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

Packing Tips for Your Safari in Uganda

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Uganda is a beautiful country located in eastern Africa between the DR Congo and Kenya. Although Uganda is landlocked, it has Lake Victoria and Lake Albert upon its border, and it also has the sizeable Lake Kyoga within its land mass. Additionally, Uganda’s location within the tropics means that it receives as much as 11 inches of rainfall in a single month during April, the height of the wet season.

All of these factors mean that you should be prepared to stay dry during your safari in Uganda. You should also pack clothing that provides full leg and arm coverage to reduce the risk of mosquito bites.

Learn how these factors and more should translate into your packing list as we reveal some packing trips for your Ugandan safari tour.

Wear Clothing That Dries Fast

Rains can happen in the midst of the rainforest at any time, and puddles are often hidden in Uganda.

Prepare for these wet conditions during your safari adventure by packing synthetic clothing layers that can dry quickly. Sports wear, like articles made of Lycra, nylon, polyester and rayon, are often lightweight, breathable and provides ample coverage. On the other hand, polyester socks often do a poor job of wicking moisture and evaporating sweat, so stick to cotton or wool socks and synthetic outerwear.

Dressing in layers is ideal since mornings and evenings can get cool while days are typically hot. You will also want to be able to shed wet clothes and replace them with dry clothes in certain instances.

Sturdy Boots or Shoes With a Supportive Ankle

The most important quality of a shoe intended for safari-going is that it has a stiff ankle structure. Other pluses include waterproofing (can be spray-treated), a tall sole that can keep your foot out of the mud, and a breathable fabric like Gore Tex. Avoid winter boots since they tend to cause sweat and then absorb it.

Once again, wear tall, moisture-wicking socks, and also look for pairs that can provide extra support. Insoles may be recommended for certain shoes.

A Light Jacket That Blocks Out Wind and Rain

A lightweight jacket will be your lifesaver when showers or a stiff breeze threaten your comfort. Since the jacket is portable, you can also stuff it in a bag or tie it around your waist when not in use.

Long Sleeves, Long Pants, and Lots of Bug Spray

Much of Uganda lies in a malaria zone thanks to the ample swamps near lake shores and rivers. While you should feel relieved that the country was recently recognized for effectively treating and controlling malaria, you should still avoid insect bites at all costs. So wear long-sleeved, light-colored shirts and pants, and consider treating them with repellant chemicals. You should also bring along several cans of repellant spray for use on your skin.

Extra Camera Batteries and Memory Cards

The last thing you want to do is run out of camera batteries or memory when that perfect photo op hits. Preserve the moment by taking along lots of charged extra batteries and some blank memory cards. You can also bring an external hard drive and/or upload photos to the cloud every night to prevent disaster.

Get Packing Tips Based on Travel Plans for Your Safari in Uganda

What you end up packing should be determined by your planned itinerary, so take a look at our Uganda safari vacation packages to get an idea of what you will be doing, and then contact us if you need any advice for packing!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

 

Meerkat Fun on a Kalahari Safari

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Meerkats: they may not have quite as much personality as Nathan Lane imbued Timon with in The Lion King, but they certainly come close. Their expressive faces and social tendencies endear them to humans for being similar to us but also ridiculously cute.

But make no mistake: meerkats may be cute, but they are ruthlessly efficient when it comes to working as a team while foraging, burrowing or even waging war over territory with other meerkat clans. Catching a glimpse of them in the wild can be fascinating, so keep these fun meerkat facts in mind during your Kalahari safari trip.

Meerkats Are Only Found in the Kalahari and Namib Deserts

Meerkats are a unique species. While they belong in the Herpestidae family with mongooses, they are the only species in the genus Suricata.

They exhibit highly unique traits compared to other mongooses, as well, including an evolved social structure and a tendency to live in burrows. They also mostly live in one place on the planet: the Kalahari desert. They can also be found in parts of the Namib desert along the coast of Namibia.

Therefore, if you want to see meerkats, the best places to visit would be Botswana, Namibia or South Africa.

Meerkats Live in Advanced Societies

Meerkats live in family “clans” dominated by a matriarch and her male mate. Labor is divided among the adult meerkats when it comes to digging burrows, foraging for food, standing watch for predators, and even nursing the matriarch’s pups.

One of the most notable of these duties is how several meerkats will act as sentries during the day while other members forage, play, or relax. These sentries will rotate, like people keeping watch. When a sentry spots a threat like a tawny eagle wheeling in the sky, they will bark out a specific warning call and send everyone scurrying back into the burrow. The drongo bird will even take advantage of this behavior by sounding a false alert when it can get a free meal.

Meerkats Have Highly Adapted Bodies

Adaptive traits of the meerkat include:

  • Large eyes set at slight angles for great sweeping visibility as well as an acute sense of depth
  • Dark circles around their eyes to reduce glare
  • Large ears for excellent hearing and also to radiate heat
  • Transparent third eyelids and an ability to shut their ears tight, both of which protect them during digging
  • Long, slender bodies adapted for tunneling but also advantageous for keeping watch; strong hind legs and a stiff tail also help them stand upright
  • Shovel-like claws for digging and snatching insects
  • An immunity to scorpion poison at adulthood
  • Thin-skinned bellies perfect for sunbathing when the meerkat wants to warm up

Meerkats Are Family-Oriented

Meerkat matriarchs only give birth to about four pups in a breeding season, so the entire clan looks after these pups to ensure their future survival. Some females will even help the matriarch nurse her pups by acting as wet nurses.

When meerkats sense danger, they will ensure that the pups are the first to flee. If they must confront threats, meerkat clans will place themselves in between pups and the danger to act as a shield.

One of the most surprising traits of meerkats, though, is how they can recognize individual’s voices like we would recognize our siblings’.

Come See Meerkats on Your Kalahari Safari

You can book a trip for a Kalahari safari tour in Botswana or South Africa to get a wild and personal look at meerkats in their home habitat.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Custom Guide for African Travel

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When foreign countries admit travelers from abroad, they take on a small amount of risk when it comes to protecting their economy and their ecosystem. Just one invasive species specimen is all it takes, for instance, to set off an environmental disaster. Smuggling of low-cost goods from abroad can also disrupt long-established trade patterns.

So, to be allowed access to countries like South Africa, you will have to prove that you are not up to mischief by complying with the procedures and restrictions for bringing goods through customs. Here are just some of the most important things you should know:

Items That Are Banned From Entry to South Africa

The following items are not allowed into the country and may even subject you to criminal charges for bringing them into the airport:

  • Illegal narcotics, including cannabis, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and illegally procured prescription painkillers
  • Fully automatic weapons, military-grade weapons and weapons lacking a serial number
  • All explosives, fireworks and “weapons of mass destruction”
  • Poisons and toxic substances
  • Large cigarettes weighing over two grams each (2kg per 1,000)
  • Counterfeit goods and goods that violate international copyrights and trademarks
  • Goods made by prison labor

Goods That Must Be Declared

Certain goods must be declared to indicate that the traveller is aware of the stated limits and to get on-record that the goods are being brought with them. When in doubt, declare everything.

The following goods must be declared:

  • Currency in excess of R25,000; all foreign currency over $10,000 in value; coins or stamp collections; gold coins; unprocessed gold
  • Endangered plant or animal species, alive or dead, as well as any products or parts derived from them
  • All agricultural and plant products, including honey, seeds, fruit, flowers, margarine, vegetable oils, dairy products, chicken eggs, butter, poultry and all animals living or dead
  • Medicines — A one-month’s supply of pharmaceutical drugs intended for personal use can be brought in; amounts in excess of this or not for personal use must be declared and accompanied by a physician’s letter or certified prescription

Goods That Can Be Brought in Duty Free

The following goods can be brought into South Africa without having to pay a duty:

  • Wine — Up to two liters a person
  • Spirits and/or other alcoholic beverages — Up to one liter total per person
  • Perfume — up to 50 ml a person, or up to 250 ml a person for less-concentrated eau-de-toilette products
  • Cigars — Up to 20 a person
  • Cigarettes — Up to 200 a person
  • Loose tobacco — Up to 250g a person
  • Personal belongings, including recreation and sports equipment
  • Up to 25 kg in handmade goods, even if they are intended for sale
  • If arriving from Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia or Botswana, up to R25,000 total in duty free allowances
  • For all countries not listed above, up to R5,000 in duty free allowances

Paying Duties and Reclaiming VAT

All items not covered by exceptions or in excess of stated limits are subject to both a duty and a value added tax (VAT), even if the items were bought in a “duty-free” shop. All VAT amounts you pay to customs and throughout your entire trip can potentially be claimed and repaid when exiting the country, so make sure to keep original receipts for all purchases.

Find Out More Information on Respective Customs Guide Pages

You can consult the respective embassy website for you destination country, such as this page of customs guidelines for entry into South Africa, to make sure that you understand the rules and your obligations when entering the country.

You can also contact us for advice on getting through customs, packing and avoiding issues in general during your African safari vacation.

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

 

Updated Information for African Immunizations

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Part of the appeal of travelling to a foreign country lies in exposing yourself to new experiences. Unfortunately a necessary consequence of this goal is that, in addition to experiencing new sights, sounds and sensations, you will also experience new disease risks that your body is not used to.

Fear of outbreaks among countries also drives them to mandate that foreigners get certain vaccines to protect against the spread of infectious diseases. To help protect yourself and the people you are going to visit from the possible dangers of serious diseases, you should get most or all of the following African immunizations before you travel.

Hepatitis A&B

The risk of contracting hepatitis A is high in most African countries because of inconsistent food preparation and hygiene practices. No matter which country you visit, the CDC highly recommends that you receive a series of hepatitis A immunizations, which come in a series of two shots taken six months apart.

Hepatitis B infections are much less common, but still possible, especially if you are engaging in extended contact with poorer, rural populations in Africa, such as on mission work.

Even with the vaccines, take care when eating and drinking abroad. Contaminated food and water is a common source of hep A and B. Eat only at established restaurants, hotels and other such permanent places that serve food, as opposed to food carts or unregulated businesses that utilize an open kitchen. Try to drink only bottled water, and avoid using ice in your drinks or eating frozen treats like shaved ice.

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is a mosquito-transmitted disease that can cause severe liver failure. Sub-saharan African countries like D.R. Congo, Uganda and western regions of Kenya are the only areas that carry a risk of yellow fever, as this CDC map shows. You will be required to have proof of immunization if you enter these countries or if you enter other countries after having travelled to affected areas.

In addition to vaccination, you should take steps to prevent mosquito bites during your travels, such as applying repellent, wearing long clothing and sleeping under a net.

Meningitis

Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection that attacks the brain as well as the central nervous system. Countries in Africa’s “meningitis belt” of Sub-Saharan Africa, including South Sudan and western areas of Ethiopia, carry the highest risk of infection.

Even if you are not travelling to these specific countries, a meningitis vaccine is recommended to people of all ages throughout their life to avoid a serious, life-threatening infection.

Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection most often caused by eating contaminated food or drink. Vaccination against typhoid fever is recommended for all travellers regardless of their destination.

Additional Recommended African Immunizations

These vaccines are generally recommended to be up-to-date for all people whether they are travelling or staying home:

  • MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
  • Polio
  • Rabies

Additionally, you should take precautions against biting insects in order to avoid diseases like malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya, sleeping sickness and others.

You can learn more about the recommended vaccines and disease prevention methods based on your destination country by consulting the CDC’s travel immunization portal and also by contacting us for our expert advice.

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