Posts Tagged ‘safari’

Meet the Zoo’s Gorillas

Thursday, April 29th, 2010
Kibibi means "little lady" in Swahili. Photo - National Zoological Park.

Kibibi means “little lady” in Swahili. Photo – National Zoological Park.

At the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, our family of Western Lowland Gorillas is growing. Its newest member, Kibibi, born at the zoo on January, 10, 2009, can be found climbing and playing near her mother, 28-year-old Mandara.

Kibibi, who is getting bigger on grapes, bananas, and sweet potatoes, is known for her inquisitive nature. She spends her time hanging out with her acrobatic brother Kojo, but always seems to have her mom in sight.Gorillas are fascinating creatures. Whether you’re watching them at the Zoo, or doing some gorilla trekking on our upcoming adventure in Uganda and Rwanda, there are some simple rules for making the most of your experience.


A mountain gorilla finds a meal in the Ugandan jungle.

First, try not to stare, as a gorilla may see this as aggression and assume you want to fight. Instead, do what the gorillas do – check them out from under lowered brows and glance away quickly as your eyes meet. To avoid intimidating a gorilla, crouch down and make yourself smaller. Try to treat gorillas as you would a small child – avoid sudden movements and loud noises.

For more information on gorillas, see the Zoo’s primate page, or check out our interview with our Mammal Curator, Kris Helgen.

Ready for an adventure? Click for more information on our Uganda and Rwanda Gorilla Safari. Limited space is still available.

What’s the most amazing thing about primates? Please share!

Little-Known Facts About Lions

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

You know what they say—”Know before you go.” Here are five interesting facts about lions, to get you ready for that Tanzanian safari  you’ve always wanted to take.

Male lions are responsible for protecting the pride from predators. Their manes darken as they age.

Male lions are responsible for protecting the pride from predators. Their manes darken as they age.

  • Young lions have spots, which fade as they mature.
  • Lions at the Smithsonian National Zoo are fed beef and horsetails once a week to keep their teeth and jaws strong.
  • As recently as 10,000 years ago, lions roamed across the world from North and South America to Europe, Africa, and Asia. Today, they live only in the southern Sahara, South Africa, and India.
  • Ancient images of lions can be found in the Lascaux caves in France.
  • Lions are highly social animals, and live in a matriarchal society. Female lions in a pride work together to hunt and care for their cubs and are known to synchronize birth cycles to make cub care easier.

Ready to see some lions up close? Join Smithsonian Journeys for a Tanzania Safari.

What’s your favorite big cat?

Travel Hit List: Tanzania

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
A leopard takes an afternoon rest. Photo: Vanessa Siemens, Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

A leopard takes an afternoon rest. Photo: Vanessa Siemens, Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

Is a Tanzanian Safari on your life list? Find out more about what a trip to Tanzania can offer you:

Read: an account from the midst of the annual wildebeest migration across the Serengeti Plain.

Hear: Music from across the continent, courtesy of Radio Africa, a partnership between the Smithsonian Museum of African Art and Smithsonian Global Sound.

Watch: Our live lioncam to see what the lions at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park are up to these days.

Eat and Drink: Learn all about how coconuts, bananas, and honey figure into a traditional Tanzanian feast, and see recipes here.

Check out: This account of a special afternoon in Tanzania, by one of our expedition leaders.

Go: Now is a great time to book a journey to Tanzania.

Join: Smithsonian Journeys is on Facebook. Become a fan today.

What’s on your life list? Share below.

Photo: Zebra Stripes

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009
Photo: Edgar Angelone, Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

Photo: Edgar Angelone, Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest

Zebras‘ stripes come in different patterns unique to each individual. Generally social animals, zebra “harems,” or groups, range from small family units to large herds. Some zoologists believe that the stripes act as a camouflage mechanism, with the vertical stripes helping the zebra to hide in grass from lions, who are color blind. Stripes are also believed to play a role in sexual attractions, with slight variations of the pattern allowing the animals to distinguish between individuals.

Click here to view our wildlife tours.

Click here to view our tours to Africa.

Wild Dogs on Safari

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Don Wilson is curator of mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and was named senior scientist in January, 2000. For the last 30 years, his work has taken him around the world to conduct field work and research. He has led tours for Smithsonian Journeys to most of the world’s greatest natural history destinations, from Antarctica to Africa. Click here to learn more about Don.

Kruger National Park is South Africa’s largest game reserve, and has long been one of my favorites. As a long-time Study Leader, I have made lots of trips to Africa over the years, but in the summer of 2007 my wife Kate and I had the good fortune to join a wonderful couple and 19 of their children and grandchildren on the experience of a lifetime. To celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, they took the whole family on an African safari by private plane.

One of the most memorable destinations was a private lodge and reserve bordering Kruger. It was the 21st of July, mid-winter in the southern hemisphere, and the morning air was nippy when morning tea was delivered to our thatch-roofed rondavel. Warmed by a hearty breakfast enjoyed while overlooking the Sand River, we headed out on our morning game drive in open-topped vehicles.

A wild dog plays around with it's pups. Photo: Don Wilson

A wild dog plays around with its pups in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Photo: Don Wilson

Having seen a plethora of wildlife, including the “Big Five” in our first two days here, we were on a special mission this morning. Our driver guides had told me about a den of African Wild Dogs, and although I had done research on mammals and led safaris to Africa for 30 years, I had never seen this impressive predator in the wild. Because we were in a private reserve rather than inside the National Park, we were able to ease our way through the scrub forest to a spot very near the den. In fact, we were so close, the pups came right up to the vehicle and were smelling the tires. (more…)