5 Iconic Wildlife Scenes on Safari
Aug07

5 Iconic Wildlife Scenes on Safari

Nothing screams Africa like a terracotta sunset serving as the backdrop to a lone umbrella tree hovering over a silhouette of an elephant. And there’s nothing more “African” than the call of the African fish-eagle and the guttural roar of a lion. There are so many scenes and sounds used to depict the bushveld life in Africa, many of which have become synonymous with the continent.  So, we’re not going to delve into the depths of the big five here, but we’re going to list the 5 iconic wildlife scenes on safari. These are the scenes that you’ll stumble across in printed literature, and the ones that make their way onto banners on websites promoting safaris in Africa. The giraffe walking across a golden horizon This is quite a common scene while on safari, and certainly one that’s not hard to capture. Giraffe constantly journey through the bushveld in search of edible greens,  with the acacia tree being their favourite source of nutrition. Giraffe will never remain in one spot for very long while browsing on shoots and leaves. And there’s good reason for this… When a giraffe towers over the landscape and greedily feeds on the acacias, the trees release an excess of unpalatable tannins because they feel they are under threat. This forces the giraffe herds to move off in favour of alternate food sources. Acacia trees “warn” neighbouring trees of the imminent threat, so giraffe are often seen cruising across the skyline to a batch of trees far removed from their original eating place! When they’re on the move they walk silently, slowly and carefully. Because of their innate curiosity, giraffe will stop and stare at their onlookers, which provides perfect moments for photography.  Their height means that your image is largely uninterrupted by crowds of trees. The sky in Africa is always on fire with reds, oranges and yellows; which inevitably means that you’re going to come away smiling with that giraffe sunset image. Elephants in front of your lodge This kind of sighting happens at most lodges that have an open camp with a swimming pool and/or a waterhole in front of camp. Yes, it’s common practice for elephants to descend upon lodge grounds; but it’s still considered a “lucky” sighting. It’s not quite as common as the giraffe on the horizon sighting, but it happens often enough. Especially during the dry winter season. And there’s a perfectly good explanation for this… Elephants are purveyors of good quality water and they’re creatures of habit. These giant pachyderms will cover plenty of ground in search of the perfect source of water, and during the winter...

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Look Out for the Ugly 5 While on Safari
Jul17

Look Out for the Ugly 5 While on Safari

The big 5 are the most documented and famous of all the wildlife to spot on safari. They’re pretty, powerful, emotive and have a regal atmosphere about them. But behind the scenes there are ample other species of wildlife vying for a position of favourite sighting, and some of them aren’t the best looking! We refer to these “uglier” animals as the ugly 5.  These species have a vital role to play in the wild and their less than pretty looks ensure they have a build and structure adapted to the wild. Below are the species toe look out for the ugly 5 while on safari.  Hyena Hated by Hemingway, feared by many, but loved by us. We’re referring to the uneven, dishevelled hyena that lopes and skulks its way through the bushveld. Their half-run half-walk makes them appear constantly ashamed and embarrassed, but looks can be deceiving. They’re far from embarrassed. They’re a confident species that will quite eagerly approach a pride of lions during meal time, just to get a free pass to a meal. Truth be told, the hyena is not only a fantastic scavenger but also a rather proficient hunter. Overall, they are successful carnivores and certainly deserve their place in the wild. The spotted hyena is actually one of the most useful species within a wilderness region, and – together with vultures and marabou storks – form part of the “clean-up crew” of the wild. These are the creatures that remove debris from predator kill sites. Their massive, bone-crushing skulls can grind down bone very quickly and their strong constitution means that any diseased meat is digested easily. Not only are hyena physically capable of holding their own in the wild, but their social structure is nothing short of fascinating. Clans are dominated by an alpha female and individuals live in a very female dominated society. Clans utilise up to 14 vocalisations to express emotions, with the two most common sounds being the whooping and the laughing. So yes, NOT the most attractive of species but certainly useful and fascinating. Marabou Stork The marabou stork has a piercing long bill, balding head and a large black trench coat of feathers covering its body. This species is often mistaken for being a vulture, but it’s actually a stork. However, they have a lot in common with vultures in that they are also meat-loving scavengers. In fact, both marabous and vultures are often seen hovering around a kill site; earning it the nickname the “grim reaper” or even “undertaker”. Their’s is a diet of scraps and carrion and much like their fellow clean-up members, the marabou...

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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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