The East African Connection
East Africa has always been known to provide great safari adventures. It is home to some of the world’s most iconic parks, and it covers four of the most coveted African destinations — Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. So if you are looking into exploring one, two or all countries, and you have little to no idea on how to get there, get around and/or get across, this post can serve as your guide!
Famed for its savannas that stretch out into the horizon and big cats that nonchalantly star in several wildlife documentaries, Kenya
guarantee “classic Africa feels” which many travelers are looking for. It is considered a relatively affordable safari destination which offers a wide range of accommodation options, safari styles and exciting activities. It also boasts of a bustling metropolitan (Nairobi) which is a destination in itself, a deeply rooted culture that’s virtually palpable, and a gorgeous stretch of white sand shores for R&R.
Top attractions in Kenya
- Masai Mara National Reserve
- Tsavo East National Park
- Amboseli National Park
- Lake Nakuru National Park
- Nairobi National Park
Home of the iconic Wildebeest Migration which displays an animal movement of epic proportions, it is no wonder why Tanzania
is one of the planet’s leading wildlife destinations. Its endless plains and varied terrains give haven to a spectacular wildlife, making it known to have the most number of wild animals in the world per square kilometer. But the Big 5, the millions of hooves, the endangered species and the spine-tingling predator action are not all that Tanzania has to offer. The country is also endowed with breathtaking beaches, diving and surfing spots, cultural and historical points, and 7 UNESCO heritage sites including the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro.
Top attractions in Tanzania
- Serengeti National Park
- Ngorongoro Conservation Area
- Selous Game Reserve
- Kilimanjaro National Park
Did you know that there are only about 850 to 900 mountain gorillas left on Earth? Over 450 of them, live in the Virunga Mountains along some of Uganda’s rainforests. Blessed with a lush, natural scenery that’s just glorious in all angles, Uganda
doesn’t only pride itself in its paradise-like setting and record-breaking primate population. It also offers many exciting things to do including white water rafting in the River Nile.
Top attractions in Uganda
- Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
- Queen Elizabeth National Park
- Kibale Forest National Park
- Murchison Falls National Park
- Kidepo Valley National Park
Set in a dense mountainous landscape, Rwanda offers phenomenal greenery views and a vibrant city that’s just charming. The country is most famous for its cheeky primates particularly the endangered great apes which are known as Mountain Gorillas. Primate population aside, Rwanda also hosts an incredible wildlife and birdlife, with easy-to-spot mammals like elephants, giraffes and zebras. The adventure in Rwanda doesn’t limit to its wildlife. Sunset viewing along the gorgeous Lake Kivu, hiking and trailing, cultural experiences and birdwatching are also enjoyable here.
Top attractions in Rwanda
- Volcanoes National Park (Parc National de Volcans)
- Nyungwe Forest National Park
- Akagera National Park
- Lake Kivu National Park
- Mukura Forest Reserve
Traveling across East Africa
Visiting East Africa through many border crossings is very realistic and the options are wide-range, especially with the enhanced EAC transport system. Private vehicles can even cross the borders hassle-free and travel across the entire EAC region for free, if visiting for no longer than 7 days.
Kenya ↔ Tanzania
The cheapest and easiest way to travel between Kenya and Tanzania is to travel overland (
7 to 9 hours
) via bus. Buses go through the
, a border town 180 km from Nairobi and 120km from Arusha. Shuttle buses are also available for this route which are frankly more comfortable and only about $20 per person. These shuttle buses usually start in hotels in the city central and the most popular companies are Impala and Riverside.
Alternatively, you can take the
route which is located in the western sides of Masai Mara and Serengeti National Park. This, however, is most ideal for those on overland safaris otherwise you have to pay separate park fees for each park upon entering. Or, you can easily
catch a 1.5-hour flight
from Kilimanjaro airport, Dar es Salaam airport or even Zanzibar airport to Nairobi, or vice versa. While flying may be more expensive, the comfort you experience and the time you save can be priceless.
