Yes, and you can obtain each country’s VISA at the port of entry of the country. You can also obtain an East African VISA for all East African countries.
For DRC however, you have to apply for the VISA 2 weeks before your travel with all the required documentation.
The best, easiest and most advisable way to plan for an East African tour is to use a tour operator. Tour operators are specialized in these safaris and are able to help you plan and have a memorable hustle free safari.
Yes it is possible, liaise with your tour operator to know how to do this and how that will affect the price of your tour and time spent in one location. You will get every detail about where the night game drives are done and where they are not done since not all national parks offer night game drives.
Game safaris are safe for all people from 10 years and above; because it’s presumed at 10 and above you have the ability to understand and adhere to game safari guidelines, protection rules and protocols that facilitate your enjoyment of the game tour with zero or minimal human-wildlife accidents.
The children below 10 are feared to be hype or overly inquisitive that they may easily break the game safari guidelines and cause human-wildlife accidents.
However, if you feel your young one is up for the safari, liaise with your tour operator and see how you can accommodate them on your game drive tours.
Rwanda, Kenya, and D.R.Congo require that a traveller have a yellow fever vaccination before they enter the country but Uganda and Tanzania are not quite strict unless you have been exposed to yellow fever or are coming from a part of the world known to have yellow.
It’s important to note that since all these countries are in the tropics, chances are high you may get malaria from mosquitoes bites so it would be wise for you to take malaria prophylaxis medication to boost your immunity against malaria or use repellents to minimize mosquito bites.
All year round is good to have a safari in East Africa because of the wide range of safari activities that can accommodate both the rainy and dry seasons.
However, tours during the dry season are more enjoyable because of almost zero rain interruptions and relatively firm grounds if you are during community walks or hiking e.g hiking mount Karisimbi or trekking e.g. Gorilla Trekking and chimpanzee trekking. Also during the dry seasons, the animals can be seen easily as they head to pools of water to cool off heat and thirst.
The wild big 5 are lions, rhinos, African buffalos, elephants, and leopards. These animals can be found all year round in:-
- Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Game Reserve and Nakuru National Park though the Rhinos in Nakuru are in a sanctuary next to Park.
- Tanzania’s Ngorongo National Park and Serengeti National Park.
- Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park though the rhinos are in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary next to the park.
Depending on what you want to do exactly on a Tour and where the safari place is located, you can have a safari as short as one day and as long as you want, still depending on your interests and the activities you desire to do on your safari. The safaris include Uganda Tours, Kenya Tours, Rwanda Tours, Tanzania Tours, and Congo Tours.
The most sagacious way to plan a tour that is favourable to your time is to use a safari operator who will help you plan your itinerary to accommodate all your interests and desired tour activities while staying in your time bounds.
This all depends on the time you arrive in the country and how fatigued you are after your flight.
If you are doing Gorilla trekking in Rwanda, you need to be in Rwanda before 8am local time for you to have enough time to travel from the airport to the gorilla trekking location; arrival any time after 8am local time will make it very difficult for you to make it to the trekking location in time for trekking.
If you are doing trekking in Uganda, you need to arrive at the Entebbe airport by 6 am local time and fly to bwindi impenetrable national park to be in time to join the trekking teams for the day’s trekking activities. But if you are using the road to get to bwindi you cannot do trekking the day you arrive, because bwindi is about 8 – 9 hours from the airport in Entebbe.
For Gorilla trekking in Congo, it’s impossible to do trekking the very day you arrive because of the time spent on the road from Kigali airport to Goma, DRC. The Congo entry point; this time is about 4-5 hours and from Goma, DRC to Virunga National park, DRC where the Gorilla trekking takes place; the time is about 2-2 1/2 hours. A total of about 7 hours, which clearly makes it impossible for you to join the trekking teams that set off in the morning.
All the East African countries apart from DRC have Uber services and you can easily get around the countries’ cities with an uber. However if you are planning for a safari, it is wise, more reliable and safe for you to use a tour operator to help you get around the safari destinations because the uber system in the East African countries is still underdeveloped meaning it may not cover most of the safari places and almost all the safari locations are in the rural areas of the countries.
All year round is a good time for gorilla trekking, though the mountain trails are less slippery during the dry seasons and this could be considered to be the best time to do the activity.
The public tour/tours are mainly done in groups of unrelated people that come together to have the tour; the numbers vary from 4 which is the smallest group up to 100 or so. This comes with shared costs, accommodation, transport etc among other things that are predetermined by the tour operator. On this tour you may not have the liberty to do a couple of things that are personal interests and are not on the predetermined tour operator’s itinerary plus you time on the safari is determined by the tour operator.
Private tours are mainly done as an individual or in a small group of closely related people that plan and go for the tour together; most cases with tailor-made itineraries to suit their desires and expectations on a safari (not determined by the tour operator). On these tours (Uganda Tours, Kenya Tours, Congo Tours, Tanzania Tours and Rwanda Tours), you have the liberty to do anything of your interest on the safari and take as much or little time as you want on the safari.
A safari constitutes a variety of recreational activities depending on your interests, desires, expectations, time and budget. The main activity that has been capitalized on for the past decades is wildlife or game viewing on a game drive however with the evolution of time and diversification of the tourism industry, a safari will constitute the following and much more:-
- Game drives (to view wildlife)
- Trekking especially for primates
- Bird Watching
- Sightseeing (to view different sceneries like lakes, craters hills etc)
- Hiking and mountain biking for example Hiking Mount Karisimbi
- Water activities like boat rides, cruises rafting, jet boating, bungee jumping, etc
- City tours or walk (to learn about cities)
- Nature walks
- Religious and historical sightseeing
- Community tours
- Among other activities.
Yes! East Africa is relatively a safe place. It’s true there have been a few political-related riots in Uganda and Kenya in the past couple of months however these don’t affect a traveler’s’ movements because the riots are normally contained in a particular part of the city.
Also, almost all East African safaris are in the rural parts of the countries so unless you’re doing a city tour, your safari will not be interrupted.
DRC has however had long periods of insecurities and recently an Ebola outbreak; though comparatively these insecurities and Ebola have been contained your safety in DRC is not a 100% guarantee.
When on a safari, it’s imperative for you to take all necessary precautions as instructed by the guides and tour operators, so that you avoid unpleasant run-ins with the wild animals, which run-ins can be become fatal.
If you have questions that have not been addressed by this list kindly send them through email@example.com and we shall address them in our next series.