The English name for this animal, gnu, is said to be derived from its San name, !nu, while the name 'wildebeest' is Afrikaans for ‘wild beast’. Black wildebeest, such as this one, have forward-curving horns and rich brown fur, while blue wildebeest have backward-curving horns and seem somewhat balder. Black wildebeest are particularly at home in grasslands like these.
The icon of a leaping Springbok is almost synonymous with South Africa, due to its association with the country’s sport and transport logos. However, this nimble antelope is predominant in the Kalahari throughout Namibia and Botswana, and even into south-western Angola. Their arching jump is so distinctive that it even has unique words to describe it: stotting, from the Scots or Geordie word meaning ‘to bounce’; and pronking, an Afrikaans word which means prancing, showing off or strutting.
Buffalo graze, keeping a calf protected between them. These magnificent beasts are extremely protective of their young and have been known to fight off lions with their powerful curved horns. This young calf’s horns are starting to fuse at the base into a bony formation called a boss, which is incredibly strong and may deflect rifle bullets. Brawny male buffalo often seem to be the belligerent bosses of the bushveld. They are unpredictable and can turn nasty if injured, cornered, or taken by surprise.
The name hippopotamus comes from the Greek words meaning 'river horse'. When searching for names for this unusual-looking creature, people often referred to animals they knew well, for example the Dutch name Nijlpaard (Nile horse), and the Afrikaans name seekoei (sea cow). In fact, the hippo’s closest living relatives are whales and porpoises. Hippos have been known to roam quite a long distance from their birthplace - Hubert/Huberta the hippo’s 1600km journey in the late 1920s is the most famous example of this. However, they are semi-aquatic and must stay close to rivers and lakes to breed and avoid sunburn and dehydration.
The level stare of this black-backed jackal gives us an inkling as to why Anubis, the ancient Egyptian god of the dead, has a jackal’s head. These silent, sure-footed canids are somewhat eerie. Their yelping cries have been the sound of nightfall in Africa for 800 000 years. Jackals may venture close to people to scavenge under the cover of darkness, but it is rare to see one standing still like this during the day. They are wary of humans and are more often seen trotting away from us.
With deadly precision, a mature Fish Eagle snatches a tigerfish from a river. Tigerfish are so named because of their large, fearsome teeth, but they are no match for the huge talons and swift attack of this magnificent avian predator. The arcing spray of water thrown up in the eagle’s wake is magically suspended in time like a constellation of stars. It is images like this that make one fervently grateful for the invention of photography.
This male Red-winged Starling is slightly unkempt, probably because he is still relatively immature, but the vivid orange foliage of this tree contrasts beautifully with his iridescent black feathers. These starlings can grow fairly large and are quite aggressive during the breeding season - prone to dive-bombing those who come too close to their nests. However, they are occasionally preyed upon by larger birds such as Peregrine Falcons, Pied Crows and African Harrier-hawks.
Two male nyalas posture to intimidate each other. In these shows of strength, nyalas lower their horns, arch their backs, and raise the impressive hairy Mohawk along their spines to make themselves look bigger and scarier. Rutting is not always exclusively between two males competing for breeding rights. Young males often practise rutting with their peers, without any real fire, whilst grazing and grooming. The chocolate-fudge colouring of nyala males is beautiful and very different to nyala females, which are tawny-coloured and much less shaggy. Their white markings are similar to the males’ but more noticeable.
This unique bird is named for its unique bill which curves open like a nutcracker. This beak formation is specially adapted to extracting freshwater snails from their shells. The African Openbill is a common resident in the northern parts of Southern Africa - particularly northern Botswana, northeastern South Africa, and throughout Zimbabwe and southern Mozambique. However, it occasionally turns up nomadically at freshwater lakes and dams throughout South Africa, causing great excitement for local birdwatchers.
Southern Red Bishops are one of the heralds of summer. During spring or summer, depending on the region, the male Red Bishop’s plumage changes from mottled red, brown and black to the blazing red and black seen here. Red Bishops usually roost and breed colonially in reed beds, which are a hive of activity during the summer months. A male Red bishop is polygamous and responsible for the welfare of up to seven females, which he attends to with much buzzing and chirping.
This Yellow-billed Stork looks graceful and happy in flight. These birds are generally quite placid, spending much of the day standing quietly on the shoreline. They are only vocal at their nests when they squeak, whine and clatter their bills solicitously. Yellow-billed Storks have a fascinating method of catching the fish, frogs, worms and crustaceans that they survive on: they do a slow, stalking dance with their open beaks submerged in the shallow water, stirring up food with their feet and catching the creatures this movement disturbs.
A tsessebe enjoys the morning sun in winter. Tsessebe are grassland dwellers and particularly enjoy grazing in sweetveld. They are the fastest of southern Africa’s antelopes, able to reach a speed of up to 90km per hour. Tsessebe are most closely related to bontebok and topi. These three types of antelope resemble each other in shape and colour, but topi have toffee-coloured legs similar to nyala, and bontebok have striking white patches on their faces, tails and legs.
My boyfriend and I have been planning to go to Africa for about two years (for me, it's been a lifetime dream). Each year we travel to somewhere we have not been before and Africa was NEXT!
A year prior to our trip I was browsing on Instagram and came across some amazing pictures of elephants (My Favorite!). I continued to look at the page and found it belonged to Erik Brits, who "explored Africa for a living." Knowing I would go there in the next year, I sent him a quick comment on my plans. Erik immediately responded with "if you have any questions or need ideas on where to go feel free to ask!" For the next few months, I asked several questions and at no point, was he trying to "sell" me into anything. He was always posting really cool pictures from his safaris/explorations and I noticed that he worked for a company called Cable and Grain Safaris.
We wanted to visit Egypt, Tanzania (The Serengeti), and Cape Town in South Africa. This was no small task as we only had 11 days to fit in all this stuff! Once I acquired Erik's email and let him know more of our plans he introduced us to his partner, Rory. I must admit, I was a little nervous meeting and entrusting in a company that was stationed in Africa, and that I had found via Social Media. There are a lot of horror stories involving this mix. However, I am SO GLAD I went with my gut! What an amazing duo: Erik & Rory.
They were in constant communication with us. They were able to cater the requests for changes in our itinerary and answer all of our questions quickly. We even gave them a budget of what we wanted to spend and they were able to come in a little cheaper than we had saved for!
We were a little hesitant about Egypt because of recent events there but Rory and Erik sent us up to date information and safety tips that put our minds at ease. They listened to our needs and ideas. In fact, for each destination they gave us safety tips on what to wear, eat, what to bring, and tips for local customs.
Our flight departures changed several times before our trip and they made sure we were updated before we left the USA. They kept in constant contact with us leading up to and during our trip. We received emails from them as we landed in different countries and cities throughout Africa and always asked how our trip was going throughout!
Bonus: Because of the good rapport we had built with Erik, he happened to be traveling through Cape Town as we were there and met up with us for some drinks to hear about how our trip was going. Great Times!
Also during my trip, I lost a pair of compression sleeves. Rory and Erik offered to go buy a replacement for me and drop it off at the hotel. The Customer Service was on another Level. Above And Beyond! These guys have got it right! They are the ones you want to book with when traveling to Africa!
Cable and Grain Safaris (Rory & Erik) made our trip the experience of a lifetime and I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone traveling to Africa. We hope to be back in a few years, and will reach out to them again to make that happen! Thank you both!
Crissy & Lee
A pair of Wattled Cranes stalk through summer grassland. With their eyes glittering like monocles, their pendulous white wattles, and their crisp black and grey markings, this pair resembles two old tuxedoed gentlemen taking their daily constitutional. The estimated population of Wattled Cranes is only 8000 birds worldwide, and they are therefore listed as vulnerable. There are thought to be 2000 Wattled Cranes in southern Africa. They can be found in their greatest numbers in Zambia and the Okavango Delta. These distinguished-looking birds have the rather explicit Latin name bugeranus carunculatus.
With green grass in abundance, these zebras can enjoy some leisure time to nuzzle and bond with each other. Zebras are highly social. They often live in ‘harems’ with one stallion protecting a number of mares and foals. Male zebras are also known to form bachelor groups until they are old enough to challenge a breeding male. Baby zebras have longer, furrier hair on their rumps and their stripes are often brown rather than black. In some rare cases, when zebras are born without sufficient melanin, their stripes are white and beige like a swirling latte macchiato.
Southern Red- and Yellow-billed Hornbills are the avian clowns of the African bushveld. Their proud posture suggests that, as far as they are concerned, their large beaks are no laughing matter. However, it’s difficult not to be amused by them, especially when they hop along on the ground cocking their cumbersome heads to look at things. When you get a full-on stare from a hornbill’s piercing yellow eyes it can appear quite accusing, sometimes even slightly crazed. Their bizarreness is part of their charm, and their undulating flight, long eyelashes and striking colouring are distinctive and lovely.