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

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

Magic Masai Mara, Kenya

The Maasai Mara in the south-west of Kenya is contiguous plain with the Serengeti in Tanzania and is part of the greater Mara ecosystem.  The Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR) is a small fraction of this ecosystem, but fraction is kind of relative as the MMNR still measures 1500 square kilometres. The landscape is dominated by open grasslands with numerous seasonal creeks and the famous acacia trees in some areas.

If you can remember the 1980’s movie “Out of Africa” with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford that plays in the Masai Mara for the most part, this is exactly the landscape you will find when visiting today. And yes, it is even much more impressive when you are there in person as compared to the film.

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The Mara is mainly at an altitude of 1600 meters where you have the rain season from November till May and the dry season from June till November. This climate change is also responsible for what is known as the great migration, where over 1.5 million wildebeest arrive in July and leave again in November, one of the most impressive spectacles repeating itself on earth annually and the perfect background for stunning wildlife photography and cinematography.

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This makes the Mara to one of the finest wildlife destinations where you almost have the guarantee to see the big five but also cheetah, hyena, jackal, hippo, crocodile and for sure vulture whenever there was a kill.

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Vultures are one of the easiest and safest ways to find kills with sometimes even some lions around still eating, as the birds are waiting in the trees till the lions or other predators have finished their meal and leave the rest of the kill for them.

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If you are lucky you can even see some rhinos that are slowly coming back to this part of Africa.

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There are many lodges and camps to be found and you have a rich choice from very luxurious places to ones where you stay as close as possible to the animals and the nature, the tented camps, that do actually not lack too much luxury as well. We were staying in the Sand River Camp as well as the Elephant Pepper Camp and I can recommend both as being extremely friendly, authentic and as close to nature as possible, while offering all you need to feel perfect and rest between the numerous game drives.

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There is nothing like the Mara morning sky before sunrise, these are colours that cannot be described, you have to see and feel them yourself.

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This scenery evolves during the early morning hours, when you can find all kind of animals out on the grasslands like these zebras that enjoyed the green and did not seem to be scared about predators.

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But this can fool you as predators are always around, like this young male lion we found nearby sleeping in the morning sun. This male was approximately 4 to 5 years old and you can see this by the colour of the nose that is still pink but starts already getting black around the corners.

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He will be grown up with 5 to 6 years, but he is already a perfect killing machine at this age. He was roaring during the previous night in our camp close to our tent and I can tell you this sound goes through and through – you will never forget that!

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But now he sometimes is still playful at least if he is no longer hungry as he showed when welcoming his brother a few minutes later.

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You want to have adventures like this in magnificent landscape and stunning places? You want to photograph all this or take videos and want to get guidance for how to do this best and in an optimal way? Well then join me on one of the many safaris organized by Roho Ya Chui and you will have the adventure of your lifetime that you will never forget!

Peter Tomsu 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

Essential for Planning a Successful Tour

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An African safari vacation is a bucket list vacation that requires careful planning and attention to detail to perfect. The continent is so diverse — you can experience most of the world’s biomes by traveling through a few distinct locations. There are thousands of animals and bird species, as well as an abundance of thriving plant life. You want your trip to Africa to be a dream, and it absolutely can be if you have the essentials prepared. Take your time, talk to the experts and read through these tips for planning a successful tour.

  1. Involve the Whole Group With Planning

Most people do not travel to Africa alone, which means that you will have multiple wants and opinions for what to see and do while you are there. This is how it should be, as Africa offers something for everyone. Take everyone’s wishes into account and talk about how you can smoothly make those dreams a reality. Some travel experts recommend different times of the year for different regions, so your group will need to take that into account. You might need to travel through multiple countries — which is both normal for tourists and encouraged. Be sure to commit plenty of time to this trip, one to two weeks is highly recommended.

  1. Decide Where to Stay and Travel

Safari experts recommend that tourists who want an intimate, experience in Africa stay in smaller camps. These campsites are normally very luxurious, offering friendly staff, good meals and daily safari tours. Larger lodges may be the way to go if you are on a tighter budget, but these often accommodate upwards of 100 people at a time. As you can imagine, these groups can make safari trips a bit less magical. If you do stay in a lodge, consider investing in a traveling method that will be smaller and more personal. With that being said, take some time to consider a total budget plan with your family or friends who will also be going on the trip. Decide where to stay and travel based off your budget.

  1. Learn About the Cultures

The cultures in Africa are just as diverse as the continent itself. There are a multitude of different groups, tribes and peoples who are very welcoming to tourists. It is important that you learn about the cultures and customs of the locals in the areas that you will be traveling through. Nobody wants to be that tourist who unintentionally offends a nice tour guide.

Use a Professional Travel Agency

Planning a trip to Africa is a real art. It is highly recommended that you invest in the expertise of a travel agent who specializes in safari vacations. Are you ready to start planning your trip to Africa? To learn more information, visit our safari tours page and contact us to start planning your African safari vacation with Roho Ya Chui, 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