Wildlife of South Africa

The “rainbow nation” of South Africa is world famous for its multi-ethnic society, encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. It has one of the best constitutions in the world and is a beacon of hope at the southernmost tip of the mother continent of Africa.

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Some of the tourist highlights of this amazing country include:
• Picturesque natural landscapes;
• 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites;
• Excellent infrastructure in terms of transport and accommodation options;
• a Generally temperate climate;
• Diverse cultural heritage and rich history;
• The Mother City of Cape Town with her myriad of attractions;
• Highly regarded wines, olive oils, whiskey, brandy(cognac) and “Rooibos” tea;
• Some of the best game reserves (over 100 at last count) and national parks (20 in total) on the continent, the most famous being the Kruger National Park.

South Africa is without a doubt one of the top nature and wildlife destinations, not just in Africa, but the entire planet. The country boasts an incredible array of diverse habitats, including:
• a 2,500 km (1,553 mi) long coastline along two oceans (the South Atlantic and the Indian) with an array of habitat found in this long stretch
• an almost flat inland plateau with an altitude of between 1,000 m (3,300 ft) and 2,100 m (6,900 ft) surrounded by the Great Escarpment that includes the spectacular Drakensberg mountain range
• the arid Karoo in the western parts of the country
• the almost Mediterranean-like Cape Peninsula area in the southwest corner
• the Kalahari desert with its red sand dunes in the far northwest
• the bushveld savannah in the north
• the Lowveld area to the far northeast of the country

This diversity of habitat has led to an incredible amount of fauna and flora having been recorded in South Africa. In fact, the country is ranked 6th out of the world’s megadiverse countries.

Some of the species include:
•   22,000 Different higher plant species (9% of all the known species on Earth), including 130 different Protea species and the species of the endemic Fynbos biome.
•   297 Species of mammals occur, including the famous Big Five (Lion, Leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino), African Wild Dog, Cheetah, several endangered golden mole species, the critically endangered Riverine Rabbit and numerous species of whale and dolphin.• a bird count of 858, including almost 40 endemic species; special species include Blue Korhaan, Knysna Turaco, Ground Woodpecker, Southern Bald Ibis, Cape and Drakensberg Rockjumper, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and many more.
•   447 Species of reptile have been listed, including Angulated Tortoise, Qudeni Dwarf Chameleon, Augrabies Flat Lizard, Yellow-bellied House Snake and many others
•   Amphibian diversity is also high (132 species) with highlights being Western Leopard Toad, Spotted Shovelnose Frog and the critically endangered Table Mountain Ghost Frog.
Many of these fantastic species can be seen in South Africa’s parks and wildlife reserves. Some of the most famous and often visited of these are
•   The huge Kruger National Park, one of the true great parks of Africa. Kruger has more mammals than any other park anywhere in the world, along with incredible landscapes, 500 bird species, a wide variety of accommodation options and a rich history.
•   The innovative Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park straddling the border between South African and Botswana. It has red sand dunes and sparse vegetation, but abundant and varied wildlife.
•   The diverse Addo Elephant National Park close to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape province that contains five of South Africa’s seven major biomes (vegetation zones). It is the only park in the world to have the “Big Seven” (Big Five plus whales and Great White Shark) in their natural habitat.
•   The province of Kwazulu-Natal’s Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, famous for its hilly topography, lots of rhinos, the Big Five, several rare species of fauna and flora (Nyala, Suni, Pink-throated Longclaw, Shelley’s Francolin) and for being the oldest proclaimed reserve in Africa (1895).

We would love to take you on safari in South Africa. Our current set-itinerary trips include several Kruger National Park safaris, but we can customise your trip to include any of the country’s parks, reserves and tourist attractions, depending on your preference. Get in touch with us at info@naturetravelafrica.com and we will work out the perfect South Africa safari for you.

Kasanka Bat Migration, Zambia

One of Africa’s best kept wildlife secrets occurs annually between October and December, when about 10 million African Straw-coloured Fruit-bats (Eidolon helvum) descend into the tiny patch of evergreen Mushitu forest inside Kasanka National Park in northern Zambia.

The huge bats arrive from throughout the moist, tropical forests of the Congo basin with the first rains in Kasanka, which prompts the ripening of the fruit upon which they feed.

While the Great Migration of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest in east Africa is one of the best known wildlife phenomenons in Africa, this Zambian bat migration is actually the largest migration of mammals on earth, and is unique to Kasanka. The sheer numbers of bats darken the skies and it is an audiovisual spectacle that every wildlife and nature lover should add to their bucket list.

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At dusk each night, the bats begin to fly and the sky becomes thick with big flocks as they prepare to spend the night indulging on a feast of fruit. The bats are large, with wingspans of a metre, and each bat can eat up to twice its own body weight. During their time in Kasanka, they can consume a mind boggling 5,000 collective tons of fruit each evening!

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Apart from the astonishing bat migration, Kasanka is also famous for fantastic other mammal sightings (including Sitatunga, Blue Monkey, Puku, African Elephant and many more), as well as excellent birdwatching (more than 400 species have been recorded in the park), combined with incredible scenic surrounds and dramatic African landscapes.

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Join us later in 2020 for this incredible, never-to-be-forgotten wildlife phenomenon on our Zambia Bat Migration Safari or enquire at info@naturetravelafrica.com

 

Madagascar Wildlife Tour

Madagascar, off Africa’s eastern coast in the Indian Ocean, is the world’s fourth-largest island and sits at the top of many nature lovers’ bucket list of places to visit on the planet. The combination of unique wildlife, stunning reefs and pristine beaches, fascinating culture, over 100 endemic bird species, delicious local cuisine, amazing scenic diversity, 750 species of endemic orchids, some of the best chocolate in the world and of course, the famous lemurs, makes Madagascar an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Visit Madagascar with Nature Travel Africa

Following the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian peninsula around 88 million years ago, allowing the fauna and flora to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on earth! The island boasts a remarkable array of endemic flora, reptiles, frogs, birds and mammals, the famous lemurs and two-thirds of the world’s chameleons. This is the reason Madagascar has often been called an “alternate world” or “a world apart”, or even the “Eighth Continent”.

The diversity of Madagascar’s peoples, its incomparable natural beauty, its unbelievable fauna and flora and other major attractions will undeniably leave an indelible mark on each and every visitor for the rest of their lives.

Visit www.naturetravelafrica.com for more information on our magical Madagascar wildlife tour, or enquire directly at info@naturetravelafrica.com

 

Serengeti, Tanzania

Serengeti, Tanzania with Nature Travel Africa
As one of the seven natural wonders of Africa and one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world, the Serengeti ecosystem in Northern Tanzania is one of the oldest and most scientifically significant ecosystems on the planet. Its weather patterns, fauna and flora are believed to have changed very little for as long as a million years or more, giving the area an incredible prehistoric presence.

The region contains the Serengeti National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Tanzania and several other game reserves, and spans approximately 30,000 km2 (12,000 sq mi) of stunning African landscapes.

The Serengeti has become world-famous for its annual wildebeest migration, an iconic and dramatic scene in wildlife documentaries for decades, and a true bucket list experience.

The migration begins in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of the southern Serengeti in Tanzania and loops in a clockwise direction through the Serengeti National Park and north towards the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya. This migration is a natural phenomenon determined by the availability of grazing. Over a million wildebeest can be witnessed running across rivers and fields as they fight for their lives from the possibility of getting attacked by various predators including crocodiles.

Even though one can get fully mesmerized by watching the wildebeest, the Serengeti has a prolific array of other wildlife; and big game at that approximately 70 large mammal and 500 bird species are found there.

This high diversity is a function of diverse habitats, including riverine forests, swamps, kopjes, grasslands, and woodlands. Packs of African Wild Dog, prides of Lion (the population here is over 3000), Cheetah, Leopard and Spotted Hyaena are often seen tailing the herds of wildebeest, Plains Zebra and Thompson’s Gazelle. The Serengeti is also home to a diversity of grazers, including African Buffalo, African Elephant, Common Warthog, Common Eland, Waterbuck, and Topi. With so much on the go, it’s not hard to see a full spectrum of African wildlife whilst on safari.

The local Maasai people have a name for the Serengeti; ‘Siringet’ or ‘the land that goes on forever’. Great stretches of grassland dotted with flat-topped Acacia trees give the Serengeti that classic “Out of Africa” feel. Many people claim that the sunsets in the Serengeti are the most spectacular on earth, with the sky turning a palette of pinks, purples and oranges before disappearing over the horizon. The dust that had been kicked up from the migrating wildebeest and the threatening rain clouds sometimes even add to the whole scene. Truly magical!

The Serengeti is blessed with a world of variety not just in its wildlife but also in its accommodation facilities, ranging from basic tents to luxury campsites and bush lodges to suit even the most discerning traveller’s tastes.

Join us on one of our Nature Travel Africa safaris to the iconic Serengeti to witness the magical migration. For more information, visit www.naturetravelafrica.com or enquire at info@naturetravelafrica.com

Kibale National Park

We here at Nature Travel Africa love Kibale National Park in western Uganda, not just for the chimps, but for so much more! Let’s learn more about this fantastic park!

The park was gazetted in 1932 and formally established as a National Park in 1993 to protect a large area of forest previously managed as a logging reserve. The park forms a continuous forest with Queen Elizabeth National Park to the southwest. This adjoining of the parks creates a 180 kilometres (110 mi) wildlife corridor, in which African Elephants move freely.

Simply put, Kibale National Park is one of the best safari destinations in Africa for chimpanzee trekking. Kibale’s 766 square kilometres (296 sq mi) contain one of the most beautiful and most varied tracts of tropical forest in the whole of Africa. The varied altitude (1,100 metres (3,600 ft) to 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) above sea level) holds up different varieties of habitat, ranging from moist evergreen forest (wet tropical forest) along the Fort Portal plateau, then through the dry tropical forest (moist semi-deciduous), and then to the woodland & savanna along the rift valley floor. Over 35o species of trees have been registered in Kibale.

However, the reason most people come here is for the primates! The density and diversity of primates in Kibale National Park are the highest in the whole of Africa. The most well known of its 13 species are the Chimpanzee, our closest living relative. Kibale’s 1450 Chimpanzee is by far Uganda’s biggest population of this threatened primate.

See Chimpanzees in Uganda with Nature Travel Africa

Additionally, Kibale is home to the uncommon L’Hoest’s Monkey as well as East Africa’s biggest population of the endangered Eastern Red Colobus. The Guereza, Red-tailed Monkey, Blue Monkey, Olive Baboon, Grey-cheeked Mangabey and Potto are among the other primates. Other mammals are also present, though they are hardly seen. These consist of African Buffalo, Leopard, Bushpig, African Elephant, and even Lion. A sharp observer will also see many species of amphibians and reptiles and a colourful variety of butterflies.

The park is also home to 325 variety of bird species, including 6 that are endemic to the Albertine Rift valley. These are Dusky Crimsonwing, Black-capped and Black-collared Apalis, Blue-headed and Purple-breasted Sunbird and Red-faced Woodland Warbler. Other Kibale specials are the Green-breasted and African Pitta, Black Bee-eater, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Crowned Eagle, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Western Nicator, Abyssinian Thrush, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Brown-chested Alethe, Grey Parrot, Brown Illadopsis, and many others.

See Chimpanzees in Uganda with Nature Travel Africa

Kibale lies 310km (193mi) west of the capital, Kampala, and is a superb addition to any of our Ugandan itineraries. Visitors can venture into the forest and go chimpanzee tracking, hiking, birdwatching, or meander along cultural trails that culminate with stops at the Batooro and Bakiga villages that surround the park. Get in touch with us at  info@naturetravelafrica.com for more info about a visit to Kibale National Park.

 

Serengeti

Serengeti: One of the seven natural wonders of Africa, as well as one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world.

Visit Serengeti with Nature Travel Africa

The Serengeti ecosystem in Northern Tanzania is one of the oldest and most scientifically significant ecosystems on the planet. Its weather patterns, fauna and flora are believed to have changed very little for as long as a million years or more, giving the area an incredible prehistoric presence.

The region contains the Serengeti National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Tanzania and several other game reserves and spans approximately 30,000 km2 (12,000 sq mi) of stunning African landscapes.

The Serengeti has become famous for its annual wildebeest migration, an iconic and dramatic scene in wildlife documentaries for decades. The migration begins in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of the southern Serengeti in Tanzania and loops in a clockwise direction through the Serengeti National Park and north towards the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya. This migration is a natural phenomenon determined by the availability of grazing. Over a million wildebeest can be witnessed running across rivers and fields as they fight for their lives from the possibility of getting attacked by various predators including crocodiles.

Visit the Serengeti with nature Travel Africa

Even though one can get fully mesmerized by watching the wildebeest, the Serengeti has a prolific array of other wildlife; and big game at that. Approximately 70 large mammal and 500 bird species are found there. This high diversity is a function of diverse habitats, including riverine forests, swamps, kopjes, grasslands, and woodlands. Packs of African Wild Dog, prides of Lion (the population here is over 3000), Cheetah, Leopard and Spotted Hyaena are often seen tailing the herds of Wildebeest, Plains Zebra and Thompson’s Gazelle. The Serengeti is also home to a diversity of grazers, including African Buffalo, African Elephant, Common Warthog, Common Eland, Waterbuck, and Topi. With so much on the go, it’s not hard to see a full spectrum of African wildlife while on safari.

Visit the Serengeti with Nature Travel Africa

The local Maasai people have a name for the Serengeti; ‘Siringet’ or ‘the land that goes on forever’. Great stretches of grassland dotted with flat-topped Acacia trees give the Serengeti that classic “Out of Africa” feel. Many people claim that the sunsets in the Serengeti are the most spectacular on earth, with the sky turning a palette of pinks, purples and oranges before disappearing over the horizon.

Serengeti with Nature Travel Africa

The dust that had been kicked up from the migrating wildebeest and the threatening rain clouds sometimes even add to the whole scene. Truly magical!

In terms of accommodation, the Serengeti is blessed with a world of variety. Options range from basic tents to luxury campsites and bush lodges to suit even the most discerning traveler’s tastes.

Join us on one of our Nature Travel Africa safaris to the iconic Serengeti. For more information, visit www.naturetravelafrica.com or enquire at info@naturetravelafrica.com

You can also embark on an active adventure by joining our Nature Travel Active team to run the Serengeti marathon in November this year. To get more information about the event, which is combined with a safari,  you can talk to a Nature Travel Active expert at info@naturetravelactive.com or visit www.naturetravelactive.com.

Maasai Mara, Kenya

Situated in the southwest of Kenya, about 270 km (170 mi) from the capital Nairobi City and about 4-5 hours by road or 40-45 minutes by flight, is the world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve.

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It is contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in the Mara Region of neighbours Tanzania, and is the northern-most section of the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, which covers some 25,000 km2 (9,700 sq mi) in Tanzania and Kenya. It is named in honour of the Maasai people (the ancestral inhabitants of the area) and their description of the area when looked at from afar: “Mara,” which is Maa (Maasai language) for “spotted,” an apt description for the circles of trees, scrub, savanna, and cloud shadows that mark the area.

Covering an area of 1 510 square km (583 square miles) and rising from 1550 to 2100 metres above sea level, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is a place of breathtaking vistas, abundant wildlife and endless plains. The terrain of the reserve is primarily open grassland with seasonal riverlets. In the southeast region are clumps of the distinctive acacia tree. The western border is the Esoit (Siria) Escarpment of the East African Rift, which is a system of rifts some 5,600 km (3,500 mi) long, from Ethiopia’s Red Sea through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and into Mozambique.

The Maasai Mara is regarded as the jewel of Kenya’s wildlife viewing areas and one of the world’s greatest wildlife reserves. As in the Serengeti, the wildebeest are the dominant inhabitants of the Maasai Mara, and their numbers are estimated in the millions. Around July of each year, these animals migrate north from the Serengeti plains in search of fresh pasture, and return to the south around October. The Great Migration is one of the most impressive natural events worldwide, involving some 1,300,000 Wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s gazelles, 97,000 Topi, 18,000 Elands, and 200,000 Zebras. Nowhere in Africa is wildlife more abundant, and it is for this reason a visitor hardly misses seeing the big five (Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino). Another 90 species of mammals have been recorded in the reserve, along with over 500 species of birds and many amphibians, reptiles and other fascinating creatures.

The reserve is a photographer’s and naturalist’s paradise, with abundant wildlife, birds, incredible African landscapes, and excellent weather. The BBC Television show titled “Big Cat Diary” was filmed in both the Reserve and Conservation areas of the Maasai Mara.

We offer personalised trips to the Maasai Mara as part of our Eastern African portfolio on Nature Travel Africa. For more information go to www.naturetravelafrica.com or send you enquiry to info@naturetravelafrica.com

 

The Spotted Hyaena

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Some people refer to Hyaenas as one of the “ugly 5” and vicious, but they are rather amazing carnivores and unique in a special way.
Most people will describe them as a dog-like creature adapted to cranking bones! Evolution does not support this statement because ancient forms of Hyaenas were more like modern mongooses with no specialised teeth. Taxonomically, Hyaenas belong to the sub-Order Feliformis (Cat-like) and family Hyaeninidae. This implies they are more closely related to cats than dogs! Four species are recognised: Spotted, Brown, Striped and the Aardwolf. Spotted Hyaenas are the most abundant carnivores in Africa and exhibit a wide habitat tolerance.

