The Serengeti will mesmerize you

East Africa Migration

One of the seven natural wonders of Africa, as well as 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!

East Africa Migration

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 East Africa Migration Safari to the iconic Serengeti to witness the magical migration.  For a quick enquiry or more info get in touch with us on info@naturetravelafrica.com

 

Cape Porcupine

Definitely one of the most odd-looking creatures on the African continent is the prickly Cape Porcupine Hystrix africaeaustralis. It looks like a spiny, black and white, moving bush!
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This widespread species occurs from Kenya and southern Uganda in the north, through Tanzania, Rwanda, southeastern DRC, extreme southwestern Congo, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique, and then south throughout the southern African subregion. It can inhabit a wide range of habitats from tropical forests to semi-deserts, but it does avoid swamps. Part of their ability to have such a wide range is a tolerance for both hot and cold.

It is a species of Old World porcupine, as opposed to the New World, mostly arboreal porcupines of the forests and wooded regions of the Americas. There are three genera of Old World porcupines, with at least 3 species inhabiting the African continent. They are all classified as rodents (the order of Rodentia), and the Cape Porcupine is actually the largest rodent on the continent, as well as the largest of all the world’s porcupines.

The Cape Porcupine measures 63 to 81 centimetres (25 to 32 inches) long from the head to the base of the tail, with the tail adding a further 11–20 centimetres (4.3–7.9 inches). They weigh from 10 to 24 kilograms (22 to 53 pounds), with exceptionally large specimens weighing up to 30 kg (66 lb). They are heavily built animals, with stocky bodies, short limbs, and an inconspicuous tail. The word porcupine means “quill pig” in Latin, and the entire back and flank area of a porcupine is covered with sharp, black and white quills that can grow up to 50 cm long. The quills can be made to rattle when the animal is threatened and can get stuck into its enemies if they try to attack the porcupine. It is not true that they can “shoot” the quills at attackers!

They are very shy and nocturnal, coming out at night to feed on fruits, roots, tubers, bulbs and other vegetarian matter. They have also been reported to gnaw on carrion and bones. Their teeth and gut are adapted to handle tough material that other animals may not be able to break down or digest. It is generally believed the Cape Porcupine gnaws these bones both for their mineral content and to sharpen their long incisors. Unfortunately they also have a fondness for cultivated root crops such as cassava, potatoes, pumpkins and carrots, thus often falling foul of farmers…

Spending most of the day sleeping hidden away in communal burrows, Cape Porcupines are territorial and monogamous, typically living as mated pairs of adults, caring for their young together. They mate throughout the year, although births are most common during the rainy season between August and March. Gestation lasts around 3 months, and the newborns weigh 300 to 440 grams (11 to 16 oz), and initially have soft quills. They are weaned at around 100 days of age, and grow rapidly for the first twenty weeks, reaching the full adult size at the end of their first year. Cape Porcupines are long-lived, easily surviving for fifteen years in the wild, or up to twenty years in captivity.
Although the Cape Porcupine is part of Africa’s unofficial Shy 5 and Secret 7, indicating the difficulty in spotting it on a game drive, we offer several fantastic safaris on the continent where you have a great chance of seeing it:
“Red Dunes of the Kalahari”, a 9 day safari in South Africa that includes the magical Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (https://naturetravelafrica.com/red-dunes-of-the-kalahari/)
“The Best of Zambia”, our two week safari that includes two of Zambia’s best parks as well as the Victoria Falls (https://naturetravelafrica.com/the-best-of-zambia/)
“Classic Namibia”, our 8 day safari showcasing the best of Namibia, is also one of our most popular safaris (https://naturetravelnamibia.com/classic-namibia/)
All of these safaris are small group, expert guided safaris. For more information you can also contact us directly at info@naturetravelafrica.com.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

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The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) is a vast national park (over 3,6 million hectares/38,000 square kilometres) in the Kalahari desert basin, that straddles the borders of two countries (central northwest South Africa and southwestern Botswana) in southern Africa.

The KTP is an amalgamation of the former Kalahari Gemsbok National Park of South Africa and the adjacent Gemsbok National Park in Botswana, and was proclaimed in 2000, Africa’s first formally declared trans-border conservation area. Kgalagadi means “place of thirst”, and indeed annual precipitation is very low. In addition, extreme temperatures of −11 °C (12 °F) and up to 45 °C (113 °F) have been recorded.

It is indeed a magical place where the red Kalahari dunes dominate the arid landscape, where herds of Gemsbok and Springbok gather close to the dry river beds, where imposing Camel Thorn trees provide shade for black-maned Lions and vantage points for raptors… Perfect for a different kind of African safari and even better for nature and wildlife photographers. Because of the sparse vegetation and concentration of animals in the dry riverbeds of the Auob and Nossob rivers, many an award-winning wildlife shot has been taken in the KTP.

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The park has abundant and varied wildlife. It is home to large mammalian predators such as Lions, Cheetahs, Leopards, and Spotted and Brown Hyaenas. Large herbivores such as Common Wildebeest, Springbok, Common Eland and Red Hartebeest also live and move seasonally within the park, providing food for the predators. Other interesting fauna include Meerkat, Honey Badger, Temminck’s Ground Pangolin, Bat-eared Fox, Brants’s Whistling Rat, Barking Gecko and Cape Cobra.

More than 280 species of bird can be found in the park, including many vultures and raptors. Special species include Secretarybird, Tawny and Martial Eagle, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Bateleur, Pygmy and Red-necked Falcon, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Pearl-spotted Owlet, African Scops Owl, Violet-eared Waxbill, Kori and Ludwig’s Bustard, Crimson-breasted Shrike and of course the Sociable Weaver with its massive communal nests.

Within the park there are three traditional fully serviced tourist rest camps and also six wilderness camps where visitors need 4×4 vehicles and basically only shade is provided. The KTP receives about 50,000 visitors each year.

There is a legend that says “Once Kalahari sand gets into your shoes you’ll be drawn back again and again”. This is indeed true for the fantastically different Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

We are very excited to announce our latest itinerary to be added to our growing safari portfolio at Nature Travel Africa: The Red Dunes of the Kalahari Trip.

This 9-day tour includes a few days in the KTP, as well as stays in Mokala National Park and Marrick Safaris. For more information on this fantastic safari get in touch with us at info@naturetravelafrica.com.

The amazing Wildlife of Kenya

From its vast savannah plains to lush tea plantations, and from its snow-capped mountain summits to palm-fringed beaches, the east African country of Kenya provides a stunning backdrop for Africa’s most classic safari adventures. Kenya is bordered by the Indian Ocean, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania, and is conveniently divided into five major geographical regions: the Highlands, the Great Rift Valley, the Western Plateau, the Coastal Region, and the Northern Plains.

Wildlife of Kenya

Due to this varied geography, no other African country boasts the fauna and flora diversity of Kenya. Wildlife is prolific here at any time, but nothing tops the Great Migration, when nearly two million wildebeest and zebra follow the rains to new grass. Additionally, Kenya boasts the Big Five (Lion, Leopard, African Buffalo, African Elephant and both rhinoceros species), as well as many other large herbivores (Common Eland, Giraffe, Hippopotamus), several antelope species (Impala, Waterbuck, Lesser Kudu, Common Duiker, etc), smaller predators (Cheetah, African Wild Dog, Spotted Hyaena, Serval and jackals), and many other smaller mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Over 1100 species of birds have been recorded in Kenya, and the country boasts 10 endemic and a further 37 near-endemic species. Special species include Jackson’s Francolin, Sokoke Scops Owl, Grant’s Wood Hoopoe, Grey-crested Helmetshrike, Taita Apalis, Williams’s Lark, Tana River and Aberdare Cisticola, Kikuyu and Taita White-eye, Hinde’s Babbler, Abbott’s Starling, Taita Thrush, Clarke’s Weaver, Turner’s Eremomela and Sharpe’s Longclaw.

Kenya is naturally blessed with some of the continent’s top parks and wildlife reserves. These include:

•  Amboseli National Park, watered by melting snows from iconic Mount Kilimanjaro, supports abundant wildlife, including great numbers of African Elephant

•  In the north lies arid Samburu Reserve, with unique species such as the reticulata subspecies of Giraffe, the endangered Grevy’s Zebra and the localised Somali Ostrich, along with a more relaxed Big Five experience

•  Lake Nakuru National Park is famous for its huge flocks of flamingos that gather in the shallow soda lake in the Rift Valley, a sight to behold indeed!

•  The fabled Maasai Mara is the Kenyan mirror of Tanzania’s Serengeti. The Mara River, home to hippos and monstrously big crocodiles, runs through the entire reserve, and is the main stage of the annual Great Migration production. Local Maasai tribesman also offer cultural tours, a unique addition to the wildlife experience.

•  Home of the famous maneless Lions, Tsavo National Park is situated on the Kenyan coast, offering the best location for a combination of a wildlife safari and beach holiday.

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The country has an excellent, well-established tourism infrastructure, decent roads and friendly people. As you can see, it’s all here in Kenya, Africa’s original safari destination. We currently offer three trips to Kenya:

•  Our East Africa Migration Safari focuses specifically on the Great Migration and also includes a few days in Tanzania;

•  Our 7 Day Kenya Safari offers the best of what this fantastic country has to offer;

• We also offer a small-group, expert-guided, dedicated Birding tour to Kenya

For more information you can also contact us directly on info@naturetravelafrica.com and we will create the perfect customised itinerary for you.

 

Wildlife of Tanzania

The country of Tanzania is often at the top of the pile when people plan a bucket list trip to Africa, and with good reason! It is the land of safaris!

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The main branch of east Africa’s dramatic Great Rift Valley bisects Tanzania. The country is the site of Africa’s highest and lowest points: Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5,895 metres (19,341 ft) above sea level, and the floor of Lake Tanganyika, at 1,471 metres (4,826 ft) below sea level, respectively. Three of Africa’s Great Lakes are partly within Tanzania; to the north and west lie Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, and Lake Tanganyika, the continent’s deepest lake, known for its unique species of fish. Central Tanzania is a large plateau, and the eastern shore is hot and humid, with the Zanzibar archipelago just offshore from the 1,424 km (885 mi) long Indian Ocean coastline.
Some of the highlights of this mountainous east African country include:
• Three of Africa’s Seven Natural Wonders; Mount Kilimanjaro, the spectacular Ngorongoro crater, and the famous annual Serengeti mammal migration
• Seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Ngorongoro Conservation area, Serengeti National Park, Selous Game Reserve and of course Kilimanjaro
• 38 % of the country’s land area is set aside in 40 parks, reserves and protected areas
• The highest amount of mammals on the African continent, including the Big Five, Cheetah, African Wild Dog and Chimpanzee, and several endangered species
• Over 1,100 bird species, including 23 endemics and 35 globally threatened species; Tanzania has 77 Important Bird Areas (IBAs), as designated by BirdLife International
• About 130 amphibian and 275 reptilian species
• Incredible photographic and videographic opportunities
• The iconic, nomadic red-cloaked Maasai people with their traditional beliefs
• The idyllic beaches and coral reefs of Zanzibar, with its Swahili capital of Stone Town

A visit to Tanzania will guarantee stunning landscapes, spectacular wildlife, safari adventures to remember for a lifetime, barefoot beaches and idyllic islands, historical and cultural riches and amazing African-Arabic-Indian cuisine.

The country offers something for everyone, from self-drive or camping holidays to ultra-luxurious world class lodges, and everything in between!

We currently offer two small-group, expert guided safaris to wonderful Tanzania.

Browse to our Tanzania Safari or have a look at our Kenya Safari. To enquire about any of these or any other trips to Africa , get in touch with us at info@naturetravelafrica.com and we will make your east African safari dreams come true.

 

Nyika National Park

People often talk about all the big famous parks in Africa, but easily forget about the smaller, less known parks. If you are looking for something different, much more relaxed and enjoy being pleasantly surprised, then Nyika National Park in Malawi is just the one for you!

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Nyika is Malawi’s oldest and largest park with an area of 1250 sq miles (3200 km2). Nyika means “where the water comes from” and it is, indeed, one of Malawi’s most important catchment areas. The park covers practically the whole of the Nyika Plateau in northern Malawi, and almost all of the park lies at over 2,000 metres (6,600 feet) above sea level. The rolling scenery is at its best in the rainy season when over 200 types of orchid are in flower. The grasslands of Nyika are rich in wildflowers in other seasons as well.

Nyika is wonderful for hiking and mountain biking, as well as more conventional 4×4 safari excursions. The higher elevations are open, undulating grasslands with incised valleys, creating panoramic views, slopes of wild flowers, rolling green hills, rocky outcrops, and small, tropical forests. The park is home to large numbers of antelope, from the diminutive Common Duiker to Common Eland and Roan Antelope and the Crawshay’s subspecies of Plains Zebra. The park also boasts one of the highest densities of Leopard in central Africa, although they are rarely seen. African Elephants usually keep to the lower ground on the northern edge of the park.

