Journey Around East Africa
4. Kenya: The Land of Contrast
In the East Africa Community Block, Kenya is the land of contrast. No other nation in Africa offers such a contrast of ecology for the same area. Kenya rises from the coast to an altitude of 5,199 ms at the summit of Mount Kenya before dropping down to Lake Victoria and Uganda. The diversity runs from tropical beaches, savanna arid rangeland, highland plateaus, dense forests, moorlands, farmland, scrub and perched deserts which can all be experienced in a short journey of just 830 kms; Mombasa to Kisumu. Of the area of 582,646 km2 that Kenya covers, 47,674 km2 has been set aside for conservation in 29 National Parks, 27 National Reserves and 4 Wildlife Sanctuaries. It also has more than 60 Wildlife Conservancies, covering at least 15% of Kenya’s area. 2008 km2 are covered by natural and plantation forests, so the forest cover is 3.4% of her total area. Out of this, 1700 km2 represent indigenous forests, 122 km2 plantation forests, 121 km2 privately owned forests and almost 613 km2 mangrove forests.
Kenya’s boundaries of 3,500 kilometers includes 536 kilometers of delightful coral-fringed coastline with the country offering four Marine Parks and five Marine Reserves. Its coastal assets include 83,000 hectares of coastal forests, floodplain wetlands and vast mangrove forest ecosystems, especially in Lamu where 12 species of sea-grass and 50,000 ha of coral reef is protected under 2 Marine Parks and 2 Marine Reserves. Kenya has a mosaic of more than forty ethnic groups, each with its own culture and language, which today exist side by side, as the result of waves of in-migration going back 4000 years: of Turkanas from Ethiopia; Kikuyu, Akamba, and Meru from West Africa; and the Maasai, Luo and Samburu from southern Sudan. By the eighth century, Arabic, Indian, Persians and even Chinese traders reached the Kenyan coast. They helped set up a string of coastal cities (for example, Mombasa and Lamu) and eventually the part-African, part-Arabic civilization, more popularly known as the Swahili.
5. Burundi: Junction of Central and East Africa
The landlocked 27,834 km2 Burundi is situated at the junction of Central and East Africa. It experienced strong growth tourism in the period between 2005 and 2012 with the development of hotel facilities which almost quadrupled the accommodation capacity of the country. It leveraged on its natural beauty ranges from an incredible array of cultural heritage, stunning scenery and some of the friendliest people in the world. Burundi’s biggest highlight is the presence of Lake Tanganyika on the doorstep of Bujumbura, its largest town. This lake is home to over 700 species of fish that are found nowhere else, making it one of the world’s natural wonders. Some of its developed parks include Rusizi River National Park and Kibira National Park. With a population of 10 million and a density of 379 inhabitants per km2, Burundi is one of the densely populated countries in Africa, yet, this is well-rewarded with a great cultural passage like at Gishora Drum Sanctuary. Burundian tourism has been affected by political tensions since April 2015, although the precise scale of this impact is unknown.
6. South Sudan: The Unexplored Frontier
After dithering its tourism for decades, with more than one spate of warfare and cessation of hostilities, South Sudan hopes its current wave of calm and unsung touring resources will engender a sobriquet of its unique natural wonders, often sold short. South Sudan, and the extensive Sudan, is other-worldly and remains unknown to much of the world. However, with a damaging political climate and oft headline tags like the ‘long-serving ruler Omar al-Bashir’, ‘military and pro-democracy movement’ and ‘mass protests and killings’, its ruinous history has settled nothing in the wanderlust of many a travellers, the changes counting as hopeful occurrences. Top on the mind, the latest unrest in Sudan can be traced back to December of 2018, when then President Bashir’s government imposed emergency austerity measures to try to stave off economic collapse. Not far in everyone’s impression of South Sudan was the messy separation in 2011 from Sudan, wrapping up their decades of strife and discord, which rendered much stagnation in development of infrastructure in both halves of Sudan – Africa’s largest nation. Thus was born Africa’s newest state, with a land surface area of 644,329 km2, bearing mainly patches of broad forests, swamps, and grasslands.
South Sudan lies at the heart of tropics, not too far north of the equator, yet, the climate over much of the area experience two different climates; equatorial and tropical climates. This is because of the country’s savannah, the Congo Forest, the East African montane forests and the Acacia bush land in the north. As a traveller to South Sudan, you’d be wise to prepare your eyeballs for a spectacle of varied landscapes, especially its plains and mountain ranges. Today, South Sudan, whose stunning Sudd Swamp is considered among the world’s largest freshwater wetlands, expanding over 130,000 km2 within the Nile basin, is still largely untouched by the tourist. The Sudd is, of course, the outlet of the White Nile, the main tributary of the Nile River, as it takes one final bow before the treacherous journey north to Egypt across the deserts. The White Nile passes through the country before it forms the Sudd Swamp (locally as Bahr al Jabal) in the mid-northern region. Among the other variety of attraction include the Imatong Mountains in the southern area, not far west of Kidepo Valley National Park shared with Uganda. It contains South Sudan’s highest point: Mt. Kinyeti at 10,456 ft. (3,187 m). The underdeveloped Badingilo National Park and Boma National Park lie 150 kms north and northeast of Imatong Mountains, passing through Juba, its capital city, are unique in great landscapes and exotic wildlife.