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

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

Last Male Northern White Rhino Takes to Tinder to Find a Date

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There are only three northern white rhinos left, and just one male. As one of the last of his subspecies, Sudan the 44 year-old rhino did what any sensible person would do: create a Tinder profile and start looking for dates.

Sudan’s Tinder profile can now be found alongside others in 190 countries and 40 different languages. “I don’t mean to be too forward, but the fate of the species literally depends on me,” his profile quips, adding that he does “perform well under pressure.”

Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the caretakers of Sudan and his two female companions, started the campaign as an effort to raise money and awareness for the plight of the northern white rhino, also called the square-lipped rhino. The Conservancy also offers Kenya safari tours and lodging on their 90,000 acre facility.

So far, traffic for the Conservancy’s site has spiked, causing it to crash numerous times. No word yet on whether visitors are concerned conservationists, Sudan’s new adoring fans, or someone actually looking to get a date.

 

Sudan: Possibly the Last of His Subspecies

Sudan was born in 1973 — ironically the same year Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” was a #1 single. He was captured in the wild in Sudan when he was only three years old and transported to the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech republic. Sudan became the zoo’s rarest exhibited animal, drawing millions of interested visitors, photographers, zoologists and conservationists across the world every year.

The zoo successfully bred Sudan with a female northern white rhino named Nasima, giving birth to a male named Nabire in 1983 and a female named Najin in 1989. Nabire tragically died in his enclosure in 2015, but Najin went on to sire a female named Fatu in 2000.

Fatu, her mother and her grandfather Sudan were all transported to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya in 2009 to give the rhinos a more natural habitat and hopefully encourage breeding with other partners. Their horns had grown in an abnormal shape because they had been rubbing them on the bars of their enclosures, so to encourage them to grow back normally — and to discourage poachers — all three rhinos had their horns safely sawn off once they reached their new home.

These rare specimens are protected around-the-clock from poachers by a team of vigilant and highly trained armed guards.

Looking for Love on Tinder

Unfortunately, neither of Sudan’s kin can breed any longer, and Suni, one of the last viable white rhino males they could breed with, perished in 2014. That means Sudan is the only one of his subspecies left who can produce viable, pure northern white rhino offspring.

His only options, then, are to cross-breed with other subspecies of square-lipped rhino, such as the southern white rhino. Or, perhaps he can dig up a saucy date with an elusive bachelorette northern white throughTinder? Although the chances of that actually happening are slim to none — no northern whites have been spotted in the wild since the early 2000s — Sudan’s profile will help raise awareness and money for other conservation efforts that benefit Ol Pejeta, Kenya, and the African wildlife community at large.

See White Rhinos on a Kenya Safari Tour

You can see white rhinos at Ol Pejeta Conservancy or at other amazing destinations when you book a rhino safari tour package to visit these majestic beasts in their home environment. Book your tour now, and start packing today!

Who knows, you just may be able to blow Sudan a kiss.

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

The Adorable African Civet

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One of Africa’s cutest yet least understood animals are the African civets. That unfamiliarity is likely because these solitary, nocturnal creatures are difficult to spot. They spend most of the day sleeping in dense vegetation, venturing at night to snack on whatever prey they can find.

Despite their elusiveness, they are spread throughout most of central Africa. Their habitat ranges throughout the entire middle of the continent to the sub-Saharan region and all the way to the northern tip of South Africa.

Catching a glimpse of one of these common yet crafty critters on an African safari tour is difficult, but with a keen eye and some patience, you may be able to get a gander at one on its nighttime prowl.

African Civet Appearance and Behavior

At a glance, the African civet looks like a cross between a huge tortoiseshell cat and a raccoon. They have long, lithe bodies and a cat-like tail. Their front quarters look decidedly less like a cat as a result of the slouching shoulders and tiny dog-like head. Dark circles cover the eyes, and small but slightly pointed ears afford them excellent hearing.

Black markings may appear to make the civet stand out, but as they hunt through the underbrush at night, these quiet creatures are incredibly hard to spot. They are also shy, fleeing most potential confrontations quickly as a defense mechanism. Non-retractable claws give it amazing climbing abilities, and civets will spend much of their life foraging or sleeping in trees. Civets have 40 sharp teeth they use to quickly catch and bite into prey. They live around 15 years in the wild but can live over 20 years in captivity.

An Acquired Taste?

Because civets are quite hard to locate in the wild, biologists actually know little about their behavior compared to most other animals. What is known is that while civets are not usually physically aggressive, they are fiercely territorial. They have large scent glands that they use to spray and mark their territory.

This pungent musk actually caused the civet to be highly sought after by perfumers . They would hunt civets and capture them to regularly milk them for their scent glands. The scent was used as a fixative and base ingredient for many fine perfumes, but synthetic versions that can imitate the properties of civet musk have replaced the practice of milking civets.

When milked, a male civet only produces around three to four grams of pure musk a week, causing the substance to command extremely high prices on the global market — up to $500 for a kilogram.

Where to See Civets on an African Safari Tour

Civets have a wide habitat range and are most often found in non-arid locations near permanent bodies of water. You can most easily find them along river systems and lakes.

See if you can spot a civet during your African safari when you book one of our multi-country African vacation packages today.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

image by Kruger Park

 

Zimbabwe’s Elusive and Critical Endangered Pangolin

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The shy and reclusive pangolin tries to keep a low profile while going about its business of eating ants and termites, but despite this unassuming demeanor — the pangolin is the biggest victim of poaching on earth. Tens of thousands of pangolins are illegally trafficked every year, leading to major seizures like one in China that contained over 3 tons of pangolin scales.

As the eight pangolin species are poached near extinction, advocates of the species are all that stands between them and being wiped off the face of the planet. Their champions include Zimbabwe’s Tikki Hywood Trust, which fosters orphaned and rescued pangolins, spreads awareness of their plight, fights for policies that protect threatened species, and engages in breeding programs to help restore their numbers.

Visitors on a Zimbabwe safari vacation who love animals should therefore make sure visit the Tikki Hywood Trust web page first to learn about how locals are fighting to protect the unique species that help make our planet beautiful.

Pangolins: Nature’s Insectivorous Knights in Scaled Armor

Pangolins are the sole remnants of the family Manidae, which are the only mammals to have hard scales made of keratin. While pangolin look like a cross between anteaters and armadillos, they are actually not closely related to either.

The pangolin’s natural diet consists of ants, termites and various insect larvae. They have a highly particular diet designed to give them optimal nutrition. Because of this picky eating, pangolins have to forage widely to find the species they prefer, making habitat loss another devastating contributor to their dwindling numbers.

Pangolins are also solitary and shy, foraging only and night and avoiding contact with others in their species outside of mating periods. Since they are somewhat short, blend in with the forest floor and can be quite fast, they are elusive to researchers, sometimes preventing accurate counts of their numbers in the wild.

When threatened, the pangolin curls up into tight balls as a defense mechanism. Its scales are so tough that even lions have trouble getting through them. Unfortunately, these beautiful and unique scales also make the pangolin a target of poachers. The scales are prized as fashion accessories or components of ancient Chinese medicine — although modern medical research indicates no benefits whatsoever. Pangolin meat is also considered an exotic delicacy, although personal accounts suggest that the animal is not particularly tasty by any means.

So, because of unfortunate misconceptions and the tragic desire for status symbols, the pangolin is being hunted to death based on myths and misunderstandings.

Protecting Pangolins on Your Zimbabwe Safari Tour

If your aim is to help lift the chances of pangolin survival, make sure you engage in the following activities:

  • Familiarize yourself with wildlife protection laws and policy so that you can educate yourself and others on what it takes for governments and people to take action
  • Seek vendors who partner with organizations like the Tikki Hywood Trust when going on a Zimbabwe safari tour
  • Recognize the beauty of pangolins and the bravery and compassion of those who try to protect them
  • Report any pangolin scale artifacts or serving of pangolin “bush meat” to the Zimbabwe authorities; refuse to give money to vendors who engage in these practices

You can begin to explore the world of the gorgeous and enchanting pangolin on a Zimbabwe safari tour with your family.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

image: Getty Images