A Travellerspoint blog

Serengeti Day 2 Part 1 - Anniversary Breakfast

Lyn & Chris' 40th Wedding Anniversary


View Tanzania for Lyn and Chris' 40th Anniversary 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

The morning greets us with the promise of a beautiful day while sporting an orange glow over the horizon blending through hues of pink into a deep purple sky.

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We can still hear the lion roar this morning, presumably the same one that was calling out last night.

Cape Buffalo

Each morning we go out with Malisa as our wonderful guide, we discuss what our 'breakfast' is going to be, referring to the first animal spotted that day. Today it is a herd of buffalo just a few minutes after leaving the camp.

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I do find their stare rather unsettling.

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Topi

A small herd of Topi enjoy their breakfast near the road this morning, including several young babies.

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Sunrise

The sun fully emerges from its daily hibernation, casting a golden glow over everything in its wake.

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Including this giraffe

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And a magnificent impala

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White Bellied Bustard

Mr and Mrs Bustard are both rather well camouflaged.

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Lilac Breasted Roller

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A couple of Bat Eared Foxes in the far distance

Topi

This little baby is less than one month old; they don't start getting their distinctive 'stocking' markings until they reach three months.

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Here you can quite clearly see how the youngsters get darker as they age.

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Mum looks rather thin.

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Brown Parrot

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And he's off...

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Rattling Cisticola

Lion

Just like smaller pussycats, lions eat grass when they have a bad tummy, as this old male does. He is terribly thin and probably around eleven or twelve years old. Lions live for around 12-15 years, so this guy is an old chap who is most likely on his last legs. He will have been kicked out of the pride when he was no longer able to provide for the females, with another younger male coming along to replace him. No longer having a pride to depend on for food has meant he has been starved of regular fresh meat and judging by the matted mane he is unable to look after himself properly too.

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Spotted Hyena

I wonder if this scavenger is hoping for the old lion's immediate demise?

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He assesses the situation and decides it is probably not worth the wait. Any Monty Python fans may, like me, be thinking about the "I'm not dead yet" sketch.

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We follow the old lion for a while, as he staggers around looking food.

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Having lost sight of the lion, we stop nearby at a mobile camp site (now empty) for breakfast. Is that wise? We may be upwind from the lion, but even so...

Anniversary Breakfast Picnic

On this day forty years ago, Lyn and Chris said “I do” and became husband and wife. I feel so honoured that they chose to spend their special day in Tanzania with us. Back home we have a 'community flagpole' where we hoist various different flags for various different celebrations ~ and of course we (secretly) packed one of those flags for this trip.

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The Ole Serai has not just provided the customary breakfast boxes, they have given us a posh food hamper today, containing little tiffin containers with sausages, bacon, and pancakes in an attempt at keeping the food hot.

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Plus eggs and pastries – we are certainly not going to go hungry this morning.

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What a way to start the 40th wedding celebrations!

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This Superb Starling is hoping we'll leave some food behind for her.

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She's having a bad hair day as a result of the very strong wind today.

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More in the next blog entry.

Safari organised by Calabash Adventures, the best safari company by far.

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Posted by Grete Howard 01:08 Archived in Tanzania Tagged birds sunrise safari tanzania parrot animal birding fox buffalo lion giraffe roller serengeti hyena impala topi bird_watching bustard game_drive bat_eared_fox cisticola game_viewing ole_serai lion_roaring calbash_adventures scavenger Comments (2)

Ngorongoro - Turner Springs - Ole Serai surprise

What an amazing surprise


View Tanzania for Lyn and Chris' 40th Anniversary 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Lunch

Last night Malisa asked us if we wanted to eat our lunch today as a picnic in the crater or go back to Ang'Ata camp for it. We chose the former. As it turns out, the timing means we end up going to back to Ang'Ata, to have our picnic lunch under a tree near the lounge. It works out well as we have to go back to collect something we forgot anyway, and thankfully the camp is not far out of the way.

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It looks very different in the daylight

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When we arrive a number of zebra are roaming around the grounds of the camp.

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Ngorongoro Headquarters Tourism Office

After lunch we continue to the Park HQ to pick up our permit for the next chapter in our adventure: Serengeti National park. Modern technology has simplified this process, and Malisa just pops into the office and comes back almost immediately with the all-important paperwork.

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Ngorongoro Conservation Area

We make our way from the crater to the entrance gate to Serengeti National Park, through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

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Greater Spotted Eagle

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area does not have the same protected status as national parks do, which means wildlife share the space with Maasai tribesmen and their cattle, goats and sheep. There are no boundaries around the parks, so the wild (and sometimes domestic) animals wander between them freely, at times causing conflict between man and beast.

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Giraffe

Dust!

We are on a much faster main road, which means vehicles kick up a great deal more fine particles of sand and grit. Large trucks are sent out with water to dampen down the roads to try and control the amount of dust in the air. Unfortunately, in this heat the effect doesn't last long.

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Black Breasted Snake Eagle

Secretary Bird

It's unusual to see one so close to the road and so bold even when we stop the car to photograph it.

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Coke's Hartebeest

Also known as kongoni, the hartebeest is a sociable animal often found in small herds. Despite its clumsy-looking appearance, it is one of the fastest antelopes and most enduring runners, which is just as well as it is a popular animal among hunters. Hartebeest means 'tough ox'.

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Bohor Reedbuck

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Seronera Hippo Pool

We stop at a small pond filled with hippos and a plethora of bird life.

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Yellow Billed Stork

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Greenshanks

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Terek's Sandpiper, Greenshanks, Common Sandpiper

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Black Winged Stilt

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Black Headed Heron

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Croaking Cisticola

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Fischer's Lovebirds

There are even a couple of Nile Crocodiles lurking in one corner.

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A mother hippo with a young baby also discovers the crocs and immediately pushes her baby out of harms way and chases off the crocodiles.

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Time is moving on, it is now just after 18:00 and the light is fading fast. According to the park rules, driving is not permitted after dark and as we still have some distance to go to our camp for the night, we have to get a move-on.

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Cape Buffalo in the very insipid sunset

The sunset does get better, however.

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Ole Serai

When we arrive at the sign for the Ole Serai Luxury Camp, I can finally share the information that I had been sworn to secrecy about a few weeks ago: Tillya has yet again upgraded our accommodation.

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We see a sprinkling of lights in the distance and can just about make out the outline of the tents.

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We receive a very warm welcome when we pull up in the car, with drinks and wet flannels meeting us while the porters unload the car, and, like in Ang'Ata Nyeti, staff introduce themselves one by one and use our names thereafter. The atmosphere is upmarket but relaxed as we are given the customary security briefing, and while the reception area is very comfortable, all I want to do is get to my tent and have a shower.

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As the askari (security escort) walks us to our home for the next three nights, we see lightning on the horizon and hear the roar of a lion, appearing to come from somewhere rather too close for comfort.

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And then we arrive at the 'tent'. There is only one word to describe this accommodation made from canvas (tent is glaringly inadequate): "WOW". Wide steps lead on to a concrete platform where we find a couple of normal seats and an egg-shaped hanging wicker chair. As it is almost pitch black by now, photography outside is too challenging for me to want to contemplate (it would mean either setting up a tripod for a long exposure or using a flashgun; but both options would involve calling for the askari to return as venturing outside the tent after dark on your own can be dangerous with wild animals around - especially as we can still hear that lion!)

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Larger flaps are opened up to reveal the interior, and it is like stepping into an opulent city flat. Wow again. Immediately inside the 'door' is a seating area consisting of two large comfortable armchairs and a coffee table, behind which is the enormous double bed. While technically made of canvas, every single wall has 'curtains' that pull aside revealing insect-proof netting, allowing a 360° view during daylight hours. Tonight, however, the staff come along and make sure everything is geared to privacy.

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To the right as we enter is the toilet and dressing area, with antique mirrors, modern basin and a good selection of teas and coffees.

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On the opposite side is the shower, fronted by an area with a writing desk, hanging space and a trouser press.

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The room, however, is dominated by a huge double bed, while lighting is provided by a number of lamps, including a safari-inspired chandelier. Obviously.

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Feeling suitably refreshed after removing a thick layer of Tanzanian dust from our bodies, we head for what turns out to be a fabulous dinner with incredible service. Ole Serai is only a small place, and tonight there is just one other couple staying. Once I get a glass or two of the local wine inside me, I forget all about taking any more photos of the evening. Sorry. All I can say is that the food is superb!

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When we return to the room after dinner, we find the staff have been in to perform a turn-back-service, leaving a chocolate on each pillow.

I cannot thank Calabash Adventures enough for everything they have arranged for us on this trip and on others, including all the little details that make for such and unforgettable adventure.

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Posted by Grete Howard 13:43 Archived in Tanzania Tagged zebra lunch picnic photography ngorongoro tented_camp calabash_adventures nyati ang'ata_camp ang'ata permanent_tented_camp ang'ata_nyati nyati_special_cam_site picnic_lunch picnic_box Comments (2)

Ngorongoro Crater Day 2 Part 2 - kingfisher, baby zebra

From breakfast until lunch


View Tanzania for Lyn and Chris' 40th Anniversary 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Picnic Breakfast

We stop at the now very familiar Lerai Picnic Site for breakfast. On most of our previous visits to the crater we have stopped here, either to have a picnic or simply to make use of the facilities. The first time we came, in 2007, the toilets were pretty horrendous, but these days they are very much improved, with an attendant looking after cleanliness and stocking up on soap and paper.

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David is ready to get going "to see what nature has to offer us" (one of Malisa's favourite sayings)

We share our picnic this morning with a cheeky little monkey and a Hildebrand Starling.

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Black Faced Vervet Monkey

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Defassa Waterbuck

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You can easily tell the Defassa from the Common Waterbuck, providing you see them from behind: the Defassa has a circular white spot on its rear, while the Common Waterbuck features a much more prominent 'toilet-seat-shaped' white mark on its bum.

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Bird Pond

Initially attracted by a Hammerkop, we stop at a marshy area and soon discover the site is teeming with colourful birdlife.

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Hammerkop

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Sacred Ibis

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Egyptian Goose

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Black Headed Heron

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Immature Yellow Billed Stork

Malachite Kingfisher

I spot something colourful out of the corner of my eye, and ask Malisa to reverse to a different view, where I am delighted to see a Malachite Kingfisher sitting on some reeds.

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I grab Big Bertha (my 600mm lens) and wait for him to go fishing. He does, but he misses and so do I. He does fly around a bit and offers me a few different poses though.

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Bad hair day!

Finally he settles on a reed nearer to us, without a distracting background. Yay!

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Rasta Lion

That lump you see under the tree is a sleeping lion. Honestly.

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Hildebrand Starling

Ring Necked Dove

I get really excited about seeing this dove until I realise it is the same ones as we have in abundance back home in the garden. Doh.

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African Hoopoe

Lions

These are the same lions we saw yesterday devouring their kill. Having filled their bellies with zebra, they do not need to eat again for three days or so, rather they will now spend the time resting in the shade while they are digesting their food.

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Hippo and Zebra

Thomson's Gazelles

Cute little Tommy babies (Thomson's Gazelle). The good news is they are the second fastest animal in Tanzania. The bad news is, the cheetah is faster.

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Wildebeest

These odd-looking ungulates are renowned for being incredibly stupid with a dangerously short memory. Here they prove that theory by suddenly forgetting why they are fighting.

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Kori Bustard

Bateleur Eagle

These striking raptors have no tail to steady them in flight, instead they use their wings and body weight.

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Lions

These three lions are brothers, and while the one at the front is older, the other two hail from the same litter.

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Male lion

Yet another lion just lazing around, sleeping the day away, not realising that he should be performing for the camera-wielding tourists.

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Augur Buzzard

Zebra

Less than one week old, this baby zebra is torn between exploring the world and sticking close to his mum. When he is spooked by another zebra, mum jumps to his defence and sees the intruder off.

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Golden Jackal

Rhino

Malisa assures us that the blurry blob we see in the far distance is in fact a rhino. We have to take his word for it. Heat haze, dust, and atmospheric distortions make it impossible to take a decent photo, or even verifying his claim.

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Eurasian Hobby

Cape Buffalo

With a baby just a few days old, the mother looks painfully and alarmingly thin.

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Thomson's Gazelle

Although in some ways, and certainly from a photographer's point of view, it is great that the animals in Tanzania's national parks have become so accustomed to tourists that they no longer see the vehicles as a threat; the danger lies when they don't even bother to get out of the way – we almost run this little Thomson's Gazelle over as he isn't the least bothered about moving from our path as we approach.

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Hippo Pool

Some years ago when we came to the Crater, we had our picnic in this spot, and the pond was teeming with hippos (the aroma of 50 hippos belching, farting and crapping is not a good accompaniment to a tasty packed lunch), but today there are only a few of them around.

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Great White Pelican

There are, however, quite a number of Great White Pelicans showing off their breeding plumage.

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This is what a pelican looks like when it's yawning:

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Cattle Egret

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Hyena

Through all the distortions it is impossible to make out what this hyena is carrying in its mouth, even with powerful binoculars or Big Bertha. Could it be a baby Tommy? Or maybe a Kori Bustard?

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Windy

The wind has really blown up today, creating havoc with any dust kicked up by moving vehicles and blowing my hair in all directions (especially in front of my eyes as I am trying to take a photo)

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Grey Crowned Cranes

It seems I am not the only one having a bad hair day.

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In particularly arid areas where there is no vegetation to hold on to the soil, the sand gets blown into the car and we end up quite literally eating grit.

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Warthogs

Looking like they are praying, warthogs eat by kneeling on specially adapted pads on their front legs. This is because their short necks and relativity long legs make it difficult for their mouth to reach the ground in a conventional feeding position.

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Golden Jackal

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Kori Bustard

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Flamingos

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Yellow Billed Stork

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Secretary Bird

The same bird we spotted last night is still busy on her nest. I am not sure if she is still building it or just rearranging the furniture.

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It is time to leave the Ngorongoro Crater – one of my favourite places in the world - for this time. We will be back.

Thank you Tillya of Calabash Adventures for arranging this superb safari.

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Posted by Grete Howard 04:48 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds travel breakfast sand africa safari tanzania pool zebra birding picnic buffalo lion windy rhino hippo wind crane hobby dust hyena heron egret stork ibis pelican waterbuck gazelle kingfisher warthog goose kori_bustard grip big_bertha calabash_adventures hammerkop secretary_bird picnic_breakfast augur_buzzard breakfast_box lerai_picnic_site malachite_kingfisher rasta_lion crowned_crane cattle_egret thomason's_gazelle golden_jackal baby_zebra Comments (2)

Ngorongoro Crater Day 2 Part 1 - lions and elephants

An early start after a heavy night


View Tanzania for Lyn and Chris' 40th Anniversary 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

As often happens here on the south-western rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, a heavy mist hangs in the air as we leave this lovely camp behind and head off to “see what nature has to offer us this morning” (one of Malisa's favourite sayings).

Malanja Depression

After a season with abundant rain this year, this part of Malanja Depression has been transformed into a lake. Malisa tells me this is the first time surface water has collected here like this since 1997. There must have been a terrific amount of water here after the rains, seeing as we are now right at the end of the dry season and yet a considerable sized lake remains.

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Giraffe

Spotted Hyena

It seems that in my drunken stupor last night, I left my camera on Tungsten White Balance and EV+2 from shooting the stars (or rather attempting to), resulting in a rather blue, overexposed image this morning. Thankfully it can be largely corrected in Photoshop.

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Grant's Gazelle

Ngorongoro Crater

As we head towards the Lemala Descent Road, we see the crater bathed in a glorious sunrise.

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We are heading down into the crater this morning for a second visit.

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By the time we get to the bottom, the caldera is shrouded in mist and full of dust unsettled by vehicles and animals.

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Grant's Gazelles

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Red Billed Queleas

Helmeted Guineafowl

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Laughing Dove

Ostrich

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Egyptian Goose

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Thomson's Gazelles fighting over a female

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It's pretty serious stuff with a lot of effort and loud crashing of horns. They often fight until death.

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They look so cute and harmless, but they can be quite ferocious when the affections of a female is at stake.

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Wildebeest

Male wildebeest have specially modified glands situated under the eye called pre orbital glands, and here he is rubbing his face on the ground leaving a scent to mark his territory.

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He seems rather pleased with himself

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African Spoonbill

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Wildebeest

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They remain totally unperturbed by the hyena in their midst.

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Lions

Two males and one female, just lying around doing absolutely nothing.

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Occasionally one lifts his head to see if there is anything worth getting excited about before settling down again.

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Spotted Hyena

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There are a few of them dotted around.

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Lerai Forest

Once an area of dense forest, Lerai is now more like a woodland glade, mostly because of the destructive actions of elephants such as this guy.

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We spend ages watching him decimate everything in his path until a ranger on foot comes along and (unintentionally) scares him away.

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Olive Baboons

Elephants aren't the only animals who live in Lerai Forest.

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Scraping at the bark of the tree to get to nectar or maybe insects

Strangler Fig

It is hard to believe that this mass of hanging branches is all one tree.

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Little Bee Eater

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Bateleur Eagle

A colourful raptor with a large wingspan and very short tail, although this guy does look like he has even lost what little he had from before.

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Nubian Woodpecker

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Black Faced Vervet Monkey

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Call me infantile, but I am forever fascinated by their blue balls!

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And evidentially, so is he.

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Elephant

As we try to make our way to the Lerai Picnic Site for breakfast, we are waylaid by a youngish (some 30 years old maybe) bull elephant on the road.

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He munches his way right past our car – if I was so inclined I could reach out and touch him. He seems completely unfazed by us.

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We finally manage to get to the picnic site for our breakfast. And so ends Part ONE of today's adventures. Thank you Calabash Adventures for this great opportunity to see such amazing wildlife.

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Posted by Grete Howard 01:06 Archived in Tanzania Tagged monkey elephant africa tanzania eagle battle birding photography crater lions giraffe flooding ostrich ngorongoro hyena woodpecker spoonbill geese caldera wildebeest goose east_africa bird_watching scent tungsten game_drive olive_baboons blue_balls spotted_hyena malanja_depression grant's_gazelle bee_eater ngrongoro_crater ang'ata_camp lemala_descent_road seasonal_lake white_balance fighting_for_female marking_territory orbital_glands vervet_monkey strangler_fig lerai_forest Comments (6)

Ngorongoro Crater Day 1 Part 2 - lion cubs and more

An afternoon in the caldera


View Tanzania for Lyn and Chris' 40th Anniversary 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Ngoitoktok Springs

Probably the most popular picnic area within the Ngorongororo Crater, there are always a lot of people here, but it is a large enough area to find a spot to get away from the crowds.

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Here you can see the crowds

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And here we are away from them all

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Not only is this place popular with humans, but we also share our breakfast with a number of different birds, who come for the rich pickings where guests drop food on the ground. They have become quite tame and will perch on your car, or sit on the ground below your chair, looking up with pleading eyes.

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Helmeted Guineafowl

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Little Egret

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Black Kite

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Great White Pelicans

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Rufous Tailed Weaver

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Egyptian Geese

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Village Weaver

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Blacksmith Plover

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Superb Starling

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Southern Masked Weaver

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Little Egrets

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Southern Masked Weaver

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Black Kite

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Litle Bee Eaters

I could stay here for ages, just watching life unfold around me – there is always something going on. We see zebra, elephants and wildebeest wandering through the outskirts of the site, and hippo frolic in the small lake, as well as numerous bird species as these pictures, all taken during our lunch stop, show.

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An elephant saunters by

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Wildebeest and Zebra

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Hippo in the lake

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Hippo poo floats to the surface of the water

I love seeing pelicans flying

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Eventually we have to tear ourselves away from this beautiful place to explore some other parts of the crater.

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A lone wildebeest

Grey Crowned Cranes

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Kori Bustard

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Common Fiscal Shrike

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Zebra

Secretary Bird

Malisa spots a few feathers sticking up from between the thorns on the top of the acacia tree and stops the car.

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She looks like she has stuck her talons in an electric socket ~ or maybe she is just shocked to see us.

Initially there is not much to see, but we hang around just in case she decides she is going to fly away, or at least maybe stand up.

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Our patience is rewarded as after a while she decides to rearrange her nest a little.

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Hippos

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As well as the ones we see in the water, there are a few hippos out on land too.

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Eurasian Avocet

I have never before noticed avocets eating the same way as spoonbills – pushing their long beak from side to side in the water.

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Lions

We come across a small dinner party, with two females and four cubs feasting on the carcass of a young zebra.

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We stay for a while (although not as invited guests, more like gatecrashers), watching their eating habits and interactions.

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This little lad may have bitten more than he can chew.

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He's not really getting anywhere with the zebra's head.

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He tries a different tactic.

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But eventually he gives up.

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Gradually, one by one, they've had their fill of fresh meat and wander off for a siesta.

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Or maybe just a poo.

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Children are such messy eaters.

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Mum needs cleaning too.

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“Play with me mum!”

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Time for us to move on and “see what else nature has to offer” (Malisa's favourite saying).

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Blacksmith Lapwing

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Hadada Ibis

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Superb Starling

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Tree Pipit

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Marabou Stork

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Hildebrand Starling, often confused with the Superb Starling. The difference is that the Superb has a white line between the blue and the orange areas on the chest and a yellow eye against the Hildebrand's red.

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Yellow Billed Stork

When we leave the crater by the usual Lerai Ascent Road, but at the top turn left down a private road rather than right towards the hotel on our planned itinerary, we realise that this is another one of Tillya's surprises. Tillya, the owner of Calabash Adventures, is constantly trying to exceed his customers' expectations and we often find ourselves upgraded to a different lodge than the one we thought we were staying in. Today is obviously going to be one of those occasions.

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View of the crater from near the top of the Lerai Ascent Road

Ang'Ata Nyati Camp

The whole team of staff appear to have come out to greet us as we arrive at a small clearing. One by one they introduce themselves by name, handing us a very welcome wet flannel and a soft drink. The complexities and rules of the camp are explained to us and we are shown to the tents. The camp is very similar to mobile camps we have stayed in previously, but I am told that this is a permanent tented camp (rather than a 'mobile' camp that moves every few months, following the annual migration of animals), having recently relocated to the Nyati Special Camp Site from the other side of the crater. A small and intimate affair, the camp has a mere eight tents and tonight we have the 'palace' to ourselves as we are the only guests staying.

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A local 'askari' (security guard/escort) takes us to our 'room', a basic tent with a wooden floor, large double bed, hanging space and a rudimentary en suite bathroom. Hot water is brought to the shower by request, in a bucket. I understand from their website that you are given 25 litres of hot water plus the same amount of cold. Mixing the two, the water temperature is just right, and if used sparingly, ample for two people to shower. As always in an area where water is a scarce commodity, I wet my body, then turn off the water while I wash and apply shampoo. Water back on again, rinse and repeat with conditioner.

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We meet up with Malisa in the cosy and comfortable lounge/dining room for dinner. The food is superb and the staff is wonderful.

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40th wedding anniversary celebrations

There was no doubt in Lyn and Chris' mind where they wanted to celebrate their special milestone, and I feel very honoured that they asked us to share this celebration with them.

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When David's phone rings in the middle of dinner, he is surprised that he has a signal and worried that it may be bad news from home. The concern soon turns to indignation when he realises it is just an advert!

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The camp staff make such a fuss of us, and after dinner the whole crew come out, bringing a cake and a complimentary bottle of wine, while walking around the table singing and dancing. We don't have the heart to tell them that the anniversary is not for another couple of days.

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Originally released as a record back in 1982 by a Kenyan band called Them Mushrooms, the Jambo Bwana song is now adopted all over East Africa and sung to tourists at every celebration. Each lodge have their own version incorporating local details (such as the name of the camp) and I am sure they make up some of it as they go along, especially as I distinctly hear Malisa's name being mentioned in the words. These are the lyrics ~ and translation ~ to the main part of the song.

Jambo, jambo bwana (Hello, hello boss)
Habari gani (How are you)
Nzuri Sana (Very good)
Wageni, wakaribishwa (Welcome visitors)
Ang'Ata Nyeti (Ang'Ata Nyeti ~ name of camp)
Hakuna Matata (No worries)
Okenda Serengeti (Going to Serengeti)
Hakuna matata (No worries)
Okenda Ngorongoro (Going to Ngorongoro)
Hakuna matata (No worries)
Okenda Tarangire (Going to Tarangire)
Hakuna matata (No worries)
]Jambo, jambo bwana (Hello, hello boss)
Habari gani (How are you)
Nzuri Sana (Very good)
Wageni, wakaribishwa (Welcome visitors)
Ang'Ata Nyeti (Ang'Ata Nyeti ~ name of camp)
Hakuna Matata (No worries)

After dinner we gather around the 'Bush TV' (the local expression for a camp fire), where we have a sing song, introduce the locals to the joys of toasting marshmallows, and attempt (very unsuccessfully – I blame the Duty Free rum and four bottles of wine) to photograph the awesome night sky. After a fabulous day in the crater, we have a phenomenal evening in an extraordinary setting.

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When we get back to our tent we find the staff have been in for 'turn-back service' and there are a couple of much appreciated hot water bottles in our bed. At an altitude of 2310 metres, this area can get bitterly cold overnight. Still on a high from the earlier revelry (not to mention the copious amount of alcohol), I slip into a deep sleep, oblivious to the cold and any noises from the surrounding jungle.

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Yet another marvellous day organised by Calabash Adventures, the best safari company by far!

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Posted by Grete Howard 09:47 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds travel elephant adventure kite tent camp africa safari tanzania camping zebra wine lions hippo drunk lion_cubs stars cranes egret stork ibis pelican avocet geese celebration glamping starling weaver wildebeest shrike astro east_africa ngorongoro_crater bird_watching bustard game_drive camp_fire plover secretary_bird lapwing guineafowl pipit ngrongoro ngoitoktok birdning bee_eaters game_viewing lions_eating ang@ata_nyati_camp mobile_tented_camp nyati jambo_bwana song_and_dance toasting_marshmallows bush_tv 40th_anniversary hot_water_bottle Comments (5)

Arusha - Ngorongoro Crater Day 1 Part 1

Worth the early start


View Tanzania for Lyn and Chris' 40th Anniversary 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Lyn and Chris are nearly always up before us and are such sticklers for time-keeping that we are very surprised when they don't arrive at the agreed time for breakfast.

They finally show up some 20 minutes later – it turns out they had set the alarm time but not turned the alarm on. No harm done, thankfully, and we are all ready to go when Malisa arrives.

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Augur Buzzard

A mere 100 metres down the road from the hotel we spot our first wildlife of the day: the regal Augur Buzzard.

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Not so welcome this morning are the police checks on our way to Ngorongoro, we get stopped at two of them for Malisa to show them his paperwork – which is all in order, of course - so we are soon on our way to “see what nature has to offer us today” (one of Malisa's favourite sayings).

Lodoare Gate

While Malisa waits for the paperwork at the entrance gate to Ngorongoro Conservation Area, we make use of the facilities and free wifi. We notice they have painted the gate a different colour to how it was when we came here last (it was a safari-beige, it is now a jade-green).

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Crater View Point

Even here, miles from anywhere, free wifi is being advertised. I guess it is good for a brief 'boast post' on social media, but I do feel somewhat sad that being surrounded by wonderful nature and amazing wildlife is no longer enough.

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Malisa assures us that the small blob we see in the far, far distance is in fact a rhino.

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Porcupine

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog entry, I usually bring along a 'wish list' on my safaris, and porcupine is on this year's list. The next best thing to a live animal is seeing these porcupine spines. The meat has gone, of course, as it would most likely have been killed by a leopard for its dinner last night.

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Chameleon

My wish list is going really well and so early on in the safari, with another item being ticked off when Malisa spots this Flap Necked Chameleon by the side of the road. I don't know just how he manages to spot it; as you can see it blends perfectly with its surroundings. I am excited about this small reptile as it is the first time I have ever seen a chameleon in Tanzania.

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Ngorongoro Crater

We take a different route down into the crater today than the one we normally do: this time using the Lemala Descent Road. We have come down this track once before, a few years ago, and I love the way the track makes its way underneath the majestic Flat Topped Acacia Trees.

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The trees, with their characteristic flat tops (hence the name), act as umbrellas and protect the soil from erosion during heavy rains.

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Look at how dense that canopy is ~ isn't nature wonderful?

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Sodom's Apple

Although this fruit belongs to the tomato family, you won’t find it in any salads. Known as Sodom’s Apple as it is said to be the first plant to grow again after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; the small, yellow fruit is used as a medicine for stomach ache, diarrhoea and to treat external wounds. When you see this plant growing, you know that the soil in the area is not of high quality as it grows best in poor soil.

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Olive Baboons

A large troupe of baboons crosses our path.

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The little one who almost got left behind.

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It is so sad to see empty water bottles littering the crater floor. Malisa explains that the Maasai tribesmen who come this way are guilty of this.

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Love the human-like expression on the face of this baboon as he ponders his next move

This little guy appears to be trying to get some sleep while being carried on his mother's back.

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Speckled Mousebirds

Sociable creatures, Speckled Mousebirds often huddle together for warmth and company. It was only when they moved apart that I realised this was in fact TWO birds, they were so close together initially.

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Cape Buffalo

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He is right beside the car

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Unpredictable and highly dangerous, these guys have the most impressive horns. They reportedly charge thousands of people a year, and gore over 200. They can attack and cause serious injury with the tips of their huge, curved horns, or by head butting with their "boss" which is the solid shield of horn that covers the skull where the horns emerge.

Got to scratch that itch!

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Northern Wheatear (non-breeding female)

Warthogs

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The sort of face only a mother could love

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Uncharacteristically, these warthogs do not run away as we stop to take photos – they are usually such skittish creatures and these are remarkably close to the vehicle. They just lift their head and make a cursory glance in our direction before resuming their grazing.

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Ostrich

You can tell from the pink colouration to the neck and legs that this huge bird is on heat and ready to fertilise those all-important eggs.

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Augur Buzzard, apparently in a 'strop', stamping his feet: "I don't want to fly off!"

Zebra

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Grant's Gazelle

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Crested Lark

Black Backed Jackal

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Secretary Bird

We are rather bemused by this secretary bird performing his mating ritual. We are not quite sure who it is aimed at, as there are no other birds in sight. Maybe he is just practising for the real thing.

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Lion

We initially wonder why this lioness is not chasing the warthogs, as they look to us that they could be an easy lunch, but then we discover that she is heavily pregnant and thus would be concerned that any exertion could make her lose the baby.

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She's just a big pussycat really

Is she going for it? They are pretty close to her now and would make an easy target.

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Big baby belly

Too late, they've discovered her.

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Instead she saunters off to try and find a safe place to give birth. I wish we could stay around for that.

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By the time the lioness has disappeared, David admits that he is absolutely desperate to pee. We are just about to make a 'bush stop' when another vehicle turns up. A lot of heavy breathing and jumping from foot to foot ensues until Malisa can find a safe place for David to get out of the car. Getting back in again he lets out the largest sigh of relief you can imagine, much to everyone else's amusement.

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Little Bee Eater

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Levaillant's Cisticola

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Singing his little heart out

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Tawny Eagle

Hippos

It is fairly unusual to find them out on land, normally all you can see is the top of their backs as they wallow in shallow water. Hippos cannot swim, so they will always find areas where the water is no deeper than they are able to stand at the bottom while still having their heads above the water. Here we can only just see the top of their backs as the rest is hidden by vegetation. Makes a change from water I guess.

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Just as we are about to leave the hippos and head to the picnic site, they get up and start to move, so we stay for a little longer, watching them splash into the small pond.

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Ostrich Porn

On our way to lunch we get side tracked by another ostrich, and this one has found himself a likely suitor. Initially he pretends to be totally disinterested although it doesn't take long before he is doing his very best to impress her with a dramatic dance routine.

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She is bowled over by his sexy moves and capitulates to his charms.

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David caught it all on video, with narration provided by Chris

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As soon as he's had his wicked way with her, he just gets up and walks away, leaving her apparently frustrated and still flapping her wings for attention, wondering what all the fuss was about. Sheesh. What a lothario!

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Zebras

We almost end up with a T-bone steak when a zebra without road sense decides to dart out in front of us. Thankfully no harm done.

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European White Stork - not a permanent resident in Tanzania, the stork is a seasonal migrant visitor from Europe

Waterhole

Last time we came to Tanzania (2017) was at the end of the rainy season, a green and verdant time. Now we are here at the end of the dry season, and everything is arid, dusty and brown, which makes this waterhole even more visually striking and of course a great temptation to the animals.

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I love the way Big Bertha seems to have picked out the personality of these buffalo.

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African Fish Eagle

Red Billed Quelea

Popularly referred to as 'feathered locusts', the Red Billed Quelea is Africa's most hated bird. For generations this small but voracious bird has gathered in huge numbers to decimate subsistence farmers' fields across the continent. With some colonies numbering into the millions, the quelea is the most abundant bird in the world, and sadly also the most destructive. With an estimated adult breeding population of at least 1.5 billion, it is believed that the agricultural losses attributable to the quelea is in excess of US$50 million annually which would be totally devastating to those already barely getting by.

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We finally make it to the picnic site for our lunch stop, and this is also where I will finish this blog post. Be sure to read the next entry for stories about the rest of our afternoon in the crater.

As usual, our thanks go to Tillya of Calabash Adventures and Malisa our driver, without whom this fabulous safari would never have happened.

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Posted by Grete Howard 02:17 Archived in Tanzania Tagged trees animals africa safari tanzania zebra national_park buffalo lion rhino baboons ostrich lioness ngorongoro acacia warthog chameleon arusha jackal hippos viewpoint porcupine big_bertha lark calabash_adventures which_safari_company best_safari_company tawny_eagle mousebird grant's_gazelle lodoare_gate red_billed_quelea quelea bee_eater africa_animals augur_buzzard safari_permit flat_topped_acacia acacia_trees umbrella_trees sodom's_apple pregnant_lioness cisticola Comments (3)

Arusha National Park

An underrated little park


View Tanzania for Lyn and Chris' 40th Anniversary 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Fast forward a few hours and a lot of miles, and we have flown via Istanbul and Zanzibar and have now arrived at Kilimanjaro, the international airport that services Arusha and Tanzania's Northern Safari Circuit.

There is no Malisa (our trusty driver) waiting for us. All the other passengers are met and carted off to their hotels and/or safaris. There is only us left at the airport. We landed at 06:00 and it is now nearly an hour later. I think it is time to ring Tillya at Calabash Adventures (who we have booked through) to find out what is happening. The number I have for them is unavailable. I guess it is an old number from when we first used them in 2007, so I check the paperwork we were sent for a more up-to-date number. There isn't one; but I do notice that they have our arrival time down as 08:30. Oops. No idea how that happened (I take full responsibility for the error), but at least we know why Malisa isn't here. David wanders back into the airport terminal to use the wifi and contact Malisa via Facebook. He is on his way and less than ten minutes drive from the airport. Phew.

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Mount Kilimanjaro

On the way from the airport we are very excited to see the snowy top of Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. All the other times we have been here it has been well and truly smothered in mist, so this is actually our first time to see it from this road. A dormant volcano, Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa at 4,900 metres (16,000 feet).

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We also have a good view of Mount Meru

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Arusha National Park

After a warm reunion with plenty of big hugs (this is sixth time we have arranged a safari through Calabash, and the third time Malisa has been our driver), we head straight for our first safari. Arusha National Park is one of the smallest reserves in Tanzania and a good stop-off point between the airport and Arusha Town.

Sykes Monkey

Arusha National Park is not the place to go for the big cats, but it does have a couple of species that are not found in the larger parks here in the north, such as this Blue Sykes Monkey.

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A troop of Olive Baboons hang out in a tree and walk by the car

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Zebra

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Sacred Ibis

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Cape Buffalo

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Great White Egret

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Woolly Necked Stork

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Grey Crowned Crane with baby - look at its head-dress just starting to grow

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Black Headed Heron

Narina Trogon

A new species to us, this colourful bird isn't very co-operative as far as photography goes, doing his very best to hide deeper and deeper into the woods.

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But at least it means that I do get to see both the front and the back of it.

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Black and White Colobus Monkey

Every time we go on safari, I have a wish list of animals that I would like to see, that I hand over to the driver. This year it contains the Black and White Colobus Monkey which I have only seen – briefly – a couple of times before: once in Mount Kenya National Park in 1986 and more recently here in this park in 2014 when I saw its tail as it disappeared into the forest. I have no clear photos of them and am keen to rectify that. No sooner has Malisa joked that they are going to come and dance for me on the bonnet of the car, than we see a couple of them lounging on the branches of a tree almost directly above the road. Very cool!

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African Grey Flycatcher

We make our way to Ngordoto Crater for a photo stop before continuing to explore the park.

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African Jacana

Baby Warthogs, referred to as piglets.

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Helmeted Guineafowl ~ also known (to us) as “just a chicken” from an incident many years ago when David got very excited thinking he'd seen a “colourful bird”.

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It is unusual to see a giraffe sitting down

Bushbucks

Down on a marshy area we see several bushbuck, which in itself is very unusual as they are normally solitary. Two males are vying for the attention of a female, and after an initial staring contest they half-heartedly fight.

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They both run after her across the marsh and into the hills beyond where she manages to shake them off.

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Apparently bushbucks are rather short-sighted, and one of the males gets somewhat confused and starts chasing a warthog instead.

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Female bushbucks are said to prefer darker partners as they are thought to be stronger and more mature (the antelope's colouration gets darker as they grow older).

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White fronted bee eater

Only once before I have I laid eyes on this small, colourful bird, and then only briefly: here in Arusha National Park four years ago. I am therefore delighted to see a large number of birds just beside the road. These bee eaters live in colonies of between ten and thirty birds, creating nests on soft mud banks such as these.

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Their homes are more like a commune, with all the birds sharing the parenting, feeding each others' chicks. They live in a close-knit community though, and fight fiercely to repel other colonies.

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Dik dik

These, the smallest of Tanzania's antelopes, mate for life, and raise their offspring together.

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Picnic

Malisa came prepared with a packed breakfast and lunch when he collected us from the airport this morning, and we stop at a picnic area overlooking Small Momella Lake to eat. It's a popular place, with several tourist vehicles here already.

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As we wander down to the parking lot when we have finished, one of the other drivers is busy rearranging his clothing, having undone his trousers to tuck his shirt in. I shout out: “Do you need any help?”, to which he replies “No, it's fine, thanks”. My reply of “So everything is in the right place then...?” elicits a lot of laughter from everyone else. Thankfully the recipient finds it amusing too.

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Little Bee Eater

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Egyptian Goose

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Blacksmith Plover

Big Momella Lake

When we last visited Arusha National Park, the lake was home to some 20,000 flamingos. I knew that at this time of year many will have made the migration to Lake Natron, so I am pleased to see a few still feeding in the water.

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Greater Flamingo

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Hippos

Big Bertha, star of the show

There are a number of people out of their cars here (it is a dedicated picnic area), and when they spot me in the vehicle with Big Bertha (my massive 600mm lens), all attention is drawn away from the lake and the hippos and everyone photographs us instead.

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Reedbuck

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Augur Buzzard

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African Hoopoe

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Waterbuck

Albino Baboon

This pigment-free monkey is very conspicuous in the environment, but his lack of colouration doesn't seem to hamper him as he goes about his day to day business.

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Brown Snake Eagle

Once we leave the park and head out on to the smooth tarmaced main road leading to Arusha, I promptly fall asleep in the car.

Upon reaching town, our first stop is to find an optician as Chris lost one of the little plastic nose protections from his glasses on the flight.

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We continue to one of the newer supermarkets, but David is disappointed to find that they don't stock his favourite South African cider, Savanna. Malisa comes to the rescue yet again and takes him to a local bar to get his supplies.

A1 Hotel and Resort

By the time we arrive at our hotel for the night (where we briefly meet up with Tillya, the owner of Calabash Adventures), we have been travelling for some 31 or so hours, and in our rush and tiredness we forget to bring the duty free alcohol in from the car. As do Lyn and Chris. Room service to the rescue and once we've had a much longed-for shower, we enjoy a couple of drinks and some snacks in our rather large but sparsely furnished room before going for dinner.

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Reception

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Lobby

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Our 'living room' with the bedroom behind

Although we did see another chap checking in to the hotel at the same time as we did, we are the only people at dinner tonight, which means they wanted us to pre-order our food as soon as we arrived. We all have chicken in a rich mushroom sauce which is absolutely delicious.

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After a quick glass of Amarula in the room, we are all safely tucked into bed by 21:00, after a gentle, but good, start to our 2018 safari.

Our thanks go to Calabash Adventures who yet again have done us proud when arranging our safari in Tanzania

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Posted by Grete Howard 08:41 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals monkeys mountain airport bird africa safari tanzania zebra birding crater buffalo watching baboons kilimanjaro heron egret stork ibis flycatcher bushbuck warthog jacana calabash_adventures best_safari_company cape_buffalo guineafowl bee_eater mount_meru sykes_monkey black_and_white_colobus_monkey ngordoto Comments (3)

Bristol - London - Istanbul - Zanzibar - Kilimanjaro

Africa bound once again


View Tanzania for Lyn and Chris' 40th Anniversary 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

30th October 2018 Bristol - London

24 hours to go – time to check in. As soon as I type in the ticket number, I get a message stating: “Cannot check in as the time/date of flight has changed”. Groan. We know from experience that even a five minute time change messes up the Turkish Airlines' on-line check-in system, so we are not overly worried at this stage.

Having found their telephone number on line, I try to ring the airline, but as soon as I get the ringing tone the line cuts off. This happens three more times. I wonder if it is my mobile playing up, so I get David to try as he is on a different network. Same thing happens to him.

On their website is another telephone number which I try, but that comes back as 'unobtainable'. After a bit of searching on the web I find a third number which actually has a real live person the other end and doesn't cut out on us. She reconfirms the flights for the four of us and assures us that we will be able to check in on line now. Hurrah!

When he tries, David can't even get beyond the point where he enters the ticket number. I have more success, getting as far as being able to choose our seats for all the flights. Unfortunately the second flight from Istanbul to Kilimanjaro appears to be full, and the only available seats are four singles scattered throughout the aircraft. Another groan. I am hoping we'll be able to rectify that when we get to the airport tomorrow. I get as far as pressing the all-important button that says CHECK IN when the computer tells me there is a 'technical error'. I try several times, each time the system returns the same error message. David tries too, with the same result. After nearly two hours of getting nowhere, we finally give up.

With Lyn and Chris we make our way up to Heathrow for overnight at the Premier Inn by the airport. We have a few drinks in the room (having seen the prices in the bar!) followed by a very enjoyable dinner with excellent service from a very cute waiter. I don't sleep well though, not sure whether it is result of too much food, the alcohol or the building excitement. Or maybe a combination of the three.

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31st October 2018 London – Istanbul – Zanzibar - Kilimanjaro

After a very decent breakfast we make our way to the airport to drop the car at the valet parking. Once we reach the departures area, we are not surprised to find that we are unable to complete the self-service check in, but have to join the long, slow queue for the manned desks.

Big Bertha
Those of you who follow me on social media will have 'met' Big Bertha, the newest member of my camera family (for those of you who don't know, Big Bertha is an enormous 600mm camera lens). Bertha is way too big and heavy to take as hand luggage on the aircraft along with the rest of the 'family' (camera equipment), so I am having to check her into the hold. Gulp. We have wrapped her in cling film and she is double locked with a padlock and chain as well as the locks on the case itself. The case is extremely well insulated and padded (after all, she came over from Japan in it), so should be shock and knock proof; and the kind lady at the check-in desk plasters her with FRAGILE stickers. I wave a reluctant and nervous goodbye as she gently slides down the conveyor belt. “See you in Tanzania” Hopefully. The same kind lady also sorts our boarding cards out so that we can sit together on all the flights.

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A good friend (“thank you Jen”) has sorted out passes for us to the executive lounge at the airport, a lovely quiet area with food and drink, making for a nice and relaxed start to the trip.

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And so we settle in to our aircraft sea (we are lucky, the plane is not full and we can spread out a little) for the long journey to Kilimanjaro Airport via Istanbul and Zanzibar.

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Posted by Grete Howard 02:12 Archived in Turkey Comments (3)

Achiltibuie, Coigach and Stoer Peninsulas

Mist and rain


View In search of the Hairy Coo - Scottish Highlands 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Judging by the car this morning, it must have rained in the night.

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In fact it is still raining.

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It is also misty. Very misty. We can barely see land the opposite side of the loch. It may reduce visibility, but I do find mist very atmospheric.

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Today we are heading north, following the coast road as much as we cab.

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Dundonnell River

First stop today is to try and photograph the waterfall without getting wet. While I don't have a problem with being out taking pictures in the rain, I do just sneak a couple of shots from the car this morning.

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Ullapool

We make a point of stopping in Ullapool to do some grocery shopping and are quite surprised to find that the usual Sunday trading laws that we are used to from home do not apply here in Scotland. The Tesco is very much smaller than our local store, but then, despite being much more well-known than our home town, Ullapool only boasts around 1500 inhabitants.

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Some people are pretty desperate for a coffee.

Below are some images of the scenery and stormy clouds as we make our way north along the coast.

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The Brochs of Coigach

This eco-friendly luxury accommodation is inspired by iron-age roundhouses, known as 'brochs' in these parts. It sure looks a fabulous place to stay, blending as it does with nature.

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The traffic is thankfully not heavy around here, despite this being the height of the summer holiday. We share the road with sheep, geese and deer as we continue to explore the Coigach Peninsula.

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I am happy to see that the deer are traffic savvy and only cross at dedicated 'Passing Places'.

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Achahaird Beach

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Summer Isles

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Summer Isles

We leave the Coigach Peninsula behind and continue north, initially passing a number of small boggy ponds, then later joining a magnificent scenic road snaking its way across the hills and valleys.

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It's nice to see the Scots are such polite drivers. The sign is obviously aimed at people like us, who like to drive slowly, and will make lots of stops to photograph the scenery.

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We stop for a break by a small pond and I go for a short walk to take some photographs.

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Common Spotted Orchid - a fairly rare sighting

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A sign telling us to be aware of frogs crossing - another fairly rare sight. We don't see any.

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Stoer Lighthouse

Tall Cottongrass

Found all over this area, the tall cottongrass fascinates me, the way is blows in the wind and glows in the low sun when backlit.

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Pied Crow

We see a large bird circling above and get very excited, but it turns out just to be a Pied Crow.

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Spotted Flycatcher

A little bit further along, however, we spot a small bird that I initially think is a sparrow, but is in actual fact a Spotted Flycatcher. I guess this makes up for the crow.

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Clashnessie

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Another traffic jam

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The Summer Islands

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Drumbeg Viewpoint

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Atlantic Salmon Fish Farm

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Ardvreck Castle

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Ardmair Point

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Ullapool - almost home

We return to the cabin after a lovely day out despite the dull and grey weather. The scenery is constantly stunning though.

