Balloon safaris now at Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

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Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park offers an amazing diversity of wildlife viewing opportunities, from game drives and boat safaris, to walking and primate treks. Visitors can now add hot air ballooning to that list.

Enjoy flying at an altitude range from tree tops up to 2,500 feet, where you can get panoramic views and great photos of the park’s unique scenery and wildlife.

The hot air balloon safari provides a complete sensory experience that starts before sunrise near the Kasenyi gate. Watch the balloon being inflated as you listen to the sounds of the savanna waking. Inhale the fresh dawn air while you sample coffee, tea and refreshments prior to your flight.

Up in the air, you’ll get a perspective on the park unlike any other. Observe herds of wildebeest or antelopes traveling en masse. Hover above elephants. See the interactions of the park’s various ecosystems – forest, savannah, and delta.

After landing, enjoy a celebration with sparkling juice and a full English bush breakfast. There’s nothing quite like dining out in the open savannah, where you can watch nature as you get ready for the rest of your day.

Both children and adults are welcome to enjoy this new offering in Uganda. Please email Ujuzi for more information.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: Saving African Carnivores by Protecting Livestock

Photo by Diedre Leowinata/African People & Wildlife Fund A Maasai boy walks toward one of the boma’s houses; to his left is a Living Wall used to protect livestock from predators. Living Walls are environmentally friendly, predator-proof enclosures that combine fast-growing thorny trees as fence posts (a Maasai) with chain link fencing. The African People & Wildlife Fund helped develop, implement and monitor the effectiveness of the Living Walls and their impact on instances of human-wildlife conflict in Tanzania.
A Maasai boy walks toward one of the boma’s houses; to his left is a Living Wall used to protect livestock from predators. Living Walls are environmentally friendly, predator-proof enclosures that combine fast-growing thorny trees as fence posts (a Maasai innovation) with chain link fencing. The African People & Wildlife Fund helped develop, implement and monitor the effectiveness of the Living Walls and their impact on instances of human-wildlife conflict in Tanzania. Photo by Diedre Leowinata/African People & Wildlife Fund.

In last week’s post about a recent safari to Tanzania, we mentioned the “Living Walls” project, an effort to reduce conflicts between humans and big cats in the Maasai Steppe. Named after the Maasai ethnic group, the Maasai Steppe is an area in northeastern Tanzania that encompasses both Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks and is home to diverse wildlife as well as a longstanding human population. (Here’s a map of the Maasai Steppe.)

Raising cattle and goats is a major livelihood among the Maasai. At night when the herds are not out grazing, their owners traditionally keep them in circular pens fenced in by dead acacia thorns. The thorns can deter predators, but they aren’t foolproof, because they degrade easily in the harsh sun. Each Maasai community in the Steppe experiences carnivore attacks on livestock in these traditional pens about 50 times a year, resulting in the deaths of 72-84 lions across the Steppe as herders seek to protect their livestock.

Living Walls are a better approach developed together by Maasai communities and the African Wildlife & People Fund. Living Walls are based on the traditional acacia pen, but use fast-growing native trees and chainlink as reinforcement. This makes it very difficult for a predator to jump over or break through the pen.

Photo by Diedre Leowinata/African People & Wildlife Fund Livestock contained within a Living Wall. Living Walls are environmentally friendly, predator-proof enclosures that combine fast-growing thorny trees as fence posts (a Maasai innovation) with chain link fencing. The African People & Wildlife Fund helped develop, implement and monitor the effectiveness of the Living Walls and their impact on instances of human-wildlife conflict in Tanzania.
Photo by Diedre Leowinata/African People & Wildlife Fund. Goats protected by a Living Wall.

Living Walls dramatically decrease predator attacks on livestock, and thus also virtually eliminate killing of predators by humans. From 2003 to 2013, Living Walls had a 99.9% success rate at deterring nighttime predator attacks, and herders with Living Walls didn’t kill any predators.

Because the fences rely largely on abundant natural resources, they are a practical, cost-effective solution to what up until now seemed like an intractable problem on the Maasai Steppe.

Would you like to learn more? Check out the links below:

Photo by Diedre Leowinata/African People & Wildlife Fund Two children walk along a well-trodden track around the Living Wall in their family’s boma. Living Walls are environmentally friendly, predator-proof enclosures that combine fast-growing thorny trees as fence posts (a Maasai innovation) with chain link fencing. The African People & Wildlife Fund helped develop, implement and monitor the effectiveness of the Living Walls and their impact on instances of human-wildlife conflict in Tanzania.
Two children walk along a well-trodden track around the Living Wall in their family’s boma. Photo by Diedre Leowinata/African People & Wildlife Fund.

Tanzania: A 24-7 Wildlife Experience

Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

Jennifer Johnson of Wisconsin has been on safaris before, but her trip to Tanzania with Ujuzi stands out as the best. “Every day something happened that you thought couldn’t be topped. And then the next day, something happened that topped it.”

Johnson went on her Ujuzi safari in November with a group from Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison, Wis. “This trip was about a 1,000 times better” than a previous safari she had gone on with a different provider, Johnson says. “We saw twice the animals. The wildlife was more abundant, and we were closer to it.”

She credits Ujuzi’s  planning and expert guides – Modi Magesa, Chris Magori, and Shadrack Didah – with making the trip such a success. “Our guides were fantastic, very easy to talk to, and very knowledgeable. They were very safe and very educated about all the animals,” she says. The guides’ familiarity with wildlife enabled them to anticipate good viewing opportunities. For example, Johnson’s guide led her group to watch a pride of lions successfully hunting a zebra, then bringing out their cubs to eat it.

Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Wildebeest graze in Ngorongoro Crater. Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

Johnson also got close-up views of a leopard, a rhino, many elephants and elephant calves, and migrating wildebeests. One park she especially enjoyed was Lake Manyara, a lush green forest and waterway where hippos, baboons, flamingos, and other birds were plentiful. “If anyone’s a birder, they’re going to want to go to Lake Manyara,” she says. “I don’t even know how many species of birds we saw there.”

Another highlight of the trip included a night drive where she saw serval cats, honey badgers, bat-eared foxes, and baby hyenas.

The safari experience continued at the lodges and camps where the zoo group stayed. Johnson especially enjoyed Tarangire River Camp, which is perched on the banks of an ephemeral riverbed in north-central Tanzania. “There were elephants in the riverbed digging for water, so you could go outside and look over the bank and watch them” at lunch or before the sun went down, she says. At night as Johnson fell asleep, she could hear elephants roaming about and lions roaring in the distance. “When you’re sleeping and you can hear the animals outside, it’s having an experience twenty-four–seven.”

Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

Her group also enjoyed a presentation by the African People & Wildlife Fund about “living walls” – fences created from living native trees and acacia thorns. Maasai people build these fences  around their livestock areas to protect them from predator attacks. Before the living walls were in place, carnivores attacked Maasai livestock in the Tarangire area about 50 times a year, and communities killed 6 or 7 lions a year to protect their livestock. Where living walls are being used, human killings of lions, cheetahs and hyenas have dropped to zero.

Johnson enjoyed the safari so much that she’s already planning to return to Tanzania in 2016. “I’ve never been on a trip before where I loved something so much that I wanted to go back to the same place again,” she says. Her next trip is also a joint venture of Ujuzi and Henry Vilas Zoo and will include a visit to Rwanda, where her group will track mountain gorillas.

Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

The Great Elephant Survey

The Great Elephant Census, funded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, aims to count all the savannah elephants in Africa. The census will help scientists to understand the impact of poaching and help conservationists make plans to replenish the population.

The above segment from PBS Newshour gives a wonderful overview of the project. You can also learn more at the following links:

Dogs help fight poaching

It is often difficult to catch elephant and rhino poachers unless they were caught in the act of killing. Training dogs to track poachers and even come to the defense of animals is helping to change that.

“Our dogs have tracked elephant poachers for up to eight hours at a time or more, through extreme conditions—heat, rain, wetlands, mountains—and still turned up results,” Damien Bell, director of the  conservation group Big Life Tanzania, told National Geographic.

The National Geographic article also features a fascinating short video about the ways dogs, drones and other interventions are helping to protect rhinos in Kenya.


You can support anti-poaching dog training programs through Big Life Tanzania and Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

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