They are known to have very large home ranges and being superpredators, a breeding clan will have adverse effects on the prey base and consequently on other predators like Leopards and Cheetahs. Inter-specific (different species) competition is more likely to be tense in the presence of a breeding clan in a closed ecosystem.
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They are mainly nocturnal animals as they spend most of the warm days sleeping in thick bushes. They are distinguished from other mammalian carnivores by having a suite of cranio-dental features (heavy skull weighing up to 3 kgs), bone elements in the middle ear and specific characteristics of the deciduous teeth that are slender and not specialised. When hungry, Spotted Hyaenas can consume up to 18 kgs of meat quickly and females do not regurgitate meat for the young ones, like the Brown Hyaena. Spotted Hyaenas’ social organisation is based on a matriarchal system in which females are dominant over males; even the lowest ranking female is higher than the highest ranking male.

Hyaenas are misunderstood by most cultures, but unless we start to view them as cute, they will be soon gone! Some of the myths and contentions about Hyaenas include being hermaphrodites. Various true hermaphrodites like the Giant African Land Snail, and various invertebrates, are well known but the Hyaena is not one of them. Female vaginal labia look like scrotum and they have a pseudopenis.

Some believe they only eat carrion. Yes, Brown Hyaenas eat more carrion whereas Spotted Hyaenas hunt quite often and usually kill by disembowelling. Hyaenas are believed to commonly prey on livestock. Spotted Hyaenas will from time to time, but Brown and Striped Hyaenas usually feed on carrion, fruits, insects, eggs etc. They are usually accused of stock-raiding and hence persecuted. In northern parts of Africa, some people believe Hyaenas can make good pets whereas being seen with a Hyaena in the south means witchcraft. Either way these beliefs do not save them. Where they are potential pets, they are muzzled to avoid bites, implying an unhappy animal. Where they are associated with witchcraft, they are often persecuted.

The IUCN categorises Spotted Hyaenas as Least Concern, world populations being between 27 000- 47 000 (2008), but decreasing rapidly. Populations in protected areas are stable but outside, the main threats include persecution for livestock raiding, beliefs and at times fear or shooting for fun and target practice. Numbers shot for sport hunting are very low because they are not considered to be an attractive species.
It is time we do something to save these fascinating creatures. Get involved in local projects to conserve them and their habitat, or join us on one of our safaris in Southern Africa to learn more about these animals and see them in their natural habitat.

Get in touch with us at info@naturetravelafrica.com or visit www.naturetravelafrica.com for more information.

Madagascar

Madagascar, off Africa’s eastern coast in the Indian Ocean, is the world’s fourth largest island and sits at the top of many nature lovers’ bucket list of places to visit on the planet. The combination of unique wildlife, stunning reefs and pristine beaches, fascinating culture, over 100 endemic bird species, delicious local cuisine, amazing scenic diversity, 750 species of endemic orchids, some of the best chocolate in the world and of course, the famous Lemurs, makes Madagascar an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Following the breakup of the super-continent Gondwana, Madagascar split from the Indian peninsula around 88 million years ago, allowing the fauna and flora to evolve in relative isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot; over 90% of its wildlife is found nowhere else on earth! The island boasts a remarkable array of endemic flora, reptiles, frogs, birds and mammals, the famous Lemurs and two thirds of the world’s chameleons. This is the reason Madagascar has often been called an “alternate world” or “a world apart”, or even the “Eighth Continent”.

Geographically, Madagascar can be divided into five geographical regions: the east coast with its lowlands, the Tsaratanana Massif in the north, the central highlands with its prominent rift valley running north to south, the west coast that contains deep bays and well-protected harbours, and the southwest that contains the Mahafaly Plateau and the desert region. The Tsaratanana Massif region at the north end has the highest mountain on the island namely Mount Maromokotro, at 2,876 metres (9,436 ft) above sea level.

The diversity of Madagascar’s peoples, its incomparable natural beauty, its unbelievable fauna and flora and other major attractions will undeniably leave an indelible mark on each and every visitor for the rest of their lives.

The Nature Travel group of companies offer several different options for your perfect Madagascar tour. Our 13 day Wildlife Tour (starting on 17 September 2019) will highlight the absolute best of what this fascinating island country has to offer, while our 14 day Birding Tour (starting on 19 October 2019) will visit the south and east of Madagascar focusing on different types of habitat, especially the rainforests, wetlands and spine forests, in order to see as many of the endemic bird species as possible.

Visit www.naturetravelafrica.com or www.naturetravelexpeditions.com or www.naturetravelbirding.com for more information on these magical Madagascar tours, or enquire directly at info@naturetravelafrica.com