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

Hitting the heights on an African balloon safari

Ever wondered what its like to do a balloon safari in Africa? Robert was in Tanzania recently and went flying over Tarangire National Park.

I was woken at 5.30am by one of the Masai guards knocking gently on my tent. Fifteen minutes later, having been escorted by the same guard to the restaurant, I was standing on its terrace drinking fresh brewed coffee and taking to our pilot. Called Nihat, he had over 3,000 flight hours under his belt and spoke perfect English.

“I’ve been flying in Tarangire for over 2 years,” he informed me as he swigged syrupy coffee from a mug. “During that whole time I’ve never had to cancel a flight. The weather here is always excellent.”

Our land cruiser pulled up and we climbed in, leaving the camp as the first hint of dawn touched the eastern sky. It was a short drive, initially on a rough track before cutting off through the savannah to the launch site. The crew had arrived before us. The basket was in place, lying on its side with the burners and fuel all stowed and secured. The balloon was laid out flat on the grass and as we got out of our vehicle a large fan started blowing the first hot air into it. It rolled around, making it ripple like water in a bowl. Two crew pulled on a rope tied to the top of the balloon, keeping it taut.

Once the balloon was semi-inflated the burners started blasting into it and within minutes it was trying to lift itself into the sky, the two men on the rope now joined by a third as they fought to keep it down. On a signal from Nihat they released the rope and the balloon swung into the air, gently pulling the basket upright as it fought to get away. It was not yet inflated enough to lift from the ground, even if the basket hadn’t been anchored to a land cruiser.

We climbed into the basket. In a central section stood Nihat, surrounded in gas bottles and with the controlling ropes hanging in front of him. Either side the basket was dived into two sections, each with a low bench. Nihat gave a long burn, the heat strong on my head through the hat I was wearing. Slowly we rose off the ground and hung for a few moments on the anchor rope as final checks were done. When he was happy, Nihat released the rope and we rose into the African sky.

It was surprising how quickly we left the ground behind. It was so gentle it felt as if nothing was moving and yet the World shrank in size and dropped away below us. When we got to 500 metres we levelled off, the whole of Africa seemingly stretching away in all directions. Lake Manyara was to the west, its white bed catching the gentle light of dawn. To its south was Lake Eyasi while to the north was Mt. Meru and Kilimanjaro.

Tarangire was spread beneath us like an enormous pop-up map, the river that gives the Park its name meandering through its heart.

“We’ve come up to find the breezes,” Nihat explained. “Different altitudes have winds that blow in different directions, its useful to know if I wan to move the balloon.” He nodded to the right. “Here there is a breeze from the East. I can use it if we need to get closer to some animals.”

We slowly descended as we approached the river, almost skimming the treetops as we dropped into its bed so that the steep-sided banks stood higher than we floated. Birds flew around us, their dawn chorus clearly audible  and a herd of impala stood together watching as we passed, their tails twitching nervously. Nihat gave a long burn, the heat hot on my skin in the cool of morning, and after a few seconds the balloon responded and carried us over the approaching Baobabs and above an acacia forest.

A family of elephants turned to face us, their trunks lifted as they tried to smell what was approaching. With one shrill trumpet, the matriarch told them to follow and she head off at a brisk pace into the undergrowth, her companions following in a line with the youngest in the middle. A couple of outlying members trumpeted in alarm, receiving an answering call to guide them in the right direction as we drifted overhead and away. My last sight of them was of them turning to face us once more, shaking their heads and returning to their grazing.

A herd of buffalo, maybe 150 strong, didn’t flinch as we passed overhead, oblivious to their silent watchers. A silver-backed jackal, jogged past and a family of hyenas sat warming themselves in the early-morning sun. Giraffes stood watching with idle curiosity while different types of antelope grazed unperturbed.

In a blink of the eye an hour had passed. Nihal had been looking for a landing spot, his spotters on the balloon radioing the back-up crew when a suitable place was spotted. We rose up, making use of that easterly breeze we’ed discovered earlier, before slowly drifting down to land in a spot I’d have thought it impossible to land in. When we were a few metres above the ground we all sat on the small benches in our sections of the balloon, holding rope ties oppositeand heads lowered. There was a gentle bump and the basket settled. We were down.

“You can sit up now,” Nihat instructed us and we stood as the crew rushed around with small blankets, throwing them over any prickly bushes that might snag the balloon as it deflated. The support vehicle arrived and we clambered out, about to be whisked away to a champagne breakfast. After the exhilaration of the flight, even that was going to be a bit flat.

Robert stayed at Tarangire Balloon Camp, where the balloon safaris are based and operated by Adventures Aloft.

By Robert Ferguson.

Boris the chimp in election prediction shocker

Statisticians predict that over a quarter of the UK electorate are still undecided as to who to vote for in this Thursday’s General Election despite hours of coverage being devoted to the key parties election pledges in recent weeks.

Indecisiveness is not something that usually effects Boris, a rescued chimp, currently being rehabilitated at Arusha Zoo.

Boris, who was rescued as a baby from animal traffickers in 2011, is something of a celebrity, possessing an uncanny knack for predicting results. In both the 2013 election in Kenya and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Boris has come out on top.

Despite his name suggesting an allegiance to the Tories, Boris was not to be swayed this week by hours of debate and interviews featuring all the leaders from David Cameron to Nigel Farage, which were played over a tannoy into his enclosure at Arusha Zoo, “Boris slept through most of it, and grimaced a lot,” reported his keeper, something many of us here in the UK can relate to.

Boris, clearly irritated by the whole long and drawn-out process shocked onlookers by approaching the five boxes placed within his enclosure and rather than indicating his preference in the usual way, by snacking on green apple slices located beneath the relevant party logo, instead opted to defecate. His keeper suggested Boris was suffering from severe indigestion.

Boris was unavailable for comment.

The 10 best safari videos

Most people who go on safari bring a camera to photograph the animals. Many also bring video camera or use their mobile phones to record some of the amazing things they witness. Its a great way of  letting others back home share the excitement. Real Africa has its own popular You Tube channel – Real Africa’s Video Channel , with nearly half a million views.

Here are some of our favourite clips.

1. The Battle of Kruger.

Perhaps the most famous clip of them all, viewed over 75 million times. In it, a baby buffalo is caught by lions who then have to fight a crocodile off before the buffalo herd regroups and returns. Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending for the buffalo…

2. Impala finds novel way to escape a cheetah.

When a cheetah gets this close, its normally bad news for the impala. Not this time as the impala finds a clever place to hide. Watch out for the bit at the end when they let it out.

3. Baboon gets into a car.

I love this one. The people are so confident, banging on the windows and trying to get the baboons attention. Shame they hadn’t locked the doors.

4. Meerkats climb on cameraman.

I know, hardly cutting edge photography but admit it, those meerkats are cute.

5. Leopard drops in on a kill.

On safari everybody wants to see a kill. This is the only one I’ve ever seen where the chase is vertical. The gazelle didn’t know what hit it.

6. The Predators don’t always win.

This leopard thought it would have a baby warthog for breakfast but the warthog dad had different ideas.

7. Catching it doesn’t mean you’ve won.

This leopard has caught an impala but is chased away by baboons. (Baboons and leopards really don’t like each other). Amazingly, the seemingly dead impala recovers and escapes.

8. Elephant pedicure.

Animal behaviour can be strange. This elephant has just finished grazing in the marshes of Amboseli in Kenya, wading up to its knees in muddy water. It then wanted to get the silt out from between its toes and used a clever way to do so.

9. Learn new things.

Do you know what noise a cheetah makes? You’ll be surprised..

10. Any camera, anybody.

You don’t need to be a BBC Wildlife cameraman armed with a state-of-the-art camera to film something amazing. This clip was filmed by an 8 year old on her mobile phone. What a sight.

Keep an eye on our channel for more amazing videos, as well as guides to safari, the countries, National Parks and animals of Africa.

The Big 5 minute quiz – Big bite special

Its not only International footballers who can bite. Many creatures in Africa are good at it too.  We hope you enjoy chewing over these questions…

1. Which small but powerful carnivore is renowned for its aggression, often biting at the wheels of safari vehicles?

a. The Wild Dog

b. The Honey badger

c. The Luis Suarez

2. Of the carnivores, which is the most efficient hunter with the highest success rate?

a. Leopard

b. Wild Dog

c. Jackal

3. Which venomous snake is responsible for the most bites on people in East Africa?

a. The Puff adder

b. The Black Mamba

c. The Plain Viper

4.  Which razor-toothed predatory fish is considered by many  anglers as the finest sports fish?

a. The Nile Perch

b. The Tanganyika Carp

c. The Tiger Fish

5. How long is the upper canine tooth of a lion, used to rip meat from its prey?

a. 4 cm

b. 5 cm

c. 6 cm

Answers can be found beneath the photo below.

Answers:

1. b

2. b

3. a

4. c

5. c

Results:

4-5: You are the Honey badger of biting trivia.

3: A bite-size success

1-2: As toothless as a geriatric lion.