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.

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

Taking Kids on Safari

Surveying the savanna. Photo taken by Susan Thurston on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Surveying the savanna. Photo taken by Susan Thurston on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

In 2016 and 2017, Kenya is waiving visa fees for children. What a great time to introduce your kids or grandkids to the joys of exploration! The country offers a range of fun safari activities for kids of all ages, a few of which include:

  • Feeding endangered Rothschild giraffes by hand at the Giraffe Centre in Karen
  • Petting baby elephants at the Daphne Sheldrick Animal Orphanage and David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
  • Visiting  chimpanzees at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Ol Pejeta Conservancy.  This sanctuary offers a safe haven for abused and orphaned chimpanzees from West  and Central Africa. (Chimpanzees are not native to Kenya.) After being nursed back to health, chimpanzees spend their days exploring, climbing, socializing, and learning to be chimpanzees all over again. This is an amazing project supported by the Jane Goodall Institute.

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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.

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

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Namibia: Cheetahs, Caracals, and More

namibia5Scientific American recently posted a fascinating slideshow about the cheetah breeding program of the Cheetah Conservation Fund and the Smithsonian National Zoo Center for Species Survival. The program seeks to end the practice of capturing wild cheetahs for zoos, and also helps scientists understand breeding and health issues that affect cheetah populations in the wild.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund has a wonderful sanctuary program in Namibia that rehabilitates injured and orphaned cheetahs while educating the public. Visiting the sanctuary is the highlight of many Namibian safaris. Visitors who wish to spend more time among the big cats may wish to stay at Okonjima Lodge, about 50 kilometers to the south. The Lodge is home to the AfriCat Foundation, which rehabilitates lions and leopards in addition to cheetahs. It offers many opportunities to see these cats, in addition to occasional viewings of the caracal, a smaller but still majestic cat species.

Read moreNamibia: Cheetahs, Caracals, and More

7-Day Fly-In Safari to Namibia

Namibia3Ujuzi is offering a new, 7-day Namibian safari with daily departures. It is a shorter, more economical version of our other Namibian safaris but with all the standard perks, including light aircraft flights between major destinations that allow you to experience a bird’s eye view of the stunning Namibian landscape.

On the seven-day safari,  you will experience the towering sand dunes of Sossusvlei, the amazing history and geology of Damaraland, and the abundant wildlife of Etosha National Park. The safari also includes visits to a remote Himba village and to the renowned AfriCat Foundation, which runs the largest cheetah and leopard rescue and release program in the world:

  • Damaraland is home to a variety of wildlife and hidden desert treasures, including elusive desert-adapted elephants, the world-famous Twyfelfontein prehistoric rock engravings, Burnt Mountain and the geological curiosity of the Organ Pipes (named so because that’s what these dolerite columns look like).
  • Etosha National Park covers 8,600 square miles. It is famous for its saline depressions or ‘pans,’ but also comprises grasslands, woodlands and savannahs. The park boasts some 114 mammals and more than 340 bird species. One might see elephants, lions, giraffes, blue wildebeests, elands, kudus, oryxes, zebras, rhinos, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, honey badgers, warthogs, and endemic black-faced impalas.
  • Sossusvlei is the most-visited section of the 19,000-square-mile Namib Naukluft National Park. Its red sand dunes stand up to 1,000 feet above the surrounding plains, ranking them among the earth’s tallest dunes. Half a mile away is Deadvlei, a salt pan full of striking camel thorn trees that died about 900 years ago when the sand sea blocked water from occasionally flooding the pan. The trees still stand as erect as when they grew.
  • The Himba people have lived a relatively isolated existence for many centuries in scattered settlements throughout the Kunene Region. They are noted for their intricate hairstyles and traditional adornments – particularly otjize, a mixture of red ochre and fat that protects skin and hair against the harsh desert climate.
  • AfriCat Foundation has rescued more than 1,000 cheetahs and leopards, releasing more than 85 percent back into the wild. See these animals up close and learn about their crucial role in the ecosystem. The foundation is also home to rescued lions as well as wild porcupines, caracals, and honey badgers.

namibia5Accommodations include:

  • Andersson’s Camp, a comfortable base for your explorations of Etosha National Park’s unique landscape. The resurrected farmstead fronts onto a waterhole teeming with wildlife, and the twenty tented guest units with en suite bathrooms are raised on decks for an enhanced view. This model of eco-sensitive lodging provides an authentic, safe and down-to-earth experience.
  • Camp Kipwe, nestled in an outcrop of giant granite boulders above the ephemeral Aba Huab riverbed where desert adapted elephants often traverse. Each comfortable thatched bungalow is simply but tastefully furnished and has an en-suite bathroom. A refreshing swimming pool and sunset lookout with lovely views complement the camp.
  • Kulala Desert Lodge, providing magnificent views of Sossusvlei’s famous red dunes, mountainous scenery and vast open plains. The camp comprises 15 stylish, thatched-and-canvas rooms built on wooden platforms with en suite bathrooms and verandas. Each room has a deck on the flat rooftop where bedrolls can be placed for guests to sleep under the stars.

