On Safari in East Africa: Red Colobus Monkeys

Following our time on the mainland we took a ferry to the island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania. The island is unique and exotic, and it’s where we encountered one of the most endangered species of primates in the world – the Zanzibar Red Colobus monkey. With less than 2,000 individuals remaining, conservationists are working to protect their shrinking habitat. 

Isolated on this island for at least 10,000 years, the Zanzibar Red Colobus has some striking features including a crown of long, white hairs that fan out around the face, fiery red fur, pot-bellies and small heads, four fingers and no thumbs.

Leaves are a favorite food – but not just any leaf – they pick around and inspect them to make sure they are young leaves. They also eat unripe fruit as they are unable to digest the sugars in ripe ones. 

Babies are carried, clinging to the belly of the mother, for 6 months. After that, they can move around on their own but may continue to be carried by the mother for more than a year.

FACT

Colobus sometimes belch in each others’ faces as a friendly social gesture.

 

{ video: Red Colobus Monkeys }

On Safari in East Africa: Hippos

We had a spectacular month exploring East Africa – a real dream come true and centerpiece of our trip. It was awe-inspiring to see first hand in the wild what we had only seen in zoos. Handpicking the best of the best of the thousands of photos we took, the On Safari in East Africa series showcases the animals we were privileged to see in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Hippos

One of the scariest moments all year was the night we heard a hippo munching grass right outside our tent. Mind you – camping in Africa was a great adventure and it was awesome to hear wildlife at night. Unique bird, insect and animal noises we’d never heard before – and totally different in each new place we went. But this was not a noise I wanted to hear. Hippos are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa! That night we were camping near a river with tons of hippos, and given that they feed nocturnally, we could expect them to be grazing on the grass around us.

In these situations, you really don’t want to have to get up to go to the bathroom in the dark. If we did have to go and we saw a hippo we were told to not make a sound, don’t panic, keep the light of your headlamp on the animal and move slowly – backwards – back to your tent. It’s noise that will really upset them, so when I awoke to hearing a huge munching sound right outside our tent I was so panicked I froze, barely breathing so as to not make a sound. I also heard the distinct sounds that hippos make so I was convinced that the animal was indeed a hippo. I heard it munching on the right of the tent, then to the left…this continued for a couple of very long hours until it finally walked away.

Hippos are violent! One day, while on a river cruise in Uganda, we saw two hippos fighting right in front of us. You could see the power of these massive animals splashing and biting each other in the water. The photo on the right shows blood where one was bitten.

Hippos spend most of their days in water to keep cool under the hot African sun. Their eyes and nostrils are high on their heads, allowing them to see and breathe while mostly submerged.

This cute little hippo by the shore with its mother is around three months old. Baby hippos are born underwater and have to swim to the surface to take their first breaths.

FACT

Hippos are quite agile. They can easily climb steep riverbanks at night and travel several miles to graze before returning to the water. They prefer to eat alone and can eat around 150 pounds of grass each night.  

On Safari in East Africa: Buffalo

We had a spectacular month exploring East Africa – a real dream come true and centerpiece of our trip. It was awe-inspiring to see first hand in the wild what we had only seen in zoos. Handpicking the best of the best of the thousands of photos we took, the On Safari in East Africa series showcases the animals we were privileged to see in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Buffalo

In the dictionary, next to the word grumpy, there should be a picture of an African Buffalo – the grumpiest, surliest animals we saw on safari. Whenever we saw them, they would turn and look at us like we had rudely interrupted their morning coffee. We weren't interrupting much since usually they would be lounging by the river, or near a mud hole. When actually bothered or attacked, a buffalo herd forms a protective circle around their young. They will even attack and kill lions and their cubs. 

Despite their placid cow-like appearance, their nicknames include "The Widowmaker" and "The Black Death." Buffalo gore and kill more than 200 people each year. They are known to ambush and attack hunters that wound them.

Male-only groups of buffalo, so-called "loser" groups, are formed by older males. When they have grown too old to defeat the younger males for breeding rights, they leave the herd and set out on their own. These "losers" will often find one another and form groups for protection.

Like many animals, buffalo are plagued by insects. You can often spot them wallowing in the mud or bathing near rivers to rid themselves of the biting bugs.

FACT

The horns of adult males have fused bases which form a bone shield. The shield, called a "boss", can even deflect bullets.

On Safari in East Africa: Leopards and Cheetah

We had a spectacular month exploring East Africa – a real dream come true and centerpiece of our trip. It was awe-inspiring to see first hand in the wild what we had only seen in zoos. Handpicking the best of the best of the thousands of photos we took, the On Safari in East Africa series showcases the animals we were privileged to see in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Leopards

Leopards are extremely difficult to spot in the African bush. They’re shy, secretive and nocturnal. So it was incredibly lucky when we saw one on a game drive in Lake Nakuru, Kenya. In fact, it was Root who spotted it, nestled in a bush near the road and he shouted to our driver “Stop! Leopard!” and he slowly backed up the car. I was in the front seat with the window down and when the car stopped I was looking directly into the eyes of the leopard about 8 feet in front of me. As you can see from the photos below, its eyes were amazing. Such a beautiful creature. After a few seconds it turned its attention to some antelope nearby and started to slink its way through the grass towards them.

FACT

Leopards are incredibly strong and known for their climbing ability. They can carry carcasses weighing more than 110 pounds up into the trees and this is how they protect their food.

Cheetah

One of the very first animals we saw in the Serengeti was the cheetah. Built for speed, they are sleeker and lighter than leopards. They are so fast they don’t have to stalk their prey as much as the leopard. Their eyes are very exotic looking, with black "tear stripes" running from the corners of their eyes. These help block out sunlight, which aids them in spotting prey.

FACT

The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world, reaching speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. They can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just 3 seconds.

On Safari in East Africa: Elephants

We had a spectacular month exploring East Africa – a real dream come true and centerpiece of our trip. It was awe-inspiring to see first hand in the wild what we had only seen in zoos. Handpicking the best of the best of the thousands of photos we took, the On Safari in East Africa series showcases the animals we were privileged to see in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Elephants

Elephants are fascinating. They are not only the largest land animals on earth, they're also the most emotionally human. Seeing large herds in the wide open savanna was like peering back in time. After all, African and Asian elephants are the only two surviving species of what was a diverse group of large mammals in prehistoric times. On a boat ride in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, we saw two large elephants on the shore who appeared to be kissing :) Elephants are affectionate, social and compassionate, and have unique personalities like we do. 

While in Nairobi we visited a well-known orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation center. Sadly, many of these baby elephants' parents were killed by poachers. After a period of time at the center, they are carefully reintroduced back into the wild.

Our guide joked that this elephant had been trading with the Chinese. The Chinese are the world's biggest buyer of ivory (right behind the Americans). Far from a laughing matter, an estimated 36,000 elephants are being killed annually for their ivory. At this rate there will be no elephants in the wild by 2025!

Trees are elephant's back scratchers...we often saw them rubbing up against them.

FACT

An elephant's trunk contains over 40,000 muscles and can lift up to 770 pounds.

On Safari in East Africa: Zebra and Wildebeest

We had a spectacular month exploring East Africa – a real dream come true and centerpiece of our trip. It was awe-inspiring to see first hand in the wild what we had only seen in zoos. Handpicking the best of the best of the thousands of photos we took, the On Safari in East Africa series showcases the animals we were privileged to see in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Zebra and Wildebeest

Just minutes after landing in Africa on our taxi ride from the airport we saw our first animal, the zebra. Everywhere we went we saw their iconic black and white stripes. We even had some visit our campsite, which was great until we had to go to the bathroom and there were 4 or 5 zebra in the way. In the Masai Mara we saw massive herds of wildebeest and zebra on their great migration. They covered the plains, zig-zagging in jagged lines and clumps as far as the eye could see. The bearded faces of the wildebeest and stripped faces of the zebra will always remind us of the vast plains of the Masai Mara. A unique vision of two very unique animals.

Zebra and wildebeest are often found together because they have complimentary senses. Wildebeest have a great sense of smell that helps them find water, and zebra have keen eyesight to spot predators. Zebra mainly eat taller grasses while wildebeest eat the shorter ones. 

Baby zebra are born with brown instead of black stripes. As they mature the stripes become darker until they are their adult black color. No two zebra’s stripes are alike.

Millions of wildebeest migrate each year from their birthplace in the Serengeti to the Masai Mara. The 500 mile-long migration follows the rain cycle leaving the Serengeti in May, and returning in December.

FACT

Newborn wildebeest calves can stand after 2-3 minutes, and can run just 5 minutes after being born. (Can you imagine if human babies could run after 5 minutes?)

On Safari in East Africa: Giraffes

We had a spectacular month exploring East Africa – a real dream come true and centerpiece of our trip. It was awe-inspiring to see first hand in the wild what we had only seen in zoos. Handpicking the best of the best of the thousands of photos we took, the On Safari in East Africa series showcases the animals we were privileged to see in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Giraffes

Giraffes are really tall, yet incredibly graceful. Seeing giraffes gently roam the savanna was like a vision of Africa in my head come to life. 

One day we witnessed the ritual known as “necking” amongst a group of males. They were swinging their necks wildly at each other – quite amazing to see! Males establish social hierarchies in this way. Whichever giraffe uses his neck and head most effectively and remains standing the longest is the winner and allowed to mate with the female.

Not only long necks…giraffes have really, really long tongues! So feeding them little food pellets was pretty funny. (And slimy.)

Their favorite food though is acacia leaves. I kept wondering how they manage to eat these thorny things. Apparently, this is where that massive tongue comes in handy  to scrape off the leaves. Plus they have very tough lips to guard against scratching.

FACT

The giraffe is the tallest mammal in the world. Even newborn giraffes are taller than most humans.