The Penguins of Africa

We had an incredible journey today through the Eastern Cape to Africa’s southwesternmost point.

We started early this morning on a bus drive south to Chapman’s Peak.

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View from Chapman’s Peak

We then continued on to Simon’s Town, where we went sea kayaking.

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After about an hour’s paddle, we reached Boulder’s Beach, home to a large colony of endangered African penguins.

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We saw several nesting.

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The chicks grow quickly and soon reach the size of adults. You can tell them apart by their downy brown feathers.

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Table Mountain: One of the New Seven Wonders of Nature

I arrived in South Africa this morning to embark on an Ujuzi tour. After checking into our beautiful hotel, The Table Bay at the Waterfront, for a wonderful breakfast and a few hours’ rest, our group embarked on a tour of Cape Town and a visit to Table Mountain.

Table Mountain has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature for its incredible geological features and flora. It sits at the heart of the Cape Floral Region, which has the richest concentration of plant diversity in the world.

Visitors can get to the top of Table Mountain via hiking trails or a large cable car that provides riders with 360° views of the mountain and Cape Town below. On many afternoons, visitors can watch clouds cascade over the mountaintop like a waterfall, as you can see in the video  I shot below.

Keep following the blog over the next two weeks as I share more photos and facts from Cape Town, Kruger National Park, and Victoria Falls.

(This post was written by Kathryn Kingsbury, Ujuzi’s communications coordinator, who is spending two weeks in South Africa and Victoria Falls with a group from Dickerson Park Zoo, Springfield, Missouri.)

Featured Lodge: Sarova Shaba, Kenya

Shaba reserve

Sarova Shaba Lodge is set deep in Shaba National Reserve on the banks of the Ewaso N’giro (Nyiro) River. It is the only lodge on the reserve, with 85 rooms in raised bungalows. The lodge’s expansive pool is the perfect place to relax at the end of a long day of viewing wildlife.

Room exteriors

Guest rooms look out on the river and the lodge’s many fish ponds. Modern bathrooms include both tub and shower; beds are equipped with mosquito nets that are lowered as part of turn-down surface each evening. Rooms are a true retreat, free of the distractions of television and radio. A hot water kettle means you can make tea to enjoy as you sit on your porch to watch the river go by, or enjoy a brisk coffee before breakfast.

Lodge by the Ewaso Nyiro river

Amenities include an outdoor dining boma, bar, spa services (massage, pedicure, manicure, and skin treatments), and a well-appointed giftshop. Wildlife is plentiful in and around the camp, with plenty of vervet monkeys to provide entertainment and crocodiles that sunbathe on the banks of the river. (Steep banks and an electric fence keep the reptiles at a comfortable distance.) Cultural activities include traditional Samburu dancing at dinnertime.

Samburu girls

Tips for Long-Haul Flights

Photo by  Nathaniel C. Used through a Creative Commons license.
Photo by Nathaniel C. Used through a Creative Commons license.

As I plan for an upcoming trip to South Africa, I’m paying attention not just to the itinerary, but what I’ll be doing on the flight. It’s a long one: flying from Washington, D.C., to Johannesburg takes 16 to 17 hours, and since I don’t live anywhere near D.C., I’ll have connecting flights, too.

I have some experience with long flights thanks to previous travels to Kenya and Tanzania, but thought I’d peruse the web for more ideas on making the flight fun and comfortable. I found helpful articles in National Geographic Traveler and The New York Times that gave me additional pointers. Some of the things I’m planning to do:

  • Wear comfortable clothes.
  • Bring an ergonomic seat cushion and inflatable back support. These are essential for me since I have back problems, but can increase comfort even for those who don’t.
  • Walk the aisles often to give my legs a stretch.
  • Bring an e-reader loaded with genre books that make fun reading even when I’m half-asleep. (And don’t forget the portable charger, just in case the plane isn’t equipped with USB charging stations.)
  • Watch all the blockbusters I didn’t catch when they were in the theaters.
  • Drink plenty of water.

I am one of those people who have a terrible time falling asleep while sitting up. Some people swear by having a glass of wine, while others prefer melatonin or Benadryl to make them sleepy. (Always check with a doctor before trying a new medicine.) After trial and error, I’ve found a trick that rarely fails to put me to sleep when flying: download the audio narration of a challenging book, like Virgil’s Aeneid or Dante’s Inferno, and listen to it via noise-cancelling earphones when I start to get drowsy. I end up concentrating so hard on trying to understand the narrative that I forget I’m sitting in an airplane, and before I know it, I’m asleep.

For additional tips, check out these articles:

And wherever you’re headed, have a great flight!


This post was written by Kathryn, Ujuzi’s communications assistant.

 

Good news about rhinos

Rhino cow and baby, Madikwe Game Lodge, North West province. Photo courtesy of South African Tourism
Rhino cow and baby, Madikwe Game Lodge, North West province. Photo courtesy of South African Tourism.

