Majority of the experiences in most of East Africa’s tourist destinations are tenacious and adventurous in nature which require some minimum level of maturity and physicality. Some activities in particular, for example gorilla trekking, chimpanzee tracking, mountain climbing and rafting require participants to be at least 15 years or older in order to take part.
Travellers visiting East Africa for safaris are always encouraged to try and gain some relative level of physical fitness in order to fully enjoy their experiences. Maturity, fitness and sometimes patience is required in some scenarios in order to reach the expected goal while on an East African safari.
Sitting for long hours in a vehicle
Usually safaris involve long driving hours traveling in a vehicle especially between national parks can take 3 hours or even longer. Adjustments have been introduced to enable short drives covering less than 200 km per day to allow travellers to rest and spend two nights rather than a night at a given destination. Alternatively, flying safaris offer convenient accessibility to remote protected areas such as Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Kidepo Valley National Park in Uganda among others such as Ruaha and Selous National Parks in southern Tanzania safari circuit.
Spending a day on an African safari
Game drive safaris in places like Serengeti, Masai Mara, Amboseli or Murchison Falls National Parks involve spending more time up to 5 hours out in the African bush and hot sun. The dirt roads inside the protected areas can be dusty and rough.
On the other hand primate trekking safaris including hiking to see gorillas or chimpanzees in Uganda or Rwanda can take 1 to 5 hours hiking in the tropical montane forests. The wildlife rangers will consider the pace suitable for trekkers but it’s still challenging given the rugged and steep terrain.
In that regard, a tour operator will organise relaxing activities such as retreats at lakes, village walks, campfire and cultural entertainment to neutralise the fatigue. after having a long day trip. For Kenya and Tanzania, the game drive experience can be combined with beach holidays in Mombasa or Zanzibar islands along the coast of the Indian Ocean.
Gorilla trekking is the biggest safari highlight in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Hiking to see mountain gorillas requires relative physical fitness since the encounter can be challenging given the mountainous nature of the terrain in gorilla trekking parks.
Despite the challenging terrain, everyone with some relative fitness can trek gorillas. For those who may fail completely to make it to the gorillas, several measures have been put in place to enable them fulfil their dream in the wild. These include carrying people on a sedan chair (“forest helicopter”) to and from the gorillas.
On the day of gorilla trekking, the gorillas can move deep into the forest which can be tough for anyone. The rate at which the hiking is done in search of gorillas is led by the slowest person in a group of 8 visitors.
Gorilla families in Uganda or Rwanda are assigned to trekkers based on the anticipated level of hiking in relation to the location of the group. For Uganda gorilla safari in Bwindi would recommend Buhoma and Oruzogo family in Ruhija sectors which offer less strenuous treks than in the southern sectors of Nkuringo and Rushaga. Those who need assistance can get a walking stick or hire porters to carry their bags and gear.
Game drives and boat trips
A game drive can be defined as use of custom-made vehicles to view wild animals in the African wilderness. There are two kinds of game drive safari vehicles with different carrying capacities including pop-up roofs for standing up widely used on safari in Uganda Kenya and Tanzania. The other is the open-sided ones found in private game reserves of southern Africa.
Game drives are coordinated in a way to begin early in the morning before the sun rises because it’s the time when animals are actively grazing. Expect that the game drive can last up to 4 hours while viewing the variety of amazing species in the park. Most of the roads in the parks have dirt and the drives can be bumpy, and dusty before relaxing in the mid of the day.
Based on the type of tour or lodge, there are services to ensure maximum relaxation for the elderly such as swimming and spa treatments. These also apply after gorilla trekking. In the late afternoon as the heat of the day subsidises , game drives continues until sunset sometimes with boat trips at the end of the exercise.
Among the variety of species commonly seen during a boat cruise include hippos, Nile crocodiles, water birds and spectacular scenery. Alternatively, walking safaris offer a chance to view wildlife on foot in places like Tarangire, Ruaha National Parks in Tanzania and Lake Mburo National Park in Uganda.
To avoid spending long hours on the bumpy and dusty roads, travellers who are capable may opt for flying safaris. They are available especially for those intending to view the wildebeest migration and gorilla trekking in the same itinerary. Domestic charter flights allow for quick accessibility between destinations which maximises the time spent for game viewing. Most charters encourage travellers to pack lightly with a limit of 15 kg per person.
The communities living around protected areas benefit from tourism. This can only happen when visiting the villages is incorporated in your African safari. Village walks offer a chance to meet local people and enjoy authentic cultural experiences including traditional dance performances, participating in local economic activities like farming.
Others include visiting traditional healer for his stunning metaphysics, a local artist who creates handicrafts and interacting with the pre-historic ancient fire-making Batwa pygmy style. Besides giving you a cultural feeling, community visits are suitable for older travellers because they can be done as a leisure walk especially after gorilla trekking or game drives.
Community visits are also instrumental in empowering local community tourism in development projects for example at Iby’iwacu cultural village in Rwanda, Batwa pygmy trail in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park among others such as Masai villages in Serengeti and Masai Mara National Parks.