Our top 5 experiences in East Africa


East Africa – specifically Kenya and Tanzania – offers a wealth of immersive and memorable adventures that allow you to get even closer to a more natural Africa, going beyond the usual safaris. From walking amongst the Great Migration herds to camping out under the stars, here are our top five experiences in this exceptional part of the world.

Head out on foot on a walking safari

Everyone is familiar with 4×4 game drives in Africa – but swopping four wheels for two feet offers an even more thrilling adventure in the heart of the wilderness. Accompanied by expert guides, track and encounter wildlife and get to know the expansive and diverse natural environment around you. Expect terrain from woodlands to plains, and from valleys to volcanoes, all experienced in a very different way than when you’re sitting in a vehicle.

Some exciting walking activities that we recommend include tracking black rhinos on foot in the Sera conservancy in Kenya, and in Tanzania, going on a multi-day walking safari through the Masai lands of Simanjiro. You can even walk amongst the Great Migration in the heart of the Serengeti, with experienced guides bringing you up close to all the action.

Another fantastic walking safari option is trekking through the Rift Valley and around the Ngorongoro Crater to Lake Natron, where you can see hundreds of flamingos. To cool off, swim in a waterfall, or if you haven’t had enough of an adrenaline rush, there is the opportunity to climb a volcano.

Keen birdwatchers can indulge in a specialist birding safari in the national parks of Arusha and Tarangire, seeing some of Tanzania’s 800 bird species.

Take to the plains on horseback

Horse riding is another excellent way to experience the vast African plains. In Lolkisale in northern Tanzania, go horse riding peacefully alongside giraffes, zebras and wildebeest, and amongst rural Maasai communities, against a backdrop of mountains and villages.

This is an authentic experience as you will sometimes be in areas where there is no road access, meaning few tourists – offering a real off-the-beaten-track adventure. A horseback safari is simply perfect for horse lovers with riding experience, while those who are less experienced or simply want to spend less time on horseback can combine horse riding with guided walks and tours in vintage Land Rovers. You will camp in the evening, with the chance to rest your legs and enjoy sundowners and stargazing around the fire.

Camp beneath the stars

Africa has a wealth of luxury lodges that elevate an African safari to a five-star experience. However, for a truly memorable night’s sleep, on a walking safari you have the opportunity to bed down in a fly camp set which is set up in a different place each night. The more daring can have a wild sleepout on rocks in the middle of the wilds, waking up to a rather special sunrise over the hills, and seeing flocks of thousands of birds gathering in the skies. In addition to a comfortable bed to sleep in, exceptionally experienced staff and a cook will accompany you on your trek each day, so you will always have good food to refuel with after a full and exhilarating day of adventures.

Exclusive African escapes aren’t limited to camping for an authentic experience. In between scenic forest hikes, birdwatching and boat trips, you can stay in a cosy log cabin near a lake on the slopes of Mt Kenya for a fantastically remote, secluded setting with panoramic views.

Meet the locals

It’s not just about wildlife in Africa, and on a holiday in this unique part of the world, you can meet and join the locals as they go about their daily rituals, such as the Hadzabe tribe in Tanzania. Set out with these hunter-gatherers as they track wildlife with bows and arrows (not for the squeamish), and forage with local women for berries and roots, discovering how they use the land for all their food needs. You will also have the opportunity to meet Maasai people in local villages, and learn about their centuries-old traditions and way of life.

Get involved with conservation

Conservation is a worldwide focus at the moment, as protecting the environment, and especially reducing plastic use, is taking centre stage – and during your holiday, you can help, and get personally involved, by finding out more about community initiatives in the areas you are visiting, and taking part in wildlife conservation and monitoring projects.

One such initiative is the Mara Elephant Project in Kenya, which protects and monitors elephant populations in the area and raises awareness about issues such as poaching and deforestation which are causing elephant populations to dwindle. The project supports the education of local communities too, which in turn is inspiring future generations. Your holiday really can make a difference.

…and relax

Finally, after all those safari adventures and enriching local experiences, relax and unwind in style at a luxury retreat on a pristine beach in Zanzibar. Treat yourself to a blissful few days of yoga, meditation, spa treatments and delicious African cuisine, or for a further adrenaline rush, water sports such as snorkelling and kayaking – all in a postcard-perfect setting overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Thomas Ryves is Marketing Director at Exsus Travel. Exsus Travel specialises in creating the very best luxury tailor-made holidays, honeymoons and family adventures in over 80 destinations worldwide.

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Comments (12)

  1. Craig says:

    I totally agree with the tip to meet the locals. I have been on a hunting expedition with a tribesman equipped with nothing more than loin-cloth and his bow and arrows.

    It’s an experience that makes you think about our relationship with the surrounding environment. The tribesman travelled light whilst I carried water, sunglasses, sun cream and a hat to protect me from the sun.

    He knew his world in such minute detail that he could find food and water in what seemed the most hostile of environments to me. Mating the locals made me realise that we are capable of living a much simpler life.

    • Thomas Ryves says:

      Hi Craig,

      We agree that immersive local experiences really help to make a holiday, and travellers are increasingly looking to discover more about where they are staying and their local environment, beyond their hotel.

  2. Steve says:

    I am sort of interested in the multi-day walking safari through the Masai territories. How good would it be to walk in the midst of the Great Migration on the Serengeti?That would be a tale to tell the grandkids.

    It’s the “multi-day” bit that worries me. How many days is “multi-day” and how much would you be required to walk each day? It’s not going to be that easy walking in near equatorial heat.

    It’s something I’d like to do and it would be a good goal, something for me to work on my fitness.

    • Thomas Ryves says:

      Hi Steve,

      A walking safari is a fantastic way to experience local wildlife and especially the Great Migration. These trips typically last about a week, with an average of 15-20km walked each day, so a certain level of fitness would be required. It is an exhilarating experience as you can can witness hundreds of animals on the move. You are accompanied by experienced guides and sleep in camps that are set up each night. The weather in the Serengeti isn’t as harsh as you may think, averaging around 26 degrees in the afternoons, with some occasional rains.

  3. Jen says:

    I’m really interested in the idea of doing both some travelling in Africa and also some conservation work. You mention the Mara Elephant Project in Kenya but I’m not quite sure whether that is just education and conservation work for the local community or whether there’s an opportunity for volunteers from overseas to get involved as well. Does anybody have any experience of this type of project that they can pass on?

    • Thomas Ryves says:

      Hi Jen,

      There are plenty of opportunities to get involved and volunteer with local conservation and community projects in Africa, whether that’s during your holiday or as a separate project. There is so much going on, from environmental projects to wildlife projects such as anti-poaching initiatives and protecting numbers of endangered wildlife. Many hotels and lodges have their own local initiatives that you can find out more about and get involved in during your stay.

  4. Wendi Poole says:

    Even though I’d probably find a walking safari quite daunting, having an expert guide there would be quite reassuring and it would be so amazing to walk among the animals, to really get involved in the experience rather than live it through a 4×4. Might have to steer clear of horse riding as I’ve never tried it!

    • Thomas Ryves says:

      Hi Wendi,

      Walking safaris are a great way to experience Africa’s wildlife and landscapes, and especially something like the Great Migration, and the expert guides are always on hand. Horse riding trips can cater for all levels, from beginner to expert, although often some level of experience may be required.

  5. Madeleine Thomas says:

    It’s far more meaningful if you can go somewhere and fully experience it, getting to know the locals, the culture and getting involved in the conservation efforts. I think the last one is brilliant to recommend because every little helps in making the world a kinder, brighter place.

    • Thomas Ryves says:

      Hi Madeleine,

      We agree, immersing yourself in your local environment on holiday can really bring the experience to life – and there is plenty you can do to help, even just for an hour during your stay, from planting a tree to visiting a local school.

  6. Ellie says:

    Yes please to a luxury retreat on that beach in Zanzibar, that photo looks far too good to be true. I can’t think of anything more welcoming after a tiring, emotive walking safari to get back to your temporary home there for some R&R!

    • Thomas Ryves says:

      Hi Ellie,

      Yes, the photo is real (!). There are some wonderful hotels in Zanzibar, offering a perfect opportunity to relax and recharge after going on safari – we highly recommend combining a safari adventure with some blissful beach relaxation!

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