More cuteness overload
17.05.2016 - 17.05.2016
Bat Eared Fox
We leave the lodge while it is still dark this morning, and as dawn breaks we spot a couple of Bat Eared Foxes.
Having previously only seen the top of their ears in the distance, I get very excited at this sighting.
They in turn get excited at the sight of a White Bellied Bustard with a couple of chicks.
This is a chase they have little chance of winning, but they have a go at it anyway.
Still hungry and with the bustards half way across the savannah by now, the fox is left sniffing the air.
Lake Ndutu Sunrise
We turn our attention to the lake, where a dazzling sunrise marks the beginning of another day filled with thrilling wilderness experiences.
Verreaux's Eagle Owl
Black Backed Jackal
Having stalked a guinea fowl which then flies up into a tree, the jackal spends ages just staring at it while it makes loud warning calls to its mates.
Eventually the jackal comes to accept that neither tree climbing nor flying are part of his repertoire; and he wanders into the sunrise, posing for some great rim-lit shots.
Broken Down Vehicle
In the distance we see a car with its bonnet open, so Malisa goes over to check if they need any help. Between the three of them they manage to get the Jeep going, albeit coughing and spluttering in a plume of smoke.
This is not really the place to break down – roadside recovery service is somewhat limited and cheetahs are plentiful.
Pale Tawny Eagle
Grey Breasted Francolin
“What’s that?” With his binoculars glued to his eyes, Chris spots something in the long grass and exclaims excitedly: “it’s a cheetah!”
Bringing the car to a halt, Malisa takes a look: “There’s two… no, it’s a female with cubs!” There are four of them, about two months old.
Desperate for some breakfast, mum is constantly on the move, and wherever she goes, the cubs follow.
As is the unwritten rule, once we have had the kitties to ourselves for a while, Malisa radios the other couple of cars in the area to let them know about the sighting.
Painfully thin, mum really needs to eat soon, as her suckling babies have taken all her energy.
We spend the next hour or so following this family as they move across the plains, always on the look-out, always on the prowl.
Not a true cat in that it does not have retractable claws like those in the panthera genus (lions, leopards, jaguars and tigers); the cheetah belongs to the genus acinonyx, as it cannot roar.
Who knew that baby cheetah chirp like a bird?
As the cheetah make their way towards the woodland, we reluctantly move on to see what else the Ndutu area has to offer today.
Black Shouldered Kite
Lappet Faced Vulture
Yellow Throated Sandgrouse
Bat Eared Fox
After the excitement of seeing a Bat Eared Fox up close early this morning, I am doubly surprised to see another one!
Down at The Big Marsh, two brothers – around seven years old - are trying to sleep off last night’s big meal.
Two Banded Plover
This is what happens when you fight - you lose a horn! Let that be a lesson!
Dark Chanting Goshawk
Grey Headed Kingfisher
We set up a picnic on the plains in the shade of a tree.
Ndutu Lodge has done us proud with their picnic box – there is egg, bacon, pancake, fruit, yogurt, cake, banana and juice.
A large, hairy caterpillar is attracted to our picnic basket, and David is attracted to its fluffiness.
Only after David lets it crawl all over his hands for quite some time, does Malisa warn: “You’ll get a rash”.
While the large male lion in Ngorongoro Crater was a real Rasta Lion, these ‘teenage boys’ (around 1½-2 years old) have more of a punk style.
It’s a hard life being a teenager.
If the vulture is hanging around hoping the lions will provide him with breakfast in the shape of a kill, I think he might have a long wait – these boys do not look like they are going anywhere soon.
He might as well make himself comfortable…
Oh, wait… there might be some action here…?
Or maybe not.
They like lying down in the mud to cool off, which is why you so often see hyenas with dirty bottoms.
For a while we drive across never ending plains, seemingly devoid of any wildlife.
Malisa spots leopard footprints in the sand and later rescues a dung beetle who has fallen upside down and cannot get back up. Our handsome guide is all heart, for sure – not just a good driver / guide but caring too!
A shallow depression in the endless landscape unseen from the distance – hence its name – hides several small waterholes and an overwhelming number of animals.
What can I say? Apart from another “wow”, it is hard to find words to describe the spectacle of 200,000 or so zebra (plus around another 100,000 wildebeest) drinking, cavorting, taking a cooling dip, running, play fighting, and whatever else these ungulates do.
Never before have I seen so many zebra in one place, the area around the waterhole is a veritable sea of stripes.
Lots of very young babies, some just a few days old.
With a thunder of hooves and a cloud of dust, a few more thousand wildebeest arrive.
They just keep on coming...
Imagine the dust and the noise when a stampede ensues – what an extraordinary location and unforgettable experience this is!
A small limping wildebeest baby causes us great concern – he is unlikely to last long if f he can’t keep up with the herd and his vulnerability will make him an easy target for predators.
All around us, in every direction, whichever way you look, as far as the eye can see, there are zebra and wildebeest. No other animals. The spectacle is surreal and immense.
Time to move on.
With smooth ‘roads’, no animals in sight and a hot day, both David and I find ourselves nodding off.
Lesser Masked Weaver Birds
After a short ‘snoozette’, I wake when we stop for a tree full of weaver bird nests – all created on the western (leeward) side of the tree at the end of the branches to protect the eggs from their main predators: snakes.
And here is the architect herself.
Lilac Breasted Roller
A chirpy little D'Arnaud's Barbet
And his mate
This is the pride belonging to the two daddies we saw earlier on this morning – three females with six cubs between them.
There is not much activity going on in the midday heat – they occasionally lift their heads, look at us as if you say “why are you sitting there staring at us instead of taking a nap in the shade” and go back to sleep.
Malisa explains that he first saw the growth on the side of this young male back in January, and that it doesn’t seem to bother the animal at all. It still doesn’t make comfortable viewing though.
The daddies are still resting under the trees on the other side of the marsh, their whole bodies swaying when they pant. It makes me think of a salsa dancer.
One of the females gets up and starts to walk across to where we – and her partner – are. Perhaps she is jealous? She spends a long time just staring at us before giving up and lying down.
And how! A giraffe was the first large animal I saw on my very first African safari back in 1986 and I was mesmerised. I still feel that same way now, 30 years, eleven safaris, twenty-five game parks and countless giraffes later.
With thanks to Ndutu Safari Lodge for hose words.
Did you know that each time a giraffe lifts up its neck, it lifts more than 550 pounds?
We return to the lodge for lunch, a siesta or some bird watching before resuming today’s game drive. For fear of overload, I shall leave you here and create a new blog entry for this afternoon’s excursion.
As always, thanks to Calabash Adventures and their expert guide Malisa.