When on safari it's always nice to enjoy a snooze in the afternoon between game game drives, especially if you have been up early looking for wildlife. For most of us, sleeping in isn't an option when there is so much to go and see, but thats not the case for these Hippos. When we joined them, they were enjoying a late morning snooze. Well why not.
We are very fortunate in that we often find Cheetah on safari. I have worked extensively with wild Lion and of-course Leopard, but only had an opportunity to work with Cheetah in a captive environment. They have a totally different temperament to many other big cats, which often lulls people into a false sense of security, they are after all an apex predator.
I’m Dan Swan, On Track Safari’s fresh-out-the-box intern and
my plan is to start this blog so that you can join me through my yearlong
adventure with Will, Carol and the rest of the OTS team. Originally a Worcester
kid, I finally ventured down to Bournemouth at the ripe old age of 20 to begin
my studies of Tourism Management at the University. With a placement year being
a hugely important part of my course, I began my hunt for my perfect work
experience. But as the months rolled by and with deadline drawing closer and
closer, the panic slowly set in.This
was until I stumbled across a small, very to the point, advertisement on my
University online facilities from my future head-honcho Will Fox. With a
passion for nature tourism and responsible travel, you can only image my
excitement (and relief) when this little internship advert described the
opportunity to a part of a company who not only run a range of African
safaris…but do so to fund their very own wildlife conservation organisation! To
me, Will and the company seemed so genuine in what they offer in their safaris
as well as their mission for protecting African big and furries.
Needless to say I was buzzing after the countless emails and
Skype calls with dodgy signal out in the bush that I finally landed my position
as intern with On Track Safaris. I’m now two months in and have already learned
so much from the team. Unlike my University peers, it feels like I have so much
freedom and responsibility in my position that has already led me to creating
marketing and promotion campaigns, utilising our social media channels and
being a part of the enquiry and booking process.
Track Safaris has given me this amazing opportunity to do something unique with
my placement year and this is only the beginning. I will be uploading regular
blogs so you can keep up to date with my journey during my time with OTS. Stay
tuned. Written by Dan Swan www.ontracksafaris.co.uk
Rhinos love to get down and dirty. Rolling or wallowing in mud is actually very good for their skin and helps remove ticks and parasites. This little one was just loving playing around in a mud wallow.
On Track Safaris CEO Will Fox has swapped his safari guide hat for his TV directors hat and is directing a series of LIVE safaris from the 29th November to 7th December. Click to watch the shows, which run from 16:00 - 19:00 CAT (GMT + 2) every day.
Will will be back leading many of our safaris from January 2015, when I'm sure he'll have a few more tales to tell.
We constantly strive to improve our safaris year on year. And next year we have definitely achieved that goal. Our 2015 fourteen day safari (see itinerary on our website) is in my view the best safari package we have ever offered.
Of-course as well as offering you fantastic accommodation, game viewing and chance to be involved with our work in conservation, we also need to ensure value for money. I am pleased to say we've achieved that again and can offer discounted prices that are actually significantly less than we charged in 2007!
The fantastic news is that we took silver in the world responsible tourism awards for wildlife conservation. Carol attended the award ceremony at WTM in London on Wednesday while I sat anxiously in the African bush waiting for news.
It's overwhelming to be recognised for our work in responsible tourism and to be second in the world awards is staggering.
We want to say a huge thank you to all of our safari guests who nominated and voted for us and of-course to Responsible Travel for their support.
Next years safaris are even better than before, so come and join us in Africa.
Within some game reserves the guides use a simple method to quickly identify the leopards they find on game drive.
Each leopards spot pattern is unique which makes identifying individual leopards relatively easy.
When we see leopards in the bush it’s often easiest to focus on the detailed pattern on its face and use a simple count of the spots on the face for quick identification purposes.
To do this we count the uppermost row of spots on the leopard’s cheeks. These are the spots above the upper line of whiskers. We can then refer to the ratio between each cheek first on the right cheek and then the left cheek. This means that in the example below there are two spots on the right and two on the left giving a 2:2 ratio.
This cheek spot ratio gives a great starting point to identify a leopard, but of-course it is possible that two leopards in the same reserve will have the same spot ratio. It may also be the case that the leopard is moving or at a distance. However there are generally other identification marks we can use. For example in the picture above there is a scar running down the nose, but it could also be a distinctive rosette shape on the body or similar unique markings.
The estimated age of an animal is also an aid to identification together with understanding the territories of the various leopards.
Overall its great fun getting to know the individual leopards who we see on safari.
Wednesday 5th Nov is a big day for us. It is when the winner of the world responsible tourism awards are announced. On Track safaris have been shortlisted for these awards and Carol will be at the ceremony with fingers crossed. I'll still be in Africa directing a series of wildlife TV shows for National Geographic, so can't attend the ceremony but will be waiting anxiously by the phone.
Whether we win or not, its great honour to have made the short list and a great testament for On Track Safaris. We're increasingly being recognised as a model of how a conservation based safari company can make a real difference.
It would be easy to think that accommodation venues that have conservation or green credentials need to compromise in terms of quality. As you can see from the pictures that is definitely not necessarily the case.
Why compromise, join on On Track safari and enjoy quality eco chic accommodation.
Diamond girl (resident leopard on our home reserve) has done it again. Over the last six years she has successfully raised six cubs and now we have our fourth litter.
The pictures come from camera traps that are part of our leopard research program.
Our 2015 safari guests may well be in for an extra treat as Diamond normally encourages her cubs to feel relaxed around game drive vehicles, so we hope to have plenty of opportunities for our guests to see the cubs grow. Exciting times.
Every year we look for ways to improve our safari packages. For example we will be including Raptors Retreat (pictured) in our standard safaris in 2015.
As you can see the quality of accommodation is fantastic.
One of the key elements of our safaris is that we prefer small friendly family run lodges, where our guests can feel at home. And as ever, we ensure that wherever we go, conservation and wildlife are important parts of the ethos of our lodges. But as I always say, that doesn't need to come at the expense of a touch of luxury.
We normally stop in the bush for a sun-downer (drink taken in the bush, surprisingly as the sun sets) and then continue the last half of an hour of our afternoon game drives as darkness falls.
These are magical times when the balance swings in favour of predators and the nightly opera unfolds.
Of-course because its dark we have to use a spot light to search for animals, but there are strict ethical codes that we follow to ensure we don't interfere of affect the natural balance.
By its very nature, night drives are less productive in terms of sightings then day time viewing, but when we do come across animals, its a magical experience.
Much maligned by cartoonists, but in truth fascinating creatures and very capable predators. Spotted Hyena soon become a favourite with many of our guests, especially the youngsters.
As can been seen below they re inquisitive creatures and when young often very inquisitive, as per this youngster who aims to bite the metal steps of our land rover.
He or she (its hard to tell at this age) will soon learn that land rovers are not food. It's great that they feel relaxed in our company, but as I remind our guest often, they are wild animals, so we need to always be aware.
Guided bush walks are a great way to experience the African bush. These are the times with your boots are on the ground when you'll not just view animals but be part of Africa.
Learn how a termite mound is made and how that fascinating eco system works, or the local uses for many of the trees and bushes. For example the tooth brush tree or the toilet paper bush with its soft and plentiful leaves :-)
Early morning is the best time to take a bush walk, in those magical hours after dawn when the light is perfect for tracking and its still a pleasant temperature.
As many of you will know Diamond Girl is one of the resident leopards on our home reserve. This year she has produced her fourth litter of cubs as can been seen in the camera trap pictures.
Now that she has started to move her cubs they'll no doubt be seen more and more on game drive. Join us in Africa www.ontracksafaris.co.uk
On Track Safaris has been given a great boost by progressing to the shortlist of the 2014 World Responsible Travel Awards in the best for wildlife conservation category.
We're up against some stiff competition but we're feeling good about our chances. After all we're a company whose ethos is based on creating funds for our work in wildlife conservation and community support, so we should be in with a chance.
Carol has been invited to attend the award ceremony at the World Travel Market held in London in November, when we will find out how we have done. In the meantime we're crossing everything.
We are able to offer a specialist photographers safari in September 2015. Photographers Ian and Rose Locock will be leading a safari from the 14th - 25th September 2015 offering personal tuition to aspiring photographers while visiting three big five game reserves. Ian Rose Photography are a husband and wife team who have a passion for experiencing and photographing the wildlife and bush of Africa.
If photography is your passion, then they are offering an affordable Big Five safari photographing lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo as well as a whole host of other mammals, birds and reptiles.
This safari has been specifically tailored for photographers who are as keen as we are at seizing every opportunity to get the perfect shot without the hustle and bustle of a normal safari package.
The package we are offering allows you to experience taking African wildlife photographs in a dedicated safari vehicle with only 6 semi professional photographers. You will have you own seat at the edge of the vehicle and plenty of space to store extra equipment as well as a knowledgeable guide from each lodge.
Our experience will enable us to have the vehicle in the best positions for photographing wildlife as well as offering you guidance from capturing images to post processing.
Whenever we can we invite our safari guests to get involved hands on with our work in conservation. Next year we will be assisting in a Rhino micro chipping project and offering a special safari that includes a chance to be hands on, alongside the capture team as they dart wild rhino to fit a micro chip as part of an essential anti rhino poaching initiative.
This week Rudi (one of the guides at our safari base Black Leopard Camp), got more than he bargained for when he was assisting vets in darting Kudu from a helicopter. Keen as ever Rudi was on the ground quickly tracking and finding the sedated Kudu to check they were ok. At one point as he ran quickly through the bush to get to a sedated Kudu, he didn't notice the Rhino bull that was also close by hidden in the bush. Quick on his feet and in true James Bond style, he swerved around the Rhino (which was more interested in the helicopter at the time) and got to the Kudu, shaken but not stirred.
Exeter Uni Lecturer Sarah Rose with a poster from Nail Biting Reality
I was very fortunate to be invited to speak at Exeter Universities Grand Challenges week this year to talk about African wildlife conservation as well as sit in on a few of the student group workshops. One group were looking at the huge Rhino poaching issue and examined the problem from a new angle.
Rhino horn is used in Chinese Traditional Medicine, yet it is just keratin the same as human finger nails. So their project was to promote the use of human finger nail clippings instead of Rhino horn, as seen in the pic above. They call their project Nail Biting Reality, which you can follow on social media. It's a great take on creating an anti poaching campaign and one we support.
Early morning in Thorny Bush game reserve and we find ourselves once again in the company of a relaxed herd of Ele's. A wonderful experience and one I never tire of.
Oh yes and cameras come in all shapes and sizes.
Written by Will Fox www.ontracksafaris.co.uk
We often track lions while on safari. Early mornings may be sometimes chilly in an open game drive vehicle, but are the best time to track animals.
We found this lioness after she had been enjoying her breakfast, a definite case of a messy eater.
Pictured above left to right. Head guide Becky Freeman, CEO Will Fox and Customer liaison Carol Fox accompanied by safari guests and the nursery class teacher that On Track Safaris funds at Sizo primary school in South Africa.
We started this nursery class in January and it has been a huge success. One that we intend to keep going for years to come.
You can keep up to date with daily pictures from our team via our twitter page.
While guests were out on game drive, Tangala lodge had some unexpected guests turn up. At first, they seemed to want to go around the lodge, but then decided the trees next to the rooms looked very tasty.
After unsuccessful attempts to get them to leave the area, all that could be done was keep out of the way until they were finished.