3 Interesting Facts About Cheetahs
Jun05

3 Interesting Facts About Cheetahs

The streamlined and sleek cheetah is one of the elusive cats to spot while on an African safari. According to their genus, they’re not actually part of the Panthera genus, and are technically NOT big cats. Interestingly enough, they are actually the last remaining species of the genus Acinonyx. An interesting fact given that we lump them together with other cats in the big cat family category. The Panthera genus is a category assigned to big cats that emit a guttural and throaty roaring/barking sound. A cheetah doesn’t roar, it emits a high-pitched chirp and thus isn’t a Panthera. However, they are still part of the Felidae family and still very much a cat! These delicate, elite cats are wonderful to watch when they’re at full speed. Found throughout southern Africa, cheetah have a wide distribution but do favour open savannahs with little obstacles. If you found the above information interesting, then we’re pretty sure you’ll find these further facts about our aerodynamic cats rather enlightening.  3 Interesting Facts About Cheetahs They are diurnal hunters because they have poor night vision. Cheetah have excellent vision and can see clarity on an object for up to 5 km. Coupled with their ability to assimilate detail on an object kilometres away, they also have a 210 degree peripheral vision. During the day a cheetah’s eyesight is equivalent to a powerfully expensive zoom lens! The black hairs absorb light from the sun and allow cheetahs to run straight towards the sun and still be able to see. Unfortunately this precision eyesight doesn’t fare well during the nocturnal hours. Cheetah hunt at dawn and dusk, when it’s still light outside and the air cool enough to hunt. Big cats generally prowl under the cover of darkness, which means cheetah have naturally eliminated the competition for prey by hunting outside of predator rush hour. Speed is their secret weapon, not strength. Cheetah are the fastest terrestrial animals and can easily reach speeds of up to 120 km per hour. Their twisty elongated tail acts like a rudder and helps them balance when reaching top speeds. The cheetah’s body is so finely tuned for speed, that it lacks other skills to protect itself in the wild. These cats don’t have much strength and cannot afford to fight off any form of predatory competition. This is why, when they take down prey, they will eat  quickly and with finesse. They cannot afford to come face-to-face with bone crushing scavengers. Their kill tactics are swift and little blood is shed. Cheetah are solitary animals, but males and females are seen together when its time to mate. Cheetah...

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Hyena Hatred : Why Do People Detest Hyenas?
May05

Hyena Hatred : Why Do People Detest Hyenas?

Hyenas are misunderstood and have a bad reputation in the wild. Spotted hyenas are the anti-thesis of gorgeous, regal and graceful African wildlife. Visitors certainly don’t flock to Africa to see hyenas. We do understand the possible reasons for hyena hatred, but personally we love these coarse-haired wonders of nature. This animal needs a rebrand and definitely needs more positive reinforcement in literature. Here’s why we love these strange looking half-dog, half-cat creatures :  They are supremely successful carnivores that are proficient hunters and scavengers Hyena clean up meaty debris and prevent the spread of disease The hyena cubs are adorable! Their repertoire of vocalisations is fascinating, and their nocturnal whoop is always wonderful to hear when you’re falling asleep in the wild. Below are a few of the most documented reasons as to why people hate hyenas : Literature Hemingway was a notable playwright and lover of all things Africa – except hyena. In 1935 in  ‘The Green Hills of Africa” he wrote, “The hyena, hermaphroditic self-eating devourer of the dead, trailer of calving cows, ham-stringer, potential biter-off of your face at night while you slept, sad yowler, camp-follower, stinking, foul, with jaws that crack the bones the lion leaves, belly dragging, loping away on the brown plain.” He didn’t exactly paint a flattering picture of hyena. Being a prominent figure in literature meant that his word was gospel and many authors penned their opinions about hyenas, without actually knowing the role of the hyena in the wild. There’s plenty of literature claiming that hyenas are the undead and reincarnation of the devil. And it’s not only literature that has created unnecessary fear around hyena. Movies have also cast hyena as the evil villain, with the Lion King being the box-office hit that reinforces the stereotype! The Female’s Fake Penis Female hyena have a pseudo-penis that makes it hard to distinguish between male and females when you see them in the wild. Hyenas are often referred to as evil hermaphrodites, a myth that needs immediate dispelling. The female appendage is a strange concept to get your head around, but there’s a perfectly natural biological reason for this. Female hyena are the dominant leaders within clans. They are larger in size and more aggressive than their male counterparts. Females have a sort of pseudo-penis, which has a multi-functional purpose. This appendage is actually the birth canal, and they also urinate through this canal. Females normally give birth to 2 – 4 cubs, but tragically the first born cub often suffocates on the way out. So, there you go. A perfectly valid reason as to why the female has a...

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Uncovering a Few Facts About the Impressive Impala
May05

Uncovering a Few Facts About the Impressive Impala

The impala is the most commonly spotted species of plains game in the Lowveld region, and their presence is widespread throughout the Greater Kruger. These agile, athletic and elegant antelope fulfil many roles in the wild. A few of these roles include : being a vital food source for predators (in particular wild dogs), providing a natural landscaping service and being one of the moving predator-alarm systems for other wildlife.  It’s always a treat to see impala browsing on the succulent greens of the bushveld. In fact, impala are so prolific that on day 2 or 3 of your safari you’re overlooking the herds in favour of finding other wildlife. You might even hear fellow guests muttering “not impala again”! The fact is, we need impala. And they really are wonderfully graceful creatures. Currently we are in the peak of the 3 week impala rutting season – a time of year where the testosterone filled males fight for ownership over females and land. It seems fitting that we find out a few facts about this species.  The Rams in Rutting Season Impala start establishing and fighting for territories prior to the 3 week rutting period. Individuals within bachelor herds want to find a prime section of territory that will lure in females. They will clash horns and fight other males for land ownership. The rut begins when the dominant ram has found and settled into his turf. He will then begin the process of luring in herds of females to graze on his fertile grounds. The male will emit a series of barks and vocalisations to advertise their kingdom, and will chase other males out from their section of land. The impala rut is a noisy time of year! During the rut the ram’s testosterone levels skyrocket and he will attempt to mate with ALL available females. The more forceful young males will come in and lock horns with the victor in an attempt to take over the land and females. The unsuccessful rams are ousted and forced to live in bachelor herds.  Impala Cows Give Birth at a Similar Time  Pregnant ewes will leave the herd to give birth after a gestation period of six to seven months. The calf is introduced to the herd after a couple of days – the ewe and calf cannot be without the protection of the herd for long periods of time. Females within the herd generally give birth within a week of one another, and tend to only birth one calf. Impala are synchronous breeders that all breed at a similar time of year within the rutting season, so it makes...

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Answering your questions about what can be found in Uganda… and what can’t!
Apr19

Answering your questions about what can be found in Uganda… and what can’t!

Uganda is the perfect in-between and therefore the most popular country for gorilla trekking. It isn’t the elite, exclusive, and expensive primate safari that is offered in Rwanda (but if that’s what you’re after, this comes highly recommended), and it isn’t the most affordable, wilder, and somewhat risky experience offered in the Congo. Uganda’s gorilla trekking safaris take place in the mystical forest of Bwindi and the strictly controlled experience means your encounter will be of the highest quality. You can find out all you need to know about this specialised and, yes, life-altering activity in our detailed blog post here. What we want to do in this article is answer some other frequently asked animal related questions about this country they call The Pearl of Africa. What is the national animal of Uganda? This prestigious title goes to the Uganda kob, a subspecies of the kob antelope. Kobus Kob thomasi has reddish-brown fur with prominent white markings around each eye and a patch on the throat. The males are adorned with lyre-shaped horns, ringed just about all the way up. They are quite similar to the puku and the red lechwe, which are two of southern Africa’s wetland loving antelope, also related to the waterbuck. The Uganda kob shares that classic heart-shaped nose like others in the Kobus genus. They like open grassland habitats close to permanent water and they hang around in herds of up to about 40. In Uganda, one of the best places to see these handsome animals that appear on the country’s coat of arms is in Murchison Falls National Park. Perfectly rolling hills of green and plenty of water in the form of the Nile River that bisects it. Definitely a special sight to see! Are there tigers in Uganda? Negative! Tigers might be part of the Felidae family, which includes African specials like lion, cheetah, and leopard, but they don’t roam the savannah like their cat cousins. Tigers migrated to Asia all those thousands of years ago, and they thrive in the jungles of India, but that is not to say they are abundant. Sadly, tigers are some of the most threatened big cats in the world and there are only an estimated 3000 that remain in the wild. India, China, Russia, Nepal, Indonesia and among the tiger’s native countries, and historically these cats could live in a broad variety of habitats, including the savannah, but over 90% of this cat’s habitat has been lost to human activity, and they are still at risk of poaching. You won’t find a tiger in Uganda, but you can travel to India’s Ranthambore and Kanha National...

