Safari Secrets; Relax, Rewind, Unwind

As a travel consultant I come across a phrase all too often; “I’m not the kind of person who can sit and do nothing.”

It is true that doing nothing can make us a little loopy, yet somehow, in order to achieve pure rejuvenation, the mind and body need to do precisely that. Nothing. Safari holidays follow the patterns of the bush and regardless of your lodge of choice work to a similar flow.

Mornings begin with a sunrise coffee and a crisp game drive. These drives in the wee hours of dawn activate your natural sleep pattern whilst boosting your body with pure, sunlit vitamin D.


The freshness of the day, during the golden hour, fills you with internal energy, whilst your friendly hosts serve muffins and tea and look for animals.

It is not only safari guests that enjoy this time. Each animal, in its own unique way, is celebrating the triumph of a new day. Hunters, filled with the nights kill, rest and relax under the coolness of the trees and the success of finding a meal. Herd animals, having survived the nights hunt, feed peacefully, gathering their strength, tending to their young, seeking comfort in the social interactions of their tight-knit familes.

As late morning sets in and the animals retreat under the heat of the day, safari guests are returned to camp to enjoy a delicious brunch.

Afternoons are spent lulling around the banks of the swimming pool, snoozing in the shade, reading a book, going on a bush walk or simply relaxing in a deck chair to watch the game as it goes about its business and comes down to the waterhole to drink.

With the sun laying low in the sky, guests are once more taken out, wind in their hair, eyes peeled for the sighting of a lifetime. Evening drives carry all of the tensions of the wild. Every ear is alert, every eye sharp as a pinprick. The energy is electric.

It is here that you may be lucky enough to see a pride of lions on the prowl, or a leopard or a kill.

Arriving back to camp after dark provides a rare opportunity to see the nocturnal animals such as bushbabys, snakes, hyena and owls.

By the light of the fire and the sounds of the bush, dinner is served with a side of shared stories, warm hearts and excited chatter about the days events. In pure darkness, far away from the city lights and the sounds of its people going about their business, an early night and a deep sleep is a welcome end to the day.

Safari holidays, in the true sense of the word, involve doing nothing. There is no concentration required. None at all.

It is the most relaxing kind of holiday imaginable. No technology, no chores, no strenuous activities, no driving, no need for effort of any kind whatsoever.

Why then does all this doing nothingness not lead to one going a little mad?

The answer is simple. A safari is the perfect mix of deep sleep, early morning sunshine, lazy pool days, extreme excitement and a connection to nature that can so easily be found in Africa. Game drives bring optimism for the big five you most hope to see, and every brush with the wild is a sense of achievement.

The world is filled with positive energy, excitement and beauty. Every day is different, every day a perfect routine, every day a new start and every day, a memory.

Sit back, relax and soak it all in.

*Original blog post published for Robert Mark Safaris

A Monkey’s Wedding

It starts on the breeze. A crispness, slightly sweet, tangible and light. Deep blue skies are a perfect contrast to the lemony leaves and the soft yellows of the dry african grass. Everything glows.

Animals make the best weathermen. As the storms brew antelope and buffalo lie down, some to keep warm, others to keep their patch of grass dry. In a grand gesture the skies break open in a drum roll of sound and light, cracking through the lands like a whip.


Water, life, showers down, flooding the crusty plains, washing away the dust, the thirst, the parched air. Then, just as suddenly, light bursts through the clouds and the falling rains are cleansed by the sparkling beams of the sun.

This is a time to celebrate in Africa. The freshness in the air, the smell of the rains and the warmness of the sun shining through the storm can only mean one thing…

The monkeys are having a wedding!

*Original blog post published for <a href=”http://www.robertmarksafaris.com”>Robert Mark Safaris</a>

The Surprising Thing About Hippos

Hippos, for all their wallowing in the cool shallows of lazy river bends, are surprising creatures.

Fat, short-legged and remarkably piggish in appearance, the humble hippopotamus is capable of running up to 30km an hour, much faster than a human. Powerful jaws can snap a small boat in half in just one bite.
With their ancestry shared with the likes of whales and dolphins, it is easy to see why they are so well equipped for life in the water.

The eyes have sophisticated membranes that provide the hippo with a set of built-in goggles. When submerged, the nostrils use a flap mechanism to close completely, allowing a hippo to hold its breath for up to 5 minutes at a time.

Despite spending their days in large territorial family groups along the river, hippos are herbivorous grazers who leave the coolness of the water at night to feed on lush green grass. On dry land a hippo is solitary, non-territorial and no more a swimmer than a common dairy cow.

Hippos, unlike many mammals, are unable to swim. Using their built-in snorkel kits for support these aquatic giants walk along the bottom of the riverbed.

They are simply too heavy to float. With nails instead of claws they push-off from the bottom of the river with semi-webbed feet, creating a graceful dance like motion.

They are known as underwater ballerinas.

Seemingly relaxed, hippos are agressive and considered one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about a hippo is its milk. Hippos secrete hipposudoric acid which causes the milk to turn a bright shade of pink.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t taste like strawberry.

*Original blog post published for Robert Mark Safaris

King of the Jungle

Slower than a cheetah, clumsier than a leopard, the regal lion has claimed its place in Africa as “King of the Jungle.”

Lions are unique to the cat family. Unlike other cats they rely on strong family bonds, known as prides, which can be as large as twenty-two lions and cubs living and working together to dominate the African bush.

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Each pride consists of up to three male lions, up to twelve females and all of their young and teenage cubs.

All lions in the pride are related, and territorial. To prevent inter-breeding, juvenile lions will eventually be exiled to fight for territories and prides of their own, insuring the gene-pool for future generations.

The males regularly patrol the boundaries of their land, issuing soft roars to remind bachelor males that his lionesses are taken. Cubs, which are subject to being killed by lions from other prides to reduce competition for territory, are nurtured and raised together by all of their aunts and sisters.

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Social skills learned as a cub are a valuable part of the lion’s success story. Once old enough, cubs are allowed to join the lionesses as they hunt in teams for the family.

Males, weighing up to 400kg, lack agility, making them easy for prey to spot in the bush. Lionesses, weighing just 200kg, are quiet stalkers but lack the strength to pull down a large animal alone.

Hunting together, it is the lionesses who provide the family dinner.

Reaching speeds of up to 80km per hour the lionesses, older cubs and junior males work together to tire their prey for a kill.

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Male lions dine first, consuming up to 45kg of meat in a single feed.

It is no wonder that the lion has been used as a symbol of strength, courage, royalty, stateliness, power, and pride across a multitude of cultures for thousands of years.

Lions, social and dedicated, embody strength, making them the most successful hunters in Africa.

*Original blog post published for Robert Mark Safaris

For the Love of April

For the love of April

A yellow month, filled with long afternoons of low slung sunshine in the Savannah, April is the perfect time to find a mate. Temperatures cool, hormones rage and in a world defined by survival of the fittest the ability to flirt is a desirable skill.

Male tensions run high.

Complex mating dances, explosions of colour and dramatic challenges are flaunted before watchful female eyes.

The girls play it cool.

Seemingly disinterested, an attentive female waits patiently, quietly scrutinising the spectacular displays for weakness, sifting out the poorer genes and selecting her match with utmost care.

Strength is crucial.

April is a busy time of year in the bush. Animals hustle and bustle, schools are on holiday, Easter rolls in and the boutique, private lodges fill their luxurious beds with nature lovers on a trip of a lifetime.

It is a lovely time to travel to Africa. The warm weather is comfortable, the rainfall just right. Wildlife is abundant, and at it’s best, making April safaris ideal throughout Southern Africa.

*Original blog post published for Robert Mark Safaris

On the Hunt with African Wild Dog

Far removed from their friendly domestic cousins, with just 3000* remaining, the quest to find the critically endangered african wild dog is a never-ending delight for tourists and safari guides alike.

Small, fast and ferocious, packs of up to forty strong rely on the most established and intricate family relationships of all of the carnivorous mammals to survive.

Led by an alpha pair these canines casually trot around herds of small prey, mostly impala, analysing their speed and potential stamina.

The head of the pack, known as the scout, makes the final decision to single out the weakest and drive it towards the waiting team of hunters.

Chase ensues. Wild dog pursue their prey at speeds of up to 60km/hr over a distance of 3-5km, finally wearing down and disembowelling the victim, feeding before it bleeds to death or dies of shock.

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It is not an easy way to kill or be killed.

An impala has a one in ten chance of escaping a pack of hungry hounds. A single dog will starve without the strength and endurance of the pack.

It is this reason alone that african wild dog are amongst the most endangered animals on the planet, and the most prized sighting on any safari.

Shrinking territories leave little room to hunt with higher competition from lion, hyena and jackals.

A wild dog family can travel up to 50km in a single day. With hunts spanning kilometers of high speed running it is crucial to survival that they have enough ground to cover.

Without this space to exist in pack sizes diminish, reducing the efficiency of the hunt and further decreasing population numbers.

With so few remaining, saving the african wild dog is an ongoing and well received project. All sightings in southern africa are recorded and studied via a wild dog watch line and social media.

WIth adorable puppies, complex family groups, superior hunting skills and the simple connection people so easily make to their much loved household pets, it is hard not to feel the thrill of the bush when a rare sighting is made.

Southern parts of the Kruger National Park in South Africa, Chobe National Park and Morembi Game Reserve in Botswana have the highest concentrations of african wild dog. Occasional sightings are also made in Tanzania and parts of east africa.

Listen closely to your safari guide… if he mutters the Swahili word “mbwa mwitu” hold your breath, take your time, and savour the unique opportunity to view the true hidden gem of africa.

*numbers are estimated
*Original blog post published for Robert Mark Safaris

When it Comes to Rhino it’s Black and White

Graceful and prehistoric are two words seldom used together, yet somehow, married with the word “rhino” they create a yearning to protect the last remnants of the dinosaur age.

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Seeing a rhino in the wild has the ability to make time stand still.

Recently, through the work of Sir David Attenborough, it has been discovered that solitary black rhino congregate after dark to bond in large social groups, sharing kisses and cuddles and games.

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Black rhino, the most endangered in southern africa, are different to their white counterparts.

Smaller by over a tonne, black rhino have a triangular upper lip to enable them to browse off scrubs and trees, rather than graze as white rhino do.

White rhino have a square lip for cutting grass, and a downward facing head.

The most striking difference between black and white rhino is remarkably human like.

A black rhino, as with traditional Africans, carries her baby behind her. White rhino, as with Europeans, walk with their young in front.

robert mark safaris, africa, rhino, south africa, botswana, wildlife

robert mark safaris, africa, rhino, south africa, botswana, wildlife

There is no known medical use for black or white rhino horn.

Despite being senselessly poached to the brink of extinction, these large and seemingly cumbersome creatures have a sense of occasion about them.

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They’re show stoppers who have won the affections of wildlife lovers across the world. Looking after them is a global effort, without which they would fade away and be gone forever.

*Original blog post published for <a href=”http://www.robertmarksafaris.com”>Robert Mark Safaris</a>