Going on Your First African Safari Trip? Here’s 8 Helpful Travel Tips

african-safari-travel-ideas-2014-the-safari-tours

Africa has all sorts of wonderful experiences in store for first-time visitors, and with a few bits of advice from seasoned travellers, you can make the most of every moment. Learn what to do — and sometimes what not to do — when visiting the continent on your first African safari tour by reading on.

 

Research the History, Language and Culture of the Region You Are Going to Visit

Africa is the second-largest continent on the planet, big enough to fit the U.S., all of China, India, Japan and most of Europe within its borders. Just think for a moment about how different the culture is within regions of your own state, and you can begin to understand how diverse Africa is.

We say this so that you are able to appreciate the more unique aspects of the region you are visiting. Many first-time visitors make the mistake of thinking that “all Africa is alike” when regional differences can be quite stark.

To achieve the right frame of mind and prepare for deeper learning during your travels, take a second to look up the history of the country or major city you are visiting. For instance, you may learn that Kenya used to be under British rule until 1963, which can help you understand more about the country’s unique political beliefs. If you have more time, take a moment to look up the major languages spoken so that you can catch more subtext within the signage and snippets of conversation you hear.

 

Bring an Old Cell Phone, Outlet Adapter, and a Spare Power Bank

Your normal cell phone service likely won’t work abroad, but you can always purchase a cheap SIM card and prepaid service in the country where you arrive. Buy an unlocked phone off eBay or Craigslist, and make sure it is fully charged and loaded with important contacts before your trip begins. Taking this phone with you reduces the risk that your personal phone could get lost or stolen.

Also, be sure to have an outlet adapter for the shape of the outlet of the country you will be entering as well as spare power bank chargers.

 

Spread Your Money and Cards Around

When travelling, don’t keep all of your money and cards in a single place. Keep some in a body wallet worn close to you, and spread the rest around in secure, easy-to-find locations. That way, you are less likely to misplace or lose all of your funds, and you still have access to money even in a worst-case scenario.

 

Will Your Way Through Jet Lag

Jet lag is mostly a state of mind, so fighting your body’s internal clock can help you adjust more quickly. No matter what time you are used to doing things, force yourself to eat and sleep on a normal schedule during your stay. The more you can warm up to the new time zone, the better-able you will be able to enjoy things like early morning bush walks.

As an added trick: set your wristwatch to the new time zone you will be visiting a week before your trip to start gearing up mentally.

 

Write Down the Name and Number of a Good Driver

Ask your hotel front desk or game lodge manager if they know of a reliable transit service, or, better yet, the name and number of a trustworthy driver.

Finding a good cab driver in a major city like Johannesburg is like knowing your own personal superhero. You can give them a call to catch a reliable ride anywhere you need to go, and they will often drop what they are doing to pick up an out-of-town customer since they can earn more from them.

 

Learn More Advice, and Book Your African Safari Tour Now!

You can learn more tips for travelling, enjoying your safari and making the most of your African experience when you contact us today for personalized advice on how you can craft the perfect safari holiday experience. Take a look at some of our sample African safari vacation packages to see what could be in store for you.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

Best Things to Do on a Christmas Safari Holiday in Africa … start planning now!

what-clothes-should-I-wear-on-african-safari

Put simply: it is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience blessed by smaller crowds, cheaper prices, adorable animal babies, lush greenery and unique occurrences. To give you a clearer idea of what you can get up to during your stay, here are some of the more momentous things to do in Africa on a Christmas safari holiday.

 

Visit Tanzania and Kenya During the Green Season Low Point

In December, the wildebeest return to the Serengeti and elephant herds return to the Masai Mara. Game moves constantly throughout this period as they prepare for the rainy season, its lush vegetation and their yearly breeding period. The once-brown grasslands are now covered in a carpet of green as small wildflowers pop open and dot the landscape.

This time of year is perfect not just for its scenic beauty, but also for its special rates. Many game lodges and camps lower their prices in order to attract safari-goers during the low season. Places like the Masai Mara Sopa Lodge and the Samburu Simba Lodge tend to offer steep discounts for families along with special rates on activities.

 

Witness the World’s Most Spectacular Bird Watching in the Okavango Delta

Botswana’s Okavango Delta typically floods around October to November, and as the waters subside, millions of birds flock to its shores.

