East Africa generally encompasses the countries of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Most of these countries are close to straddling the equator and therefore are home to a huge variety of ecosystems – everything from highlands, deserts, jungles, savannas and mountain ranges.
Great Rift Valley a geographical area that that was a result of the separation of Africa and Arabia tectonic plates, stretching all the way from Dead Sea near Syria to Mozambique. As a result, many areas are marked by volcanoes, such as Mt. Kilimanjaro or the Crater Highland in Tanzania, or by a lakes high with a high mineral content usually in Kenya, such as Lake Magadi or Lake Nakuru.
Lake Victoria, bordering Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, is the largest lakes in Africa, with an area covering more than 70,000 square miles. It’s home to an abundant amount of islands, wildlife, fish, and unique people. Lake Victoria is becoming a major transportation hub, and the fastest growing region, for shipping goods and people between Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Just south east of Lake Victoria is another geological wonder. Lake Tanganyika, named after the original name of Tanzania, which is one of the deepest lakes in the world.
Getting to East Africa/Visas
Getting to Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda is no problem. All of the major airports - Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, Nairobi and Kampala - have daily direct flights from Europe, usually via Amsterdam or London. Once you arrive, you can usually find flights between smaller destinations like Zanzibar, Lamu, Selous, or can book small private planes to take you to game lodges or other places that are difficult to travel by road.
Precision Air Tanzania
Remember, visa regulations change and it's important to check with your embassy before visiting the country. In East Africa, you can usually get visas upon arrival at the airport, or crossing a border. However, if you're traveling overland through a remote border crossing, like from Mozambique into Tanzania, or even by boat from Malawi, make sure to ask around at a police station to see if it's possible to find someone to give you a visa first.
Visitors coming to Tanzania can get a three month visa upon arrival at the airport. Cost is usually $50, payable in US dollars, but can be cheaper for some of the Commonwealth countries. There are both single and double entry visas available upon arrival. If you're coming to Tanzania via Nairobi Airport, you can get a transit visa for $20, that allows you seven days in the country before you need to cross into a boarding country, usually Uganda or Tanzania. You can also buy visas for entry into Tanzania at the highway crossing from Nairobi into Arusha.
Kenyan Tourist Visas are $50. You can get these at the airport or before arriving in the country. If you plan to get a multple transit visa, meaning you are coming into and out of Kenya multiples times, the cost is $100. A transit visa to Tanzania is $20.
The Ugandan Embassy in Washington DC states that all visas to Uganda are now $100. Although this seems like a ridiculous visa price, it might be done at a border crossing or at the airport for cheaper.
When to Go
There are two rainy seasons in Kenya. the long rains from March to May, and the short rains from October to December. The high season if from December to March and from June to August, but most tourists go in January and February, when the weather is hot and dry. The most photogenic time to go is August and September when the extraordinary spectacle of millions of wildebeests migrating from the Masai Mara to the Serengeti take place.
In order to enter most African countries you will need to have a valid vaccination certificate showing that you were vaccinated against yellow fever and cholera. Additionally we strongly advise you to get vaccinated against typhoid, tetanus, tuberculosis, polio, and meningococcal meningitis. Check with your local travel clinic for up to date information.
Malaria is endemic throughout East Africa and you need to take prophilactics, such as mefloquine (Larium), which you take once a week, up to 2 weeks before departure and 4 weeks after. Check with your local doctor, as in certain areas the parasite has begun acquiring immunity to some of the drugs. Note that no prophilactics are 100% effective, so the best way to protect yourself is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
What to Bring
You should pack the minimum, since it is fairly easy to get your laundry done. Cotton is best when it's hot. You should take short and long sleeve shirts (to protect yourself against mosquito bites), slacks and shorts. You may need a jacket or sweater for cooler evenings or if you will spend any time in the highlands. It can get very chilly in Nairobi at night, and it is definitely nippy on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater. Naturally if you are going to do any mountain climbing you need the appropriate equipment. Don't think that because Mt Kilimanjaro is near the equator, it will be warm there!
In terms of photography, in order to take good wildlife pictures you will need a SLR camera and a 200 mm lens at a minimum. A wild angle lens is also nice to have for panoramic shots. Personally I took two zoom lenses: a 28-100 mm and a 75-300 mm, and had great results. If you are going to have two lenses, I recommend having a camera body for each, since there is dust everywhere, particularly in Tanzania, and the wildlife tends not to wait for you to swith your lens.
You should take plenty of film with you before you leave (about a roll a day), especially if you want high quality film. Film is available throughout the country, but only your basic Kodak Gold and only in the main cities. Additionally, you do not know anything about the conditions it's been stored in.