July 2019

July 11, 2019

A Safari Expert’s Guide to the Characters of the Lion King

Filed under: Tanzania Odyssey News — Tags: , , , — Tanzania Odyssey @ 10:41 am
© Copyright of Sam Hankss

The Lion King

Disney’s long line of re-makes continues. On Friday night the new Lion King airs across the world. For animal lovers like us, any movie that includes the magnificence of Africa is surely one to watch. Some cynics will argue that to remake a classic will destroy its reputation, but we hope it will inspire a new generation of children, and reignite old sparks where old flames may have died.

After working as a safari guide in the Greater Kruger for a number of years I often used Lion King anecdotes to help explain aspects of the wildlife to my guests. People’s expressions changed from attentiveness to incredulous delight as I explained how the commonly seen hornbill was actually Zazu from the Lion King. Smiles and chatter would erupt, especially if there were children on board. For many who weren’t lucky enough to live the life of a guide in Africa, it is common to draw on the Lion King for knowledge of the natural world, no matter how accurate this was. Below I am going to dispel some of the myths and explain a bit more about the main characters’ true behavior.

Hyenas – Ed, Shenzi and Banzai

I am going to start with possibly the most misunderstood creature on the open savannah of Africa. What is the first impression you have of a hyena? My guess is that your answer would be a drooling, mangy, ugly animal that scavenges on whatever morsel it can find. Why do you have that impression? I bet it’s because of the Lion King! Unfortunately hyenas have suffered a terrible reputation ever since Disney chose them to be Scar’s side-kicks.

© Copyright of Marc Harris

 This may be a surprise, but hyenas are actually one of the most enigmatic and essential characters of the bush.  They are the clean-up crew and their scavenging habits help to prevent the spread of disease and help to complete many ecological cycles in the eco-system. When scavenging opportunities aren’t available, hyenas are very competent hunters and will actively hunt for themselves. Their lop-sided running technique gives them incredible stamina and helps to maintain their speed until their prey is too exhausted to go on. They have a better hunting rate than lions!

Ridiculed as being stupid throughout the film, hyenas are extremely intelligent. Their clans follow a very complex matriarchal system made up of an alpha female and her subordinates. These clans have learnt to actually follow other predators such as wild dogs or leopards in the search for food. Once the other predator has made its kill, the hyena clan will descend and force its competition to abandon the kill. To do this takes highly intelligent teamwork which involves maneuvering and attacking at specific times to ensure they get their prize.

Lions – Simba, Mfuasa and Scar

When you think of a lion, you probably think of a regal and magnificent, an animal that can do no wrong. The Lion King also follows this thought with its portrayal of Mfuasa and Simba, who are the noble Kings of the savannah, but in truth most male lions are like Scar. With a constant instinct to take over new territories and to usurp other males from the vicinity, male lions are normally power hungry and will do anything they can do claim their reward. Unfortunately for members of their new pride, these male lions will then kill any cubs. This act means the females come into heat and are ready to mate again. The males therefore sire their own offspring and ensure their genetics are passed on.

© Copyright of Marc Harris

As discussed in the previous paragraph, hyenas have a bad reputation for scavenging yet their counterparts are no better. Lions are often found scavenging and stealing kills hard won by other predators. Their size and weight advantage means that leopards and cheetahs are no match for them and kills are often abandoned with a lion in the vicinity.

Warthogs and Meerkats – Timone and Pumba

Everyone’s favourite duo, what would the Lion King be without Timone and Pumba? These two fun-loving, bug-munching creatures spend the movie making jokes and providing some light entertainment to a movie that has some serious undertones. It may sadden you to learn that although these two seem inseparable during the movie, in real life they would never have met. The reason for this is their habitat differences. Whilst warthogs are found in most savannah and wooded areas, but meerkats have a certain niche. They are localized to the Kalahari regions of South Africa and Botswana where warthogs aren’t present. Whist observing warthogs you may however encounter them with other creatures that can be mistaken for meerkats. These are in fact mongoose, and they have a symbiotic relationship with the tusked pigs. You may see mongoose and warthogs sharing the same meal or even the mongoose grooming the warthogs for tics!

© Copyright of Shutterstock

In terms of their individual behavior, Disney is rather accurate when portraying the warthog and meerkat. Quick to run away from danger and a pig that will eat anything is the perfect way to encapsulate the characteristics of a warthog and whilst meerkats are also very sociable creatures, (although Timone is seen away from his family), he still wants to be around others. Meerkats are also very alert and always aware of their surroundings.

© Copyright of Shutterstock

An additional fact worth knowing is that although meerkats and warthogs are unable to sing ‘Hakuna Matata’, the true translation is ‘no worries’!

Wildebeest

Not featured as heavily in the Lion King as other animals but playing a crucial role in the plot, wildebeests are seldom looked at with much attention. Being classed as part of the ‘Ugly 5’, the wildebeest is said to have been made up of all the remaining parts left over when the animals came to be. In the film we see the wildebeest spooking easily and forming a stampede (spoilers I will not divulge). This is particularly true of real-life wildebeest during the Great Migration. After approaching the great Mara River tentatively, it only takes one individual to spook before the whole herd starts stampeding, either across the river or back into the grassy plains.

© Copyright of Tanzania Odyssey

 If you have been inspired by the new Lion King, take a look at our blog about where to find characters of the Lion King on safari and do not forget to contact us should you wish for more information about the holiday of a lifetime.

July 5, 2019

‘Serengeti’ – A Look into BBC’s New Documentary

©Copyright of Shutterstock. A male lion with the red glow of a sunset behind him in the heart of the Serengeti.

For those who tuned into BBC1 at 8pm last Thursday, you will have witnessed the start of a series that transports you from your armchair to the rolling plains of the Serengeti. There you will witness the battle that the Serengeti’s best known animals face. Each day is a struggle between life and death and although it is great to watch these events unfold on television, there is nothing better than seeing these spectacles first hand. Whether it is the lions, the elephants or the wild dogs that spark an interest for you to go on safari or a love of wildlife, it doesn’t matter. After organising luxury safaris for over twenty years, we know the best places for you visit! Read below for our honest advice about where the best places are to see these magnificent animals.  

The Wildebeest Migration

The world-renowned Great Migration is a year-round event that occurs within the Serengeti National Park. Each year millions of wildebeest and zebra follow the rains in a clock-wise motion clocking up about two-hundred and fifty kilometres each. From crossing the Mara River in the North to giving birth on the Ndutu plains in the South, drama is never far away when watching these ungulates. If you’re particularly interested in keeping up with the migration, then we would whole-heartedly recommend a mobile camp. These are tented camps that follow the migration all year, moving from site to site meaning that they have the best spots for the action. Do not fear though, luxury isn’t compromised. All your amenities (and more) are certainly apparent.

©Copyright of Shutterstock. One of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth – The Great Wildebeest Migration

Lions

The majestic King of the Jungle is probably the most sought after animal people want to see when they go on safari. Luckily, lions are everywhere in the Serengeti and unlike the wildebeest, they stick to their territories. Whilst the migration may pass through areas at different times of the year, no matter where you stay there will be plenty of resident game in the lion territories to keep them fed whilst the wildebeest are away. If you are after a great value safari, it is worth seeking the ‘off season’ camps as they will still have great opportunities to see lions and great prices!

A beautiful lionness in the morning light. Picture taken by Africa specialist Sam whilst in the Serengeti.

Cheetahs

Small, lithe and the only cat that can’t roar, you are often left feeling sorry for the cheetah. Often bullied by hyenas and the other cats, being a cheetah mother is probably one of the toughest jobs in the Serengeti. Even with the honey-badger disguise, cheetah cubs unfortunately have a very high mortality rate. But for all their bad luck, there is one place in the Serengeti that we hold close to our hearts. Recently reopened and what used to be a cheetah research area, Namiri Plains in the Eastern section of the Serengeti is a place like no other. As well as being home to numerous caracals, servals and other big cats, the cheetah population has thrived here for years and sightings are daily and wonderful. For the best cheetah sightings and photographic opportunities we couldn’t recommend Asilia’s Namiri Plains Camp high enough. If you don’t believe it yet, check out our Instagram to see our first-hand sightings from our trips there!

Two cheetah brothers photographed by Managing Director Marc on his stay at Namiri Plains.

Elephants

The most intelligent of all savannah animals, with communication systems that humans haven’t been able to apprehend and emotions that no other animals seem to have, the elephant is a magnificent creature. The biggest member of the Big 5, yet also the most gentle, one would be mistaken that they are big fumbling, bumbling balls of grey, yet an insight into their behaviour shows just how gentle and nimble they can be. That’s not to say they aren’t destructive because they certainly can be when the mood strikes. With the Serengeti being such an open and vast landscape, elephants are not normally found in such open areas, that’s why it is important to be in a camp that is placed perfectly for both habitats. A great area for elephant sightings is in the often-forgotten Serengeti forests. Here the vegetation is denser and riverine thickets are the perfect habitat for elephant families who need plenty of food, water and shelter to provide safety for the herd.  We absolutely love Nomad’s Serengeti Safari Camp, a mobile camp which moves throughout the year depending on where the migration is, yet their location also takes into consideration the movement of the mega fauna like the elephants. Their new position by the Moru kopjes in central Serengeti provides the perfect setting for great sightings.

The often forgotten forests of the Serengeti photographed by Africa specialist Sam whilst staying in the Moru region.

Whilst I hope you will enjoy the rest of the series, I know I plan to, if you want to experience the Serengeti with your own eyes then there is only one thing for you to do: contact us! We would love help you book the trip of a lifetime.

December 23, 2016

Safari in Style: Luxury Activities to do in Tanzania

Filed under: Tanzania Odyssey News — Tags: , , , , — Tanzania Odyssey @ 7:57 am

Going on safari to Tanzania may not seem like a luxury option for travellers who prefer to explore in comfort, however, believe it or not, there are many ways to incorporate a little bit (or a lot) of luxury into your safari. Here are a few of our favourite luxury safari activities:

Hot Air Balloons:

There is arguably no better way to see the Serengeti than from the air. While game drives and scenic walks might let you see these areas up close, there’s nothing quite like viewing them from the skies. This safari experience is, quite literally, on a whole new level.

Hot Air Balloon Safari Serengeti

Wine Tastings:

Tanzania may not have much of an international reputation when it comes to wine, but it is actually the second largest producer of wine in Sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa. The humidity in Tanzania’s Dodoma region is perfect for growing grapes and the wine from this area has been praised by connoisseurs in the wine industry.

Dining on Safari

Luxury Lodging:

From meru style tents with glittering chandeliers, to private islands in the Indian Ocean; accommodation on safari can offer you luxury lodging options you never knew were possible on a safari. Just take a look at our lodge index if you don’t believe us!

Glamping in Siwandu Tents

Sundowner Cruise:

At the end of a long day on safari, nothing beats lazily drifting down a river with a drink in hand as the sun slowly dips below the horizon. Alternatively, in Zanzibar you can enjoy a sunset Dhow cruise along the coast of this island paradise.

Sunset Dhow Cruise in Zanzibar

Decadent Dining:

Luxury lodges tend to employ the most amazing, professional chefs and enjoy feeding their guests about 5 times a day. Put it this way, you definitely won’t be returning from safari any slimmer.

Safari Dining in Tanzania

Aah bliss! If this sounds like your kind of safari, get in touch with us and we’ll help you plan the perfect trip with all the creature comforts you could ever wish for.

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