10 Incredible Facts about Wild Wild Africa….

Two days ago, I came back from a 14 days vacation to the richest continent I’ve ever seen in my life…AFRICA!! It is a land of resources in such abundance that it makes me feel that it can survive alone in this world! Well of course, I didn’t see it all and what I saw was a miniscule of the continent. I visited Kenya, Tanzania & Zanzibar!

I am going to write about all of them but for now, I want to write more about the strange and exotic wild life. Queer animals, their behaviour, and some strange incidences! Hmm…so what should I start with?

Masai Mara National Forest Reserve

Lets see…may be with some “Did you know” questions. Now the answers to all my questions may not really be found on the internet but are a result of a little bit of observation, a little bit of knowledge given to us by our guides and simply an urge to know more about these beautiful wild creatures…

1. Do you know why predators like lions or cheetahs travel in the opposite direction of the wind while hunting?
Guess!! Well we learnt that they often hunt in the opposite direction of the wind so that their scent does not travel far enough for the herbivores to find out that they will be hunted down soon….

Lionesses on a hunt..

2. Did you know why the wildebeest, zebras and gazelles in Africa migrate together?
The wildebeest have a strong sense of smell while the zebras have an excellent vision and gazelles have both is abundance and hence they protect each other from predators. One sees, the other one smells and cries out in a specific way to indicate that its time to run!

The Wildebeest and Zebras just migrated from Tanzania to Kenya

3. Did you know the zebras are wiser than the wildebeest?
During migration, while crossing the Mara river, the zebras let the wildebeest cross the rivers before them..you know why? Its because they get eaten by the crocodiles and while the crocodiles are busy chewing their meals, the zebras get a free and hassel free passage through the waters.

The Wildebeest


The Zebras & Wildebeest migrating in a line..all together..

4. Did you know that the black rhino is actually grey?
Sighting a black rhino…..woah…you are lucky! Thats what my guide told me!! Anyway as soon as I saw one! I wondered, why is it called a black rhino when it is grey. But well thats that…its grey and much smaller, shyier and timid than the common grey one!

The Black & Grey Rhino

5. Did you know there was a species of monkeys with “Blue Balls”?
I was shocked, so shocked seeing the common monkey…brownish grey, with a velvet black face and an exotic sky blue colour to its balls!!! I almost stared at them…why blue??

Black velvet faced monkey with sky blue balls

6. Do you know why hippos gape?
It is a genuine yawn where the jaws are opened widely but not always! Gaping is also a standard threat display, exposing the obviously large lower canines. Its funny to see them lazying with their open jaws. They indeed have very long lower teeth!

Hippo lazing & yawning in Lake Naivasha

7. Did you know there are albino zebras?
Another very astounding sighting was the albino zebras! Well they are white with grey stripes on them! They are actually not albinos but another breed of our bold striped buddies though not so bold! Yeah…the albino zebra!!

The Albino Zebra

8. Did you know that the hyenas eat everything under the sun but it is not commonly hunted for its meat?
The Hyenas are not only scavengers but they eat anything and everything! They hunt in packs and eat their prey alive starting from the abdomen area! They are the nastiest, ugliest and stinkiest animals. Almost all animals stay away from them unless the hyenas interfere in their business.

Hyena

9. Did you know that a giraffe sleeps for 5 to 20 minutes in 24 hours?
I loved these animals the moment I saw them. The first herd we saw was in Masai Mara. I was very surprised to see one sitting down and yet seemed so high up in the bushes. I asked my guide whether they actually sleep like this. He told me that they sleep sitting or lying or even standing up and not more than 20 mins. These naps last them for quite sometime.

A resting giraffe

10. Did you know elephants mourn over their dead and also make graves?
I read this wonderful book once called To the Elephant Graveyard by Tarquin Hall which is a true story of an elephant on rampant human killings which describes the behaviour of the creature. In Africa this time, I actually witnessed how wise and mighty this animal is. Of course, I didn’t see it making graves, definitely! We were narrated a story by some locals in the Aberdares Forest…it goes like this…..The Ark Lodge at Aberdares National Park overlooks a floodlit waterhole. A lot of animals come to drink water and also lick the mineral rich soil around the pond. A few years ago, a rhino and its baby along with a herd of 30-35 elephants came to the waterhole. The mother rhino got threatened by the elephants and attacked one of the baby elephant and as a result got trampled by the herd and died. Even though she didn’t belong to the herd, the elephants went in to the forest and brought a branch each and lay it on her. The locals from the lodge witnessed this disheartening yet an amazing incident. Thus, proving that these mighty creatures, the elephants build graves…..

Herd of Elephnats at a Waterhole in front of the Ark Lodge in Aberdares Forest

I am not sure if these little facts are very popular but I think they are incredible. The natural world blends and folds itself so perfectly in to each other that to imagine such wisdom and accuracy among animals is inconvinceible!

Zanzibari Doors…Unique & Intricate

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I’ve just come back this morning from a splendid trip from the Africas and couldn’t help myself but write about this beautiful Stone Town on the island of Zanzibar. The island with narrow alleys, breezy rooftops, majestic Indian & Arabic doors and private courtyards and its pristine blue ocean.

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The reason I write about the significance of the Stone Town is because of its stunning, magnificient wooden entrance doors! It is a feature which makes a bold statement on this island. In my article today, I am going to describe the types of doors and its significance with the many pictures I have taken.

Since Zanzibar had a huge Indian & Arab settlement from the 13th century, the carved threshhold to the interiors played a role of a status symbol. The fashion for carved doors was brought in by the Indian & the Islamic people. Back then, doors were designed and scaled for each family, thus being unique.

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Some common features I noticed among these doors were that they had a centre post with a wide frame and a lintel all elaborately carved. The carvings have traditional Islamic or Indian motifs, iron or brass studs for decoration. Also, most of the doors are double and open inward from the centre. 

There are many types of door…some of them are –

Lamu Doors

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The door belonged to one of the Stone Town hotels…I loved the contrast of brown against the light blues of the walls.

The Lamu door is the simplest door and are found on smaller houses. The motifs of these doors are rosettes or geometric forms. They also have some Swahili colours like emerald green or gold.

Siyu Doors

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This picture is taken from an exhibit from the Nairobi Museum

This door is the only one different from the others…yes..it doesn’t have a centre post. Also, the doors are painted in circular motifs rather than carved. A little history about them is that they were made with very hard wood which was difficult to carve and hence the painted motifs.

Omani Doors

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I think this door was freshly polished…it just dazzledin the sunlight!

These doors have the grandest outward display I’ve even seen in my life! They are the most popular in Zanzibar. The lintel and side post are so ornate and intricately caved with looping floral designs and motifs that its hard to take your eyes off them. They have a very profound arabic feature i.e. they have inscriptions of the Qur’an at the centre of the lintel. They are also heavily studed with brass and iron hinges and ornaments. They say that such doors are seen very often in Oman. 

Gujarati Doors

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This door and a house belonged to a Bhori Zanzibari

Even now, these doors are found mainly among the Indian shops with thin centre post carved beautifully. These doors are wide, coffered and studded with a central hinges so that only one part of the door needs to be opened. History shows that they were imported from India since they are made up of teak which is not indigenous to Africa. 

Zanzibari Doors

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A lot of shops had this door!

Though they are named Zanzibari…they come from India and mostly from the Mumbai region. These doors were introduced by Sultan Barghash in the 18th century with a tinge of western classical feature of the pillars carved into the frames. This is one of the most popular door here and imitated widely.

This article might have sounded a bit boring but believe me, if you ever saw it, you would be as bewildered as I was! Infact, these East Coast African doors are marked contrast to very plain architecture of the houses and make a bold avowal of the occupants, both as reference to their culture and social status. This is a legacy that Zanzibar preserves and should preserve since its unique, artistic, intricate & obscure!