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The summer holidays are perfect for getting out and looking for some furry and feathery creatures to snap. But what's the point of posting your amazing nature photo if you can't identify what it is? We’ve picked some of the best apps to identify creatures and features in the wild.
We like naming things. Ever since the bookish explorer Carl Linnaeus developed his system of classifying living things according to kingdoms, classes, orders, genera and species, we can disagree about what things should be called in a standardised way.
So it is that the Knysna lourie is now the Knysna turaco, and the grey lourie (or kwêvoël in Afrikaans) is now the grey go-away-bird. Whales belong to the order Cetartiodactyla along with giraffes, and their closest living relative is the hippopotamus – and you thought your family was interesting!
If you want to know what the spider in your living room is called or if you’re planning a trip to the Kruger, check out these apps so that you can sound clever around the campfire.
First published in 1940, Roberts Birds is the birder’s ultimate companion, featuring beautiful hand-drawn illustrations and up-to-date information about Southern Africa’s birds. The app version includes some handy features. Pinpoint your location to see which birds you might see in the area; and use the Identification guide to determine which bird you are seeing in your binoculars. It’s pricy at R499, but definitely worth it. Get it here for Android or iOS.
Sasol eBirds of Southern Africa will also help you spot the difference between various little brown jobs if you’re an expert, and eagles and pelicans if you haven’t a clue. It features audible calls for more than 600 common species, and you can compare two birds on the same screen. Get it here for Android and iOS.
Flora and fauna
If you’re not keen to get into a flap about birds, turn to Wildlife of Southern Africa, the ultimate app guide to creatures big and small. It also includes sections on grasses, sedges, ferns and fungi, wild flowers and trees. If it’s not in here, it’s probably not indigenous (here’s looking at you, Eucalyptus). Once you start looking closely, even your garden or local park becomes filled with wonder. Get it here for Android or iOS.
Identify our slithery friends with eSnakes of Southern Africa. It will cost you R289.99, although there is a free version that includes 20 of the most common species, rather than the 151 species covered in the full app.
eTrees of Southern Africa is an interactive version of the definitive Field Guide to Tress of Southern Africa. At R319.99, it’s an investment, but if you’re a tree lover, it’s worth it. There are images and descriptions of over 840 species, and you can find the one you’re looking for by searching categories such as leaf shape. Available for iOS and Android.
National park sightings
If you are planning a trip to Kruger, you must get the Latest Sightings app so that you can make the most of your time in the park. Please, don’t go haring through the park chasing cheetahs – you’re here for holiday, remember? Users report sightings using the app. When you wake up early for your game drive, check the app for updates and plan your route through the park. Get it here for Android and iOS.
Similar to Latest Sightings, Africa: Live lets you see other people’s sightings, and add your own. There are offline maps created by national park staff that work even when you’re out of cell range. Plus, there’s info and voice commentary from a ranger to enrich your experience (available as an in-app purchase). Available for Android and iOS.
Remember to keep an eye on your data when using these great apps. Keep track of your data by downloading the My Vodacom App, and recharge with ease.