Few nature lovers would argue that East Africa boasts of some of the finest game reserves and National Parks in the world and is one of the most popular tourist destinations as far as wildlife safaris are concerned.
East Africa is one of the most beautiful regions in the whole of Africa and provides a memorable experience to those who dream of viewing big game and other unique animals in their natural habitat.
Here is a curative list of some of the best national parks of East Africa which represent true wilderness, and immense and iconic ecological diversity with an array of some of the most spectacular animal and bird life to be found anywhere else on the planet.
1. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most famous regions in Africa and home to the Great Migration, said to be one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
Serengeti in Masai means 'extended place' which is evident by the 12,950 sq km of area it covers, extending from the Great Rift Valley in the east up to the shores of Lake Victoria in the west.
The park is open throughout the year and visitors are more or less assured of seeing the Big 5 and hundreds of different species of birds and other mammals.
2.Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
This award-winning safari destination is on the bucket-list of almost every visitor to East Africa and is suitable for families, photographers, honeymooners and large groups alike, whether on a short or long visit.
Known the world over for the wildebeest migration experience, Masai Mara is also home to the Big 5, as well as a plethora of bird species. One can enjoy spectacular wildlife sightings in the company of professional safari guides for an unforgettable experience in the African bush.
3. Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Said to have been created after a volcanic explosion, some two or three billion years ago, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania lies within the world's largest inactive crater. This natural enclosure covers an area of 260 sq km and is around 600m deep, making it one of the only places in Africa where you can come across the Big 5 in a single game drive.
Surprisingly, the Masai tribe still live within the conservation area and can be often seen on the roads. The amazing caldera has a healthy population of lions, while high up on the rim are leopards and large elephant herds. Other animals often seen are mountain reedbuck, spotted hyenas, wild dog and cheetah.
4.Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya
Located 140 km north of Nairobi, the Lake Nakuru National Park in the Rift Valley province is a paradise for bird lovers. The ecosystem of this premium park comprises a shallow alkaline Lake, set in a dramatic setting surrounded by woodland and grasslands.
As many as 1.5 million flamingos and 450 species of other birds are found here. Animals in the area include the rare long-eared leaf-nosed bat, colobus monkey, rock hyrax, leopard, lion, rhino, and golden cat among others. The restored animals include the rare Rothschild's Giraffe and black as well as white rhino.
5.Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
Located about 376 km southwest of the capital Kampala, the Queen Elizabeth National Park is the largest in the country and is known the world over for its famous tree-climbing lions. Spanning the districts of Kasese, Kamwenge, and Rukungiri, the volcanic features of the park consist of craters and cones with lakes like Lake Katwe, from which salt is extracted.
Home to 95 species of mammals and over 500 birds, the area around the Rukungiri district is where the tree-climbing lions with their black manes, a feature unique to this part of East Africa, can be found.
6. Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
Tarangire may not enjoy the same reputation as Serengeti, but this 1100 sq km of pristine wilderness attracts an impressive array of wildlife, especially during the dry season, when the only source of water remains the Tarangire River.
Some other unique features of the park are the baobab trees, huge mounds of termite hills and tree-climbing lions. The swamps of the Tarangire River attract as many as 550 different species of birds, making it a haven for avian enthusiasts.
7. Amboseli National Park, Kenya
This 151 sq km wildlife hotspot in the Rift Valley is a UNESCO declared biosphere reserve and probably the best place in the world to spot free-roaming elephant herds. The area was set aside for preservation way back in 1906.
The park lies 150 km north of Nairobi and also offers visitors an opportunity to interact with the local Masai tribe, enjoy exhilarating views of Mt Kilimanjaro, not to forget the Big 5 and around 400 species of birds.
How best to pay for your East African Safari?
Here we will guide you how best to pay for your East African Safari, without paying huge fees associated with traditional ways of transfer. The type of transfer method will play a big role in the amount of fees charged, as some are much higher than others.
Bank transfers: Money transfer through a bank is convenient, but expensive. Banks may charge between $10-$50 for international wire transfer, or even more, if the destination country is deemed remote.
Cash transfer: This is beneficial when the recipient does not have a bank account. The beneficiary only needs to carry proof of ID to the pick-up point to collect the cash. Again, expect to shell out $15 per transfer or a % of the transfer amount, whichever is more.
Balance transfer: This transfer is effected between two customers having the same digital service, like e-wallet or online services.
Money transfer companies, such as Wise, typically offer these transfers free of charge, (meaning no markup on the exchange rate) making it a cheap and best way of sending money to a recipient in East Africa. However, avoid PayPal as they charge a fee for balance transfers, which increases with the size of the transfer.
This is a guest post by Jyotsna Ramani, a travel blogger and wildlife enthusiast.