The Penguins of Africa

We had an incredible journey today through the Eastern Cape to Africa’s southwesternmost point.

We started early this morning on a bus drive south to Chapman’s Peak.

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View from Chapman’s Peak

We then continued on to Simon’s Town, where we went sea kayaking.

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After about an hour’s paddle, we reached Boulder’s Beach, home to a large colony of endangered African penguins.

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We saw several nesting.

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The chicks grow quickly and soon reach the size of adults. You can tell them apart by their downy brown feathers.

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Little Creatures Make Big Impressions on Safari

You may have already heard of the Big Five African game: leopards, African elephants, Cape buffalos, rhinos and lions. With their massive size and strength, these animals are sure to capture the attention of anyone who encounters them.

But many smaller creatures are just as fascinating – you just have to know where to look. A fun, pun-filled list of must-see safari animals called “the Little Five” draws attention to sub-Saharan Africa’s more minute wildlife.

Read on to find out more about the astounding ant lion, beautiful buffalo weaver, extraordinary elephant shrew, lovely leopard tortoise and resplendent rhinoceros beetle.

What small creatures are on your safari “must-see” list?


Ant lion

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Photo by Jonathan Numer. Used through a Creative Commons license.

Ant lion is the name given to the larvae from 2,000 species of related insects that look like dragonflys as adults. Ant lions hunt by digging holes in the sand and posing as ants that have become stuck in them.  Insects hoping to eat the “ants” get eaten by the ant lion instead.

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Saving the grey crowned crane

Grey crowned cranes are one of only two species of cranes that can roost in trees. Photo courtesy of the International Crane Foundation.

Crowned cranes were once widespread through eastern and southern Africa, but poaching and habitat changes have drastically reduced their populations. The grey crowned crane is now endangered. For example, in Rwanda its numbers have gone from 1,000 about a decade ago to 500 now.

One person working to change that is Olivier Nsengimana, a Rwandan wildlife veterinarian who spent many childhood afternoons at the local marsh watching the cranes dancing.  He recently received a Rolex Award for Enterprise grant to persuade people who keep the birds as pets – which is illegal – to take advantage of an amnesty program and relinquish them to a rehabilitation center, with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild. “People are already coming forward to surrender their cranes,” he says.

He is also working on a national media campaign to educate people about how they can protect endangered species. And he wants to develop a comic book to give to children who live around the marshlands where cranes breed, so that they understand the great value of these birds and other local species and grow up to play an important role in the conservation of their land.

New Ujuzi Video Added to YouTube

Enjoy this music video of  highlights from my recent trip to Tanzania! It was tough narrowing hours of video down to just a couple of minutes, but somehow we managed to get dozens of animals and five national parks in there. I think my favorite capture is the cheetah stalking and chasing its prey in the Serengeti. What’s your favorite footage?

The Jewels of East Africa

Most of us go on safari in East Africa to see the big game. And that’s understandable – for on what other continent can one encounter such a variety of large mammals? It’s breathtaking to see a giraffe bend down to nibble on the top of an acacia tree.

But if you only pay attention to the big game, you’re missing half the fun! East Africa is also home to an incredible variety of birds. Songbirds dot the landscape like small, colorful jewels, and larger birds like ostriches, crested cranes and secretary birds are quite spectacular in their own right.

Ostriches on the run

Ostriches in Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photo taken on an Ujuzi safari.

I recommend the book The Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe to anyone who’s going on safari. Another great resource is the Wild Birds of East Africa group on Flickr. It is free and has thousands of colorful photos, as well as an interactive map that allows you to view birds by location. If you’re a member of Flickr, you can join the group to share your own bird photos from safari.

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Eastern chanting goshawk. Photo taken by Mark and David Solberg on an Ujuzi safari.

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Starling at Mount Kenya Safari Club, Nanyuki, Kenya. Photo taken by Kathryn Kingsbury on an Ujuzi safari.

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Vulture. Photo taken by Mark and David Solberg on an Ujuzi safari.

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Yellow throated sandgrouse. Photo taken by Mark and David Solberg on an Ujuzi safari.

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Vitelline masked weaver. Photo taken by Mark and David Solberg on an Ujuzi safari.