Three Cheetahs Sitting, Serengeti, Tanzania

See the Best of East Africa’s Wildlife in Tanzania and Rwanda

Nowhere can you get a better experience of Africa’s wild side than on the continent’s east coast, and it is worth spending as much time as you can exploring this diverse region. Tanzania and Rwanda are home to some of the most majestic animals on our planet – lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, buffalo, and gorillas, to name just a few.

The term, “Big Five” was actually first coined by hunters who identified the five animals that were the hardest to hunt. Today, this means attempting to catch a glimpse of a regal mane or a spotted flank is no walk in the park, unless you know exactly where to go.

Tanzania is world-renowned for its vast wilderness areas, stretches of breathtaking natural landscapes that the Big Five call home. A proper safari trip isn’t complete without a visit to Serengeti National Park, the country’s crown jewel of wildlife. The Serengeti is a hotbed of animal activity, ruled over by no less than 3,000 lions. It’s one of the best places to observe prides in their natural environment, but it’s also home to cheetahs, hyenas, baboons, African wild dogs, giraffes, and over 500 species of birds.

Just south of the Serengeti is a unique geological area that’s home to one very special and elusive creature – the black rhino. The Ngorongoro is the world’s largest open inactive volcanic crater, and though it’s just over half the size of the Serengeti, 25,000 large animals live here. The black rhino is the hardest of the Big Five to see in the wild, but Ngorongoro is the best place to make it happen.

Black Rhino in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Black Rhino

One of the most spectacular places to feel the uniqueness of Tanzania’s beautiful wilderness is at Lake Manyara, a lush oasis that connects vastly different landscapes from flood plains to woodlands. Keep your eyes and cameras peeled for baboons, flamingos, impalas, wildebeest, and giraffes. The animals are as diverse as the land.

If you can’t decide whether it’s Serengeti lions, Ngorongoro black rhinos, or Lake Manyara baboons you want to see, why not get the best of everything in a Tanzanian safari? Not only do you get to see the full diversity of Tanzania’s wild animals but you’ll maximize your chances of seeing some of the most elusive among them.

Suggested Itinerary:
7-Day Essential Tanzania Safari

Male and Female Lion in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Male and Female Lion in the Serengeti

That’s not all this part of the world has to offer. Head northwest to Rwanda and you’ll be in for some of the most unforgettable wildlife journeys, including gorilla trekking and chimp tracking. Enter the realm of the world’s last surviving mountain gorilla population. Only eight permits are issued a day for travellers to visit these five special families.

Gorilla Family in Rwanda
Gorilla family

On this trip, beginning at Parc National des Volcans in Ruhengeri, you actually have a chance to come within a few metres of these handsome creatures. Imagine coming face to face with an animal that is so similar to humans, and getting the time to sit and observe the way they act and interact with each other. Gorilla trekking is one of the most privileged experiences for visitors to East Africa, and spending time with a family is a life-changing experience for many. With a sighting success rate of over 90%, this trip is well worth doing.

Suggested Itinerary:
3-Day Mountain Gorilla Encounter

After an exhilarating expedition through wild Africa, the best way to relax is in the peaceful surrounds of a lodge that’s very much a part of the landscape. For unobstructed views, Virunga Lodge sits high atop a ridge overlooking the Virunga volcanoes. Each “banda”, or thatched house, has its own terrace so you can enjoy your own private slice of what has been called the “best view in the world”. Or, spend the night on a tea plantation on the edge of Nyungwe National Park at Nyungwe Forest Lodge, amid the largest mountain rainforest in Africa.

Parc de Volcans or Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Parc de Volcans (or Volcanoes National Park)

Immersing yourself in East Africa’s wild landscape is a trip unlike any other you’ll take. Unlock your adventurous side during the day and bring an extra memory card for all the photos you’ll take. Then, take time to relax and soak in the beauty of a remote eco-lodge at night.

To know what the experience of a safari in Africa really feels like, Ernest Hemingway articulates it best, “I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and was not happy.”

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Kirsty Perring
Kirsty Perring

Africa Experts Product Manager – Although British born and now Toronto based, Kirsty grew up in South Africa and is completely passionate about all things Africa. She finds it hard to choose a favourite destination, but lists Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, and Botswana as some of the most special places she has visited, and feels it’s not just about where you go and what you see, but who you get to experience it with. Kirsty is always up for an adventure and will try anything once. As such, she has para-glided in South Africa, zip lined in Mauritius, dived the Red Sea, hot air ballooned in Egypt, and even swam in the Okavango Delta. Next on Kirsty’s bucket list is to climb Kilimanjaro!

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