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Survive & Thrive

7 min read

Updated 01 April 2022

Picture of Chris McIntyre

By Chris McIntyre

Managing Director

There’s been a lot to celebrate this month at Expert Africa.

With a busy 2022 safari season underway, it’s been wonderful to see countries across Africa steadily removing their Covid testing requirements for travellers in recent weeks. Travel is rapidly returning to normal – and the feedback we’re getting on trips is as glowing as ever.

If wanderlust is kicking in and you’re unsure where to venture next, check out our unabridged traveller reviews for up-to-date reports of our safaris. We started requesting these in 2007 and in March we passed the amazing milestone of 5000 online trip reviews – which include almost 25,000 reviews of individual lodges! Since 2018, when we started our citizen science research project, we have also received more than 800 wildlife report forms containing more than 33,000 separate reports on 26 key mammal species. This is an outstanding trove of animal data for travellers planning trips, as well as for professional wildlife researchers.

Expert Africa owes a massive thank you to all our travellers who have sent us their observations over the years. We’re immensely grateful to you for taking the time to put down such detailed, informative feedback on the camps, guides, wildlife and safari experiences you’ve had while travelling with us.

This feedback is an invaluable resource: for our team, helping us keep our fingers on the pulse of our African destinations; for our partners on the ground, to understand what they’re doing well and what they can improve; and for our future travellers, to read about others’ experiences of the places they’re planning to visit, and to assess the wildlife sightings they hope to have.

Check out our most recent traveller feedback and see our travellers’ wildlife sightings of 26 iconic African species graphed and mapped across all of our wildlife pages – including our general Wildlife in Africa page.

Cape Caracal

Rute Martins, Leoa’s Photography

Standing 50cm high and weighing less that your safari luggage allowance, the highly adaptable and capable caracal is the largest of Africa’s small cats and occupies its own genus in the cat family. A highly resourceful, solitary animal, this tan-coloured cat displays remarkable agility: leaping up to 3.5m to catch passing birds; packing a powerful punch, enabling them to take down antelopes up to five times their weight; and surviving in habitats as diverse as moist woodland and semi-desert.

Deriving their name from the Turkish for ‘black ears’ (karakulak), caracals’ triangular pointed ears are finished with a distinctive flourish of long, black, tufted hair. And while they are not classified as endangered, caracals are usually very tricky to spot in the wild. Even then, a sighting is often little more than a fleeting glance of a rufous rump and disappearing ear tufts.

Despite their notoriously elusive nature, a long-running research project from the University of Cape Town and the Institute for Communities & Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), has found significant numbers in the outskirts of Cape Town. Take an early morning trip along the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive or gaze long enough between the rows of vineyards, and you may find you’re not the only one taking in the views.

Spearheaded by Dr Laurel Serieys, the Urban Caracal Project seeks to understand and monitor the Cape Peninsula’s caracal population, to study their health and behaviour, and look for ways to mitigate threats to their survival. Over the course of a few years, 26 urban caracals were collared to give the scientists an insight into their daily habits and the challenges they face.

The study confirms the Cape’s caracals are highly adaptable. Although usually nocturnal, the researchers found that urban caracals often became diurnal hunters, following the daylight habits of their favourite prey: vlei rats, guineafowl and striped grass mice. As opportunistic predators, caracals are now known to hunt 80 different species of birds, mammals and reptiles across various habitats in the city.

Yet for all their resilience and innovation, Cape Town’s caracals face many threats: most notably vehicles (road kills account for 73% of caracal deaths) and poisoning from eating animals that have ingested pesticide. The research team supports the creation of wildlife ‘greenways’ in the city and works to improve public awareness of the impact of pesticides on wildlife. Given the caracal’s very effective rat-hunting abilities, education on the benefits of their presence may well help their cause.

Bongo Revival

Matthias Appel

Mount Kenya National Park, an ancient volcano and UNESCO World Heritage Site, is spectacular. Its rugged peaks, glaciers, forest ecosystems and scenic foothills entice filmmakers, adventurers and Africa enthusiasts to its scenic beauty. It is surrounded by some wonderful conservation areas, including Laikipia (a favourite among Expert Africa travellers), the Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve and the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy (MKWC).

And it is at the MKWC that celebrations have been held for the future of the critically endangered mountain bongo. The largest of Africa’s forest antelopes, these shy, beautiful, striped antelopes are indigenous to the montane forests of Kenya’s highlands. But with fewer than 100 left in the wild, the species is now dependant on direct action to ensure its survival.

Since 2004, MKWC has released 18 mountain bongos (four males and 14 females) brought from zoos across the USA to improve the species’ genetic diversity, in an ambitious breeding and release programme. The first five animals bred through this programme were released in March 2022 into the forests of the Mawingu Mountain Bongo Sanctuary, a stepping stone to full release into the wild.

In partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service, the ultimate aim is to reintroduce sustainable populations of mountain bongos into their natural habitat around the rest of Mount Kenya and in the Aberdare and Eburu forests. Much work is still to be done to ensure these animals thrive in the wild, but this first release is a hugely significant step in the long-term conservation of this striking species.

With extensive community collaboration, this impressive project aims to release 10 mountain bongos every year, with a long-term vision to ensure 750 wild mountain bongos are roaming Kenya’s forest by 2050. We will certainly be among the visitors hoping to catch sight of them.

African Dynasties

1 & 3 King Lewanika Lodge, Zambia; 2 Tawi Lodge, Kenya

For readers with access to BBC One or iPlayer (coming soon to BBC America), the second series of Dynasties has launched as compulsory viewing for wildlife enthusiasts. It’s wonderful to see some of our favourite safari spots featured in the programmes, with three of the four episodes focusing on African species: elephant, hyena and cheetah.

Last week, the drama introduced us to matriarch elephant Angelina and her herd in the Amboseli region of Kenya, and on Sunday 3 April we were transported to the impressive expanses of Zambia’s Liuwa Plain National Park to meet the country’s oldest known cheetah, Kali, and her formidable family. The final episode on 10 April returns to Liuwa to introduce Suma and the South Clan of hyenas.

Huge congratulations to the team at Amboseli Elephant Trust and Zambian Carnivore Programme, who have worked with the BBC crew for several years to ensure the finest footage and antics grace our screens, providing incredible insights into the lives of these animals.

All these areas are magical safari destinations that we wholeheartedly recommend. Check out our Puku Safari, for a stunning Zambia trip to the remote Liuwa Plain, and our Golden Weaver Safari for a great-value, rustic exploration of Amboseli and the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

If you’ve been inspired and want to find out more, give us a call or enquire now to speak to an expert.

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