Getting Acquainted With South African Languages

Ujuzi expanded its safaris to South Africa  earlier this year. The country offers countless unique opportunities, including malaria-free land safaris, amazing aquatic safaris, and sea turtle tracking and observation.

South Africa has many vibrant cultures, and its list of official languages reflects that. The 11 languages include:

  • Two European languages—English and Afrikaans
  • Nine African languages—Xhosa, Zulu, Venda, Tsonga, Swati, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho and Tswana

Thankfully, you don’t have to learn all of these languages when you’re planning to travel to South Africa. Most South Africans speak more than one language, so knowing one or two of the languages will help you get by in a majority of situations. If you want to learn a South African language in addition to English and aren’t sure where to start, keep this in mind: Zulu is the most common first language for South Africans, with almost a quarter of the population learning to speak it from their parents.

The University of South Africa offers a fun website for learning about Zulu and several South African cultures and languages. The lessons don’t just teach you important words and phrases, but also how to use them. For example, the Zulu section explains that you should never greet someone with only “Sawubona!” (“Hello!”), but also ask how they and their family are doing (“Unjani?”).

Explore the website for a bit and have fun learning about South African languages!


Incredible Animal Interactions

Photo by Wildlife Act.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about genets who seek meals from humans, and then yesterday I encountered an amusing article about a genet that’s been spotted riding the backs of Cape buffaloes and white rhinos in South Africa. In National Geographic, a safari guide writes about  a wildlife monitoring project that caught this unique behavior on film. Genets certainly know how to interact with other members of the animal kingdom to their own benefit!

Travel + Leisure Names Africa’s Best Lodges

Several lodges that Ujuzi works with in Kenya and Tanzania have been named among the world’s best hotels and resorts in Travel + Leisure magazine’s 19th annual reader poll. According to Travel + Leisure, these lodges represent some “of the greatest travel experiences to be had around the globe.”

Winners include:

 Ujuzi congratulates these fine establishments for all they have accomplished. Ujuzi travelers have praised them again and again for excellent accommodations and service, and we are glad that they are getting the global recognition they deserve.

Oldupai Gorge, Tanzania: Cradle of Humankind

Oldupai Gorge. Photo by Feans. Used with permission through a Creative Commons license.

Tanzania’s eastern Serengeti is home to one of the world’s most important paleoanthropological sites. Fossils and ancient tools discovered here have given scientists tremendous insight into the evolution of humans and related species.

In 1931, Louis Leakey, a Kenyan pre-historian, led his first expedition to Oldupai (also spelled Olduvai). The party found an ancient hand-axe with a rounded cutting edge , confirming Leakey’s belief that Oldupai could hold important clues to humanity’s early history.

The finds in the next 28 years were largely limited to basic tools and the fossil remains of animals, many extinct while others were previously unknown.

That changed on July 17, 1959, when the archaeologist-anthropologist Mary Leakey (Louis’s wife) spotted an exposed primate skull at the same site where the first hand-axe had been found in 1931. The team named the skull Zinjanthropus — “Zinj” was the name the earliest Arab traders gave to the East African coastline. The species gained the popular name of “Nutcracker Man” because of its large back teeth. It is now known as Australopithecus boisei or Paranthropus boisei.

In 1960, the Leakeys’  son Jonathan discovered another important fossil, a jaw fragment of what would come to be known as Homo habilis. Since that discovery,  additional skulls and near-complete skeletons have been found at Oldupai. This discovery is much more human-like. It had a relatively large brain  and walked on two legs, reaching a full height of up to 4 feet 3 inches.

Today, there is a small museum located at the site and lecture tours are given to visitors. Digs for further finding are an ongoing process in conjunction with scientists from around the world and the University of Dar es Salaam.

Want to visit this amazing site yourself? Contact Ujuzi about arranging a safari to Tanzania.

Photo of Oldupai Gorge by Siddharth Pendharkar. Used with permission through a Creative Commons license.


Elephants’ Sense of Smell is on the Nose

Elephant in the Serengeti. Photo from an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

With their long trunks and poor eyesight, science has long known that elephants depend on smell to navigate their surroundings. It has now been shown that African elephants have 2,000 genes related to the sense of smell—twice the number found in dogs and more than in any other mammal that has been studied.

Elephants use their sense of smell to find food, of course. But they also use it to recognize other elephants, stay away from predators, and even to figure out whether or not a particular human might be a threat. You can read more about the discovery on the National Geographic website.