The BIG FIVE are in the bag!
14.05.2017 - 14.05.2017
So called because they were the five most dangerous (and desired) animals for hunters to capture. These days of course 'hunters' are replaced by 'photographers'.
At the entrance gate to the Serengeti National Park, we take our lunch picnic overlooking a small bird bath for entertainment.
Superb starling partaking in their daily ablutions
Lesser Masked Weaver
Superb Starling having a wardrobe malfunction.
Red Billed Buffalo Weaver
Speckled Fronted Weaver
With all those breadcrumbs flying around, it is not just birds who are attracted to this picnic area.
We also watch a small herd of elephants walk past. As you do.
Having failed miserably to get his beloved Savannah Cider in Arusha, David is delighted to find that the small grocery store at Naabi Hill sells it.
The UNESCO Heritage ecosystem of Serengeti is one of the oldest and most diverse in the world, and has barely changed in the past million years or so.
It is, however, the annual migration that the Serengeti is most famous for, consisting of over a million wildebeest and some 200,000 zebra making their way from the north to south and back to the north continuously every year following the rain in search of greener pastures.
Below is a map of the Serengeti showing approximately where the migration usually is during the month of May. This morning we left Lake Masek Tented Camp at the bottom right of the map and later we entered the park through Naabi Hill Gate. We are heading for the Seronera area tonight.
Soon after we enter the park, we encounter a few thousand of the migrating animals. It is hard to get my head around the fact that all those little dots in the distance are animals
Serengeti has to be one of my favourite places in the world, but today I seem to be sleeping my way through the wilderness. I guess those antibiotics must be working. I feel totally knocked out. Fortunately David and Malisa do wake me up when they see something of interest.
Such as this leopard with her kill in a tree, resting on a branch right above the road.
There are already a few cars at the scene – we have been so spoilt in Ndutu by mostly being completely on our own at animal sightings, that having company takes a bit of getting used to.
Malisa points out the bad form by this driver – he has a full vehicle, yet he positions himself face on to the sighting, which means his passengers (seated in three rows) have to try and dodge each other to be able to photograph the leopard.
Looking around at the other cars, we seem to be the only ones that are not taking selfies with the leopard. It's not just youngsters either, it seems 'everyone' is doing it, even people our age. I just don't get it....
Our leopard is most definitely not comfortable, and keeps fidgeting and moving to a different position.
Feeling sure she is going to jump down from the tree and head off for a drink shortly, we stand around in the vehicle, waiting, waiting, waiting, while all the leopard does is shuffle around some more. I am feeling rather fatigued by it all, but I don't want to miss any action by sitting down.
Malisa believes that if the leopard yawns three times in a quick succession, it is an indication she will leave the tree and go for a drink.
Bang goes that theory.
Or does it? Maybe she was particularly tired and just wanted an extra yawn today? We all get very excited when she stands up.
Excitement over. It seems she is just hungry.
She then proceeds to pull off the tuft on the baby wildebeest's tail with her teeth, getting quite distressed when she gets a mouthful of hair, trying desperately to spit it out.
Obviously feeling hungry - again - from all that effort required to de-tail the wildebeest, she tucks into some juicy leg meat.
Right! She has finished eating, maybe she will now go for a drink?
Apparently not, although we hope she may just move the kill to a better and safer position, then jump down to look for a drink.
Ooops! Almost dropped it!
With some serious effort, she manages to haul her trophy back onto the branch again.
She puts her dinner back in the fork of the tree where it was before. Well, that was really worth the effort wasn't it?
Determined to find a better place to store the kill (to safeguard it while she leaves the tree for a drink hopefully), she has another go at moving it.
Sigh. She has another feed. Doesn't look like she is going anywhere for a while.
Suddenly her ears prick up and she sits bolt upright looking to our right. With eyesight and hearing five times as good as humans, our leopard has sensed something in the long grass.
She goes off on another branch to investigate.
It takes a couple of minutes before us humans can make out what she is looking at: a hyena.
Being able to smell the much coveted fresh kill, the hyena makes his way towards the tree.
Under the watchful eye of the leopard at all times of course.
The hyena finds a few small morsels of meat that dropped onto the ground when the leopard moved the prey earlier.
The light is fading fast (it was never very good for this whole encounter to be fair, it is just as well my Canon EOS 5D IV performs so well under low light / high ISO), and it is getting very late, so we have to leave the leopard and hyena to make our way to our lodge for the night.
Despite the fact that she never actually did leave the tree while we were here, it is still the best leopard sighting we have ever had in Tanzania (or anywhere else for that matter, we've been lucky enough to see them in Kenya, South Africa, Sri Lanka and India as well), so it is two very happy campers who drive away into the sunset.
I offer no apologies for the number of sunset pictures I have included in this blog.
Before we left home, Tillya told us he had a surprise for us for our wedding anniversary, and this evening's accommodation is it.
Spectacularly situated on the slope of an escarpment, we can see the lodge from a distance as we approach.
We arrive at the lodge and are helped with our luggage by the local porters. One of them promptly grabs my camera and proceeds to take several photos.
As I try to get it off him again, he is full of apologies, but all I want is to change the settings on the camera so the pictures won't be so grainy (It is pretty dark by now). Then I give it back for him to play with again.
At first glance the lodge looks very much like so many other tented camps in Tanzania, but this one is rather special.
We are shown down into the main building which houses the reception, bar and restaurant, plus a large open atrium in the middle. Outside is a lovely wooden deck with far-reaching views of the Serengeti plains and a swimming pool on a lower level.
Our room – named Swala, which means gazelle in Swahili – is about half way down the path. In all the hotels I have been trying to ask for a room as close to the reception as possible, as I am still feeling pretty awful and struggle to breathe, making walking a real effort, especially uphill.
Our tent is beautifully furnished, with a large four poster bed, a seating area, a writing desk, a water cooler / heater and an outside terrace on stilts with a table and chairs.
A large dressing area leads to the separate toilet and outside shower room – which has amazing views.
Views from the outdoor shower
Hot water is plentiful, heated by large solar panels during the day.
After a refreshing shower, we go for dinner – the best meal so far on this trip, with a BBQ chef cooking steaks to our liking and other dishes (lamb, chicken, okra curry, crispy spinach and macaroni) brought to our table. If ever proof was needed that I am quite ill, it is this: I didn't take any photos of our dinner!
Making our way slowly back to our room accompanied by an askari (Maasai guard), we see the eyes of three hyenas in the long grass on the slope between the tents. As we walk along, so do they, constantly following us with their eyes. Although hyenas are not generally known for attacking people, I still find it a little disconcerting and I am pleased when we make it to the safety of our room.
This blog was made possible thanks to Calabash Adventures – the best safari operator by far!