I went on some of the wildest adventures in Uganda (bungee jumping, zip-lining, white-water rafting, horse-riding, cruising into the Sunset at the source of the River Nile). During the same trip, I kissed giraffes, rode a bicycle through the forest to a waterfall and caressed baby elephants! You can tick off items from your wild bucket list with one trip to East Africa. Here’s how!
Last year, I set out to truly unravel the wild adventures that Africa has to offer. Travelling Africa is one thing but travelling Africa as an adventure junkie is another thing. After travelling through Nigeria, Benin Republic, Tanzania and Zanzibar, Kenya and Ghana, it was time to do a multiple country tour of East Africa. No two Kenya trips are the same so I chose to visit Uganda and Kenya. I put together a package and 4 others signed up for the trip through our experience design company — TVP Adventures. So, we had a plan to visit Uganda and Kenya over the Christmas holidays and we did. To say that this was wild would be an understatement. It was a trip of a lifetime. Now, I am back home and would like to share all the hacks I learned so you can travel better.
- Step 1: Choose where to go and what to do.
East Africa is not a monochromatic block. Each country offers something incredibly unique and special. Even within countries, there are areas more famous for their wildlife and others for their beaches. You’ll also find that development levels differ across nations and each country has a different plan for tourism. I decided to split my trip like this:
- Wildlife, city and markets — Kenya
- Nature, adventure and thrill — Uganda
You don’t have to split yours the same way I did but I recommend that you pay attention to the strengths of each country. Kenya has an unrivaled wildlife scene in East Africa and the country’s safari experiences can be found everywhere from Nairobi to the famed Masai Mara National Park. There are countless options for luxury travelers as well as budget explorers. Mount Kenya and a vast array of mountain ranges also make Kenya the hiker’s paradise. As the most developed country in the region, Kenya offers top-notch nightlife experiences, fascinating markets, contemporary events and world-class cuisine. You’ll also find that Kenya has the most developed tourism scene among the three countries sharing the joint visa.
In Uganda, there is no shortage of experiences for the thrill seeker. The country is drained by the White Nile River and so this prominent African river which runs through six or seven countries is their pride and joy. There are few things as surreal as riding race horses (but not racing) through a village in Jinja and then along the picturesque banks of the River Nile. I was blown away by the whole day experience of white-water rafting down Grade 5 rapids along the same river. Then, I went bungee jumping from a platform 45m above the ground. This was wild — I don’t know how I did it but I did. Then, there was the experience ziplining through Mabira forest. I thought ziplining in Scotland was fun but this one was different — each person had to climb a tree with harnesses before getting to the zips. All while camping out in a lush compound. Bliss. Pure, bliss!
Rwanda has built a reputation as the gorilla trekking capital of Africa. These magnificent beasts are raking in tourism dollars for the country (the cheapest pass costs ~ $800 per person) and for good reason. Their conservation efforts are also evident by the well-protected natural parks, mountain ranges and hiking trails that attract tourists from around the world. Speaking of Rwanda, it is impossible to ignore the capital city — Kigali and the beautifully curated museums and culture experiences the city has to offer. In this generation, Rwanda is building her reputation as a viable force in African tourism and this is beautiful to see. Thanks to the cost-friendly national carrier — RwandAir, the country is all of sudden a lot more accessible than it was 10 years ago.
2. Step 2: Get the East African Visa:
East Africa has this amazing visa that allows you visit Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda as many times as possible within the duration of the visa. The visa costs $100 and allows you unlimited access to all three countries for as long as the visa is valid. Usually, individual country visas cost $50 so this joint visa makes sense for ease and cost. (The official duration is listed as 3 months but our officer gave us different durations from 5 months to 2 years. Who knows why?) If you’re familiar with the Schengen visa that allows you visit most places in Europe, this East African visa is similar. I took advantage of it and decided to kill as many birds as possible in one trip. After all, who enjoys the hassle of applying for visas? Any true adventurer will be pleased to know that in one trip, you can tick off Safaris in Kenya, white-water rafting in Uganda and gorilla trekking in Rwanda. Way-to-go, East Africa, you’re ahead of the pack! Now, let’s cross our fingers and hope that Tanzania jumps on this soon.
3. Book Multiple City Tickets (or travel by road):
It is often cheaper to book one multiple- city ticket than to book a separate ticket for each place you plan to visit. For me, I booked a multiple city ticket on Kenya Airways as follows: Lagos — Nairobi — Entebbe— Lagos. The flights were very affordable and smooth. Most flights within East Africa are short and sweet so the journey from Nairobi to Entebbe was barely one hour long. If you would rather explore by road, you’re in luck. The train connections among East Africa are pretty good and you’ll be able to find bus and car services if trains are not your thing. You’ll find travelling among East African cities very easy and affordable.
(Note: I never thought that an immigration officer could forget to stamp me into a country but this happened in Kenya. She was overly excited, or new, or incompetent, and forgot to stamp the passports of 4 out of 5 of us in the group after handing us our visas. When we were leaving Kenya, it was a bit of a hassle but after the emigration officers realized the error, they let us go. Now, I always check!)
See? It can be fun and easy at the same time. Have you ever thought of visiting East Africa? Where do you want to go?
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