Friday May 24, 2013
It's likely that you are familiar with the great annual migration of millions of wildebeest and zebra that make their way through the Serengeti and the Masai Mara. You may have heard of the great annual sardine run that takes place in May through July along South Africa's Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal coast. Literally billions of fish gang together for safety as they swim up the coast, eagerly chased by birds, sharks, seals and even penguins. But it's unlikely that you've heard about the parrotfish run. I had not heard about this fishy event until quite recently.
The parrotfish run takes place every year between June and August, just upstream from the Victoria Falls where the river marks the border between Zambia from Zimbabwe. With the long rains over, millions of fish from the floodplains get pulled downstream by the main river current. Once they hit some smaller rapids, they're easy catch for fisherman waiting with baskets. So easy in fact, that there's a bit of a party atmosphere along the banks during this time of plenty. Here are some fun facts I've discovered about this colorful migration...
The Parrotfish Run
- Involves millions of parrotfish swimming downstream
- Parrot fish tend to show up on the darkest nights
- Parrotfish are bottom feeders and have relatively large brains
- Parrotfish belong to the elephant fish family - Mormyridae
- Local families have specific channels only they can fish from during the bonanza
- Fish are caught using baskets strung from mopane trees
- The full baskets are loaded into dugout canoes and brought to the main river bank for sale
- Parrotfish are a great source of cooking fat
- The best place to witness the event is from the Royal Chundu Lodge
More About: The Sardine Run l The Great Annual Migration l Victoria Falls
Monday May 20, 2013
The UN has recently urged more people to eat insects to combat hunger. I grew up eating flying ants in Malawi, but things change as you become an adult, and my affinity for insect eating abated. I did have the opportunity to taste Mopane worms a year ago. The fact that Mopane worms are not worms, but caterpillars (Empire moth larva to be exact), did not make them any more palatable. But I was somewhat game to try them because many rural people throughout Southern Africa eat them, they are healthy ... and I knew my children would appreciate the story.
The opportunity presented itself at the Boma Restaurant on the grounds of the lovely Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. I had bungee jumped first thing in the morning, enjoyed an elephant-back safari in the afternoon, and felt pretty confident going into dinner. The Boma caters to tourists, but its menu is quite authentically African. You are greeted with a little sorghum beer (an acquired taste) and then invited to enjoy the massive buffet spread complete with kudu terrine, roast warthog, sadza, ground nuts, and a vat of Mopane worms (also an acquired taste).
The entertainment was just getting started, and as I wound my way through dancers performing an energetic Ndebele number, I heard a friendly voice say "Just try one, it tastes like biltong". Biltong happens to be my favorite food on the planet. I'm rarely seen without a piece hanging out of my mouth in this part of the world. I looked over to see what this magical food was - and presto, the vat of Mopane worms. They looked quite tempting all fried with garlic and tomatoes, especially if you ignored the black head. I popped one into my mouth and began to chew, and chew, and chew, and chew. Want to know what they tasted like? Read all about it here: The Mopane Worm...
Thursday May 16, 2013
South Africa is an amazing destination for a family vacation. It's easy to get to with direct flights from several cities in Europe and the US. The roads are excellent, so renting a car in South Africa poses no problems, and gives you the flexibility you need when traveling with children. Malaria-free safaris offer a stress free experience for parents with children who are sensitive to medications Do your planning properly and your family will truly have the holiday of a lifetime.
There are plenty of options, from a simple trip to the beach or mountains, to once-in-a-lifetime thrill such as a hot air balloon ride or an elephant ride through the African bush. Here's a list of "Top 10 Activities for Children in South Africa", giving you a taste of some of the most exciting options available for a truly unforgettable adventure.
More About: Planning a South African Vacation With Kids l Family Safaris in Africa l Family Vacations in Africa
Monday May 13, 2013
If you happen to be on South Africa's eastern coast during the winter months (June - July), check out the Sardine Run. It takes place along South Africa's Wild Coast and is hailed as one of nature's most spectacular events. It's an underwater version of the great annual migration of wildebeest in East Africa. Every year millions of sardines spawn in the cool waters of the Agulhas Bank (south of South Africa) and move northward to the warmer waters, just along South Africa's east coast. It's not unusual for shoals to be 4 miles long and 1 mile wide, they are clearly visible from the surface of the ocean.
The sardines are followed eagerly by predators. Thousands of dolphins, sharks, sea birds and seals enjoy this fishy banquet. To protect themselves from this onslaught, sardines form into giant balls called 'bait balls' which can measure as large as 65 feet (20 meters) in diameter. While bait balls are difficult to get up close and personal with (they dissolve after ten minutes or so) -- the predators that abound during this time in these waters make for some truly spectacular diving opportunities.
Just to add to the excitement - the Sardine Run also coincides with the annual migration of Humpback Whales that move north for the season into warmer water to mate and calve. Coupled with the occasional African penguin looking for a sardine snack, this is truly a wildlife spectacle not to be missed.