What to Expect on a Game Drive During Your African Safari Tour

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When people think of an “African safari tour,” they are typically thinking of game drives. Parks like Kruger and the Maasai Mara are enormous, so riding in a vehicle is one of the best ways to cover a lot of ground without getting exhausted. You can also make sure to see some of the best viewing experiences all in short time.

You are definitely encouraged to try other sorts of activities during your stay, such as a “bush walk” walking safari or a canoeing safari upon a river, but game drives will likely comprise a large portion of your wildlife viewings and give you a chance to become more familiar with a park.

So what can first-timers expect on a game drive? Even though every experience is unique and every lodge will do drives differently, there are plenty of common threads. You can learn about a typical game drive by reading on.

Open Air Vehicles

Most game drive vehicles have an open top for maximum viewing. There are three rows of seats that can accommodate 2-3 people each. These are raised like theatre seats so that each row is taller than the one in front, with the rear row as the tallest. One person may have the option to sit next to the ranger in the front, which will be the lowest seat but one with unobstructed front views.

Usually Two Guides: A Ranger and a Spotter

You will be most likely accompanied by two people on your drive. A ranger drives the vehicle and is responsible for serving as your direct guide, telling you stories and information while answering questions. The second person is a “spotter,” who stays focused on helping you locate wildlife while keeping an eye out for possible threats.

Interacting with your ranger is highly encouraged, but try not to distract the spotter.

Game Lodges Working as a Team

Game drive operators understand that the best way for everyone to enjoy their trip and see as many animals as possible is to work together. They will usually communicate over radio when a significant find is spotted, like a family of elephants, an elusive leopard with a kill or lions sunbathing near the road.

No one wants ten cars crowded around a single lion, though, so guides refer to an implied set of etiquette rules, giving the reporting vehicle the best position while other vehicles try to hang slightly back until the first vehicle departs. You may even find yourself in a sort of “queue” as each vehicle pauses to give everyone a satisfactory photo op.

Stay patient and be respectful of other groups since this system provides the best benefits for everyone!

A Rigid Schedule

Wildlife have certain patterns throughout the day, and one of the times they are most active is in the very early morning. That means for morning drives you will be waking up anywhere from 4:30 to 6:00 a.m.

Even if you are not a morning person, it is still important to drag yourself into the 4×4 to ensure that everyone gets to leave on time and can get the most out of their drive. You can choose to sleep in at your camp instead, but you will likely feel envious if everyone comes back with stories to tell!

Evening drives are also common, usually departing around 4:00 p.m. or so. These drives usually see less action at first because the animals are still shrugging off the heat of the afternoon sun, but nocturnal animals begin to stir and get active as the sun goes down. Some lodges offer special night drives, which can come at an added cost but often see active predators and sometimes even a kill.

Plenty of Time for Snacks and Natural Business

Just because you are getting up early does not mean you will have an empty stomach! Game lodges usually provide a light “morning tea” before your drive and a heavy breakfast when you return. You can then enjoy lunch and sleep off the afternoon heat. Evening drives also have “high tea” or “sundowner meals,” which are enjoyed right in the bush.

Drivers also understand that nature calls to us all, so they will take breaks for everyone to relieve themselves in the “bush loo.” Bring your own toilet paper and a sealable, disposable bag so that you can take everything back with you. You may not want it, but the bush definitely doesn’t, either!

Book Your Perfect Lodge for Thrilling Game Drives on Your African Safari Tour

Each lodge and park offers its own set of activities and style of game drives. You can take a look at what options you may have by exploring our available safari vacation packages and then booking your exciting trip today!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

Money Saving Tips for a Cheap African Safari Tour

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Many people do not realize just how affordable an African safari vacation can be when you use the right money-saving techniques. With some smarts, know-how and plenty of research, you can significantly reduce the cost of your trip to make it a cheap African safari tour, especially on a per-day basis.

If you are interested in spending less during your trip or finding a way to plan an affordable African safari, you can use the following money-saving tips to reduce the overall cost of your vacation.

Come During the Low Season

In places like South Africa’s Kruger Park, slow times of the year mean not only better accessibility throughout the park but also cheaper prices. Local vendors and businesses change their prices to match the season. Periods of higher demand allow them to charge higher prices, but lulls in the calendar are often accompanied by discounts to lure in more customers.

Take advantage of these times! Winter is a low season in southern and eastern African parks and reserves, for instance. Everything from lodging and airfare to tours, services, goods, food and drink can all receive hefty discounts when you visit from April to October. You can also negotiate cheaper group rates for game drives, lodge stays and other services when these business owners are more motivated to earn a sale.

Keep an Eye Out for Flight Specials, But Watch Out for Remote Airports

Flight prices change nearly every hour, so the time you buy your flight to Africa can make a huge difference in terms of the final price. Set up price alerts on services like Kayak, and look up travel blogs to see if any specials or promotions are coming up soon.

With all that said, pay attention to the hidden costs of your flight, as well. Flying into a more remote town can appear to save you money, but then you must hire a taxi or bus to reach your intended destination, tacking on extra costs. Always try to calculate the final costs of your travel when buying tickets.

Another tip: Johannesburg and Cape Town often have cheap flights to other destinations throughout Africa, so consider buying separate tickets and comparing the price to other connecting flight options.

Shop Around With Lodging and Safari Tours

Many tourists come into African countries not realizing how much cheaper goods and services typically are. They then make the mistake of booking a hotel or game lodge stay at a far higher price than would be normally reasonable.

For that reason, try to find accommodation with a good reputation for quality and safety but also rates closer to what locals would expect to pay. Unless you demand the absolute best luxury, the difference in price will not affect the enjoyment you get out of your trip.

Buy From Locals, and Realize You Can Haggle

Haggling, bartering and negotiation are all common activities at local markets in many African countries. Your best bet on a great price on artisan goods is therefore to buy directly from the artists at markets and to negotiate.

Do not be too shrewd since people are trying to earn a living through their goods, but also recognize that many quoted prices may be trying to take advantage if you are clearly a foreigner.

Use a Safari Company for Cheap Safari Tour Packages

Experienced safari companies know the best places for tours, lodging and dining that provide amazing quality service at an affordable rate. When you book a vacation package through a company like Roho Ya Chui, you can get the best deals on everything, and you are also better-equipped to estimate the whole cost of your trip.

Take a look at the pre-planned safari vacation packages we offer to get an idea of just how affordable your trip can be, or contact us for a custom safari tour package based on your budget and preferred plans.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

Game Drive Tips for Your African Safari Trip

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Those looking for ways to make the most of their African safari trip should consider going on a few game drives, one of the best activities for maximizing your time.

If you want to get the best photos during your game drives and increase your chances of seeing Africa’s most famous animals, you can follow these tips that can ensure you have a good time while respecting wildlife and respecting others.

Follow the Most Important Rules: Stay Inside the Vehicle, Keep Quiet and Don’t Feed the Animals

Game drives disrupt the typical experience of wildlife in the bush, but guides and safari tour companies do their best to compromise with nature. By sticking mostly to set paths, taking steps to not stress the animals and keeping interactions to snapping photos, the natural experience can be preserved as much as possible. Most animals even get used to the site and sound of 4x4s.

Uphold your end of the bargain by staying quiet during drives. Do not call out to animals to get their attention, and try to talk softly the entire drive. Definitely do not feed animals, since this can get them sick and encourage them to associate humans with food — not a good connection!

Also, most importantly, keep within the confines of the vehicle at all times. Leaning out or, heaven forbid, exiting the vehicle can stress animals and place you in a very dangerous situation.

Dress in Layers, Wear Sunscreen and Bring Repellant

Game drives can be chilly in the morning and hot in the afternoon sun. Dress in layers so that you can prepare for these temperature changes. Also, wear a brimmed hat and cover yourself in sunscreen to prevent getting burned.

Biting insects are common in many parks, especially during open air drives, so bring along plenty of repellant to reapply during your drive.

Take Along a Guidebook

During your drive, you will probably see a ton of animals you do not recognize but that look interesting. Take along an informative guidebook with photo identification of bush animals so you can know as much as possible about the world around you.

For younger safari-goers, you can print off a checklist of animals so that they can stay engaged and focus on seeing the most interesting species.

Bring Binoculars

Binoculars help you spot far away animals and set up your photos more quickly. Being forced to share binoculars can mean watching a speck by a drinking pool while everyone else sees a lion, so bring a pair for each person to ensure no one misses out.

Wait for the Vehicle to Stop Before Taking Close-Up Photos

The powerful engines in 4x4s tend to vibrate, which leads to blurry pictures if you have your lens zoomed in. Feel free to snap wide angle shots as you drive, but for the best photos wait until the engine is cut off.

Look for More Than Just the Big Five

Everyone wants to see lions, elephants and other famous “big five” animals on their trip, but you should recognize that there are plenty of beautiful species on the African continent, both big and small. Use a guidebook to help you spot birds, tell the difference between antelope-like species and appreciate sights others might miss.

Talk With Your Ranger

Your ranger has gone on hundreds of drives and has likely spent much of their life living in the bush. Feel free to ask them questions or to get them to describe their experiences, especially if you want to know more about a specific animal.

Let Nature and Your Spotter Be Your Eyes

With the tallest necks in the bush, giraffes tend to be amazing lookouts, helping you identify big cats crouched in the grass where you cannot see. Other animals like antelope tend to focus sharply when they see possible dangers. Your spotter guide will also help keep everyone focused either by staring at their target, quietly pointing or informing your ranger.

Tip Your Guides!

Game drive guides earn some wages, but they get much of their income from tips. They also tend to get motivated to do more for groups that tip generously, so if you are particularly keen on seeing something elusive like a leopard, then be a little more giving.

Tip amounts are at your discretion, but R30 to R50 or $8 a person is considered fair. No matter how much you give, be sure to thank your guide since they are providing you a service few others are capable of rendering!

Go on Several Drives to Get a Diverse Experience During Your African Safari Trip

Morning drives are usually the most productive times of day, but afternoon and nighttime drives offer differing experiences. Regardless of when you go, recognize that each drive is a dice roll in that you never know what you will see — or if you will see anything. If you have a disappointing drive one day, do not think that means you will not see more than the average group on your next drive.

You can ensure that you go on as many different drives as possible while enjoying other amazing activities like bush walks and boat rides when you book an African safari tour package and start planning your trip today!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

 

Best Places to Visit on a Uganda Safari Tour

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Uganda is an often-overlooked East African country, but one that offers a high concentration of incredible encounters and unique beauty. In fact, nearly the entirety of the relatively small, landlocked country is packed with breathtaking exotic locales and stunning sights.

Chief among these is the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest — described in a recent blog post below — where you can find the majority of the world’s nearly extinct mountain gorillas. Yet, Bwindi is just one example of astounding natural treasures that quite literally surround the entire country.

To help you plan your safari vacation in Uganda and embark on the perfect Uganda safari tour, make sure to take a look at these five amazing sites during your trip:

 

1. Murchison Falls National Park

Located near the source of one of the two tributaries of the powerful Nile, Murchison Falls is a 289 sq mi park near the shores of Lake Albert. This park is Uganda’s biggest, and it boasts the world’s strongest waterfall flow, the titular Murchison Falls.

These falls force the entirety of the White Nile’s powerful flow into a spanse just 23 feet wide, and they then plunge 141 feet below. Shoe-billed storks and other exotic waterbirds call this area home, including the rare dwarf kingfisher and the enormous Goliath heron. One can also find lions, Rothschild’s giraffe, bush elephants and Cape buffalo here.

 

2. Queen Elizabeth National Park

Named after the reigning queen of England, Queen Elizabeth park is a gorgeous 764 sq mi park located near the Congo border. Most famous of the attractions in this park are its tree-loving lions, whose males are known to sport striking black manes. Hippopotamuses, leopards, chimpanzees, crocodiles, cape buffalo and bush elephants are also common. The park is also notable for its volcanic formations, including many cones and crater lakes.

 

3. Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park is located far to the north of Uganda, in the very tip of the country located between Sudan and Kenya. This park features 557 sq mi of rugged savannah, making it the perfect spot for peaceful game drives.

In fact, many people consider this park similar to a much more remote and less crowded Kruger. The park usually only sees a dozen visitors a day, on average, making wildlife viewing much more personal and private. Zebra are extremely common here, and giraffe, cheetahs, wild dogs, elephants, leopards, and Cape buffalo can also be spotted readily.

 

4. Uganda National Mosque

Modern yet timeless, the Uganda National Mosque was completed in 2006, and it is a truly stunning testament to Islamic art both old and new. Its minaret is 166 feet tall, creating a striking yet beautiful presence in the skyline. You can even climb the tower on certain tours to see sweeping views of the surrounding city of Kampala.

 

5. Bwindi Impenetrable

Bwindi is one of the few places on the planet that feel untouched. Visiting here feels like you are being transported to another time and place. Having close, peaceful encounters with mountain gorillas also feels like being bestowed with a great honor.

You can take part in these experiences and many others when you choose a Uganda safari tour package today.

Jill Liphart for rohoyachui.com

6 Extraordinary African Historical Sites You Have to Visit on Safari – Part 2

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Africa is often called “the Mother continent” because it is considered by many to be the birthplace of the human species. For instance, it contains some of the earliest evidence of tool use and the domestication of fire. Our last post covered the three most important archaeological sites in Africa for people interested in learning more about human evolution and our early development as an intelligent species.

The human story in Africa continues long past this time, though. Historical sites can be found all throughout the continent showing how advanced civilizations grew within its borders and ultimately lead to dramatic conflicts for territory and resources.

This post covers the most significant of these sites worth visiting on an African safari tour. Each one perfectly represents the unique time and place within the human story at the moment they were built.

If you are a lover of history as well as nature, then you will definitely want to take a look at the following historical sites during your African safari tour:

 

Fort Jesus — Kenya

Built in 1593 by Portuguese traders, Fort Jesus on Mombasa Island represent the first European foothold upon Indian Ocean trade routes. King Philip I commissioned the fort to defend the Old Port of Mombasa from pirates and aggressors. The British ultimately captured the fort in 1895, converting it into a prison.

Today, the fort can be reached by bridge from the city of Mombasa. Tours are given regularly that recount the long history of the fort as it changed hands between Western powers and Kenyan nationals.

 

Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalībela — Ethiopia

In the late 12th century, the ruler of Ethiopia commissioned the construction of several small, compact churches that were to be hewn directly from rock. The result is nearly a dozen churches that are true monoliths, meaning they are made from one solid piece of stone.

Each one occupies a square hole where pilgrims and tourists can descend to explore their intricate interiors. They are a testament to the skills, organization and dedication of the early Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church, which began in the fourth century shortly after the time of the early apostles. Visiting the chapels is truly a transportive experience that hammers home how unique and ancient Ethiopia’s Christian tradition truly is.

 

The Castle of Good Hope — South Africa

South Africa’s modern history is defined largely by the early presence of Dutch traders and the subsequent conquering of the territory by the British. This history essentially begins with the construction of the Castle of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Company in 1666.

The Castle consists of a pentagonal fort made of rocks cut from Signal Hill that had to be shipped across the bay. It is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa, and its presence remains an important part of South Africa’s identity. For instance, the fort’s pentagonal shape was used as an emblem on the South African Defence Force ensign and the country’s Naval ensign prior to 1994.

 

See All of These Amazing Sites and More on Your African Safari Tour

Sites like the Castle of Good Hope are mainstays on any culturally minded African safari tour, so take a look at our African safari tour packages to decide upon the unique places you want to experience. You can also contact us directly for a custom safari tour package to make sure you see all of the animals, places and historic sites you are most excited about during your stay.

Jill Liphart for www.rohoyachui.com

 

What do Wild Lions Do All Day?

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With their lithe, muscular bodies, flowing manes and breathtaking eyes that seem to pierce with their gaze, lions are no doubt one of the single-most beautiful creatures on the planet. But just what the heck do they do all day when they live out in the wild?

If you have ever been on a trip with an African safari tour operator, you would see that a lions’ typical agenda appears quite similar to the average housecat. They sleep most of the day, play and interact with one another, and spend large amounts of time stalking and hunting prey. Of course, when the lion tends to do it, it looks a lot more majestic!

You can learn the specifics of the average lion’s routine as well as some interesting facts about lions by reading on.

Sleeping and Resting — 16-20 Hours a Day

Lions are fairly massive creatures, with the average female weigh nearly 300 pounds and the average male around 420 pounds. They also tend to spend a slim but important part of their day in vigorous physical activity, hunting, meaning they use up a lot of energy all at once.

To help build up these energy levels and maintain all that mass on a somewhat scarce diet, the typical lion will lounge around during most of the daylight hours. They will alternate between sunny and shaded areas, usually relegating themselves to a chosen section of their overall territory for a number of days.

If the females happen to have cubs, they will establish a temporary den and play area for the entire pride to get their rest around while protecting the young brood.

Grooming, Socializing, Playing and Exploring — 1-2 Hours a Day

Most of the awake time lions spend actively is divided between eating and what one might call social or leisure activities. At dusk, lions are the most active, grooming one another, interacting and finding places to go defecate. Lions may also play or interact with one another in bursts of activity leading up to the nightly hunt.

Walking, Searching for Prey — 2 Hours a Day

The most time-consuming activity on a lion’s agenda besides sleeping is walking. Lions spend around two hours a day on average patrolling their territory, looking for both prey and competitors. They may also be exploring looking for new sources of shelter, water or places to establish a temporary den for cubs. Lionesses will relocate cubs to a new den once every few weeks to ensure that the vulnerable cubs do not build up a scent for predators to notice.

Lions may shift to new parts of their territory as they patrol it, or they may return to their lounging site once they are done hunting and eating for the day.

Hunting — Less Than 10 Minutes a Day

Not counting the time lions spend locating and stalking prey, they dedicate very little time doing actual hunting. Lions are large and often noticeable, so their strategy is to flank their prey and encroach slowly. They must get very close before performing a short, powerful strike, usually at the end of a burst of speed.

Lionesses typically spend their time hunting in the early hours of dawn while males watch after the cubs.

Eating — Around 50 Minutes a Day

To preserve their body mass and get the need nutrition, adult male lions must consume around 15 lbs of meat a day and adult lionesses 11 lbs. Small prey is usually consumed quickly on site by the lion who earned the kill, while larger prey is shared in groups. Eating and protecting kills also spends up a large portion of the their energy, so they will often go home with full bellies and no stamina left, leading to another daily session of legendary naps.

Come See Lions With a Safari Tour Operator

Lions can be readily seen in many of Africa’s most popular parks, including Kruger National Park in South Africa. Their trademark naps can be observed on game drives as sleepy lions sprawl out near paved roads in the early morning. Nighttime hunts can be rarely spotted, but going on a nighttime walking safari can help you see lions when they are more active.

Come take an up-close look at wild lions by booking a safari tour package today!

Jill Liphart for www.rohoyachui.com

6 Extraordinary African Historical Sites You Have to Visit on Safari – Part 1

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Africa is an incredible place to come witness not just if you are a nature lover but also if you are a history buff.

Many anthropologists call Africa “the Mother Continent” because of its numerous archaeological findings that predate all other known evidence of Homo sapiens and our direct ancestors. Additionally, hundreds of different cultures have left their permanent mark around the continent with awe-inspiring structures, cities and monuments. Put together, visiting nearly any country in Africa can quickly transport you many centuries and millennia into the past.

If you are interested in enjoying an African historical safari as part of your next trip abroad, consider seeing some of the following highlights during your visit to the birthplace of humankind as we know it:

 

Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa

When going on a historical trip to Africa, you might as well begin at where it all began! Located just a short drive outside Johannesburg and Pretoria, the Fossil Hominid Sites contain some of the earliest discovered remnants of human ancestors, dating back around 3.3 million years ago.

The Taung skull, an Australopithecus africanus specimen, was discovered here back in 1924. Even more ancient human predecessors were discovered since that time, including Paranthropus, an extinct genus of human-like apes that first began walking upright and using tools.

Sites in this region also depict some of the earliest evidence of domesticating fire, dating back over one million years ago. Because of these monumental finds, many academics refer to this region as the “Cradle of Humankind,” and it has been designated as one of South Africa’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

 

Mamuno Monument — Botswana

The Kangumene Engravings in Botswana are one of the few early human artistic carvings that have survived the test of time. Although the engravings themselves are quite abstract, they show a glimpse into the mind of our ancestors as they sought to express themselves using nature as their canvas.

Other markings depict the sharpening or creation of stone tools, making Mamuno an important location for documenting early human activities.

 

Olduvai Gorge — Tanzania

Almost as significant to our understanding of human evolution as South Africa’s Hominid Fossil Sites, Olduvai Gorge allows us to trace the evolutionary progression of hominid species to hominins.

Artifacts such as bones bearing gnaw marks and stone tool production sites chart the advancement of early humankind as we first began to move from only scavenging and hunting behaviors to more advanced tool-making and social interaction. Findings here date back more than 1.9 million years ago, and they provide strong evidence for the theory that the human species first evolved in Africa.

 

Moving Beyond Pre-History on Your African Historical Safari Tour

These three sites are some of the most critical for understanding how humans diverged from our ancestors and began developing the early marks of civilization. Part 2 of this post will describe more recent sites spanning the eras of Islamic migration into Africa and European colonization.

If you are interested in booking the perfect historic African safari tours to visit any or all of these sites, take a look at our available African safari tour packages, or contact us to enquire about a custom-made package for your group.

Jill Liphart for www.rohoyachui.com