Kenya ↔ Uganda
The border towns between Kenya and Uganda are
. Busia is located roughly 195 kilometers east of Kampala, Uganda’s capital; and about 451 kilometers northwest of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. Malaba, on the other hand, sits on the main highway between Kampala and Nairobi. It is approximately 14 kilometers east of Tororo and 215 kilometers east of Kampala. Like Kenya-Tanzania overland trips, buses, shuttle buses and private vehicles can cross these borders.
Overland travelers who venture out during the day are rewarded with the picturesque countryside of Lake Elementaita and the area’s volcanic calderas.
Flights between the two countries are also available. Several carriers fly between Entebbe in Uganda and Nairobi and Kenya, in which flights take a little over 1 hour (
1 hour and 5-15 minutes
) and costs more of less $250.
Tanzania ↔ Uganda
If you travel by road between Tanzania and Uganda, the border town you’ll go through is
. In Uganda, it is at the Central Region while in Tanzania, it is located in Misenyi District, a town in northwestern Tanzania.
Several flights also cater to travelers between Tanzania and Uganda. The main hub in the latter country is Entebbe airport. Flights from Entebbe to Arusha (ARK) usually takes 8 hours, with a stopover in Nairobi; from Entebbe to Kilimanjaro airport for only 1 hour and 50 minutes, direct flight; from Entebbe to Dar es Salaam for 3 hours 25 minutes, with one short stop at JRO, NBO or Kigali; and from Entebbe to Zanzibar for 3 hours and 35 minutes via NBO or JRO.
Uganda ↔ Rwanda
Few visitors travel overland between Uganda and Rwanda but if they do, they usually go through the border of
, otherwise called
. Gatuna, as of how Rwandans call it, is located in Gicumbi District about 80 kilometers north of Kigali. In Uganda, it is called Katuna and is set in Ndorwa Country, approximately 28 kilometers south of Kabale. Travel time is approximately
depending on traffic and number of people in line at the passport control.
Another crossing point to Katuna is Ruhengeri and Kisoro. Direct bus services are available between Kigali and Kampala and so are minibuses, although the latter involves a change of vehicles at the border.
The best way to go to Uganda from Rwanda or vice versa is to fly. Flights to/from Entebbe in Uganda and Kigali in Rwanda only take about
on a direct route.
Rwanda ↔ Kenya
There is no direct route to travel overland between Kenya and Rwanda. The easiest and most common route that travelers take is Nairobi, Kenya ⇄ Kampala, Uganda ⇄ Kigali, Rwanda. Otherwise, flights can be taken between Nairobi and Kigali for 1 hour and 25 minutes, more or less.
Tanzania ↔ Rwanda
Crossing borders between Tanzania and Rwanda mean going through the town of
in eastern Rwanda. To catch a bus from Rwanda to Tanzania, you can alight one of the many buses from Nabugogo bus station in Rusumo or you from Remero bus station near the airport. From Tanzania, you can get Kigali-bound buses from Mwanza. There is also an option to go via Kahama to Benaco, from where you can get transport to the border.
For travelers looking to take the air route, several flights are available between Kigali, Rwanda and many international and local airports in Tanzania, including Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Mwanza and Zanzibar airports. Average flight time between the two countries is 2 hours and 24 minutes for a direct flight.
Note that while Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda belong the same time zone which is GMT+3, Rwanda belongs to the Central Africa time zone, GMT+2, in which those in the East African time zone (GMT+3) are ahead of them by 1 hour.
East Africa is an adventure of a lifetime.
Traveling to and around East Africa is truly possible and no longer just a wishful thinking. Whether you travel by land or by air, your East Africa adventure will surely be one for the books! Of course, you have to factor in things like schedule, budget and comfort because, for one, overland travel can take several hours or even days while air travel can be heavier on the pocket. One thing is for sure: any adventure in East Africa will leave you wanting for more.
Written by: Branded Africa