East Africa is a region of abundant natural wealth and stunning scenic beauty, making it one of the world’s premier destinations for wildlife and nature safaris. The modern concept of the safari has its origins in East Africa, where the unparalleled combination of wildlife and wide-open landscapes has made it a traveller’s Mecca. Whether it’s a close encounter with mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s PARC National DES Volcano, teetering on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater, or viewing big game on the vast Serengeti plains, a safari to East Africa is a trip of a lifetime. Wildlife and nature are the region’s pride and joy and are major drawing cards for both first-time and return visitors. Not only is the sheer volume of wildlife in East Africa a refreshing change to the daily grind for most tourists, but it is the incredible beauty of these animals in their natural environment that keeps travellers captivated and coming back for more. With an increasing number of wildlife enthusiasts turning toward more experiential travel experiences, East Africa’s safari industry looks set to continue to thrive and surpass other nature destinations.

The natural areas of East Africa have faced serious threats to their biodiversity in the last 50-odd years. But increasingly there are large tracts of land that are set aside primarily for the viewing of wildlife in its natural habitat. Tourism may well hold the trump card for the ecological and financial future of the region. It is no secret that in many remote areas of Africa, wildlife is all that stands between habitat and the burgeoning human populations around the continent. High value is placed on exclusive-use wildlife concessions and protected areas in terms of the earning potential and foreign revenue from tourist dollars. This is both an explicit and passive strategy to preserve remaining wilderness and wildlife areas in the face of competing forms of land use and human encroachment. The quality of wildlife-based tourism and the price tag it carries may mean that nature areas are more valuable for their tourism potential than for other exploitative uses of the land, and by no small measure, it is the beauty and timelessness of its nature and wildlife that contributes an image and identity to East Africa in the minds of travellers and wildlife enthusiasts. Wild places allow a sense of separation from the routine of daily life, and take people into a world where time stands still and where there is an interminable sense of discovery and adventure. In so doing, nature areas may sell an image or brand of East Africa that in many ways is irreplaceable.

Insight to East Africa’s Wildlife and Nature
But first off, why should you visit East Africa for a wildlife and nature safari? The answer is simple. East Africa offers a diverse range of wildlife and natural attractions, ranging from mountain and gorilla trekking to bird watching, and viewing big game wildlife amidst some of the most stunning landscape scenes. Over the next few weeks, I will be covering all of these topics in much more detail. This region is also the only place in Africa where the wildebeest and zebra migration still takes place, an awesome spectacle where more than 2 million wildebeest and zebra move in cycles through the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem in search of greener pastures. In summary, East Africa is one of the very few places left in the world where you can still enjoy the true essence of nature in an unspoiled and natural environment.
East Africa is known for its rich wildlife and biodiversity, and wildlife and nature safaris are a popular holiday option in this region. The East African countries have much to offer in their wildlife parks, and their efforts to conserve nature and wildlife are laudable. These efforts are well rewarded. Many wildlife and nature conservation areas have been created to protect the natural heritage, the most famous being the World Heritage site, the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Each country has many wildlife parks and conservation areas, and it is in these that wildlife and nature safaris are conducted. The principal aim is to view nature and wildlife and to enjoy the natural attractions that the various conservation areas have to offer. Wildlife and nature tourism also play an indirect role in the sustainability of nature and wildlife through creating awareness and generating the revenue that is necessary to fund conservation activities.

Importance of Wildlife and Nature Safaris
Despite this recent history, wildlife and the environment have often lost out to other land uses. For instance, land has often been reserved for wildlife and then later degazetted for agriculture, as was the case for Kajiado and Laikipia ranches in Kenya. In other cases, national parks have been created in areas which are inhabited and there has been no relocation of people from those areas, for instance, the land around Lake Manyara in Tanzania. Changes in land use for agriculture often come about due to the need to feed a growing rural population. For instance, the land at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro has been turned into smallholder farms, with the same going on in Amboseli. Another reason that agriculture takes precedence over wildlife and the environment is that wildlife has long been seen as a low-status land use, known in Tanzania as “nyama choma and pombe” meaning meat, alcohol, and gambling.

Wildlife fuelled the surge of tourism in East Africa in the 60s and 70s. For instance, in Kenya, the number of tourists rose from 29,000 in 1963 to 100,000 in 1968. This was the same time that the “big five” were hunted to near extinction. To prevent the loss of tourism income from these animals, a series of national parks were created and hunting was either banned or severely restricted. This shows that there is a much clearer link between the presence of wildlife and tourists in that if the wildlife is not there, then there will be no tourists.
For most people in East Africa, wildlife and nature are their greatest (if not only) economic resource. This is because most people visit East Africa to view its wildlife. However, there are still many threats to East Africa’s wildlife and environment, and there is also not always a clear link between ecotourism and the protection of wildlife and the environment. Some of the issues and the links between ecotourism and the environment will be discussed here.