Good news for southern Africa’s rhino population! After almost a decade in which poaching has skyrocketed, South Africa and northwest Namibia saw a decrease in the killing of these animals.

Since 2007, poaching of rhinos has risen drastically in response to an international demand for their horns. Some people mistakenly believe the horns have medicinal value.

Edna Molewa, South Africa’s Environmental Affairs Minister, told the BBC the drop in her country was due to better anti-poaching technology and tighter border controls. In 2015, the country arrested 317 poachers, versus 258 in 2014.

Save the Rhino Trust attributes the drop in northwest Namibia  to increased patrolling of the rhino’s range, made possible by fly camps funded by Conservation Travel Foundation (formerly Tou Trust) and TOSCO (Tourism Supporting Conservation), groups supported by Ujuzi’s partners in Namibia.

Interested in getting involved? Guests at Desert Rhino Camp in Damaraland, Namibia, can participate in conservation in action by tracking desert-adapted rhino with Save the Rhino Trust.

Contact Ujuzi to learn more about visiting South Africa or Namibia.

White giraffe “spotted” in Tanzania

Leucistic giraffe is mostly white with light spots and red mane.
A white giraffe in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. Photo by Wild Nature Institute.

Tarangire Park in Tanzania is home to a young giraffe with an almost-white coat, according to the Wild Nature Institute, a wildlife organization doing scientific work in Tanzania.

“This giraffe [is] not albino, but leucistic. Leucism is when some or all pigment cells (that make color) fail to develop during differentiation, so part or all of the body surface lacks cells capable of making pigment,” the institute explained in a blog post last April a few months after its scientists first “spotted” her.

Scientists from the institute saw her again in January of this year.

The 15-month-old female giraffe is known by area guides as “Omo” after a local brand of detergent. While much of her hair is white or very pale, she has an orange mane, and coloring below her knees makes it look like she’s wearing orange-dotted knee socks.

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In other giraffe news, have you ever wondered how they get water up their long throats when they bend down to slurp water from a pool or river? Scientists may have figured the physics of it out.

Lonely Planet ranks Rwanda park as a best destination

An Akagera lioness photographed by Matthew Poole for the Rwanda Development Board and distributed under a Creative Commons license.
An Akagera lioness photographed by Matthew Poole for the Rwanda Development Board and distributed under a Creative Commons license.

Lonely Planet put Rwanda’s Akagera National Park in the top ten of New in Travel 2016, its miniguide to the world’s best new places to visit in 2016. The park came in third out of 31 incredible destinations.

In mid-2015, lions were introduced to the park after a 15-year absence from the country. Lonely Planet editor Matt Phillips writes that 2016 will be ideal for watching these magnificent creatures: “Once the pride establishes its stomping grounds sometime in early 2016, it will be easier for safari guides to locate lions for visitors.” And since Rwanda is more well-known for its mountain gorillas than its other safari creatures, crowds at Akagera are unlikely, leading to a wonderful experience out in the wilds.

Interested in visiting Rwanda? Ujuzi has been arranging safari tours to the nation for years. Contact us with your questions.

Meet the “Little Five” Safari Creatures of Namibia

The primary goal of many safari goers is to see the Big Five African game: leopards, African elephants, Cape buffalos, rhinos and lions.

As rewarding as it is to watch these animals in the wild, you’ll miss out if they’re the only things you look for. Previously on this blog, I’ve written about the rewards of exploring plants, birds, and small creatures such as the Little Five of sub-Saharan Africa.

Namibia’s Skeleton Coast has such a unique desert ecosystem that locals have developed a list of their own Little Five, beautifully photographed in a recent article for Africa Geographic. They include four reptiles and one arachnid: a snake called Peringuey’s adder, the dancing white lady spider, the Namaqua chameleon, the Palmato gecko, and the shovel-snouted lizard.

Read on to find out more about these marvelous creatures!

Palmato Gecko (Palmatogecko), photographed by Simon's Images and distributed under a Creative Commons license.
Palmato Gecko (Palmatogecko), photographed by Simon’s Images and distributed under a Creative Commons license.

Palmato gecko have no eyelids, so they keep their eyes moist they lick their eyeballs. Their webbed feet help them scurry over the sand without sinking. During the day, they often hide in the sand to stay cool.


Read moreMeet the “Little Five” Safari Creatures of Namibia

Daphne Sheldrick: A Force for Elephants

Daphne Sheldrick feeds one of her early elephant rescues.
Daphne Sheldrick feeds one of her early elephant rescues. Photo courtesy of David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Who doesn’t love baby elephants? Daphne Sheldrick certainly does, and she’s taken her love further than most, becoming the first person to successfully rescue baby African elephants of nursing age who have lost their mothers and raise them to adulthood. One Green Planet recently wrote an illuminating profile of this fascinating 81-year-old woman.

Read moreDaphne Sheldrick: A Force for Elephants