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The Big Cats Of East Africa – Unrivalled Charisma
in the Wild
The big cats are the most charismatic of all the animals that roam the savannas
of East Africa. To behold the beauty and splendor of the big cats in the wild is a
prospect that warms the heart of every nature lover...

Lion Resting At Masai Mara Game Reserve – Kenya

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Table Of Content

1. The Big Cats Of East Africa – Unrivalled Charisma
in the Wild 4
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2. About Africa Point 9

3. Forward This Report 10

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1. The Big Cats Of East Africa – Unrivalled
Charisma in the Wild

The most charismatic of all the animals that roam the savannas of East Africa are
the big cats. Safari enthusiasts exercise great patience and go to great lengths to
ensure a sighting. To behold the beauty and splendour of the big cats in the wild
is a prospect that warms the heart of every nature lover. Among a number of the
ancient civilizations – the Romans, Sumerians, and Egyptians- the big cats were
held in fascination and in higher esteem than any other wild animals. Some were
indeed taken as gods, and many are the kings who have set images of the big
cats on their royal emblems.

The big cats have in the past been more widely dispersed in the world than they
are today. In our time, the redoubts of the big cats are in Africa and small
pockets of Asia. The cat family is known by scientists as felidae and refers to an
assortment of animals grouped as small and big cats. The small cats are less well
known and appreciated. In East Africa small cats include wild cats, sand and
serval cats. The small cats are very widespread in almost all habitats in East
Africa. But they keep their heads down and elicit little conflict with man- the
ultimate enemy of all wild animals.

The big cats you find outside Africa include tiger, jaguar, leopard, cougar and
Iberian lynx. The big cats are the most committed carnivores in the entire animal
kingdom. They are mostly nocturnal and rather secretive in nature. In common
with primates, they read a lot from facial expression and love to play. The big
cats capture and kill their prey. To witness a lion on a hunt is truly fascinating- if
for a moment you take your mind from the fate of the prey. For all the fame of
the big cats of East Africa, there are just three of them: lion, leopard and
cheetah.

The lion, so called the king of the jungle, is the largest carnivore in East Africa.
The adult lion stretches between 1.4m to 2.2 m - excluding the tail. The male
can attain a weight of up to 225kg, while the hefty female reaches 168kg. The
lion is noted for its exceptional strength and has been known to bring down the
much larger buffalo, which has about 4 times its weight. For this reason, kings
have understandably sought to be associated lions. But they hesitate to be
associated with its reputation for sloth- for the lion shamelessly spends up to 20
hours daily resting.

Lions are social animals and of the big cats, they are the only ones to live and
hunt in family groups. The group or pride usually consists of a number of related
females and few unrelated males. Young females usually join their mother pride,

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but young males venture into the outside world to seek female company.
Females in a pride practice communal cub rearing and hunting.
Lions are highly territorial. Males enforce territorial integrity, by means of their
characteristic fierce roars, scent marking and periodic border patrols.

Lions of the same pride develop strong social bonds and practice head rubbing
and social grooming. Females give birth after a gestation period of 3.5 months.
After only 6 weeks, the cubs are induced into a lifelong habit of meat eating.
Cubs play in imitation of adults and this helps in the development of such useful
skills as stalking prey. Though born to kings, cubs need protection from hyenas
and leopard. And also from non-pride male lions- for the reason that females will
not mate until cubs are about 18 months old. The cubs therefore stand in the
way of a mating encounter.

Fighting off males bent on infanticide appears to be one of the reasons why
females live in prides.
The moniker “king of the jungle” is misleading, for buffalo and hyenas
sometimes kill lions. Elephants too have no fear of the king – they will charge at
lions to encourage them to move on. But man remains the biggest threat to lions
and he has hunted the lion to extinction in most of the world. The lion population
in Africa is today estimated at only 23,000 and the survival status is listed as
vulnerable in international conventions.

In most parks and game reserves of East Africa, however, the lion is impressively
visible. Particularly in the grassy plains and dry forests where the large plains
herbivores they prey on thrive. You will easily see the king in Ngorongoro and
Serengeti in Tanzania and Amboseli, Nairobi, Lake Nakuru, and Maasai Mara in
Kenya. In some other locations- such as Lake Manyara in Tanzania, Tsavo, in
Kenya and Queen Elizabeth in Uganda, patience and skill is called for.

Early the last century, lions received extremely bad press when they disrupted
the building of the East African railway in the Tsavo area of Kenya by feeding on
the workforce. The movie "The Man-eaters of Tsavo" has captured this macabre
drama. It is in this atmosphere that Theodore Roosevelt, the American president
who was a pioneer safari enthusiasts said of lions: “except when resting and in
the breeding season, the whole career of a lion may be best summed up in the
single word: rapine”.

Lions when deprived of their usual prey occasionally attack domestic animals and
even human beings. Lions that are infirm- such as the old and the sick can easily
attack humans and you are advised to exercise caution and take your photos
from the safety of a car. So if you are out camping, watch out! All said
incidences of lions attacking humans are extremely rare. The image of the lion

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has recently been rehabilitated in the minds of many by the popular children
cartoon drama “Lion King”, whose hero is Simba- Swahili for lion.

The future of the lion in the savannas of East Africa is not assured. The main
challenge is conflict with man, his ancient enemy. People living in areas
bordering parks, sometimes inflict the ultimate punishment to lions when they
are caught preying on livestock. In the Serengeti plains of Tanzania, the king has
recently experienced attacks by a viral disease know as FIV -Feline
Immunodeficiency Virus. FIV, just like HIV in humans, results in lowered
immunity making the animals vulnerable to other diseases. Unlike HIV, however,
the primary means of transmission of FIV is bite wounds and not sexual
intimacy.

Of the big cats of East Africa, the most elegant is the leopard. The leopard is the
most naturally adapted of the cats. It can survive in almost in any habitat
offering sufficient food and cover. That is why, of the big cats, leopards thrive in
the most diverse range of habitats; and of land mammals they enjoy the widest
distribution in the tropics. In East Africa, they have been found in the most
unlikely of places- from deserts, to mountaintops and even in cities. That not
withstanding, scientists were surprised, when in 1990 three leopards were found
living in a Kampala city train station.

The full grown adult stretches between 1 to 1.5 m and can reach a weight of 60
kg. Man (and especially woman) has always been jealous of the leopards
beautiful coat. Those of East Africa have round spots unlike the square spots of
the southern African species. Leopards are solitary animals and you hardly ever
find them in groups. The sexes associate only long enough to mate! Females are
ready to breed at about 2 years of age, when they produce up to 3 cubs after a
gestation period of about 90 days.

The leopard therefore faces less danger than either the lion or the cheetah.
Notwithstanding that they are very widely distributed in East Africa, you are
unlikely to see them in large numbers. In addition, this most secretive of cats is
nocturnal. The traveler who is determined to see them must be very calm and
patient, for only the most persevering are rewarded. Even scientists have such
trouble spotting them, with the consequence that they are not as well studied as
the other cats.

The leopard is the strongest climber among the carnivores. And they spend
mostly their days inactive, draped over tree branches. So, to see them, set your
sights to the treetops. You are further advised to take your game drives very
silently and watch out at rivers and water holes. The leopard is a stalking
predator and lies ready to pounce at such places where prey would seek food

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and water. Some lucky people also come across leopards basking on the rocks
early in the mornings.

The cheetah is the smallest of the big cats of East Africa. It can reach up to 1.4
m in length; males can weigh up to 55 kg and females 40kg. For the
inexperienced, it is difficult to tell apart from a leopard. But you can distinguish it
by the long teardrop-shaped lines on each side of the nose, from the corner of
the eyes to the mouth. It also has protruding and streamlined neck and thin legs.
This animal is specially adapted for speed and it is indeed the world’s fastest
mammal.

From a resting position, the cheetah can reach a speed of 80 km/h in less than 3
seconds. It can run a stable speed of 105km/h, compared to a man's 37km/h.
But take heart, it is not a man-eater. The cheetah lacks the stamina to be more
than a short distance runner. It is not a very social species and lives either singly
or in small groups. Females are ready to procreate from about the age of 2 years
and after a gestation period of about 90 days give birth to up to 6 cubs. Hunting
by day only, this solitary hunter relies on its famed speed and keen eyesight. It
technique is to stalk stealthily and then take a short killer dash when prey is
within 30 m.

The cheetah is mainly found in grasslands, woodland savannas and semi deserts.
It survives best in vast ranges where prey is plenty. This cat has never enjoyed
wide geographical distribution or high densities. And numbers have drastically
fallen over the last few decades. Today not more than 12,000 remain worldwide,
mostly in eastern and southern Africa. In East Africa, the only areas where you
can easily spot cheetahs are Maasai Mara in Kenya and Serengeti in Tanzania.
But the cat is also present, though in fewer numbers, in Tsavo in Kenya,
Mkomazi in Tanzania and Queen Elizabeth in Uganda.

Scientists have classified the cheetah as an endangered species and think that it
faces possible extinction. Only one species -jubatus remains today. The lack of
genetic diversity, possibly caused by inbreeding, is yet another handicap in
ensuring the long-term survival of this cat. In its daily life, the cheetah faces
competition from other carnivores such as lions and hyenas. In some areas,
Maasai Mara of Kenya for example, instances of lions killing cheetah cubs are
very common; hyenas too eat them. The lion kills the cubs only to destroy and
never eats them –an extremely disgraceful show for an animal that would be
regarded as king.

Cheetahs are active only by day. In East Africa’s game sanctuaries, tourists
interrupt critical activities like feeding and suckling of the young. There are
incidences of mothers abandoning their cubs under the pressure of human
curiosity. Considering the challenges facing the species, conservation options are

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yet limited by the fact that cheetahs do so poorly in captivity and almost never
breed unless free. Spare a thought today for the cheetah, whose future is so
uncertain. If you want to do more, talk to the Cheetah Conservation Fund
(www.cheetah.org). And hope that such glorious days as when it was honored as
a cat-goddess in ancient Egypt will yet come again.

East Africa is a year round safari destination. The rains come around April- May
and November-December. This does not however, much affect the travelers'
ability to get around. In general the best time to go on safari to see the big cats
is over the drier months when the grass is short and sighting animals is so much
easier. But in areas such as the Maasai Mara, the animals are so plentiful that
you are going to see lots of them regardless of the season. The peak tourist
season falls around January to February and July to August. April to June is the
low season and prices for accommodation in the lodges can be as much as 40%
lower than in the high season.

Accommodation on safari varies from basic camping to luxury lodges and tented
camps. Out there in the bush, you will be pleasantly surprised that there is a
variety of East African safari lodges having all the trimmings of 5 star luxury. But
if you want to rough it out, you will find campsites in almost all the game
reserves and national parks. It is generally recommended to take an escorted
safari package that includes transport, park fees and accommodation. The
reason for this is that the tour guides are usually well versed about the animals,
where to find them and how to get there and have other such useful local
knowledge. But if you have a lot of time and need more freedom as you get
around, then taking a rental car is an option.

On safari, wear light cottons and linen. Warmer clothing is needed for the
evenings and for your early morning game drive. Some rainwear is advisable
between March and June and October and December. You should bring along a
decent pair of sunglasses. The glare you experience in bright tropical light is a
new and uncomfortable experience for most. It is also a good idea to carry a pair
of binoculars. They are very useful for spotting animals and will earn you the
envy of your less knowledgeable traveling companions.

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4. About Africa Point

Africapoint.com is an Africa specialist travel agent, offering travel services
through the company website -Africapoint.com and also offline. This pioneering
Africa travel website has been assisting travelers make bookings online since
early 1999.

The company was started in 1997 has its central reservations office strategically
located in Nairobi, Kenya.

The company is supported by a network of partner offices in the leading
destinations in Africa. This includes Cape Town (South Africa), Arusha, Dar es
Salaam (Tanzania), Cairo (Egypt), Kampala (Uganda), Victoria (Seychelles),
Harare (Zimbabwe). We are members of the American Society of Travel Agents
(ASTA).

What services do we offer?

We provide reservation services for hotels, airline tickets, rental cars, tours and
safaris to the top destinations in Africa. Among the countries we are currently
covering are Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Tanzania, Seychelles, Zimbabwe,
Uganda and Mauritius.

We have special discounts for most of the services we offer and some of our
prices are upto 50% off standard rates. Please visit our website to view the links
of all the services we offer.

How do we make your Africa travel planning easier?

Ours is one of very few websites offering one-stop travel booking and
information service to a number of different African countries. In addition:

• We know our destinations and our products very well. We are in a
position to give you good advice on the best hotel, rental car, tour or
safari to suit your particular requirements.

• We are committed to working to the highest industry standards. We have
many our past clients who are happy to share their experiences with you.
Please visit the Client Profile & Testimonials page and see what some of
our clients have to say.

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• Our patience is the stuff of legend! We will patiently seek to answer all
your queries until you are ready to pick what is most suitable for your
needs. For high value items such as safaris we have communicated with
our clients for 6 months and even longer before they are ready to buy.

Others have come back to and said: "Do you remember that tour we
discussed 2 years ago? I am now ready to travel." And of course we
remember. We always remember!

• Together with our partners, we are based in the African destination whose
travel services we are selling. For this reason we are usually able to get
you very good prices. For some products our prices are 40-50% below
standard rates.

• As members of ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) we are
committed to upholding ASTA's motto of “ Integrity in Travel” and
operate to those same standards you would expect from an ASTA member
anywhere in the world.

One of our North American clients for whose 36 person missionary group
we provided an air charter, hotel booking, safari and road transport to 2
African countries had this to say.

"My experience with Africapoint.com was good as any service that I've
received any where in the USA. Not only were they helpful before and
during, but they went out of their way to also be helpful afterwards.

I'm using them again for an upcoming trip in November and will look
forward to using them for years to come."

In addition our membership of ASTA assures you of a neutral and trusted
arbitrator in the event that a disagreement occurs between us.

What is the experience of other travelers with us?

We continue to serve the many needs of travelers who seek our services. From
straight forward single night hotel bookings to short and long term car rental,
tours and safaris for individuals and groups, international conferences.

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