For the birdwatcher, the park has a lot to offer: over 400 species have been recorded! The rare Denham’s Bustard and the Wattled Crane are among those to be seen, as is the Hildebrandt’s Francolin, White-chested Alethe, African Hill Babbler, Miombo Pied Barbet, Black-backed Barbet, Green-backed Honeyguide, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Sharpe’s Akalat, Olive-flanked Robin, Orange Thrush, Bar-tailed Trogon, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Brown Parisoma and Black-lored Cisticola, among many others.

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Come and join us in Nyika in Malawi on an amazing trip; our Malawi & Zambia wildlife safari also visits:
•  Liwonde National Park in the south of Malawi, famous for the successful private-public partnership conservation project on the go at the moment, and for incredible riverside scenery and diverse fauna and flora.
•  South Luangwa National Park in bordering Zambia, one of the great parks of Africa, and boasting huge African Elephant, African Buffalo and Leopard populations, and also the home of the African walking safari.

For more information on this small group, expert-guided trip, enquire at info@naturetravelafrica.com or browse to our Malawi & Zambia Wildlife Safari.

 

Matobo National Park

Idyllically located in the spectacular Matobo Hills in southwestern Zimbabwe, and only an hour from Bulawayo, the renowned Matobo National Park is known for its rich human history, its remarkably diverse flora and fauna and its magnificent and breathtaking rugged terrain.

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This unspoiled natural wilderness features a range of massive red-tinged, granite boulders interspersed with gorgeous wooded valleys making it a dream destination for hikers, climbers and nature lovers alike. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the unsung highlights in Zimbabwe, and rightly considered the spiritual heartbeat of the country.

The name of the area, Matobo (or sometimes Matopos), was given to it in the 1840s by Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele nation. The park was officially established in 1926 as the Rhodes Matopos National Park and received its World Heritage Site status in 2003.

The reserve is compact (424 km2/164 sq mi), easily accessible and is home to an impressive range of African wildlife. Adjoining the main part of the national park is a small, intensively protected park containing Zimbabwe’s highest concentration of White and Black Rhinoceros. Matobo offers the best chance of seeing these endangered species in the country. Other animals in the park include Plains Zebra, Common Wildebeest, Greater Kudu, Common Eland, Sable Antelope, Giraffe, Cheetah, Hippopotamus, Common Warthog, Rock Hyrax and Nile Crocodile as well as Africa’s largest concentration of Leopard.

From a birding perspective, the park boasts the world’s largest concentration of Verreaux’s Eagles, along with African Hawk-Eagle, Wahlberg, Crowned, Martial and African Fish Eagle, Bateleur, Augur Buzzard, Lanner and Peregrine Falcon, Gabar Goshawk, Secretarybird, Cape Eagle-Owl, Boulder Chat, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Southern Hyliota, Mottled Swift, Freckled Nightjar, African Pygmy Goose, Purple-crested Turaco and many more. A total of about 300 avian species have been recorded in the park.

The Matobo Hills is an area of high botanic diversity, with over 200 species of tree recorded in the national park, including the Mountain Acacia, South African Wild Pear and the Paperbark Thorn. There are also many aloes, wild herbs and over 100 grass species. Many types of rare endemic plants have been recorded in the park and surrounds.

Matobo also contains many historical sites, including the burial sites of Cecil John Rhodes, Leander Starr Jameson and Sir Charles Coghlan. There are also 3,000 vitally important San rock art painting sites, along with various archaeological finds dating back as far as the Pre-Middle Stone Age.

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Matobo is home to some memorable accommodation options, some of which are designed around the boulders themselves. There are also some lovely lodges and campgrounds inside the park. There are numerous activities to be had in Matobo, including game viewing, hiking and running, horse riding, fishing and boating.

For a chance to visit this stunning gem of a park, join us on safari in Zimbabwe. For more information visit https://naturetravelafrica.com/experience-zimbabwe/ or enquire at info@naturetravelafrica.com

 

 

 

Aardvark

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The strange looking and almost mythical Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) is undoubtedly one of Africa’s most interesting animals. It plays a significant part in African folklore and mythology, and is believed to bring good luck to anyone that is lucky enough to see one. It is also a symbol of strength and resilience in various African cultures.

The name Aardvark is actually Afrikaans, and means “earth pig” or “ground pig”, probably because of its habit of burrowing into the soil for a home. Aardvarks are also known as ‘antbears’, ‘anteaters’, ‘Cape anteater’ and ‘earth hogs’. The name Orycteropus means burrowing foot, and the name afer refers to Africa. Aardvarks belong to the genetic group of mammals called afrotheres, along with elephants, golden moles, hyraxes, tenrecs and other related mammals. Scientists actually classify the Aardvark genetically as a living fossil!

The Aardvark is vaguely pig-like in appearance, typically between 100 and 130 centimetres (3 to 4 ft) long (without its tail) and weighing about 40 to 80 kilograms (90 to 180 lbs). Its body is stout with a prominently arched back and is sparsely covered with coarse bristle-like hairs. Normally an Aardvark will be of a colour similar to the soil in the area in which it lives. It has strong legs equipped with spade-like claws. The kangaroo-like tapered tail can be up to 70 cm (28 in) long. The greatly elongated head is set on a short, thick neck, and the end of the snout bears a disc, which houses the nostrils, boasting super sensitive smell organs. The mouth is small, with a thin, snakelike, protruding tongue (as much as 30 centimetres (12 in) long). Lastly, its tubular ears are disproportionately large and very effective, whereas its eyes are very small. A strange creature indeed!

Aardvarks are found all over sub-Saharan Africa in suitable habitats, like grassland savannah and open woodland. They avoid swamps, very rocky areas and coastal forests. These solitary animals spend the daylight hours in dark underground burrows to avoid the heat of the day, and almost exclusively come out at night to walk around in search of food. They feed almost exclusively on ants and termites. They may walk several kilometres to feeding grounds each night, walking around seemingly aimlessly, with their noses to the ground. Once they locate an ant or termite colony they rip into it with their claws and feed away, consuming up to 50,000 in one night! They will occasionally snack on a plant called the Aardvark Cucumber, a plant completely reliant on the Aardvark to uncover their fruit and propagate the seeds.

Aardvarks pair only during the breeding season; after a gestation period of seven months, one cub weighing around 1.9 kilograms (4.2 lbs) is born during May to July. The little one is able to leave the burrow to accompany its mother after only two weeks and eats termites at 9 weeks, and is weaned between three months and 16 weeks.

Luckily these incredible mammals are classified as least concern from the IUCN. However, they are not easily seen on safari in Africa, due to their nocturnal habits and shy, skulking behaviour. They are in a precarious position, as they are so dependent on such specific food, that if a problem arises with declining termites numbers, the species as a whole could be in trouble. Other potential threats include the bushmeat trade, subsistence hunting and habitat loss due to agriculture.

For your chance to encounter this fascinating mammal, join us on safari in Africa! Go to www.naturetravelafrica.com for more information or enquire directly at info@naturetravelafrica.com

Wildlife of Uganda

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“Oh Uganda, land of beauty” is the opening line of this east-central African country’s national anthem, and it is certainly true! But apart from beautiful green landscapes, pleasant tropical climate and richly diverse fauna and flora species, Uganda also offers friendly people, a safe travel environment and good tourism infrastructure.

The country is located on the east African plateau with a rim of mountains around it, and averages about 1,100 metres (3,609 ft) above sea level. Although landlocked, Uganda contains many large lakes, including one that influences much of the country’s south, Lake Victoria, the largest tropical lake on Earth. Uganda has a wide variety of different habitats, including mountains, hills, tropical rainforest, woodland, freshwater lakes, swamps and savannah. The country has a huge amount of biodiverse flora and fauna reflecting this range of habitats. Some 345 species of mammal and 1060 bird species have been recorded in the country, along with 4,500 species of plants, 142 species of reptile, 86 amphibian species, 501 species of fish and 1,242 butterfly species. A treasure trove of fauna and flora indeed!

Some of Uganda’s key mammal species are Eastern Gorilla (Mountain subspecies), Chimpanzee, Angola Colobus, Ugandan Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Eastern Red Colobus, L’Hoest’s Monkey, Guereza, Blue Monkey, Lion, Leopard, African Golden Cat, Serval, African Buffalo, African Elephant, Kob (Uganda subspecies), Sitatunga, Beisa Oryx, Giraffe (Rothschild’s subspecies), Forest Hog and Hippopotamus. There are also several near threatened bat, shrew and rat species, along with Jackson’s Mongoose, Spotted-necked and African Clawless Otter.

Top avian species include the iconic Shoebill, Grey Parrot, African and Green-breasted Pitta, Nahan’s Francolin, Papyrus Gonolek, Many-coloured, Luhder’s and Bocage’s Bushshrike, Dusky and Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Blue Malkoha, Black Bee-eater, Blue-throated Roller, Afep Pigeon, Great Blue Turaco and many others.

Uganda boasts 60 protected areas and 10 national parks. Some of them are considered among Africa’s premier safari and wildlife destinations, including

•  Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary – proud home of the only wild rhinos in Uganda and a successful private-government conservation cooperation project

•  Murchison Falls National Park – named for the stunning waterfall where the Nile river crashes through a narrow gorge, but also home to fantastic birds and mammals

•  Kabwoya Wildlife Reserve – one of the hidden gems of the Albertine rift valley, blessed with incredible views of Lake Albert and the Blue Mountains

•  Kibale National Park – home to an incredible 13 species of primates, and the best place on earth to see our closest relative, the Chimpanzee

•  Queen Elizabeth National Park – famous for its 95 mammal species, 500 bird species and dramatic volcanic features

•  Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and most notable for its population of about 400 Mountain Gorillas

•  Lake Mburo National Park – the smallest of Uganda’s savannah national parks and home to 350 bird species and stunning wetland scenery

We offer some fantastic trips to Uganda, including our

For your chance to join us on an amazing adventure in the “Pearl of Africa” in August 2020 get in touch with us at info@naturetravelafrica.com.

Pangolin

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A fascinating, rare and unique animal, the pangolin is the source of many folklores, myths and superstitions. From people believing they fall from the sky instead of being born, to being bestowed the honour of bringing rain and good hope to all that sees one, the pangolin has forever held a special place in human hearts.

The order Philodota comprises eight species of pangolin. Of the eight, four occur in Africa, namely:

•  White-bellied Pangolin of Equatorial Africa from Senegal to western Kenya, south to northwestern Zambia and southwestern Angola, as well as northeastern Mozambique

•  Giant Ground Pangolin in Senegal to western Kenya, south to Rwanda, central DRC and southwestern Angola

•  Temminck’s Ground Pangolin of northern South Africa, north and eastern Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, southern Angola, southern Zambia, southeastern DRC, southern Rwanda, Malawi, Tanzania, eastern Uganda and western Kenya

•  Black-bellied Pangolin of Equatorial Africa from Senegal and Gambia to western Uganda, south to southwestern Angola

The name pangolin comes from the Malay word pengguling, meaning “one who rolls up”.

Pangolins have powerful claws (with super strong nails), elongated snout and long tongue seen in the other unrelated anteater species of the world. In fact, another name for the pangolin is the “scaly anteater”. They typically weigh between 1.8 and 2.1 kg (4 to 7 lbs) and range in length from 30 to 100cm (12 to 40 inches).

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Their diet consists of ants and termites, which they capture with that 40 cm (16 in) long tongue. One pangolin is estimated to eat about 70 million ants and termites every year! They very poor eyesight but use their supreme sense of smell and excellent hearing to hunt out termite mounds and ant hills.

Pangolin are easily identified by their tough scaly bodies and small heads. The large overlapping scales, resembling a pine cone, are made of keratin (like in human nails and hair) and they are the only mammals with this feature. The scales account for up to 20% of a pangolin’s weight!

These skittish animals are easily spooked and will roll up into a Lion-proof ball if they feel threatened. On top of that, they can emit a noxious-smelling chemical from glands near the anus, similar to the spray of a skunk. They are mostly nocturnal and are only rarely seen during daylight hours.

They live in hollow trees or deep burrows in the ground, depending on the specific species. Some of the species can walk on their hind legs, and others are even good swimmers!

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Pangolins are solitary and meet only to mate, usually once during summer or autumn. The gestation period ranges from 70 to 140 days, depending on the species. African pangolins give birth to one offspring only, and when born their scales are white and soft. The young will stay in the burrow for the first two to four weeks of their lives, and weaning takes place at around 3 months.

They are unfortunately being hunted in alarming numbers for their scales and other body parts; in fact, pangolins are the most trafficked animal on the planet! They also face the threat of habitat destruction (heavy deforestation) in their natural habitat. All eight species of pangolin are classified by the IUCN as threatened with extinction, while two are classified as critically endangered. All pangolin species are currently listed under Appendix I of CITES which prohibits international trade.

Here at Nature Travel Africa, we support the protection of this magnificent species.