Which Languages Are Spoken in East Africa?

Are you planning a journey to East Africa and curious about the languages spoken in this vibrant region? It’s important to know which languages are spoken in East Africa.

East Africa, with its diverse cultures and rich history, boasts a tapestry of languages that reflect its fascinating heritage. 

In this blog, we will delve into the official languages and commonly spoken tongues of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan. Join us on this linguistic adventure as we uncover the linguistic diversity of East Africa.

The Countries of East Africa

East Africa encompasses a captivating group of countries that form the East African Community. 

This community comprises Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan. 

Each country offers its own unique blend of languages, traditions, and cultural experiences. Let’s explore the official and spoken languages of these remarkable nations.

Languages Spoken in Tanzania

In Tanzania, a land of astounding wildlife and breathtaking landscapes, Swahili holds the position of the official language. Swahili, also known as Kiswahili, is widely spoken and understood across the country. 

English serves as the second official language and is commonly used in business, administration, and education. 

Additionally, Tanzania is home to over 120 indigenous languages, reflecting the incredible linguistic diversity within its borders.

Languages Spoken in Kenya

Kenya, known for its iconic savannahs and diverse wildlife, recognizes both English and Swahili as its official languages. 

Swahili holds great significance in Kenyan culture and serves as a lingua franca among different ethnic groups. English is widely spoken in urban areas and plays a crucial role in education and business. 

Kenya is also home to numerous indigenous languages, with over 60 ethnic groups adding to the linguistic mosaic of the country.

Languages Spoken in Uganda

Uganda, the “Pearl of Africa,” embraces English as its official language, inherited from the colonial era. 

Swahili, though not an official language, is widely spoken in some regions, particularly in the capital city of Kampala. 

Moreover, Uganda is a linguistically diverse nation. There are three major indigenous language families – Bantu, Central Sudanic, and Nilotic – with over 40 indigenous languages, including Luganda, Ateso, Runyoro, and many more, each representing the vibrant cultures of its various ethnic groups. 

We have more on the languages spoken in Uganda at our in-depth article here.

Languages Spoken in Rwanda

Rwanda, a land of rolling hills and captivating wildlife, recognizes both Kinyarwanda, English, Swahili, and French as its official languages. 

Kinyarwanda, a Bantu language, holds a central place in Rwandan culture and is widely spoken throughout the country. English, as the second official language, is widely used in business and administration. 

French is also spoken by a portion of the population. Since 2009, though, French has been replaced by English as the language of educational instruction.

Languages Spoken in Burundi

In Burundi, a country known for its stunning landscapes and welcoming people, Kirundi, English, and French are the official languages. 

Kirundi, a Bantu language, serves as the primary language of communication among the Burundian people.

French, inherited from the colonial era, is widely used in government, education, and business.

Languages Spoken in Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a land of immense natural beauty and incredible biodiversity, recognizes French as its official language. 

Kikongo (Kituba), Lingala, Swahili, and Tshiluba are also recognized as national languages and widely spoken across the country. 

Additionally, the DRC is home to a vast array of indigenous languages, with over 200 distinct tongues reflecting the cultural diversity of its people.

Languages Spoken in South Sudan

South Sudan, a country blessed with stunning wilderness and vibrant traditions, recognizes English as its official language. 

English serves as the medium of instruction in schools, the language of government, and the lingua franca among various ethnic groups. 

Additionally, numerous indigenous languages are spoken throughout the country, including Dinka, Nuer, Bari, and Zande, among others, each playing a vital role in preserving cultural heritage.

Plan Your East African Adventure with Kikooko Africa Safaris

Now that you have gained insights into the many languages of East Africa, it’s time to embark on an unforgettable journey. 

At Kikooko Africa Safaris, we specialize in crafting tailored safari experiences that connect you with the wonders of the region while supporting local communities. 

Whether you dream of encountering wildlife in Tanzania, exploring the landscapes of Uganda, or discovering the cultural heritage of Rwanda, our experienced team is here to curate your ideal East African adventure. Contact us today to start your trip planning.

Explore 6 Stunning East Africa Hikes & Treks

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to conquer towering peaks and immerse yourself in breathtaking landscapes? With this guide to East Africa’s best hikes and treks, you’ll be more ready than ever.

East Africa is home to some of the most remarkable mountains in the world, offering unparalleled opportunities for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. 

Though you’ve likely heard of Mt. Kilimanjaro, one of East Africa’s biggest mountains and the world’s largest free-standing mountain, you may not know that the whole region is filled with incredible opportunities for hiking. That includes Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia. 

Today, we’re sharing our six of our favorite East Africa hikes and treks, so get ready to discover the heights, best times to hike, wildlife encounters, and other fascinating aspects of each mountain.

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Standing tall as the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro captivates adventurers from around the globe. Reaching an astounding height of 5,895 meters (19,341 feet), this dormant volcano presents an extraordinary challenge and rewards hikers with breathtaking vistas. 

The best times to conquer Kilimanjaro are during the dry seasons from January to February and June to October. The hike to the summit typically takes around 5-9 days, depending on the route chosen.

As you ascend, you’ll witness an astonishing array of ecosystems, from lush rainforests to alpine deserts. Keep an eye out for unique wildlife species such as colobus monkeys, elephants, and the elusive Kilimanjaro tree hyrax. Accompanied by experienced guides, you’ll make unforgettable memories as you push your limits and stand triumphantly atop the “Roof of Africa.”

Mount Kenya, Kenya

Located in the heart of Kenya, Mount Kenya is the country’s highest peak and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This stratovolcano reaches an impressive height of 5,199 meters (17,057 feet) and offers an exhilarating climbing experience. 

The best time to hike Mount Kenya is during the dry seasons from January to February and July to October. The ascent to the summit typically takes 4-6 days.

Mount Kenya’s diverse terrain encompasses dense forests, bamboo groves, and alpine meadows. 

Here, you can encounter unique wildlife such as buffalos, elephants, and the elusive bongo antelope. Along with skilled guides, you’ll navigate through challenging rock formations and glacier-carved valleys, rewarding your efforts with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

Mount Stanley, Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda

Venture to the enchanting Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and prepare to be amazed by Mount Stanley, the third highest peak in Africa. This mountain range, also known as the “Mountains of the Moon,” boasts stunning beauty and unparalleled biodiversity. With its highest peak, Margherita, towering at 5,109 meters (16,763 feet), Mount Stanley offers an unforgettable climbing experience.

The best time to hike Mount Stanley is during the dry seasons from December to February and June to August. The trek to the summit generally takes 7-9 days, traversing through diverse ecosystems like dense montane forests, bamboo zones, and snow-capped peaks. 

Keep your camera ready to capture sightings of unique wildlife, including chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and various bird species. For more on what it’d be like to hike to Mount Stanley, you can also review our Summit Uganda tour here.

Mount Meru, Tanzania

Often overshadowed by its majestic neighbor Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru in Tanzania holds its own allure for adventurers seeking a thrilling mountain experience. Rising to an impressive height of 4,566 meters (14,980 feet), this dormant volcano offers breathtaking scenery and a less crowded alternative to Kilimanjaro. 

The best times to hike Mount Meru are from June to October and December to February. The climb typically takes 3-4 days.

As you ascend Mount Meru, you’ll traverse through lush montane forests, heather zones, and rocky landscapes. The varied flora and fauna will captivate you, and you may even spot giraffes, buffalos, and abundant birdlife. Reaching the summit, you’ll be greeted by panoramic views of Mount Kilimanjaro and the surrounding plains, making your accomplishment all the more rewarding.

Ras Dashen, Ethiopia

Welcome to the rugged and awe-inspiring Simien Mountains in Ethiopia, where Ras Dashen reigns as the highest peak. At an impressive elevation of 4,550 meters (14,928 feet), Ras Dashen offers a captivating hiking experience through dramatic landscapes and endemic wildlife habitats. 

The best time to embark on this adventure is during the dry seasons from October to March. The climb to the summit usually takes 4-6 days.

The Simien Mountains are renowned for their unique biodiversity, including the endemic Gelada baboons and the Ethiopian wolf. As you navigate steep escarpments and majestic plateaus, you’ll witness breathtaking vistas and encounter awe-inspiring wildlife. Ras Dashen promises a challenging yet rewarding journey that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the wonders of nature.

Mount Karisimbi, Rwanda / DRC

Located on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mount Karisimbi offers intrepid explorers an extraordinary adventure. With a towering height of 4,507 meters (14,787 feet), this stratovolcano is one of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga Massif. 

The best time to hike Mount Karisimbi is during the dry seasons from June to September and December to February. The ascent typically takes 2 days.

As you make your way up Mount Karisimbi, you’ll pass through beautiful bamboo forests, misty valleys, and alpine meadows. This region is known for its diverse wildlife, including mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, and a variety of bird species. The rugged beauty and the unique opportunity to encounter critically endangered mountain gorillas make Mount Karisimbi a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.

Plan Your East Africa Hiking Adventure with Kikooko Africa Safaris

Ready to embark on an unforgettable mountain expedition in East Africa? 

At Kikooko Africa Safaris, we specialize in crafting customized safaris that connect you to the wonders of the region while supporting local communities. 

Whether you dream of conquering Kilimanjaro, hiking Mount Stanley and the Mountains of the Moon, or exploring other East African destinations, our experienced team is here to turn your travel aspirations into reality. 

Get in touch to learn more about our tailored safari experiences and start planning the adventure of a lifetime.

East Africa Safari vs. Southern Africa Safari: How To Choose Your Next Adventure

Deciding between a Southern Africa safari and an East Africa safari is a choice that many first-time visitors to Africa face. 

Both regions offer a wealth of natural wonders, from the sweeping savannas of the Serengeti in Tanzania to the lush forests of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. 

However, there are also differences in terms of the types of wildlife you might see, the landscapes you’ll encounter, and the activities available to you. 

Southern Africa, for instance, is known for its incredible diversity of wildlife, ranging from the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino) to rare species like wild dogs and pangolins. 

East Africa, on the other hand, is renowned for its annual wildebeest migration, as well as its stunning mountain gorillas and diverse birdlife. 

Ultimately, the choice between these two regions comes down to what you hope to experience on your safari adventure. In the following sections, we’ll explore the benefits of each region in more detail, to help you make an informed decision.

East Africa Safaris Guide: The Wildlife, The Countries, The Cultures

East Africa is one of the most sought-after safari destinations in the world, and it’s not hard to see why (and yes, we are Uganda safari tour specialists, so we love our little corner of this continent!)

This region of the continent is home to some of the most iconic wildlife species on the planet, from the majestic lions and elephants to the rare mountain gorillas. 

In addition to its wildlife, East Africa also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with diverse traditions and customs that have been preserved for centuries. In this section, we will explore the wildlife, countries, and culture of East Africa, so that you can get a better sense of what makes this region such a popular safari destination.

Where You’ll Go On An East Africa Safari

The 13 East African countries are Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

While they are all beautiful in their own ways, they are not all as developed yet for safaris. To help, we have broken down some of the most popular places to go on an East Africa safari:

  • Kenya – Home to the Maasai Mara National Reserve, which is famous for its annual wildebeest migration, as well as Amboseli National Park, which is known for its large herds of elephants.
  • Tanzania – One of the most iconic safari destinations in the world, Tanzania is home to the Serengeti National Park, which is home to the Big Five and hosts the annual wildebeest migration. Other popular destinations include the Ngorongoro Crater, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest intact volcanic caldera in the world, and the Selous Game Reserve, which is one of the largest protected wildlife areas in Africa.
  • Uganda – This small, landlocked country is known for its mountain gorillas, which can be found in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Uganda is also home to a range of other primates, as well as diverse birdlife and stunning landscapes.
  • Rwanda – Like Uganda, Rwanda is home to mountain gorillas, which can be seen in Volcanoes National Park. The country is also known for its beautiful scenery and welcoming people.
  • Ethiopia – Though not as well-known as some of the other countries on this list, Ethiopia is a hidden gem for safari-goers. The Simien Mountains National Park is home to rare species like the gelada baboon and the Ethiopian wolf, while the Omo Valley offers a glimpse into traditional tribal life.

No matter which country you choose to visit, an East Africa safari is sure to be an unforgettable adventure.

Main Wildlife To See In East Africa

East Africa is home to some of the most iconic wildlife species in the world, and is particularly famous for the Big Five: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino. 

These animals can be found in several East African countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. In fact, the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is one of the best places in the world to see the Big Five in their natural habitat. Uganda also has the Big Five, including a sanctuary reserved just for walking safaris to see the white rhino!

However, East Africa is also home to a wide range of other wildlife species that cannot be found in Southern Africa. One such species is the mountain gorilla, which can only be found in the mountainous regions of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Other primates that can be seen in East Africa include chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and baboons.

Birdwatchers will also find plenty to enjoy on an East Africa safari, as the region is home to over 1,000 different bird species. Some of the most spectacular birds to see include the African fish eagle, the Lilac-breasted roller, and the ostrich.

Finally, it’s worth noting that East Africa is home to some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes, from the vast savannas of the Serengeti to the misty rainforests of Uganda. These landscapes are not only beautiful in their own right, but also provide habitats for a diverse array of wildlife.

Type of Culture in East Africa

East Africa is a region rich in culture and history, with a diverse array of tribes, languages, and customs. One of the most striking features of East African culture is the hospitality and warmth of its people towards visitors.

There are over 100 different ethnic groups in East Africa, each with their own unique customs and traditions. Some of the most prominent tribes include the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania, known for their distinctive dress and traditional way of life as semi-nomadic pastoralists, and the Kikuyu of Kenya, who are the largest ethnic group in the country and are known for their farming and entrepreneurial spirit.

In terms of language, there are hundreds of different languages spoken in East Africa, although Swahili is one of the most widely spoken and is often used as a lingua franca across the region. English is also commonly spoken in many parts of East Africa, particularly in tourist areas.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, hospitality is a key aspect of East African culture, and visitors to the region are often struck by the warmth and friendliness of the local people. Many East Africans have a deep respect for visitors and are eager to share their culture and way of life with them.

Southern Africa Safaris Guide: The Wildlife, The Countries, The Cultures

Now let’s travel to Southern Africa, which includes Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

It’s a region that’s rich in biodiversity, with a wide variety of wildlife, landscapes, and cultures to explore. It’s often on people’s short list for their first Africa safari, and remains a popular destination for safari enthusiasts from around the world.

One of the key features of Southern Africa is its incredible wildlife, which includes the famous Big Five animals, as well as a range of other species such as wild dogs, cheetahs, and giraffes. In addition, the region is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking landscapes, from the deserts of Namibia to the wetlands of the Okavango Delta.

Overall, Southern Africa offers an unforgettable safari experience, with its incredible wildlife, stunning landscapes, and fascinating cultures.

Where You’ll Go On A Southern Africa Safari

Though Southern Africa as a region has a similar number of countries to East Africa, there are currently more safari opportunities available. Let’s take a look at some of the popular ones.

  • South Africa – Home to several iconic national parks and reserves, including Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, and Addo Elephant National Park.
  • Botswana – Known for its pristine wilderness areas, particularly the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park.
  • Namibia – Famous for its stunning landscapes, including the Namib Desert and Etosha National Park.
  • Zimbabwe – Home to some of the continent’s most breathtaking natural wonders, such as Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park.
  • Zambia – Known for its excellent walking safaris and the famous South Luangwa National Park.
  • Malawi – A lesser-known destination for safaris, but with some excellent wildlife areas such as Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve.
  • Mozambique – A coastal country with a wealth of marine life, including whale sharks, dolphins, and turtles.
  • Angola – Another lesser-known safari destination, but with some excellent national parks and reserves such as Quiçama National Park.
  • Swaziland – A small country with a rich cultural heritage and several game reserves, including Hlane Royal National Park.

Main Wildlife To See In Southern Africa

One of the most popular requests for a Southern African safari is to see the Big 5, which refers to the five most iconic and sought-after species in Africa: lion, elephant, leopard, rhinoceros, and Cape buffalo. All five of these species can be found in several countries throughout Southern Africa, including South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

In addition to the Big 5, Southern Africa is home to a wealth of other wildlife, including cheetahs, wild dogs, giraffes, zebras, hippos, and crocodiles. One of the key differences between Southern and East Africa is the prevalence of certain species – for example, Southern Africa is home to the endangered African wild dog, which is much less common in East Africa.

Another unique feature of Southern Africa’s wildlife is the abundance of marine life along its coastline. Mozambique and South Africa are particularly known for their excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities, where visitors can spot a range of marine species including whale sharks, dolphins, and turtles.

Type of Culture in Southern Africa

Your safari in Southern Africa will certainly be full of landscapes and wildlife, but it’s the people you may remember most. Southern Africa is home to a rich and diverse cultural heritage, with a number of distinct tribes, languages, and traditions. Here’s a brief overview:

  • Zulu – One of the largest ethnic groups in South Africa, the Zulu are known for their vibrant cultural traditions, including music, dance, and storytelling.
  • San – Also known as Bushmen, the San people are indigenous to Southern Africa and have a unique hunter-gatherer culture that has persisted for thousands of years.
  • Xhosa – Another large ethnic group in South Africa, the Xhosa people are known for their intricate beadwork and colorful clothing.
  • Himba – An indigenous tribe in Namibia, the Himba people are known for their distinctive red ochre body paint and intricate hairstyles.
  • Ndebele – A Bantu ethnic group in South Africa and Zimbabwe, the Ndebele are known for their colorful geometric murals and beadwork.

Southern Africa has an incredibly diverse selection of languages, too, with dozens spoken throughout the region. Some of the most widely spoken languages include Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, and English.

It’s also an area known for its warm and welcoming culture, with locals often eager to share their traditions and customs with visitors. Many lodges and resorts in the region offer cultural experiences, such as traditional dances and meals, giving travelers the opportunity to learn more about the local culture.

Pros and Cons of an East Africa Safari

It’s not always to make a decision about where to go for your first African safari. Let’s start with the pros and cons of an East Africa safari.

The Pros of East Africa Safaris

  1. High concentration of wildlife – East Africa is home to some of the most iconic wildlife on the planet, including the Big Five (lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, and buffalo). The concentration of wildlife in many of the region’s national parks and game reserves is incredibly high, making it an ideal destination for wildlife enthusiasts.
  1. Cultural experiences – East Africa is home to a rich and diverse array of cultures, and many lodges and tour operators offer cultural experiences that allow visitors to learn about traditional ways of life, interact with local communities, and gain a deeper understanding of the region’s history and customs.
  1. Scenic beauty – From the savannahs of the Serengeti to the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro, East Africa is home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the world. Whether you’re exploring a national park or hiking through a remote wilderness area, the scenery in East Africa is sure to take your breath away.

The Cons of East Africa Safaris

  1. Crowds – East Africa is a popular destination for safari-goers, and some of the region’s most famous national parks and game reserves can get very crowded during peak season, especially if you’re considering going to the Great Migration in Tanzania and Kenya. If you’re looking for a more remote and secluded experience, you may want to consider a safari in a more undiscovered area in East Africa, like Uganda or Rwanda.
  1. Expense – East Africa is generally more expensive than other safari destinations, due in part to its remoteness and the cost of vehicles to get from place to place. If you’re on a budget, you may want to consider a safari in Southern Africa, which can be more affordable.
  1. Limited access to certain areas – While East Africa is home to some of the most iconic wildlife destinations in the world, certain areas may be off-limits due to rainy weather, poor roads, or other factors. 

Pros and Cons of a Southern Africa Safari

The Pros of Southern Africa Safaris:

  1. Diversity of landscapes and wildlife – Southern Africa offers a wide range of landscapes and wildlife, from the rugged coastline of South Africa to the vast wilderness of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Visitors can see the Big Five as well as other unique species such as meerkats, wild dogs, and penguins.
  1. Affordability – Compared to East Africa, Southern Africa is generally more affordable. There are plenty of budget-friendly options available, including self-drive safaris and camping trips.
  1. Accessibility – Many of Southern Africa’s top safari destinations, such as Kruger National Park and the Okavango Delta, are easily accessible and well-established. This makes it a great option for first-time safari-goers who may be hesitant about traveling to more remote or unfamiliar destinations.

The Cons of Southern Africa Safaris:

  1. Crowds – Like certain countries in East Africa, some of Southern Africa’s most popular safari destinations can get very crowded during peak season. Visitors may want to consider visiting during the shoulder season or exploring lesser-known areas to avoid the crowds.
  1. Limited cultural experiences – While Southern Africa has a rich and diverse cultural heritage, many of its top safari destinations are primarily focused on wildlife viewing. Visitors who are interested in learning about local cultures may need to seek out specific experiences or destinations.
  1. Limited access to certain species – While Southern Africa offers a wealth of wildlife viewing opportunities, there are certain species that are more commonly found in East Africa. For example, mountain gorillas can only be found in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Book Your Next Uganda Safari Tour With Kikooko Africa Safaris

If you’re ready to experience everything that East Africa has to offer on a safari tour, look no further than Uganda! With its diverse landscapes, abundant wildlife, and rich cultural heritage, Uganda is the perfect destination for travelers looking for an immersive and unforgettable safari experience.

And when it comes to planning your Uganda safari tour, Kikooko Africa Tours is the right choice. We offer fully customizable tours that are tailored to your specific interests and preferences, allowing you to create the safari adventure of your dreams.

Whether you’re interested in gorilla trekking, wildlife safaris, cultural experiences, or all of the above, our team of experienced guides and travel experts will work with you to create the perfect itinerary. With our attention to detail and commitment to providing the highest level of service, you can rest assured that your Uganda safari tour with Kikooko Africa Tours will be an experience you’ll never forget.

So what are you waiting for? Contact us today to start planning your East Africa adventure!

First Safari Secrets: How To Plan Your First East Africa Safari

An East Africa safari is an experience like no other, and it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa. 

Before we get started with the guide, allow us to introduce ourselves. We are Kikooko Africa Safaris, a boutique safari company located in Entebbe, Uganda. We have been designing and leading tailor-made tours throughout East Africa since 2013. It’s our absolute pleasure to be spending a few minutes with you today as you read through this guide planning your first East African Safari.

