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

Uganda named a top travel destination for 2016

A curious gorilla assesses photographer Petra Kilian-Gehring, who took this picture in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park while on an Ujuzi safari to Uganda.
A curious gorilla assesses photographer Petra Kilian-Gehring, who took this picture in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park while on an Ujuzi safari to Uganda.

CNN has named Uganda as one of the top 16 up-and-coming travel destinations for 2016. CNN travel reporter Anisha Shah writes:

Rich in nature, it’s an outdoor sanctuary of crater lakes, white-sand beaches on lake islands, thundering waterfalls and national parks.

A top highlight is Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary, where rescued and orphaned chimpanzees live out their days on an island in Lake Victoria. Visitors can cross the equator by boat there, slicing through Africa’s largest lake.

It also noted that Uganda is one of the few places in the world to see mountain gorillas in their native environment, along with Rwanda and Congo. Seeing these close cousins of humans up close is truly the experience of a lifetime. Ujuzi traveler El Nault calls it “a profound spiritual engagement.”

Read moreUganda named a top travel destination for 2016

Environmental Successes on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast

The Namaqua chameleon is found only in the Namibian desert and in southern Angola. Photo by Terry Feuerborn. Used through a Creative Commons license.
The Namaqua chameleon is found only in the Namibian desert and in southern Angola. Photo by Terry Feuerborn. Used through a Creative Commons license.

The Skeleton Coast is still one of Namibia’s lesser-traveled gems, despite recent global attention for its stark beauty. Australia’s Daily Telegraph recently ran a story about viewing the amazing desert-adapted lions and elephants who survive in the inhospitable habitat of this raw, windswept coast. Dr. Flip Strander and his Desert Lion Conservation project have helped to increase the desert-adapted lion population from 20 animals to over 150 in the last 17 years, in part due to the role of tourism.

Namibia is a land with many environmental success stories. It was the first country in Africa to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution and now almost 45% of Namibia’s land is protected by the government and local communities.

pink flower
Adenium boehmianum flower in Kaokoland, Namibia. Photo by Petr Kosina. Used through a Creative Commons license.

Read moreEnvironmental Successes on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast

Featured Organization: Giraffe Centre, Kenya

Photo courtesy of the Giraffe Centre
Photo courtesy of the Giraffe Centre


Though giraffes aren’t considered endangered, their numbers have decreased in recent years and some subspecies—like the Rothschild giraffe in Kenya and Uganda—have only a few hundred members.

To help the endangered Rothschild giraffe, African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Kenya was founded in 1979 by the late Jock and Betty Leslie-Melvile. A Kenyan citizen, Jock wanted to create an educational institution in conjunction while also actively increasing the Rothschild’s population.

To that end, the new organization opened the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi. Still going strong, the center educates thousands of local school children each year about their nation’s natural heritage, raising a new generation of Kenyan conservationists. It also breeds, rehabilitates and releases Rothschilds to protected wildlife areas in various parts of Kenya.

When AFEW started, only 120 Rothschild giraffes lived in the wild. Through breeding and conservation, the Giraffe Centre has helped raise this number to 300 giraffes in five groups across Kenya.

Read moreFeatured Organization: Giraffe Centre, Kenya

Explore humanity’s roots in South Africa

Maropeng Visitor Centre. Image (c) Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site
Maropeng Visitor Centre. Image (c) Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

In the world of archaeology, one of the most exciting spots on the planet is the Cradle of Humankind. Less than an hour’s drive outside Johannesburg, South Africa, this 180-square-mile complex of limestone caves that is one of the most prolific sources of human fossils in the world. Archaeologists have found the remains of numerous hominins, early humans who are close relatives of modern humans, with some fossils dating back as far as 3.5 million years.

Read moreExplore humanity’s roots in South Africa

Conservation Success Stories from Tanzania and Mozambique

Cyligramma fluctuosa by Tapio Kaisla
Cyligramma fluctuosa moth at Amani Nature Preserve. Photo by Tapio Kaisla. Used with permission through a Creative Commons License.

While sad stories about poaching often dominate the conversation about African wildlife, there’s been wonderful news coming lately from Tanzania and Mozambique.

Tanzania’s authorities recently arrested crime boss Boniface Matthew Mariango, who allegedly manages 15 poaching and ivory-trafficking syndicates. They also arrested a large-scale ivory smuggler based in Dar Es Salaam. Catching such high-level criminals is much more effective than arresting individual poachers at the local level, helping to staunch the demand for ivory and other poached products.

For more good news, you can read or watch this CNN segment on Tanzanians who transformed a gold mine into a biodiversity hotspot. Amani Nature Reserve opened in 1997 as the country’s first nature reserve. It’s a lesser-known safari destination with relatively few visitors. It rewards those who go off the beaten path with a chance to see many rare butterflies, birds, reptiles, flora and fauna that haven’t been found elsewhere in the world.

Mozambique has a similar success story.

Read moreConservation Success Stories from Tanzania and Mozambique

Watch elephants on Google Street View

Elephants at samburu screenshot from Google
Elephants at Samburu. Screenshot from Google Street View.

Samburu National Reserve in Kenya is among my favorite wildlife areas, thanks to its rebounding population of elephants. And now I can revisit it every day thanks to a joint project among Google Maps, Save the Elephants, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kenya Wildlife Service, Samburu County Government, and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

The project adds photographic maps of Samburu to Google Street View. You can get a bird’s eye view or watch elephants at ground level. Visit the links below to explore Samburu and learn more about the project! And if you’d like to see Samburu in person, please contact me to plan your safari.

Read moreWatch elephants on Google Street View

Featured Organization: Uganda Carnivore Program

lion pair uganda
lion on a rock uganda
Petra Kilian-Gehring took this photo of a lion on an Ujuzi safari to Uganda.

Lions, leopards, and hyenas are among the most popular charismatic mega fauna in the world.  Unfortunately, their populations have declined significantly over the past 200 years, due mainly to the growing needs of an expanding human population.  The Uganda Carnivore Program works to monitor and conserve important predators, working primarily inQueen Elizabeth National Park to find solutions that meet the needs of both wildlife and humans.

Read moreFeatured Organization: Uganda Carnivore Program

24 mountain gorilla babies born in last year

Umugwaneza is one of 24 mountain gorillas born in the past year. Photo courtesy of the Rwanda Development Board.
Umugwaneza is one of 24 mountain gorillas born in the past year. Photo courtesy of the Rwanda Development Board.

This month, Rwanda celebrated its eleventh Kwita Izina — an annual ceremony in which mountain gorillas born in the previous year receive names. The ceremony brings international attention to the endangered gorillas of the Virunga Mountains.

Twenty-four babies received names in this year’s ceremony. You can see the full list with photos of each baby at the official Kwita Izina website.

Read more24 mountain gorilla babies born in last year