The ostrich (Struthio camelus)

The Wakamba gazed upon the white glaciers and black rocks of the hill, likened it to an ostrich and therefore named the bird Kiinya. Today it’s name is anglicised, but how the hen that lays the biggest egg received its modern name requires a (os)stretch of the imagination. Many people have also raised their eyes to Struthio camelus, some over rifle sights, others to audit his assets. Because of the earlier zeal of hunters, it became necessary to import birds from northern countries when South Africans began ostrich farming in 1868. No feather-brained idea either, for by the early 20th century more than £1million worth of wing and tail plumes was being exported annually for the dusters, boas, dress and hat trimmings of the fashion industry in Europe. The market subsequently faltered but farming briefly revived when fashion swung to ostrich skin bags, shoes and suitcases. Later “biltong” – the salted and dried meat survival ration of the old Boer commandos – and low-cholesterol steaks ..

Zambia’s highlights

Like several other safari destinations, Zambia offers visitors diverse attractions and a great choice of facilities, many with specialist skills or locations. Here you’ll find our Zambia Safari Planner Highlights and a handy factfile which we hope you’ll find useful. Zambia Safari Planner Highlights What is your number one Zambian destination? Every visitor has a favourite. Some return time and again to the big-hitters such as Luangwa, Kafue or Lower Zambezi. Others seek out more off-the-beaten-track destinations. Not that Zambia really has a beaten track. That’s the beauty of the country: something new to discover in every corner. Kasanka / Bangweulu Lake Bangweulu is far from Zambia’s main safari hubs but the surrounding wetlands are home to some true gems, with herds of black lechwe grazing to the watery horizon and rare shoebills lurking deep in the swamps. Kasanka National Park, a little to the south, hosts Africa’s largest mammal gathering – a six-million-strong roost of straw-..

Swamp thing

Ask a first-time birder to Africa what tops their fantasy feathers list, and chances are this outlandish shoebill will be somewhere up there. The appeal lies both in its bizarre appearance – think outsized heron with a Dutch clog stuck on its face – and its reclusive nature: only those travellers prepared to brave the deepest and darkest swamps need apply. Balaeniceps rex, the bird’s scientific name, translates as ‘King whale-head’. With a noggin like that, a height of 1.4 metres and a wingspan wider than a sofa, you might expect the shoebill to be conspicuous. It was not until 1851, however, that Western scientists first laid eyes on one. And they were duly impressed: “the most extraordinary bird I have seen for many years,” said the Victorian naturalist John Gould, when a stuffed specimen first came his way. What Gould was looking at was a tall, grey, long-legged bird that resembles a stork but, it now turns out, is more closely related to pelicans. What most impressed him, however..

The real thing

Phil Clisby continues the tale of his early ‘90s adventure through the world’s most exciting continent. This time he journeys from Maii to Burkina Faso, in search of the Africa of his imagination As we cross the border from Mauritania into Mali, I notice a dramatic change almost immediately. We are in real Africa. The Africa I had imagined. There seems to be a more relaxed attitude here, a feeling of warmth (not just from the sun, but from the people as well). In Mauritania, and to some extent Morocco, I had felt like an uninvited guest. Tolerated rather than welcomed. But here, I feel like I can unpack my bag and hang my clothes in the wardrobe. We play football with some local kids in the border town. Everyone on our overland truck feels good – like the trip is really beginning – now that the harshness of the desert is behind us. But not everyone greets us fondly. We are now in the mosquito zone ­– these annoying, buzzing insects are dive-bombing me at every opportunity. Tents a..

The birds that catch the eye

Most people picture the dry desolate desert when they think of Namibia. However, though it is quite an arid country, there is much more to it than the Namib desert. In much the same way, first time birders to the country often expect the birds to be of the drab, brownish variety. Even though you do find those as well, three of my favourite Namibian birds are much more colourful… and very loud! The Rosy-faced lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis, pictured above) is native to arid regions in southwestern Africa. With its luminous green coat, blue rump and pink face, this Lovebird adds a splash of colour to any occasion. They also have a high-pitched shriek call that is unmissable. Lovebirds are very social animals and often congregate in small groups, eating seeds and fruit, and taking frequent baths. They are colonial breeders with natural breeding sites in inaccessible and often vertical cracks in sandstone areas. The Rüppell’s parrot (Poicephalus rueppellii, below) is another bird that i..

10 Breathtaking Beaches

Everyone knows about Africa’s diverse wildlife and dramatic landscapes, but fewer people know about its islands and pristine coastlines. Jasreen Mayal Khanna reveals her list of the best spots to soak up the sun Anse Source D’Argent, La Digue, Seychelles Featured on numerous lists as one of the best beaches in the world, this idyllic cove has dramatic rock formations for envy-inducing Instagram posts. Take a ferry from Praslin Island and rent bikes from the dock; it’s a 20-minute ride from there to the beach. Best for: Instagram addicts. Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa If Miami came to Africa, it would look and feel like Camps Bay. Glamorous locals and in-the-know tourists frequent the suburb’s white-walled hotels and trendy bars. Café Caprice is a great spot for sundowners, known for its cocktails and weekend DJ nights. The Bungalow is an opulent and classy lounge with dramatic views; for delicious seafood, there’s nowhere better than Blues Restaurant & Bar. Best for: The swish ..

Back to the drawing board

At this year’s We Are Africa Conservation Lab, some of the world’s top environmentalists, tour operators and journalists came together to find solutions for some of nature’s biggest challenges. Graham Boynton reports Does wildlife tourism have a significant role in the conservation of Africa’s wildlife, or is it, as some hardcore sceptics claim, nothing more than an extractive industry that panders to a wealthy western elite and leaves nothing behind? This was one of the key questions addressed at this year’s We Are Africa Conservation Lab, which was held in the exquisite surrounds of Stellenbosch’s Spier Wine Farm. This year, the event attracted some of the big names in wildlife preservation, including Zimbabwe’s Clive Stockil, Kenya’s Ian Craig, Kruger National Park’s anti-poaching enforcer Major General Johan Jooste and, the principal speaker, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) chairman Dr Richard Leakey. Over two days of debate and discussion, environmentalists and wildlife tourism ex..

Spots and fangs

Our planet is home to a variety of iconic predators but few can match the stealth and beauty of the leopard. Wildlife photographer Greg du Toit made it his mission to capture one of Africa’s shyest big cats on camera The enigmatic leopard can be found in every conceivable habitat and altitude. But rather strangely, its numbers are decreasing worldwide. This cat has disappeared from 36 per cent of its original global range; and currently, the African leopard is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, just one step away from being ‘Endangered’. When I started my Velvet and Stealth photography project in 2008, they were labelled ‘Near Threatened’, which is further evidence of their decline. If people don’t appreciate the beauty of an animal, they won’t conserve it. It is as simple as that. So my goal is to bring a fresh portfolio of the African leopard to a wider audience, increase general public awareness of the issue and foster a greater knowledge and ap..

Beat about the bush

Laura Griffith-Jones sets out on a thrilling walking safari in the beautiful, underrated Tarangire National Park, coming face to face with elephant on foot and fly-camping under the stars The smell of hot dust is heavy on the air — that rich, earthy aroma you only encounter in the African bush in the dry season. It is mid-October in the heart of Tarangire National Park and we are beginning to wilt. This hidden jewel on Tanzania’s northern circuit is often overlooked in favour of the better-known Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and the Serengeti. But the country’s sixth largest national park is a glorious place for the discerning traveller. Baobabs pepper the savannah, like Ents in Middle-earth, and the Tarangire River meanders through. Its diverse habitats range from grasslands to bushveld and swamps, all home to varied wildlife. Elephant herds speck the floodplains. Lion, Burchell’s zebra, Masai giraffe, eland and buffalo roam its 2850sq-km expanse. The rare fringe-eared oryx and lo..

Captivated by Kafue

This extraordinary national park’s raw and diverse landscapes make it geographically enthralling. Morgan Trimble examines its natural history, ecology and wildlife, as well as revealing plenty of useful tips from the experts to help you plan your next trip Just outside the camp, we’re tracking a leopard through sandy soil in Kafue. The previous night, the cat’s sawing roar pierced the stillness along the river, briefly quieting the hippos’ grunts and fiery-necked nightjars’ trill. We had woken before sunrise to search for the elusive creature. But after following its spoor for 100m along the road, the paw prints veer into the grassy undergrowth, and we give up. The leopard is hiding amid, literally, millions of trees. This is the miombo — an immense swath of woodlands that blanket southern-central Africa from Angola in the west to Tanzania and Mozambique in the east. In the middle, in southern Zambia, is Kafue National Park. It’s one of the continent’s oldest and largest parks but re..
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