Game Drive Tips for Your African Safari Trip

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Those looking for ways to make the most of their African safari trip should consider going on a few game drives, one of the best activities for maximizing your time.

If you want to get the best photos during your game drives and increase your chances of seeing Africa’s most famous animals, you can follow these tips that can ensure you have a good time while respecting wildlife and respecting others.

Follow the Most Important Rules: Stay Inside the Vehicle, Keep Quiet and Don’t Feed the Animals

Game drives disrupt the typical experience of wildlife in the bush, but guides and safari tour companies do their best to compromise with nature. By sticking mostly to set paths, taking steps to not stress the animals and keeping interactions to snapping photos, the natural experience can be preserved as much as possible. Most animals even get used to the site and sound of 4x4s.

Uphold your end of the bargain by staying quiet during drives. Do not call out to animals to get their attention, and try to talk softly the entire drive. Definitely do not feed animals, since this can get them sick and encourage them to associate humans with food — not a good connection!

Also, most importantly, keep within the confines of the vehicle at all times. Leaning out or, heaven forbid, exiting the vehicle can stress animals and place you in a very dangerous situation.

Dress in Layers, Wear Sunscreen and Bring Repellant

Game drives can be chilly in the morning and hot in the afternoon sun. Dress in layers so that you can prepare for these temperature changes. Also, wear a brimmed hat and cover yourself in sunscreen to prevent getting burned.

Biting insects are common in many parks, especially during open air drives, so bring along plenty of repellant to reapply during your drive.

Take Along a Guidebook

During your drive, you will probably see a ton of animals you do not recognize but that look interesting. Take along an informative guidebook with photo identification of bush animals so you can know as much as possible about the world around you.

For younger safari-goers, you can print off a checklist of animals so that they can stay engaged and focus on seeing the most interesting species.

Bring Binoculars

Binoculars help you spot far away animals and set up your photos more quickly. Being forced to share binoculars can mean watching a speck by a drinking pool while everyone else sees a lion, so bring a pair for each person to ensure no one misses out.

Wait for the Vehicle to Stop Before Taking Close-Up Photos

The powerful engines in 4x4s tend to vibrate, which leads to blurry pictures if you have your lens zoomed in. Feel free to snap wide angle shots as you drive, but for the best photos wait until the engine is cut off.

Look for More Than Just the Big Five

Everyone wants to see lions, elephants and other famous “big five” animals on their trip, but you should recognize that there are plenty of beautiful species on the African continent, both big and small. Use a guidebook to help you spot birds, tell the difference between antelope-like species and appreciate sights others might miss.

Talk With Your Ranger

Your ranger has gone on hundreds of drives and has likely spent much of their life living in the bush. Feel free to ask them questions or to get them to describe their experiences, especially if you want to know more about a specific animal.

Let Nature and Your Spotter Be Your Eyes

With the tallest necks in the bush, giraffes tend to be amazing lookouts, helping you identify big cats crouched in the grass where you cannot see. Other animals like antelope tend to focus sharply when they see possible dangers. Your spotter guide will also help keep everyone focused either by staring at their target, quietly pointing or informing your ranger.

Tip Your Guides!

Game drive guides earn some wages, but they get much of their income from tips. They also tend to get motivated to do more for groups that tip generously, so if you are particularly keen on seeing something elusive like a leopard, then be a little more giving.

Tip amounts are at your discretion, but R30 to R50 or $8 a person is considered fair. No matter how much you give, be sure to thank your guide since they are providing you a service few others are capable of rendering!

Go on Several Drives to Get a Diverse Experience During Your African Safari Trip

Morning drives are usually the most productive times of day, but afternoon and nighttime drives offer differing experiences. Regardless of when you go, recognize that each drive is a dice roll in that you never know what you will see — or if you will see anything. If you have a disappointing drive one day, do not think that means you will not see more than the average group on your next drive.

You can ensure that you go on as many different drives as possible while enjoying other amazing activities like bush walks and boat rides when you book an African safari tour package and start planning your trip today!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

 

Experience the Sheer Diversity of South African Plant Life

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South Africa has a boggling amount of diversity in its plant life, including over 9,000 different species on its Cape Floristic Region. While many may think solely of the savanna when they think of South Africa, the country has seven other completely different ecological life zones, or biomes. Each biome has a unique mixture of native flora, including thousands of endemic species and many native flowering plants that should be familiar to gardening enthusiasts.

Explore each of these biomes with us as we highlight their rich diversity and unique traits, but remember that you can only truly experience them with your own eyes on an African safari vacation.

Plant Biomes Found in South Africa

  • Savanna
  • Desert
  • Grassland
  • Thicket
  • Forest
  • Succulent karoo
  • Nama karoo
  • Fynbos

Cape Floristic Kingdom

Plant “kingdoms” are biogeological groupings that attempt to group together as many endemic species as possible by similarities in traits, heredity, and more. Most of these kingdoms stretch across the globe; the Holarctic, or Boreal, Kingdom for instance spans most of North America and all of Europe as well as parts of North Africa.

South Africa’s Cape Peninsula boast a floral kingdom that occupies a relatively tiny area — the smallest of all the six plant kingdoms found on the globe. This cluster exists because 69 percent of the species here are endemic, which is to say they can be found nowhere else.

20 percent of all the African continent’s plant species can be found here. The Cape Peninsula also has more overall plant species within it than all of the isle of Great Britain.

Fynbos

Fynbos or “fine bush” is an arid, Mediterranean-like biome characterized by scrub grasses and brightly colored flowering plants. Many familiar garden species hail from here, including irises, geraniums (pelargoniums), white arum lilies, Barberton daisies and more.

Make of the Cape Floral Kingdom is composed of fynbos.

Namaqualand

While the Cape Floral Kingdom is impressive, the Namaqualand region astounds the mind with raw beauty and emotion. Throughout most of the year, this region is arid, rocky and very desert-like. But every spring, it erupts in fields of shockingly intense color.

Images of this period can stir the soul, but they do not do the actual sight of the orange, yellow, and violet fields justice. If you want to time your trip to South Africa just right, make sure it happens when you can catch a glimpse of the Namaqualand in full bloom.

Forests, Savanna, Grassland and More

In addition to these natural gardens, South Africa has the familiar acacia trees, iconic baobab trees, ancient cycads and more. Many of these plants provide more than just beauty; medical researchers are now prizing them for their potent medicinal effects.

Sadly, many of these gorgeous and beneficial plants are threatened, including 1,435 species in the Cape Floristic Kingdom. Support their biodiversity by raising awareness and embarking on South African safari tours that contribute money to the preservation of South Africa’s wild, unique and wonderful landscapes.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Safari in the city: Johannesburg

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Going on a safari in South Africa to most people means seeing big cats, rhinos, elephants and other notable species in Kruger Park. While this is certainly a great way to spend your time, you should make certain that you do not miss out on the other aspects of the region’s beauty.

More specifically, you should take a look at cities like Johannesburg to see the unique sights, sounds and experiences they can offer. While a relatively young city by most standards, “Joburg” as it is known by many locals is still steeped in history and rich culture. Anyone interested in getting the full experience of a South African vacation should therefore spend a few days in Johannesburg in order to catch the following attractions:

Johannesburg Botanical Garden

The Johannesburg Botanical Garden can be found in the Emmarentia suburbs to the north of downtown. Far removed from the densely packed bustle of the inner city, this massive 308 acre complex was founded in 1964 as a large rose garden upon a former farm estate.

The Rose Garden, with over 10,000 roses and dozens of world species, still remains a primary draw for visitors, but the park has also expanded to encompass many other areas and themes. Visitors can find a succulent garden, a prehistoric cycad garden, a preserved bird island, and a rare surviving example of a Shakespeare garden.

Johannesburg’s Botanical Garden lands also includes the adjacent Emmarentia Dam, which creates gorgeous, tranquil reservoirs surrounded by trees, walking trails, braai barbeque pits and more, making the park a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

Constitution Hill

Once an example of the oppression that minorities and political dissidents endured in South Africa, Constitution Hill has been transformed into a simultaneous ray of hope for local democracy in addition to a reminder of the mistakes of our past.

This “living museum” was once the site of a political prison as well as the Old Fort first built to protect the Boers from British invaders. These facilities have been transformed into monuments and educational museums, but South Africa’s Constitutional Court also actively operates here, interpreting law and making decisions that it feels are in the general interest of all South African citizens.

Visiting Constitution Hill is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave a lasting impression for years to come.

Johannesburg Zoo

You don’t have to go to Kruger or out in the bush to see wildlife in Johannesburg. Our city zoo has a huge variety of exotic species not just from Africa, but all over the world. It contains the only two polar bears in the entire continent, for instance, as well as one of the few breeding centers for white lions in the world.

African Craft Market of Rosebank

This open market is one of the most colorful and unique of any in the world. You will find all sorts of handmade goods, clothing and crafts here, making it the perfect spot to pick up a souvenir for yourself or someone you care about.

Visiting the market also puts you in the neighborhood of Rosebank, one of the more cosmopolitan and tourist-friendly sections of the city. You can tour famous landmarks, see local architecture and observe our city’s beautiful man-made forest while taking a walking along the city streets.

So Much More to See and Do in Johannesburg During Your South African Safari

These attractions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to enjoying yourself during your South African safari vacation. Take a look at our South Africa safari tour packages to get a taste of Kruger as well as tours of Johannesburg and nearby Cape Town during your trip.

Book your African safari vacation today!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya  Chui, Travel Africa

10 Interesting Facts about Johannesburg

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Johannesburg is a huge, beautiful, thriving metropolitan area in South Africa that embodies the very best that the nation has to offer. A far cry from the deserts and jungles that most tourists imagine when they mentally picture Africa, Johannesburg offers a modern break from your African safari vacation that includes world class cuisine and retail shopping opportunities. The culture in the city is unique, and draws travelers from across the world throughout the year. Located between the sea and unforgiving mountains that team with wildlife, South Africa’s largest city is the perfect place to stay if you are hoping to get a full experience of Africa. If you are planning a safari tour, this city is definitely worth considering putting on your list. Here are 10 interesting facts about Johannesburg.

  1. A Golden City

Johannesburg was founded during a major gold rush in South Africa over 120 years ago. This golden city has thrived since, and contains the wealthiest province in all of the country. Though Johannesburg was founded multiple generations ago, it is still considered a very new city by standards through the world.

  1. A Big City

Johannesburg is the second largest city in all of the country of Africa. It is second only to Cairo, Egypt. For the entire population, there is only one hospital that serves 3.5 million residents. Incredibly, this is the largest acute hospital in the world.

  1. A Green City

Johannesburg is a city that loves the environment and trees, having planted a magnificent, made made and urban forest that is the largest of its kind.

  1. A Dry-Port City

Johannesburg is known as the “dry-port” city because it is not built directly on a coastline. If is the largest city not to be built on any water.

  1. An Ancient City

Roughly 40% of the world’s ancient human fossils have been discovered just outside of the main city, on a major archeological site.

  1. A City with a Beautiful Skyline

The tallest structure in Johannesburg is the Hillbrow Tower, standing at 269 meters high. This tower stands out among the rest on the city’s stunning skyline.

  1. A City with a Zoo

Johannesburg is proud to have one of the very best zoos in Africa. The park is over 100 years old, and provides a home to many incredible creatures. This includes the only set of polar bears in all of Africa.

  1. A Great Police Force

As a large city, there is a good amount of crime and tourists are cautioned to stay on the safe side. That being said, Johannesburg is proud that the average response time for police is as little as 60 seconds.

  1. A City in the Clouds

Since Johannesburg is set 2000 meters above sea level and the air is not as dense as the neighboring cities, it takes longer to boil an egg.

  1. A City of Music

Johannesburg is home of  a distinct African style that is known as Kwaito. This interesting genre is both fun and catchy.

Plan Your African Safari Vacation

If you would like to learn more about cities in South Africa and planning your African safari vacation, visit our safari tours page or contact a representative with Roho Ya Chui today.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

 

Meerkat Mania

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Since the release of Disney’s beloved classic, The Lion King, in 1994, the meerkat has become one of the most recognizable creatures from Africa. This adorable species is common, yet still one of the animals that tourists hope to see the most on their African safari vacation. The meerkat is a rugged creature, despite its delicate appearance, and is as clever in real life as the witty character, Timon. Seeing these tiny animals in their natural habitat is a real treat. If you are planning your trip to Africa, be sure to keep your eye out for a group of meerkats. In the meantime, let’s celebrate with a few fun facts on this incredible creature.

Family Matters

Unlike in the movie, the meerkat is not a creature that you will find flourishing alone or without its own kind. The meerkat thrives in a family gang with 20 to 50 extended members. The group is led by an alpha pair, yet the female is normally the most dominant out of the two. For the most part, the entire family group is made up of siblings or children of the pair. Just two to four new pups are born from the lead pair every year, who are watched over and even nursed by the entire family gang. They are well aware that their continued survival is dependant on the care of their offspring. They have even been known to risk their own lives to protect these youngsters.

The Watch Guard

One way in which the meerkat shows its intelligence is by the establishment of the family watch guard. Meerkats take turns keeping watch over the brood, scanning the horizon for predators while the rest of the family frolics in the sun in peace. If one of the common predators of the meerkat is spotted, the family member who is standing watch will warn the others with a very distinct bark.

Thriving in the Desert

Meerkats are perfect for life in the desert. The markings around their eyes help to reduce the glare of the sun, while the shape of their eyes allow them to see things in a wide angle view. They are master burrowers, living in an expensive network of tunnels that they dig safely below the ground.

Meerkats are Omnivores

One surprising fact about meerkats is that they are omnivores. They eat both plants and animals, and enjoy delicacies that include bugs. Meerkats are known to eat other small rodents, lizards, scorpions, birds, eggs and fruit. They are wonderful hunters, capable of disarming a scorpion from its poisonous stinger in an instant. Since the meerkat does not store body fat well, they forage for food on a daily basis.

Plan Your African Safari Vacation

Would you like to see the magnificent meerkat up close and personal in its natural habitat? Then keep an eye out on your African safari vacation for one of the cleverest families in the land. To start planning your trip, visit our safari tours page or contact a representative with Roho Ya Chui today.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

How to Handle and Ostrich Encounter

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The ostrich is the world’s largest bird. They are native to the African savannah and desert lands, where they roam between watering holes eating plants along the way. Though ostriches cannot fly, their powerful legs make them extremely fast sprinters. They are capable of reaching top speeds of 43 miles per hour, and can run over long distances at 31 miles per hour. It goes without saying, but an ostrich is not an animal that you want to get into a foot race with on your African safari vacation.

At Roho Ya Chui, we want you to have a great time on your safari, while also staying safe. Due to their size and awesome abilities, ostriches are very popular animals among tourists. Seeing the world’s largest bird in its natural habitat is a true bucket list item for many. It is important to remember that these are wild animals and special care should be taken if you happen to encounter one. Though humans are not a natural prey of these birds, they have been known to injure and even kill people. Here is how to handle an ostrich encounter.

  1. Hide and Please Don’t Seek

Ostriches can deliver devastating blows with their powerful legs, wings and beaks. The best way to avoid being harmed by an ostrich is to steer clear of them all together. Of course, even the most well intended tourists can get into sticky situations with wild animals. If you encounter an ostrich, immediately look to see if there is any brush, a building or vehicle that you can easily reach nearby. Keep your eye on the animal, but quickly seek refuge in this shelter and hide. If you do not think that you can make it to shelter, do not attempt to. Lay on the ground and play dead instead. An ostrich can easily outrun an adult human and will attack from behind with enormous force.

  1. Blend In or Climb High

Ostriches are birds that have a primary diet of plants. Humans are far from the top of their list of prey, but they will chase a person if they feel threatened. As mentioned, a person has little hope of outrunning an ostrich, so the best chance is to hide. If there is no brush available, look to see if there is any object that you can use to conceal yourself, such as a boulder or tree. If you do find a tree, try and climb it. Remember that ostriches are incapable of flight, so you will only need to go nine or ten feet to be safe. The ostrich will lose interest in the chase if they believe that you have left.

  1. Fight Off the Ostrich

In extreme circumstances, when there is no cover and you are clearly being attacked by the ostrich, you may have to fight. If there is a stick near, arm yourself. Stay to the sides and rear of the ostrich, they can only attack from the front. Make yourself as large as possible by waving your arms and a stick.

Plan Your African Safari Vacation

If you would like more information about planning your African safari vacation, visit our safari tours page or contact a representative with Roho Ya Chui today.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

How to Determine the Amount of Time to Spend on Your Safari

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Africa is the perfect continent to visit when you are on holiday. Many people spend years planning the perfect safari vacation. There are multiple countries in Africa that offer tourists wonderful safari experiences. Of course, it is impossible to experience all of the diverse landscapes and biomes within Africa in a short trip — but holidays do not last long. It is important to pinpoint exactly what you want to see and do for your African safari vacation so that you can determine how much time you will need to commit to meeting those goals. Here are some questions to help you determine the amount of time to spend on your safari.

  1. Are You an Experienced Wildlife Fanatic?

While everyone is encouraged to take a trip to Africa so that they can truly appreciate everything that the wonderful nations within have to offer, a long safari is not recommended for all. The most common methods for traveling through the safari parks and countries is via a four wheel drive vehicle, walking, horseback or on foot. As you can imagine, a few days of traveling in this manner is exhausting for even the most avid outdoorsman. Of course, for some a week is not nearly enough time to embrace the African wildlife. If you are not an experienced with the outdoors, consider limiting your safari to a week or less.

  1. What is Your Method of Travel?

Some methods of travel allow you to see a lot of the landscape very quickly. One of the most popular is an air safari via plane. This is a very unique experience that requires little work on your part — except to keep your eyes open for any incredible animals. There are also water safaris that can be more relaxing than other traditional routes. If you are traveling using one of these methods, you will be able to complete your trip quicker, in just a few days. If you would like to stay in Africa longer, be our guest.

  1. What are Your Prefered Accommodations?

Most eco-friendly safari camps are quite primitive. You can expect bucket showers and a true camping experience. However, luxury safari camps offer a finer side for safari tourists. After a week in an eco-friendly camp, you will probably be ready for a nice hot shower and a warm bed. If you are in a luxury camp, you may be able to stick it out a bit longer.

  1. What Would You Like to See?

There is so much to do and see in Africa, it is simply impossible to cover it all in a week or even two. Narrow down your top priorities and calculate how much time it will take to travel between them. If you would like to go through multiple countries, you may want to consider extending your trip.

Plan Your African Safari Vacation

Are you ready to plan your African safari vacation? We can help. To learn more, visit our safari tours page or contact us to speak to a representative at Roho Ya Chui.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa