Kikooko Africa Safaris | Explore 6 Stunning East Africa Hikes & Treks

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.

Kikooko Africa Safaris | Where to see UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Uganda

Where to see UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Uganda

As the Pearl of Africa, Uganda has some of the most amazing natural beauty and cultural wonders to be found in our continent. But did you know that a number of our treasures are actually recognized as internationally important?

That’s right. Uganda has a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. UNESCO, which stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is dedicated to “fostering peaceful communication between nations and preserving cherished heritage sites around the world.”

Their World Heritage List includes sites famed for their cultural significance, natural beauty, or both, often combining the two with the values and histories of the countries they’re found within. 

Today, we’re revealing the three UNESCO sites found within Uganda, and why you should book your trip to visit them!

Uganda’s Three UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Uganda has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, and Kasubi Tombs in Kampala. Below we have unique details on each and why they were selected as part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Bwindi Park is located in south western Uganda. Perhaps most famous as the home to the endangered mountain gorilla, Bwindi Park is also home to more than 160 species of trees, over 100 species of ferns, and many birds and butterflies, too. 

Bwindi Park is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List for the following criteria:

  • Criterion (vii): As a key site for biodiversity on the continent, Bwindi can be considered as a superlative natural phenomenon.

  • Criterion (x): Due to its diverse habitats ranging from 1,160 to 2,706 m in altitude, Bwindi is the most important area in Uganda for species due to an exceptional diversity that includes many Albertine Rift endemics. It’s also home to almost half of the population of the critically endangered mountain gorilla. 

You can read more about Bwindi Impenetrable National Park here, and about UNESCO’s breakdown of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park here.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Covering nearly 100,00 hectares of western Uganda, the Rwenzori Mountains National Park also has Africa’s third highest peak (Mount Margherita: 5,109 m). Surprising to many visitors, there are not just waterfalls and lakes but glaciers, too. 

Rwenzori Mountains National Park has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List for the following criteria:

  • Criterion (vii): The Rwenzoris are the legendary “Mountains of the moon”, a reflection of the mist-shrouded mountains of this rugged massif that tower almost 4,000 m above the Albertine Rift Valley, offering a combination of snow-capped peaks, glaciers, valleys, rivers, waterfalls, clear blue lakes, and unique flora contributes to the area’s exceptional natural beauty.

  • Criterion (x): Because of their altitudinal range, and the nearly constant temperatures, humidity and high insolation, the mountains support the richest montane flora in Africa. In terms of fauna, the Rwenzoris have been recognised as an Important Bird Area with 217 bird species recorded to date. They’re also home to threatened species such as the African forest elephant, eastern chimpanzee and l’Hoest’s monkey. 

You can read more about visiting the Rwenzori Mountains National Perk here, and UNESCO’s breakdown of Rwenzori Mountains National Park here

Kasubi Tombs in Kampala

Occupying a site just outside of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, the Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi is the former palace of the Kabakas of Buganda. It was first built in 1882 and converted into the royal burial ground in 1884.

At this point, there are four royal tombs that now lie within the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga. It is a major example of an architectural achievement in organic materials, principally wood, thatch, reed, wattle and daub. The site’s main significance lies, however, in its intangible values of belief, spirituality, continuity and identity.

The Kasubi Tombs in Kampala have been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List for the following criteria:

  • Criterion (i): The site is a masterpiece of human creativity both in its conception and its execution.

  • Criterion (iii): It bears witness to the living cultural traditions of the Baganda.

  • Criterion (iv): The organization of the Kasubi Tombs site shares the best example of a Baganda palace/architectural ensemble. Having been built in the fine traditions of Ganda architecture and palace design, the Kasubi Tombs reflect technical achievements developed over centuries.

  • Criterion (vi): Both the built and natural elements of the Kasubi Tombs site contain historical, traditional, and spiritual values, making it a major spiritual center for the Baganda and the most active religious place in the kingdom.

You can read more about UNESCO’s breakdown of the Kasubi Tombs here.

5 Reasons To Visit UNESCO Sites In Uganda

  • A Great Way To Find Hidden Gems

While some UNESCO Sites are a part of a country’s well-trodden tourist trails, that’s not the main reason they’re chosen. These landmarks may include sites you’ve never heard of before, which makes visiting the UNESCO sites in Uganda a powerful way to uncover more of Uganda’s history and nature. 

  • A Way To Transport Yourself Back In Time

Some UNESCO sites from around the world include rock carvings, cave art, and old salt mines. In a sense, these sites are snapshots of different periods of our time on this planet, and the same is true for Uganda. From the Kasubi Tombs from the 1800s back to national forests that have been important to native populations for centuries, these are a great way to see sites that have shaped our country.

  • An Important Way To Support Preservation 

To make sure that sites as beautiful and significant as these UNESCO sites in Uganda can be enjoyed by future generations, we have to work together. By visiting these sites, we can help to provide financial support that protects them from natural disasters, political conflict, and more.

  • A Chance To See Some Of The World’s Most Incredible Sights

A UNESCO designation is a special one, indeed, as it places the ruins, the natural landscape, and the cultural features on a list whose members span the world. Though the UNESCO sites in Uganda are unique to the Pearl of Africa, their inclusion on the list lets you know you’re participating in something global. 

  • A Unique Way To Learn About This Part Of The World

Traveling is a chance to experience a culture, its people, and its place firsthand. UNESCO is special in that it involves local stakeholders in the preservation of the selected site, which gives you as the traveler a chance to contribute directly to the communities.

Visit Uganda’s UNESCO Sites With Kikooko Africa Safaris

Ready to plan a trip to see Uganda’s unique UNESCO sites? Want to hike to the top of the Rwenzori Mountains? Or visit the mountain gorillas in Bwindi

At Kikooko Africa Safaris, we’d be honored to help. As Uganda safari specialists since 2013, our experienced staff is here to assist with your tour. Reach out today to get started!

the african lion

Where to see the Big 5 in Uganda

When travelers search for where to find the Big 5, they are often pleasantly surprised to find out it’s possible in Uganda.

There are some countries that are well known internationally for their safaris that show-off the Big 5, like South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania. In fact, there are 13 countries in total that make seeing the Big 5 Possible. Including those 3 we just mentioned, you also have Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo…

And Uganda!

Often referred to as the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is vibrantly rich in nature and landscape. The East African country possesses a perfect blend of fauna and flora to keep tourists in high praise whenever they are done with their trips. 

So why would you come to Uganda to try and see the Big 5? Because this is where the Big 5 isn’t just an amazing goal – it’s the start of a beautiful wildlife adventure.

Uganda, which is also known to have the most significant number of mountain gorillas in the world, also nurtures other unique species worth exploring for the country’s visitors. The country has ten national parks, 13 wildlife reserves, 345 mammal species, 1,020 bird species (half the total number in Africa), and 4500 species of vascular plants.

Thanks to its vast range of habitats, the country is regarded as the hotspot for biodiversity. The tiny country offers the perfect escape for those looking to maximize time in the wild. Uganda is one of only three mountain gorilla sanctuaries in the world. You can enjoy the exquisite gorilla tracking activity, and among only thirteen where you can glimpse the Big 5 animals. 

You are most likely to see the Big 5 in predominantly three regions, namely Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, and Kidepo Valley National park.

The animals in Uganda can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Primates: These include mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, golden monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, and many others
  • Carnivores: lions, cheetahs, leopards, African wildcats, hyenas, etc
  • Herbivores: Elephants, buffalos, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, zebras, antelope, Ugandan Kob, and others
  • Reptiles: snakes, crocodiles, monitor lizards, chameleons, and others
  • Birds: vultures, African eagle, turacos, and others

Which animals are part of the Big 5?

The ‘Big 5’ concept first came about in the old days when the land’s ancestors used to go hunting. The animals weren’t named ‘The Big 5’ due to their size, but rather because they were the hardest to catch and posed the gravest danger to the hunter. Hunting down any of the Big 5 earned a hunter a reputation in the African society as a brave hunter, and clan heads often rewarded them with a trophy for their bravery.

Whereas game hunting is now prohibited in most corners of the globe, over a hundred years ago, the then-American president Theodore Roosevelt embarked on an African hunting escapade. He was later quoted saying that the African elephant would never become extinct due to the sheer number he had encountered. Today, however, the Big 5 are among the most endangered species globally, and most African governments have put up strict measures to conserve the dwindling species.

The Big 5, in this case, are the following;

  • The African lion
  • The African leopard
  • The African elephant
  • The Cape buffalo
  • The rhinoceros

Now, though, the Big 5 is known more as a chance to see some of the world’s most incredible creatures in their natural habitats while on an African safari that helps to contribute to their protection.

Wondering where you can see Big 5 animals in Uganda? You came to the right place! 

Where to see the African Lion in Uganda

the african lion

The African lion is the second-largest cat in the world, and whereas it is referred to as the “King of the Jungle,” lions stay in grassy savannas, not dense forests. Lions are social creatures and move together in groups known as prides. Each pride consists of over 30 lions. 

A lion’s roar can be heard from over 5 miles away. Unfortunately, there are estimated to be less than 20,000 lions left globally, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) termed them endangered.

Lions in Uganda can be found in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park. Since they are mainly night hunters, you stand a bigger chance of spotting them during a night game drive (unless you’d like to catch them having a catnap!). Therefore, if you plan to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park and want to do the night game drive, your guide should get a tracking device to locate them.

Where to see the African Leopard in Uganda

African Leopard in UgandaThe most elusive Big 5 animals, leopards, are scarce. Tourists who encounter these in-game drives are pretty fortunate. It’s also why it’s rare to find a tour operator who can give you a 100% guarantee to see every animal on the list. Leopards make habitats of rocky landscapes although they are also very adaptive and have been found in other areas. They love hunting at night and spend most of the day resting in tree branches.

Like lions, your best chance of glimpsing leopards is during night game drives in Kidepo Valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Kibale Forest, Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Mount Elgon National Park.

Where to see the African Elephant in Uganda

African Elephant in UgandaAnd whereas the African elephant is the biggest of the land animals, it is the most threatened by poachers thanks to its tusks which have a lucrative ivory business. Elephants are inherent to 37 countries on the African continent and are reported to be over 415,000 in the world. But, unfortunately, it is said that about 8% of that number is poached every year. 

The best part of visiting Uganda is that you will have a 90% chance of spotting an elephant in any of the parks you opt to stay in. If you are lucky enough, you will see both the smaller forest elephants and the colossal savannah elephants. 

The best parks to enjoy these massive creatures include Murchison Falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Where to see the Cape Buffalo in Uganda

Cape Buffalo in UgandaNicknamed the “The Widowmaker,” the Cape buffalo was once considered the hardest to hunt in the Big 5 due to its unpredictable behavior. And unlike the other members of the Big 5, the Cape buffalo will fight off most of its predators. 

Buffalos reportedly kill more humans (poachers) than other animals. There are reportedly 900,000 in population with four different sub-species with the vastest number in protected reserves.

Uganda also, however, has unique reddish small buffalos. In addition, you can encounter buffalos in Uganda in Kidepo Valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Murchison Falls National Park.

Where to see Rhinoceros in Uganda

Rhinoceros in Uganda

Rhinos are divided into species; the White Rhino and the Black Rhino. Rhinos live mainly in grasslands and open savannas. They are robust and thick in body size and can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. There are, however, only 29,500 Rhinos left on the globe. As a result, the IUCN listed rhinos as critically endangered. 

Rhinos in Uganda are predominately preserved and rehabilitated at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and is your best opportunity of seeing the Southern White Rhino. You can do this Ugandan rhino tracking experience on your way to or back from the Murchison Falls National Park.

How long to spend in Uganda for a Big 5 Wildlife safari

The time it takes to see the Big 5 varies. It can be done in as little as a few days. You can also stretch out your Ugandan safari tour for a week or two to add in chances to see more animal species, visit with local communities, and track the gorillas. 

To get an African safari trip designed just for you, get in touch with the expert team at Kikooko Africa Safaris today!