East Africa is home to some of the most diverse wildlife on the continent, including the big five (lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, and rhino), as well as a wide variety of primates (like the incredible mountain gorilla), birds, and other animals. The region’s diverse landscapes, from savannah grasslands to tropical forests, provide the perfect habitat for a wide range of species.

In addition to its incredible wildlife, East Africa is also home to a rich cultural heritage, with many tribes and communities living in harmony with nature. Visitors can learn about the history and culture of these communities through visits to local villages, markets, and cultural sites.

This guide is designed to help you start planning your first safari in East Africa. We’ll cover everything from the best seasons to travel, how long to travel to get the most out of your time, which countries are best for wildlife viewing, and budgeting for your safari

Our goal is to provide you with all the information you need to plan an unforgettable safari experience in East Africa.

So if you’re ready to experience the incredible wildlife, landscapes, and culture of East Africa, this guide is the perfect place to start. We hope it will be a helpful resource as you plan your trip, and that it will inspire you to experience the beauty and wonder of a safari in East Africa.

How To Choose When To Go On Safari

  1. The Best Seasons To Travel To East Africa

Weather conditions

East Africa has two main seasons: the long rainy season, also known as the long rains, which runs from March to May, and the short rainy season, also known as the short rains, which runs from October to December. The rest of the year is considered the dry season.

– The long rainy season can bring heavy rain and thunderstorms, which can make it difficult to access certain areas and may affect wildlife viewing. However, it is also the time when the grass is lush and green and new plant growth attracts a lot of herbivores, making it a great time for viewing big game.

– The short rainy season is usually less intense and less predictable, often with scattered thunderstorms. During this period, the grass is still green and the weather is mild, making it an interesting time for viewing wildlife as well.

– The dry season, which runs from June to September, and from December to February, is the most popular time to visit as the weather is dry and sunny, and the grass is short, making it easier to spot wildlife.

Wildlife viewing opportunities 

The best time for wildlife viewing in East Africa depends on the type of wildlife you want to see and where you plan to go.

  • For those interested in primates, such as mountain gorillas and chimpanzees, the dry season is the best time to visit as the vegetation is less dense, making it easier to spot them.
  • For birding, the long rainy season is the best time as it’s the peak of the migratory season and the wetlands are full of water, attracting a wide variety of birds.
  • For big game viewing, the long and short rainy season are great as it’s the time of plenty of food and water, making it easier to spot large herbivores such as elephants, buffaloes and zebras.
  • For general wildlife viewing, the dry season is the best time as the weather is dry and sunny, the grass is short, making it easier to spot wildlife, and the animals congregate around water sources, making it easier to see them.

It’s worth noting that the weather conditions and wildlife viewing opportunities vary depending on the region within East Africa, and a local guide will be able to give you more specific information about the best time to visit the area you plan to visit.

How Long Should Your East African Safari Last

Itinerary length

The length of your safari in East Africa will depend on your interests, budget, and the amount of time you have available. A safari can range from a few days to several weeks.

  • A short safari of 4-5 days – Ideal for those who want to experience a taste of East Africa’s wildlife and culture without committing to a longer trip. It’s often focused on one country and one or two major national parks.
  • A medium safari of 7-10 days – This allows you to visit more than one country and national park, providing a more diverse experience. It’s a great option for those who want to see a variety of wildlife and landscapes.
  • A longer safari of 14 days or more – With more than two weeks, you can fully immerse yourself in the East Africa experience, visiting several countries and national parks. It’s ideal for those who want to see as much as possible and are willing to invest the time and budget.

Mixing activities and relaxation

When planning your safari itinerary, it’s important to balance activities and relaxation. A safari can be a physically demanding experience, as long drives to remote locations and many hours on the move make planning for rest and relaxation a necessity..

A good safari itinerary should include a mix of wildlife viewing activities, such as game drives and guided walks, as well as cultural and historical excursions.

It’s also important to include time for relaxation, such as a leisurely lunch, a swim in the pool, or a spa treatment. This will help you to recharge and enjoy the safari experience to the fullest.

Choosing Where To Safari In East Africa

Wildlife Viewing Opportunities: 

East Africa is home to some of the most diverse wildlife on the continent, including the big five (lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, and rhino), as well as a wide variety of primates and birds. Each country in East Africa offers different wildlife viewing opportunities.

  • Kenya is known for its wildlife viewing, including the big five and large herds of wildebeest and zebras during the wildebeest migration. It’s also home to several national parks, such as the Maasai Mara, Amboseli and Tsavo.
  • Tanzania is another great option for wildlife viewing, with the famous Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and the Selous Game Reserve, where you can see the big five as well as primates, birds and other wildlife.
  • Uganda is particularly famous for its primate viewing, including gorillas and chimpanzees. It’s also home to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Murchison Falls National Park, where you can see a variety of wildlife.
  • Rwanda is celebrated for its gorillas, and it’s home to the Volcanoes National Park which is one of the best places in the world to track gorillas.

As Uganda safari specialists, we are most experienced in Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania. Still, we are fans of our whole region. Here is a bit more information about what each of East Africa’s countries is known for.

  • Burundi: Lush hills, waterfalls, and traditional culture
  • Comoros: Volcanic islands and unique blend of Arab, African, and French cultures
  • Djibouti: Unique desert landscapes and wildlife, including the endangered dik-dik antelope.
  • Ethiopia: Ancient history, diverse cultures and religions, and its rich wildlife such as the Ethiopian wolf and Ethiopian bushbuck
  • Eritrea: Red Sea beaches and coral reefs, as well as its rich history and culture.
  • Kenya: Wildlife viewing, including the big five and wildebeest migration, as well as its diverse cultures and landscapes
  • Rwanda: Gorillas and chimpanzees, as well as its beautiful landscapes and rich culture
  • Seychelles: Pristine beaches, coral reefs, and unique wildlife such as the giant Aldabra tortoise
  • Somalia: Ancient culture, including the historic cities of Mogadishu and Laas Geel, as well as its diverse landscapes and wildlife, such as the endangered Somali wild ass.
  • South Sudan: Rich wildlife, including elephants, lions and crocodiles, as well as its cultural heritage and diverse landscapes.
  • Sudan: Ancient history and culture, including the pyramids of Meroe, as well as its diverse wildlife and landscapes.
  • Tanzania: Wildlife viewing, including the big five and wildebeest migration, as well as its diverse cultures and landscapes
  • Uganda: Primate viewing, including gorillas and chimpanzees, as well as its diverse wildlife, landscapes and cultures.

What To Budget For Your Safari 

Planning a safari in East Africa is slightly different from planning vacations and trips to other places around the world. It’s often the case that you’ll need to agree to a safari package before you go. 

There are a few reasons for this. Independent travel is often more difficult and more expensive in East African countries. While there are buses and other forms of public transportation, they may not take you exactly where you’d like to go. And having local contacts can help you handle all of the details ahead of time so you can focus on enjoying the trip.

With that said, these are a few of the common factors that affect a safari budget.

  • Types of Accommodation: The cost of accommodation is one of the biggest expenses on a safari. There are a variety of accommodation options available to suit different budgets, from luxury lodges and tented camps to budget-friendly guesthouses and camping.
    • Luxury lodges and tented camps offer the ultimate safari experience, with comfortable accommodations, fine dining, and a wide range of activities and excursions. They are usually the most expensive option.
    • Mid-range accommodations such as guesthouses and lodges offer a comfortable base for your safari, with private rooms and en-suite bathrooms. They are usually less expensive than luxury accommodations, but still offer a high level of comfort.
    • Budget-friendly accommodations such as camping and budget lodges offer a more basic level of comfort, but they are the most affordable option.
  • Transportation: The cost of transportation is another significant expense on a safari. There are a variety of transportation options available, from self-drive to guided tours, each with its own set of costs and benefits.
    • Self-drive safaris allow you to explore at your own pace and can be a more affordable option, but you’ll need to factor in the cost of renting a vehicle and fuel.
    • Guided tours usually include transportation and are a more expensive option, but they also provide a more comprehensive experience, with the services of a guide and a driver.
  • Additional Activities: There are a variety of additional activities and excursions that can be added to your safari itinerary, such as hot air balloon rides, boat safaris, and cultural tours. These activities and excursions can add to the cost of your safari, but they also add to the overall experience. It’s important to consider which activities and excursions you would like to do and factor the cost into your budget.

Sample Budgets For An East African Safari

So, what should you keep in mind as you put together your budget? Here are some general figures. As a reminder, average costs per person tend to drop when you add more people to a trip, as fixed costs like vehicle rentals and gasoline can be shared.

  • Budget safari: A budget safari in East Africa typically costs about $100-$150 per day, per person. This type of safari would likely include budget-friendly accommodations such as camping or budget lodges, and transportation by self-drive or public transport. It may also include a guided safari or game drive.
  • Mid-range safari: A mid-range safari in East Africa typically costs between $150-$300 per day, per person. This type of safari would likely include mid-range accommodations such as guesthouses or lodges, and transportation by private vehicle or guided tour. It may also include additional activities and excursions such as cultural tours or boat safaris.
  • Luxury safari: A luxury safari in East Africa typically costs over $300 per day, per person. This type of safari would likely include luxury accommodations such as lodges or tented camps, and transportation by private vehicle or guided tour. It may also include additional activities and excursions such as hot air balloon rides or spa treatments.

Please note that these are just rough estimates and prices can vary depending on the location, time of year, and specific activities and excursions included. It’s also worth noting that some safari packages can be all-inclusive and include accommodation, transportation, meals, and activities, while others are a la carte and you pay for each service individually.

Group safaris vs tailor-made safaris

There are two main ways to enjoy safaris in East Africa. One is by joining a pre-scheduled group safari. Another is by working with a boutique tour operator. There are advantages to each, and we’re sharing a few of those for you here. 

Group safaris:


  • Can be more affordable than individual safaris as the cost is shared among the group.
  • They offer a social experience, allowing you to meet new people and make friends.
  • They usually have a set itinerary, which can be helpful for those who are not confident in planning their own trip.
  • They often provide access to areas and activities that may be difficult or too expensive for an individual traveler.


  • Not be as flexible as individual safaris, and you may have to compromise on your preferences and interests.
  • The pace of the safari may be determined by the group, rather than your individual preferences.
  • You may have less control over your schedule, and some activities may not be of interest to you.
  • Group sizes can vary, but usually, they are around 6-12 people, which can sometimes be too big for some people.

Tailor-made individual safaris:


  • They offer complete flexibility, allowing you to tailor your itinerary to your preferences and interests.
  • You have complete control over your schedule and can go at your own pace.
  • You can choose your accommodation, transportation, and activities based on your budget and preferences.
  • They allow you to have a more private and intimate experience.


  • They are usually more expensive than group safaris, as the cost is not shared among a group.
  • They require more planning and research
  • They may not provide the same social experience as a group safari, for those who enjoy meeting new people and making friends.

It is worth noting that both group safaris and tailor-made individual safaris have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice will depend on your individual preferences, budget, and travel style. A local travel agent or tour operator can help you to weigh the pros and cons of each option and create a safari itinerary that meets your needs and preferences.

We’ll See You In East Africa

A safari in East Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that offers visitors the opportunity to see some of the most diverse and spectacular wildlife on the planet, as well as the chance to learn about the rich culture and history of the region. 
When you’re ready to plan your safari to East Africa, Kikooko Africa Safaris can help you create a personalized itinerary that meets your specific needs and preferences. 

With years of experience in organizing safaris to Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania, Kikooko Africa Safaris can help you plan a safari that will be an unforgettable experience. Contact Kikooko Africa Safaris today to start planning your dream safari in East Africa.

CNN Announces Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania As Top Travel Destinations 2023


We’re excited to share some great news: CNN has announced Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania are among its top picks for best travel destinations in 2023!

The three East African countries were included in CNN’s annual list of the top travel destinations not just for their wildlife and nature, but also for prioritizing local communities, developing new tourism adventures, and offering authentic, responsible tourism lodging.

As Uganda safari specialists, we are proud to be included on this list alongside stunning destinations in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. We know travelers have plenty of choices when it comes to where they’ll spend their vacations, and we couldn’t be happier to know that our home country and home region are getting more attention.

Below, we’re sharing more about each of the three destinations – Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania – including what CNN shared about us and how Kikooko Africa Safaris can help you explore them. 

Afterwards, we’ll share a breakdown of all of the destinations in CNN’s list, including a regional one, so you can make 2023 your best travel year yet!

Uganda Top Travel Destination 2023

This is what CNN had to say about Uganda:

“There’s considerable change brewing in Uganda’s travel offerings at the moment with the East African country looking beyond the traditional staples of safari and wildlife spotting to appeal to both regional and international visitors.

Keen to revitalize post-Covid tourism in all corners of the country, not just the big-ticket businesses offering wealthy visitors a glimpse of the Big Five beasts or mountain gorillas, it’s turned to marketing its other attributes.

And why not? From the expansive shores of Lake Victoria to the snowy Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda is a beautiful wilderness playground, with opportunities for adventure including treks through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest or up to the craters of the Virunga volcano chain or whitewater rafting along the Victoria Nile.

There’s also an emphasis on connecting visitors with Ugandan communities — promising tastes of Ugandan food, music and culture. Last year saw the launch of the Uganda Cycling Trail, a 1,600-kilometer mainly unpaved 22-stage route designed to appeal to all levels of cyclist from hardcore solo bikepackers to fully-guided easy riders.” 

While we have long been honored to share Uganda’s natural resources with travelers, our priority has always been to connect visitors with our community. We do that through community visits, for one, but also through a number of programs that invest in community health, development, and education to make sure they continue to benefit even after your visitors return back home.

Seeing new tourism adventures like the Uganda Cycling Trail is also encouraging, and we’re hopeful to see how this attention from CNN can drive further innovation as we share our unique corner of the world with you. 

To get an idea about what safaris in Uganda are like, check out three of our favorites:

  • The Shining Pearl of Africa – 17-Day Uganda Safari – Filled with community visits along the way, this journey takes you across a whole spectrum of landscape; from the snow-capped Rwenzoris, to the dense rainforest at Bwindi, stunning lake at Bunyonyi and miles of savannah at Kidepo. Trekking, primate tracking, game drives, and birds – this adventure has it all.
  • Beautiful Birds of Uganda – 15-Day Uganda Safari – This 15-day Uganda birding safari is made for the avid birdwatcher who wants to get to know one of the most diverse countries in East Africa. From tracking the prehistoric-looking Shoebill to the Shelley’s crimson wing and the red bishop, this trip takes travelers across Uganda, delivering plenty of unique bird-watching moments along the way.
  • At Home With The Mountain Gorillas | 10-Day Uganda Safari – More than just the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is your home away from home.
    In addition to the warmth and hospitality of visiting a country frequently ranked as one of the most inviting in the world, Uganda is home to the rare mountain gorilla. With over half of the remaining mountain gorillas in Uganda, this is truly their home – and this 10-day Uganda safari is your invitation to come in and stay a while.

Rwanda Top Travel Destination 2023

This is what CNN had to say about Rwanda:

“January 2023 sees the official opening of Rwanda’s most exciting hotel yet: Sextantio Rwanda, a collection of traditionally crafted huts on an island on Lake Kivu, one of Africa’s largest lakes.

It’s the first project outside Italy for Daniele Kihlgren, whose part-hotel, part-living history projects keep local tradition alive. A nonprofit delivering money straight to local communities, Sextantio will see guests fishing on the 1,000-square-mile lake, paddling in dug-out canoes, trying local banana beer and wildlife-spotting — and not just the chickens, cows, pigs and goats that roam around the property.

Of course, you’ll want to see gorillas. Adjoining Volcanoes National Park, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund opened the 4,500-square meter Ellen DeGeneres Campus in 2022. Its visitor center includes exhibits, virtual reality gorilla “encounters” and nature trails.

Over in Akagera National Park, white rhinos — transferred from South Africa in 2021 to aid conservation — are already calving. It’s easier to get there, too. A new route from London joins Brussels, Dubai, Guangzhou and Mumbai as the only direct flights to Kigali from outside the African continent.”

Despite its complicated history, Rwanda has been on an incredible streak of late. Lake Kivu is one of its more underrated destinations, and knowing that international developers are finding ways to both create interest and commit to local community development is inspiring.

As CNN mentions, Rwanda is also one of just three countries in the world where one can track the endangered mountain gorilla. Though slightly more expensive to do in Rwanda than gorilla tracking in Uganda, it is still an exceptional experience.

To get an idea about what safaris in Rwanda are like, check out three of our favorites:

  • Revel In Rwanda | 14-Day Rwanda Safari – Good things come in small packages. While Rwanda may be one of the smallest nations in the world, that doesn’t stop it from packing in the beauty. This is a terrific two-week Rwanda safari that lets you in on all of the secrets of Rwanda with game drives, gorilla tracking, and plenty of exploring of the Land of a Thousand Hills’ beautiful lakes, dense forests and towering volcanoes.
  • The Amazing Primates of Rwanda | 6-Day Rwanda Tour – There is perhaps no connection as natural, as human, as getting in close contact with our primate cousins – and perhaps no better country to explore that sensation than Rwanda. Savor this primate-centered six-day Rwanda tour in beautiful Rwanda as you spend unforgettable time with the endangered mountain gorillas and boisterous chimpanzees.
  • A Moment With The Mountain Gorillas | 3-Day Rwanda Tour – This is a chance many people wait their whole life for – to follow in the footsteps of Dian Fossey and meet the incredible mountain gorillas. This 3-day Rwanda tour is a lifetime experience you will never forget. During this encounter, time slows down as you get a moment to experience a connection with nature unlike any other.

Tanzania Top Travel Destination 2023

This is what CNN had to say about Tanzania:

“From the spectacular wildlife to the beautiful national parks and beaches, Tanzania is absolutely bursting with visual splendor.

The East African country holds a seemingly endless list of incredible sights, with Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, UNESCO world heritage site Serengeti National Park, and the Zanzibar Archipelago, among its many highlights.

This year, flag carrier Air Tanzania will launch new routes to West and Central Africa, along with the UK, in a bid to transform the country’s largest airport in Dar es Salaam into a transport and logistics hub, while construction on the country’s first toll expressway is also scheduled to begin.

Meanwhile, the Delta Hotels by Marriott brand is making its Africa debut with the opening of its Dar es Salaam Oyster Bay property later this year.

Tanzania has some of Africa’s most well-known natural elements, including Africa’s tallest mountain (Mount Kilimanjaro), some its most beautiful seaside (Zanzibar), and the Great Wildebeest Migration (which includes the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya).

Being well-known is one thing. Being accessible is quite another! That’s why we feel encouraged to see just how much work is being put into opening up more pathways to Tanzania – and to East Africa in general.

To get an idea about what safaris in Tanzania are like, check out three of our favorites:

  • Treasures of Northern Tanzania | 7-Day Tanzania Tour – From the great migration of over two million grazers and the world’s largest intact caldera to the greatest numbers of predators in Africa to its many natural wonders, Tanzania is a treasure waiting for you to discover it.
  • Wild Animals and White Beaches | 12-Day Tanzania Tour –  To enjoy the best of Tanzania’s natural wonders — including the great migration and the greatest number of predators in Africa — with a restorative visit to the stunning Zanzibar Island, where we can slow down and savor the moment.
  • Discover The Best Of Northern Tanzania and Zanzibar | 14-Day Tanzania Tour – To enjoy the best of Tanzania’s natural wonders — including the great migration and the greatest number of predators in Africa — with a relaxing visit to the stunning Zanzibar Island, where we’ll discover what makes this piece of paradise so special over a week of gentle exploration.

CNN’s List of Where To Travel in 2023 – Full Country List

CNN didn’t provide a specific ranking for the best places to travel in 2023, so we’re offering two full lists below. The first is an alphabetical (by country) list to make it easier for you to browse. 

Following that, we’re grouping by region in the world. After all, you might be able to visit a few of these countries in one go!

CNN’s Where To Travel In 2023 – Full Country List Alphabetical

  1. Western Australia
  2. Belize
  3. Manaus, Brazil
  4. Ottawa, Canada
  5. Bogotá, Colombia
  6. Cairo, Egypt
  7. Liverpool, England
  8. Fiji
  9. Thessaloniki, Greece
  10. Naoshima, Japan
  11. Laos
  12. Vilnius, Lithuania
  13. Oaxaca, Mexico
  14. Mustang Valley, Nepal
  15. Poland
  16. Rwanda
  17. Gothenburg, Sweden
  18. Gruyères, Switzerland
  19. Tanzania
  20. Uganda
  21. Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
  22. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
  23. Charleston, South Carolina, USA

CNN’s Where To Travel In 2023 – By Region

To help you plan your 2023 travel, we’ve sorted each of the countries from CNN’s 2023 top travel destinations list by region. Be sure to say hi when you stop by East Africa!

CNN’s Where To Travel in 2023 In the Americas

  • Belize
  • Manaus, Brazil
  • Ottawa, Canada
  • Bogotá, Colombia
  • Oaxaca, Mexico
  • Charleston, South Carolina, USA
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

CNN’s Where To Travel in 2023 In Africa

CNN’s Where To Travel in 2023 In Asia

  • Naoshima, Japan
  • Laos
  • Mustang Valley, Nepal

CNN’s Where To Travel in 2023 In Europe

  • Liverpool, England
  • Thessaloniki, Greece
  • Vilnius, Lithuania
  • Poland
  • Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Gruyères, Switzerland

CNN’s Where To Travel In 2023 In Middle East

  • Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates

CNN’s Where To Travel In 2023 In Oceania

  • Western Australia
  • Fiji

Explore East Africa With Kikooko Africa Safaris

Ready to see what has CNN raving about Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania?

Get in touch with the safari specialists of Kikooko Africa Safaris. Based in Uganda, we’ve been offering boutique, tailor-made tours in the East African region since 2013, and we’re excited to hear how we can help you plan your dream safari.