Rolling grasslands and wall-to-wall wildlife, Maasai warriors and candlelit dinners under an acacia tree: if it's the classic "Out of Africa" experience you're looking for, then an East African safari is what you want.
Easily accessible via international travel hubs Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, East Africa is dominated by its two heavyweight safari destinations - Kenya and Tanzania. But what makes East Africa safaris so rewarding is the fact that the gorilla-filled rainforests of Uganda and Rwanda are also in the mix, offering a very different alternative to (or excellent combination with) the classic savannah safaris of Kenya and Tanzania.
Kenya is home to the world-famous Masai Mara which, together with Tanzania's Serengeti, hosts Nature's most spectacular show: the annual wildebeest migration. Other top Kenyan safari destinations include Amboseli and the wild and off-radar Tsavo and Samburu reserves. It's also a destination that has an extensive range of safaris from family-friendly to honeymoon-perfect and from budget specials to unbridled luxury. And given that its glorious beaches and Indian Ocean islands are very accessible, excellent safari and beach combinations are easy to arrange.
Tanzania's most famous safari destinations - the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and Lake Manyara - lie conveniently close to each other on the 'Northern Safari Circuit' and deliver unbeatable Big 5 and wildebeest migration safaris. More seasoned safari-goers will want to head for South Central Tanzania's barely visited but hugely rewarding reserves such as Ruaha, Selous and Katavi. Travel deeper into the wild and you'll end up next to brooding Lake Tanganyika and in the Mahale Mountains where you'll find forests full of chimpanzees, exotic birds and butterflies.
Moreover, two of Africa's most iconic landmarks are found in Tanzania: Mount Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar. Africa's highest mountain can be climbed as part of a five-day guided hike; the Indian Ocean's Spice Island is perfect for a post-safari wind down.
East Africa safaris are not just about wildebeest migrations and white-sand beaches: Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is home to families of habituated mountain gorillas with whom you can sit for an hour on a gorilla trek - surely one of life's most unforgettable experiences. A country renowned for its sensational bird watching, there's some of Africa's best on-foot chimpanzee encounters at Kibale Forest, and if you can't decide between big game and big apes, you'll love the mix of classic savannah game viewing and chimp tracking in Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks.
Tiny Rwanda punches above its weight when it comes to an East African safari. Fly into the capital Kigali and within a matter of hours you'll be in the leafy confines of the Volcanoes National Park, a rainforest environment that's home to several mountain gorilla families. An easy add-on to many East African safari tours, gorilla trekking is tough work but after a magical hour in the company of these gentle, trusting great apes, you'll find the rewards far outweigh the mud and humidity of their forest home.
At a Glance