Posts Tagged ‘African safari’

I am in Africa right now on a safari in Botswana. I feel so fortunate to travel to such an exotic location with beautiful animals and new experiences that I never dreamed of having! Before leaving for my trip, I tried to research the common phrase of “The Big Five” and what animals these entail that I would see on my trip. The more I think about it, you don’t have to travel far to see your own “Big Five” at your local zoo and make it a learning experience for your children.

“The Big 5” refers to African: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and Cape buffalo.  You might ask, “Why not the hippo, gorilla or giraffe?” They are all just as big and exciting or even something as fast as the cheetah? I discovered the term “big five” was actually coined by big game hunters (not safari tour operators). It refers to the difficulty in bagging these large animals, mostly due to their ferocity when being hunted in the past. Now, safari tour operators use the phrase “big give” and turned it into a marketing term.

Fun Big Five Facts

The African Elephant:

  • An elephant’s trunk is the fusion of its upper lip and nose, it has more than 40,000 muscles
  • An elephant calf often sucks its trunk for comfort
  • Elephants prefer one tusk over the other, just as people are either left or right-handed
  • Elephants use their trunk as a snorkel when swimming
  • Elephants waive their trunks up in the air and from side to side to smell better
  • An elephants’ skin is an inch thick
  • Elephants flap their ears to keep cool
  • Elephants spend up to 16-18 hours per day eating
  • Elephants’ tusks grow throughout their lives
  • Elephants use their feet to listen. They pick up sub-sonic rumblings made by other elephants through vibrations in the ground.

The Lion:

  • Lions rest around 20 hours a day
  • Lion cubs are born with spots (rosettes)
  • The size and coloration of a lion’s mane shows other males how fit and strong he is, the darker and larger the mane, the stronger the lion is
  • Lions do not purr like house cats
  • All lion tails end in a hairy tuft that develops when a cub is around 5 months old
  • All lions can climb trees, some rest up high more than others in certain areas to avoid buffalo and tsetse flies
  • Lions do not like to swim
  • As lion cubs get older, they nurse from any lactating female in their pride
  • Lions can differentiate between the roars of large groups and those of small groups and those of strangers from companions.
  • Male lions mark their territory by spraying a combination of urine and scent from glands at the base of their tails

The Leopard:

  • Leopards can kill prey larger than themselves
  • Leopards purr
  • Leopards are excellent swimmers
  • A leopard’s spots are in fact irregular circles called “rosettes”
  • A leopard stalks and pounces its prey, rather than chase it long distances
  • A leopard with no spots and a black coat is called a panther
  • A leopard cub begins to hunt with its mother at around 4-5 months old
  • The leopards’ spots are circular in East African but square in southern Africa
  • Leopards can jump 10 feet (3 m) straight up
  • White spots on the tip of their tails and back of their ears help leopards locate and communicate with each other in tall grass

The Rhino:

  • South Africa is home to more than 80% of Africa’s rhino population
  • The white rhino’s name derives from the Dutch “weit,” meaning wide, a reference to its wide, square muzzle adapted for grazing
  • Rhinos have three toes on each foot
  • A group of rhinos is called a crash
  • Oxpeckers eat the ticks off a rhino’s hide and also warn of danger
  • A charging rhino can reach speeds of 35 mph
  • A rhino’s horn is made of thick matted hair
  • Man is the rhino’s only natural predator
  • Rhino’s have roamed the earth for more than 50 million years
  • Female rhinos are pregnant for 15-16 months

The Cape Buffalo:

  • Buffalo will protect their calves by pushing them into the middle of the herd when danger lurks
  • Buffalo will mob a predator, especially if there’s a calf calling for help
  • Buffalo mate and give birth during the rainy season only
  • Cape Buffalo have never been domesticated
  • M’bogo is the (Ki)Swahili word for Cape Buffalo.
  • The ox-pecker bird keeps the Cape Buffalo clean by eating all the parasites that live in its thick hide
  • The Cape Buffalo can run at speeds of 35 mph

Check out some of Le Top’s animal themed clothing for your little one HERE!

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This past week my boyfriend’s sister went out of town on vacation and I gladly volunteered to babysit sweet Ella for a day.  How to describe my day?  An adventure!  It was such a lovely day of babysitting that I have decided to break it up into 2 parts of “highlights” – a la ESPN “Sports Highlights,” of my day with Ella (my star player)! 

Ella gets up-close-and-personal with a butterfly and a curator at Silly Science Class

7:15am:  Our morning started with dolly-yoga time where we lined up about 10 of her Barbie dolls and used them as examples of how to perform various poses in yoga with their legs and arms!  We talked about stretching and how that improves your pose and demonstrated by showing how a body stretches with the doll legs and arms, and then making their bodies align “perfect(ly)” into a yoga pose.  The two poses that I proudly was able to teach Ella was Downward Facing Dog and Chaturanga. In my opinion, children can benefit enormously from yoga.  Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, and coordination. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves.  Many child physicians think that doing yoga helps children to connect more deeply with the inner self.

8:15am:  Ella grew bored with her yoga stretching and we moved onto a new game of follow the leader!  In my opinion, it was more like an exercise boot camp where we ran from one side of the house to the other with various obstacles such as jumping like bunnies, a somersault tumble, touching the ground and ending right back at the front door.  Who knew that I would get my 45-minute exercise for the day!

9:00am: We then decided to browse her already extensive library of children’s books.  She pulled out one of her favorite books about the jungle.  We talked about how Bobbie and Papi (her Grandparents) went on an African safari to see the lions and rhinos!  Ella’s response was, “Uncle Sam, Melissa and Ella should go to Africa! We can take the train! Or maybe a TAXI!”   I winked at Ella and let her know she is a seasoned New York City taxi girl and I might just have to hint to Uncle Sam about this suggestion of a safari together! Ha!…we took a picture next to the rhinos in the American Museum of Natural History later that afternoon. (Kinda blurry photo, but it was cute anyhow!)

9:20am: The decorator arrived to deliver beautiful new red lamps that were wrapped with big bubble wrap. Lesson learned?  Bubble wrap can be a great 20-25 minute activity for any child by unraveling the bubble wrap and creating a runner in the living room!  We practiced hopping like a bunny, while making the bubbles pop!  Pop, pop, pop = FUN!

10:15am-11:15am: Time for Silly Science Class.  We raced over to New York City’s American Museum of Natural History from her apartment and attended her “Silly Science” class where we went to see the new tropical butterfly conservatory exhibit.   What a treat!  It was VERY humid in the conservatory (note to self to not wear your jacket inside the room!), however the heat was nothing compared to the excitement when Ella saw all kinds of butterflies.  I feel confident that she walked out with a wealth of knowledge and a little more love for them and their beauty. Ella channeled her inner Annie Leibovitz and took many pictures with my digital camera.  I was fascinated by the concept of her perspective through the lens of a camera.  See Ella’s below gallery of images and ‘fun facts’ we learned together about butterflies and moths:

1.  What’s the difference between a butterfly and a moth? 
There are many differences. Adult butterflies are active in the day, while most—but not all—moths are active at night. When resting, a butterfly holds its wings together above its back; a moth holds its wings down.

Go to this link to see the Museum’s live butterfly cam: http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/butterflies/cams.php

2.  Do butterflies have a tongue and how do they eat? Butterflies can taste! They have “taste buds” at the end of the tongue, which looks like a long antenna.

3.  Do butterflies sleep? 
At night or when the day is cloudy, butterflies rest by hanging upside down from leaves or twigs, where they are hidden in the leaves. Unfortunately we don’t know whether or not they are sleeping.

4.  What makes butterfly wings colorful? Butterfly wings are covered with tiny scales that each has a single color. Most of the colors are produced by pigments, but the beautiful iridescence of some butterflies come from reflective structures on the scale’s surface.

Ella captured a photo of a black and white butterfly feeding on sugar syrup in a "feeder" in the butterfly conservatory (not too bad, right?)

Ella looked up and took this image of butterflies and moths flying around the light and "feeders".

Photo of housed and hibernating butterfly cocoons (known as pupas). If you look close there is one butterfly hatching out of the cocoon.

Ella captured a total of 4 butterflies and moths in this picture. Can you find them?

Ella found this Monarch butterfly under the leaves.

Ella discovered this white and black butterfly high up on a branch.

A few snapshots I thought the le•top blog readers might like:

Oops! Ella turned the camera the wrong way and took a picture of herself!

Ella loved this blue and orange butterfly.

Lucy, Sloan, and Ella listen with excitement and anticipation as the curator showed a beautiful butterfly to the girls.

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of my ‘Adventures in Babysitting’!  Part 2 will include my tour of the Sea Life wing of the museum with my very special ‘tour guide’ Ella, and how we learned about under water mammals.

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