A very rare sighting indeed!
17.05.2016 - 17.05.2016
Food at Ndutu is always a pleasure and today’s lunch is no different. After a starter of soup and bread, we are served a ham salad, the taste of which is nothing short of exquisite!
I am feeling grateful for a relatively small portion at midday, until the accompaniments arrive: potato salad, capsicum salad, and coleslaw.
Ndutu Lodge is one of the few remaining truly independent safari lodges in Tanzania, and also one of the oldest camps around, dating back to the 1960s when it was the domain of the flamboyant and eccentric professional hunter George Dove.
When he abandoned hunting in 1967, he made a tented camp here at Ndutu. The lodge was taken over and refurbished in 1985, with stone cottages replacing the original tents. The lodge remains an extremely popular place to stay, and rightly so.
Renowned wildlife researchers Jane Goodall and Hugo van Lawick used Ndutu as a base for much of their research about wild dogs and the lodge is popular with a lot of well-known wildlife photographers such as Nick Garbutt, Stu Porter and Steve Bloom. And not to forget Grete Howard and Lyn Gowler!
I love the lodge's motto:
“Don't expect five stars; from our campfire you will see millions.”
The lodge is also a cracking place for bird watching, with over 400 species recorded in the vicinity; so after lunch Lyn and I head out with our long lenses to see what we can shoot.
Slate Coloured Boubou
Blue Capped Cordon Bleu
White Rumped Helmetshrike
White Bellied Canary
Grey Backed Camaroptera
Scarlet Breasted Sunbird
Lesser Masked Weaver
Speckled Fronted Weaver
Steel Blue Whydah
Ndutu Safari Lodge is located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, just outside the border with the Serengeti National Park. Of course, there are no physical barriers separating the two reserves, and the migrating animals aren’t too good at reading maps, so they wander in and out of the parks at will.
We see these dik diks in the lodge grounds as we leave for this afternoon's game drive.
We head for the lake again this afternoon. Lake Ndutu used to belong to Ngorongoro Conservation Area, but the authorities decided to move the border so that the lake is now inside Serengeti National Park. The reason for doing this is to do with to off-road driving, which is not permitted in the Serengeti but can - and does – take place in the conservation area. The number of cars driving too close to the lakeshore caused erosion damage and was a threat to the environment and the wildlife.
The white post marks the border, and Malisa is very careful to stick to the designated tracks here.
On the lakeshore we find a few Lesser Flamingo – the ones that are darker with more pink colouring, are the younger birds; they get paler as they grow older.
Spotted Thick Knee
We also spot a Spotted Thick Knee in the grass.
A mini tornado
And a couple of wildebeest carcasses
Heading towards Lake Masek, we come across the lions we saw last night feeding on the zebra carcass. Today there are only eight, not nine, so one must have gone walkabout.
We can still see the dried blood on this guy's face from yesterday's feast!
Because they ate yesterday, there is no need for them to kill again for another three days.
Now they are just lazing around, digesting the food.
After eating, lions do not produce any solid waste for days: they poop blood!
It's always such a relief to be able to 'pass through' a big meal I find.
A family of Helmeted Guineafowl stroll by. As they do.
There is not much left of yesterday’s zebra today, and the stench is nauseating.
The lions have had their fill.
The vultures have finished it off, and now all that is left is for the bluebottles to clean it.
We let sleeping lions be, and move on.
We’re busy looking up into a tree at a hiding hoopoe, when Malisa gets word on the radio about a caracal being spotted down on the flats between the two lakes. Seeing this elusive cat is very rare, so it is an adrenalin-filled vehicle that rushes off in the direction of the sighting.
We can’t believe our luck when he comes rushing out of the bushes, right next to our car. He certainly isn’t hanging around, and I only manage to get a quick bum-shot as he dashes for cover!
Anticipating that he may – or may not – emerge the other side; we drive around the thicket, occasionally catching a very brief glimpse of his backside as he creeps deeper into the shrubbery.
This is where having a quality guide pays off – Malisa moves with some considerable haste towards a very small clearing, urging us to get our cameras poised, ready for action so that we can shoot on the move if he emerges.
And he does. And we do.
What a wondrous sighting! Knowing that this is only the third time Malisa has ever seen a caracal – it is that rare – we feel extremely honoured to have managed to catch a brief three-second glimpse of one today.
We finally get a picture of the hoopoe that was so rudely interrupted by a caracal earlier.
I don’t know what it is about trees on this trip – in Tarangire I remembered the tree I photographed two years ago, and today I recognised a tree under which we had a picnic in 2011. I really do need to get out more…
Lake Masek 2016
Picnic at Lake Masek 2011
The hippo only stay down this end of the lake as fresh water from the stream that runs into the lake at this point means the water is not as brackish here.
The Golden Hour
As the sun dips low on the horizon, painting everything in its path a rich golden orange, we encounter an elephant with her young baby – some 1½ years old.
After a while the elephants wander in to the sunset, and so do we, heading for camp.
After another great dinner at Ndutu Safari Lodge, we join the genets for a quick drink in the bar, marking the end of yet another glorious day in the African Bush.
As usual, I would like to thank Calabash Adventures and our ever-wonderful guide Malisa for allowing us to experience all this.