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

The Best Family Friendly African Safari Lodges and Camps

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As we just mentioned in an earlier post, taking your children with you on a safari can be a truly rewarding and eye-opening experience for them that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. One of the biggest keys to giving them an enjoyable experience is finding services and lodging that can accommodate your family with privacy, flexibility and a variety of available activities.

Those searching for the perfect family friendly African safari lodge that can provide all of these qualities and more should consider the following options:

Mara Bush Houses, Kenya

Located within the Maasai Mara conservancies area, the Mara Bush Houses gives you freedom beyond what most other game lodges could ever hope to offer. Families get run of one of three private homes with three spacious bedrooms. Laundry service and several meals are included, and the facilities even have a swimming pool!

Your family will likely not be spending too much time at the house during the day, though, thanks to all the activities offered. You and your children can enjoy private game drives, night drivers, cultural visits and even lessons in how to act like a real guide and tracker at the Mara Naboisho Conservancy.

Simbavati River Lodge, South Africa

Located near Kruger, this lodge provides an incredible, tranquil experience with lots of included activities and plenty of areas for children to play. Parents can enjoy privacy in their own room along with a balcony overlooking the Olifants River. The lodge also has a large, open lounge area, a kids’ room and an outdoor play area, offering the perfect chance for children to get all their energies out.

Two daily game drives are included, and a swimming pool is available. Best of all, the Simbavati River Lodge is affordable relative to the many other options in the area.

Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Kenya

For the family that truly wants to get away from it all and has outdoor-loving kids, the Laikipia WIlderness Camp in northern Kenya offers the perfect combination of remoteness and lush, inviting surroundings. Bush walks in the area are legendary, and families can enjoy rafting, fishing and swimming in the rivers nearby.

A large number of conservancies and parks are a short distance away, too, creating the opportunity for many diverse game drives.

HillsNek Safari Camp, South Africa

Located on the Eastern Cape within the Amakhala Game Reserve, HillsNek has one of the best malaria-free safari experiences on the continent and has viewing opportunities for all of the Big Five. The area is also along the Garden Route, allowing nature lovers to appreciate the rich bounty of blooms. Families can stay in luxury “tents” that sleep up to four, and since there are only three such lodgings available, they can expect lots of privacy.

Gibb’s Farm, Tanzania

Situated next to coffee plantations and gorgeous gardens, Gibb’s Farm offers a taste of the relaxing country life in Africa. The lodge is also located exactly in between Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara, allowing families to embark on expeditions to some of the most naturally and historically rich areas on the planet.

Find Even More Family Friendly African Safari Lodges

These are just some of the most notable family friendly lodging choices available in Africa. You can discover more options by looking at family safari vacation packages that cover the areas you want to see and the activities you want to do, or you can contact us to get our personal recommendations today.

Jill Liphart for www.rohoyachui.com 

 

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

 

Human History at Oldupai Gorge

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Around 30,000 years ago, intense geological activity combined with millennia of erosion exposed the area now known as Oldupai Gorge (once erroneously called “Olduvai Gorge”). Fast forward to July 1959, and paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey finally grasped the significance of what was exposed there when she stumbled upon an odd-looking skull lying in the dirt.

Fossils dating back to the dawn of mankind trace our history to Oldupai Gorge in the heart of Africa. The findings of Mary Leakey and her husband Louis show some of mankind’s earliest documented ancestors, who existed over a million years before the discovery of stone tools. This discovery has led to decades of intense study, which has helped shed light on the development of humans as we evolved over millions of years.

Many anthropologists and archaeologists theorize that all of Homo sapiens originated from Africa, the Mother Continent, some millions of years ago thanks to the findings at sites like Oldupai.

Oldupai Gorge and Ngorongoro Crater as the “Cradle of Mankind”

Oldupai Gorge is found in Ngorongoro Crater, a caldera that formed when a massive volcano collapsed upon itself.

To the southwest, about halfway to Lake Eyasi, lies Laetoli. Here, Mary Leakey discovered and excavated some of the earliest evidence of upright-walking hominids found on the planet. 3.7 million years ago, early Australopithecus afarensis hominids, of a similar species to “Lucy,” stepped in a mixture of volcanic ash and mud. This mixture hardened, preserving footprints later buried under millions of years of sediment and then uncovered.

From this evidence, the Leakeys and others were able to essentially reconstruct the development of mankind in the area over millions of years. Australopithecus remains lead to Zinjanthropus, the type of proto-human that Mary Leaker first discovered in Oldupai. There is also evidence of Homo habilis, who made some of the earliest stone tools found in Oldupai’s 1.8 million to 1.6 million year old deposits. From there, our brain sizes increased as we evolved into the more adept Homo sapiens, spreading knowledge of stone tools and early farming techniques as we became increasingly nomadic.

See Some of the Earliest Signs of Humanity at the Oldupai Museum

At the Oldupai Museum in the Ngorongoro Crater, you can find many fascinating exhibits documenting historic archeological finds. A set of the Laetoli footprints can be found based on an imprint mold taken just a few miles south. Evidence of animal remains, the early ones gnawed upon and the later ones bearing clear stone tool cut marks, can also be found.

The museum also documents Information on early human civilization as well as the later colonization of the Crater by the Masai people. Nearby, you can find a cultural Boma that can immerse you in the life of the Masai people. Handmade souvenirs bearing traditional art and patterns are available. There is also a lecture space, public toilets and refreshments. Guided tours are available into the crater or into the Oldupai Gorge itself.

You can see all of these sights on a trip to the Ngorongoro Crater — and discover the beginnings of humankind as we know it — when you book a Tanzania safari tour package 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

South Africa’s Incredible Orchids

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Hundreds of species of orchids make their home only in South Africa. The country houses 54 genera and 479 species, 65 percent of which can be found nowhere else in the world. Just in the swathe of South Africa that orchids can be commonly found there are more orchid species and growing specimens than throughout all of Europe. The Western Cape alone contains enough unique species to classify as its own plant kingdom, making it one of the densest concentrations of plant biodiversity on the planet.

When going on a South African safari tour, make sure to include the Cape floral region and the diversity-rich orchid beds of eastern South Africa during your trip if you love plants or the sheer spectacle of hillsides and forests in bloom.

History of South African Orchids

While most species have small, seemingly unimpressive flowers, the orchids of South Africa were a subject of fascination to early European botanists of the late 17th and 18th centuries because of their unique adaptations. Collectors and horticulturalists would extract samples from South Africa’s orchid fields and send them back to Europe for study. Britain, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands all had an intense interest in cultivating these orchid species in their herbaria and studying their intriguing characteristics.

Later, English botanist John Lindley began to describe and categorize the various species of South African orchid. In the period between 1830 and 1840, Lindley wrote The Genera and Species of Orchidaceous Plants, which became a foundational text for botanists across the world.

Other famous researchers of orchids include German botanist Rudolf Schlechter, who travelled throughout South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar and other countries discovering new species and genera. The work of Schlechter and others continues, as books like Orchids of Southern Africa are constantly published and revised based on the latest research.

Seeing Orchids in South Africa

As mentioned above, the South Western Cape of South Africa is the best place to view orchids blooming in full splendor. Species can be found here growing on soil as well as on trees and upon rocky surfaces. Many of these species have tiny, hard-to-notice flowers, but one of the most famous orchids also hails from here.

Disa uniflora, commonly known as the “red disa” or even the “Pride of Table Mountain” is a prized orchid notable for its large, showy blooms. A deep red hue and a tall plant stalk ensure that these flowers will be noticed by pollinating insects — although humans appreciate its beauty, too! Vivid carmine colors and intense pinks are also possible depending on the petal size and shape. The disa’s iconic image has led it to become a common image in iconography throughout the region. It can be found on the logos of the Mountain Club of South Africa, the Western Cape Gymnastics Association and the Western Province Rugby Team.

The red disa was also depicted on the Pro Merito Medal, one of the highest military decorative honors a South African soldier could receive for their “exceptionally meritorious service and particular devotion to duty.”

Those interested in learning more about South African orchids, including their conservation and upcoming viewing events, can visit the South African orchid council website.

You should also make sure to book a South African safari tour on the Western Cape to see these incredible orchids in the wild!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa