12/09/2022
7 Remarkable Lesser-Known Safari Destinations in East Africa

For safari enthusiasts, East African safaris typically mean witnessing Africa’s great wildebeest migration, watching large herds of animals, searching for the big five, seeking out the smaller mammals, or going chimp trekking in the heart of Africa’s rainforest. While these exceptional safaris will always attract visitors in their thousands, East Africa also has a few less-visited safari destinations, hidden gems which are off the beaten track.

Discovering these remarkable lesser-known safari destinations is another adventure in the making. Let’s take a look at a few of East Africa’s lesser-known safari destinations.

1. Rusizi National Park, Burundi

Rusizi National Park, Burundi

Burundi has its fair share of attractions, including Gishora Drum Sanctuary, Snakes Park, Gitega National Museum and Kareral Waterfalls, but is much less well-known than its neighbours, Tanzania and Rwanda. However, the more adventurous travellers that visit will be richly rewarded.

Rusizi National Park is Burundi’s most popular safari destination. Located next to the Rusizi River, this national park is known for its healthy population of hippo and sitatungas as well as being a great birding spot. Visitors are likely to spot birds such as Sharpe’s pied babbler and red-chested sunbird. The Rusizi River is also home to one of Africa’s lethal predators, Nile crocodiles. Explore the park by boat, vehicle and on foot.

Recommended safari: 4-Day Burundi Cultural and Historical Tour

2. Simien Mountains Ethiopia

Simien Mountains Ethiopia

The Simien Mountains, in the Ethiopian Highlands, has global conservation significance as it’s home to threatened species including the endemic Walia ibex, Ethiopian wolf and gelada baboon. However, it is hard to see the Ethiopian wolf here as the park is too large and the numbers of wolves too small. There is also abundant bird life. The best time to visit the Simien Mountains is between October and March with the warmest weather and clearest skies.

Recommended safari: Lalibela and Simien Mountains

3. Awash National Park, Ethiopia

Awash National Park, Ethiopia

Another one of Ethiopia’s less-visited safari destinations, Awash National Park is known for its high biodiversity and incredible landscapes. The park offers diverse habitat made of diverse ecosystems, acacia woodlands, grazing savannas, thorned bushlands, and riverine wetlands.

A great safari destination for avid birders, Awash National Park’s rich birdlife includes yellow-necked francolin, Abdim’s stork, bare-faced go-away-bird, chestnut-bellied sandgrouse, grey wren-warbler, Abyssinian and black scimitarbill.

With over 81 mammal species calling Awash National Park home, it is also an excellent spot for wildlife viewing. It is home to Soemmerignes’s gazelles, klipspringers, defassa waterbuck, salt’s dik-diks, and kudus. A few lucky visitors might also witness predators such as leopards, lions, cheetahs, and hyenas.

Recommended safari: 14-day Ethiopia Birding Safari

4. Aberdare and Samburu National Parks, Kenya

Aberdare and Samburu National Parks, Kenya

While Masai Mara National Park and Amboseli National Park are two of the primary attractions that act as a beacon for visitors, Kenya has plenty of hidden gems worth exploring. Aberdare National Park and Samburu National Reserve are two of Kenya’s lesser-known safari getaways.

Known as the majestic moorland, Aberdare National Park is a scenic delight characterised by its picturesque open moorlands and steep forested ravines. On an Aberdare National Park safari, visitors can see at least three of Africa’s big five animals – elephants, leopards, and black rhino. Aberdare’s attractions include its numerous waterfalls, such as Karuru Waterfall, Kereita Cave and Waterfall, Chain Waterfall, Magura Waterfalls, Thomsons’s Falls, Chasing Waterfalls, and Guar Waterfalls.

Samburu National Reserve, located near the Buffalo Springs National Reserve, is a great spot for wildlife viewing. Visitors who want to escape the more crowded safari parks in peak season can travel to this serene getaway. Samburu’s rich wildlife includes herds of elephants, buffaloes, hippos, zebras, and oryx. Visitors can also spot predators such as lions, leopards, and cheetahs. Similar to Aberdare, Samburu also offers abundant bird-watching opportunities.

Recommended safari: 5 days Aberdares and Samburu Safari

5. Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda

Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park, Virunga National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest are three of the most popular safari destinations in Rwanda.

In comparison, Nyungwe Forest National Park is less visited. Located in southwest Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to 13 primate species, including chimpanzees, silver monkey, golden monkey, red-tailed monkey, vervet monkey, Hamlyn’s monkey, and dent’s mona monkey.

This idyllic getaway houses one of Africa’s oldest rainforests known for its rich wildlife. Visitors can go chimp trekking and hike in the heart of the forest while the canopy walkway on the Igishigishigi trail offers extraordinary views of the surrounding forest and valleys.

Recommended safari: 3-day Nyungwe chimps and canopy walk

6. Saadani National Park, Tanzania

Saadani National Park, Tanzania

Although the annual wildebeest migration remains one of the jewels of East African safaris, Tanzania has much more to offer its visitors including Saadani National Park, one of it’s hidden treasures, located in the Ranga and Pwani regions.

Saadani’s diverse wildlife includes four of Africa’s big five animals – buffaloes, elephants, lions, and leopards. There are no rhinos in the park. There are plenty of other interesting animals such as blue wildebeests, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, Masai giraffes, dik-diks, and Bohor reedbuck as well as primates such as colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, vervet monkeys, and yellow baboons.

A picnic site facing River Wami offers a great vantage point for viewing the crocodiles and hippos in the rivers, offering a chance to take memorable photographs.

Recommended safari: Saadani National Park Day Trip from Zanzibar

7. Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda

Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda

Although Uganda’s Kidepo Valley National Park isn’t as popular as Murchison Falls National Park or Kibale National Park, it has a lot to offer its visitors.

A trip to Kidepo Valley National Park is more than a simple wildlife viewing experience, you can also spend time learning about the local community, the Karamojong people. On a game drive, visitors are bound to catch sightings of giraffes, elephants, zebras, buffaloes, and elands as well as predators such as lions, leopards, and cheetahs.

Visitors can also head to nearby Sipi Falls or go white river rafting on the river Nile.

Recommended safari: Kidepo Valley National Park Uganda

About author

MD and Co-Founder. Born in Zimbabwe, Robin has a long history in Africa, and safaris in general, from running lodges to marketing. He is always on the look out for new ideas and products from around the safari world.

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