Lonely Planet put Rwanda’s Akagera National Park in the top ten of New in Travel 2016, its miniguide to the world’s best new places to visit in 2016. The park came in third out of 31 incredible destinations.
In mid-2015, lions were introduced to the park after a 15-year absence from the country. Lonely Planet editor Matt Phillips writes that 2016 will be ideal for watching these magnificent creatures: “Once the pride establishes its stomping grounds sometime in early 2016, it will be easier for safari guides to locate lions for visitors.” And since Rwanda is more well-known for its mountain gorillas than its other safari creatures, crowds at Akagera are unlikely, leading to a wonderful experience out in the wilds.
Interested in visiting Rwanda? Ujuzi has been arranging safari tours to the nation for years. Contact us with your questions.
South Africa is a land of amazing diversity – in wildlife, culture, and geography. In just 24 hours, you can swim among African penguins, track uncommonly beautiful mountain zebras, and enjoy tastings at some of the world’s most acclaimed wineries.
Join us this March for a magnificent journey in this land of discovery. You’ll start out in historic Cape Town, taking in a spectacular view of rocky peaks and blue ocean from the top of Table Mountain. Home to some of the richest biodiversity in the world, the Table Mountain range has more plant species than the entire United Kingdom. Other activities in the Cape include:
Endangered Species Day is this Friday, May 15. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to many endangered species that are beloved the world over. It is a privilege to be able to introduce people to this amazing creatures through Ujuzi Travel. I hope these safari photos of endangered animals inspire you to protect them for future generations!
(A list of organization dedicated to protecting vulnerable animals is included below.)
Scientific 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.
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.
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.”
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.
One of the highlights of my last trip to Kenya was Lake Nakuru. It is world famous for its birdlife, which is a beacon for leading ornithologists, scientists and wildlife filmmakers. Even though I wasn’t visiting at the height of the bird season, I saw a nice variety. Greater and lesser flamingo dotted the shores pink and were complemented by pelicans, hammerkops, snowy egrets, multiple heron species, sacred ibises, and more.
The park spans an attractive range of wooded and bush grassland around the lake, offering wide ecological diversity, from lakewater and woodland, to the rocky escarpment and ridges where rock hyraxes, klipspringers and baboons make their homes.
This is one of the few places in the world where lions have adapted to climbing trees. It’s quite an astounding sight to look up in the canopy and find a king of the forest looking down at you!
Other notable game within the lake include hippos and clawless otters. White rhinos, waterbucks, Bohor’s reedbucks, zebras, cape buffalo, impalas, elands and Thomson gazelles roam the shores. Deep in the forest, shy black rhinos can occasionally be spotted as they browse among the undergrowth. I was lucky enough to spot one, as well as to view white rhinos on the lakeshore.
I also enjoyed the large social groups of baboons and vervet monkeys that could be observed throughout the forests.
Situated in Ngala Private Game Reserve on the western edge of Kruger National Park, &Beyond Ngala Tented Camp never lets you forget that you are in the wild.
Yet there is nothing primitive about this chic and contemporary camp. Ngala is a true safari experience where guests go to bed to the sounds of lion calling, safely cosseted in modern tented suites and pampered with the warm-hearted service that embodies the soul of South Africa.
Twenty thatched cottages with shaded verandas nestle among the trees, ensuring the perfect privacy of your retreat. The romance of canvas, with big night sounds and flickering lanterns lighting the camp grounds, mingles with the simple sophistication of polished wooden decks, textured fabrics and clean lines.
Nature is never far at &Beyond Ngala, with breakfast and lunch served in the shade of an enormous weeping boere bean tree. A walled courtyard provides a sheltered space to indulge in sumptuous cuisine, while the boma creates a dramatic setting for fire-lit dinners. An afternoon by the poolside rewards you with a refreshing dip as well as blissful relaxation time. Secret nooks and crannies with cushy sofas are ideal for quiet hours of contemplation in the leafy shade.
Ngala Private Game Reserve supports a great diversity of animals, and one species of animal seen daily is the lion, or “ngala” in the local Shangaan language. There are several lion prides that patrol this reserve and many of the lions are known by name to the rangers. The reserve is also particularly known for packs of endangered African wild dogs.
When people think about threats to African wildlife, they often think of poaching. But it’s not the only cause of dwindling animal populations. Disease is also a big concern. For example, rabies can spread from domestic animals to lions and other wildlife, decimating their populations.
Since 2003, scientists have been offering free rabies vaccines for domestic dogs around Tanzania’s Serengeti, resulting in a dramatic drop of rabies cases among the park’s lions and also saving many human lives. Before the program began, 50 to 150 people in the area died of rabies each year.
“It’s very, very effective,” Joseph Ogwa, acting district livestock official for the Bunda District, told the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t have cases now. I remember 10 years ago it wasn’t good because there were so many cases of rabies.”
Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo has been in charge of the vaccination program for the past five years and is looking for additional funding to continue it. It costs about $110,000 a year to run the program. You can donate here on the Lincoln Park Zoo website.
An article in The Verge illustrates the importance of vaccination programs in protecting wildlife. It shows how – before vaccination programs were in place for domestic dogs – canine distemper spread to Serengeti’s lions, then mutated to become endemic among the predators.
South Africa’s Shamwari Game Reserve is a one-of-a-kind safari destination. Located in the Eastern Cape, Shamwari has spent the past several decades restoring overused agricultural land to its wild past. Today more than 5,000 head of game range freely, including members of the Big 5. Shamwari’s 100 square miles of wilderness covers 5 different biological ecosystems and is malaria-free.
Shamwari offers wonderful game viewing and luxury lodges for the regular safari-goer. But for those who would like a more in-depth adventure, the Shamwari Conservation Experience may be the answer. The Conservation Experience is a volunteer program in which adults of all ages spend 2 or more weeks working on the reserve in areas such as:
monitoring elephants, rhinos, and predators
restoring the landscape from previous agricultural use
controlling invasive plant species
helping with management of the breeding center
volunteering at the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary for rescued lions and leopards
community projects in local towns and villages, such as painting classrooms or maintaining community vegetable gardens
The Shamwari Conservation Experience is a once in a lifetime chance to get behind the scenes and involved with conservation efforts in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. You don’t need a specific educational background to participate, although a special program is available for veterinary students. Contact Ujuzi to learn about incorporating Shamwari into your next safari.
Watch this video to see Shamwari Conservation Experience volunteers humanely tag, sedate, and relocate a male antelope as part of the reserve’s wildlife restoration program: