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Discover the secrets of the mighty Victoria Falls

One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World – Victoria Falls is the world’s largest curtain of falling water.   The 1,700 metre wide cascade of water plummets 110 metres down to the lower Zambezi River.  This awe inspiring sight also forms the spectacular border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Evolution theorists believe that the falls were formed around 100,000 years ago, when the Upper Zambezi River flowed across the plateau, finding and forming cracks in the softer rock, eventually creating a series of gorges.

Victoria Falls’ local name is “Mosi-oa-Tunya” which translates to “The Smoke That Thunders” – which is spot on.  This name was given to the falls by the Kololo tribe that lived in the area in the 1800s.

Dr David Livingstone was the first European to see the falls in 1855. The Scottish missionary and explorer had heard many tales of the thundering, smoke like waters on the Zambezi and he finally arrived before them on November 16, 1855.  Livingston stood on a small outcrop on the edge of the waterfall (which was subsequently christened Livingstone Island) and named the Victoria Falls in honour of Queen Victoria.

The magic of the Victoria Falls puts it firmly on the must see list but what other extraordinary secrets does it hold?

The Zimbabwean side of the falls will offer you the best view of the famous curtain of water.  Here you will also find the Victoria Falls Rainforest, which is home to a breathtaking range of unique plants and animal life.  Listen out for the strange calls of the resident birdlife including the child-like cries of the Trumpeter Hornbills echoing through the rainforest.  There’s also the cute Schalow’s Turaco.

This beautiful bird is mainly green but with a blaze of red feathers which show from under its wing when in flight.  It also has a funny little Mohawk making it easily recognisable with its red eyes and beak. You may also spot the small fast flying sunbirds among the many colourful and varied species found in the region.

It has its very own rainbow!  As the sun shines through the mist created by the falls it forms an almost ever present rainbow.  Even at night, the reflection of moonlight on the water creates what is referred to as a ‘Moonbow’ or ‘Lunar Rainbow’.  When the moon is full, this can last from sunset to sunrise.

If you visit between the months of September to December, you can enjoy a dip in the world’s most exciting infinity pool!  During this time water levels drop and as a result, you can swim to the very edge of Victoria Falls in this naturally formed pool, the Devils Pool, and look down into the gorge below. Other activities around the falls are bungee jumping off the bridge, gorge swings and the world famous white water rafting.

 

Victoria Falls facts:

  • While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is classified as the largest, based on sheer volume of water.
  • During the wet season an estimated 5,000,000m³ of water pours over the falls every minute.
  • The water depth at the base of the falls is 70 meters (229 feet).
  • Fish live in the river above and below the falls. The river is home to 39 species of fish below the falls and 89 species above it.
  • The Victoria Falls Bridge was the vision of Cecil John Rhodes but he died before its completion.

 

 

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.

 

Pel’s Fishing Owl

The Pel’s Fishing Owl is the second largest owl found in Africa next to the Verreaux’s eagle-owl  (also known as the milky eagle or giant eagle owl).  The Pel’s Fishing Owl is a nocturnal bird that loves to eat fish, crabs mussels and even the occasional frog or baby crocodile- if the fancy takes it.

They live in dense forest locations, choosing to perch high in thick foliage close to big rivers, so they can live and hunt with ease without being disturbed.  The Pel’s Fishing owl is as elusive as it is rare and for many birders it is a spot of a lifetime.

Found in sub-Saharan Africa, it is classified as threatened in South Africa due to the loss of habitat and pollution.  The Okavango Delta in Botswana is considered one of the best places to try and catch a glimpse, where there are believed to be around 100 mating pairs.

The Pel’s fishing owl is ginger-brown in colour with black spots on both their wings and breast area. Unlike most owls, they hunt by sight rather than sound as their prey is underwater.  As a result, they don’t have the usual concave facial disk which other owls use for detecting prey by sound.  Their legs and toes are also adapted to their hunting needs – having no feathers so they don’t retain excess water when grabbing pray out of the water with their claws.

The pel’s fishing owl usually hunts at night. It perches in the tree, looking onto the water and waits for its prey to get close to the surface.  The bird will swoop down and snatch the fish from the water.

Pel’s Fishing Owls are monogamous, choosing one mate for life. They breed once every two years, with the female laying two eggs.  Sadly, it’s rare for both chicks to survive. They build their nests inside a tree cavity, around 3 to 12 metres above the ground.  Chicks are considered a fledgling at about 70 days old but will stay with their parents for around 9 months while they learn the ropes.

Top 5 facts about Pel’s Fishing Owl:

  1. They don’t migrate on a seasonal basis and will only move to new territory if the food supply in their existing habitat becomes depleted.
  2. Male and female birds communicate using hoots. Males have a deep, reverberating call (hoom-hut) which can be heard up to three kilometres away!
  3. The female’s call is higher pitched and usually a single hoot followed by a double hoot-oot.
  4. The pel’s fishing owl is named after Hendrik Severinus Pel, a former Dutch governor of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) between 1840 and 1850.
  5. They can grow to around 60cm tall with an average wingspan of 150cm. Females are larger and heavier than males.

The Ngorongoro Crater

Located in the Eastern Great Rift Valley in northern Tanzania the Ngorongoro Crater was created around 2.5 million years ago when a huge active volcano (that might have once been Africa’s highest peak) collapsed inward following a ferocious volcanic eruption.  The implosion created the world’s largest intact, unfilled caldera. The crater itself is about 610 metres from rim to floor and covers an area of around 260 square kilometres.

The Ngorongoro Crater is now a phenomenal natural amphitheatre.  The caldera floor is predominantly open grassland, enclosing some 260km of plains and lakes, along with an estimated 30,000 animals including the endangered black rhino, lion, cheetah and flamingos. It is an awe-inspiring site offering an excellent opportunity for close up wildlife photography and a truly unforgettable safari experience.

The drive from the nearby town of Arusha to Ngorongoro gives you a real feel for the country and its people. From the floor of the Great Rift Valley, you can drive through colourful market towns, past rolling hills cultivated with coffee and tea plantations, past forests and streams before climbing up into the cooler tropical forest and to the rim of the spectacular 20 kilometre-wide Ngorongoro Crater.

5 facts about the Ngorongoro Crater:

  1. The caldera became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 and is one of Africa’s seven natural wonders, including The Nile River, Sahara Desert, Okavango Delta, the Serengeti Migration, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Red Sea Reef.
  2. The Ngorongoro Crater has the densest known lion population in the world.
  3. In the middle of the Ngorongoro Crater there is a salt-water lake by the name of ‘Makat’ or ‘Magadi’ as it is also known, and to the east of the crater is a spring named Ngoitokitok Spring.
  4. It is believed that the volcano that created the Ngorongoro Crater was originally higher than, or as high as Mount Kilimanjaro, which is Africa’s highest mountain.
  5. In the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is Oldupai Gorge (often misnamed Olduvai) which is home to one of the world’s most important prehistoric sites. The remains discovered there by archaeologists Mary and Louis Leakey are said to be the earliest known evidence of the human species. A museum founded by Mary Leakey is situated on the edge of the gorge and displays exhibits, including fossilised footprints and artefacts left by our oldest human ancestors.

Meet the Aardwolf – The Earth Wolf

Found in  eastern and southern Africa, the aardwolf (Proteles cristata) means ‘earth wolf’ in Afrikaans but the aardwolf is not actually related to aardvarks or wolves, it is in fact the smallest member of the hyena family!

Like all members of the Hyaenidae family, their front legs are longer than their hind legs, giving them a sloped stature and resemble a small striped hyena. They also have bushy, black tipped tails with a mane that stretches down its back from the head to the tail, which rises up if it feels threatened or scared.

At around 3 feet in length and weighing up to 30 pounds, aardwolves consume between 200,000 to 300,000 termites in one night. With their acute hearing, they are able to detect termites in the ground and then eat them using their broad, sticky tongue. Maggots and other invertebrates with soft bodies are occasionally eaten too – along with small mammals, birds and carrion if food is scarce.

Aardwolves mate for life and pregnancy lasts for around 90-100 days with 2 to 4 cubs born.  The cubs spend first month of their life hidden in a den. The cubs drink their mother’s milk during the first 3 – 4 months, before being weaned on regurgitated termites.  They then join their parents in foraging for food. Aardwolves will leave their family group at the age of one year to begin an independent life.

These reclusive, nocturnal animals have a  preference for semi-arid, open plains, savannas and grasslands where they’ll live in a burrow in the ground. Even though they could easily dig a hole in a ground using their claws, aardwolves prefer the abandoned burrows of other animals such as aardvarks and porcupines.

5 Facts about the Aardwolf:

    1. Aardwolves have strong jaws and canine teeth, but the rest of their teeth have been reduced to flattened pegs, used for eating insects. Aardwolves will primarily use their canine teeth for fighting and defending themselves.

     

    1. Aardwolves will use their manes to appear bigger. If another aardwolf threatens their territory, they will raise their manes as a warning and chase the intruder away and will only fight if it needs to.

     

    1. They communicate largely through smell. Aardwolves have two anal glands that secrete a black, musky fluid that they use to mark their territories and send messages to other aardwolves. They smear these secretions on foliage to establish territories and attract potential mates. They tend to be vocal only when confronting intruders or predators.

     

    1. Aardwolves are nocturnal creatures (active during the night) but once winter comes they generally conserve energy by sleeping at night and feeding during the day.

     

    1. Vicky spent a sleepless night sharing her bedroom (it was actually his bedroom) with an orphaned but quite large aardwolf called Woolfie!! Vicky didn’t realise at the time they only ate insects!!

The 10 to 4 Mountain Bike Challenge

One of the best-kept secrets on Africa’s adventure tourism calendar is the 10 to 4 Mt Kenya mountain Bike Challenge which raises money for the Mount Kenya Trust. Held annually since 2002, when a small group of enthusiastic mountain bikers cycled from 10,000ft above sea level down to 4,000ft, it is the major fundraiser for the Mount Kenya Trust conservation NGO.

Since the 10 to 4 was established, over $500,000 has been raised to support the MKT in their work. This includes planting more than half a million trees, building and maintaining a 14km elephant corridor through farmland, two elephant underpasses, returning over 450 hectares of bare land to indigenous forest, tree nurseries nurturing hundreds of thousands of seedlings, and helped 50,000 Kenyans with health care and thousands of children understand conservation better.

    

Last year, under the radar, our Farside Africa Director Vicky Stirling took part in what only can be described as the ultimate bike safari. Not only did she take part but she also won her category and was the first female to finish the classic race completing 62km in around 4 hours – quite an achievement! Whilst out there she met some boys from Nanyuki who couldn’t afford to enter the race. It was too late for her to help them last year. So this year, along with a Kenyan friend, we are sponsoring two girls and two boys to compete in the race on the 9th & 10th February. The boys will compete in the Extreme race held over two days whilst the girls will take part in the Classic race held on the second day.

On day 1 they will cover about 90km facing an elevation climb of 2000m at high altitude with fast technical sections & single track. This is then followed by the Roller Coaster Classic on day 2. Starting at nearly 3000 meters, (10,000 feet), on the northern slopes of Mount Kenya, riders will descend some 70km over demanding terrain, through indigenous forest and wide open plains, abundant with wildlife, down to the Ngare Ndare Forest at 1940 meters, (6400 feet).

  

Our ‘NANYUKI Mambas’ team consists of David, Joseph, Joyce and Asmin who live in and around Nanyuki and we wish them the best of luck!

Please GET IN TOUCH if you would like to sponsor Farside Africa’s ‘NANYUKI Mambas’ team. Farside Africa has paid directly for the entry fees and team shirts so any extra funds raised will go directly to the Mount Kenya Trust.

Spotlight on Zimbabwe…..Hwange National Park

There is an air of positivity in Zimbabwe and amongst its supporters since the coup that wasn’t a coup and we are all keeping our fingers crossed for the future of Zimbabwe and its people. With stability returning and investment in tourism growing we are optimistic that holidaymakers will be returning to the beautiful wilderness areas they have always been, such as the Hwange National Park.

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