Elephants are one of the most iconic and incredible wildlife species found in Africa. They are known for their impressive size, with adult elephants standing up to 13 feet tall and weighing over 6,000 kilograms. Despite their size, elephants are also known for their intelligence, with the largest brain of any land animal. They exhibit complex social behaviors and have been observed showing empathy, grief, and even self-awareness. In addition, elephants are important ecosystem engineers, as they play a vital role in shaping their habitat by uprooting trees and creating waterholes that benefit other wildlife.

Despite their many impressive traits, elephants face numerous threats in Africa. Habitat loss due to human activity, poaching for their ivory tusks, and conflict with humans are all significant challenges facing elephant populations. Conservation efforts, such as protected areas and anti-poaching measures, have helped to stabilize some populations, but there is still much work to be done to ensure the long-term survival of these incredible creatures.

According to the latest estimates from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are around 18,000 white rhinos still living in the wild in Africa. The white rhino is classified as near threatened, which means that it is at high risk of extinction in the wild in the future if conservation measures are not taken to protect and manage their populations. Although their populations have increased over the years due to conservation efforts, white rhinos still face threats from habitat loss, poaching, and illegal wildlife trade.

According to the latest estimates from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are around 18,000 white rhinos still living in the wild in Africa. The white rhino is classified as near threatened, which means that it is at high risk of extinction in the wild in the future if conservation measures are not taken to protect and manage their populations. Although their populations have increased over the years due to conservation efforts, white rhinos still face threats from habitat loss, poaching, and illegal wildlife trade.

Home to one of the world’s greatest concentrations of wildlife, the Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s flagship conservation area and a must-do for first-time and returning safari goers alike. Meaning “endless plains” in the Maasai language, the Serengeti National Park is arguably one of the finest national parks in Africa as well as one of the most celebrated wilderness areas in the world. While the Serengeti is renowned for its diverse and abundant wildlife, it is best known as the site of the annual Great Migration, when an estimated three million antelope – mostly wildebeest — migrate to Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve.

The Masai Mara National Reserve and its neighboring conservancies form Kenya’s flagship conservation area and is one of the finest wildlife and safari destinations in Africa. The Masai Mara’s sprawling wide-open plains provide a sanctuary for its abundant wildlife to freely roam the vast Masai Mara wilderness and beyond. It is also the site of the iconic Great Migration in Africa – also known as the Gnu Migration, Serengeti Migration and Masai Mara Migration.

Kenya is one of the world’s most pristine and highly sought-after African safari destinations. Home to some of the best national parks, conservancies, and wildlife reserves in Africa, avid travelers and eager wildlife and nature enthusiasts travel from around the globe to experience all of its wilderness wonders and safari adventures first-hand. Kenya is renowned for its vastly unspoiled and varied landscapes, highly diverse and abundant concentration of wildlife and birdlife, incredible seasonal highlights, and not-to-be-missed wildlife spectacles.

Tanzania is one of the most captivating and diverse African safari destinations. Boasting a remarkable array of national parks and game reserves, ranging from the expansive and world-renowned Serengeti National Park to the wild and secluded hidden wilderness gem of Katavi National Park, Tanzania has it all! There are few destinations in Africa that can rival Tanzania’s sheer diversity and abundance of wildlife and vast and varied landscapes.

Top 8 Foods To Eat in Botswana - Botswana flag

Photo credit: flickr

Travelling to Botswana is an experience like no other which is only enhanced by its range of unique and delicious traditional dishes. In many countries around the world, Botswana’s cuisine is known as the Rainbow’s Gastronomy, which is heavily influenced by Botswana’s ethnic wealth and vibrant culture.

To ensure you fully immerse yourself in Botswana’s authentic culinary culture, here are the top 8 foods to eat in Botswana on any trip.

#1 Seswaa

Regarded as the national dish of Botswana, Seswaa is a traditional meat dish. Undoubtedly making it one of the top 8 foods to eat in Botswana. Seswaa consists of beef, goat, chicken, or lamb that is cooked slowly over a long period until it is completely tender and soft. The fatty meat is generally boiled together with onion and pepper and “just enough salt” – according to the people of Botswana. Like every good stew in southern Africa, Seswaa is cooked low and slow in a traditional three-legged cast iron pot over an open fire.

Once the meat is soft enough it is either served as is, or it can be shredded or pounded and served on a bed of pap (maize meal), with polenta, sorghum meal porridge, beans, or rice, or as a filling in a sandwich or any other type of bread.

As per Botswana’s customs, the men are typically put in charge of spearheading the making of this traditional Botswana dish as the pounding of the meat once it is cooked requires some muscle and power. Seswaa is most often served at important or special events.

#2 Morogo

If you consider yourself to be a less-adventurous eater, Morogo is the ideal dish for you when visiting Botswana. Morogo is a nutrient-dense wild spinach dish, traditionally served as a side dish with pap. It combines at least three different dark green leafy vegetables, most often including pumpkin leaves. Morogo is also known as wild or African spinach and is slightly more bitter than ordinary spinach in taste. It is traditionally served and enjoyed plain or paired with a combination of tomatoes, onions, and lots of butter.

Combined with pap, Morogo is a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium. and iron. This not only makes Morogo a delicious dish to try and one of the top foods to eat when visiting Botswana, but it’s jam-packed with tons of nutrients and goodness too.

#3 Dikgobe

Dikgobe is one of the most traditional Botswanan dishes. It consists of peas and beans which is cooked over low heat, often together with a savory sauce. It is customarily eaten with traditional maize meal. sorghum, or samp. Dikgobe can be enjoyed as a main meal or side dish and is a great option for vegetarians.

Corn and lamb can also be added for more flavor and meat if so desired. As with traditional Dikgobe, the bean mixture is cooked over low heat, and when it is almost ready, the lamb is roasted. Once done, everything is mixed together in a single dish, which is served with sprigs of parsley.

#4 Bogobe

To prepare this traditional Botswanan dish, sorghum, corn, or millet flour is placed in boiling water and slowly cooked until it becomes a soft porridge. A variant of ingredients can be added to Bogobe for extra flavor and spice, creating a unique and nourishing meal.

Corn or sorghum is often fermented, and sugar and milk are added. This dish is called Ting. Instead of milk and sugar, it is sometimes eaten with meat or vegetables for lunch or dinner.

Adding sour milk and melon to make lerotse is another way to make bogobe. This dish is referred to as tofu by the Kalanga tribe.

#5 Matemekwane

Matemekwane is one of Botswana’s most popular bread dishes. Similar to dumplings, Matemekwane is made from corn starch or corn flour. Despite Botswana not actually producing its own bread flavor, these little Botswanan dumplings have undoubtedly become an essential and delicious part of the country’s staple diet.

As Matemekwane is a seasoned dumpling, they are often stuffed with an array of vegetables and meat to add some authentic flavor. They are traditionally served with a bowl of hot soup or a dip and are deliciously crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

#6 Mopane Worms

Calling all adventurous eaters! What would the ultimate top 8 foods to eat in Botswana list be without Mopane Worms?! If you’re eager to fully immerse yourself into Botswana’s cultural culinary scene, trying Mopane Worms should definitely be on your bucket-list. While you may find it hard to believe, in Botswana, Mopane Worms truly are a local delicacy.

These caterpillars are usually served in a tomato stew or peanut sauce and are regarded as pretty tasty by those who have tried it. If you’re on a health kick, even better! Mopane Worms are a great healthy food option as they are rich in both protein and calcium.

Don’t bash it until you try it, who knows, you may just love it!

#7 Ditloo

Ditloo, also known as nyimo beans, jubo beans, Bambara ground nuts or tindluwa is an African legume that is most often included in African dishes using beans. Not only is Ditloo delicious, they are a great source of nutrition and have been a staple of African culinary culture for generations. The traditional preparation process involves soaking them overnight to remove their gas, which causes flatulence. First soaking the Ditloo also makes them easier and quicker to cook. Once all the steps have been completed and the Ditloo is ready to be served, it can be enjoyed as either a main meal or a tasty snack. The dry beans are also often ground into a fine powder and added to porridge.

#8 Mogodu

This traditional Botswanan dish is prepared with tripe – another primary staple of African food culture. Tripe is the edible stomach lining of beef, pork, or lamb and is regarded as a popular and highly sought-after delicacy in most African countries. Undoubtedly making it one of the top foods to try on your trip to Botswana.

Mogodu consists of a flavorful stew that is customarily prepared with sliced tripe and served with potatoes and peas as an accompaniment. Mogodu is traditionally flavored with ginger, garlic, and chili. Be sure to give it a try, it is absolutely delicious!

**BONUS DISH: Pap

Made from local maize meal (ground maize), pap is a staple food for many African cultures. There are different types of pap, including phutu pap (dry and crumbly), stywe pap (thick consistency), or slap pap (soft and smooth). Pap is often combined with vegetables for more nutrition, eaten as a breakfast food mixed with milk, butter and sugar or with Maas (fermented milk), or served with a traditional sauce which includes tomatoes and onions, accompanied by meat. As a staple dish, pap is definitely one of the top foods to eat in Botswana or when visiting any African country.

What is Heritage Day and why its Important in South Africa

Heritage Day is an important South African public holiday which is celebrated on the 24th of September each year. It is a day on which all South Africans are encouraged to celebrate their culture and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people. As the self-proclaimed ‘Rainbow Nation’, boasting a vibrant cultural diversity, eleven official languages, a rich and intricate history and a variety of traditions, Heritage Day is recognized and celebrated in many different ways in South Africa.

History of Heritage Day

What is Heritage Day and why its Important in South Africa

Photo credit: Retlaw Snellac Photography (Flickr)

While many South Africans are aware of Heritage Day, how many know the history behind it, the true reason we celebrate this momentous holiday, and its connection to various cultures and traditions?

Heritage Day was initially known as ‘Shaka Day’ or ‘Shaka’s Day’, a day dedicated to commemorating the legendary King Shaka Zulu on the presumed date of his death in 1828. Shaka Zulu played an important role in uniting different Zulu clans into one cohesive Zulu nation in Kwa-Zulu Natal. To this day, thousands of people gather at the King Shaka Memorial on the 24th of September each year to pay tribute to the great Zulu King.

What is Heritage Day and why its Important in South Africa

Photo credit: Jay Calvin (Flickr) | Shaka kaSenzangakhona (1780s -1828) Bronze Statue – ‘Long March to Freedom’ Monument

When the bill presented to the new post-Apartheid Parliament of South Africa in 1996 omitted Shaka Day from the proposed Public Holidays Bill, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), a South African political party with a large Zulu membership, strongly objected to the bill. Eventually, a compromise was reached between the Parliament and the ANC (African National Congress), and it was decided that a national holiday would be created where South Africans of all cultures and creeds could come together and celebrate their diverse cultural heritage – Giving rise to Heritage Day!

“When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.”

– Late former President Nelson Mandela in an address marking Heritage Day in 1996

In recent years, Heritage Day has further evolved and become synonymous with National Braai Day. Some call it Shisa Nyama or Ukosa, while others call it a braai. Regardless of what term you use, the intention remains the same – Gathering around a fire, enjoying good food, good company and celebrating your culture and heritage with friends, family, and the ones you love.

Why is Heritage Day Important in South Africa

What is Heritage Day and why its Important in South Africa

South Africa ranks among the 10 most culturally diverse countries in the world. A county’s relative diversity is determined based on several factors and high-level considerations, including: Level of ethnic diversity; Number of immigrants; Number of spoken languages; Number of religious beliefs; Number of political parties; Level of religious freedom; LGBT rights and freedom; and Level of personal liberty. Each of these categories are further divided into sub-categories, to ultimately determine the level of cultural diversity in any given country.

In addition to being one of the most culturally diverse countries, the population of South Africa is one of the most complex and diverse in the world. It is because of this intricate and vast diversity that Heritage Day is so important in South Africa and should be celebrated by all its people. National Heritage Day is dedicated to recognizing the cultural wealth of our nation in its entirety. By acknowledging, embracing, and celebrating our various cultures, traditions, and heritage against the background of our unique diversity, we build pride in ourselves, our fellow South Africans, and our nation as we remember the difficulties and hardships of the past, share in the victories of the present, and raise hope for the future.

One of the most important aspects of Heritage Day is the fact that it exposes us as South Africans to different people, cultures, traditions, beliefs, and religions we may never have been exposed to or encountered otherwise. It encourages us to step outside of our own ‘cultural bubble’, and urges us to learn, grow, explore, and experience the vibrant and diverse range of cultures that exists within our glorious rainbow nation. And, in turn, allow us to understand, appreciate, recognize, and respect each culture and everything it embodies.

At the end of the day, we are ALL South Africans, and our ability to grow and learn from each other is not only endless, but a gift. This will further allow us to grow as individuals and contribute to a more unified South Africa.

Heritage Day therefore provides a great opportunity for all South Africans to put their differences in politics, perspectives, and opinions aside, to unite and come together in a single shared purpose and objective – To celebrate South Africa’s profound history and heritage TOGETHER AS ONE NATION!

Living Heritage

Another important aspect of South Africa’s heritage that should not be forgotten is living heritage. In essence, living heritage is the foundation of all communities and an essential source of identity and continuity. The various aspects of living heritage include: Cultural tradition; rituals; oral history; popular memory; performance; indigenous knowledge systems; techniques and skills; and the holistic approach to nature, society, and social relationships. In South Africa, the term ‘living heritage’ is used interchangeably with the term ‘intangible cultural heritage’.

Why is living heritage important and what role does it play? Living heritage plays a vital role in promoting cultural diversity, reconciliation, social cohesion, economic development, and peace. In every South African community, there are living human treasures who possess a high degree of knowledge, skills and history pertaining to different aspects of diverse living heritage. It is important for South Africans to reclaim, restore and preserve these various aspects of living heritage in order to promote and accelerate its use in addressing the various challenges communities are facing today.

South African Cultures

South Africa is the Rainbow Nation, a title that captures the country’s cultural and ethnic diversity. As mentioned, the population of South Africa is one of the most complex and diverse in the world.

South Africa’s black population is divided into four major ethnic groups; namely Nguni (Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, and Swazi), Sotho, Shangaan-Tsonga, and Venda. There are numerous subgroups within these main ethnic groups of which the Zulu and Xhosa (two subgroups of the Nguni group) are the largest.

The majority of South Africa’s white population (about 60%) is of Afrikaans descent, with many of the remaining 40% being of British or European descent. South Africa’s coloured population have a mixed lineage, which often comprises the indigenous Khoisan genes combined with African slaves that were brought here from all over the continent, and white settlers.

Languages in South Africa

South Africa has eleven official languages:

  • English (9.6%)
  • Afrikaans (13.5%)
  • Ndebele (2.1%)
  • Sepedi (9.1%)
  • Xhosa (16%)
  • Venda (2.4%)
  • Tswana (8%)
  • Southern Sotho (7.6%)
  • Zulu (22.7%)
  • Swazi or SiSwati (2.5%)
  • Tsonga (4.5%)

In addition to its eleven official languages, many other languages from all over the world are frequently spoken in South Africa, some of which include:  Portuguese, Greek, Italian, French, Chinese etc.

Conclusion

What is Heritage Day and why its Important in South Africa

Heritage Day is one of the most important National Holidays in South Africa. It is vital to both the nation as a whole and its people that it continues to be recognized, commemorated, and celebrated.

Despite the many differences that exist amongst the various South African cultures, South Africa’s strong sense of unity around longstanding traditions has always remained integral. When needed, our rainbow nation always comes together as a force to be reckoned with.

Have you spotted the Elephant Seals along the Cape coastline? There are a few different species of seals that can be found along the South African coast. The charismatic and playful Cape Fur Seal is by far the most popular and commonly seen seal species. These ocean locals are frequently spotted along the Cape Peninsula and False Bay coastline. However, Sub Antarctic fur seals, Leopard seals and Southern Elephant seals can also be seen from time to time along the South African coast.

ABOUT ELEPHANT SEALS

Elephant Seals in Cape Town

There are two types of Elephant Seals, namely the Southern Elephant Seal (Mirounga leonine) and the Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris). The Southern Elephant Seal is considered the largest seal species in the world.

The male Elephant Seal measures approximately 6m in length and weighs up to 3.7 tons. They are estimated to be up to 10 times bigger than their female counterparts. The Elephant Seal gets its name from its unmistakable swollen, proboscis-like snout of the male, which is used to produce very loud roars, especially during breeding season. Female Elephant Seals are drab brown in colour and lacks the proboscis. They are also chubby in appearance compared to the male Elephant Seals. Elephant Seals feed mostly on Squid, fish, sharks, rays, ratfish, molluscs, crustaceans, krill, and algae.

Southern Elephant Seals primarily breed on main land sites and islands stretching from the Antarctic continent to Patagonia. They can typically be found swimming around the sub-Antarctic islands about 2000 kilometres south of South Africa. These majestic and fascinating ocean beings typically haul out twice a year to moult, mate and give birth. While they prefer gradually sloped, sandy or pebbled beaches, they have also been spotted on boulders and rocky shores. Southern Elephant Seals are known to find a beach somewhere between Antarctica and South Africa on which to moult.

ELEPHANT SEALS IN CAPE TOWN

The Prince Edwards Island and the Tristan da Cunha group are the two closest colonies of Elephant Seals to the South African coastline. Elephant Seals are extremely rare in Cape Town. However, a few stragglers find their way to South Africa each year and join the Cape Fur Seal colonies. There are roughly around 10 sightings a year of this species on our coastline.

Two Elephant Seals in particular have made themselves right at home in the Cape. So much so that they have captured the hearts of countless Cape Town locals and even earned themselves their very own names. Solo is a charming Elephant Seal that resides in Plettenberg Bay and Buffel is a regular in the Cape waters and loves to explore various regions of Cape Town.

Buffel the Elephant Seal

Elephant Seals in Cape Town - Buffel

Photo credit: Laurie Mulrine

Buffel, as the seal is affectionately known to locals, has fast become somewhat of a Cape Town celebrity in his own right, and this year Cape Town’s favourite seal is back on our shores for his annual moult.

**Note: What is moulting? Moulting is a process during which Elephant Seals shed a layer of their skin and hair. The moulting process takes approximately 4 weeks/1 month. This is done to maintain healthy skin and is an adaptation to their extended deep, cold dives. During their deep dives, Elephant Seals limit the blood flow to their skin and extremities. Most of the blood flow is sent to their brain and core organs. In order for Elephant Seals to maintain a healthy pelt, they have developed a strategy which includes spending a month on a beach, in order to allow blood to circulate continuously past the skin, while ensuring that there isn’t excessive loss of body heat. During the moulting process Elephant Seals spend a large portion of their time on the beach or buried in the sand. Their old skin becomes incredibly itchy and they typically don’t swim, mate, or eat. They simply survive on their large amounts of stored body fat. Elephant Seals are particularly vulnerable during this time, and visitors and residents are advised to steer clear of these marine animals as they undergo the process of moulting.

Buffel is a 1200+kg male Southern Elephant Seal that is said to have arrived in Cape Town in 2014. Since gracing the Cape coastline with his presence he has been showing up at various beaches around the Western Cape. In 2019, Buffel was often found lazing around Fish Hoek Beach along the False Bay coastline where he made himself a nesting area in the popular stretch.

He was also frequently spotted on the famous Duiker Island in Hout Bay, where, along with his fellow Duiker Island co-inhabitants the Cape Fur Seals, he spent most of his time sun-bathing on the rocks, taking an occasional dip in the ocean to cool off or lying in the warm sand. Visitors and spectators watched in awe as Buffel shifted and swirled around in the sand using his flippers to throw sand over his body as protection against the hot Cape Town sun. Buffel can now be spotted at Buffels Bay in Cape Point.

No one really knows why Buffel has chosen to grace Cape Town with his incredible presence, yet we are tremendously thrilled to welcome him back to our shores year after year. Over the years he has become very relaxed in his surroundings, even with the higher number of people around. Buffel’s laid-back and relaxed attitude gives visitors the unique opportunity to witness this fascinating and amazing ocean being in all his glory, provided they stay well behind the erected barriers. It is incredibly important to be very respectful of his surroundings.

Solo the Elephant Seal

Solo The Elephant Seal Plettenberg Bay

Photo by Clyde Thomas

Solo is an enormous Elephant Seal male who resides with the Cape Fur Seal colony on the Robberg Peninsula in Plettenberg Bay. Although several Elephant Seals have been recorded in Plettenberg Bay over the past 10 – 15 years, Solo is the most recent Elephant Seal inhabitant and is believed to have arrived in Plettenberg Bay in 2011. Since then, he has been returning to the Robberg Peninsula on a yearly basis. It appears that he arrives shortly after moulting and remains in Plettenberg Bay for several months thereafter. Solo can often be seen sleeping on the mountain baking in the glorious Cape sun, or entertaining guests visiting the Robberg Peninsula by splashing in the water and showing of its beautiful nature and cool tricks and twirls.

Solo Elephant Seal Plettenberg Bay

Photo by Clyde Thomas

If you do decide to go and experience this rare sighting of an Elephant Seal in Cape Town, we urge you to be extremely respectful of their surroundings and stay behind the cordened area. As you’d typically need to travel to the Antarctic or sub-Antarctic to see a seal like this, seeing a magnificent Elephant Seal in Cape Town is something truly remarkable and a once-in-a-lifetime experience you won’t soon forget.

FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT ELEPHANST SEALS

Elephant Seals in Cape Town

  • Elephants Seals are the deepest divers of the seal world and are beaten only by some whale species amongst all marine mammals.
  • They are the largest species of Pinniped on the planet. At full size, Elephant Seals can weigh a maximum of 5000 kg’s and be 6.8m long.
  • Southern elephant seals can travel up to 33,800 km per year – This is the longest known migration for any mammal.
  • They are among the seal species that can stay on land for the longest periods of time. This is mainly owed to the fact that they can stay dry for several consecutive weeks each year.
  • Southern Elephant Seals can dive at depths of 400 to 1,000 m for more than 20 minutes to hunt squid and fish. Southern Elephant Seals are the deepest diving air-breathing non-cetaceans and have been recorded at a maximum of 2,133 m in depth.
  • Southern Elephant Seals spend almost 90% of their lives in the water.
  • The trunk-like nose of Elephant Seals serves two main purposes: Males use the proboscis to generate loud roars to fend off other males, especially during breeding season. Secondly, both male and female Elephant Seals use their trunk-like nose to re-absorb moisture during their mating fasts.
  • Elephant Seal males can weigh up to 10 times more than what their female counterparts weigh. This is the greatest weight disparity between sexes of any mammal.