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

Money Saving Tips for a Cheap African Safari Tour

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Many people do not realize just how affordable an African safari vacation can be when you use the right money-saving techniques. With some smarts, know-how and plenty of research, you can significantly reduce the cost of your trip to make it a cheap African safari tour, especially on a per-day basis.

If you are interested in spending less during your trip or finding a way to plan an affordable African safari, you can use the following money-saving tips to reduce the overall cost of your vacation.

Come During the Low Season

In places like South Africa’s Kruger Park, slow times of the year mean not only better accessibility throughout the park but also cheaper prices. Local vendors and businesses change their prices to match the season. Periods of higher demand allow them to charge higher prices, but lulls in the calendar are often accompanied by discounts to lure in more customers.

Take advantage of these times! Winter is a low season in southern and eastern African parks and reserves, for instance. Everything from lodging and airfare to tours, services, goods, food and drink can all receive hefty discounts when you visit from April to October. You can also negotiate cheaper group rates for game drives, lodge stays and other services when these business owners are more motivated to earn a sale.

Keep an Eye Out for Flight Specials, But Watch Out for Remote Airports

Flight prices change nearly every hour, so the time you buy your flight to Africa can make a huge difference in terms of the final price. Set up price alerts on services like Kayak, and look up travel blogs to see if any specials or promotions are coming up soon.

With all that said, pay attention to the hidden costs of your flight, as well. Flying into a more remote town can appear to save you money, but then you must hire a taxi or bus to reach your intended destination, tacking on extra costs. Always try to calculate the final costs of your travel when buying tickets.

Another tip: Johannesburg and Cape Town often have cheap flights to other destinations throughout Africa, so consider buying separate tickets and comparing the price to other connecting flight options.

Shop Around With Lodging and Safari Tours

Many tourists come into African countries not realizing how much cheaper goods and services typically are. They then make the mistake of booking a hotel or game lodge stay at a far higher price than would be normally reasonable.

For that reason, try to find accommodation with a good reputation for quality and safety but also rates closer to what locals would expect to pay. Unless you demand the absolute best luxury, the difference in price will not affect the enjoyment you get out of your trip.

Buy From Locals, and Realize You Can Haggle

Haggling, bartering and negotiation are all common activities at local markets in many African countries. Your best bet on a great price on artisan goods is therefore to buy directly from the artists at markets and to negotiate.

Do not be too shrewd since people are trying to earn a living through their goods, but also recognize that many quoted prices may be trying to take advantage if you are clearly a foreigner.

Use a Safari Company for Cheap Safari Tour Packages

Experienced safari companies know the best places for tours, lodging and dining that provide amazing quality service at an affordable rate. When you book a vacation package through a company like Roho Ya Chui, you can get the best deals on everything, and you are also better-equipped to estimate the whole cost of your trip.

Take a look at the pre-planned safari vacation packages we offer to get an idea of just how affordable your trip can be, or contact us for a custom safari tour package based on your budget and preferred plans.

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

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

 

Marvel at the Beautiful Man Pools National Park

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Mana Pools Park sits on the south bank of the Zambezi River within the northernmost section of Zimbabwe. In the rainy season, the Lower Zambezi Valley floods, opening up a colorful and rich ecosystem as vegetation flourishes and small insects, fish and other creatures’ populations explode. Birds, foragers and top-level predators grow fat on this fodder, enabling them to give birth to their next generation of kin.

When the rainy season ends, these flood pools gradually dry up. Water sources begin to become more and more concentrated, making animals have to travel further and gather in large groups to find something to drink.

During this time, from April to November, a Mana Pools safari can deliver some of the best wildlife viewing in the world. Elephants, wild dogs, lions, zebra, impala and dozens of other majestic species can be spotted bending into the last remnants of water for a drink. Walking safaris can help you get up close and personal with this wildlife as you sit and observe some of the most interesting scenes imaginable.

Why a Mana Pools Safari Is So Unique

Over the course of thousands of years, the mighty Zambezi River has shifted course. As it did, it left behind several oxbow bends cut off from the new main flow. These bends became oxbow lakes. The four biggest ones persist all year round, leading the park to be named “Mana” pools. “Mana” means “four” in the Shona language spoken by many Zimbabwean natives.

Every rainy season, the oxbow lakes and the whole region of Mana Pools Park floods, creating sweeping marshlands and thousands of tiny pools for birds, fish and other wildlife to gather. As the rainy season wanes, these pools dry up. The area’s animals are then left with just the four main lakes to drink from, leading to some pretty remarkable sights.

Nature in Its Purest Form

Another interesting aspect about Mana Pools is how undeveloped it is. The rainy season tends to make short work of roads and trails, meaning that much of the park is inaccessible throughout the year by vehicle. Even walking into the park is extremely difficult at the height of rainy season, when mud can often swallow you up to your hips.

In the dry season, vehicles are still a rare sight. Voyaging into the interior of Mana Pools is often done on foot. Canoeing safaris are also possible along the Zambezi. These walking and canoeing safaris allow visitors an intimate look at wildlife.

Hippos bathe in the water and mud while elephants gather water in their long trunks. You can also find elephants, gazelle, impala and other animals standing on their hind legs trying to reach the last remnants of leaves upon the mahogany and ebony trees to the north.

All of these incredible sights make Mana Pools a uniquely stunning way to observe the wildlife of southern Africa.

Book a Zimbabwe Safari to Visit Mana Pools Today

You can find safaris to Mana Pools Park in many of our most popular Zimbabwe safari tour packages. Take a look at our sample itineraries, and then book your trip today!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa