East Africa is renowned for its concentrations of wild animals such as the big five of elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and black rhino, though populations have been declining in recent times, particularly those of the rhino and elephant.
Kenya is a firm favourite amongst African destinations, with the prolific fauna of the Masai Mara Nature Reserve, which joins up with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, a highlight.
Tanzania’s Serengeti plains have been welcoming travellers for decades, overlooked by the continent’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. Between December and April, two million white-bearded wildebeest and tens of thousands of Burchell’s zebra and Thompson’s gazelles spread out over the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, creating one of the world’s great wildlife spectacles.
Uganda and Rwanda
Whilst Kenya and Tanzania have their famous national parks as a huge wildlife draw on a safari expedition, near neighbours Uganda and Rwanda play an important role in the survival of the mountain gorilla, of which there are only 700 remaining on earth. Nearly hunted to extinction by poachers, they are still endangered, but are slowly recovering their numbers, due in no small part to sensitive tourism efforts. The jungle terrain is best suited to trekking with a ranger guide and in very small groups due to the elusive and private nature of these animals. The majority of the gorillas live in the Virunga Mountains that cross Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, while a smaller number live in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of Uganda. It is possible to watch a handful of these groups in the wild – the largest primates in the world – with troops led by huge silverback males.