All posts by Robert

Focus on: The Mara North Conservancy

A rolling savanna of more than 28,000 hectares; the Mara North Conservancy is home to a spectacular array of plants, reptiles, birds and mammals, including elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard and massed concentrations of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle and other migratory wildlife. It is home to some of the finest camps in the Masai Mara region and their strict game-viewing policy ensures that the experience you get is authentic and exciting. The partnership of Masai villagers and the camps is a great example of how tourism can help the Masai people as well as the animals themselves, the villagers help the camps and the animals and the animals benefit from a safe and protected habitat.

In their own words:

Year round, the Mara is always outstanding.

December to January 

The savannah is green and lots of new born gazelles make an easy prey for the big cats.

Credit: Mara North Conservancy

February to April 

The savannah is drying up and thousands of wildebeests are born daily in the month of February. This is a favoured period of the big cats.

April to June: Loita wildebeest migration

The rain brings life to the savannah with an abundance of game seeking areas for grazing. The Loita Hills migration especially makes gamedriving fantastic since thousands and thousands of wildebeests and zebras come to the area. Hefty rains with thunder usually occur in the late afternoon or late at night. The grass is growing longer and longer as if the plain prepares itself for the wildebeest migration. This is a period of stunning scenery with amazing game viewing.

June to November: The Great Migration! 

‘The best time to see the migration is from end September until early November’

For countless years Africa’s big migratory herds of wildlife have roamed across the open savannas with the seasons.

Many people ask, when is the best time to see the Great Migration and witness one of the famous and dramatic wildebeest crossings? The general rule of seasons is as follows:

Over 25% of the wildebeest and zebra population are resident year out in the Masai Mara. From June their numbers are augmented by over 1 million wildebeests and zebras following the lush grazing to the Masai Mara in search of greener pastures and to reproduce. In their thousands the wildebeest cows and bulls meet on the plains of Mara to mate. Later, in mid October to December when the grass is short many start to head south.  If you wish to see the famous and drama-filled river crossings, then NOW is the season to visit the Masai Mara ecosystem.

Avoiding the busy holiday season of July and August, means the Conservancies and Reserve are quieter and more private.

Video: Leopard sighting in Samburu

Everyone who goes on safari wants to see the Big Five; lions, leopards, rhino, elephants and cape buffalo. The most elusive of these is undoubtedly the leopard. Rhino’s may be rare but there are parks and reserves you can visit which offer a good chance of a sighting. Leopards however keep themselves to themselves, most active at night and staying in the shadows during the day. Most people lucky enough to see one will see it asleep in a tree.

Sara was in Samburu recently, staying at the wonderful Saruni Samburu Camp. She was treated to this amazing sighting.

Fine dining in Africa

Food on a safari holiday should be a real highlight. You can enjoy private breakfasts in the heart of the African wilderness, dine out under the stars and eat from the brai around camp fires. Many of our camps and lodges offer delicious ‘a la carte’ menus, others ask for your preferences before arrival so they can ensure you enjoy everything they prepare. Most have terraces that overlook rivers or water holes, or private verandas where you can have an intimate, romantic meal.

Real Africa has always understood the importance of good food. This is one reason why we’ve donated to the only cookery school in Kenya dedicated to training local Masai as chefs capable of running the kitchens of lodges and camps in the reserve.

We also like our clients to try some of the local specialties and delicacies, as much a part of Africa as the animals and birds. Some things however we don’t serve as standard. They are a little to exotic for the menu but are available for the intrepid (and very hungry).

Mopane worms. Botswana. These grubs are a popular delicacy in Southern Africa and get their name because they  feed on the leaves of the wild mopani or mopane trees. They are the caterpillars of the Emperor moth. They are hand-picked in the wild before their innards removed they are dried. These can be eaten raw as a quick snack or soaked and boiled to rehydrate, before frying until crunchy or cooking with onion, tomatoes and spices and serving with sadza. Delicious.

Termites. A bit crunchy. Have a toothpick handy.

Ostrich egg omelette. Plenty to go around…

Biltong – sun-dried meat from various animals that can be very chewy if you get a bad bit.

Cattle blood.  Kenya. An artery is nicked, blood spurts into a gourd and it is drunk hot before it congeals. An important food source for the young herdsmen in the wastes of Norhtern Kenya that gives they sustinence without hurting their cattle.

Tera Sega. Raw meat. Ethiopia. The ethiopians used to like their meat fresh and would slice it from a still living animal.

Giant bullfrog. Namibia. Move over the French, these have decent sized legs.

Nsenene (Grasshoppers) Uganda

Supu,  Tanzania. A soup made with the lungs, heart and liver of a goat, as well as the stomach, intestines and tongue of a cow.

Mice. Zambia

Kapenta. Malawi. These are tiny sardine-like fish; originally from Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, which have been introduced into other African lakes, including Lake Kariba. They are usually sun-dried. The dry fish must be fried gently, otherwise it becomes bitter and smells burnt. In fact the best way to prepare them is probably to make an onion and tomato sauce and then add the fish.

Flying ants. Zimbabwe

Report: Real Africa’s 15th Anniversary talk with Saba Douglas-Hamilton

Well, to quote Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, ‘O, what a night‘. At the start of the year we booked the Royal Geographical Society’s Map Room for October 8th, so we could do something special to celebrate our 15th Anniversary. We wanted to work with a charity, one that was at the forefront in the desperate fight for the survival of elephants.

We were delighted when Save the Elephants agreed to be our partner, and more so when Saba Douglas-Hamilton offered to be our guest speaker on the night. Our proposed 120 capacity in the Map Room changed to 700 in the lecture theatre.

We contacted our old clients as a priority, offering them first call on the seats, then contacted the databases of Real Africa and Save the Elephants. The tickets sold out in 3 days.  We had a waiting list of over 300 and up to 20 phone calls a day asking for tickets despite the sold-out signs.

Yesterday afternoon we arrived at the RGS at 4pm to set up with our partners on the night Kenya Airways. At 5pm Saba and the Save the Elephants team arrived, so while Saba and I chatted with the technician who was to run the audio visuals, the rest of the teams got the place ready.

With 700 people to seat we’d drafted in ten 6th form Geography students from our local school in Norwich, giving them tickets and train fares to experience the night in exchange for their assistance with seating everybody. They were helped by the children of our staff and friends, ranging in age from 11-16 and overseen by one of our charity trustees. They were all magnificent.

By 7.10pm we were ready. Saba and I walked into the theatre and I climbed to the podium to introduce her. It was a very proud moment. To be standing on the stage of the RGS Ondaatje Theatre, speaking where so many extraordinary explorers, climbers and conservation legends had been before was humbling. To be representing my staff was an honour.

Saba’s talk was superb.  Fluent, funny, informative, sobering, inspiring. She spoke for over an hour and at the end received a huge ovation. I presented her with a hand-made silver elephant pendant as a token of our thanks.

We adjourned to the Map Room where our guests could meet her, get signed postcards or a photo, buy t-shirts or a silver elephant and make donations. The room was packed, the atmosphere great.

By the end of the night we had raised nearly £10,000 for Save the Elephants, given them huge profile via the journalists who attended at the invitation of the Kenyan Tourist Board and I’m sure encouraged lots of people to travel to Elephant Watch Camp, Samburu, Kenya to see the work of Save The Elephants first-hand.

Thanks to everyone who came, to Sara and the staff for all their hard-work in organising it and of course to Saba for making it a night to remember.

Now, what should we do for our 16th…?

Its not too late to support Save the Elephants:

To make a donation and get a signed Saba postcard, click here.

For information on our handcrafted silver elephants, all profits to Save the Elephants, Click here

For information about our Elephant Conservation Safaris which include a donation to Save The Elephants by Real Africa on behalf of every client, click here.

To request a Real Africa brochure, which includes Elephant Watch Camp and details of our partnership with Save The Elephants please click here.