Exploring East Africa
I feel fortunate. I spend my days designing trips for people who are realizing bucket list dreams and having experiences they never knew existed. Recently, I myself checked several of those bucket list items off my own list – trekking with mountain gorillas, experiencing the Serengeti and being up close and personal with some of our planet’s most intriguing wildlife.
In March, I spent three weeks in Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda with my brother Mike. It was a great way for me to further my knowledge about East Africa and experience firsthand some of what this region has to offer.
My journey started as I landed in Arusha, a gateway into key sites in Tanzania. We spent time in the famed Ngorongoro Crater – the world’s largest inactive, intact and unified volcanic caldera. The crater, which formed when a volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago, is now home to 25,000+ animals. Lions, elephants, rhinos and large herds of zebras and wildebeests are just some of the wildlife we experienced within the park.
We then moved into the Serengeti area of Tanzania. The expansive landscape is so beautiful. I felt like I could literally see for miles. And, because it was low season, we felt like we had the place to ourselves. We’d often be the only vehicle at a sighting.
I was able to experience several camps within the Seregenti, including Siringit, Singita and Taasa. Our guide and tracker at Taasa were particularly knowledgeable and hilarious. It made our time there memorable for sure! We saw an unusually high number of leopards while we were in the area – at least two per day, which was a treat. A cultural highlight for us was spending time in an authentic Maasai village, learning about their nomadic ways of caring for their livestock and experiencing their song/dance rituals was fascinating.
After almost a week in the Serengeti, we headed west to Rwanda and then up to Uganda. The countryside of these amazing countries is stunning! It almost felt like I should be somewhere in the tropics. Rwanda is known as the “land of a thousand hills” that are lush and green. While the history of Rwanda is heavy, it’s sad yet intriguing. I was glad to be there to support their people and come back to tell stories of how amazing they are.
We stayed at a beautiful lodge in Rwanda called Virunga. It serves as a perfect home base for gorilla trekking and golden monkey tracking. Knowing I was going to see the gorillas in Uganda, we chose to see the golden monkeys at this stop. This species of monkey is only found in Rwanda and Uganda and is unfortunately on the endangered list. Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda has two habituated troops that live within the bamboo vegetation at the base of the volcano. They were very playful, active monkeys. Fun and beautiful to watch!
From there we ventured to Uganda to see the mountain gorillas. I would be lying if I didn’t admit this was a major highlight of the entire trip and one of the most fascinating experiences I’ve ever had in my life. We spent a couple nights at Mount Gahinga Lodge, a simple but beautiful property nestled at the base of the Virunga Volcanoes. It felt like we were part of the local village, which was a great cultural experience.
The gorilla trekking here was an adrenaline rush. Pictures and videos don’t do it justice as these creatures are huge! We saw moms, babies and of course, the impressive silverback. It was so intimidating, but awe-inspiring. I feel like I could write an entire article on this experience alone and it still wouldn’t capture it all.
If you’re interested in heading to East Africa to explore the Serengeti or trek with the golden monkeys and gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda, please email me at AnnC@PiqueTravel.com. I’d love to tell you more!