DAYS 196 – 252: TANZANIA, KENYA, UGANDA, RWANDA & ETHIOPIA
The next country on your journey is Tanzania, and after a day and half drive we pass through the peaceful Mikumi National Park. African safari travel is synonymous with wildlife, and in this national park you can usually see Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra and Antelope from the roadside. From here you will continue travelling through the interesting and mountainous hinterland of Tanzania.
Your overland route north then brings you to Dar Es Salaam where your truck will be based for around 4 nights in a campsite on a beautiful Indian Ocean beach. From here most people take the ferry out to Zanzibar for the full four days and venture into the narrow bustling streets of Stone Town and its famous spice markets, old slave forts and dungeons. There is also time to relax on Zanzibar’s famous white beaches, scuba dive or snorkel and swim with dolphins!
After leaving Dar Es Salaam you will pass a number of small towns and villages along the way and, if you are lucky and the clouds stay away, you may see the towering peak of Kilimanjaro. You will stop off at Marangu where you have the opportunity to climb to Kilimanjaro base camp, or take a walk through the lush surroundings passing through coffee plantations, rivers, waterfalls, caves and visiting a local blacksmith.
Your overland journey will then continue to Arusha, at your camp on the outskirts of Arusha you have the option to use a local African safari travel company to guide you through the Ngorongoro Crater and Manyara National Park. In these parks you will have the opportunity to view the abundant wildlife including Elephant, Lion, Cheetah, White Rhino, Buffalo, Hippo, Antelope, Crocodile and Pink Flamingos. From here you can also choose to go into the Serengeti National Park for a day where vast herds of wildebeest roam the plains. For those who wish there is an option to visit a local Maasai Village and learn about their culture and way of life.
Making your way to Kenya you pass through hot savannah grasslands where acacia trees provide the only shade. Various game, usually zebra and giraffe can be seen as we head over the border. Once in the capital Nairobi, you stay in a private campsite on the edge of town.
Your time in Nairobi will give you a chance to relax, drink an ice cold beer and catch up with world news & events with English language newspapers. From here you have the opportunity to visit the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, where Oasis helps support one of the elephants (Kamboyo). It is a great experience to see the nursery animals come out for their daily mud bath and comical play and to see the amazing work the centre does with rescued and injured elephants and rhino. Nearby is the Langata Giraffe Centre, where you can learn more about these gentle and majestic creatures – hopefully getting the chance to get up close to feed them.
Your overland trip continues north from Nairobi and heads into one of Africa’s greatest natural features, the East African Rift Valley. Stretching from the Dead Sea in Jordan down to Mozambique in Southern Africa, your first view is from the top of a steep escarpment. Overland trips through East Africa will allow you to experience some of the most dramatic scenery in the world, and the Rift Valley is a definite highlight. The valley floor seems to sweep on forever and is dotted with volcanic peaks, shimmering lakes and countless springs. Your journey takes you into the heart of the Rift Valley to Lake Naivasha. You will camp near the lakeshore where Hippos sometimes feed at night! Here you can walk to Elsamere, the house of Joy Adamson – of Elsa the Lion and Born Free fame, and enjoy a film of her life – and cream teas! You can also hire mountain bikes and cycle or walk through Hells Gate National Park – the only game reserve in Kenya in which you are permitted to do so. Or for a less active but equally enjoyable game viewing experience – visit the Crater Lake Game Sanctuary. Both offer excellent scenery & opportunities to spot hyrax, abundant bird & plant life along with several types of gazelle, impala and eland.
A further half day drive through hills covered in tea plantations and rural scenery drive brings you to Lake Nakuru National Park – home to a wide variety of wildlife including Black Rhino, Hippo, Lion, Leopard, Hyena and Giraffe. However, Nakuru is a soda lake and most famous for its pink inhabitants, a flock of almost a million Pink Flamingos which feed noisily along the shoreline.
A mountainous drive with spectacular scenery through the Nandi Hills brings you to your next stop at Eldoret. From here you cross into Uganda, and continue west to the capital. Kampala has had a turbulent past, but these days it is a friendly and safe city. You have a free day to spend in local cafes and nightspots where you can get to know the local people. There is also the opportunity to spend the day visiting a local Chimpanzee Sanctuary and rehabilitation centre on one of the islands on Lake Victoria.
The following day you will have a long drive as you head west through swamps, patches of forest and fertile green countryside. As you travel through Uganda, you’ll pass through a number of small towns and villages; Mpigi, where you will see roadside stalls manufacturing and selling traditional musical instruments; Kyazanga, where you can buy fresh rotisserie and roasted meat and vegetables, as well as roasted plantain bananas. You will also be able to make a photo stop where your route crosses the Equator.
The Virunga range of volcanic mountains and the rainforests on these mountain slopes are home to several families of Highland Mountain Gorillas. Getting up close to these amazing creatures is a truly a once in a lifetime experience and one of the highlights of the trip. You have the opportunity to trek to see the Gorillas in Rwanda (bookable as an Add on).
It is estimated that only around 700 of these gentle giants remain. This mountainous area on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and Zaire (now renamed Democratic Republic of Congo) is their only natural habitat and they are periodically threatened by poachers and political instability in the area. Your permit allows you to spend about 50 to 60 minutes with one of the gorilla families. Trekking to find them in groups of 8 people can take anywhere from half an hour to 5 hours. The organisations and well-trained guides that continually monitor and protect the families are conscientious and responsible. There will also be an opportunity to visit the genocide memorial in Kigali, which is a moving and humbling experience.
You then return towards Kampala and camp near Jinja, Uganda’s adventure playground. Here, on the edge of Lake Victoria, the Nile begins its 6700km journey to the sea. You spend the next few days downstream from the source of the Nile. This is a spectacular area, and a superb place to go whitewater rafting or kayaking. You can also organise quad biking, horse riding or a visit to a local education project.
Re-entering Kenya, you travel around the foothills of Mount Kenya before embarking on the next phase of your overland journey north. This leads you into the remoteness of northern Kenya where you will encounter some of the worst roads on the entire trip. Nomadic tribes people like the Rendille in Marsabit & the Samburu (cousins of the Maasai) still wear very distinctive and often elaborate dress.
As you cross into Ethiopia many of the roads we travel on are very poor dirt or gravel roads and often in mountainous areas, so travel is slow. Ethiopia has a lot more visual & indigenous history than any other sub – Saharan country.
You continue your journey north heading into the Omo Valley. This little-visited region is home to some of the most colourful ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The friendly Hamar people are noted for their ornate, interesting hairstyles and the Mursi people are famous for the clay lip plates and earlobe decorations. An optional 2 day tour will take you into the Omo National Park.
You then spend a couple of days in the capital Addis Ababa where you have the chance to indulge in some authentic Ethiopian coffee or explore ‘El Mercato’ – one of East Africa’s largest open air markets.
You also spend the next few days organizing your Sudanese and Egyptian visas before heading onto Bahir Dar via the spectacular Blue Nile Gorge & Falls. Bahir Day is based on the southern edge of Lake Tana – you can organise boat trips to some of the small islands which have Monasteries dating back up to 900 years, and which are still looked after by monks who live from subsistence farming.
In the towns of Bahir Dar and Gondar (the capital of Ethiopia from 1632 until 1868), you spend about 4 days at each – where it is possible to organise visits to some of Ethiopia’s most famous sites, including the holy city of Axum and the rock-hewn churches at Lalibela. These date from the 12th Century and have been kept alive by generations of dedicated priests who guard their precious religious and artistic artifacts.