Big in Africa: The best game parks in East Africa

This month, Big in Japan is on vacation in Africa, and will be bringing you travel news and happenings from around this often misunderstood continent.

For a good number of tourists in Africa, the Kenyan capital of Nairobi is their first port of call. While this rough and ready city isn’t the gentlest introduction to the continent, it’s a good jumping off point for some of the best game parks in East Africa.

(For tips on what to do in Nairobi other than getting mugged, click here to stay safe!)

Kenya, Tanzania and to a lesser extent Uganda are home to a stunning range of national parks and game reserves that pretty much epitomize the safari experience. Whether you go all out on tented lodges, khaki safari gear and gin & tonics, or rough it with pitch tents, backpacker rags and cold beers, don’t miss out on East Africa’s game parks.

Need some help deciding where to go? Today’s posting should help you get started.

Masai Mara, Kenya: Probably one of the most spectacular wildlife experiences on the planet, Masai Mara is in top form in July and August during the annual wildebeest migration. If you’ve ever seen footage on the nature channels of helpless herd animals crossing crocodile infested waterways, then you’re already familiar with the drama and excitement of the Mara.

The Serengeti, Tanzania: From December to April, the wildebeest action swings south across the border to Tanzania, home to the timeless plains of the Serengeti (think Lion King!). One of the most storied national parks in Africa, the Serengeti is home to high concentrations of lions and hyenas, which grow fat and happy on all the wildebeest running about.

Lake Nakuru, Kenya: From a distance, this shimmering lake appears pink against the horizon, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re being tricked by a mirage. On the contrary, the lake supports some of the largest concentrations of flamingoes in the world, as well as a healthy and stable population of white and black rhinos.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania: This enormous crater that can clearly be scoped out on Google Maps is a veritable Lost World of wildlife. After you descend the steep walls and get out onto the grassy plains, you’ll be surrounded by dense concentrations of wildlife that spend their entire lives inside this remote crater.

Murchison Falls, Uganda: Although this storied game park was ravaged by poachers during the early years of Uganda’s troubled independence, Murchison Falls is once again back on the safari map. Along the shores of the Albert Nile River, you can scope out elephant herds that are again flourishing in their tropical surrounds.

While these are just a few of East Africa’s more famous game parks, don’t overlook the lesser-known parks where you can safari sans tourist hordes. A few spots to consider are Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve and Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park among others.

So, bring your binoculars, wear plenty of sunscreen and best of luck in spotting the Big 5!

** Next week Big in Japan will back as it’s almost time for me to get back home (^_^) **