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  • Selous Game Reserve
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    Selous Game Reserve
    Far from the madding crowd and at the three times the size of the Kruger National Park and double the size of the Senegeti National Park, Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania maintains its title as Africa’s largest reserve. It is a fitting tribute then that it is also one of Tanzania’s three World Heritage Sites. The Game Reserve reached its present size and shape in the 1940′s, when the colonial government moved the remaining tribes out of the area to combat a sleeping sickness epidemic. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

    Selous is named in honour of the Englishman Frederick Courtney Selous. During 1871 Selous lived and hunted in the area for approximately four decades and during that time he gained a reputation as the most accomplished hunter of his age. He was also known for writing, most notably he was the author of “A Hunter’s Wanderings in Africa”. Selous assisted Cecil John Rhodes in his campaign to annes present-day Zimbabwe to the British Empire and he also achieved brief notoriety in 1899 for speaking out against England’s war on the Boer Republics of South Africa.

    As Captain of the Royal Fusiliers at the age of 60 and with detailed knowledge of the African bush, Selous led the chase after the German guerilla army that presided in Southern Tanzania. On New Year’s Day in 1917, Selous was shot dead by a sniper close to the banks of the Beho Beho River where he remains buried today, near Beho Neho Safari Camp. Five Years after his death, the British colonists incorporated a number of existing game reserves south of the river to extend the plains of the aptly named, Selous.

    Fauna and Flora:

    An area of 45,000km2 of unspoiled African wilderness, the Selous game reserve boasts a variety of biomes – grassy plains, open woodland, mountains and forests – all classified by their climate and dominant vegetation type, and representing large communities of plants and animals in distinct regions.

    The reserve is split into two different regions by Tanzania’s largest river, the Rufiji. The northern Selous covers only around 5% of the reserves total area. No hunting is allowed here; this area is dedicated exclusively to photographic safari’s and accommodation in exclusive camps and lodges. Hunting blocks of approximately 1,000km2 each make up the Souther section of the Selous reserve.

    Large numbers of sought after game, predators, crocodiles and hippos are resident within this massive reserve. Buffalo numbers are estimated at 120,000 – 150,000. with lion numbers estimated to be around 4000 individuals. Historically, Selous was also home to Tanzania’s largest elephant population, but sadly, due to increased poaching incidents over the years, the number of elephants have reduced dramatically.

    The birdlife here is prolific with more than 440 species of birds being recorded in the Selous. Pink-backed pelicans, African Skimmers and giant Kingfishers, carmine and white fronted bee-eater colonies just to name a few. In the Borassus Palms, pairs of Fish Eagle, Palm Nut Vulture, Ibises and Palm Swifts nest. A myriad of water birds are discovered in their thousand’s – various small waders, egrets and herons as well as the famous Pel’s Fishing Owl.

    Access to the Selous Game Reserve:

    Selous is a six to seven hour drive towards the Southern part of Tanzania, south of Dar es Salaam and is served by light aircraft from Dar es Salaam and Ruaha daily, both of these flights being under an hour in duration. Park fees and Conservation fees are normally included in the price of one’s safari and are estimated at around USD75 per person per day.

    One may chose to take a road trip from Dar es Salaam that involves taking a normal circuit route which would include a trip through the Mikumi National Park and entering the Matambwe Gate. It is such an exhilarating experience, even more so in the mornings, to take the road from Morogoro as it gives visitors the chance to enjoy the drive through the Morogoro town and the opportunity to view the town with the “Ulugulu Mountains” as the scenic backdrop. As one heads out of Morogoro town, you will have the chance to witness how the rural peopl live and work within the villages. Experience a traditional market day in rural Tanzania. Another option is to take the access road from Dar es Salaam past the Tanzanian countryside filled with scenes of tall palms and lush grassland in the hilly areas and enter into Selous that way.

    Activities:

    Tanzania offers numerous options for specialist safaris and activites, whether you wish to drive, walk, ride, fish, fly camp, ride in a hot-air balloon, dive, kite surf or go trekking after chimpanzees.

    Accomodation in the Selous:

    For nature enthusiast seeking an intimate environment and warm hospitality, the Selous offers a wide variety of accommodation types ranging from enchanting and intimate safari camps to tented camps and luxury lodges.

    Seasons in the Selous:

    Wildlife viewing in the Selous Game Reserve is best from late June to October. It is dry season and wildlife is easier to spot since animals gather at water resources and vegetation is thinner. Many lodges close from March through May.

    Quick facts:
    Best time to go: June to October
    High Season: June to Cotober (The tourists area around the Rufuji River gets quite crowded)
    Low Season: March, April and May (Many lodges are closed)
    Best Weather: June to October (Little to no rainfall)
    Worst Weather: March and April (Peak of wet Season)

    From June to October:

    Spotting animals is easier, as they congregate around waterholes and rivers and there is less vegetation. It rains very little and most days are sunny. There is less risk of contracting malaria, since there are not as many mosquitos. Humidity is lowered and the heat isn’t overpowering.

    October to May:

    Scenery is beautiful and green. Crowds are less in the low Season months (March, April, May). This period is peak bird watching time, since migratory birds are present. Roads however, become muddy and are hard to travel on.

    Malaria:

    Be aware that malaria is a health concern in Tanzania. You should protect yourself by wearing clothing with long sleeves in the dawn and evening hours. Also, wear a mosquito deterrent that contains at least 20% DEET and take anti-malaria medicine. Several vaccination are recommended as well. Please check with your local GP for precautions against Malaria.
  • Red - Billed Queleas - Kruger National Park
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    Red - Billed Queleas - Kruger National Park
    Orpen, Tamboti tented camp, Talamati and the Maroela Caravan Park in the Kruger Park are compelling birding spots. The Red – billed quelea, in addition to many other species of birds often occur in this area, one of the reasons being that the nearby Timbavati River watercourse is a dependable food source. During midday these birds will rest in the shade and drink on average at least twice a day. Red – billed queleas nest mostly in Acacia trees which are prolific in this mixed thorn and Marula woodland habitat.

    Talamati is a small bushveld camp in the mixed woodlands of the N’waswitsontso .The camp is on the edge of the N’waswitsontso wetlands, which ensures there is usually good all-year-round birding.

    Considered an invasive species and also known as the red-billed weaver or red-billed dioch, the red-billed quelea is the world’s most abundant wild bird species, with an estimated adult breeding population of 1.5 billion pairs. Some estimates of the overall population have been as large as 10 billion. The entire population is found in sub-Saharan Africa and is generally absent from deeply forested regions and the southern reaches of South Africa.

    Unsurprisingly, there are more Red-billed Queleas in Kruger than any other species, with an estimated 33.5 million birds moving seasonally in and around the Park. They account for over 50% of the avian biomass in Kruger, moving in flocks of up to a million birds that nest en masse in acacia trees with between 50 and 3 000 nests per tree.
    Feeding habits

    Watching Red-billed queleas feed is like watching the Mexican Wave at a football crowd. The birds descend in their thousands onto the ground, with the flock taking on a roller feeding movement in which the birds at the back continually hop over the ones in front to get to the food. The Red-billed quelea is mostly a seed-eater but does eat insects, including butterflies, ants, beetles and termites. After the chicks hatch, they are nourished for some days with caterpillars and protein-rich insects. After this time parents change to feeding the nestlings mainly seeds. The young birds fledge and become independent enough to leave their parents after approximately two weeks in the nest.
    Red – Billed queleas as a food source

    Quelea are the avian equivalent of the impala – everything feeds on them. Nesting colonies are a favourite target not only for raptors but a wide variety of birds such as the Marabou Stork, Cattle Egret, Green-backed Heron and most of the hornbills. Whole colonies of Red-billed queleas can be devastated by predator attacks on adults, nestlings and eggs. Research at four Red-billed quelea colonies in the Park showed predation rates of 13%, 14%, 35% and 60%, according to Roberts VII. Additionally, snakes, lizards and several types of mammals are regular predators and some human populations also eat red-billed queleas. During their breeding season the Hadza of Northern Tanzania quelea eat quelea chicks by the thousands.
    Breeding habits

    During the breeding stage, the adult male is distinguished by his more colourful plumage and red bill. Breeding plumage in male queleas is unusually variable: comprising a facial mask which ranges from black to white in colour, and breast and crown plumage which varies from yellowish to bright red. For the rest of the year both males and fledged non-breeding birds have plumage that resembles that of the adult female, which is overall a cryptic beige and cream coloration. The female’s bill is yellow during breeding, and red during the non-breeding season.

    Red- billed queleas are monogamous at each breeding attempt, but also itinerant breeding in which individuals may nest at up to three different locations within a season, thus likely that serial polygamy occurs. Their breeding season is from December to April in South Africa.

    Nest sites are placed approximately 2m above ground level and mostly in Acacia thorn trees.

    They typically lay 3-5 eggs that are pale green or blueish in colour. Chicks hatch after 10-12 days and are fed by both the male and female adults. The chicks are fed by regurgitation – even when feeding on insects.
  • Conservation in Coastal East Africa
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    Conservation in Coastal East Africa
    In recent months all eyes have been focusing (and rightfully so) in the direction of Rhino poaching and the effects thereof in Africa. Now a subject close to millions of hearts around the world, our fight to protect this magnificent species is ongoing –every birth of baby rhino a celebration and every loss brings with it a dark blanket of grief.

    As conservationists, there are many facets of the natural world that have become our passion our war, our life-long searches for answers that spill over into the next generation after us and in doing so we continue to hope for relief from the devastation and havoc that man has wreaked on planet Earth.

    At Hartley’s Safari’s we have a passion for Africa and East Africa is high on our priority list. Our guests are treated to myriads of natural landscapes and wild scenery as well as several of the most majestic and fascinating animals on earth. This makes East Africa a mecca for nature lovers. Many of the visitors coming to the region do so for the opportunity to enjoy a safari and to experience up close and personal interactions with those animals that have us infinitely fascinated –lions, leopards, wild dogs, rhino, elephant , to name but a few.

    Tanzania, Mozambique and Kenya boast a rich biodiversity of ecosystems and natural resources which is quite strange considering the level of poverty in these destinations. Unfortunately this same poverty has resulted in illegal and unsustainable trade with other countries and valuable natural resources are being lost to other countries-Europe, Asia and China. This illegal trade has proven extremely difficult to control due to insufficient resources. In turn, the poor communities of these coastal destinations suffer the most when these resources are destroyed. Global climate change in these countries is indicated by periods of persistent drought, unpredictable rainfall and drastic weather conditions.

    For those passionate about fishing, you will be able to empathise with the severe threat of unsustainable fishing practices in the aforementioned countries. The interest of overfishing, is to eradicate hunger issues in developing countries all over the world, as well as to create a vast improvement of job opportunities, however due to our unsustainable fishing practices, it is just a matter of time before our oceans are completely depleted of marine species, and the destruction of the aquatic ecosystem. This issue will result in irreparable socio-economic and environmental circumstances that will be of severe consequence if we do not alter our local and international commercial fishing operations.

    According to foreign media reports, Tanzania’s greatest threat at the moment, is the proposed road bisecting Serengeti National Park, which scientists, conservationists, the UN, and foreign governments alike have condemned. Home to the world’s largest migration of land animals—two million wildebeest, antelope, and zebra migrate annually across this vast grassland—many view the Serengeti plains as one of the most astounding wildlife areas on Earth, and it is certainly among the most famous. Other concerns include the fast-tracking of soda ash mining in the world’s most important breeding ground for lesser flamingos, and the recent announcement to nullify an application for UNESCO World Heritage Status for a portion of Tanzania’s Eastern Arc Mountains, a threatened tropical forest area rich in species found no-where else. According to President Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania is simply trying to provide for its poorest citizens (such as communities near the Serengeti and the Eastern Arc Mountains) while pursuing western-style industrial development.

    Obviously, Kikwete’s job is not straightforward. High expectations have to be balanced with on-the-ground realities, rising commodity prices and energy shortages. Infrastructure is left badly wanting within impoverished communities. Tanzania, like many East African nations, has faced terrible droughts in the past few years that have had devastating effects on its agriculture sector. The AIDS crisis is ongoing and Tanzania struggles to provide education to all its citizens. Kikwete is facing a rash of poaching and serious management issues within conservation areas.

    WWF is calling for a more integrated policy approach to ensure that land and water intensive investments are more sustainable and benefit the host country. The good news is that like WWF, there are many organisations that are working towards solutions by providing funding to organizations like Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to assist in the anti-poaching operations, by working directly with local communities to form areas of protection for natural resources and conservancies where wildlife is closely monitored and protected.

    Projects such as building rainwater tanks whereby the communities can have access to rainwater, as opposed to using methods of deforestation in order to try and reach water within the forested areas.

    In the Masai -Mara, eight wildlife conservancies have been formed, which offer land lease payments of US$25-40 per hectare (ha) per year to landowners (Bedelian, 2012). These schemes, financed by ecotourism operators, aim to keep land open for wildlife and provide landowners with a regular income stream. They now cover over 90,000 ha, securing vital migratory corridors and dispersal areas for wildebeest from both the Serengeti and the Loita Plains.

    By taking into account wildlife and their migratory routes, people, livestock, landscapes and natural resources, a more comprehensive conservation effort can be made. Extensive communication and discussions with communities and landowners, governments, and conservation organisations is essential before any action can be taken.

    Greenpeace is working on solutions with regards to overfishing that would entail a network of well enforced marine reserves across the region and sustainable fishing and fish processing operations managed and financed by Africans, providing livelihoods, food security and enabling poverty alleviation in the region. Africa’s waters need to be managed by well -funded, functioning regional oceans management organisations.

    In a nutshell,although our business at Hartley’s is Safaris,conservation of our destinations is close to our hearts. Knowledge is power ,and with this in mind, we share with you a brief look into the conservation concerns and proposed solutions of these jewels of our continent that make up our majestic Coastal East Africa!
  • Roça Belo Monte Hotel
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    Roça Belo Monte Hotel
    The Roça Belo Monte Hotel is a luxurious 15 room boutique hotel located off the coast of West Central Africa. Forming part of the twin island state of São Tome and Principe, this remote and unique island is blessed with breathtakingly beautiful surroundings that will impress even the most discerning traveller. Surrounded by dense mountain forest that forms part of the Obo National Park and standing guard over five of its own beaches, The Roça Belo Monte Hotel has become a preferred gateway to this unique island destination.

    Due to island’s privileged location, along the Greenwich meridian and on the Equator, diving conditions are ideal with year round temperate waters and excellent visibility. With a multitude of dive sites that range in difficulty, this archipelago is ideal for both beginner and advanced divers. Common marine life includes, red soldiers, barracuda, turtles, snapper, eels and the occasional nurse shark.
  • McDonald’s of the Bush
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    McDonald’s of the Bush
    While the Oxford dictionary describes the impala as ‘a graceful antelope often seen in large herds in open woodland in southern and eastern Africa’, a far better description I heard was from an old Zulu guide in the Hluhluwe uMfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa when he muttered drily: “The McDonalds of the bush”.

    Looking at the trademark ‘M’ that spreads itself in black along the tail and rump of the impala, I have to admit that he does have a very fair point, particularly as this is a firm favourite of all predators – from lions, leopards, wild dogs, hyenas; I have even witnessed a particularly large python make a meal out of one over an entire evening. To further add to the fast food metaphor, the impala is incredibly agile and moves in impressive leaps that can reach heights of 3 metres and cover distances of up to 10 metres when trying to escape from becoming the next Happy Meal.

    Following a gestation period of 194-200 days, single lambs are born during early summer – making December a peak time to witness the magical birthing that usually takes place around midday. Impala ewes who are about to give birth will move away from the herd and find a secluded shady spot where they will take advantage of the predators resting during the heat of the day to become vulnerable for this precious moment.

    Almost straight after birth, the mother will encourage her lamb to stand up on its shaky legs and start moving around. Cleaning the lamb and eating the remains of the afterbirth is imperative for removing the scent which might attract predators as they wake from their afternoon siesta. The lamb will still be a bit wobbly for the next few days, and so the mother will remain with it in a protected thicket until it is strong enough to keep up with the rest of the herd.

    The newly born antelope are very naive and for the first few weeks of their lives they make very easy prey. Therefore roughly 90% of all impala lambs are born within the same 3-5 week period due to the births being synchronised as nature’s way of reducing the mortality rate of the young. When returning to the herd, the lambs will come together to form a temporary nursing group which is tended to by a few adult females. Hiding in the long grass of summer, the lamps are well camouflaged from predators. A mother will return to feed her baby but won’t hang around for too long in case this attracts unwanted attention.

    This bushveld miracle is truly wonderful to experience firsthand, and perfectly illustrates The Great Circle of Life.
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