204,015). Lion sightings are very common as the opportunistic creatures tend to laze around the lakes a variety of animals that come to drink at the river.
The Selous game reserve also has a vast range of game including brindled gnu, Nyasaland gnu, sable antelope, eland, greater kudu, waterbuck, hartebeest, zebras, giraffe, reedbuck, warthog, spotted hyena and over 350 species of birds.
The best time to visit Selous is June to October (Selous’ Dry season) which is also its peak season. Numerous lodges close their doors from March to May as business is low during this wet period.
Mahale Mountains National Park is one of only two protected areas for chimpanzees in Tanzania. With a population of roughly 1700 chimpanzees, Mahale is considered Tanzania’s chimpanzee sanctuary.
Although Mahale Mountains National Park is accessible all year round, the dry season (May -October) is the best period to have your safari here. During this period, chimpanzees are likely to be seen in big groups, the sunshine illuminates the fish in the Lake and the beach is an inviting place to relax.
Amboseli national park is mostly known for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-ranging elephants among other wildlife species. Other attraction includes opportunities to meet the Maasai people and also offers spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
Besides elephants, you will be able to see four of the Big Five with the exception of Rhinos. Buffalo, wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, and gazelle are also very common sightings. Lions are the easiest to spot of the big cats, but sightings are not guaranteed.
Like similar parks on this list, the best time to visit Amboseli national park is during the dry season period. That is from June to September.
All three big cats, the lion, cheetah, and African leopard can be found here, as well as the elephant, Cape buffalo and hippopotamus (rhinos are extinct here). Other mammals that frequent Samburu include olive baboon, warthogs, Grant’s gazelle, Kirk’s dik-dik, impala, and waterbuck. Situated 350 kilometers from Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, Samburu is also ideal for birding with over 350 species of bird.
Samburu is very hot and dry in the months of June to September. However, that is the best time to visit since there will be little vegetation to obscure your view. If you are going for birding however, the wet season is more ideal.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a 360 km2 not-for-profit wildlife conservancy in Kenya and it houses the only two remaining northern white rhino in the world. Ol Pejeta Conservancy also boasts the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa. The Conservancy hosts the “Big five game”, Chimpanzee, big cats, wild dogs among a large selection of other African animals, which makes it a popular safari destination.
The best period to visit Ol Pejeta Conservancy is during the dry season – from June to September- and December to February when the roads are dependable and the undergrowth is much thinner than it is in the rainy months. But this is also when it is overly crowded with tourist.