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Beyond the Safari, things to do in East Africa

East Africa has been a world-famous tourism and leisure hub for a long time. It is strategically placed on the world map as the Equator cuts across it and it is also known as the Great Lakes Region due to the numerous lakes found there. It is home to Lake Victoria, the largest freshwater body in Africa and the second largest in the world, plus the source of the great River Nile. The East African bloc initially consisted of three countries i.e. Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania but has since been expanded to include Rwanda and Burundi.

There are many activities that a visitor to East Africa can engage in. For lovers of history and culture, this is the place to be, since there are historical monuments and sites to behold. In Kenya, one can start at the National Museum in its capital city Nairobi. Here one will acquire all they need to know concerning the origin of man, archaeological evidence of earlier human species and an indepth look into the tribes and cultures that make up the nation Kenya. From there one can proceed to the coastal city of Mombasa. It is the oldest town in Kenya and therefore has more captivating historical sites such as the Old Town, Fort Jesus, the Old Harbour, Shimoni Slave Caves, Gede Ruins, Mansion of the Slaves (Jumba la Mtwana in Swahili) and Vasco da Gama Monument.

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For lovers of culture, there is the annual Lamu Cultural Festival which is a delight to attend. In Uganda, there is the Namugongo historical site where the Ugandan Martyrs were burnt alive plus the Kasubi Tombs and the Uganda Museum. The old Kabaka kingdom traditional huts also exist. In Rwanda, there is the Kigali Memorial Centre plus other memorial sites which centre on the 1994 Genocide and these are major points of interest.

Rwanda has a deep and recently turbulent history, and although now largely hidden from every day life, the effects of the genocide of the 90’s can still be felt. There are a number of historical sites that raise social awareness of the rich cultural diversity of the East African peoples and their roots plus their spirited fight for independence from colonial rule.

For lovers of eco-tourism and related activities, East Africa has so much to offer. There are numerous national parks and reserves spread throughout the region, where rare and beautiful wildlife resides. The big cats as well as endangered species such as elephants and rhinos are protected in those national parks and reserves. And when they say big cats, they mean the ones that you’re not allowed to keep as pets. So, they probably won’t be able to tell you about “what does it mean when a cat’s nose is wet” – your pet cat that is. You’ll get to learn interesting facts about these types of cats and endangered species though. There are rich forests such as the Mau and Aberdare Forest which are major water catchment areas and mangrove forests at the Coastal strip. For those who love geographical scenery, they will be amazed by the Great Rift Valley which cuts through Kenya and Tanzania. They will also have a field day hiking the mountains of East Africa such as Mt. Kenya, Mt. Longonot and Mt. Kilimanjaro and admiring the various lakes that this region has to offer. They can also enjoy a boat or ferry ride on lakes such as Lake Victoria, Naivasha and Tanganyika, or even on the great River Nile in Uganda.

Other visitors may only be interested in the urban life of East Africa. Such people will be very much intrigued by the beautiful skyscrapers of the cities, top-rated hotels as well as the urban culture and night life. Visitors to Uganda’s capital Kampala will be appalled by the high number of scooters being used as the main mode of transport, as well as the roadside hawkers selling mouth-watering roasted chicken on skewers.

The East African cities and major towns boast of a vibrant night life with nightclubs and pubs almost at every other corner of town. If one would like to do some shopping then they would be spoilt for choice since there are local and international supermarket chains all over so there is no need to panic buy in advance, especially if heading to Nairobi or Dar Es Salam.

The East African Coast is not only a major trade hub for the region and beyond, it also has touristic value. The beaches have clean white sand and coral reefs which ensure that sharks are put at bay. Hence the beaches are safe to swim in and guests can admire the beauty of coral reefs and the sea creatures living therein. For the water-sport lovers, one can go swimming, deep-sea diving or snorkeling at Indian Ocean hotspots such as Wasini Island near Mombasa and Zanzibar Island off the coast of Tanzania.

What has been discussed in this article is only a small portion of the exciting places to visit and activities to be done in this beautiful region of the world! East Africa is an enchanting holiday destination with so much to offer.

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