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.

World Travel Awards Honor Kenya and Tanzania

Bill Jollie took this photo of Mount Kilimanjaro while climbing as part of an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Bill Jollie took this photo of Mount Kilimanjaro while climbing as part of an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

It’s the beginning of a new year and time to look back on the past one. Every year, the World Travel Awards accepts nominations from travelers for the best places to visit around the globe. After voting, two of my favorite destinations came out on top for 2015:

In addition, Kenya received top honors overall for being the World’s Leading Safari Destination, and South Africa also received many honors for its lodges and destinations.

Want to learn what all the fuss is about? Read more about one Ujuzi traveler’s hike up Mount Kilimanjaro here. And view pictures from my exploratory safari to the Masai Mara here.

Ready to explore Africa? Contact Ujuzi so we can help!

A group of Cape buffalos rest in Masai Mara National Park, Kenya. Photo by Anne Medeiros of Ujuzi African Travel.
A group of Cape buffalos rest in Masai Mara National Park, Kenya. Photo by Anne Medeiros of Ujuzi African Travel.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Photo taken by Bill Jollie on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Photo taken by Bill Jollie on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

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.

Read moreTaking Kids on Safari

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

Featured Lodge: Manyara Ranch Conservancy, Tanzania

sundowners at Manyara Ranch Conservancy
Much more than a place to sleep, Manyara Ranch Conservancy is a destination unto itself. Managed by and benefitting the non-profit African Wildlife Fund, the Conservancy lies in the Kwakuchinja wildlife migration corridor and is situated right next to Tarangire National Park in Tanzania.

Zebras and other herd animals often wander through the camp during sundowners (cocktail hour), providing plenty of entertainment as the evening begins. The Conservancy has a variety of wildlife habitats, including open savannah, acacia woodland, bush and riverine forest. As for human habitats, six exquisitely furnished tents have electric lights available at all hours, and the en suite bathroom includes flush toilet and shower with hot water on demand.

Read moreFeatured Lodge: Manyara Ranch Conservancy, Tanzania

Ngorongoro crater key to understanding predator-prey relationships

lioness
A lioness walks along a river in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. Photo by Ujuzi African Travel.

It’s common knowledge that the more predators have to eat, the larger their population grows. But that common knowledge was challenged in a study published in Science that found when prey populations double, predator populations don’t increase nearly as much.

The study looked at animal dynamics in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, the Kalahari Desert, and other ecosystems throughout the world.

You can read more about the study here:

El Nault’s tips for a successful gorilla trek

El Nault on safari
El Nault on safari


In June, I had the chance to talk to El Nault about her amazing safari to Rwanda and Tanzania with Ujuzi Travel and Jodi Carrigan of Zoo Atlanta. She was a delight to speak to, and had lots of wonderful insights about wildlife, culture and having a truly memorable safari. I posted most of the interview a couple weeks ago, but there wasn’t room to include all her travel tips.

At Ujuzi, I work hard to make sure that your safari is as awe-inspiring and worry-free as possible. But little decisions you make before and on your trip can also affect your experience. So this week, I’m going to share some of El’s ideas for making the most of a gorilla trek. In a future post, I’d like to share other safari tips, so please comment with your own below or on Ujuzi’s Facebook page.

Read moreEl Nault’s tips for a successful gorilla trek

“There was a sense of being at peace together”

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El Nault and friend.

El Nault of South Carolina had never considered going to see mountain gorillas in the wild until 2010, when two friends showed her photos from a trip they’d been on with Jodi Carrigan, gorilla specialist at Zoo Atlanta.

Nault laughs when she retells the conversation. “I said, ‘I want to go.’ They said, ‘But we’re not going again for five years.’ I said, ‘I still want to go!’”

She got her wish in February when she went on a trip to Rwanda and Tanzania organized by Ujuzi Travel and led by Carrigan.


10296613_10153169080599198_7500542390331733921_nRwanda

During four days at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Nault went on three gorilla treks with Carrigan and others in the group.

The first day was the most strenuous trek. Because of rain and hail, the gorilla family Nault’s group was trying to visit kept moving in search of better shelter. After several hours of walking, the humans finally caught up with their gorilla cousins.

“When we saw them … grooming and eating and just walking around us – it was almost as if my mind could not comprehend the depth of the experience,” she recalls. “‘Moving’ is not even the word. It was a profound spiritual engagement with God’s world and his creatures. It was unbelievable.”

Several gorillas approached for a closer look at their human visitors, including one curious youngster who peered over Nault’s shoulder as a friend took a photo (above). “We felt really integrated into the [gorilla] community, and we abided by their rules and customs of courtesy with no loud noises, no flash, and getting out of the way if they were trying to get through. … There was a sense of being at peace together.”

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Read more“There was a sense of being at peace together”

Featured Organization: Ivory Orphans

ivory_orphans_black-300x279Elephant poaching is disastrous not only for the animals who are killed, but also for their families. Poaching leaves countless infant and young elephants orphaned each year. Because young elephants are not fully weaned until they are 5 to 10 years old, they can die without maternal care. Sometimes a young calf will wait for days alongside its dead mother, slowly wasting away.

With one African elephant killed every 15 minutes for its ivory, orphan rehabilitation is an incredible need throughout the continent. For many years, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya has successfully rehabilitated orphaned elephants and helped to integrate them into new adoptive elephant families, but there has been no facility in Tanzania equipped to rescue such calves.

Now, the African Wildlife Trust is working to launch the first elephant orphanage in Tanzania. It will be located near the trust’s Maisha Kikoti Safari Camp, a favorite lodge of mine just outside of Tarangire National Park. (Proceeds from the lodge go to African Wildlife Trust to support Ivory Orphans and other conservation projects in Tanzania.)

Read moreFeatured Organization: Ivory Orphans