Posts Tagged ‘africa’

September 22, 2015

See the Big Five on Safari

There is a lot of talk about the Big Five when talking about going on an African Safari. You may have heard the names, but do you really know the Big Five? The Big Five was a term coined decades ago by big-game hunters to give a nick name to the five hardest animals to hunt on foot, mainly due to the danger involved. Conservation efforts have greatly reduced the hunting of the Big Five and while this practice needs to stop altogether, the term Big Five has been reclaimed by conservation groups, tour companies, and travelers as a nick name for five of the most magical creatures that the world has to offer.

The African Lion

Brothers we saw heading to get water. They had just eaten.

A pair of male lions spotted on safari

One of the most iconic animals in the world, the African lion is one of the most sought after animals for safari goers to look for. It is easy to distinguish male lions from female lions. Male lions boast magnificent manes, one reason it may be the most recognizable animal symbol in the world. The largest population of lions can be found roaming the national parks and plains of Western Africa. Seeing a lion in the wild can easily be the highlight of a safari!

The Black/White Rhino


A lone rhino out in the bush

There are five species of rhinoceros in the world and two of them, the white and black rhinoceros, are native to Africa. Interestingly enough, the white and black rhinoceros are not at all distinguishable by color. There is no consensus as to why the white rhino became the “white” rhino and the black rhino was only given its name to show a difference from the white rhino. The main difference between the two is the shape of their mouths. Black rhinos have a pointed lip that they use to eat fruit from branches and the white rhino has a flat wide lip making it easier to graze on grasses. Both species can be found in Western Africa. The black rhino is critically endangered and the white rhino is listed as near threatened.

The African Leopard

Leopard cleaning its chops after eating a Baboon in the Masai Mara

A leopard relaxing out in the grass

The most distinguishing characteristic of the African leopard is its gorgeous coat of fur which ranges from pale yellow to deep gold with black spots all over.  Leopards are very skilled at adapting to different habitats and can be found in much of sub-Saharan Africa from mountain ranges to savannahs and grasslands. The only climate they will not be found is in extreme desert environments. Leopards become the most active between sunset and sunrise, making late night and early morning safaris the best time to spot them!

The Cape Buffalo

He's an old soul this one

He’s an old soul this one

One of the most dangerous animals in the Big Five category, the Cape buffalo is highly unpredictable. Adult buffalos have a large set of horns on its head and have what is called a fused base creating a bone shield across the top of its head forming a “boss.” The Cape buffalo is one of the most successful grazers in Africa living in swamps and floodplains. Thy have very few predators and are regularly able to defend themselves against lion attacks. It is not rare to see packs of Cape buffalo stopping at a watering hole in the Serengeti!

The African Elephant

Taking the kids for a sip of water

Taking the kids for a sip of water

The largest of all the Big Five animals is the African Elephant. In fact, the African bush elephant is the largest land mammal in the world and it is also one of the most intelligent. The elephant is recognized quite easily by its large body, huge floppy ears, long trunk, and a beautiful pair of ivory tusks. The African elephant is vulnerable and soon may be placed on the endangered list if poaching does not stop. While on safari though, it’s a real joy to see elephants picking leaves off of trees or strolling down the road.

The Big Five can be seen in a handful of African countries, but Tanzania is widely regarded as they best. With annual events such as the great migration, going on safari in Tanzania gives families an opportunity to seen not just the Big Five but other incredible animals as well. Seeing amazing animals in their natural habitat can easily be the highlight of any family vacation!

July 28, 2015

What Makes a South Africa Family Vacation so Magical?

South Africa is country that begs to be explored. It’s a magical place from its cities to its bushveld. South Africa has something for everyone, history lovers, wildlife explorers, sports fans, and everything in-between. With a troubled past and bright future, thanks to a strong and warm people, South Africa becomes more than just a destination for vacation or a trip. It becomes an experience that can be trans-formative for travelers. To begin to understand what makes South Africa a magical place, you need to understand its history, current strides toward progress, and a bit about what makes it unique.


It wasn’t until 1994 that apartheid, state enforced racial segregation, was officially disbanded and South Africa held its first fair and democratically held presidential election. In the first election under the new constitution, Nelson Mandela won the presidency. Nelson Mandela’s victory did not come easy. It took decades of social activism by a majority of the country and Mandela himself spent 18 years in a political prison on Robben Island. Visiting Robben Island is one way to see South Africa’s history up close. Although apartheid isn’t too far in the past, it’s the dedication and outlook toward a better future that is inspiring and kids and adults alike will have an unmatched learning experience while in South Africa.

Social and Cultural Development

Music is a great way to spur social and cultural development

Music is a great way to spur social and cultural development

When Thomson Family Adventures sends families to South Africa we make sure that it is not only educational but fun! As mentioned earlier, the past of South Africa is troubled. The effects of apartheid have not yet all been eradicated. The good news is that there are several programs that are dedicated to bettering the communities and people of South Africa. By visiting youth development programs in Cape Town’s Langa Township you can meet the people and kids working towards a better South African future through dance, music, and the arts. When staying at the Grootbos Reserve it’s rewarding to see how your travels can positively impact a community, not mention its location in the beautiful fynbos. There is no feeling like making new friends and giving back to the world while in the midst of an adventure!

Unique Wildlife

Cape buffalo spotted on safari!

Cape buffalo spotted on safari!

It isn’t just the people in South Africa that are magical and inspiring, it’s also the wildlife. You may know that South Africa is one place that you can spot the Big 5 animals in Africa. Going out on a safari to see lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, rhinos, and leopards can be life changing. Not only can you find the Big 5 in South Africa, but also the Marine Big 5: bottle-nose dolphins, African penguins, fur seals, whales, and the great white shark. This is the only country in the world where you can find the Big 10! You’ll also get to see zebras, wild dogs, giraffes, and gazelles. These are the types of animals that most people only see on TV or in a zoo. Seeing them out in the open and in their natural habitat is a completely different feeling and will inspire awe and wonder in you and your child.

Feel the magic of South Africa on your next family vacation!

January 30, 2012

Top 5 Misconceptions About Tanzania

Every zebra has its own unique stripes

Anyone who has been raised with any access to the media and popular entertainment undoubtedly harbors some misconceptions about the vast continent of Africa. Did you even know this continent is made up of 47 different countries? It’s not our fault; these misconceptions are innocent reactions to countless influences – both subtle and overt – that we have all been exposed to throughout our upbringings. If you follow world news, which doesn’t tend to report much about the day-to-day affairs of a typical African neighborhood, you probably have a general image of Africa that applies far more accurately to certain areas than others. And if you’ve ever watched Blood Diamond or The Lion King, you may subconsciously view Africa as a place full of violence, corrupt governments, and animals with very big teeth on the loose .

Tanzania has not escaped the broad generalizations thrust upon the continent as a whole, and we present here 5 myths this unique land often falls victim to:

1.) It is sweltering hot. Nope! Africa is an enormous continent with a huge range of climates. Some areas do tend to record some very high temperatures, but Tanzania is generally a pretty comfortable tropical country; it is temperate and spring-like on the interior, hotter and more humid near the coast and extremely cold at high altitudes (do NOT wear a t-shirt and shorts to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro!)

2.) It is unstable. There are definitely some unsafe countries in Africa plagued by political strife and unstable governments. Tanzania is not one of them. Travelers to Tanzania have a very low risk of encountering any violence or danger – the 120+ ethnic groups in the country maintain cordial relationships with one another, and Tanzania has earned the unofficial title “Switzerland of Africa” for its use as a neutral international meeting ground.

3.) It is full of animals looking to eat me. You are not going to get eaten. The places we’ll take you to view the incredible wildlife Tanzania has to offer are national parks created to protect the natural habitat of these animals. Because this is where these animals live and roam freely, you are never allowed to wander outside of your custom-designed safari vehicle. And you will always be accompanied by expert guides who know these regions intimately and value safety first. Besides, you probably don’t even taste that good.

4.) Sleeping conditions will be uncomfortable. Will you be staying in the Four Seasons? No. Families go on safari to witness wildlife and nature in its remote beauty, not for hotel amenities. That being said, you won’t exactly be roughing it by safari standards. Your family will be retreating each night to comfortable lodges and our exclusive nyumba campsites with en-suite toilet tents, gourmet cuisine, hot showers, and real beds with 400 thread count sheets. Who says pampering isn’t possible in the wild?

5.) The place is crawling with disease-ridden insects. Not the case. The places we’ll be traveling to do not carry a high risk of contracting diseases from insects. You should consult a doctor or travel clinic for advice on which shots to get beforehand, but with the appropriate yellow fever and anti-malarial vaccinations, you’ll be perfectly fine.

So, as you consider a family trip to Tanzania, remember that you probably encounter more danger on your drive to work or a stroll around the nearest major American city than you will in the “Switzerland of Africa,” and that drive to work definitely doesn’t offer as many opportunities to see lions, wildebeest, zebra and majestic gazelle.

Thanks to our colleague Joe O’Riordan for this contrubution to the blog!