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

More Than Gorillas: Primates of East Africa

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Primates intrigue us for many reasons, not the least of which is their similarity to our own mannerisms and physical makeup. Africa is the only place in the world to see most of the highly developed primate species as well as unique specimens like the bush baby and vervet monkey.

And, yes, gorillas number among these species, but since gorillas get much of the focus when talking about African primates, we decided to highlight some other interesting species worth taking a look at when on an east African safari.

Bush Baby

Bush babies are one of the smallest primates and one species group that people often forget are included in the order. They are noted for their enormous eyes, nocturnal nature and characteristic “crying” mating call that actually does sound quite like a baby.

Bush babies exhibit fewer human-like characteristics than other primates, but they can still engage in social bonding activities like play and grooming. And they can actually be quite sweet when they bond with humans. Just don’t get any ideas; they are illegal to own as pets and cannot thrive outside of the wild.

Vervet Monkey

Vervet monkeys are easily recognizable for their small shape, sandy-colored fur and tufts of wispy white hairs. They are not afraid of humans — quite the opposite, in fact! Having a group of vervet monkeys jump on your car roof as you enter a park is not an uncommon occurrence.

They usually expect to be given food in these situations, but feeding them is illegal since it disrupts their natural diet and encourages them to be even worse pests. Plus, they may be cute but can still bite!

Colobus Monkeys

Colobus monkeys are much more elusive primates despite their body size (up to 50 lbs) and the easily spotted wispy white hair growths on their arms and tail. These black-and-white coats were once prized as ceremonial attire until hunting of Colobus furs was made illegal.

Since they flee from the sight of humans and rarely leave their treetops for the ground, you are more likely to hear colobus monkeys than see them.

Baboons

While they are more different than us compared to apes, baboons are actually the second-most successful primate species on the planet. They can adapt to a variety of environmental conditions and tend to live near cliffs, forests, savannas and even near highways! In fact, baboons have been so successful at living outside of protected areas that many farmers consider them crop-stealing pests.

Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees are the most similar living primates to us humans on the planet. They share 98 percent of our genetic makeup, and they even have the same number of teeth as us.

Observations of chimpanzees by researchers, including Dame Jane Goodall, have revealed their complex and quite human-like social structures. They use tools, exhibit a range of sympathetic emotions and can even engage in warfare between chimp groups.

Unfortunately, while chimpanzees have success breeding both within and without captivity, habitat loss, disease, poaching and illegal trading of chimpanzees as pets has led to significant loss in chimp populations.

See All of These Magical Monkeys and Amazing Apes on an East African Safari

Countries like Kenya and Uganda offer the best chance at seeing most or all of these wonderful, intriguing species. Make sure to book your east African safari tour with primates in mind since many tour guides and companies can help take you to the perfect spot to catch a look at your favorite monkey or ape species.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

What to Expect on an African Riverboat Safari

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An African riverboat safari is a less-often considered adventure option that provides many unique benefits. When staying aboard the riverboat, you have the opportunity to let wildlife quite literally come to you. You can also depart on smaller flat-bottomed boats throughout the day to enjoy a leisurely alternative to the game drives or walking safaris.

Those who want to see elephants, hippos, Cape buffalo, exotic birds and many of the most remarkable African species can enjoy doing so on a riverboat cruise while also partaking in delicious meals throughout the day. Here is just a sample of what you can expect:

Up Close Encounters

Many animals you see on game drives are used to the sounds of cars, but others will be elusive. They have few reasons to stray towards the paved roads and well-trod dirt paths in parks except for to get from point A to B. On walking safaris, you often have a better chance at seeing more elusive creatures like wild dogs but must earn the privilege through some quite literal leg work.

By contrast, a boating safari means that the animals often surround you or come close to you despite the presence of a large riverboat or small craft. Animals like elephants and giraffe come to the river to bathe and drink, while others like Cape buffalo make their crossing.

Then, there are semi-aquatic species like crocodiles and hippopotami, which spend most of their day in the water. While gliding past, you are likely to see plenty of eyeballs poking above the river surface.

This distinction is not to say that you should not book walking safaris and game drive tours at all. They can offer access to important regions of parks to enjoy sights and animals you would not otherwise see. But, on the whole, riverboat safaris are an underappreciated way to enjoy wildlife from a different perspective.

A Relaxed Pace

Staying at a game lodge and going on drives means a small amount of scheduling and going from place to place. You still have an itinerary on riverboat safaris, but you will most often be walking out onto the deck to take part in them. Scheduled activities like lunch can take place on these decks while some of Africa’s most majestic creatures glide by.

Five Star Treatment

Many riverboat safari tours roll out the red carpet for their guests with amenities and gourmet foods that would not feel out of place at a luxury resort. The Zambezi Queen, a popular riverboat lodge, serves up gourmet twists on local favorites, including Namibian beef, fresh fish or even the occasional game food like impala filet.

Book Your African Riverboat Safari Vacation Now

Every safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but an African riverboat safari is even more special. You can take a look at our African safari tour packages to find the riverfront experience you desire or contact us directly to book a specialty tour today.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

 

The famousZambia

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Zambia is home to some of the most spectacular aquatic sites in the world, including its lengthy list of majestic and stunningly unique waterfalls. Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world in terms of sheer size, counts among these.

You will also find all manner of spectacular waterfalls and cascades all throughout the country. Here are our top five we recommend:

Victoria Falls

One of the most iconic natural landmarks in Africa and one of the officially designated “Seven Wonders of the World,” Victoria Falls sits in a league all unto its own. Locals know it as “Mosi-oa-Tunya” or “the smoke that thunders” because its spray and thunderous roar can be seen and heard from miles away.

In total, Victoria Falls measures 5,604 ft in width and 354 ft in height, creating the world’s largest single curtain of falling water. During the height of the rainy season, over five hundred million cubic meters of water cascade over its edge. Cutting through zigzagging gorges, the pools that result from the falls draw rare wildlife from all around the region, including Grant’s zebra, Katanga lions, water buffalo, giraffe, elephants, vervet monkeys, baboons and many more.

Kalambo Falls

Located on the border between Zambia and Tanzania, Kalambo Falls is among the tallest waterfalls in Africa. Here, you will not only find rare sights like marabou stork nests but also fascinating anthropological sites. These extensively excavated sites were once home to prehistoric cultures dating back tens of thousands of years.

Ngonye Falls

Next to Victoria Falls, the Ngonye Falls make up some of the most majestic and incredible waterfalls in Zambia. They surround a wide, horseshoe-shaped basin at the transition point between the Zambezi River’s wide Kalahari flatland region and its more tumultuous and narrower path through basalt rock.

On either end of the falls, you can stand on rocks while the water gushes underneath. Below in the gorge, you will frequently find herds of elephants bathing, drinking or taking a rest.

The Kundalila Falls

The Kundalila Falls are not quite as noteworthy for their water flows as they are for the unique ecological habitat they create. Thin veils of water cascade over a wide swathe of rock, carving out deep pools on the bottom while sending sprays throughout the area. These sprays sustain a striking array of wild flowers as well as a richly diverse community of wildlife.

Lumangwe Falls

These falls are like a thunderous version of Victoria Falls writ small. They are found at a sudden drop in the Kalungwishi River in the Northern Province, providing a remote and frequently secluded camping spot for visitors. New lodges and visitor facilities have also been recently built nearby, making this area the perfect getaway spot for those on safari.

Come See Victoria Falls and the Other Famous Waterfalls of Zambia on a Safari Tour

You can book a trip to Victoria Falls, one of Africa’s most famous locations, as well as to any and all of these other gorgeous waterfalls when you enjoy one of our Zambia safari tour packages. Find your perfect safari vacation itinerary, and then book your trip today!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa