Not just a floating balloon of hot air – Interesting facts about hot air ballooning.

Not just a floating balloon of hot air – Interesting facts about hot air ballooning.

  • The first passengers to go on a hot air balloon flight in 1783 were a rooster, duck and a sheep. All three passengers made it back to the ground unharmed.
  • The real reason for the champagne toast celebration after going on a hot air balloon flight. We might tell you it is to celebrate your safe flight and amazing experience but there is more to this tradition. In France the farmers were not too happy with hot air balloons landing on their farms, therefore, pilots started to take champagne with them on the flight to give to the farmer’s whose farms they landed on as a peace offering.
  • The Pilots cant steer the balloon they can move it up and down but as far as steering goes the direction the balloon goes depends on mother nature.
  • A hot air balloon consists of three parts: an envelope, basket (made from woven wicker or rattan) and burner system which creates an open flame by burning a mix of liquid propane and air.
  • The envelope of most balloons is made from nylon. Due to the fact that the melting point of nylon is approximately 230 degrees Celsius. The temperature inside the balloon usually stays below 120 degrees Celsius.
Things you may not know about Zebras.

Things you may not know about Zebras.

Weight: 250kg -300kg

Lifespan: Around 25 years

Gestation: +- 1-year giving birth to a single foal

Diet: A herbivore feeding on Mostly grass, occasionally leaves and twigs

Zebra Species 

There are three species of Zebra, the Plains zebra (Equus quagga), Mountain zebra (Equus zebra), and Grévy’s zebra (Equus grevyi). The Grevy’s zebra is the rarest of the three and is found only in Kenya and Ethiopia. While the Plains and Moutain Zebras are found across Southern Africa. In the Pilanesberg National Park, we have the Plains zebra.  

A Zebras Stripes 

Each zebra has a unique stripe pattern (no two are the same) just like human fingerprints. The stripe pattern can therefore be used to identify individuals.

In the Pilanesberg National Park, we have the Plains Zebra (also known as a Burchell’s Zebra) which can be identified by the light-colored stripe known as the shadow stripe between the black and white stripes, other types of zebra do not have a shadow stripe.

We often get asked if Zebras are black with white stripes or white with black stripes. At the end of the day, the underlying skin of a zebra under its coat is actually black.

The function of zebras stripes has been discussed among biologists since at least the 19th century and research is constantly being done. One of the more recent Hypotheses that makes a lot of sense is that the stripes help to detour biting flies. Horseflies, in particular, spread diseases such as African horse sicknessequine influenzaequine infectious anemia, and trypanosomiasis all of which could be deadly. In 1930 biologist R. Harris did research that found that flies were less likely to land on black-and-white striped surfaces than uniformly colored ones. A more recent study in 2014 found a correlation between the amount of striping and the presence of horse and tsetse flies.

Social structure 

Zebras live in family groups of one stallion, his harem of females, and their young. A group of Zebras can be called a herd but is more commonly known as a dazzle.

Males that don’t have a harem of their own can be found in bachelor groups or out on their own.  Different herds will often come together during activities such as grazing and drinking water but will split up again. 

Male Zebras can have serious fights when they will kick and bite each other. Sometimes causing serious injury to areas such as the neck, hind legs, and ears. They will even sometimes lose their tails during a fight when their opponent bites, so when you see a zebra missing its tail chances are it is a male.  

A foal is born after more or less a 12 month gestation period. When a female is going to give birth she will separate herself from the herd, once the foal is born this gives them a chance to bond and learn each other’s scent and stripe pattern.

The foal will be able to get up and run within an hour of being born which is very important so that it can run from danger.

A foal is born with lighter stripes (more brown than black) which then go darker over time. 


Zebras are preyed upon by leopards, cheetah, hyenas, and lions. Zebra can run at around 65 km an hour making them faster than most predators, they also have a very nasty kick which they often use to defend themselves.

At night members of the herd will take turns keeping watch for any danger. If they spot something they will make a loud snorting sound which warns all the other members of the herd that there is danger. This snorting sound also lets the predator know that they have lost their element of surprise as they have been spotted. 

Did you know?

Did you know?

A male lion’s mane is not only for attracting females, but it also helps to protect their neck and head from injury during a fight. 

Lionesses are the primary hunters of the pride but the males do assist especially when hunting large prey such as Buffalo and Giraffe. After a successful hunt, the males will generally eat first. 

The males protect both the pride and the pride’s territory, often doing patrols and marking territory.  They do what they can to protect the pride from competing prides and other predators. 

The best way to recognize a Waterbuck is by the white ring on the rump. They are the only antelope to have this marking. It is a “follow me” sign as it is highlighted making it easier for them to follow each other as they flee from danger. 

Waterbuck are very water-dependent hence the name “Waterbuck”. They are found close to a water source and will drink often during the day.

Elephants are very social animals with a matriarchal system. This means that females live in herds where the oldest female is the one to lead the herd and make all the decisions. If something happens to her then the next oldest female will take over this role. 

Older males will meet up with a herd to breed and then leave again, they don’t spend long periods of time with the females anymore. You will find them either alone or in small bachelor groups. 

Did you know?

Did you know?

Though hippos move easily through the water, they can’t actually swim but rather submerge themselves and walk on the floor.

They can’t breathe underwater but can hold their breath for around 5 minutes.

Their eyes, nostrils, and ears are all high on a Hippo’s head which enables them to keep their bodies submerged but still be able to see what is going on around them.

Cheetahs are not social cats they don’t go around in a pride as lions do. Instead, cheetahs are either solitary or one would find a female with her most recent cubs. Males (usually brothers) form coalitions which gives them the upper hand against other males.

Cheetah are daytime cats doing most of their movement and hunting during daylight hours and resting at night.

With their small eyes, rhinos have very poor eyesight and are only able to see at close range. Their sense of smell and hearing are very good making up for the bad eyesight.

White rhinos have large square mouths which are adapted to graze on grass.

White rhinos can live to be 35-40 years old. They have a gestation of approximately 16 months, and mothers give birth to one calf every 2-3 years.

Things you may not know about Lions.

Things you may not know about Lions.

There is so much to be said about these magnificent big cats. Here are just a few facts we would like to share with you.

Lions are the largest cats in Africa and second largest in the world (Tigers being first).

They are also the only truly social cats living in prides. Females within a pride are usually related and will often stay with their pride for life. Males are however chased out of the pride at around the age of three. At this point, they will often lead a nomadic lifestyle or live in a coalition with other males, often their brothers.

The females in a pride do most of the hunting however the males do offer help, especially to take down bigger prey such as buffalo and giraffe. Male lions will eat first at a kill, while the females and cubs wait their turn. The females put up with this behavior because the males offer protection for the pride. The beautiful big mane of a male not only shows status but also protects the male’s neck during a fight. When other males want to try and take over the pride they will fight the existing male or coalition of males.  If they win the new victorious males will often kill any cubs that are still dependent on their mothers (this is known as infanticide). It may seem cruel but by doing this the new pride males are making sure that they spend their time and energy raising and protecting their own cubs.

When hunting lions make use of their protractile claws. The claws are kept sharp by being retracted into a protective sheath when the lion doesn’t need to use them. When the lion is hunting or fighting they contract their muscles and the claws push out.

The large canine teeth are used to catch and kill prey but are useless when it comes to eating. The molar and premolar teeth, however, are very well designed for this task. Being carnivores lions have what is known as a carnassial shear, this consists of the fourth upper premolar and first lower molar. These teeth articulate against each other cutting through meat and sinew. That is why when watching lions on a kill you will see them tilting their heads to the side while trying to chew. If you have ever had a domestic cat lick you, you will know how rough their tongues can be, lions are no different. They have very rough barbs on their tongues which they use not only for grooming purposes but also to remove meat and fur from their prey.

As most of us know lions spend a large amount of their time laying around, even more so during the heat of the day. They also spend time grooming each other and resting close together, all of which is a way of bonding and socializing as a pride.

Lions are apex predators and are at the top of the food chain, however they will give way when confronted by bigger animals.

Every now and then we get breathtaking sightings of these big cats and we love sharing special moments like this with our guests. Last year while on one of our morning safaris we got to share an amazing sighting of lions on a hunt. It is not often that we get to witness a hunt from start to finish. Below is a video of the sighting.

Did you know?

Did you know?

The Red-billed oxpecker may help keep animals such as giraffe clean by removing parasites, but they can cause harm too. When an animal has an open wound very often the Oxpeckers will constantly peck at the wound which can make the wound bigger and take much longer to heal.

The name hippopotamus comes from the Greek word “hippos,” which means horse. Hippos were once called “river horses” However the hippo is more closely related to the pig than the horse.

Chacma Baboons are highly social animals living in troops ranging from 20 – 100 individuals. A female gives birth after a gestation period of around 6 months.
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