Tag Archives: etosha

The Hunt

The new BBC1 series The Hunt, narrated by Sir David Attenborough looks at predation in the natural world.  Viewers are transported at 9pm on a Sunday evening to a range of wonderful locations around the world to witness real-life dramas unfolding before their eyes.

Credit: BBC/Silverback Films/Huw Cordey. Filming wild dogs in Zambia.

Executive Producer Alastair Fothergill writes on the BBC website, “the kill itself isn’t interesting, because once animals have killed, the story’s over. What is interesting is the build up, the strategies adopted by both the predators and prey. This has never been looked at in detail, and that is the aim of The Hunt”.

At the Conde Nast Luxury Travel Fair, where we exhibited in November, we were lucky enough to enjoy a talk in the Expert Theatre and meet BBC wildlife cameraman Doug Allan, who worked on Blue Planet, Planet Earth and Frozen Planet, also produced by Alastair Fothergill. Doug told us that it takes on average 450 days of filming to get enough footage for a one hour episode. Taking such stats into account the team here at Real Africa has even more reverence for the BBC’s latest sensational wildlife series.

The Hunt

Catch the next episode of The Hunt, Nowhere to Hide, on BBC 1 on Sunday at 9pm. The episode follows cheetahs, bald eagles and lions on their hunt for prey in the exposed plains landscape with much of the 60 minutes filmed in Africa.

So where are the best places in Africa to see some of The Hunt’s leading ladies?

Cheetahs are diurnal, hunting in the morning and afternoon, and can be seen perched on termite mounds, rock kopjes and even on safari vehicles on occasion in order to survey the horizon – they can see prey 5km away and accelerate from 0 to 64kmh in just three strides. The Hunt filmed cheetahs in Kenya’s Masai Mara – we would recommend the Mara or the Serengeti to see these beautiful cats in action.

Real Africa clients get closer than expected!

 

Leopards are more tricky to see being nocturnal and relying on ambush. They need to get within 4m of their prey to be successful. Leopards are most often spotted draped in umbrella acacias in East Africa or on night drives when their eyes shine brightly. Zambia’s South Luangwa is a fantastic place to see leopard as is Sabi Sands in South Africa’s Kruger.

Leopard siblings playing taken by guests Diana & Walt at Nkwali, Zambia.

 

Lionesses …well, put it this way, I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t seen a lion/lioness in the Masai Mara. The Marsh Pride were made famous by the BBC Big Cat Diary series and can still be observed hunting in the Mara along with many other prides. The Hunt filmed specific lion behaviour, as they stalked zebra in Namibia, in Etosha, another excellent place to see them, especially during the peak of the dry season in September and October when game congregates around waterholes. When it comes to lions, you have a great choice, from Kenya and Tanzania, or the lions of Duba Plains, Botswana to the prolific Luwi Lions of Zambia’s South Luangwa, or Cecil’s offspring in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.  You can even see them in trees in Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National Park and Uganda’s QE National Park.

See Real Africa footage of lions hunting buffalo in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater.

Lion cubs try out stalking – picture taken by our guide Gaudence.

 

Nile Crocs– Get to the Grumeti River in the Northern Serengeti between July and September and you will see plenty of giant Nile Crocodiles feasting on wildebeest as they make the crossing from one side to the other enroute to Kenya’s Masai Mara. Murchison Falls in Uganda is another great place to observe these beasts.

Credit: BBC / Silverback Films / Huw Cordey. Nile Crocodile taking wildebeest on the Grumeti River.

 

Ethiopian Wolves– With only around 500 of these long-legged fox-like creatures remaining in the highlands of Ethiopia, you have to be lucky to get a glimpse. Give yourself every chance by staying in the Bale Mountains at the wonderful Bale Mountain Lodge.

Elusive Ethiopian Wolf in the Bale Mountains.

 

Wild Dogs-The formidable wild dog or painted dog thrives in packs of around 6 to 20 dogs, roaming open plains and woodland. Wild dogs are also endangered but the Linyanti region is Botswana has very  reliable sightings with several packs denning in the area. Another good place to try and see Wild Dogs is in Zambia’s South Luangwa – but, as I well know, the dogs move very quickly, with incredible stamina, and can be elusive so it doesn’t always work out. I spent a week trying to see them in Zambia – saw their prints, heard them, glimpsed them but never quite managed to catch up with them! The positive news is that in the last ten years the wild dog numbers in the valley have increased. By the way…I saw everything else when I was there, from lions chasing impala into jeeps and leopards sheltering from the rain in thorn bushes…

Wild Dog Pups taken from Kwando Lebala.

 

Watching wildlife is of course, unpredictable so although we can’t guarantee you’ll witness a sequence like the cheetah taking a wildebeest calf during your safari holiday,  we can ensure we use our expert knowledge, experience and wonderful guides to get you to the best places at the best times for what you want to experience.

Here are our Top Five recommendations for places to catch some serious safari action.

1.TANZANIA – THE SERENGETI

The Serengeti promises a special safari whenever you go, with the wildebeest migration making its circular journey year-round . However, the southern plains of the Serengeti play host to calving season during January and February and is said to be the best place in the world to observe cheetah hunting.

During a dramatic 3 week window, starting in late January depending on the arrival of the rains, the wildebeest have their calves with thousands being born daily, long legged and unsteady as they take their first steps on the short grassy plains of the Serengeti, their nursery.

During these key few months, this area of the southern Serengeti and western Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to Africa’s densest concentration of predators. The big cats patrol the  grassland waiting for an opportunity to strike. Cheetah sightings are especially good along with large prides of lion while other predators like hyena and caracal can also be seen.

If you are keen to witness stalking behaviours then heading to the area around Ndutu in February would be our number one recommendation – many would say that this is the absolute best time to be in the Serengeti.

Mobile camps come into their own, moving to be within reach of the migration and offering an authentic ‘Out of Africa’ safari experience. Our favourites include Alex Walker’s Serian Serengeti South, Lemala Ndutu Tented Camp and &Beyond’s Serengeti Under Canvas. Mobile camps are seasonal tented camps which move depending on the location of the herds.

If you prefer a permanent camp then we would recommend Ndutu Safari Lodge,  Lake Masek Camp and Sanctuary’s Kusini Camp but there are several lodges and camps in this area so do ask!

INSPIRATION

Lemala Migration Safari 

Wildlife Extra

Serengeti Under Canvas

Alex Walker’s Serian Camps

Lemala Ndutu

2.KENYA – THE MASAI MARA

The Masai Mara is synonymous with big cats. The Marsh Pride came to life on our screens during the BBC Big Cat Diaries – you can even stay, like the BBC film crew did, at Governors Camps in the Mara, well placed for visiting the Marsh Pride.  Several big cat projects are based in the Mara including the Mara Predator Project, the Mara-Meru Cheetah Project as well as a Spotted Hyena research centre so this is a indication that the area is rich with wildlife.

Research in the 1990s by Joseph Oguto showed that there were roughly 3 lions per 10 square kilometres in the Mara, the largest pride of 48 being the Talek Pride. It is true that lion numbers have dropped by around a third  in the last twenty years, as they have all over Africa but the Masai Mara is still one of the very best places to see these beautiful big cats.

Visit the Mara between July and October when the Great Wildebeest Migration is in the vicinity and chances are you may see something very special. We recommend staying in one of the private concessions as opposed to within the National Reserve itself. The main reserve has many lodges, often quite large ones, and as such can see high vehicle densities at peak times. In the private conessions which work in partnership with the local Maasai communities, visitor numbers are restricted to 1 guest to around 350 acres allowing for a more exclusive experience.

You’ll find lovely small lodges, classy mobile tented camps like Saruni Wild and Alex Walker’s Serian as well as affordable riverside camps like Karen Blixen Tented Camp on the Mara River, one of our favourite ‘good value’ tented camps in the Mara North concession, which bridges the gap between the tiny, top end  lodges/camps and the larger 3 star lodges/camps in the national park.

For  observing predators and their prey the Masai Mara is a fabulous place to safari.

See Real Africa footage of cheetah hunting.

INSPIRATION

Karen Blixen Fly-in Safari

Masai Mara Fly-in & Lake Malawi

Saruni Wild

Little Governors

Kicheche Mara

3.NAMIBIA – ETOSHA

The best time to be in Etosha for wildlife is in the peak of the dry season when vast numbers migrate to waterholes (August – October). As the dry season progresses the landscape becomes increasingly arid and by October, the hottest month, can be quite dusty. It is at this time that the BBC film crew captured the incredible footage of lions hunting – with the swirling dust storm confusing their prey and masking their scent.

Many of our clients choose to explore Namibia on a self-drive itinerary over 16 or so days with a 4×4. You can also explore with a flying safari.

You may be interested in our blog, Namibia – In the Driving Seat.

INSPIRATION

Self Drive of Namibia

Namibia Fly-in Safari

Ongava Lodge, Etosha

Onguma Tented Camp, Etosha

4.BOTSWANA – DUBA PLAINS

Duba Plains in Botswana is famous for its clashes between lions and buffalo in particular. The special thing about the Duba lions is that they hunt during the day allowing visitors to witness them at work rather than simply lazing in the shade. Many will remember the film made by the Jouberts about the lions of Duba and it is a stay at the Joubert’s camp, Duba Plains, with just six ensuite tents that will get you close to the lions here.

When the film was made there was one big pride, the Tsaro pride but in the last few years this pride has split into two so interactions in the area are transforming all the time and are rather unpredictable. However Duba Plains is still rated one of the best places to see lions hunting.

Safari elsewhere in Botswana and I don’t think you will be disappointed. Linyanti is a good choice for seeing predators with the guiding teams focused on finding lion, leopard and cheetah – night drives are possible from Lebala Camp which sits in a private concession and wild dogs den in the area. Lebala is on the plains/marsh and combines well with sister camp, Lagoon, which sits on the banks of the Kwando river.

If Botswana is of interest to you, you may enjoy our country guide called Botswana – Wilderness & Wildlife. 

INSPIRATION

Duba Plains Camp

Ultimate Botswana

Kwando Lebala Camp, Linyanti

Botswana Explorer

5.ZAMBIA – SOUTH LUANGWA

South Luangwa is a fantastic place to see predators. The Luwi Sand River, close to Nsolo Bush Camp  is where several lion pride territories overlap, while leopard use the dry river bed a bit like a super highway. South Luangwa is one of the few National Park’s allowing night drives with trackers and spot lights which gives you a good chance to see leopards actively hunting.

This area is very unspoilt with few vehicle tracks in the area and much of the exploration done on foot with guided walking safaris. Accommodation is in seasonal bush camps which are erected for the duration of the dry season between May and October time. This means minimal disturbance to the environment and as a result wildlife is prolific. For lion, leopard, spotted hyena and wild dog (if you are lucky!) this area is truly fabulous.

DID YOU KNOW? BBC wildlife cameraman, Simon King, and crew stayed at Robin Pope’s Nsefu Camp in the Luangwa’s Nsefu sector when filming lion hunting buffalo.

INSPIRATION

Zambia Walking Safari

Nsolo Camp

Classic Zambia

Luwi Camp

 

Tailor-made Safaris with Real Africa

Tell us what you are keen to try and see and we will be able to give you independent advice on the best time of year, the best guides and the best lodges/camps to visit in order to realise your specific ambition. You can call us on 01603 283 517.

 

 

 

 

Etosha National Park, Namibia – Africa’s most unique safari destination

Namibia is a land of stunning and often surreal scenery. Amongst all the dry, desert-like scenery, the immense sand dunes, the inhospitable rocky coast, the deep canyons and vast salt pans there is an abundance of wildlife and nowhere more so than in Etosha National Park.

A Unique Landscape:

Etosha National Park has such an unusual habitat it is unlike anywhere else in Africa. The name Etosha actually means “place of dry water”. The park is based in an endless salt pan that stretches further than the eye can see and is so large it can be seen from space. Amazingly enough this arid landscape is home to abundant wildlife that congregates around the watering holes and the saltpans after the rains.  During the dry winter months it is easy to see the game concentrated around the watering holes and not many other places can offer guaranteed game viewing like Etosha can. The mix of desert, savannah, bush and salt pans create a huge area of wilderness across Namibia and this space, free from human encroachment, is what enables the wildlife to continue to thrive.

Game Viewing:

The wildlife in Etosha includes some of the most common and some of the rarest wildlife species. The park is home to famous herds of large elephants, the endangered black rhino and even the beautiful but elusive leopard. Lions are happy to call Etosha’s grasslands their home and you can also find plenty of herbivores such as zebra, giraffe, springbok and antelope wandering across the plains. When the salt pans fill up after the rains in the summer they become home to hundreds of pink flamingos. The whole area becomes lush and green and teeming with new life after the summer rains. There are hundreds of other species of birds to be found here including that well-known desert bird, the ostrich.

Accessibility:

Etosha National Park is also one of the most accessible game reserves across the whole of Southern Africa due to the excellent road conditions, signposting, maps and driving distances involved. Self-drive itineraries are the most popular way of visiting and exploring the delights of Namibia and you can include a visit to Etosha as part of that tour. There are lots of rest camps and stopping places including petrol stations and shops and there is a wide range of accommodation on offer. It really is very easy and safe to do and a driving itinerary offers the visitor a great deal of freedom and flexibility. After all you can travel as fast or as slowly as you wish, stopping off where you like and truly exploring this magnificent country at your own pace.

Accommodation:

Accommodation in and around Etosha ranges from basic camping sites to exclusive luxury safari lodges. The three main rest camps (Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni) offer various types of accommodation from camping to little wooden self-catering chalets often overlooking the floodlit waterholes. These are actually in Etosha Park itself. Just outside the park are most of the more luxurious private safari lodges and camps. Based around the two main gates into the park, the Anderson Gate and the Von Lindequist Gates there is a range of superb luxury accommodation with fabulous views, including Ongava Lodge.

If you would like to know more about the individual camps and lodges then please contact our sales team who have been to most of them and would be happy to advise you!

Posted by Ruth Bolton

The Big Five Series – The Top Five Places to See Elephants In Africa

We continue with our Big Five series this week looking at Real Africa’s pick of the best places to see elephants while on holiday in Africa.

Introduction

The African elephant is one of the most majestic and beautiful animals in the world and one of the “must see” animals whilst on safari. African elephants live in the southern most regions i.e. sub-Saharan Africa but they can also be found in smaller numbers in the Central and West African rainforests. There are two main types of elephant sub species which is based on where they live. The vast majority of elephants in Africa are savannah elephants. These form the largest elephant subspecies in the world, and they live in the grass plains or savannah and bush in Eastern and Southern Africa. They can be found in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa. About a third to a quarter of elephants in Africa are forest elephants, which is a different subspecies altogether. These elephants live in the Congo Basin area, but their population has suffered enormously from poaching and their numbers are rapidly shrinking.

So here we go – our top five places to see elephants in Africa. These are in no particular order just our five favourites.

The Daphne Sheldrick Orphanage, Nairobi, Kenya

This is where the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust bring their orphaned rhinos and elephants to care for. The rhinos and elephants are rescued usually at death’s door as their mother has been killed by poachers. The Wildlife Trust rescues animals and also rehabilitates them so they can return to a normal life back in the wild wherever possible. Visitors can see the keepers feeding and playing with the baby elephants and also make a donation to help with their upkeep and the Trust’s important work.

Addo Elephant Park, South Africa

This is a great place for families to visit as it is an area on the south coast of South Africa that is malaria free. As its name suggests it is also an important wildlife reserve specialising in elephants. There is plenty of accommodation nearby offering a good choice and Addo can be visited as a day trip or as a longer safari destination. It can also be part of a self drive itinerary along the stunningly beautiful Garden Route or combined with a short break to Cape Town.

Amboseli National Park, Kenya

This is a very picturesque national park in Southern Kenya on the border with Tanzania. This place is not as remote as some and can feel busy at times but it is also one of the best places to see elephants in Kenya. Mount Kilimanjaro makes for an awesome backdrop as elephants graze peacefully in the savannahs below. This is one for photographers and elephant fans alike and you are guaranteed to see lots of elephant herds here.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

The Etosha National Park lies in the vast arid space of Northern Namibia.  It offers a different kind of safari and wildlife experience due to its unique landscape. Etosha actually means place of dry water and it is located in a huge, flat pan measuring around5,000kms2. The ‘Pan’ provides a great, parched, silver-white backdrop of shimmering mirages to an area of semi-arid savannah grassland and thorn scrub. The pan itself contains water only after very good rains and sometimes for only a few days each year. Etosha is surprisingly home to many different species including elephants. They are best spotted around the waterholes during the dry months from June to November. It is then that you will see large numbers of elephants congregating in the same place in their search for water.

The Kruger National Park, South Africa

There is a reason why the Kruger National Park is famous and that is because of its sheer abundance of wildlife. It is home to fertile and lush grassland that proves to be a wonderful habitat for many different species of mammals, birds and reptiles as well as a large number of big five game including elephants. You can explore the Kruger National Park yourself on a self drive holiday and drive around the park under your own steam (although you must follow the park rules!). You can also book into a luxury lodge on a private reserve and let them do all the driving on twice daily game drives. Or if you are feeling even lazier you can often just watch elephants visiting the local watering hole whilst you sup your sundowner drinks from your very own viewing deck. Now that experience really is hard to beat!

Posted By Ruth Bolton