East Africa is where the concept of Safari was born! And East Africa is still many travelers epitome of a safari. The old iconic picture postcards of Africa come mostly from East Africa.
There are many who swear by the attractions of East Africa over Southern Africa - but this has been dealt with in other articles. What we will attempt to decide here is where in east Africa is best.
An East African Safari generally means Kenya and/or Tanzania and, although Uganda has been vying for a position recently, we will compare the aforementioned countries. I do not usually engage in comparing destinations in depth but due to the [friendly] rivalry that seems to exist between Kenya and Tanzania I have decided to add my voice to the debate.
Most visitors come on safari to see big game. Lions and elephants are high on the list of priorities for safari-goers. Kenya has lions and so does Tanzania. Kenya has elephants and so does Tanzania. Quite which country boasts the most of each species is not known - or maybe the experts would know - but for this debate it is not important. Both countries have enough lions and elephants to go around.
Kenya has Masai giraffe, reticulated giraffe and Rothschild giraffe whereas Tanzania has only Masai giraffe. 'So what,' I hear someone ask. They are all the same height and all look like the classic African giraffe is supposed to look - just a little different in colouration. Tanzania has chimpanzees!
Both countries boast of the 'Greatest Show on Earth' in the annual wildebeest migration - but where is the best place to view the migration? Even the wildebeest are in two minds as there are many that pull out of the migration to stay in a favoured area. Some animals have been known to stay in a particular spot for more than a year.
The young of the migration's wildebeest are born in Tanzania but the best river crossings are seen in Kenya. So to death head to Kenya and to see life then head to Tanzania - but be warned: with new life comes drama.
Kenya has more flamingoes than Tanzania! Okay let's have a look at this statement closely. If we were talking rhinos here then maybe it would make some difference but we are speaking of millions of flamingoes - yes millions. Choosing one country over another because one has three million or so and the other one million shows up how our values have been tainted by materialism.
In Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania has the highest point in Africa, but the best view of the highest point - if not wanting to climb it - is from Kenya. Kenya has the second highest point in Africa in Mount Kenya. There are no views of this point from Tanzania. Mount Kenya is considered to be better for climbing than Kilimanjaro.
Game walk at Amboseli Serena with the backdrop of Mt. Kilimajaro
The northern parks of Kenya such as Samburu and Buffalo Springs are off the beaten track and provide a remote and wild experience. The southern parks of Tanzania, Selous and Ruaha, are also far off the beaten track and are wild and remote. Okay so Kenya is wild in the north and Tanzania is wild in the south.
The roads in both countries range from bad to shocking, adding to the safari experience - or so some people seem to think. There is, however, a move in both countries to rebuild their roads but for those who feel that a safari is not the same without potholes need not panic - there are still a whole lot of potholes and bad roads to go around in both countries.
A new focus in safari tourism is on the bush and beach concept where guests revel in the dust of the game parks for a week or two before finishing their safari with a relaxing beach holiday. Both Kenya and Tanzania offer this idyllic African vacation with Tanzania going one step further and combining the experience in one park. Saadani National Park is a big game area that extends onto the beach and apparently elephant have been observed 'crashing' in the surf - wearing their trunks fortunately. Not to be outdone however, some elephants were spotted wandering the beaches of southern Kenya last year.
So which country is the best to visit? Tanzania has the Serengeti, Kenya has the Masai Mara - Tanzania has Kilimanjaro, Kenya has the best view of Kilimanjaro - Kenya has different coloured giraffe, Tanzania has lots of different apes - Kenya has beautiful beaches, Tanzania has beautiful beaches.
The result of this debate is that unless you have a particular interest in giraffe patterns, have a monkey species checklist or you are obsessed with seeing as many flamingos as possible then I cannot help your decision. Maybe you can put both names on a dartboard and whichever name the dart hits first is the right one. All I can advise you is to travel to East Africa and see for yourself.