Catch a glimpse of rare species, like the Malachite Kingfisher, Pel’s Fishing Owl, hammerkops, wattled cranes and crested ibis. Push silently through the reeds in a mokoro boat as you snap breathtaking photos of some of the most gorgeous and unique animals on earth. At the same time, you can see young elephants, gazelle and other animals as they grow quickly and develop from the nutritious milk produced by parents grazing on tall grasses.

 

Relax on a Beach near Cape Town or the Indian Ocean

Visiting the beach in December is a dream come true for snowbird Christmas vacationers on safari. Relax on a beach in Cape Town, watching the Cape fur seals as they frolic in the harbor, catching fish for their newborn pups. You can then enjoy a breezy afternoon session of sipping wines or dancing the night away at famous clubs like the Shimmy Beach Club.

For an even more peaceful experience, you can sample life along the Indian Ocean at places like Mauritius Island off the coast of Madagascar. Enjoy hot, balmy days and cool nights as you sip beverages and stare at the clear blue ocean.

 

Rent a Private House for the Family to Enjoy a Christmas Safari Holiday

If you’re going to have an adventure, why not bring a group? You can always rent out an entire private house, where the staff will pamper you and your friends with white tablecloth dinners set overlooking the majestic wilderness.

Stay in places like the Acacia House or Cottar’s Private Homestead in the Masai Mara, and embark on daily excursions. Enjoy lodging, game drives and safaris for the whole family at Kwandwe Melton Manor in Eastern Cape, South Africa. Other stellar private-stay options include Vamizi Private Villas along the Indian Ocean in Mozambique or Laragai House in Laikipia, Kenya.

Basically, anywhere you want to enjoy a safari and a home-like place to celebrate Christmas, Africa has it waiting for you!

 

Book a custom Christmas safari vacation package for you and your entire group when you contact us today, or take a look at our current safari tour packages to get an idea of the activities you can all enjoy together.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

Best Big Five Safari Parks in Africa for Seeing All Five Majestic Animals

african-safari-tours

For over a century, big game hunters romanticized the adventure of trekking through the African savanna and locating the “Big Five” game. Now, people are more apt to shoot the Big Five with their DSLR camera than a rifle, but the allure of these gorgeous, large, powerful and often elusive creatures remains.

Those looking to see all Big Five animals during their African safari trip will need a hefty dose of luck. But they can increase their odds by visiting the best Big Five safari parks in Africa, where they are most likely to see all Five in one trip.

Start planning your African safari vacation to see the Big Five by taking a look at our recommended Big Five parks below.

 

Kruger National Park, Madikwe Reserve — South Africa

Kruger is one of the largest game reserves in the world and home to millions of visitors every year. The size and popularity of the park make it one of the best destinations for safari game viewing, especially for first­timers. Roads are well­paved, the park features plenty of amenities and game trackers are well­versed in locating the best viewing experiences as the animals go about their routines.

Finding all Big Five safari animals is also most­easily accomplished with a visit to Kruger. The park is home to over 2,000 lions, equalling a density of 5 to 8 lions per every 100km2. There are also over 13,000 elephants, 37,000 Cape buffalo, around 2,000 white rhino and an estimated 1,000 leopards. Black rhinos, which are critically endangered, are a rare sight at just an estimated 300 across the whole park, but they are still numerous in Kruger relative to other areas.

For a more­intimate experience, you can visit the Madikwe Game Reserve, which is the fifth­largest reserve in the world and only a few hours’ drive northwest of Pretoria. Madikwe has ample populations of elephant, lion and buffalo — although, leopards and rhinos happen to be rarer. Madikwe is also famous for its population of rare endangered wild dogs.

 

Masai Mara — Kenya

The Masai Mara National Reserve sits along the path of the great wildebeest migration from the Serengeti. In late summer, millions of wildebeest and other ruminants make the long trek to find grass and water as the dry season sets in.

These wildebeest naturally attract predators, including lions, spotted hyena and enormous crocodiles. As a result, the Masai Mara is teeming with dramatic displays of wildlife throughout the year, including 35,000 elephants and 825 lions. Rhinos and leopards are more­scarce, but Cape buffalo populations remain healthy.

Witnessing the great migration from the Masai Mara is an unforgettable experience, especially in a hot air balloon ride overlooking the massive herds.

 

Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater — Tanzania

For those looking to adventure late or early in the year, November through March provides an amazing opportunity to view wildlife along the Serengeti in Tanzania. During this time, wildebeest and other ruminants return to sire their young and nurse them to be strong and survive the coming years.

Vast herds of 2 million wildebeest, 300,000 zebra, 900,000 gazelle and 70,000 buffalo call the plains home. Since these prey are numerous, the Serengeti also plays home to 4,000 lions and 1,000 leopards. Elephant and rhino populations are smaller, but elephants are still a common sight.

For a more­concentrated experience, the beautiful backdrop of the Ngorongoro Crater is packed with wildlife populations, including all Big Five. You can also see jackals, foxes, flamingos, cheetah, gazelle, hyena and other gorgeous animals here while on safari.

 

Book Your Incredible Experience at the Best Big Five Safari Parks in Africa

If you are interested in paying a visit to one of these breathtaking locations, you are in for quite a treat. Not only will you see most (or all) of the Big Five, you will enjoy the unique settings, sights and sounds of Mother Africa.

Start planning your trip now by taking a look at our sample Big Five safari tour packages, or book a custom safari trip made especially for you when you contact us today!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

All About the Hyrax, the Elephant’s Cousin That Looks Like a Rodent

hyrax

In a continent full of unique and unusual animals, the plucky hyrax still manages to stand out. These medium-sized mammals are survivors of a primitive group of species that later split off to evolve into elephants, manatees and dugongs. They have some interesting characteristics, including complex barking “songs” and elephant-like rubbery footpads adapted for climbing.

You can find the four different species of hyrax all throughout Africa during an African safari tour. Observing them in the wild is a rare treat that makes them every bit as worth seeking out as any of the Big Five.

The Four Species of Hyrax

There are four different species of hyrax — also called “dassies” by those who speak Afrikaans — and they all have their own distinct habits and habitat ranges.

  • Rock Hyrax — Also called the “rock badger,” these hyraxes are highly social and adept climbers thanks to their thick rubber-like pads. They spend 95% of their time sleeping or resting in the sun.
    • Distribution: Cape Hyraxes are found along the coasts of South Africa and Namibia as well as across Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Yellow-Spotted Hyrax — Also called the “bush hyrax” or the “yellow-spotted rock hyrax” this species lives in clusters of boulders and rocky natural outcroppings found on the plains called kopjes. They are smaller and less-round than the rock hyrax.
    • Distribution: Found along the eastern coast of Africa and also within limited areas of Angola.
  • Western Tree Hyrax — Unlike the social rock hyraxes, this hyrax tends to live alone within tree clusters. They have coarser fur and unique white markings that resemble eyebrows or beards.
    • Distribution: Found in a limited range in western subtropical Africa, including the D.R. Congo and southern Cameroon.
  • Southern Tree Hyrax — The most elusive and smallest of the hyrax species, the southern tree hyrax lives alone or in pairs. They prefer humid regions of forests and savannas as well as rocky areas.
    • Distribution: A limited range in east-central Africa, including most of Tanzania and parts of the D.R. Congo.

Hyrax Size and Appearance

Hyraxes appear similar to rodents or guinea pigs, with the rock hyrax looking rather rotund and the other species looking more-lean. They can grow up to 28 inches in length and 11 pounds.

Hyraxes have interesting teeth structures, with front incisors that grow out into tusk-like formations, similar to their elephant cousins. They also have hoof-like blunt nails that resemble elephant feet.

Hyrax Group Behaviors

The two rock hyrax species are highly social, living in groups of up to 30. As a result of their social organization, they show signs of high intelligence, including the ability to communicate through 20 different vocal noises. In captivity, they tend to be extremely “talkative,” responding actively to caregivers when they approach. They also make chomping/chewing movements as a form of communication.

Unique Adaptations

All hyrax species have unique foot pad structures and sweat glands in between their toes to help them grip rocks and tree trunks. The foot muscles all curve inward to create a suction-cup-like grip.

Another interesting adaptation is the hyrax’s highly efficient kidneys, which can filter waste with minimal use of water. In fact, their concentrated urine creates mineral deposits over time called hyraceum, and the musky scent is highly prized as an ingredient in perfumes.

One thing the hyraxes are not well-adapted for is maintaining their internal heat. Rock hyraxes in particular must huddle together, rest frequently and bask in the sun to maintain their internal body temperature.

See Rock Hyraxes and Other Incredible Species During Your African Safari Tour

You can encounter hyraxes and other charming, unique creatures during your African safari trip when you book one of our safari tour packages.

Take a look at our sample safari tours to book your trip today, and contact us if you want to create a custom safari vacation where you can meet hyraxes in person.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

 

Meet Africa’s Plucky “Small Five” During Your Safari Adventure

_DSC7090

Much attention is given to Africa’s “Big Five” game animals — and deservedly so — but those who come to Africa to look at just five species will miss out on incredible opportunities to see other beautiful wildlife.

Tackling this problem, conservationists decided to band together and make a push to recognize the not­so­big and not­quite­so­iconic animals you can find throughout the continent. The result was the “Small Five.”

None of these creatures are particularly rare, but they do feature names from each of the Big Five as a clever nod. The real purpose in highlighting these animals is to help people headed to top­rated African safari destinations focus on all the small details that make Africa great, not just Five of them.

Get to know the Little Five and what makes them so endearing by reading their species profiles below.

 

1.   Red­Billed Buffalo Weaver

The buffalo weaver lives in large colonies on savannas south of the Sahara all throughout Africa. Each colony is made up of breeding groups of 3­4 females and one male. The groups make huge nests in baobab trees and other plains trees on the savanna. Each nest contains multiple compartments for individual females to lay eggs and nest upon them.

Even though males often compete for female mates, and females do not tolerate other females in their chamber, red­billed buffalo weavers do cooperate when it comes to building their large nests. Males will even cooperate with one another to build nests, gather food for females and defend the colony territory from invaders.

 

2.   Elephant Shrew

The elephant shrew is a fascinating creature known for their long snouts and rapid speeds. Even though the animals typically measure less than a foot in length, they can sprint at speeds of nearly 18 miles an hour for short distances.

Some species even modify their environment by clearing “lanes” or paths through the underbrush to make finding insects easier. They can also use the cleared lanes to rapidly scurry to safety when a threat comes near.

3.   Leopard Tortoise

Named for the vibrant leopard­like patterns sometimes seen on their hard domed shells, leopard tortoises are desert­loving reptiles found from Sudan all the way to the southern Cape. They eat grasses but prefer desert succulents and spiny thistles, making quick work of them with their leathery tongues.

Leopard tortoises are the fourth­largest species of tortoise in the world, growing up to 16 inches in overall length and 29 pounds in weight. Some tortoises along the Cape have gotten even bigger, growing to 28 inches and weighing more than 88 pounds!

4.   Rhinoceros Beetle

Africa has over a dozen species of rhinoceros beetle throughout its lands, including the huge Archon centaurus at nearly three inches long and Oryctes boas, which has a single horn large enough to make even a real rhino jealous!

Both male and female rhino beetles have horns, but only the males use them to battle for mates. They also use the horn as real rhinos do: to dig, lift objects and help navigate their environment. When threatened, some rhino beetle species “squeak” by rubbing their abdomens against their thin inner wings.

5.   Ant Lion

The most­common of the Little Five but nonetheless fascinating, the ant lion species can be found all throughout Africa and the world. These voracious insect predators are actually the larva of lacewing insects. They burrow into the ground and make trademark “funnel traps” in the sand to capture unsuspecting insect prey. Antlions’ powerful jaws can seize prey many times their size, and their large abdomens and forward­facing bristles help keep them anchored during the struggle.

Africa is home to some of the largest antlion species, including one species of Palpares that grows to 6.3 inches as an adult!

Come Meet the Small Five at Top­Rated African Safari Destinations

When you book a safari destination vacation package, feel free to get excited about lion, leopard and elephant sightings, but don’t forget to take a closer look at the world around you. You just may see an ant lion funnel, or catch the call of a buffalo weaver as they exit their large nests.

Take a second to appreciate all of Africa in this way, and you will get much more out of your trip to come home feeling like you truly experienced as much splendor as possible.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui