A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Grete Howard

Arusha - Dar es Salaam - London - Bristol

Heading home


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With a free morning before our flight home, we were hoping for some decent bird watching in the grounds on Kia Lodge. There are, however, surprisingly and disappointingly, few birdies this morning.

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House Sparrow

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Millipede

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Some sort of butterfly or moth - I have been unable to identify it

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Dwarf Yellow Headed Gecko

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The Fork Tailed Drongo makes it the 158th trip tick (number of different species we've seen on this trip), of which 19 are lifers (new species to us).

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Some of our lifers from the trip

We spend some time chatting to a Dutch lady by the swimming pool, chilling in the room, and having lunch, before it is time to leave. The transfer to the airport is by open sided safari vehicle!

We fly via Dar es Salaam, and have a great view of Tanzania's former capital from the air.

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Soon the sun is going down and we sit back to sleep our way to Doha and onward to London Heathrow.

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The only thing I worry about when we get to Heathrow, is that Big Bertha (my Canon 600mm lens, which, because of its size, I had to check into the hold) arrives in one piece. She does, and all is well in the Howard Household yet again. Now all I have to do is to edit the 55,000 photos I took. Footnote: it took me six months to finish!

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Big Bertha in her solid housing.

The safari has been amazing from start to finish, with super accommodation, fantastic company, and some great bird and animal sightings. Thank you again Tillya and Halima of Calabash Adventures, and of course, the wonderful Malisa, without whom the trip would not have been what it was. Love you guys ♥

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Posted by Grete Howard 14:54 Archived in Tanzania Tagged sunset flight airport tanzania birding butterfly gecko sparrow heathrow millipede drongo dar_es_salaam big_bertha calabash_adventures kilimanjaro_airport kia_lodge Comments (1)

Lake Eyasi - Arusha

Our last journey with Malisa


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The marauding monkeys made for a very disturbed night: as they jumped from tree to tree, the leaves made a sound like the rustling of a plastic bag, with the occasional abrupt noise sounding like a gun shot; not to mention the racket when they ran across our roof! Thankfully we have a late start this morning – the first one since we arrived in Tanzania (we're not leaving until 9am) – and we spend it exploring the grounds of Kisima Ngeda Lodge.

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The camp fire and bar beyond

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The observation tower

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View from the tower with Lake Eyasi in the background

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The wooden boardwalk leading down to a small bird pond - currently out of use as it is under renovation due to being overgrown and unsafe

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The secluded swimming pool

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Fishermen on Lake Eyasi

The 3½ hour drive to Arusha is uneventful, we just make three stops along the way: to photograph an immature Steppe Eagle; to use the surprisingly clean, modern, spacious and fully stocked / working toilets at a police check point; and for cattle crossing.

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Wide load!

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And another one!

At Sable Square Shopping Village we meet up with Tillya and Halima (the owners of Calabash Adventures) for lunch.

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My highlight, however, is finally seeing the rather rare Shoebill which Tillya has promised me on every single trip so far! Yay! What a wonderful eleventh-hour bonus!

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Kia Lodge

From here it's another hour-and-a-half drive to Kia Lodge, the Kilimanjaro Airport Hotel. We have stayed here a couple of time before, and it works so well as it is within the airport grounds and offers free transfers. As always it is sad to say goodbye to Malisa, so we keep it short and sweet. We will be keeping in touch via WhatsApp and Facebook though, which sweetens the parting somewhat.

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This is the busiest we've seen Kia Lodge, however, and when we arrive there are people coming, going and milling around. In the confusion the receptionist gives me the passports of a French couple checking in at the same time. Oops! Fortunately I discover it immediately - I dread to think what would happen if I'd just absentmindedly put them all in my bag and not got them out until the airport.

Our room is the furthest away from reception, which is nice, as, unlike the guests who are going off on a safari, we are not leaving until later tomorrow and can have a bit of a lie-in without being disturbed by other guests. We agree a price with the receptionist for keeping the room until lunchtime tomorrow. Despite my hard negotiations and a very decent discount, it is still a hefty $100. Worth it though to be able to have a shower and change before we leave for the long journey home.

Dinner

We are very pleasantly surprised that dinner is in fact included in our stay, which somehow takes the sting off the rather steep rate for a day-room.

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Starter: Vegetable Bruschetta on toast with mango salsa

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I have what the menu described as: 'Green Dall and Red Dall cooked in Indian served with Turmeric Rice and Tortillas Cup'.

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David chooses Beef Tenderloin with a rich sauce

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The chocolate cake with vanilla sauce is a bit of a disappointment in that it is very dry and served with what I would describe as jam.

We retire to the room to finish off the Duty Free that has travelled around with us for the last seventeen days. It is such a delight to have power 24/7 and wifi in the room.

Another fantastic holiday arranged by Calabash Adventures has come to and end. Until next time. Cheers!

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Posted by Grete Howard 14:36 Archived in Tanzania Tagged africa dinner tanzania eagle arusha calabash_adventures steppe_eagle lake_eyasi tillya halima kisima_ngeda sable_square_shopping_village showbill kia_lodge Comments (2)

Visiting the Datoga Tribe

A fascinating afternoon


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Datoga Tribe

Known as the Mang'ati in Swahili, the pastoral Datoga people consider themselves the oldest tribe in Tanzania.

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We are invited into one of their huts, to see how the women grind corn. We saw mounds of discarded corn husks as we arrived.

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The work is all done by hand and is very labour intensive – not to mention back breaking, as I find out when I try.

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Kneeling is not an option for me after several knee injuries over the years.

The Datoga are traditionally patrilineal and polygynous, and today we see mainly women and children in this settlement.

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Scarification in a circular pattern around the eyes is a popular of creating facial beautification, and you can recognise a married woman from the tassels she wears over her skirt.

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I hope David is not getting any ideas about polygamy!

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Tikiri, a poplar strategy game that we have seen numerous variations of throughout Africa.

These pastoralists are also skilled silversmiths, and as well as jewellery, they supply the Hadzabe with iron arrow tips, knives and spears in exchange for honey and fruits, and we continue on to their outdoor workshop.

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David has a go at bellowing to try and get the fire going, but doesn't have much success.


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One of their men shows him how it's done.


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We are shown how the blacksmith will take a thick nail from his pile of scrap metal and turn it into an intricate arrow tip.

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I love the way he is holding onto it with his feet!

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The finish product

The Datoga are known for onion farming, and we stop at a plantation on our way back to the lodge.

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The onion crop is rotated every three months with corn.

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The produce is taken to the market, or exported to Kenya and Europe.

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Back at the lodge, we spend the rest of the afternoon watching the antics of the Black faced Vervet Monkeys in the grounds.

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I have a weird fascination with their blue balls.

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Dinner

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Lovely napkin art

Starter of pea soup (not photographed)

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Chicken with Madeira sauce

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Chocolate Mousse

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Love the play on words!

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Looks like I may have caught the sun today

And so it is time for bed at the end of another fascinating day in Tanzania, beautifully arranged – as always – by Calabash Adventures.

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Posted by Grete Howard 14:11 Archived in Tanzania Tagged monkeys market africa dinner tanzania onions workshop blacksmith farming ironwork jewellery sunburn metalwork export suntan rusty_nail billowing arrows calabash_adventures vervet_monkeys black_faced_vervet_monkeys blue_balls lake_eyasi kisima_ngeda kisima_ngeda_lodge ethnic_tribe datoga datoga_tribe pastoral_tribe grinding_corn patrilineal polygamy scarification married_women tikiri silversmith scrap_metal hunting_arrows onion_farming onion_plantation goat_do_roam red_wine blue_testicles tan_lines Comments (5)

Lake Eyasi: Hadzabe settlement

The last full-time hunter-gatherers in Africa


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Hadzabe

Alex picks us up early this morning, just after breakfast, for our visit to the Hadzabe Tribe. The access toad to their camp is rudimentary to say the least.

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The Hadza number just under 1,000 and is the smallest tribe in Tanzania. Some 300–400 Hadza still live as hunter-gatherers, much as their ancestors have for thousands or even tens of thousands of years; they are the last full-time hunter-gatherers in Africa.

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The Hadza are organized into bands, called 'camps', of typically 20–30 people, and the camp we are visiting this morning lies in the shade of a rocky overhang, where a number of men are gathered.

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Women are chatting merrily under a tree, and a few children are running around. There is a relaxed atmosphere here and we feel very welcome.

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On the flat ground at the base of the rocks, a couple of straw huts provide shelter on dry nights, whereas the caves are used when it rains.

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The interior does not exactly provide a great deal of comfort. The Hadzabe people are nomads, and they don't really believe in material possessions - they own very little beyond their clothes, cooking equipment and hunting implements.

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We are assigned a young man called Hant'anee as our guide, and he explains their hunting methods to us in the local language, translated by Alex. While traditionally classified with the Khoisan languages, primarily because it has clicks, the Hadza language appears to be an isolate, unrelated to any other. The Hadza lad is a real showman, and I am sure he deliberately uses as many words with the clicking sound as possible, for effect. And very effective it is too!


Understanding the language is not a prerequisite to being able to follow what he is explaining though, as Hant'anee is so animated in his description of how and what they hunt, making the noises and movements of birds and monkeys as well as the men's actions.

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He explains the different types of arrows and which animals they are used for. The Hadzabe mainly kill birds and smaller mammals, such as hares and monkeys, although sometimes they will bag an antelope too.

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Evidence of previous kills.

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Many of the men are sitting around smoking and our guide explains how they make fire in the traditional way.

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A clay pipe is filled with 'tobacco' and passed around.


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The 'tobacco' leaves

Hant'anee demonstrates how they inhale the smoke, then cough violently to ensure the effect reaches the brain.

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I try the pipe (minus the coughing), while David is not so keen.

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Having learned all about their hunting skills using a bow and arrow earlier, now is the time to put it all into action.

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Alex goes first

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I fare dismally

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David does very much better

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He's hit the target!

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Pleased much?

Before we leave, they put on a song and dance for us.


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And the obligatory group photo, of course.

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It's time for us to make our way back to the lodge for breakfast, and everyone comes over to shake our hands. While the settlement is obviously used to accepting tourists, I still feel it is very much more genuine than the Maasai villages we have visited in the past, with no obligation to tip and no heavy sales pressure. In fact, I don't even see any items for sale. The Hadzabe are mostly self sufficient, and money does not hold the same value for them for that reason.

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We reach the lodge in time for breakfast, after which we change into swimming costumes and have a play around in the pool – which we have completely to ourselves.

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The small sunbathing area by the pool

Afterwards we have a wander along the meandering paths in the lodge grounds, followed by a snooze. Today is the first day of relaxation in the two weeks we have been in Tanzania. Having been up at 05:50 every single morning on this trip, out all day game viewing, and back just in time for dinner and bed, all this free time feels rather odd.

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Smith's Bush Squirrel - a new species for us

At lunch we are no longer alone – the Americans are back. We hear via the grapevine that this is their first adventure trip, they are ardent cruisers and apparently high maintenance, with the attitude: “we've paid this much to be here, we want it now!” How not to endear yourself to the staff and locals.

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The restaurant at Kisima Ngeda Lodge

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The bar

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The lounge

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The veranda overlooking the grounds and the lake beyond

As always we are extremely grateful to Tillya and Halima of Calabash Adventures; as well as their trusted driver and our very good friend, Malisa, for arranging another amazing experience. You guys are the best!

Thanks must also go to Alex Puwale for arranging this cultural visit.

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Posted by Grete Howard 05:30 Archived in Tanzania Tagged africa tanzania dancing squirrel swimming_pool ethnic smoking hunting cannabis cultural_exchange calabash_adventures lake_eyasi hadzabe alex_puwale kisima_ngeda hadze eyasi village_visit bow_and_arrow hunter-gatherers clay_pipe kisima_ngeda_lodge african_tribes ethnic_tribe smith's_bush_squirrel bush_squirrel africa_bush_squirrel Comments (2)

Ndutu: lion in a tree - Lake Eyasi

Goodbye Ndutu, hello Lake Eyasi


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Having enjoyed our picnic breakfast, we set off again for more game viewing.

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Dik Dik

We are heading back to Ndutu Lodge to use the facilities before we leave the area, but the route Malisa wants to take is impassable. “There used to be a road here” he explains.

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A Greater Spotted Thick Knee doing her best to hide from us

Malisa drops us off at the lodge while he goes off to get fuel for the car.

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Meanwhile, we spend our time walking around the grounds, looking for birds and taking it all in for the last time.

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Northern Grey Headed Sparrow

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Great White Pelicans flying in formation

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I can't believe how overgrown the gardens are at Ndutu Lodge, after all the recent rains.

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Hildebrand Starling

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I am really impressed with the individual terry towels in the 'public' toilets at Ndutu!

Malisa returns and we make our way towards the gate that takes us out of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, of which Ndutu is a small part.

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Black Faced Sandgrouse

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Lesser Flamingo

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Southern Red Bishop

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Lesser Masked Weaver

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They weave the most exquisite nests!

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Strange horizontal rainbow

Lions

Malisa hears on the radio that a lioness has been spotted in a tree near the lake – it sounds like our lady from earlier this morning. We go to check it out.

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The lioness looks most uncomfortable and keeps shifting her position.

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Under the tree is a male lion, who is periodically sniffing the air, hoping for his mate to come back down.

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Meanwhile tourists are busy taking selfies with the lions – I wonder if you can actually see the big cat in that photo, or just the outline of a tree?

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Much as we'd love to stay and see what happens with our two kitties, we have to leave in order to get to the gate. Permits are strictly timed and any overstay faces a heavy fine.

There is still quite a lot of flooding in Ndutu.

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Zebra

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Just less than an hour ago we travelled through heavy flooding, now the roads are annoyingly dusty!

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The dust covers everything in a thin layer of dirt – look at the state of my camera!

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The dirt being thrown up by passing vehicles also plays havoc with the windscreen of our Landcruiser. A crack developed earlier on the trip, and now, every time we meet a car travelling at speed, Malisa has to hold on to the glass in fear that it would shatter if a stone was to hit it.

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We join up with the main road through Serengeti, where a new gate post has been erected since we first started coming here, with tourists lining up to have their photos taken, and vendors hoping to sell them some souvenirs.

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The original gate

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The new sign

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Ndutu Lodge also has a new sign, with the new brand created since the lodge changed ownership.

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Sculpture advertising the Museum of Mankind at Oldupai - also new

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A would-be vendor heading for the tourists

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Lots of giraffes - we count twenty of them!

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We stop at Seneto Descent Road (the entrance to Ngorongoro Crater) for a picnic lunch, as are several other people. This is the most crowded I have ever seen this spot. It seems it is not just the camera that is covered in dust – my face was pretty dirty too!

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The cloth after wiping my face

Baboons

We see a small baby playing, but as soon as we stop, the parents gather him up and leave.

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There are more baboons at Lodoare Gate (the exit from Ngorongoro Conservation Area), including one that jumps on the bonnet of the car while I am in the loo. David tries to quickly grab a shot with my camera.

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Once we're through the gate, we hit the sealed road – the first time for eleven days! Not for long though, a mere five kilometres down the road, we turn off right, onto another fairly rough dirt track. This is all new and unexplored territory for us now.

We later turn off the dirt track to an even smaller and narrower lane, winding its way through small hamlets and into the wilderness. This is real off-the-beaten-path stuff, and a completely different type of vegetation – thick and verdant, more jungle-like - to anything we've seen in Tanzania before.

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Kisima Ngeda Lodge

As we pull up in the lodge car park, an army of helpers appear out of nowhere. Unless we really want to, there is no need to carry any of our own luggage. After a welcome drink while signing in at the reception, we are shown to our room.

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Our room is, in fact, a large tent on a wooden base with a thatched roof. The room is well furnished and there is an en suite western style toilet and shower at the rear of the tent.

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The local guide, who will be with us tomorrow for our excursions, arrives to give us a briefing. As he walks up onto our balcony, I get an instant feeling of recognition. He looks familiar. As he introduces himself as Alex, my mind starts ticking. I am not even sure what I am trying to think of, but suddenly it hits me. “Alex” I ask, “what is your surname?” As soon as he replies “Puwale”, I smile – we are already friends on Facebook! What a small, small world!

Alex's Facebook page

After a quick shower and change, we pop down to the bar for a drink, delighted that we can walk about freely without having to call an askari (a Maasai security guard armed with a spear) to protect us from any potential wild animals. It's the first time on this trip that we've had some time to spare before dinner, and Malisa soon joins us.

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There is one other group of tourists staying tonight, six people from from the US. I am horrified when I overhear them asking their guide if hunting is allowed, as they'd really like to be able to kill something. Malisa's face is a picture, and I really feel for their guide having to explain to such misinformed and misguided visitors. They are also querying the availability of public conveniences during their trip to see a hunter-gatherer tribe tomorrow. What do they think this is? Disneyland?

As they start to discuss US politics (they are all ardent Trump supporters – there's a surprise!), we try our best to ignore their conversation, which proves rather difficult due to the volume at which they speak. We have a good laugh with Malisa, however, joking about the overheard comments by Whatsapping each other across the table. Little things for little minds.

Dinner

Tomato soup for starters, followed by pork medallions with creamed potato and vegetables, and finished off with a passion fruit mousse.

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As always, I am impressed with the arrangements Calabash Adventures have made for us – they really are the best in their field.

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Posted by Grete Howard 15:59 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds pelicans wildlife africa safari rainbow tanzania zebra birding lions baboons flooding sparrow flamingo giraffes trump ngorongoro dust starling weaver diesel bird_watching ndutu calabash calabash_adventures seneto seneto_descent_road ngorongoro_conservation_area oldupai thick_knee lions_in_a_tree sandgrouse wildlife_photography windscreen lake_eyasi red_bishop american_tourists ndutu_lodge african_animals african_birds alex_puwale animals_of_africa birds_of_africa cracked_windscreen serengeti_gate lodoare lodoare_gare museum_of_mankind kisima_ngeda trump_supporters Comments (2)

Ndtutu XIII - drowned wildebeest, jackals, lions

What a stench!


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Today we are leaving Ndutu and heading to pastures new. A pretty sunrise sees us on our way.

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Vultures at Lake Masek

Initially we cannot fathom out why so many vultures are descending on the shores of the lake.

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There are vultures (and Marabou Stork) everywhere: on the ground, in the trees, flying in! I think all Ndutu's vultures are here in this spot!

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The sound of their huge wings flapping as the come in to land is really quite something to hear.

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Then we see it: Floating wildebeest carcasses – animals who drowned trying to cross the river.

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Not just one, but dozens of bloated, putrid decomposing bodies. The stench of the rotting flesh is heinous.

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For some light relief I turn my head towards the heavens, where the dark sky has now opened up a small window to let the sunrise through.

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I spend some time watching the large flocks of egrets making their way across other parts of the sky while I wait patiently for a bird or two to fly past the sunrise window.

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Meanwhile, the hole in the cloud is rapidly changing shape, and finally I get lucky!

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Not being able to stand the atrocious stink any longer, we move on to see what else nature has to offer us today.

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Grey Capped Social Weaver

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Vitelline Masked Weaver

Black Backed Jackals

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Temmincks Stint

Avocets

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Gull Billed Tern

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Giraffe

Lion

As we are following the contour of the lake, Malisa is busy looking around as always. I feel sure, however, that he has seen the lion whose paw is across the track we are driving on. He makes no attempt at slowing down, so I start to alert him to the big cat, without wanting to shout and scare the lion away. My warning comes out a little meek and feeble: “erm..... stop...?” Of course, for the rest of the trip, the boys tease me mercilessly about it.

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By the time Malisa swerves out of the way onto the grass alongside the track and stops, the lion is most certainly not happy.

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We move a little further away for our safety and the lions comfort. He obviously realises that lying in the road is not a good ideas, and gets up, sniffs the air and marks his territory before moving off.

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We follow him down to the lakeside, where he sees one of the many dead wildebeest floating in the lake. You can tell that he so wants it, but it is just that too far away for him too reach.

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We hang around, hoping he is going to go for a swim, but he obviously doesn't want to get his hair wet, and makes a rapid beeline for the thicket further inland instead, walking with a definite purpose.

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He wanders into the bush. We follow. There is a delicious smell of mint wafting across the savannah as we bulldoze our way through the undergrowth to follow the lion – such a pleasant change after the grim odour from the wildebeest carcasses earlier.

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So that's what he is heading for!

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She's coming down!

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She most likely sought refuge in the tree as a respite from her mate's sexual advances, and now she's ready for some more action.

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We watch as she disappears into the ever-thickening shrubs. The terrain where she is going is too dense for us to follow, we are already in a place outside our normal comfort zone.

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“How do we get out of here?” I ask Malisa. “I have no idea” he replies as he creates a new 'track' through the bush.

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We return to the area where the lion was watching the wildebeest carcass for our breakfast in the car (too dangerous to get out with the predators around), hoping he'll come back.


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He doesn't, so we continue on our way to see what else nature has to offer us.

Thank you to Calabash Adventures for this amazing safari.

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Posted by Grete Howard 03:51 Archived in Tanzania Tagged birds sunrise africa safari tanzania birding lion vultures avocet weaver bird_watching ndutu calabash_adventures lake_masek marabou_stork jackals african_animals wildebeest_carcasses social_weaver masked_weaver black_backed_jackals lion_in_a-tree erm_stop Comments (2)

Ndutu XII - David unwell, pond life, lion, cheetah

Just me and Malisa against the world. Well, not quite the world, but at least the wildlife of Ndutu.


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We have our picnic breakfast in the car on the plains, completely surrounded by the enormous herd of wildebeest.

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We are thrilled when we spot 'our' baby in amongst the crowd – his mum is instantly recognisable by the manner in which her afterbirth is hanging. It's a relief to know that our grandchild survived the first critically vulnerable period of his life.

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Zebra

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This guys is missing his tail – probably a close brush with a lion or hyena!

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Tawny Eagle

Marabou Stork

He's on the lookout for wildebeest placentas for lunch!

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Pregnant Hyena

David is not feeling at all well, and asks Malisa to take him back to the lodge. He must be poorly, that's the first time I have heard him ask that in our seven safaris here. Hopefully it is nothing serious.

Once David is safely delivered at the lodge, where we take the opportunity to use the facilities, Malisa and I continue our safari “to see what nature has to offer us” as he always says.

White Backed Vulture

I'm intrigued as to how the vulture became so wet. It seems to me that he might have had an involuntary dip in the lake. He is looking quite bedraggled!

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He is certainly busy trying to dry off, waving his huge wings around in the hot, still air.

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Giraffe skeleton

Wildebeest crossing Lake Ndutu

With all the recent rains and subsequent flooding, Lake Ndutu has extended its shores considerably across the flat landscape, with shallow pools being creating where the usual path of the wildebeest was.

I think this much deeper section has taken the small group – or confusion, the collective noun of wildebeest – by surprise.

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Oh my! There is a tiny baby in the group!

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There seems to be some consternation, with the adults agitated and the baby nowhere to be seen. I hold my breath as I am terrified he may have drowned.

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He is only tiny, likely to have been born earlier this morning. After a few tense seconds, he re-appears and all is well.

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Thankfully, they soon reach shallower waters.

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We can all breathe again now.

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Speckled Weaver

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Red Bishop

Pond Life

Lots of birds – and a few animals – gather down at the lake shore.

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Greater and Lesser Flamingo

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The lesser flamingo is the more colourful of the two species

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Avocet

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I had no idea that Avocet use the same principle for fishing as spoonbills – sweeping the bottom of the shallow water from side to side to disturb any living organisms that they can then scoop up and eat.

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Greenshank

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Kittlitz Plover

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Marabou Stork

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Common Sandpiper

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Giraffe

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Giraffe and Wildebeest

In places the earth appears to be dried out, with huge cracks. It is very deceptive, however, as the ground underneath is still very soggy, and as soon as you drive out onto it, the car sinks deep into the mud.

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Ndutu Lodge have issued stark warnings to all its drivers and visitors, and will charge 300,000 Tanzanian Shillings to rescue you (ca £100 / US$130).

Oxpeckers

Feasting on a dazzle of zebras (the collective noun for a group of zebras)

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Long Crested Eagle

She off hunting for lunch.

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Lion

A lazy male lion relaxes in the shade. It's amazing how we've predominantly seen male lions on this trip, no large prides with females and cubs as we have on previous visits.

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We let sleeping lions be, and go off to see what else nature has to offer us today.

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Tawny Eagle. "You looking at me?"

Wattled Starling

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Cheetah

Malisa thinks we should return to see what the cheetah cubs are doing. We find them not far from where they were yesterday, and today they are mostly sleeping in the shade, occasionally turning over.

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After a while the other clients get bored, and one by one the cars leave until eventually it is only us and a car with two serious German photographers left. Our patience pays off when the cheetahs get up from their slumber and start to play!

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A few more cars arrive in time to see the cubs trying to climb a tree stub, somewhat precariously!

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At one stage one of the cubs walks straight towards our car, and I am sure (hoping) she is going to jump on the bonnet of the Landcruiser!

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She veers off last minutes and heads for another car, but doesn't climb on board that one either.

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After nearly three hours (and 2,500 photos) of watching this gorgeous family, we have to reluctantly leave and make our way back to the lodge in order to get there before dark.

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Also watching the cheetahs playing is a Northern Double Collared Sunbird - another lifer!

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Storks

Down by Lake Ndutu, Abdim and Marabou Storks are gathering for the night.

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Baby Wildebeest

This young guy is wandering all alone, and Malisa surmises that his mama has been killed. He won't last long on his own, unfortunately.

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White Bellied Bustard

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By the time we get back to Ndutu Lodge, David is up and about, feeling very much better after a long sleep, plenty of water and a shower.

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Dinner

Tonight's gastronomic offerings consists of

Chef's Salad

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Fennel Soup (which we decline)

Beef Lasagne

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Chocolate Brownie with home made Toffee Swirl Brownie Ice Cream

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While we are eating, there is a terrific electric storm going on in the distance. I try to capture it on my phone, but it really isn't very successful. By the time we have finished dinner, the storm has passed.


And so we go to bed on the last evening here in Ndutu. As always, our thanks go to Calabash Adventures for such terrific arrangements.

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Posted by Grete Howard 16:22 Archived in Tanzania Tagged wildlife africa safari tanzania zebra eagle cheetah lion giraffe flamingo stork vulture avocet birdwatching starling weaver wildebeest ndutu calabash calabash_adventures marabou_stork wildebeest_migration tawny_eagle best_safari_operator plover wattled_starling sandpiper pond_life great_migration wildlife_photography greenshank red_bishop oxpeckers ndutu_lodge african_animals david_unwell giraffe_skeleton Comments (2)

Ndutu XI: buffalo, jackals, fox cubs, birth of a wildebeest

What an emotionally charged morning!


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Setting off as usual in the pre-dawn darkness, we are excited to spot four lions in the far distance down on the Marsh.

“Hold on tight” Malisa instructs us as he sets off towards the big cats at quite some speed.

As we get nearer, our excitement turns to amusement: they are not lions, but hartebeest. Oh. At least it proves that even the best guide can make a mistake in the dark.

Soon afterwards Malisa briefly spots a honey badger before it disappears into the long grass. The verdant vegetation has its ups and down: there is plenty of food for the animals, but makes it more difficult for carnivores to hunt as the prey can hide so much easier. It also makes it trickier for them so spot a potential mating partner (hence why we have seen several male lions in trees on this trip). From our perspective, the tall vegetation means animals are more difficult to see, and when we do, many of them are only visible from half way up. We've been told by several people that they've not had so much rain / flood here since 1995.

Sunrise

The sunrise this morning is almost as spectacular as the sunset last night.

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As a photographer, you need to be ready as soon the sun appears – from the moment the first bright sliver peeks above the horizon until the entire sun is visible, is pretty exactly two minutes. No time to waste.

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Cape Buffalo

We haven't seen many buffalo on this trip.

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Black Backed Jackals

The buffalo have a stare-down with a couple of jackals, but they decide to go their separate ways. I am sure the much-smaller jackals would be no match for the aggressive buffalo.

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Tawny Eagles

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Coqui Francolin

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Crested Lark

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Grey Breasted Francolin

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Blacksmith Plover

Southern Ground Hornbill

There are a couple of hornbills on the ground, both of which have managed to grab themselves some breakfast.

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Ooh, this guy's got not just one lizard, but two!

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And then he's off with his take-away breakfast.

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Bat Eared Fox

As we are busy watching the hornbills, I spot a couple of fox cubs out of the corner of my eye.

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Whispering sweet nothing in my ear

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There are not just two cubs, a third one appears.

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Now there are four!

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When they start playing, all you can hear in the van is “aww” and “ahh”.

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Dik Dik

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Red Necked Spurfowl

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Harlequin Quails

Malisa spotted a Harlequin Quail earlier, but I only got a very brief glimpse of it, which was rather disappointing as it is a new one on us!

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Here, however, there are several of them. Admittedly they are running along the deeply furrowed, and massively overgrown car tracks, so not only are they difficult to see, they are extremely hard to photograph as they are in and out of blazingly bright sun and deep shadows.

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Lappet Faced Vulture

Pale Tawny Eagle

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Long Tailed Mongoose

We get a brief glimpse of this rarely-seen mongoose, just as it runs away.

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Looking for the maternity ward

For the last three days we have been on the lookout for a wildebeest mama who is just about to give birth, and today is no exception. We head down to what we jokingly call the “maternity ward” - an area full of wildebeest, many heavily pregnant.

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Soon we spot a young female (we can tell she is young because of the shape of the horns, hers are not yet fully developed) who has a pair of legs sticking out from her behind.

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We follow her as she goes about her business, seemingly without a care in the world. Before long, however, she sits down, and we are disappointed to think that we are probably going to miss the birth having seen through our binoculars how she is trying to push.

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When she stands up again, the birthing process is no further on. We worry for her. Generally the calving takes no more than around fifteen minutes for wildebeest, but this young mother-to-be appears to be really struggling.

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She walks, she tries to push, she sits down, she eats some more. Other wildebeest come up to her, seemingly to offer encouragement; but despite heavy pushing, she gets no further. After more walking, more pushing and more eating, she is finally exhausted and collapses on the ground, motionless. Is she dying? Is the baby still alive inside her? Has she lost the will to live? Will she be strong enough to finally push the baby out and look after it when it is born? We are getting distressed and seriously concerned for her safety now.

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This is way better than any documentary I ever saw – I am not just watching from the comfort of the sofa in our living room; I am here, with her, her family. I am that wildebeest.

When she finally stands up, we all breathe a sigh of relief, then hold our breath again as she starts to push once more, this time in earnest; and within a few minutes we can see the head appearing. The adrenaline in our car soars - I never expected to feel such thrill and intoxication at an animal giving birth. Willing her on, we shout words of encouragement: “Push!” “Push” “You can do it” “Come on girl” "Push".

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Then it's all over. I whoop with excitement and elation: “Yay! We're grandparents” “Good job!” Then emotion overtakes me and I cry.

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As a first-time mother, the calving was anything but easy for her. 49 minutes elapsed from we first spotted her until the baby was out. Within minutes, however, the youngster is on his feet, instinctively trying to feed while the mother licks him clean.

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Never mind the wildebeest, I am completely exhausted with all the emotions of just watching. We leave them to get to know each other and to continue on their never ending journey in the quest for greener pastures. This is the Circle of Life”

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This amazing experience would not have been possible without the excellent arrangements of Calabash Adventures, and of course our trusted guide and good friend Malisa.

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Posted by Grete Howard 03:55 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds sunrise africa safari tanzania eagle birding fox buffalo vulture quail mongoose wildebeest bird_watching hornbill african_safari honey_badger ndutu calabash_adventures hartebeest bat_eared_fox jackals tawny_eagle plover dik_dik spurfowl francolin big_marsh wildebeest_baby african_birds african_animal fox_cubs long_tailed_mongoose wildebeest_calving wildebeest_birth Comments (2)

Ndutu X - lion, 1000 wildebeest, dung beetles, cheetah cubs

A perfect end to a perfect day


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We set off after lunch to see what nature has to offer us here in Ndutu, and hopefully find a wildebeest herd where we can witness a birth.

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African Hoopoe

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Juvenile Red Billed Buffalo Weaver

Lion

Under a tree we see a magnificent male lion. Initially just resting, he soon sits up surveying the tourists arriving.

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Big yawn. And other funny facial expressions.

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He licks his chops and walks straight towards us.

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Too close for comfort, or at least for photography!

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It's only when we drive away that we realise that Dickson (our driver during our first three safaris in Tanzania) and his clients are right behind us.

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Two Banded Courser

Eurasian Avocet

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"What are you looking at?"

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Blacksmith Plover

Wildebeest Migration

Continuing on our way, we drive alongside thousands of wildebeest, running in an (almost) single file.

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The line seems to go on forever, then group into a HUGE herd, surrounding us on every side, and they just keep on coming.

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More and more and more arrive, a never ending stream of wildebeest join the mêlée, until there is just a sea of horns.

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We see very few babies in amongst this crowd though. A few of the females look like they are ready – they are fat, their nipples have developed and they are struggling to walk – but none are just about to drop. Oh well, we'll keep searching.

Zebra

A few zebras have joined the wildebeest, and we see a few babies too. Our hearts stop as we spot what appears to be a dead baby zebra in the grass.

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We hold our breath when the mother appears and starts nudging her little foal. Is he alive?

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Yes, he is, and he soon runs off with his mother. Phew.

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Dung Beetles

So many wildebeest in one place means two things: 1. we are eaten alive by pesky flies, and 2. it is a dung beetle's paradise.

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Within a few minutes, large piles of dung are turned into neat little balls and rolled away.

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With my love of dung beetles, I am totally in my element here, and before I know it I have taken over a thousand photos of... basically a pile of shit - plus these fascinating insects, of course.

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It is now several hours since we last saw any other cars or human activity. This may be the height of the season in Ndutu, but it is still possible to have large areas all to yourself. Most people go back to the lodge for lunch, preferring to stay out of the sun in the midday heat. I can see why, as we are being cooked to perfection even in the shade of the car. I wouldn't want to miss an animal experience though!

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Greater Spotted Thick Knee

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Light Tawny Eagle

European White Stork

A number of storks return to roost for the night, gliding effortlessly across the savannah.

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Not dozens, not hundreds, but thousands! They just keep on coming.

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And I just keep on photographing them.

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And the wildebeest just keep on walking.

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The storks are followed by a large flock of Cattle Egrets.

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Even a small chattering of Wattled Starlings join in. (chattering is the collective noun for starlings)

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Cheetah

A mum and her two cubs are very active in the late afternoon sun, running around and playing and for the next 30 minutes or so we delight in their antics. The dozen or so photos you will see here, are whittled down from a massive 1200 images – that amounts to around one picture a second!

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I have nothing more to say about this encounter, I think the note I made in my journal at the time sums it up!

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Much as we'd love to stay and watch these adorable little animals for longer, we really have to go. We are still quite some distance away from the lodge, and have to be back by 19:00.

Sunset

As we approach Lake Ndutu, I gasp. I don't think I have ever seen such a spectacular sunset here in Tanzania before.

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I make poor Malisa stop time after time as a new vista comes into view.

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Thankfully sunsets are over rather rapidly this close to the Equator, and we can continue on our way back to the lodge as originally planned.

Until we get to the Marsh.

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The light is really poor now, too dark for photography, so I don't feel bad that we don't stop long.

We do, however, stop to help out this vehicle which is well and truly bogged down.

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Not sure I'd like to be out of the vehicle this close to two lions.

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And they're out!

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Having to rush along the basic tracks that make up Ndutu's 'road system', we dislodge an enormous amount of dust. It seems almost incongruous that a few days ago there was heavy rain and every track was a mud bath.

Ndutu Lodge

We finally make it back to the lodge by 19:30, and after a quick shower and change we are the last to dinner. Again.

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Apple, feta and walnut stack with home made dressing

Somehow I forget to take a photo of the main course, which was lamb tagine with couscous, green beans and courgettes. I do, however, snap a picture of a large moth enjoying what's left on David's plate.

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A very tasty Malva Pudding for dessert

The excellent arrangements for this safari was made by Calabash Adventures, the best safari company by far.

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Posted by Grete Howard 15:59 Archived in Tanzania Tagged birds sunset wildlife africa safari tanzania zebra eagle birding cheetah lion stork egrets avocet starlings migration wildebeest courser bird_watching hoopoe wild_animals dung_beetles ndutu calabash_adventures lake_ndutu thick_knee wildebeest_migration tawny_eagle plover lapwing game_viewing blacksmith_plover annual_migration wildlife_photography big_marsh wild_birds cheetah_cubs ndutu_lodge the_great_migration african_birds cattle_egrets africa_safari aniams african-animals thickknee Comments (2)

Ndutu IX - migration, cheetah, walkabout lion, hyena, hare

Still no 'Maternity Ward'


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We stop somewhere suitable to have our picnic breakfast. It is always nice to be able to get out of the car and stretch our legs – we spend over twelve hours each day cooped up inside the car.

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Of course, we can't just stop and get out anywhere, this is, after all, an area full of dangerous wild animals. Malisa chooses his spot carefully, and although he takes every precaution to keep us safe, I think part of the excitement is that you never know...

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Thankfully we can stand up and walk about within the car, with it being just the two of us in the back.

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From the front seat we have everything we need within reach: camera, camcorder, binoculars, notebook and chargers.

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Big Bertha lives on the back seat when not in use.

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But when I need her, she has her own bean bag to rest on at the roof bars. Perfect!

Black Shouldered Kite

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Yellow Necked Spurfowl

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White Browed Coucal

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Crowned Lapwing

The Great Migration

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Although Ndutu and surrounding areas are considered to be the start of the migration (as this is where the babies are born), the migration is in fact a never ending trek driven by the rains and available fresh grass. The location of the enormous herds are rarely ever the same each year in terms of precise timing and direction, as local conditions influence grass growth, but we have been very lucky on this trip to see so many of them.

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Although previous trips have involved areas where the migration herds have been present in large numbers, they have always been fairly spread out, grazing peacefully. Here we are seeing them walking in a single file or 2-3 abreast on slightly wider paths, always on the move. The fabled migration consists in excess of three million wildebeest, several hundred thousand zebra and a few hangers on such as gazelles and eland. Over the course of the year, they move from where we are now to the north of Tanzania and into Kenya, then back to this area again for more babies to be born - a journey of some 500+ kilometres.

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This is just how you see them in wildlife programmes on TV, and I feel so incredibly honoured to be here witnessing this.

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Cattle Egrets

As always, when a great number of wildebeest are present, so are the egrets, who feed on the small insects that make the fur of the animals their home.

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Helping fellow game watchers

Another day, another car stuck in the mud. This time it is Leopard Tours, Tanzania's biggest safari operators. While the vast majority of their drivers are excellent, a few are not quite so well liked, which has given them a bit of a reputation in the industry.

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Other drivers still help out, of course, even if it is just for the sake of the clients.

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Here they go!

Cheetah

Tucked into some undergrowth, we see a cheetah mum and her seven moths old youngster.

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Many cars gather around the sighting, and soon the two cats are on the move.

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They are heading for the shade and safety of the tall grasses again.

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We all follow, of course, keeping a respectful distance from the wild animals. Except one vehicle, whose driver seemed to think that the animals are here for his clients' entertainment and is not happy that the cats want some peace and shade. He heads straight for them inside the undergrowth, driving them out into the open.

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We are all absolutely shocked and horrified – we have never seen such totally unacceptable behaviour in Tanzania before.

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I am sure the cheetah are not impressed either, and they head for another similar place to hide.

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Lo and behold, the rogue driver does it again! I am speechless at his sheer ignorance and attitude! His clients must be equally obtuse and insensitive to allow him to do it, or perhaps they are just plain selfish! Looking into the car, it even looks like one of his passengers is asleep. It am totally aghast by this abhorrent behaviour and vow to report him! Not that I want him to lose his job, but he certainly needs educating!

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In the distance we see a lion, and the cheetah mum has spotted him too and they disappear completely into the grasses. Thankfully the offending driver decides to move off now, as do we.

Lion

This guy is certainly on a mission as he strides across the savannah.

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Much to Malisa's surprise, he just keeps on walking, walking, and walking. We follow – at a respectful distance, of course. You can see he is feeling the heat of the midday sun.

It is very unusual to see a lion walking like this in the middle of the day. I wonder if he has a female somewhere or perhaps he is heading for the wildebeest we saw earlier.

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If you look closely, you can see he is collared. A few of the cats are, just for rangers and researchers to keep a track on their movement.

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We finally figure it out – he is heading for the one and only tree for miles around, where he tries to find a shady spot for his afternoon siesta.

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We have been following him for forty minutes now as he strolled across the grassy flats, and it is obvious that he is suffering badly from the heat and exhaustion – his panting sounds like a steam train!

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That moment when you look into his eyes and swear you can see the soul of the beast!

Wildebeest

We head for a large group of wildebeests in the distance, hoping to find the maternity ward, only to discover it is a bachelor herd.

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We see plenty of Cattle Egrets, however.

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Hyena

Thomson's Gazelle

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Cape Hare

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Lunch
We find a suitable tree to have our picnic under as usual.

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A little too late we discover the tree is full of ants, which are 'dripping' onto David. And there were we just thinking he was being fussy when he claims the “coffee tastes like ants' piss”.

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On that note I shall close this blog off. Once again, thank you Calabash Adventures for all the arrangements.

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Posted by Grete Howard 07:31 Archived in Tanzania Tagged breakfast kite africa safari tanzania lunch cheetah lion hyena egrets migration gazelle wildebeest hare african_safari wild_animals ndutu big_bertha calabash_adventures coucal lapwing spurfowl picnic_breakfast game_viewing picnic_lunch thomson's_gazelle great_migration wildlife_photography black_shouldered_kite african_animals stuck_in_mud african_birds wildebest_migration cattle_egrets Comments (2)

Ndutu VIII - lions, sunrise, wildebeest, flying eagle

A glorious start to the day


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

There are dik diks in the grounds of Ndutu Lodge as we make our way from he room this morning, but it is still silly o'clock and pitch black so no point in trying to take a photo.

Lions

It is still dark when we reach the lake and encounter the lions we saw mating last night. The lack of light really pushes my camera to the limit, but I figure grainy photos is better than no photos.

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They get up and start walking, but soon disappear into the thick undergrowth, probably to mate.

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We are hoping they'll come out from the bushes, as the female needs space to be able to roll around after copulation, in order to distribute the sperm. We hang around for a while.

Moon

The moon seems to be particularly bright this morning.

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Sunrise

For a few minutes the colours are glorious, with a heavy dew hanging over the water.

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That moment does not last long, although the mist lingers for a while longer.

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More Marabou Storks

They make great foregrounds for sunrise photos.

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We even get a couple of hot air balloons thrown in for good measure.

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Bearded Woodpecker

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It doesn't look like the lions are coming back out again, so we move off to try and find the 'maternity ward' and see if the midwife is on duty (ie a place where the wildebeest are ready to drop their babies).

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Red Bishop

Augur Buzzard

From his lofty position atop a tree, he is busy doing his ablutions and morning exercises.

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Wildebeest

Such fickle animals, they run along at speed, stop and then walk back the way they came.

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While Malisa and David are busy looking our for pregnant mamas who may honour us with the spectacle of their birthing; I spend the time photographing the birds that make wildebeest their home, or at least their dining table.

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Wattled Starlings

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I love to watch them as they try to stay upright while the wildebeest is walking, often with very comical results. The birds, I mean, not Malisa and David.

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Cattle Egret

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Secretary Bird

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Long Crested Eagle

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Dark Chanting Goshawk

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Yellow Necked Spurfowl

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Singing his little heart out!

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African Hoopoe

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Pale Tawny Eagle

Dark Tawny Eagle

We hang around for ages waiting for this eagle to fly. Well worth the wait!

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African Hoopoe

We see two more hoopoe on the road – it is a bird we rarely see, let alone in any great numbers, but this morning alone they have been around in double figures.

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Augur Buzzard

It is time for us to stop for a picnic breakfast and me to finish this blog entry. Stay tuned for more.

This safari was arranged by Calabash Adventures, the best safari company by far!

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Posted by Grete Howard 03:19 Archived in Tanzania Tagged birds wildlife sunrise africa safari tanzania eagle moon birding lions serengeti woodpecker storks egrets starling wildebeest bird_watching hoopoe buzzard wild_animals ndutu calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area wildebeest_migration tawny_eagle secretary_bird dik_dik wattled_starling spurfowl augur_buzzard game_viewing cattle_egret annual_migration dark_chanting_goshawk goshawk wildlife_photography red_bishop bird_photography wild_birds african_animals the_great_migration marabou_storks crested_eagle Comments (2)

Ndutu VII - bat eared foxes, cheetah with cubs, mating lions

Some unusual sightings this afternoon


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After our picnic lunch overlooking the marsh, we continue our drive to see what nature has to offer us.

Pratincole

Not a bird we've seen a lot on our safaris, so I am therefore really surprised to find a pond absolutely full of them! They are, of course, a northern migrant, so the time of year will have an influence.

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Eurasian Avocet

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African Cuckoo

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Dickson

Near the marsh we bump into Dickson, our guide from our safaris in Tanzania in 2007, 2011, and 2014, who now has his own safari company and was out with clients. It is great to see him again, and we chat for ages with him, as well as his passengers, before moving on.

Zebra

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We follow the zebra and wildebeest into the forest, but soon come out of there, as the flies are just too bothersome!

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Tortoise

It isn't often we see a tortoise in Tanzania, and even less often we see one run! In fact he was so quick he managed to get into the bushes before I had a chance to photograph him.

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Bat Eared Fox

It is rare to see a fox so near, they are usually really skittish.

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There appears to be at least six of them!

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The are obviously chasing something, and suddenly Malisa spots what it is: a black mamba! Wow! David and I just get a brief glimpse of it as it slithers into the bushes, and I am way too slow to get a photo.

One brave little soldier decides to go after it!

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Some of the others follow at a safe distance.

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Suddenly the snake raises his head as if to attack, and they all scamper. Not such brave little soldiers now.

They all gather on a sandy patch to chill out.

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Crested Lark

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Black Shouldered Kite

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Secretary Bird

She is probably looking for that Black Mamba!

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Cheetah

We see a cheetah in the bushes, and it looks like she has a cub.

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No, there are two cubs!

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Mum wanders off to find another place to rest.

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The cubs follow.

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I fire off shot after shot using the high speed continuous function on the Canon 1DXII, which can shoot at up to 16 frames per second. The shutter is also quite loud, and for a while my camera is getting more attention from people in the other cars than the cheetah!

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The cubs are seriously cute, and we would love to stay and watch their antics, but if we are to be back at the lodge before dark (as is a requirement in the parks), we need to get going.

Cattle Egrets

The egrets are heading home too.

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Impala

Down at the marsh, three impala are crossing the water, keeping a watchful eye on a hyena in the distance.

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The zebra take the more aggressive approach, and chase away the unwanted predator.

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The impala are much more relaxed now

Giraffe

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Seeing a giraffe drink from a puddle on the ground is always a treat. Mostly they get their moisture from the leaves they eat, as drinking like this is uncomfortable and risky business. They have been known to fall and break their bones, and with their heads down and their legs splayed like that, they are much more vulnerable to predators.

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Stuck - again

As we make our way down towards Lake Ndutu, we get stuck in a deep hole in the road. Thankfully, this time there are three of Malisa's friends nearby, who help to push us out, using their powerful vehicles to nudge us along.

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Wildebeest

As we wait for Malisa and his friends to catch up on news and gossip, I entertain myself with taking photos of backlit wildebeest.

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Lions
Just the other side of the lake, we see a couple of lions. It looks like our male from earlier blog entries has finally found his long lost love!

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And love seems to be on their mind tonight.

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Until she growls at him.

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It's a strange light tonight, with the clouds appearing like crepuscular rays.

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Ndutu Lodge

We make it back to the lodge just as it is getting dark, with enough time for a quick shower and change before dinner.

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Butternut squash tart

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Chicken pasta

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Ginger, walnut and toffee tart

Stars

The African sky seems to be bigger than anywhere else we've been, mainly down to the lack of light pollution here in the bush. I try my hand at some photos this evening; as I cannot wander away from the lodge because of wild animals, I decide to include the camp fire in my photo. Today's lesson (which I did know from previous experience): do not try your hand at astrophotography after a few drinks.

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I soon realise my mistake and opt to go to bed instead. Thank you Calabash Adventures for all the arrangements.

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Posted by Grete Howard 15:35 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals wildlife kite africa dinner safari tanzania zebra snake birding cheetah fox lions giraffe stars egrets avocet tortoise impala stuck wildebeest astro cuckoo game_drives ndutu lark calabash_adventures bat_eared_fox dickson secretary_bird pratincole astrophotography wildlife_photography black_shouldered_kite ndutu_lodge african_animals bird_wacthing black_mamba crested_lark lions_mating Comments (2)

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