Why Elephant Trunks Have 40,000 Muscles (And Other Amazing Facts for World Elephant Day)

Young Elephant In The Serengeti

From a distance, you’re the first to spot a string of dots moving slowly along the Serengeti horizon. From the comfort of your safari vehicle these animals appear small, almost like ants, as they march single-file.

“Let’s go get a closer look,” says your guide. Yes, you think. Yes, please.  

The speed picks up. Dust spirals behind your vehicle. Each member of your small group holds onto their hats as the Land Cruiser draws near, closer, so close now that those horizon dots grow feet and legs, big legs, legs the size of trees. And above those legs flap huge ears, wailing trunks, and leather skin.

Closer you drive until you’re twenty feet from these beasts, animals about as far from ants as you could ever imagine. You’ve spotted a herd of thirty African bush elephants. The herd is spread out, and your guide explains they are all headed towards the river for a drink.

“They can drink up to fifty gallons a day,” your guide explains. “About the amount of a typical bathtub!”

This flotilla of land mammals — the largest on the planet — slides steadily along the savannah, and you drive along next to them for the next hour, speechless, in awe. Sure, this landscape is vast, but this elephant sighting just made it larger-than-life.

Herd Of Elephants Spotted On A Safari In Tanzania

Introducing the African Bush Elephant

A safari just isn’t complete without an intimate encounter with an African bush elephant. These Cadillacs of the Serengeti are just too iconic, and too powerful to avoid.

As one of the “Big 5“, you will most certainly encounter your fair share of elephants in Tanzania, so why not arrive with a few important elephant facts?

  • Species Name: Loxidonta africana. There are three recognized species of elephants — the African Bush, African Forest, and Asian. You will likely only see the African bush elephants on safari.
  • Average lifespan: 60-70 years. Elephants have no natural predators, other than humans. Some experts say that teeth health actually determine an elephants lifespan! (Source)
  • Size: 8-12 feet. Some adults can reach up to 24 feet in length, too!   
  • Range: African bush elephants are located only in Central and South Africa.
  • Estimated Population: Roughly 415,000 African elephants. Before the 20th century there were an estimated 3-5 million.

A Lone Elephant Walking Through The Serengeti

Elephants by the Numbers: Five Need-to-Know Statistics about the African Bush Elephant.

24,000 Pounds. This is the weight of the largest known elephant ever recorded (11,000 kg), discovered in Angola. The average adult elephant you will see on an Easy Travel safari will be around 13,000 pounds (5,900 kg) for males and 6,600 pounds (3,000 kg) for females.  

300 Pounds. Large bodies mean large appetites, and the African bush elephant is constantly having to shove grasses, roots, and bark into its mouth to fend off hunger. These guys are known to eat upwards of 300-350 pounds of food per day!

40,000 Muscles. Each trunk of an average elephant carries 40,000 muscles in their trunk. Crazy, right? Unlike popular belief, these trunks are not used for drinking but, rather, to flip water into their mouths, almost like a spoon. Here are some other amazing things for which elephants use their trunks.

50 Years. Adult elephants will mate up until they are aged 50, and females will typically give birth every 5 years. Sometimes the births can take days, and baby elephants, as you might have guessed, are large upon arrival. Can you imagine giving birth to a baby that weighs 300 pounds? (Source)

8/12. Mark your calendars, because August 12 is World Elephant Day, a day dedicated to “bring attention to the urgent plight of the Asian and African elephants” worldwide. Started in 2011, this day is now officially recognized by over 65 wildlife organizations, many countries, and popular celebrities. Easy Travel supports World Elephant Day, along with many social and environmental initiatives. Learn more and follow their important work here.

Two Young Elephants Playing With Their Trunks On Safari In Tanzania

 

Top 3 Easy Travel Destinations to Spot Elephants? Tarangire National Park, the Serengeti, and Ngorongoro Crater

Bottom Line?

We love elephants. So much. To be fair, there are dozens more fascinating elephant behaviors to learn about — Herds are led by a matriarch! Elephants grieve and weep, and feel joy! — but know this: any Easy Travel tour will guarantee you a close-up experience with these incredible African bush elephants, found nowhere else on Earth. Our experienced guides have decades of experience and can share loads of elephant information with you, too.

 


Getting You There?

Contact us today and let’s get you started on designing an experience of a lifetime. Our Easy Travel staff can customize trips for you to elephant-dense corners of Tanzania.

Additional Resources:

 

Five Chimpanzee Facts That Will Blow your Mind

Amazing Facts About Chimpanzees

On July 2, 2018, Easy Travel owner Sayyedah Hirji Gulamhussein watched in awe as world-famous primatologist-anthropologist Dr Jane Goodall stepped on stage in Arusha, Tanzania, to deliver a riveting speech about her life’s work and love: chimpanzees.

Sayyedah left feeling deeply inspired. It’s generally agreed that Jane Goodall is the world’s leading expert on chimpanzees. She has been an instrumental figure in wildlife conservation worldwide, most notably in East Africa. Goodall has dedicated her entire life to studying, understanding, and caring for the welfare of our closest nonhuman relatives, and the bulk of her chimpanzee studies occurred in, yes, Tanzania.

A Chimpanzee Spotted Laying Down Under The Bushes

July 14, 2018 is the First-Ever World Chimpanzee Day. To honor Jane Goodall and these incredible animals, we are dedicating a post entirely to the chimpanzee, our closest cousin on the tree of life. To this day, Tanzania remains one of the best places on Earth to spend time with these chimps. So here it is, all the need-to-know info about chimpanzees, just for you.

Sayyedah - Easy Travel Owner Meeting Dr Jane Goodall

How Jane Goodall Fell in Love with Chimps (and Tanzania)

Before we dive into chimp life, here’s your two minute history on Jane Goodall: Goodall was born in London, England in 1934. In her early twenties, she visited a family friend’s farm in Kenya’s highlands, and this began a lifelong love affair with East Africa. Goodall would later connect with famous archaeologist Louis Leakey, who hired her as secretary and sent her to the Olduvai Gorge (site to the earliest known evidence of our human ancestors; a recommended stop on Easy Travel tours!) and, later, to Gombe National Park, in 1960. Back in England, after receiving her PhD in ethology Goodall would return to Tanzania and spend years studying chimpanzee behavior, thus setting into motion one of the longest scientific research projects in the world.

Certificate From Jane Goodall For Visiting

She would later go on to establish the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977. Today, Goodall travels over 300 days a year as the world’s foremost advocate for wildlife conservation. Watch this breathtaking video of Jane Goodall assisting in a chimpanzee reintroduction program:

Introducing the Chimpanzee:

    • Species Name: Pan troglodytes. The genus Pan includes both the chimpanzee and bonobo. Both are endangered.
    • Average Lifespan: 45 years in the wild. The oldest known chimpanzee was 79 years old. (source)
    • Size: 5 – 5.5 feet (1.5 meters) 70-130lbs (32-60kg)
    • Range: Native to sub-Saharan Africa, some found in Northern Africa.
  • Estimated Population: 170,000 – 300,000 in the wild.

Family Of Chimpanzees Spotted In The Wild

Five Things to Know about Chimpanzees

1. They are our Closest Nonhuman Cousin

Google something like: “what animal is our closest relative?” You know what comes up? Chimpanzees. Well, the Great Apes come up—chimps, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas. 98% of our genes are shared with chimpanzees. Humans are to chimpanzees as horses are to zebras—we’re that similar! Mind officially blown.

2. Chimps Aren’t Monkeys 

Despite common misconception, the Great Apes are not monkeys, but, rather, of the family Hominidae, of which humans are part. Want to know a wildlife hack  to know the difference between monkeys and apes? Check out their butts. Monkeys have tails. Great Apes don’t.

3. Chimpanzees Understand Death 

Recent findings suggest that chimpanzees (like elephants) will mourn the death of kin. This is added to self-awareness, tool use, and warring factions as notable behaviors shared with humans: Here

Mind Blowing Facts About Chimpanzees

4.  Their Beds are Way Cleaner Than Ours

Not only do chimpanzees make their beds each night, but they also choose new locations and fresh materials, too. That’s right. Chimps will sleep in trees, and their nests are always far cleaner than the average human bed. (Source)

5.  Tanzania: Ground Zero for Chimpanzee Sightings

If there’s one place to visit chimpanzees in their natural habitat, it’s Tanzania. In Gombe National Park (Western Tanzania), there exists the most famous chimpanzee reserve in the world, again a result of Jane Goodall’s lifelong study and wildlife reserve.

Bottom Line?

Tanzania teems with an abundance of life that must continue to be respected and protected, like the chimpanzee. Jane Goodall’s work is far from over. Easy Travel is a committed outfitter to responsible tourism, and we strive to give back more than we receive. Take this approach and everyone wins.


Getting You There?

Interested in exploring chimpanzee habitat while in Tanzania? Our team can organize a tailor-made trip to Gombe National Park, and customize your trip to complement any other add-ons. From the more traveled Northern safari circuit to the most adventurous, off the beaten path destinations, like Western and Southern Tanzania, Easy Travel can meet you at any level of adventure.

Additional Resources:

National Geographic – Facts About The Chimpanzee

Things we have learnt about Chimpanzees

Jane Goodall – 10 Things About Chimpanzees

Five Things You Never Knew about Giraffes

Five things you never knew about Giraffes

“Well, as giraffes say, you don’t get no leaves

unless you stick your neck out.” – Sid Waddell

Imagine the very moment you were born. Imagine those first gasping breaths after traveling from womb to world. Now, imagine that instead of a doctor’s hands catching you, instead you had to fall six feet to the ground, to a great thud onto hard-packed Earth. Ouch.

When the dust settles, you take a look at your body, and everything is long: awkward legs, craning neck, and a tongue soon to reach 20 inches. Only two minutes old and already you weigh 100 pounds and are taller than most humans. It’s in this first hour where you will learn to run, because lions and leopards are licking their chops at your arrival. But you’ve got weapons: this muscle-bound neck, these long legs, this thick skull. They will all help you defend yourself, help you to survive.

You’re a giraffe. Welcome to Planet Earth. Now run.

Five things you never knew about Giraffes

Giraffes: The Skyscrapers of the Serengeti

In the all-star company of lions and elephants, rhinos and zebras, there are few other animals that paint our classic picture of safari like a giraffe nibbling on acacia trees at sunset. Something about their proportions and their unique stamp on the landscape seems to complete the savannah. Giraffes make any safari worthwhile and to witness them in their native habitat is a sight to behold.

But who exactly are these creatures? And how did they become so darn tall, so strange, so unique? Furthermore, how did the giraffe become the very symbol of safari, the national animal of Tanzania? (source)

For this, we’ve compiled an essential, need-to-know giraffe briefing just for you. Take a few minutes and review these five neck-bending facts, and you’ll come to a far better understanding of one of our favorite animals, the giraffe: the Skyscrapers of the Serengeti.

The Essentials:

    • Species name: Giraffe. The Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchii) is the largest and most common subspecies (there are nine) that you will see on East African safaris.
    • Average Lifespan: 25 years.
    • Size: 14-19 feet tall (4.3 m-5.7 m); average weight: 2,600lbs (1190kg)
    • Range: Central, eastern, and South Africa only. Giraffes only live in savannah ecosystems with open, arid grasslands with tall trees.
  • Estimated Population: Less than 100,000 worldwide.

 Two Giraffes Neck Rubbing In Tanzania On Safari

Top 5 Giraffe Facts You Probably Didn’t Know…

1 – Tallest Giraffe Ever? Meet Zulu, Nearly 20 Feet Tall 

The average size of an adult giraffe you see on safari will reach around 15-16 feet (4.5m-5m) and about 2,000-2,500lbs (900-1100kg), making them the tallest mammal on Earth. But 19.3 feet? Really? Zulu, a giraffe in captivity once measured taller than any other known giraffe, almost 20 feet! (source)

2 – Their Height isn’t for Hard-to-Reach Food, it’s for Sex

Growing up, I was always told the reason giraffes had such incredible reach with their necks was to monopolize on browsing the tops of trees and shrubs. This was called the “high-feeding” theory. This is only partly true. The dominant theory today, the “necks for sex” theory, is tied more to competing for mates, where male giraffes perform a “necking” ritual where they use their muscular neck and 500-pound heads to whip and wail each other, sparring for the attention of a desired female. Male giraffes will also gauge a female’s fertility by sampling her urine, but that’s another story. For a look at giraffes “necking” behavior take a look:

(Source)

3 – Giraffes Can Outrun Usain Bolt

Though giraffes aren’t known as the speediest animal of the Serengeti (see: the cheetah  to watch their 6-foot legs and disproportionate frames run at top speed (up to 35 mph) is a truly impressive site. The name “giraffe” actually derives from the Arabic word “zarafah,” translated as “fast-walker.” Here’s an extraordinary video of a giraffe’s sprinting escape from a lion hunt: (Source)

4 – Their Brains Are 2 Meters from Their Heart 

Because of the giraffe’s stretched proportions, you can imagine that blood must have to flow long distances to travel from their heart to head and limbs. Good thing giraffes have a huge and powerful heart (25 pounds, or 11kg! By comparison, the average human heart is roughly half a pound, or .23kg). This mega-heart is tasked with sending blood and oxygen over 6 feet (2 m.) to signal the brain. That’s longer than the height of most humans!  

5 – Giraffes Hum When They Sleep

Yup. Animals do the strangest things in their sleep, and giraffes are no different. Recently, researchers captured a low-level hum emanating from giraffes as they slept at night. Imagine the sounds that come from whales in the sea. Researchers still don’t know exactly why giraffes make these noises, but they do believe it could be a complex form of communication. Learn more.

Mother Giraffe and young giraffes spotted in the Serengeti

Bottom Line?

One main reason safaris are so memorable is that they sear into your heart singular moments, moments of awe, sunsets where the Serengeti will light up in golden fireworks and you will look out onto open grassland only to see wild animals moving freely about. This is the true essence of safari, the raison d’etre for committing to these trips. To watch a “tower” of giraffes float along the treetops, their heads anchored above acacias, is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before and will ever see again, such unusual and beautiful animals in an unusually stunning setting.


Getting You There?

Whether you are interested in a tailor-made, private safari or wish to join a small group tour, our Easy Travel representatives can work with clients on meeting their wildlife-viewing needs. Contact us today and let’s start designing your optimal safari.

The Serengeti’s Four Regions and Why They Are Important

The Serengeti From The Air - Aerial

The Serengeti. Even the word itself sounds far away, like a distant galaxy or unreachable star. Yes, we all know the Serengeti is in Africa. Yes, we know that the Serengeti is a place where lions roar and eagles soar, where hyenas laugh and hippos lounge–thanks Disney!–but what exactly is the Serengeti? How does it operate? And for our purposes, what region of the Serengeti is best suited for safari?

Look no further. This post is all about the WHAT, the WHY, and the WHERE of the Serengeti. Where exactly is the Serengeti, and in what sections do safaris typically travel? Because the word Serengeti quite literally means “endless plains” or “the place that rolls on forever,” in local Maasai language. Here, without a compass you could get turned around. Consider this post your compass.

Quick History: The Serengeti’s Beginnings

Sometimes mythical places like the Serengeti—or, say, the Egyptian Pyramids, Mount Everest, or the Amazon rainforest—fold so deeply in our imaginations that we forget to realize their true dimensions. To drill down and learn more about their history and nuance is to inject meaning into these destinations. Becuase the Serengeti is so vast (so vast, in fact, that it should be on everyone’s bucket list: here), let’s waste no time.

 At its most basic level, the Serengeti ecosystem is a region of outstanding biodiversity that straddles the political borders of Kenya and Tanzania (mostly in Tanzania). For millennia, these plains were virtually unknown to the outside world, until the end of the 19th century, when Austrian explorers first entered the scene, opening a floodgate of imperial hunting camps.

Wildlife numbers dropped precipitously, until the British ended hunting in a large portion of the area, which would become the Serengeti National Park. The size of Northern Ireland, this park now teems with over 2 million ungulates—wildebeest, gazelles, zebra, and innumerable other species. In 1981, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Learn more here.

Serengeti vs. Serengeti National Park.

Hearing travelers interchange the words “Serengeti” and “Serengeti National Park” is about as common as seeing a blue-balled vervet monkey swinging from the Tanzanian canopy. Technically, they are not the same thing. The Serengeti National Park is a protected area that extends 14,000 sq. kilometers (5,700 square miles) but lives within the greater Serengeti Ecosystem, a much larger region at 30,000 sq. km (12,000 sq miles). The Serengeti includes this national park plus several game reserves.

 For our purposes, we will be focusing on Serengeti National Park, the crown jewel of the region, a destination that receives over 350,000 visitors annually.

Four Regions of the Serengeti: Central (Seronera), Western Corridor, Northern, Southern

When dropping into Serengeti National Park, it can sometimes feel like you had been playing in the kiddie pool all your life and now, all of the sudden: BAM! You are in the deep end now and you must quickly orient yourself. Worry not: Easy Travel is here to help.

Each experienced driver-guide knows every nook and cranny of this park, and will provide you with much-needed context along the way. To give you a general sense of the region and all of its parts before you arrive, here’s a look at the four main regions of the Serengeti: Central (Seronera), Western Corridor, Northern, and Southern.

Region 1. Central (Seronera) Serengeti

If you only had one option for where to maximize your chance of seeing the most amount of wildlife in the least amount of time, better travel to Seronera. In both April and November, wildebeest will be migrating through here en masse. Though you will likely find several other outfitters in this area, this is considered the central heartbeat for the Serengeti. The Seronera River has one of the highest densities of leopards on the planet. Think postcard stretches of savannah, towering acacia and baobab trees, and you.

Region 2. Western Corridor and Grumeti

Spin your Serengeti dial west and you reach the Western Corridor and the infamous Grumeti River, one of the most dramatic river crossings for the millions of wildebeest that migrate endlessly in search of grasslands and water. The Great Migration makes its way to the Western Corridor late-May through June, and it is here where you will see wildebeest threading past lions and leopards and Nile crocodiles—some over 20 feet long (6.5m)!

Region 3. Northern Serengeti

By the beginning of July, the migration makes its way north to the upper, lesser-visited reaches of the park, where most of the animals will remain until September. Here you will find more woodlands and hills, along with the main highlight, the Mara River. During this period, wildebeest will cross the river several times, and, like the Grumeti River, these passages can be deadly. Here is some incredible footage of the scale of wildebeest at the Mara River: 

Region 4: Southern Serengeti

The Southern Region - Serengeti National Park - Safari

Southern Serengeti consists of short-grass plains, and it’s technically where the Great Migration begins. From December to March, wildebeests begin to grow and congregate in number in the south, in regions around Lake Ndutu, shared by both the Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. For a full look at Easy Travel’s Migration tour options, click here.

Bottom Line?

The Serengeti isn’t just some ephemeral dreamscape, but a real one, an ecosystem thriving off its millions of animals, its migrations, its predator and prey drama. It is all one seething mass of life and beauty, and to better understand these various pockets before arriving will give you an advantage. If the migration is what you’re focused on, tracking their movements will help you understand where they’re likely headed in any given season. Here’s our take on the best time of year to view the migration. Takeaway? There’s never a dull moment in the Serengeti. Each of the four regions offer unparalleled adventure and unique encounters with some of the most stunning creatures on the planet.


Getting You There?

Contact Easy Travel today to start charting out your Serengeti adventure. Our exceptional customer service staff thrive off of building custom trips that work with your busy life and specific goals on safari.

Why Cheetahs Don’t Roar (And Other Amazing Cheetah Facts)

The cheetah’s amber eyes sharpen their gaze as she identifies lunch three miles away: a Thomson’s gazelle. The average human couldn’t spot such movement with a pair of binoculars from that distance, but cheetahs? No problem.

It’s midday when the cheetah begins to close in on this gazelle. Her spotted coat and mantle of wavy back hair blends in perfectly with the savannah. Closer and closer the cheetah lurks. It’s midday, and unlike other big cats of the Serengeti, cheetahs prefer hunting during the day. Forty meters away. Twenty. Ten. Suddenly the race is on: the cheetah bursts from 0 to 60 miles per hour in three seconds, the time it takes you to blow your nose, and wham! Like a strike of lightning the cheetah trips her prey—unfortunate for the gazelle, a success for the cheetah. Lunch is served.

Elegant Cheetah Spotted On Safari With Easy Travel

Introducing Cheetah: The Purring Speedster of the Serengeti

Drill down far enough into why safaris are popular and you’ll come to the same conclusion: it’s all about the hunt. Our fantasies about the African bush are full of this dance between predator and prey, between food given and food received. To witness this drama on safari remains central to its allure. Here’s why we think Tanzania is the best choice for safari: Learn more

 

When you imagine your safari, what more iconic animal emerges than the cheetah, that regal feline with its slender torso, confident face, speed and agility. Known best for its velocity, the only reason these cats ever reach such world-record pace is due to one thing: the hunt.

The Cheetah: Essential Information.

Here are a few basic things to get you acquainted with the cheetah:

  • Species Name: East African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus). The name comes from the Sanskrit “chitraka” meaning “spotted one.” There are 5 subspecies of cheetah worldwide. The East African cheetah is the oldest and second largest subspecies after the South African cheetah.
  •  Average lifespan: 10-12 years
  •  Size: 2.5ft-3ft at the shoulder, 90-190 lbs (40-86 kgs). Can grow 4-6 feet long.
  •  Range: Cheetahs used to exist in large numbers in North America and Western Europe. They began a migration 100,000 ago and never looked back. (Source)
  •  Estimated Population: Worldwide: 7,100-12,000; Tanzania: 1,000 (mainly in the Serengeti); 400-500 in Ngorongoro; 3,000-4,000 elsewhere.  

5 Cheetah Facts That Will Make You Want To Experience An African Safari in Tanzania

Top 5 Cheetah Facts to Wow your Safari Group

1 – Their Secret Weapon for Speed? The Tail

True, cheetahs are the fastest land mammals on the planet. Their fastest recorded speed is 71 mph (112 km/h). You’d get a speeding ticket on most highways for driving that fast! But here’s the secret: it’s the tail. Cheetah tails are super long and flat — like 2-3 feet long — and full of muscles to help steer like a rudder while they’re bursting towards prey.

Another helpful adaptation for maximum speed is tear lines, black fur that runs from the insides of their eyes to the nose. Just as baseball players swipe black ink on each cheek to redirect sunlight away from the eyes, cheetahs evolved this trait so as to not become blinded by sun. Here is an incredible video of a slow-motion cheetah vaulting at top speed:

2 – Cheetahs Barely Drink Water

With all that running you’d expect these large cats to drink often, but this is not the case. Most of the water they do ingest is mainly through their prey. Cheetahs only take on average one drink of water every 3-4 days. (Source)

3 – Good at Running, Bad at Most Other Things

Cheetahs are indeed the Usain Bolt of the Serengeti, but their specialized anatomy leaves few other skills for evolutionary success. For example, cheetahs can’t see much at night, they can’t climb trees very well, and they lack genetic diversity. So it’s a good thing they can outrun every other animal out there.

4 – Iran has Cheetahs, Too

Most people only know of the cheetah as vaulting through African wilderness, but the Asiatic cheetah is a lesser known subspecies living in Iran. Critically endangered, there are only 50 Asiatic cheetahs left in the world. Similar in speed to the African cheetah, the Asiatic cheetah is perhaps slightly smaller.

Young Cheetah Cubs Playing On Safari In Tanzania, Africa

5 – Cheetahs Can’t Roar (They Meow.)

As a formidable feline  you’d expect cheetahs to roar something fierce, like lions or leopards. Hardly. Cheetah sounds come more in purrs and meows and chirps. Yes, chirps. Why no roar, you ask? It’s a simple matter of anatomy. Every roaring cat species—lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars—have what’s called a two-pieced hyoid bone that enables them to roar. No two-pieced hyoid, no roar. Sorry, cheetah. (Source)

Bottom Line?

Cheetahs rule the roost with their speed and agility. As muscle-bound, daylight hunters of the savannah, look out for these stealthy ones perched atop rock outcroppings and cliffs (hopefully not in your safari vehicle! Cool, curious, and confident, you’re bound to spot one of these “spotted ones” on your Easy Travel Safari. Contact us today and let’s design your safari dreams together.

Additional Sources:


Getting You There?

With over 30 years of experience, Easy Travel are an award winning tour operator with extensive knowledge of the local wildlife in Tanzania. Our guides all have decades of experience and know where to go, when to go, and how best to see these animals (and many more!). Click here for more info. Get up close and personal on our Comfort Wildlife Encounters tour. Alternatively get in touch and build your journey of a lifetime.