Category Archives: African Wildlife

October special in Botswana perfect for half term!

Stay with Kwando Safaris or Under One Botswana Sky at any of their spectacular camps set in Botswana’s most unique and diverse wildlife havens between 1st and 31st Oct 2020 and pay only mid-season rates!

Don’t miss out on this great offer and treat your family to the safari of a lifetime – Spend 6 nights at any combination of their camps and get this high-season deal at mid-season rates.  Terms apply.  For more information call Vicky at Farside Africa on 0131 315 2464.

Take a walk on the wild side!

Are you looking for an amazing adventure holiday which is perfect for all the family? Do you want to enjoy the wildlife of Africa and see nature as a Samburu warrior would?  Then have a look at the Karisia Walking Safaris in Laikipia, Kenya and take your loved ones on an adventure of a lifetime.

In the days of glitzy luxury lodges, and air-conditioned safari tents, it’s easy to lose touch with the things that originally lured visitors from across the world to the African bush. Karisia’s walking safaris mark a return to this, with days spent exploring the bush and walking from camp to camp as Samburu warriors lead you through their own land. Specialised in walking safaris, Karisia offers clients a unique opportunity to discover the most pristine regions of Kenya by foot, to explore Kenya’s magnificent wildlife up close and to get to know the rich culture of the Samburu in an intimate and authentic environment.

Escaping the constraints of a vehicle means that you can walk where no car will go. Every safari is tailor made to suit you and your family and every day is unique. You will track animals on foot, learn about the insects, flowers and trees, you can swim and fish in the river, climb kopjes and hills and even do some rock climbing. You can also visit local schools and markets.

The team and camels travel ahead with your mobile camp and have everything set up for your arrival, so you have time to relax, dine under the stars and find the perfect spot for a sundowner or two. There are different levels of camping from simple dome tents to proper safari tents so there is something for everyone. What is the same for everyone though is delicious food, comfortable camping and a team of Samburu looking after your every need.

The ever-changing scenery, wealth of game and the opportunity to see the smaller animals, insects, flora and fauna often missed on other safaris really sets this adventure holiday apart but we’ll let our clients tell you:

“Simply fantastic. All aspects of the safari were excellent and Gabriel (our guide) was a fountain of knowledge – even having the English premier league results to hand! Meals were outstanding given what facilities the team had to cook.” Wright family

“A memorable experience, we had to push the girls a little but it was very good for them and of course they could have a rest from walking on the camels” Grant family

“What a fantastic experience, the guides were amazing and we couldn’t believe how delicious the food was. Such a great time we all loved it. Our best family holiday” Morse family

This magical African bush adventure can be arranged as a stand-alone trip or built in to a bespoke holiday including additional safari camps then some relaxation on the coast.  To find out more – call Vicky on 0131 3152464.

 

 

Meet the misunderstood, super speedy, dazzling zebra!

Think you know zebras?  Did you know a group of zebras is called a dazzle?

Although familiar to many, they are often misunderstood.   Zebras are widespread across vast areas of southern and eastern Africa and best known for their annual 1,800-mile migration, where millions of zebra, blue wildebeest and antelope travel between the Serengeti in Tanzania and Kenya’s Masai Mara in a constant search of food and water.

They may look like big softies but as well as being hardy enough to keep up with the migration, Zebras can be very aggressive and dangerous. They have been known to kick each other causing injury or death and even to attack and kill lions to defend themselves.  Zebras are also very fast reaching speeds of up to 65kph if needed to escape a predator or catch up with the herd.   Foals can even run with the herd within a few hours of birth!

There are three species of zebra: Grevy’s, mountain and plains. The Grevy’s zebra (or Imperial as it is also known) is the largest and rarest zebra and classed as endangered.  Mountain zebra have subspecies including the Hartmann’s and Cape Zebra.  The plains zebra is also split into subspecies which include Burchell’s, Grant’s, Chapmans, Selous’,  Crawshay’s and the Maneless .

A zebra’s famous stripy coat may all look the same but is as unique to each animal as fingerprint and thought to disperse more than 70 per cent of incoming heat, preventing them from getting too hot. This is because air moves at different speeds over the light-absorbing black stripes and light-reflecting white stripes creating its own kind of air conditioning!  In addition it makes great camouflage in long grass, especially as lions are colour blind.

The Big Five and friends: Farside Africa’s guide to the best and least known safari animals.

The Big 5 – When people talk about safaris they often talk about the ‘Big 5’ but what animals are they and why are they considered the most highly prized viewing out of the great many wonderful animals that you can see on safari?

The Big 5 are the Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Cape buffalo.

So why (you may ask) is the hippo, giraffe or even zebra not included? The Big 5 has nothing to do with size, rarity or opportunity to see. The term actually dates back to the days of the ‘big-game’ hunters and the list was created based on how ferocious the animals could be. Fortunately that is in the past and the term is now used by tour operators and guides to introduce visitors these wonderful animals living in their natural habitat in the safety of the wildlife reserves and national parks.  Seeing the Big 5 is always a highlight for visitors to Africa on safari, however your guide will introduce you to a wealth of other amazing animals, insects and birds that are just as exciting and awe inspiring.

The Little 5

The Little 5 was created by guides and conservationists who wanted to showcase the smaller and more elusive species in the African wilderness.

The Antlion is found in sandy areas and as a larve, it burrows in the sand lying in wait for a passing ant to fall into its sandy pit. It’s then seized by the sickle-like jaws of the antlion and the contents sucked from its victim.

Once it has fed enough to sustain it, the antlion forms a cocoon and transforms in to what is commonly known as a doodlebug which in turn lays its eggs in the sand and the circle starts again.

The Leopard tortoise is only tortoise not to have a nuchal shield (the protective scute above the neck). This means the leopard tortoise is the only tortoise that can raise its head, and as a result, is able to swim.

The leopard tortoise stores water during the dry winter months in a “bursa sac”. This reserve is used for hydration and also to moisten the baked ground, to make it easier for the female to dig a nest for her eggs.

The elephant shrew is an insect eating mammal with a long nose (hence the name).

Found in Africa, they’re known as sengis and aren’t in fact related to shrews at all, but are a species on their own. Often found in rocky areas quite shy and not often seen as they’re well camouflaged and very fast!

Rhino beetles are part of the largest species of beetles in the world reaching 6cm in length. They are part of the scarab family and aptly named because it has horns on its head much like a rhino.

The buffalo weaver is a common bird which is often seen in acacia trees and dry savannahs of eastern and southern Africa.

 

 

To see these amazing animals in their natural habitat contact us on 0131 315 2464.

 

The South African Springboks

The Springbok is a type of antelope that inhabits open plains, grasslands, scrublands, deserts and semi-arid areas of South Africa.  They’re very fast – reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour!

As herbivores, they live on grass, leaves, flowers, roots and tubers.  Their natural enemies in the wild are cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and lions but uncontrolled hunting (because of their meat and skin) and the construction of the fences (which prevent seasonal migrations) have led to a drastic reduction in the number of springboks in the wild. Fortunately the number of springboks is now stable and they are not listed as endangered.

Springbok facts:

  1. South Africa played its first rugby international in 1891, but it was not until they toured Britain in 1906 that they became known as the Springboks. Nelson Mandela intervened to save the Springbok emblem after the ANC came to power in the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.
  2. The male is noted for its “pronking” – leaping 6.5 to 9 feet from the ground into the air so that all four feet are off the ground.
  3. Springbok has pocket-like, flap of skin on the rump which conceals white crest. The white crest can be seen whenever springbok detects predators and sends message to other members of the group.
  4. Springboks form different types of herds: mixed herds (one dominant male with numerous females and their offspring), nursery herds (females and infants) and bachelor herds (young males).
  5. Springboks can mate all year round. Most babies are born during the rainy season, when food is abundant. Pregnancy in females lasts 5 to 6 months and ends with one baby which remains hidden in the bush or tall grass during the first few days of its life. At the age of 3 to 4 weeks, young springbok joins nursery herd with its mother.

Meet the Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)

The Greater Kudu is a large African antelope.  In the east of Africa they can be found in small groups in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Eritrea and Kenya – making for a great safari spot if you are lucky enough to see them.  In the South they are more densely populated. Here they can be found in Zambia, Angola, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana.

You can find them living within Savannah, woodland, thick bushveld or rocky hillsides. These areas are generally close to flowing water.

The Greater kudu is famous for its ability to jump. A 3 m (9.84 ft) high fence can be jumped spontaneously and some have been known to clear jumps of up to 3.5 m (11.48 ft) if required.

They have long legs and a narrow body. Across their torso run 4-12 white stripes and a white band (known as a chevron) runs between their eyes. The greater kudu’s head is usually slightly darker than its body, with colours ranging from a blue-grey to brown or red. Males can measure 195-245cm (6.4-8ft) and weigh up to 315kg (694lbs).

They are herbivores and during the dry season they need to drink water but in the rainy season most of their water comes from their food. The kudu lives on a diet of leaves, fruits, vines, flowers, grasses and herbs.

The male kudu’s romantic skills are not the best as he will stand in front of a female and engage in a neck wrestle.  He will then follow the female around issuing a low pitched call. This mating ritual will continue until she allows him to mate with her.  8-9 months later the calf will be born.  Calves are hidden away from predators for the first 2 weeks, after this they roam with the herd for the day until 6 weeks of age. Male calves remain with their mums and the herd untl they’re around 18 months old. Females will remain for longer reaching maturity at between 1- 3 years of age.

Fun facts about the Greater Kudu

  1. Greater kudus have a number of enemies. They are preyed upon by lions, hyenas, wild dogs and leopards and the younger members of the herd are vulnerable to cheetahs. Humans also hunt the kudu for their large horns.
  2. You can tell roughly how old a male kudu is by its horns! They start to twist at 2 years of age, and reach two and a half twists when they get to about 6 years old.
  3. By setting up wells and irrigation humans have enabled kudus to thrive in places which used to be too devoid of water.
  4. They might look big and clumsy but they are quick and excellent jumpers.
  5. Only the males have horns, which can grow up to 100cm (over 3ft)

Meet the Serval – Africa’s big little cat  

The Serval is either considered to be a very small big cat (by African standards) or the size of a very large domestic cat by UK standards.  These feral felines can weigh up to 50 pounds and look much like mini cheetahs. They have large ears and a yellowish to orange-coated fur covered in black spots, each with their own unique markings. This coloration offers the serval get camouflage when they are hiding in the long grass.

They have an excellent sense of smell, hearing and sight, which they use both for finding the prey and for avoiding predators.  They are also fast – reaching speeds of over 50 miles per hour and capable of leaping up to 3.5 metres in a single bound. They use their long legs for stalking and then pouncing on prey, unlike cheetahs that simply outrun their pray. The serval cat will find its prey by crouching with their eyes closed, listening out with their huge ears for a passing rodent to snack on.

Servals can be found in the wetlands and grasslands of southern and central Africa.  They are highly adaptable and thrive in lush planted areas close to water. They’re at their most active at dawn and dusk, hunting in the tall grass for small rodents and reptiles and have even been spotted taking birds from the sky with their claws given the opportunity.

They are solitary animals and only really ‘socialise’ during mating season.  Pregnant females will make a nest in tall grass to give birth. Kittens are born a grey colour with their spots barely visible, but they grow up quickly, and within two weeks their eyes are open and their coat has taken on the beautiful colouring of an adult Serval.  Kittens drink milk during first five months of their life. After that, they will accompany their mother as she teaches them to hunt. The kittens will stay with their mother for about a year before striking out on their own.

Facts about Servals:

  • Their main predators are humans (who hunt them for fur), leopards, hyenas and wild dogs.
  • Young Servals are often preyed on by eagles and snakes.
  • Servals live on average around 10-12 years in the wild. The oldest known serval lived for 23 years!
  • They are not considered to be endangered. Their numbers in the wild are still strong despite having impacts on their habitat in built up areas.
  • You are lucky if you get the chance to see one as they are small and love to hide in the long grass!  I was one on the lucky ones in May 2019 when I spotted one in the central Serengeti.

Can you spot the difference between a black and a white rhino?

It’s not quite as simple as it sounds! In Africa there are two species of rhino; black and white rhinos. Naming them by colour has created some confusion because both species of rhino are in fact grey! Despite them being the same colour they do have many different characteristics helping you to tell them apart if you are lucky enough to see them. The confusion started when early Dutch settlers referred to a rhino as having a “wijde lip” the English mistook the word “wijde” (meaning wide) for “white” and assumed that they were called white rhinos.

So, if they are both grey – how can you tell them apart?

Lips: They have very different lip shapes. The black rhino has a pointed upper lip, while a white rhino has a wide, squared lip. This is due to the animals’ diets.  Black rhinos are browsers that get most of their food from eating trees and bushes plucking leaves and fruit from branches. White rhinos prefer to graze on grasses, strolling along with their heads and lowered to the ground making use of their squared lip a bit like a very large lawnmower!

Size: White rhinos are much larger, longer and more cumbersome.  The black rhino is shorter and more compact. White rhinos also have a flat back with a small hump about three quarters of the way along its body.  A black rhino has a deep arch in its back.

The senses: Both black and white rhinos have very bad eyesight but a great sense of smell to help them to stay aware of their surroundings.  The difference is their ears.  White rhinos ears are tubular in shape. Black rhinos ears are much smaller and rounder in shape.

Behaviour: Black rhinos have a reputation for being more aggressive and inquisitive than the white rhino.

Rhino Facts:

  • They are faster than they look! White rhinos can reach speeds of up to 50 km/h and black rhinos are even faster running up to 55 km/h.
  • During the heat of the day, rhinos can be found sleeping in the shade or wallowing in muddy pools to cool off. The mud also protects their skin from the strong sun (like a natural sunblock) and wards off biting bugs, too.
  • Males are called ‘bulls’ and like to be left alone, unless in search of a female to breed with when in a group it’s known as a ‘crash’.
  • Rhino horns grow as much as three inches a year, and can grow up to five feet long.
  • Southern white rhinos numbers are increasing in protected sanctuaries and are now classified as near threatened. The western black rhino and northern white rhinos are extinct in the wild. The only two remaining northern white rhino known to exist are kept under 24-hour guard in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
  • Black rhinos have doubled in numbers from their low point of fewer than 2,500 and the continued efforts of conservationists are helping those numbers to continue to rise.

Species of rhino in Africa:

The Black rhino can be found across southern and eastern Africa but conservation efforts are helping to expand their range and numbers which are currently thought to be between 5,366 and 5,627.   The White (Southern) rhino can also be found in eastern and southern Africa and as with the Black Rhino, conservation efforts are helping to expand their range and numbers which are currently thought to be between 17,212 and 18,915 left in the world.

There’s also the Northern White rhino. In March 2018, the world lost the last known male northern white rhino. Sudan, the 45-year old gentle giant, had to be euthanized after his health declined. Sudan’s final years were spent at his home in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. This tragedy left only two northern white rhinos alive in the world, both of them females. Both still live on Ol Pejeta.  Years of widespread poaching and civil war in their home range devastated northern white rhino populations, and they are now believed to be extinct in the wild.

There are also desert-adapted black rhinos! A desert black rhino looks a bit different to other black rhino.  Their horn is slightly longer and thinner than a regular black rhino, this helping them to forage in barren environments.

  • They are the largest truly free-ranging population of black rhino in the world.
  • They are hardy rhinos who survive in temperature extremes ranging from sub-zero to above 40°C! The arid environment also means very little rainfall. Normally rhino drink every night, yet the desert rhinos only take water every few days.
  • The scenery is scattered with basalt rocks and mountain ranges with little vegetation, but these rhinos are able to digest highly toxic desert plants such as the Euphorbia damarana, a succulent plant which is deadly to humans.

Other species of rhino in the world include: The Javan rhino (one of the rarest large mammals on earth) found in Java (Indonesia) and has a current known population of just 69! The Sumatran rhino (has been on earth longer than any other living mammal) is found in Sumatra (Indonesia) and Sabah (Malaysia) There are only around 80 known to be left.  The Greater one-horned rhino is semi-aquatic and can be found in India and Nepal there are thought to be around 3,550 left in the world.

How can you help to save the Rhino? Find out how you can play your part in ending this barbaric trade and help save the rhino!  savetherhino.org/get-involved/

Meet the Patas Monkey – the fastest primate in the world !

Vicky has already beaten you to it! She was fortunate enough to have met these beautiful animals in Murchison Falls and Kidepo National Parks during her recent trip to Uganda.

They really are stunning and very fast!  We hope you enjoy finding out more about them in our blog and if you fancy meeting them yourself – just give us a call……

Patas Monkeys:

These super speedy monkeys spend most of their time on the ground and with their slender bodies and long powerful legs they are able to run at speeds of up to 55 kph.

They’re common in dry areas throughout western and eastern Africa, living in open spaces in groups of up to 60.  They are omnivores, mainly eating fruit, gum, leaves, birds eggs, small reptiles, insects and crops.

The patas monkey uses different calls for different predators to alert the others and then uses its speed to evade pesky predators such as lions and hyenas.

Most of their time is spent foraging. They set out in the early morning to go find food and will continue this till sunset. At night they’ll find a tree to rest in.

After about 3 years the male infants will begin to leave the group and find their own territories or sometimes join an all-male group. Groups may consist of all males or females led by a dominant male.

5 facts about the Patas Monkey:

  1. Their ability to reach speeds of up to 55km/hr (34mi/hr) makes them the world’s fastest primate.
  2. This species frequently vocalizes but it is quite quiet. They can make a chirp, chutter, cough, grunt or squeal.
  3. Males can grow up to nearly 1 metre tall, with females slightly shorter more brightly coloured.
  4. To find a partner a female will crouch in front of a male and exhale her cheek pouches.
  5. Other names for the patas monkey include red monkey, military monkey, hussar monkey, Sergeant major monkey and dancing monkey.

 

The Okavango Delta

One of the world’s unique natural wonders, the Okavango Delta in Botswana is the world’s largest inland delta.  With 15,000 square kilometres of lush wetland, game–rich safari, flourishing eco-system and amazing birdlife – it really is a must-see destination for wildlife lovers seeking an adventure.

Sourced by southern Africa’s third largest river, the Okavango, the Delta contains over 150,000 islands. Many of these islands are just a few metres wide while some of the larger islands can be up to 10 km. The largest is Chief’s Island, at around 70km long and 14km wide.

The annual flood that feeds the area typically comes between March and June, originating from the Angola Mountains, 1.600 km further west, the Okavango River flows into Botswana but never makes it to the ocean, instead the water fills the delta before sinking in to the Kalahari Desert.

The Moremi National Park protects around 40% of the Okavango Delta area. Surrounding the National Park there are a number of conservancies with small, private safari camps to protect the rest of the area and its delicate balance. These low–impact lodges and camps leave only a small footprint ensuring the area is preserved in the most natural and unspoiled way possible for future generations  of both wildlife and visitors to enjoy.

The Okavango Delta is home to a wealth of game from the ‘big five’ to a great many animals you may never have heard of.  It’s also home to over 500 species of bird with numbers boosted by the migratory birds that join the locals around November each year – a must for all bird watchers. Other bird species found in the area include the Pel’s fishing owl, African fish eagle, the lilac-breasted roller and the hamerkop.

November to March is breeding time with lots of the Delta’s animals giving birth to their young.  As a result, there are also lots of predators around at this time, attracted by the venerable new residents of the Delta – giving visitors even more opportunity to witness the magic of Okavango Delta.

5 Facts about the Okavango Delta

  1. In 2014, the Okavango Delta became the 1,000th place to be enlisted as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  2. The Seven Natural Wonders of Africa were announced in 2013 and named the Okavango Delta alongside the River Nile, the Ngorongoro Crater, the great Serengeti migration, the Sahara Desert, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Red Sea coral reef.
  3. Mokoro (dug-out) canoes are still used in the area. These traditional boats were once made from a carved out tree trunk, however, now many are made out of more environmentally-friendly fibreglass but still offer a great way to get around and enjoy a water-based safari.
  4. There are strong numbers of Lechwe (antelopes found in wetlands of south central Africa) with around 60,000 living in the delta.
  5. Five tribes still use the area for fishing, growing crops and hunting.