I'm going to be accompanying my 17-year-old niece and her friend to Uganda for three weeks in August. We will be spending about 10 days in in Kampala, but then are free to roam. Should we visit Tanzania or Ethiopia for the remaining time? I've always wanted to see Ethiopia, but I'm open to suggestions. First, take note of the recent terrorist attack in Kampala and exercise caution, especially in places where crowds assemble as these may be potential targets. Still despite the recent bombing, Uganda is known to be generally safe for tourists, and that goes for Tanzania and Ethiopia as well.
Both countries can be great places to explore East Africa's history, wildlife and landscapes, but the deciding factor may be that Tanzania features a more reliable, although more expensive, tourist infrastructure. A good place to start is the website of the Tanzanian Tourist Board (www.tanzaniatouristboard.com). It lets you explore the country via a map, and offers a sizeable directory that lists everything from photography safaris to accommodation to airplane charter companies.
Situated just off the coast of Tanzania's largest city, Dar es Salaam, is the island of Zanzibar. Stone Town, Zanzibar's capital, is a historic town; must-see places include the Old Dispensary, now the Stone Town Cultural Centre; Livingstone's House, built in 1860 and home to Dr Livingstone before he embarked on his last journey into the interior; and the Arab Fort, built between 1698 and 1701 by the Busaidis of Oman. In Tanzania's north-east rises Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest peak, which is readily accessible to hikers with local guides (for pre-arranged treks up Kilimanjaro, visit www.climbmountkilimanjaro.com). In the north-west lies the Serengeti (for information on hotel or lodge accommodation, as well as safari routes, visit www.serengeti.org), home to wildebeests and the semi-nomadic Maasai tribe. There's plenty to see and do in Tanzania, and most requests, from walking tours to helicopter safaris, can be arranged by local tour operators (The Safari Company, www.thesafaricompany.co.za; Africa Dream Safaris, www.africadreamsafaris.com).
On the other hand, Ethiopia has been a trade locus for millennia and boasts archaeological remains, including Axum, the world's largest obelisk, which dates back to almost 2,000 years. In the country's north lie mammoth churches cut from single blocks of stone in Lalibela and castles from the Middle Ages in Gondar. As far as wildlife is concerned, two excellent choices are the Simien National Park, a Unesco world heritage site that is home to rare species such as the Ethiopian wolf and the walia ibex, and Nechisar National Park in the south, known for its zebras, hippos and crocodiles. Abyssinian Tours and Travel (www.abyssiniantours.com; 00 251 1551 9293) arranges half-day and all-day tours in Addis Ababa, as well as to historic sites and several national parks. If you'd rather strike out on your own, view sample itineraries of suggested tours at www.tourismethiopia.org.
Ethiopia is still recovering from the Derg, a communist regime that ruled in the 1970s and 1980s, and tourism services can be limited. If you go, remember to carry US currency because ATMs are all but non-existent and you will have trouble converting any other currency. Do you have travel questions or queries? Email them to us at email@example.com