Friday, October 26, 2012

Flamingo Ecology – a Fact filled African Safari

For many years, great studies have been done on Flamingos especially on the Great Rift Valley lakes of Kenya and Tanzania. One of these lakes is the famous Bird watchers paradise – Lake Nakuru national park. It is here where over 1.5 million flamingos wallow the shoes of alkaline waters rich in blue green algae. Many visitors on African Safaris are amazed with the panoramic view of the spending with great photos taken on vast African horizons and rocky cliffs. Although the alluring ecstasy to take more snaps is immeasurable, there is need to pick on a few facts about the Flamingo and why there is great need to conserve them and their few delicate habitats.

There are 6 species of flamingos in the world, At first glance, they may look similar to each other, but certain features such as size, leg colour or beak allow easy identification.
\Today, we will major on the lesser Flamingo as we explore their vast and diverse facts as follows;

Flamingos are itinerant species adapted to respond to changes in local environmental conditions, and thus depend on a network of suitable sites. They feed on species of microscopic cyanobacteria and benthic diatoms found only in alkaline lakes.
The characteristic feeding is primarily by swimming and filtering the algae and diatoms with a specialized bill that contains up to 10,000 microscopic lamellae. The Lesser Flamingos depend primarily on shallow saline/alkaline lakes, pans, wetlands and coastal areas within easy flying distance (i.e. 120-180 km) of a good feeding site for the parents.
They feed several hours each day when the surface of the water is sufficiently calm to enable them to feed. If the surface of the water is not calm, they are unable to feed and are confined to the limited areas of wet mud.

Species Classification
They are classified as “Near Threatened”, nearly qualifying as threatened under criteria A3c: (A population size reduction of 30%, projected or suspected to be met within the next 10 years or three generations, whichever is the longer -up to a maximum of 100 years), based on a decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence and/or quality of habitat.
It is also listed in Columns A and B of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Water birds (AEWA) Action Plan, Appendix II of the Bonn Convention (CMS) and Appendix II of the CITES convention.

There are four separate populations recognized for conservation purposes;
1. The largest population, estimated to be 1.5 – 2.5 million individuals, occurs on the alkaline-saline lakes of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa.
Smaller populations occur in the
2.  North-western India, estimated to be approximately    390,000 birds.
3.  Southern Africa, estimated to be 55,000 – 65,000 birds.
4.  West Africa, estimated to be 15,000 – 25,000 birds.

They reach sexual maturity at 3-4 years of age and they breed following seasonal rains that provide the flooding necessary to isolate remote breeding sites from terrestrial predators and the soft muddy material for nest building. Nests are built from mud substrates where they lay eggs. The mean incubation is 28 days and Fledgling is approximately 70 days.
The selection of breeding site is chosen in regard to; Inaccessibility to terrestrial disturbance from humans or animal predators and subject to seasonal flooding that is sufficiently shallow (and calm) to enable the construction of the traditional conical mud nests without them being washed away, but sufficiently deep and long lasting to prohibit terrestrial predators from reaching the nesting colony.

Threats to flamingo conservation
Most critical threat to the survival of the Lesser Flamingo (a factor causing or likely to cause very rapid declines >30% over 10 years or three generations) is the degradation of its specialized breeding and feeding habitats through
1. Altered hydrology and water quality
2. Wetland pollution,
3. Extraction of salt and soda ash
4. Disruption of its few breeding colonies by human activities
There are also threats of High importance (factors causing or likely to cause rapid declines (20-30% over 10 years or three generations)
  • Poisoning (heavy metals, pesticides & cyanobacteria toxins)
  • Diseases – Avian flu, cholera, mycobacteriosis
  • Disruption of its few breeding colonies by human activities (particularly from nearby settlements).
And finally, threats of low importance (factors causing or likely to cause negligible decline)
  • Human disturbance of non-breeding sites
  • Collision with man-made structures
  • Predation
  • Competition with other species for food and breeding sites
  • Harvesting of eggs and live birds.
Therefore, while doing your African Safari, please take time and give back to the conservation of this endangered jewel while at the same time minimize any interference that may contribute to them being more endangered.

Enjoy your view of Flamingos!

PKP. safaris in kenya desk

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wildlife safari holiday – ultimate jungle experience

It is no doubt that Kenya safari has earned a notch in the world as a preferred destination for those seeking ultimate jungle experience, adventures in the wilderness and precise comfort in a wildlife thrilled parks and reserves. “Kenya safari” was launched this year by the government of Kenya through ministry of tourism as the Kenya’s official destination brand.

Your favorite, reliable and authoritative safari blog ‘African adventure crew’ headed by Francis was again on the ground to see whether this was reflected in truth or it was just a fiction. From our extensive experiences from the holiday makers, we have in this season’s ‘Nature series’ heard stories on real time adventure and eye witness experiences from varied holiday makers in Kenya over the peak months of July and August.
Bob and Kristina – UK

We first met Bob and Kristina an elderly couple that had come to Kenya to mark their lovely 40th anniversary in marriage. The couple had left Samburu national reserve the day before, and had just completed an early morning game drive in L. Nakuru national park. All cheerful and elated with Joy, it was easy to overture and bond with them thanks to the great awe inspiring experiences that kept them smiling all through. To Kristina, seeing Kudus in the wild amidst unique wildlife of samburu was a sought-after memory. In Lake Nakuru, they were lucky to spot the endangered black rhino, while the white rhinos and the stunning panoramic of millions of flamingos roamed were just infront of them. Their itinerary was skillfully and precisely drawn to ensure they touched every heart of the best and unique wilds during their Kenya safari.
Seane story – Australia

The next day we met Sean and party from Australia. No doubt, this young couple must have had a hint of the best way to explore Kenya’s wildlife – camping safari! Their choice to do their Kenya camping safari in August was sheer brilliance as the weather is generally favorable. After breakfast, we proceed to hells gate national park. Sammy the cook had made a yummy packed lunch for the group. Hiking the hells gate was not just a lovely experience but also a great adventure and exercise.
Our choice to set our survey base around the two rift valley lakes – Nakuru and Naivasha was a pre-arranged due to the central location and popularity. Lake Nakuru is Kenya’s premium national park offering a diverse ecosystem and great wildlife spotting within a close range. Lake Naivasha on the other hand hosts the most deluxe vacation resorts and campsites with diverse wildlife and great boating excursions. It is at these two lakes where you can meet tourists with unique and varied itineraries and therefore a chance to obtain views from mixed experiences and different destinations.

Martin Black’s family
We met Martin Black, his mama 79 and three children on the forth day of our program. By then, the group had seen more than they had expected. The two girls were drawing pictures of various wildlife that they had seen, while the young boy was busy playing games and listening to music. Even though this particular group had lived in many places of the world, they openly confessed that Kenya is a ‘paradise’ thanks to scores of wildlife, beautiful sceneries and white-sanded coastal beaches not forggeting the friendly and charming people.
Melywn family – UK
On the fifth day of our analysis, I met the lovely and exciting vacationers of the season – the Melywn’s family from UK. Their driver/guide, Charles made an incredible introduction causing a quick confidence and bond between the two parties. Immediately after briefing, we engaged in a conversation unconscious that we were running behind time. On the way to Naivasha we had great talks as the group shared their experiences and also asked questions on various issues concerning Kenya. The group did a trek in Hells gate national park as well as taking photos of the magnificent Hells gate Gorge, Fischer,s and Central towers and the splendid view of Lake Naivasha from Olkaria hill. The group saw myriad wildlife and inimitable sceneries through out their safari.

Yifat family – Israel
Shalom!! thats how it started. Our last group in this series was Yifat family from Israel. Having visited ‘north of equator’ wildlife parks, they had a great comparison with the lower equator parks. It is amazing how nature is discrete with unsearchable uniqueness. Unlike other African destinations, Kenya wildlife observe the hemispherical rules in that some species are only found on the northern part of equator while others are purely restricted to the southern. Yifat family then proceded to hike the Menengai crater. The crater lies at 2272 meters above sea level and was formed as result of combined rift valley and volcanic activities. The ashy smell from molten lava can be felt up to date while the whole floor is covered by black volcanic rocks and shrubs. On clear days, one can see most rift valley lakes such as Bogoria, Baringo, Elmentaita and the near by Lake Nakuru.

PKP. safaris in kenya desk
Natural Track Safaris

Monday, October 22, 2012

How to get the best out of your safari

If you love traveling like me, you will agree that vacation time needs planning ahead, and some research is called for. Depending on where you want to vacation, prior information comes in hardy.

Here are 10 factors that could make your African safari a dream come true or a disaster.

1. Check the best seasons compared to the time you have for vacation time.
Whatever you want to do/see during your safari, first thing you should do
Is to consider when the best times are. While all-year round could be
Good, the rainy seasons can make things very hard. And if it’s the annual migration you have in mind, the months of July till early September is what you need.

2. In addition, what other places of interest would you want to see?
Lonely planet has good suggestions off course, but there are other
Sources like friends, family, online directories and reviews that are great source of updated information.

3. After you know what you want to see/experience, its time now to know what it might cost you. Avoid disappointments by not being aware what you might be expected to part with. Get a rough idea by enquiring from travel agents and park authority sites, Tour Operator Association sites. Be informed!

4. Accommodations vary greatly, both in level and in prices. Some lodges and Camps are high end, while others fall somewhere medium level. And in addition there is the option of camping. Definitely the accommodation type you choose affects what you have to pay in the end. How much do you want to spend or can afford to spend? That’s up to you.

5. You are informed. You know what you want to do/see, and you know when you want to do that dream safari, to see wildlife at close range or vacation on beach. You also have a rough idea how much it might cost you. But you have to choose your tour operator. Again recommendations from those who have first experience are great. If not, check online, contact several tour operators and make a list of several that gives you confidence.

6. This is now the most important part. From the mails or your contact with agents/tour operators, you may have an idea of what kind of a company you are dealing with. But that is far from enough. Check the operator(s) you have settled for. Check for reviews from previous travelers. Get their email address/phones from testimonials and comments pages. Hear their experience with that company.

7. You have settled for one? Good. Now go pin down last details of your itinerary. Have your itinerary finalized to the last bit. Be sure/aware what prices includes and what not and what costs what. Day –to-day program and if possible driving times/distances between parks/towns. You don’t want to be driving at night or spending all your time on road.

8. Ask for discount, especially if booking in advance. Besides, am yet to hear of a law against asking for discount.

9. Book your safari.
Depending on when you want to travel, some seasons demand booking in advance. The peak seasons, usually the months of July, August, September, January/February require that you have booked your safari several months in advance.

10. Then go enjoy your safari. Remember, the best prints you can leave are to leave none.

PKP. safaris in kenya desk
Natural Track Safaris.

Uganda lakes – Great Lake vacations at the equator

Uganda boasts one of the great and unique natural attractions in the region. More ideal is the fact that the country’s natural resources are yet to be explored thus giving you the best solitude experience in any African safari. Though the country boast great primate adventures such as gorilla and chimpanzee tracking, its equatorial forest and influence from the eastern warp of the great Rift Valley has granted Uganda one of the best crystalline lakes in the region
Uganda is a well-watered country with nearly, one-fifth of the total area, or 44,000 square kilometers, is open water or swampland. Four of East Africa's Great Lakes--Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga, Lake Albert, and Lake Edward--lie within Uganda or on its borders. Lake Victoria dominates the southeastern corner of the nation, with almost one-half of its 10,200-square-kilometer area lying inside Ugandan territory. It is the second largest inland freshwater lake in the world (after Lake Superior), and it feeds the upper waters of the Nile River, which is referred to in this region as the Victoria Nile. 

Spectacular waterfalls occur at Murchison (Kabalega) Falls on the Victoria Nile River just east of Lake Albert. At the narrowest point on the falls, the waters of the Nile pass through an opening barely seven meters wide. One of the tributaries of the Albert Nile, the Zoka River, drains the northwestern corner of Uganda, a region still popularly known as the West Nile.
Taking a look at the great lakes in Uganda we find Lake Albert. Also known as Albert Nyanza and formerly Lake Mobutu Sese Seko, it is one of the African Great Lakes. It is Africa's seventh largest lake, and ranks as the world's twenty-seventh largest lake by volume.

Located in the center of the continent, on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – formerly Zaire, Lake Albert is the northern most of the chain of lakes in the Great Rift Valley; it is about 160 km (100 mi) long and 30 km (19 mi) wide, with a maximum depth of 51 m (168 ft), and a surface elevation of 619 m (2,030 ft) above sea level.
At the southern end of the lake, where the Semliki comes in, there are swamps. Farther south emerge the mighty Ruwenzori Range, while a range of hills called the Blue Mountains soar over the northwestern shore. The few settlements along the shore include Butiaba and Pakwach.

In 1864, when the explorer Samuel Baker found the lake; he named it after the recently deceased Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria and few years later, Congolese president Mobutu Sese Seko temporarily named the lake after himself.
Recently, Heritage Oil and Tullow Oil companies have announced major oil finds in the Lake Albert basin, with estimates that the multi-billion barrel field will prove to be the largest onshore field found in sub-saharan Africa for over twenty years.

Lake George or Lake Dweru is part of Africa’s great lakes system though it is not considered one of the great lakes. It covers a total surface area of 250 km². Like the other lakes in the region it was named after a member of the British royal family, in this case Prince George. It drains to the southwest into Lake Edward through the Kazinga Channel.
Lake Edward or Edward Nyanza is the smallest of the African Great Lakes. It is located in the western Great Rift Valley, on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, with its northern shore a few kilometers south of the Equator. The lake was named by the explorer Henry Morton Stanley in honour of Prince Albert Edward, The Prince of Wales.

Stanley first saw the lake in 1875, and thinking it was part of Lake Albert, named it Beatrice Gulf. On his second visit in 1888 through 1889, he realized that there were two independent lakes, and gave it its current name. In the 1970s and 1980s, Uganda and Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo) renamed it Lake Idi Amin or Lake Idi Amin Dada after Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. After his overthrow in 1979, the name was changed back to Lake Edward.

At a glance, Uganda boasts one of the greatest African lakes. From north-most Lake Albert to the shores of Lake Victoria, Uganda has greatest diversity of lake vacations in the regions all of which can be explored in African safaris. 

 PKP. safaris in kenya desk
Natural Track Safaris

The newest wildlife sanctuary in Kenya

 As you drive on the Nauru-Nairobi highway the sight of Lake Elementaita will certainly catch your attention especially with its pink colored islands and shorelines. You may as well spot gazelles and zebras grazing on the open plains. This is Lake Elementaita, a soda that is the newest wildlife sanctuary in Kenya today.
Lake Elementeita is the only breeding ground for the great white Pelican in Kenya and neighboring countries. These fish-eating birds nest on rocky islands in the lake. In addition, the lake attracts visiting flamingos, both the Greater and Lesser varieties, which feed on the lake's crustaceans and insect larvae and on its suspended blue-green algae, respectively.
 The lake surroundings have a rich history. Nearby is the Kariandusi Museum, which is an important prehistoric site where stone hand-axes and cleavers were discovered in 1928 by Louis Leakey. Elementeita Badlands is a lava flow to the south of the lake covered in bush and including some spectacular scenic peaks in the nearby Utut area.
 The survival of Lake Elementeita and its environs have been threatened by incompatible land use practices. KWS has been working with the stakeholders around Lake Elementeita and its catchment area to come up with mitigation measures. This led to the formation of an organization called Greater Lake Elementeita Conservation Area ( GLECA) to push for the enhancement of conservation status of the area. After a series of consultation with stakeholders including the local communities, it was finally agreed that Lake Elementeita be accorded the status of protected area.
The Minister for Wildlife and Forestry Hon. Dr. Noah Wekesa formally gazetted it on 6th July 2010 as a Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is approximately 2533.9 hectares.
Following the gazettement, KWS and GLECA are now working towards completion of the sanctuary’s Management Plan which will chart out issues to do with environmental conservation, tourism, and community enterprise and business development among others. KWS and GLECA are in the process of demarcating the boundaries, developing infrastructure and stationing personnel in the area to ensure illegal activities that are detrimental to the ecological integrity are checked.
With this new development it is expected that tourism activities will be improved and diversified for the benefit of the local community while at the same time securing space for wildlife.
Lake Elementeita together with Lakes Nakuru and Bogoria have also been nominated for enlistment as World Heritage Site. We look forward to to that. Have a nice visit in these Rift Valley lakes.
 PKP safaris kenya desk.