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

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

 

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

Saving the Magnificent African Elephant

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Once upon a time, elephants ruled the continent of Africa. Their historical habitat range literally stretched all the way from the Cape of Good Hope to Tangier. An estimated 27 million individuals lived in family groups throughout most of Africa, foraging in both the bush and forest.

Now, fewer than 300,000 remain. Like a cloth burnt down to mere scraps, African elephants’ habitat range now clings to sparse protected areas dotting the continent. The most aggressive estimates project that the African elephant could be extinct by as early as 2020 unless something is done to save them.

You can do your part by seeing these gorgeous, almost-magical animals in person and bringing back inspiring tales and photos to others. When your African elephant safari is booked through companies that support conservancies, your trip provides the funds needed to combat poaching. Book a safari now to promote the cause for keeping these wonderful beasts alive so that yet another generation can say “I have seen an elephant.”

The Resurgence of Poaching

In 1989, the conservation community breathed a collective sigh of relief. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) passed a global ban on the sale and trade of ivory. Before the ban was passed, over 50 percent of the African elephant population had been slaughtered.

Afterwards, the elephant populations slowly began to bounce back. Poaching plummeted as trade restrictions and anti-poaching efforts made their mark.

But the resurgence could not last forever. Black market ivory supplies dwindled across the globe, effectively raising the price of ivory dramatically as demand from plutocrats — who cared little for laws and even less for elephants’ well-being — held strong. Poachers could now invest in their operations and still turn a profit, especially when backed by international criminal organizations that also controlled illegal trade. Conservationists and rangers suddenly began to face a foe better equipped than they were, and elephants were dying once more.

Between 2007 and 2014, 30 percent of the savannah elephant population was brought down by poachers. An estimated 100,000 elephants were killed from 2010 to 2012. Things have gotten so bad that rangers find themselves not only outwitted but outgunned. Well-funded poaching operations have begun to use the same technologies empowering special-ops military groups: drones, infrared sensors, tracking devices and even booby traps.

Elephant populations are falling once more — around 8 percent every year. Governments and people must step up their efforts to push back against this resurgence and fight with every breath to ensure that elephants can continue to survive on our planet.

Help Support Conservation With an African Elephant Safari

With things more desperate than ever, every penny counts when it comes to saving Africa’s elephants. People can support conservation and anti-poaching groups by choosing African safari tour operators that donate money and labor. Your journey to meet these animals in person in their own habitat could very well save a few of their lives in the process.

So, please, come to Africa and deliberately seek out tour groups that can make a genuine difference. You can take a look at your options for African safari tour companies that help save the elephants and book your journey today.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Honey Bees of South Africa

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Just like the rest of the world, many of South Africa’s most important plants and crops only continue to exist because of one animal: the honey bee. South Africa’s honey bees (Apis mellifera scutellata) are a subspecies of the same Western honey bee you see in your backyard. South Africa also has its own unique subspecies, the Cape honey bee (Apis mellifera capensis) that only occurs in the extreme southern coastal regions near South Africa’s capes.

Both subspecies and their hybrids help form the backbone of the South African agricultural economy, not to mention our ecology. You can learn more about the humble honey bee and its amazing abilities by reading on and then visiting some of our incredible apiaries on a South African safari tour.

The African Honey Bee

African honey bees can be found throughout most of central and southern Africa. Compared to their European cousins to the north, they are smaller and have a less “fuzzy” appearance. A typical worker is around 19 mm (.74 inches) in length.

A worker bee will have five eyes, with three small single-lens eyes and two larger compound eyes. Each compound eye will have almost 7,000 lenses, giving bees a multi-angle view of its surroundings at all times.

To look for food, hives send out thousands of workers in search of flowering plants and other sources of nectar. The bees will feed on the sweet, sugary nectar from these flowers, storing it in their abdomen to bring back to the hive. Bees will also carry back pollen to the colony, which can be used to create specific blends used to feed growing bee pupae as well as the queen. Electrostatically charged hairs attract pollen and hold it tight in “pollen baskets” found on the bees’ rear legs. Bees will scrape this pollen in order to collect it while also feeding on nectar with their long proboscis “tongues.”

While feeding and collecting pollen, bees inevitably cause the pollen to cross from the pollen-rich anther to the sticky stigma on plants, fertilizing them. Bees are especially helpful to the ecosystem when they carry pollen from plants across great distances to other plants of the same species, creating hardier crossbreeds compared to plants born from the same local genetic pool.

During the winter, hives appear to “hibernate” but they actually remain active inside. Bees live off of stored honey and maintain slow vibrations of their wings to create ambient warmth, allowing the queen and many workers to survive the cold.

Cape Honey Bees

Cape honey bees are a subspecies unique to the southernmost tip of the African continent, where winter rains are common. Unlike all other honey bees, worker Cape bees can reproduce asexually by laying female diploid eggs, whereas all other species’ workers can only lay haploid male eggs.

Many of South Africa’s most productive apiaries use Cape honey bees to produce honey and other agricultural products.

Meeting African Honey Bees on a South African Safari Tour

African bee colonies can be found in the wild all throughout areas like Kruger Park and Namaqua National Park. We also have many farms dedicated to helping bee colonies succeed, grow and multiply, like the Simply Bee Observation Centre and Hudsonville Honey.

Come meet these incredible workers — both the bees and the people! — and see why South Africans have a closer appreciation of nature when you embark on your South African safari tour.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Marvel at the Beautiful Man Pools National Park

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Mana Pools Park sits on the south bank of the Zambezi River within the northernmost section of Zimbabwe. In the rainy season, the Lower Zambezi Valley floods, opening up a colorful and rich ecosystem as vegetation flourishes and small insects, fish and other creatures’ populations explode. Birds, foragers and top-level predators grow fat on this fodder, enabling them to give birth to their next generation of kin.

When the rainy season ends, these flood pools gradually dry up. Water sources begin to become more and more concentrated, making animals have to travel further and gather in large groups to find something to drink.

During this time, from April to November, a Mana Pools safari can deliver some of the best wildlife viewing in the world. Elephants, wild dogs, lions, zebra, impala and dozens of other majestic species can be spotted bending into the last remnants of water for a drink. Walking safaris can help you get up close and personal with this wildlife as you sit and observe some of the most interesting scenes imaginable.

Why a Mana Pools Safari Is So Unique

Over the course of thousands of years, the mighty Zambezi River has shifted course. As it did, it left behind several oxbow bends cut off from the new main flow. These bends became oxbow lakes. The four biggest ones persist all year round, leading the park to be named “Mana” pools. “Mana” means “four” in the Shona language spoken by many Zimbabwean natives.

Every rainy season, the oxbow lakes and the whole region of Mana Pools Park floods, creating sweeping marshlands and thousands of tiny pools for birds, fish and other wildlife to gather. As the rainy season wanes, these pools dry up. The area’s animals are then left with just the four main lakes to drink from, leading to some pretty remarkable sights.

Nature in Its Purest Form

Another interesting aspect about Mana Pools is how undeveloped it is. The rainy season tends to make short work of roads and trails, meaning that much of the park is inaccessible throughout the year by vehicle. Even walking into the park is extremely difficult at the height of rainy season, when mud can often swallow you up to your hips.

In the dry season, vehicles are still a rare sight. Voyaging into the interior of Mana Pools is often done on foot. Canoeing safaris are also possible along the Zambezi. These walking and canoeing safaris allow visitors an intimate look at wildlife.

Hippos bathe in the water and mud while elephants gather water in their long trunks. You can also find elephants, gazelle, impala and other animals standing on their hind legs trying to reach the last remnants of leaves upon the mahogany and ebony trees to the north.

All of these incredible sights make Mana Pools a uniquely stunning way to observe the wildlife of southern Africa.

Book a Zimbabwe Safari to Visit Mana Pools Today

You can find safaris to Mana Pools Park in many of our most popular Zimbabwe safari tour packages. Take a look at our sample itineraries, and then book your trip today!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

 

Enjoy Canoeing Safari for a Change of Pace

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As you slide down the Okavango Delta, an egret dabs its beak into the shallow waters by the shore. It pays your canoe no mind as you slip past, your paddles gently splashing in the water. Ahead, the guide boat spots a hippo. You correct course. The hippo stares at you as you give it a respectfully wide berth. It snorts and blows some bubbles in reply.

Game drive safaris in an offroad vehicle are one of the most popular ways to experience wildlife during a trip to Africa, but canoeing safaris are a completely different breed. You can put yourself up close next to nature and feel truly a part of your surroundings. Your expert guides help you set up camp at night, and they cook simple but delicious homestyle meals over a campfire.

This method of traversing the wild African landscape has only grown in popularity over the past few years, but for now it still remains a relatively well-kept secret that only the most enthusiastic adventurers enquire about. You and your fellow travellers get to enjoy a wholly unique experience that will stick with you for a lifetime.

Immerse Yourself in Nature

As the imagined scenario above shows, canoe safari trips remove many of the barriers between you and the world you intend to observe. The water sits high upon the edge of your canoe, and you can see the lilies and reeds glide past, sometimes bumping softly into your boat as you navigate channels and marshlands.

Wildlife tend to be curious but largely indifferent to your presence. While roads and trails carve through their territory, putting yourself in the midst of the water means you are in theirs. Guides scout ahead to warn you of impending hippos and other concerns. If one is spotted, your guide will instruct you on how to avoid piercing their comfort zone. Sometimes, you must use punting poles to shove through marshlands to seek alternate passage. Other times, you wait. When animals do get too close, you and your guide slap paddles on top of the water, which ring out like gunshots and frighten them away.

At the end of a long day of paddling, your body feels weary but relaxed. You smell the juicy seared meats coming to the right level of doneness as they roast over a wood fire. Vegetables wrapped in foil quietly steam and simmer in butter and their own juices. Your guide regales you with stories of adventures past — a recap of their closest calls.

On some nights during your trip, you can slip into a plush lodge bed after sipping wine by a roaring fireplace, but tonight, your tent and watchful guards are all that separates you from the wilderness. These experiences make canoeing safaris utterly unforgettable and affect travellers in profound ways. After weeks of living life in the suburbs or city at a breakneck pace, safari-goers get to slow down and listen to what nature has to say all around them.

Book a Canoeing Safari in Africa Today

Whether you want to see the Okavango Delta, the Zambezi or other incredible waterfront locales in Africa, a canoeing safari is an incredible way to experience them from an intimate viewpoint. You can book your canoeing safari trip today along with other amazing activities when you contact us and create a custom itinerary for you and your fellow travellers.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa