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

Fruits and Foods Native to Africa

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When most people picture Africa in their minds, they see grassy plains, desert landscapes and fierce animals. Far from a place where fruit and other foods grow in abundance—but, Africa is a surprising land of plenty in many, many ways. Much of African culture revolves around the delicious food that is produced by the diverse peoples that make up the continent. South Africa, in particular, is abundant in plant food sources. This is most evident when tourists taste the world class cuisine that chefs put together using local sources. Once you experience an African safari vacation, you will never think of this place in the same way again. Here are some of the native fruits and foods native to Africa.

  1. Amaranth

The lowlands of Africa are associated with the stunning gorillas that many tourists travel around the world to see. The countries that comprise this area are hot, humid and full of thriving plant life. This plant diversity includes the edible greenery, Amaranth. Amaranth thrives and grows quickly in the humid environment and is used by the locals, as well as others around the world, for a variety of uses. As an excellent source of protein, essential minerals, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and other vitamins, this plant plays an important role in the diets of people who call the African lowlands home.

  1. Cowpea

Thousands of years ago, the hearty people who called Africa home grew a major crop that is still a staple in the land today. Cowpea is a legume that could not be more perfect for life on the diverse continent. Not only is it efficient in drought, but it can also be grown successfully in poor soil conditions.

  1. The Spider Plant

The Spider Plant is to Africa what lettuce and other leafy greens are to many areas of the world. This plant is grown throughout the continent and plays a significant role in the diet of the people who live here.

  1. African Eggplant

Like many other plants that are grown in Africa, the African Eggplant can thrive in poor soil and drought conditions. It is also very easy to store and is long lasting. Most importantly, second to being a very nutritious vegetable, this plant is the fiscal lifeline for many African families. While tourism plays a giant role in the economies of many African nations, agriculture is also a driving force. This plant, in particular, is a multi-beneficial staple in many areas.

Book Your African Safari Vacation

Are you ready to try some of these native fruits and vegetables for yourself? You can get your questions answered and begin booking your African safari vacation by visiting our safari page or contacting a representative with Rohoyachui today.

Jill LIphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Visiting the different regions of Africa

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Roho Ya Chui offers safaris all across Africa so that you can travel the locations you’re most drawn to. Each part of the continent offers unique experiences from scenery to wildlife to cuisine. Explore our site and guides for more details, but consider these brief descriptions of some of our favorite regions of Africa to start narrowing down your trip choices. Remember not to stress over your decision—all the safaris are incredible, and you can always come back for another!

Botswana & Namibia

Surround yourself with wildlife during your trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana. The park is home to one of the largest concentrations of elephants on the entire African continent. As the game roam freely in the large natural space, you’ll also be likely to spot buffalo, antelope, rafts of hippo, lions, crocodiles, zebras, and hyenas. Sound like your ideal trip? Think about the 9-day Signature Botswana safari or check out what our Namibia trips have to offer.

Southern Africa

The country of South Africa is a great place to visit if you’re interested in exploring Southern Africa. Cape Town offers incredible views of the ocean and mountains. Visit the Jackass penguins on Boulders Beach and watch the gorgeous sunset over Table Mountain. Kruger Park offers highly skilled and qualified professional rangers and trackers who will land you intimate wildlife encounters with leopards, elephants, buffalo, rhino, and lions. There are plenty of safaris to think about taking throughout the nations of Southern Africa, but a few to consider in South Africa are the 7-day Signature Kruger, the 10-day Cape Town, Kruger & Victoria Falls, and the 6-day Blyde River, Kruger, and Panorama Route fly-in tour.

Victoria Falls, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, & Madagascar

Trips to Victoria Falls offer the opportunity for activities like white water rafting and bungee jumping. If you’re seeking something a little less extreme, there are also the more low-key options of elephant back safaris and sunset cruises. The largest sheet of falling water on earth, The Victoria Falls are one of the natural Seven Wonders of the World. In this region, expect to see warthogs and sample interesting dishes like crocodile risotto and kudu steaks. Consider the 11-day Best of Zimbabwe, Signature Zambia tours, and many more throughout these various nations.

Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, & Uganda

A Tanzanian tour will guarantee spotting an abundance of wildlife. With more than 550 species of birds, the swamps surrounding the Tarangire River support the largest number of breeding bird species found anywhere in the world. You might also come across elephants, pythons, herds of oryx, and tree climbing lions. Additionally, you’ll view impressive rock paintings that were created by men tens of thousands of years ago. Visit the Serengeti to experience an ongoing source of inspiration for filmmakers, photographers, and writers around the world. Try the 18-day Grand Tour Tanzania, or look into our trips to Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

8 Packing Essentials for your Safari

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Packing for your grand safari adventure is different from packing for a trip to Disney Land or a weekend in Las Vegas. While you are dreaming of excitement and vistas that take your breath away, keep in mind that you are going to spend the majority of your time out of doors, and you do not want to get dirty or be schlepping four bags in your wake.

Packing Light

The name of the game is pack light. In fact, if you are planning on doing any plane hops between sites, you could be limited to less than 25 lbs. Your best bet is not to bring things you do not need, and, if possible, to bring a small duffel bag of absolute essentials to take on your safari, while you leave your larger roller bag and less needed items in your arrival/departure city. Check with your tour operator to find out any luggage restrictions they may have, as well as to get details about lockers or other long-term storage options for while you are “on safari.”

The Wearables: Clothing and Accessories

Temperatures can fluctuate wildly from day to night, so packing in layers is important. Bringing specialty travel wear, or anything that dries quickly, can save you space as you can wash them in the sink and air dry overnight. You want to avoid any brightly colored items, including white, to ensure you do not stand out and distract the animals.

Loosely fitting clothing will help prevent over-heating in the day time, and a fleece or sweatshirt will keep you cool in the chilly morning or evening. A thin roll-up raincoat can be packed in an outside pocket or bottom of the bag and will be needed during the rainy season. Long pants and sleeves will protect you from the elements as well as mosquitoes.

For a typical safari of a week to ten days, the following items should be sufficient, but again, check with your tour operator.

  1. Tops: 3-4 T-shirts, 2 long sleeved shirts
  2. Bottoms: 1 pair comfortable, loose shorts, two pairs of long cotton pants (avoid jeans)
  3. Outerwear: 1 sweatshirt or fleece, 1 thin raincoat
  4. Undergarments: 2-3 pairs of socks, 4 pair underwear, 2-3 sports bras (if needed) all in a material that can be washed in sink
  5. Shoes: 1 pair water shoes/ flip flops for shower, 1 pair waterproof, comfortable, lightweight shoes for everyday
  6. Pajamas: 1 pair warm pajama pants can be paired with your t-shirts or sweatshirt to keep you warm during the chilly nights
  7. Accessories: Sunglasses and a hat with strap to protect you not only from the sun but also the dust
  8. Your swimsuit

Extra Gadgets
You are going on a safari to see the scenery and wildlife around you, so you do not need to pack a lot of “extra” entertainment. You are, however, going to want to capture your trip, so a camera is a must. With the camera make sure you consider extra batteries and/or charger, as well as additional SD/memory cards. You should also consider bringing binoculars to spot birds and hiding wildlife. Other items to include are a flashlight for walking around at night and a cell phone with an international plan (and the charger!)

Toiletries and Medicines

You do not need to go overboard with medicine and first aid, as the tour company will have first aid kits, but it is always a good idea to have a small stash on hand. When packing for your safari, consider packing Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment, pain relievers, antihistamine (pills or creams), bug spray/repellent, sun block and antacids/antidiarrheals. You can also pack hand sanitizer for when hand washing water is unavailable. You will also need to pack any feminine hygiene products (if needed) and you should consider panty liners—toilet paper is nowhere to be found nor is there any place to dispose of it while on a game drive.

You are Ready To Go

Keep in mind when packing for your safari that you are limited in the space you can bring. You will be spending the majority of your time outside in the dust and sun; you do not need to bring a fashion runway’s worth of clothes. Pack light and with layerable items for fluctuating temperatures. Moreover, don’t forget your camera! Bon Voyage!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

How to travel safe on African safari

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When going on an African safari you are embarking on the trip of a lifetime. This is sure to be a trip you will remember, looking back fondly, for years to come. But it is important to know that this is not a trip to the grocery store. There are dangers involved in visiting the wilds of Africa, but the risks can be minimized with proper planning and respect for Mother Nature.

Game Drive Safety

When on the actual game drive the most important thing you can do is LISTEN TO YOUR GUIDE. Your guide is a trained, experienced professional. Following their directions immediately and completely will be the number one thing you can do to ensure your safety on safari.

In addition to listening to your guide, it is important that you stay in the vehicle when stopped, not disembarking until, and unless, you are told you can do so. Other important safety tips when dealing with the animals is to keep your distance, never feed or pet any wild animals, don’t make any sudden movements and try not to make any loud or startling noises — this includes the noises your electronics can make, so please do silence your cell phone.

When people conjure up images of animals to fear while on safari, roaring lions, crocodiles lying in wait and rampaging hippos come to mind, but the biggest threat to humans while on safari is smaller… a lot smaller. When you go on safari it is imperative that you protect yourself from mosquitos and the malaria virus that they can carry.

Malaria is a disease that can be fatal, so it should not be taken lightly. Talk with your primary care physician before you leave on your journey to determine what preventative medicines you should take, but know that none of the known medications are 100% effective and preventing the disease, so as a secondary measure, preventing bites is a must. You can do this by always wearing long sleeves and pants in light weight fabrics and using chemical repellents, both on your body and clothes. Many people have reservations about using repellents with DEET in them, but at this time, it is known to be the most effective repellant for mosquitos. You may not choose to use it every day at home, but it is well advised during your time in Africa.

General Travel Safety

As with travel to any location, keeping copies of your passport and travel documents handy is always recommended. It is also a great idea to make sure someone back home has access to copies as well, in case yours are lost or stolen. Make sure someone back home has a reliable way to get in touch with you, or your itinerary with hotel and other contact information at the least.

When traveling, always keep your luggage with you in your line of sight, and don’t openly display valuables. Try keeping important documents, money or travelers checks, and other valuables spread out across several bags, that way if one bag is stolen or lost, all is not lost. On that note, you should avoid carrying large sums of cash.

Again, as with travelling to any location, do your homework: look up local news to see if there is anything you need to be made aware of. There may be weather patterns threatening flooding or civil conflicts indicating cities to avoid. You should also make sure you know of any local customs or dress code concerns to keep you from standing out as a potential target.

Your best bet to maximize your enjoyment on your safari and to ensure your safety is to schedule your trip with a reputable guide or tour company. These are professionals who not only know the area, they are trained to keep you as safe as possible, and know what to do in the event that something goes wrong. Let Roho Ya Chui take you on the journey of a lifetime. Contact Roho Ya Chui to book today. Bon Voyage!

Jill LIphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Planning Your Safari Adventure

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When planning your dream African safari adventure there are two major considerations: Where, and, less intuitively, when. Sure, when picking a time of year to go on a vacation, school holidays, work schedules, and family appointments are all important concerns, but you must also contemplate what you hope to accomplish on your grand Safari. Do you want to see the “Big 5” game animals? Or are you an avid bird-watcher? Are you sensitive to extreme temperature swings? Do you detest excessive rain fall? These are all things that should be considered when planning your trip to Africa.

Creating the Perfect Experience for You

For most explorers on Safari, the wildlife is the main draw. For best animal viewing, you’ll want to go in the dry season. Lack of grasses and foliage mean that the animals migrate to known watering holes. This increases your guide’s chances of finding animals for you to view. While wildlife can be hard to spot in the tall grasses of the wet season, if birding is your goal, the wet season can provide better opportunity, as migrant birds are in the region. This is due to the nesting and/or breeding patterns of the birds.

Africa is largely equatorial; of the 54 countries in Africa, the equator passes through twelve of them, and it does so almost in the smack middle of the continent. That means depending on where you are choosing to journey, chances are you will be going south of the equator. And in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are opposite from the United States.

Temperature fluctuations do occur, and depending on region and elevation can be rather extreme. The daily temperature ranges in the eastern part of Africa typically are more affected by altitude changes. Southern Africa, including the subtropical region, is more affected by winter and summer (and, again, seasons are opposite of what you would expect in the northern hemisphere.)

The Dry Season

The common dry season in the eastern part of Africa on, and south of, the equator (think Kenya, Rwanda, and parts of Tanzania) is Winter, and because this region is in the southern hemisphere, winter means from June to October. A second, smaller “dry-season” also occurs typically during December to the middle of March.

Southern and Western Tanzania elevations border the sub-tropic region, and have a blend of both equatorial east Africa, and Subtropical Africa climatic temperaments. The subtropical region (Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana and parts of South Africa) has its dry season from April to October.

The Wet Season

Mother Nature rarely adheres to a schedule, so yes, it can rain at any time. But rainfall is most typical during the rainy months. Rain is crucial for the wildlife, as it allows for the grasses and other flora in the region to flourish, and these plants are necessary for the survival of the animals in the region. This is especially important for the equatorial eastern portion of the continent, which, in addition to the countries listed above, encompasses most of the Serengeti. The Serengeti is one of the seven natural wonders of Africa and this rainfall is life-giving for the many animals that migrate and live there. In this region rainfall should be expected in April and May, with a potential for a rainy November.

The subtropical region of Africa has a much more predictable (if one can call weather predictable) rainy season than the eastern portion of the continent. November to March is considered the rainy season, although when the precise start of the season, and how much rain will come does vary from year to year.

Planning Your African Safari

No matter the time of year you choose to go, you are sure to be awed an amazed and the landscape and animals around you. A little planning and forethought are all you need to frame your expectations and have the experience of a lifetime. Contact us at Roho Ya Chui today to learn more about planning the perfect African safari.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa