Sunday March 9, 2014
I've always had the sneaking suspicion that animal group names are more poetic than scientific. Come to find out, that many of them actually are made up by some eccentric lady more than 500 years ago. Dame Juliana Berners wrote an essay on hunting in the Book of St Albans in 1486. In the essay she classified groups of animals with nouns that she simply thought sounded good. And so we have a gaggle of geese, an army of ants, a school of fish, a pride of lions, a troop of baboons and some of my favorites:
A crash of rhinos
A cackle of hyenas
A coalition of cheetahs
An obstinacy of buffalo
A conspiracy of ravens
An intrusion of cockroaches
A murder of crows
A tower of giraffes
A bloat of hippos
A leap of leopards
Some groups of animals have more than one name. You can say a herd of buffalo, a troop or a gang. But I think an obstinacy of buffalo sounds best, don't you? The good thing about group names having their basis in poetry and not science is that we can simply make them up ourselves. How about a snort of hippos, a rumble of elephants, or a polka of leopards?
Find more group names from the San Diego Zoo and the NPWRC.
Tower of Giraffes -- © Getty Images/Theo Allofs
Thursday March 6, 2014
April brings spring to North Africa and autumn to South Africa, with lots of warm rain falling in between. The Egyptians celebrate the arrival of spring by "sniffing the breeze" and picnicking with their families. Coptic Christians in Ethiopia will be relishing some chicken and local brew on Easter Monday (21 April) that's when they break their traditional 55 day fast.
Runners with a slightly mad streak will be puffing through the sands of the Sahara in Morocco, for a grueling 6 day marathon. Sufi's in Fez, Morocco celebrate their spiritual culture. And anyone visiting southern Africa, do go and check out the International Arts Festival in Harare for a bit of music, dance and spoken word at the end of the month. Get more details about all of Africa's major festivals and events this April.
More About: March Festivals l May Festivals l Africa's Best Festivals
Harare International Arts Festival Poster - © HIFA
Monday March 3, 2014
Congratulations to Kenya's beautiful Lupita Nyong'o for winning an Oscar last night for Best Supporting Actress!
And now for something completely different ....
20 fun African wildlife facts to liven up your Monday ....
- The flamingos' diet of shrimp-like crustaceans are responsible for its pink color
- Hippos secrete a natural sunscreen that is colored red and eventually turns brown
- Giraffe tongues are dark blue and average around 20 inches in length
- Leopards are strong swimmers and eat fish
- Lions are the only cats that live in groups (prides)
- Warthogs can jump
- Chimpanzee females reach reproductive age at 13
- Male Nile Crocodiles attract females by bellowing, slapping their snouts in the water, and blowing water out of their noses
- Every zebra has a unique stripe pattern, just like human finger prints
- Hyenas are more closely related to cats than dogs
- Impalas can jump over 10 meters (33 feet) in a single leap
- Aardvarks have ears like a rabbit, long tails, webbed claws, sharp nails, long snouts, and are not related to pigs (despite their name)
- Both Black and White rhinos are actually gray
- An elephant's trunk contains about 100,000 different muscles
- Cheetahs only need to drink every 3 or 4 days
- Cape Buffalo have good memories, they've been known to attack people that have harmed them years after the event
- Jackal males and females mate for life
- Male Vervet monkeys have a turquoise blue scrotum and a red penis
- Ostriches can sprint up to 43 miles (70 kilometers) an hour and use their wings as rudders to change direction
- An adult Mountain Gorilla will eat about 60 lbs of vegetation per day
Want to See All this Yourself?
Source: National Geographic and Image -- © Getty Images/Frank & Joyce Birek
Friday February 28, 2014
I'm often asked, "is it necessary to get a guide when visiting Marrakech"? With its myriad of alleyways and shops selling carpets and lamps, that end up all looking the same, it is very easy to get lost in old Marrakech (the medina). But personally, I don't think that's such a bad thing. There are food stalls everywhere, so you won't starve. There are fascinating little shops and courtyards every square inch, so you'll never be bored. There are palaces and mosques to visit, Riad's to marvel at, artisans to photograph, and fresh orange juice to quench your thirst. And there's the marvelous Djemma el Fnaa, the main city square, that is unmissable. It's simple: if you get lost just ask for directions to the Djemma.
But I would recommend a guide if this is your first time in North Africa. The official guides are very well qualified historians for the most part, and will no doubt speak your language. They'll help you focus on the details that make this medieval walled city so unique. It will also help acclimatize you if you feel a little overwhelmed in the bustle. A half day personal tour is just right to orient you, and make you feel comfortable enough to get lost and do some real exploring later on.
But be warned, any tour will take you to a "perfume" shop as well as a carpet shop. It's unavoidable, you just have to go with it. Enjoy it. Accept the cup of tea and don't feel pressure to buy anything. Just give the guy who rolls out the hundred carpets for you to look at, a little tip.
Find out more about Getting an official guide to Marrakech...
Visiting Marrakech? Marrakech Guide l Top Things to Do and See in Marrakech l Images of the Marrakech Medina