Contact us to learn more about this amazing safari!

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Pride of Namibia

“Pride of Namibia,” a short film by the World Wildlife Fund, recently won first place in the 2014 Adventure in Motion  film competition.  In just a few short minutes, it tells a compelling story about the resurgence of biodiversity in one of Africa’s most starkly beautiful countries. Enjoy!

Featured Lodge: Okonjima Bush Camp

namibia5Situated at the base of the Omboroko Mountains in Namibia, Okonjima Bush Camp is home to the AfriCat Foundation, which runs the largest cheetah and leopard rescue and release program in the world. In the last 17 years, more than 1,000 of these predators have been rescued, and more than 85 percent of those have been released back into the wild. Okonjima also has three domesticated lions – Matata, Tambo and Tessie – who were born in captivity and rescued by AfriCat. They have become long-term residents and can often be heard in the mornings before guests leave the lodge.

Activities at Okonjima Bush Camp include leopard tracking by vehicle, a visit to the cheetah welfare project, and a visit to the night hide where nocturnal animals such as porcupines, caracals, honey badgers and leopards may be seen.

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Living accommodations consist of nine luxurious rondavels. The thatched chalets are linked by walkways to a main area where meals are taken and activities begin. Each rondavel is completely private and the green canvas ‘walls’ can be rolled up to give you a 180-degree view, allowing you to watch life in the bush while relaxing in total comfort and safety.

Energetic early risers will enjoy the guided walking trails, which offer excellent opportunities for bird watching—over 300 bird species have been identified here. Two spacious animal-viewing hides are located within easy walking distance of the lodge, and another is situated at a recently established vulture feeding area just a short drive away.

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Contact Ujuzi to learn more about safaris in Namibia!

 

Zebras Go to Great Lengths to Migrate

Photo of Burchell's zebra
Burchell’s zebra. Photo by Ray Morris.

Africa’s most famous migration is the annual movement of 1.2 million wildebeest and 750,000 zebras from the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya.

But it’s longest big-animal migration, end to end, is the annual movement of thousands of Burchell’s zebras from Namibia to Botswana. Scientists recently discovered that the herd goes on a 300-mile journey in an almost straight north-to-south line each year.

Zebras migrate for water and food, so maintaining their migration routes is key to conserving the species.

Interested in watching a migration? I offer safaris in Namibia, as well as tours to Tanzania and Kenya for the Great Migration. If you have any questions, please email me!

Namibia: Land of Stark Beauty

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This year, I’ve expanded my safari offerings to several new countries, including South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia. Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing some of the amazing features that make them unique, from malaria-free safaris in South Africa to coral reef explorations in Mozambique.

Today, I want to tell you about Namibia.

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Namibia is a vast country on the southwest coast of Africa, covering an area larger than Texas but with just 2 million residents – one of the lowest population densities in the world. It is also an ageless land with a heritage of stone-age rock art and a petrified forest where fossilized tree trunks have lain for more than 280 million years. A vast inland sand sea is home to some of the earth’s tallest dunes and dramatic canyons. Namibia’s wildlife is plentiful and diverse, with many animals unique to the area.

Take, for example, the desert-adapted elephant. These creatures are an ecotype unique to Namibia, behaviorally adapted to hyper-arid conditions. They walk farther for water and food then any other elephant in Africa – the distances between waterholes and feeding grounds can be as great as 42 miles. The typical home range of a family herd is larger then 770 square miles, or eight times as big as ranges in central Africa, where rainfall is much higher. Because of the desert’s daytime heat, they keep schedules that are opposite to those of their cousins in other parts of the continent: They walk and feed at night and rest during the day. They are less picky eaters, as well, browsing on 74 of the 103 plant species that grow in their range. Their ranges extend from river catchments in northern Kaokoveld as far south as the northern Namibia.

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Namibia is also home to the AfriCat Foundation, which runs the largest cheetah and leopard rescue and release program in the world. In the last 17 years, more than 1,000 of these predators have been rescued, and more than 85 percent of those have been released back into the wild. Its sanctuary is part of Okonjima Bush Camp, and guests at the camp can  track leopards, view cheetahs up-close, and take nighttime drives to view  nocturnal animals such as caracals (another wild cat), honey badgers and porcupines.

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Namibia’s low population and unique ecosystems make it an unforgettable safari destination. The dramatic scenery and spacious natural areas are almost free of human sounds, creating a feeling of antiquity, solitude and wilderness.

Contact me if you’d like to learn more about exploring Namibia!


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