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

 

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