Airline Transports Herd of African Elephants (PHOTOS)

Earlier this month, LAN Airlines transported an orphaned herd of nine African elephants between the ages of four and nine years old from Namibia to Mexico, where the animals will find their new home at the African Safari Zoo in Puebla.A statement from the airline says each elephant traveled with ample space and was under the constant care of veterinarians. Just like human passengers, the elephants traveled while awake during their trip on the Boeing 777 freighter, which has the capacity to transport up to 104 tons. Full-grown male African elephants weigh between 10,000 and 13,300 pounds, making them the largest living terrestrial animals on Earth.

According to the press release, LAN has also successfully transported giraffes, rhinos, lions and zebras from Africa, as well as wallabies, dolphins, bees, deer and horses (of which the airline once transported 45 in a single flight). Friday’s flight was the largest African elephant shipment the airline made in its 80-year history.

Images courtesy LAN Airlines.

Kolmanskop: Namibia’s Eerie Ghost Town

Kolmanskop, ghost towns
There’s something compelling about ghost towns. To walk amid the houses that once held families, past playgrounds that once rang with the laughter of children, and through public buildings where locals once gathered – all gone.

I’ve explored ghost towns all over the American Southwest, and while they have creepiness aplenty, the most disturbing ghost town has to be Kolmanskop in Namibia. Perhaps it hits closer to home because it was abandoned as recently as 1954. Perhaps it’s because its buildings are half filled with desert sand, and may one day get buried entirely.

Kolmanskop sprouted into existence in 1908 when diamonds were discovered there. At that time Namibia was colonized by Germans who were eager to extract the mineral wealth of the region and, shamefully, had just committed genocide against two Namibian tribes to secure their dominance. The discovery set off a rush of investment and construction and soon this barren stretch of sand was the location of a model German town with schools, theaters and stately homes. It was so wealthy that its hospital boasted the first x-ray machine in the Southern Hemisphere and its public transportation included the first tramline in Africa.

%Gallery-155604%Much of the town remains, desiccated and preserved by the harsh desert environment. Check out the photo gallery to see the bleak grandeur of a place that was used by astronomer Dr. Brian Cox to illustrate the concept of entropy on his show “Wonders of the Universe.”

Kolmanskop is located in Sperrgebiet, a diamond-mining region in southern Namibia that is off-limits to the general public without a permit, which can be easily obtained through one of the tour companies that offers visits. Prebooked tours are currently the only way to visit the town. Because of the limited number of visitors, nature thrives in this region despite half of it being desert.

Interested in seeing more ghost towns? Check out Justin Delaney’s post on “The World’s Ten Creepiest Abandoned Cities.”

[Photo courtesy Damien du Toit]

South African Airways introduces virtual itineraries

Elephants on the Serengeti South African Airways Vacations has introduced a new feature on its website that gives visitors the ability to explore options for travel in Africa like never before. The company has launched a series of “virtual itineraries” that use a combination of maps, photos and points of interest data to help travelers choose the right trip for themselves and to prepare them for their experience when they reach their destinations.

The site offers tours to a variety of locations including South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and more. To explore those options simply visit the SAAV website and search for itineraries based on the location you would most like to visit or the type of travel experience that you’re looking for. The search results will provide the name of the available tours, a brief description and the price. There will be a button that will allow you to view the virtual itinerary for any given tour as well.

Opening one of those virtual itineraries presents you with an overview of the tour that includes each of the destinations that you’ll be visiting, the number of nights you’ll be staying there and the type of accommodations you can expect. Selecting the “day-by-day” view zooms the map in close to show more details about the area you’ll be visiting on any given day and offers some suggestions of things to see and do in the region. It will also show you where your hotel for that night is located and even offers images and detailed information about those accommodations. The virtual itineraries also provide notes about the daily activities, giving travelers plenty of information about what’s on the agenda for that day of the tour.

All of these tools help to take the guesswork out of a visit to southern or eastern Africa. Those two regions are popular dream destinations for may travelers, but planning and preparing for such a trip can be an intimidating experience for many. With the SAAV virtual itineraries you’ll know exactly what you’ll be getting when spending your hard-earned dollars, which can be very reassuring for travelers who aren’t particularly fond of surprises.

Largest international conservation area formed in southern Africa

An elephant on the newly formed international conservation areaOn Thursday of this week five nations in southern Africa announced plans to form a new international conservation area that will be the largest of its kind once it is complete. This unprecedented move was made to allow the participating nations to combine their conservation efforts and combat illegal poaching in a more efficient manner.

Under the agreement, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana will combine 36 nature preserves that are currently managed independently of one another. The newly unified conservation area will be roughly the size of Sweden and will provide wildlife with more than 170,000 square miles of unbroken territory to freely migrate through. This new preserve will be expansive enough to encompass both Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and the Okavango Delta in Botswana, two of the more spectacular settings in all of Africa.

Conservationists are hailing the move as a good one for southern Africa. The newly formed Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area is home to roughly 45% of the total elephant population on the continent and will also feature more than 600 species of birds alone. Other big game, such as zebra, giraffe, buffalo and lion will be plentiful there as well.

Of particular concern for each of the countries involved with the project is protecting the elephant herds that live there. Poaching has become a major concern across Africa where the animals are routinely hunted and killed illegally to harvest their ivory tusks. With each nation working more cooperatively inside the conservation area, however, they hope to prevent much of the poaching that has gone on in the region over the past few years.

Rescuing wildlife in Namibia

Namibia
While 2011 has been a bad year for African wildlife, a foundation in Namibia is making a difference.

The N/a’an ku sê Foundation, which runs a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia, announced its best year to date, the Namibian reports. Last year the Foundation rescued, rehabilitated and re-released several animals, including five cheetahs, two leopards, one brown hyena, two caracals and one serval. It also rescued and cared for numerous other animals.

The Foundation was started by Namibian conservationists in 2006. Located near the capital Windhoek, the wildlife reserve relies on donations to survive and is open to volunteers, in case you want to have an adventure vacation that makes a difference. A wildlife sanctuary cares for injured or orphaned animals that can’t be released back into the wild. For some luxury travel, you can also stay at their lodge.

The main goal of the foundation is to find the best way for wildlife and humans to share the same land. Africa’s population is steadily growing, putting ever more pressure on wildlife. Yet wildlife is an economic boon to Africa, bringing in hard currency from tourism. The Foundation also provides primary education and healthcare to the San Bushmen and employs several to work with guests and the animals.

Photo courtesy Claire Wormley.