East African is one of the most lucrative regions in the world when it comes to exploring amazing safari experiences. The concept of slow travel is the best way to maxmize your East African safari experience. The region is truly rewarding in terms of wildlife, adventure, cultural and social experiences which can be fully explored using the slow travel concept. Amazing encounters like gorilla trekking, watching the great migration of wildbeest, game viewing, bird watching as well as cultural experiences can all be explored.
Where does slow travel lead you in East Africa
A comprehensive East African safari includes visits to several countries in the region including Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. They all richly endowed in terms of culture and biodiversity with the endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda, wildebeest migration, Big five, tropical birds and Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya and Tanzania.
The goal for most tourists is to tick off some these bucket lists such as gorilla trekking safaris, witnessing the migration safari and spotting the Big Five. Well, seeing gorillas in their natural habitat for instance is a wildlife adventure of a lifetime and most importantly helps to fund gorilla conservation which is a good thing.
However, in the rush to see the main wildlife attractions and sights as quickly as possible, you might miss out other important aspects of the country visited. In particular the people and culture if incorporate into your trip not only could provide a memorable experience through real connection with local people, it helps to harness responsible travel practices at a given place and time. This is the reason why I think that slow travel has a refreshing take on East Africa safaris whether single country or roundtrip.
As the opposite way of mass tourism, slow travel according to Dickinson and Lumsdon (2010) involves people who ‘travel to destinations more slowly overland, stay longer, and travel less,’ and who incorporate travel to a destination as an experience and, once there, engage with local transportation options and slow food and beverage,’ take time to explore local history and culture, and support the environment.
Slow travel might look like a new concept to the tourism and hospitality industry of East Africa, but it’s certainly worth embracing for your next trip to Africa. For example, visiting Volcanos National Park for gorilla trekking can be done on a 1-day Rwanda gorilla tour. This is the quickest gorilla safari in Africa yet slow travel is associated with slower travel and a taking detailed look at several attractions and experiences.
What to explore during your slow travel safari
Instead of just visiting the gorillas which is in itself an immersive experience, you’re recommended to visit the Iby’iwacu cultural center in Musanze to get to know how the money you spent buying the gorilla permit impacts the local community adjacent to the park. Nevertheless, Rwanda offers more high end relaxing accommodation with amenities that will allow you to disconnect from the bustle and hustle of life while getting value out of it.
If you intend to stay in Rwanda for longer, you can take a longer 8 days Rwanda tour which offers a chance to immerse yourself into the country’s history, wildlife and culture. There are more attractions to visit whilst in Rwanda in addition to gorillas including the Twin Lakes of Burera and Ruhondo, Kigali city tour, Lake Kivu, Nyungwe Forest, Gishwati Mukura and Akagera National Parks.
What to expect from your Uganda Safari
Unlike Rwanda where a gorilla permit goes for $1500 per person, Uganda gorilla safaris are affordable and safer than in the Democratic Republic of Congo where trekking is $450. In addition, the country offers two ways to see gorillas including gorilla trekking and habituation experience.
In addition to gorillas, Uganda is more diverse than her East African counterparts. This is where you can track chimpanzees in Kibale Forest or Kyambura Gorge the morning and enjoy boat cruise safari in the afternoon at Kazinga channel in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Both of these activities can be done without driving a lot of road distance which still gives time to relax.
Uganda is a tropical destination that is located at the equator has not yet experienced mass tourism in any form. The country has a total land area of 241,559 square kilometers of which approximately 37,000 square kilometers are covered by water including rivers and large lakes with Lake Victoria in the south central.
There are beautiful beaches and numerous islands, such as Bugala in Sesse, Ngamba island chimpanzee sanctuary where you can relax and engage in a wide range of activities such as fishing, boat cruising, swimming, quad biking, feeding chimps and volunteering at the chimp sanctuary among others. You can embark on day trips and city tours whilst in Kampala capital city or Entebbe town and visit the source of the Nile, do white water rafting, bungee jumping in Jinja to east.
Going on real wildlife safari takes you to the south-western region where 8 of 10 national parks in Uganda are found such as the Mgahinga and Bwindi Forest, where you can see silverback gorillas, and the Queen Elizabeth Park, which has a diverse fauna that includes Tree climbing lions, leopards, elephants, hippos, buffaloes.
There’s Kibale forest national park home to chimpanzees and 12 primate species; Murchison Falls where you can witness the strongest waterfall along the Nile River. Then going further north-east you will reach Karamoja region which is semi-desert with Kidepo Valley National Park and Piann Upe Wildlife.
Both of these offers opportunity to see cheetahs and ostriches, hike dry volcanic mountain ranges such as Moroto and Murongole to meet the Ik and Karamojong tribes. By the end of a roundtrip, you will understand why Winston Churchill referred to Uganda as “the pearl of Africa” as you travel around the country and experience its changing landscapes and diverse cultures of more than 50 indigenous tribes.
Slow travel for the migration safari and the Big Five
Elsewhere, the wildlife experiences such as viewing the wildebeest migration and Big Five safaris in Serengeti and Masai Mara National Park. These places get over 150000 people per year according to Mangabay News, the reason for nearly 80% of the travelers is to see a lion or a rhino.
In other words, wildlife is the primary attraction and s such game drive sightings tend to experience overcrowding of vehicles during the peak season. This is especially in prime wildlife viewing areas such as Mara Triangle and Seronera Valley central part of Serengeti.
There’s nothing wrong with spotting the animals you want with crowds. But there’s away to avoid them with equal alternative travel experiences. For instance, walking safaris in Tarangire National Park, visiting the Masai or Hadzabe bush men in Ngorongoro crater, cycling through rural villages outside Serengeti just to mention but a few.
By incorporating these activities with our best of Tanzania and Kenya Safari, you will be creating a positive impact to the environment and community. Also, given that air transport is the primary mode of getting to Africa, your carbon foot print is something to consider on your travels. And this is just one of the benefits that slow travel in East Africa provides for the responsible traveler.
You might not necessarily mean that you have to stay longer in one location to getting to immerse yourself in its local life. Even when you intend to have a shorter trip to Africa and spend less time at a given destination, the choice of activities in an itinerary matter a lot than the time might do. In whatever way you want to experience Africa, we will guide you to maximize the positive impact of your safari.