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Kruger Birding Safari : The Elegant Eagles
Apr04

Kruger Birding Safari : The Elegant Eagles

There are over 500 species of feathered friends fluttering about the Greater Kruger, just waiting to be observed and photographed. Seasonal migrants, endangered species, waders, raptors and passerines all form part of the plethora of birdlife found in the iconic Kruger region. Birders flock (pun intended) to the Kruger to find those lifers and rare birds; ticking off species when they return to camp from game drive. Spotting big game is, undoubtedly, an exciting and enthralling experience, but there really is nothing better than birdwatching. If you’re going on a Kruger birding safari, you probably have a few birds on your personal list that you’d identify and a few calls you’re dying to hear live and not from your tinny sounding app. Birder, twitcher or budding ornithologist, there’s plenty to keep your bird brain (joke) occupied! One of our favourite family of bird is the eagle, of which there are many species. Here are 3 of our favourite eagles worth seeking out in the wild :  Martial Eagles The Martial eagle is Africa’s largest eagle and boasts a wingspan of a whopping 2.6 m from tip-to-tip. This majestic raptor is the shy silent type, but its power should not be underestimated. The Martial exudes strength and agility, and feeds mainly on medium sized prey such as reptiles, other birds and small mammals. This raptor spends most of its day sourcing prey – it sits silently in trees earmarking its next target, or takes to the skies to identify terrestrial prey. Once targeted, the eagle uses the element of surprise to attack. The Martial eagle swoops down at such speed, and ambushes its prey. It uses its massive wingspan to angle its body in the direction it needs to go. The bare leadwood trees appear to be a favourite place for these birds to roost, and they build nests some 60 feet off the ground. The next time you see a hefty nest straddling a leadwood, or on the steep cliff faces, look out for a Martial eagle. You’ll identify the bird of prey by its markings of a white underbelly and brownish upper parts. You may even hear its call, which sounds like an excited whistle. The Martial eagle is a large, looming and rather regal raptor – a definite awe-inspiring birding sighting in the Kruger. Tawny Eagle The tawny eagle is another large, solitary eagle commonly spotted in the Kruger. Interestingly enough, this eagle is more of a scavenger than predator and is often spotted feasting on succulent meaty scraps and carrion. The tawny eagle has a lot in common with our vultures, but wins hands down in...

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Africa’s Wildlife : 4 Facts About Hefty Hippos
Mar31

Africa’s Wildlife : 4 Facts About Hefty Hippos

By now you know all about the big five – we’ve certainly given these animals ample air time over the past few months. But there is SO much more to spot while on safari, and the list is endless when it comes to the variety of species to observe in their expansive habitats. From small critters to large beasts, they’re all equally fascinating. All wildlife co-exists perfectly in the wild. Whether they’re in the predator or easy prey category, everything has its role. And if even the smallest of creatures were to be eradicated, it would certainly affect the bushveld’s delicate biome. One of the colossal beasts that provides plenty of entertaining and amusing sightings in the wild is the hippo, found in abundance in reserves that have waterholes, lakes, pans and placid rivers. Let’s look at 4 facts about hefty hippos and find out about their role in the wild. Role of the hippo in the wild  Hippos are important to the health of lakes, waterholes and river systems. They digest bulk quantities of vegetation – in excess of 40kg – and release it into their watery domain. Their faeces actually contain plenty of nutrients and acts as a natural fertiliser. Hippos come out of the water at night to graze of tropical and riverine vegetation, acting as a natural lawnmower. Not only are they natural vegetation trimmers, but they also successfully fertilize surrounding lands. Interestingly enough, some aquatic animals feast on the dung and certain fish feast on the bugs in the dung. Hippos don’t swim, they walk in water The word hippopotamus actually means “water horse” or “river horse” in Greek. Hippos are similar to horses in that they sort of “gallop” across the bottom of their watery domain. Yes, that’s right. Hippos don’t actually swim! They tend to float and wade and do this by leveraging their own buoyancy. The semi-aquatic beasts have the ability to control their own breathing and their body position. If they sink to the bottom, they use the floor to propel themselves forward in more of a gallop fashion than a swim session. They’re vicious and aggressive Hippos are excessively territorial and go to great lengths to guard their domain. Despite their size, they can charge when under duress. Hippos actually kill more people in Africa than any other animal, second to the mosquito (Malaria). This is partly because the waterways and rivers are utilized by many locals and their traditional transportation methods. Humans and hippos live within close proximity, and hippos – unlike other animals – don’t retreat with ease. Word of warning – do not approach a hippo or...

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Small but Ruthless. 3 Ridiculously Psychopathic Insects to Spot on Safari. 
Mar28

Small but Ruthless. 3 Ridiculously Psychopathic Insects to Spot on Safari. 

In the wild, we focus on finding the apex predators and rejoice when we spot the almighty carnivores executing well-planned kills. Their gory feasts and kill tactics are nothing short of callous, and observing these top-of-the-food-chain predators shredding crimson flesh is always a rather primitive experience. But, these large carnivores have nothing on the heartless kill tactics employed by those bugs and critters at ground level, where the fight for existence is tough and brutal. The ground dwellers are generally harmless to humans, but there are insects that have far crueller ways of devouring prey than our big cats. These are the insects and arachnids that liquefy their prey’s flesh, turn internal organs into mushy juice and paralyse victims. Their murderous modus operandi.  If there’s a jostle for the most psychopathic insects to spot on safari, these 3 would surely win.  The Spider Hunting Wasp The spider-hunting wasp is not just any wasp. This guy behaves like a serial killer and puts Jeffrey Dahmer to shame when it comes to feeding and laying its eggs. To us humans, these low-flying long-legged wasps are non-aggressive and harmless; but the spiders they’re the feared enemy. Easily identifiable by their black bodies and occasional aposematic markings, these wasps are fascinating to observe – especially when they find their chosen spider.  Here’s why they’re fascinating, cruel and ingenious all at the same time. These wasps are solitary and hide out in burrows, which are also their nesting areas – and dungeons. Spider hunting wasps seek out their arachnid victims and then promptly inject a potent venom than physically paralyses them – but in a cruel twist, the spider is actually still alive. It’s tricky to fight off a spider-hunting wasp because of its ability to manoeuvre so quickly. These wasps are like mini-helicopters, hovering above their spider, just waiting for the perfect time to strike. The wasp subsequently drags its full compos mentis but immobilised prey to its burrow where it lays a single into the abdomen. The wasp ensures the burrow is closed, and its victim cannot escape. It gets worse. After 10 days or so, the larva inside the spider’s abdomen begins to hatch and begins feeding on the inside of the spider. At this stage, the spider is still alive! The youngin’ basically eats its way out of the spider, then spins a cocoon and emerges from the burrow as a fully-fledged adult, ready to make a kill of its own. Steven King would have a field day creating a script based on the antics of the ever-fascinating spider-hunting wasp. Do not fear this wasp, but do not bring a pet spider any circumstances. ...

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