Continuing our overland trip from Hurghada, Egypt down to Cape Town, South Africa last year, we spent months traveling through Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda. After the months we had spent in northern Africa, things changed drastically. The amazing people, culture, and of course the animals were all highlights during the East Africa stretch of our trip. Check out the short video below!
Crossing from Ethiopia to Kenya was a culture shock and an extreme change of scenery. Ethiopia was beautifully diverse and largely sheltered from foreigners. At times it could be a hostile place to outsiders but felt like it was in its own world. Crossing into Kenya brought us into a more inviting place and on our first safari during this trip to Africa!
Learning about the bloody Mau Mau Uprising where the people of Kenya eventually fought a bloody war to freedom from British rule to seeing the massive wild animals of Africa up close, the trip into the country was phenomenal. The busy city of Nairobi still had plenty to see with a giraffe sanctuary and elephant orphanage, among other normal city attractions. We aren’t typically very fond of animals in captivity, however both of these locations did seem to have a positive purpose beyond collecting tourist dollars, which was great.
Tanzania astounded us with the incredible variety of landscapes and things to see. From the enormous, incomparable Serengeti to the white sand beaches of Zanzibar and up the highest freestanding volcano in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro, the month we spent in Tanzania barely scratched the surface of what the country has to offer.
Our trip was split into two visits, the first for two weeks into the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater, and to Zanzibar for some rest and relaxation. Later after finishing our overland trip we returned to the beautiful country as we had a mountain to climb. Mount Kilimanjaro was without a doubt the hardest trek we’ve done, mainly due to the altitude and extreme cold – our camera and phone batteries froze almost instantly at the top of the mountain it was that cold! Watching the sun rise from the summit of the highest mountain in Africa was worth the hard work over the six days that our trek lasted and we wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
Rwanda packs so much history, some extremely tragic, so many gorgeous landscapes, and so much amazing wildlife into a country the size of Maryland it was hard to take it all in over the short time we were in the country. Visiting the genocide museum, the Mille Collines Hotel, and Volcanoes National Park were all experiences that will be with us for the rest of our lives. With only roughly 800 mountain gorillas left in the world in the wild, our biggest draw to the country was of course the chance to trek with these human-like creatures.
The population of wild mountain gorillas dropped under 400 individuals decades ago, but luckily partly due to tourism (this trip was the most expensive single day activity we had ever participated in) locals began to understand it was in their interest to safeguard the small population and allow their numbers to rebound to where they are now. From the lows of reading about and seeing the effects of a genocide that killed roughly a million people in the course of 100 days during our lifetimes to the highs of coming within a foot of wild gorillas, Rwanda was a place of extremes for us.
Uganda gave us some time to meet the locals and of course, hang out with the wildlife. We spent some time at a local elementary school playing with the kids and hearing them practice their English which was great. Monkeys jumped from tree to tree overhead in many places we went, and we got to see the (debated) source of the river we had been following since we arrived in Egypt, the Nile.
Riding on the back of motorcycle taxis, eating chipatis on the streets of Jinja, and kayaking near the source of the longest (or second longest depending on who you believe) river in the world were all highlights of our time in Uganda.