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  • Danieka Strathdee

Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventures in East Africa

Are you tired of the usual tourist hotspots and looking for something different in East Africa? If so, look no further than these hidden gems in Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania. From lesser-known national parks to unique cultural experiences, this region offers plenty of off-the-beaten-path adventures to discover.


Uganda

Uganda is often overlooked in favor of more popular East African destinations like Kenya and Tanzania, but this small country has a lot to offer for adventurous travelers. Some of the top hidden gems to explore include:

  • Bwindi Impenetrable National Park: Home to half of the world's remaining mountain gorillas, this park offers the chance to go gorilla trekking and witness these magnificent animals up close.

  • Kidepo Valley National Park: Located in the remote northeastern corner of Uganda, this park is known for its spectacular landscapes, abundant wildlife, and unique cultural experiences with the Karamojong people.

  • Sipi Falls: Tucked away in the foothills of Mount Elgon, Sipi Falls is a series of three stunning waterfalls that can be visited on a scenic hike.


Rwanda

Rwanda may be best known for its gorilla trekking opportunities, but there's much more to discover beyond the popular Volcanoes National Park. Here are some hidden gems to add to your itinerary:

  • Nyungwe Forest National Park: This vast rainforest is home to over 13 species of primates, including chimpanzees and colobus monkeys, as well as scenic hiking trails and canopy walks.

  • Lake Kivu: Located on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, this beautiful lake offers opportunities for kayaking, swimming, and relaxing on its sandy beaches.

  • Akagera National Park: Often overlooked in favour of the more famous gorilla trekking destinations, Akagera is a hidden gem for wildlife enthusiasts, with a variety of big game such as elephants, lions, and giraffes, as well as scenic boat rides on Lake Ihema.

Tanzania

Tanzania may be home to world-famous destinations like Serengeti National Park and Mount Kilimanjaro, but there are plenty of lesser-known treasures to explore as well. Here are a few hidden gems to consider:

  • Katavi National Park: One of the most remote and least-visited parks in Tanzania, Katavi offers a true wilderness experience with vast plains teeming with wildlife and few other tourists in sight.

  • Usambara Mountains: These beautiful mountains in northeastern Tanzania offer scenic hikes through lush forests and vibrant villages, with opportunities to learn about local culture and traditions.

  • Mafia Island: This off-the-beaten-path island off the coast of Tanzania offers white sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters, and excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities.

East Africa has so much to offer beyond the well-trodden tourist paths. By exploring these hidden gems in Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania, you'll discover a different side of this beautiful region and have unforgettable experiences that most travelers miss out on.


Estimated Costs

Costs for accommodations, activities, and transport will vary depending on your preferences and itinerary. As a rough guide, budget around $50-100 per day for mid-range accommodation and food, plus additional costs for activities like gorilla trekking and national park fees.


Recommended Tour Operators

Kampala-based tour operator, Adventure Consults, offers customised trips to Uganda's national parks and other destinations, with a focus on sustainability and community involvement. In Rwanda, Amahoro Tours is a responsible tour operator that specializes in gorilla trekking and cultural tours. And for Tanzania, African Environments is a reputable company that offers safaris to lesser-known parks like Katavi and the Usambara Mountains, as well as popular destinations like the Serengeti.


Practical Travel Tips

  • Make sure to obtain all necessary visas and vaccinations before your trip.

  • Use a reputable tour operator for activities like gorilla trekking, as they will ensure your safety and minimise negative impacts on the environment and wildlife.

  • Consider travelling in the low season (March-May and October-November) to avoid crowds and potentially save money on accommodations and activities.

  • Pack light and bring appropriate clothing and gear for your activities, such as hiking boots and rain gear for trekking in the rainforest.

  • Be respectful of local cultures and customs, and ask for permission before taking photos of people or their homes.

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