Posted by Grete Howard 07:51 Archived in Scotland Tagged landscapes rain scotland road_trip scenery mist grocery_shopping stormy_clouds ullapool the_wee_barn inclement_weather Comments (1)

Evening Roadtrip

Around the coast


View In search of the Hairy Coo - Scottish Highlands 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Evening road trip

As it is still early (and light out), we decide to go for a wee drive this evening (see how I am getting into the local lingo already?)

Before going anywhere, we check out what is at the bottom of the lane leading downhill from the cabin.

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Little Lock Broom

Before we even reach the end of the lane, we spot something moving in the long grass in the field next to the road.

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Red Deer

Then we spot another – can you see it?

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Further down in the field is yet another one, this time a sika deer – the first time we have seen one in the wild.

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There are further red deer in the far field, separated from the others by a couple of stone walls and wire fences.

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Is she going to try and jump?

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I get very excited at the prospect and am poised ready with my camera, but all this deer wants is to fill her belly.

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Maybe...?

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Yes!

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She leaps effortlessly and gracefully to the next field.

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She is now one step nearer her two mates.

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As she contemplates the next fence, I make sure my camera is ready to catch the action again. I won't get a second attempt at this.

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Reunited at last.

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We leave the deer to do their own thing and continue to the water's edge, where we see a couple of Harbour Seals basking on the rocks. Another first for us.

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On our way back up the lane we see a barn swallow on the line, preening himself.

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From here we head out to the main road to make a small circuit around the coast.

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One of the things about the cabin is that there is no mobile signal. Wanting to phone my dad, we stop in a lay-by where our lane meets the main road to make the call once we get a connection. It's not a bad view from here over Little Loch Broom.

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Being on a mission to find a 'hairy coo' (long haired highland cattle), I am disappointed to see that the cattle in the field here are not what I am after. They are quite cute though.

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The scenery along the way is nothing short of stunning, with new, exciting vistas around every bend.

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Fish farms on Little Loch Broom

“The light is amazing!” soon becomes my mantra this evening (and for the rest of the trip) as the low sun lights up the already beautiful scenery.

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Horses

We stop for me to photograph a couple of black horses in a bright yellow field.

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One of them is obviously convinced that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

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Little Gruinard Beach

Scotland has some beautiful beaches, and this one looks very inviting, especially from a photographer's point of view, with its water-filled ridges reflecting the fading light. Did I mention the light is wonderful here in Scotland?

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Little Ringed Plover

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We continue on our planned circular trip, although after a while we realise that it is not going to be just a 'quick drive after dinner' as planned, the route is very much further than we realise.

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Traffic jam, Scottish style

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We see very few other cars, and are a little taken back when we spot these temporary traffic lights. They seem so out of place with the rest of the route.

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Despite spending the first 15 years of my life in Norway, which is at an even higher latitude, I am rather surprised to find how light it still is at 22:30 at night.

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Although there may still be a reasonable amount of light, there is not enough to get a decent photo of the deer alongside the narrow lane as we make our way back.

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We reach the cabin over three hours after we left for a 'quick evening drive'. We go to bed tired but very content.

Posted by Grete Howard 08:07 Archived in Scotland Tagged road_trip horses scenery deer seals plover badluarach red_derr harbour_seals little_loch_broom little_gruinard_beah little_ringed_plover Comments (1)

Carlisle - Badluarach

We've finally arrived at The Wee Barn


View In search of the Hairy Coo - Scottish Highlands 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We decide to forego the full English breakfast at the Premier Inn this morning, and just make do with some fresh fruit from Tesco. Cheaper and better for the diet.

After yesterday's traffic jam, we have some very pleasurable motoring today, and we soon find ourselves entering Scotland. Damn, I forgot my passport!

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Look at these empty roads! What a change from yesterday!

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On the way I spot a couple of amusing road signs.

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Arria

The 10 metre high sculpture, nicknamed "Angel of the Nauld", overlooks the M80 just north of Auchenkilns. The female sculpture's large swooping arcs from her hands to her dress are based on the Gaelic name for Cumbernauld, “comar nan allt”, which translates as “the meeting of the waters”. Not quite sure how that follows, but so the story goes. The sculpture, created by Andy Scott of Kelpies fame, is part of the Cumbernauld Positive Image Project's aim “to create a distinctive image of Cumbernauld; increase residents’ pride in their town; raise awareness across Scotland of Cumbernauld’s attractiveness as a destination to live, work and play; create a sense of place and provide a positive statement about the town. Again I am not sure how this sculpture plays a role here, but she is pleasant enough to look at as we glide past on our way further north.

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Pitlochry Dam and Fish Ladder

We park in the centre of Pitlochry town and follow the signs to the dam and visitors centre on foot. The road leads through the town, down a hill, under a bridge, along a narrow lane, up another hill and down a slope before it gets to a dedicated car park for the visitors centre. Doh. At least we get a little bit of exercise rather than driving to the nearest car park. We have spent enough time in the car the last couple of days.

I am officially intrigued by the Fish Ladder, as although I do understand that it facilitates salmon to travel upstream during breeding season, I have never actually seen one.

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But first we stop for coffee and cake in the modern visitors centre overlooking the hydroelectric plant.

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We walk across specially constructed walkways from one bank of the river to the other (not the one shown in the photo below), and although the power plant is certainly impressive, it's the reflections in the loch that first and foremost grab my attention.

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Hydro-electricity is produced using the power of running water to turn the turbines in the power station.

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Once we reach the fish ladder on the opposite bank, I have a feeling we have seen something similar before, possibly in Madeira in 2003. Either way, it is a pretty cool idea.

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This is how it works: each of the 34 tiered pools has an opening below water level to allow fish to swim through to the next level. The ladder is even equipped with a fish counter (the sort that counts each fish, not sells fillets) so they can monitor the success of the ladder. Some 250,000 salmon have climbed those stairs since the ladder was first opened in 1952. That is very impressive.

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I continue taking photos of the dam and surroundings while David goes back into town to collect the car. He's a good man.

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Cairngorms

We head for the hills of the Cairngorms (a mountain range and national park in Scotland) to find somewhere to have our picnic.

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This will do for a picnic

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Not a bad view

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Cowboy Caviar (mixed bean salad) with chicken and Southwest Sauce

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We are fascinated to find, as we make our way even further north on smaller roads, that each layby is identified by a number. I have not seen that anywhere else. There are plenty of them too, something that we come to appreciate a lot as the week goes on.

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Hmm, but not today...

Highland cattle

As you may have noticed, I have called this blog “In search of the Hairy Coo”. 'Hairy coo' is of course the local slang for the adorable long-haired Highland Cattle. There are two reasons for this – I was tasked with getting some photos of me petting a highland cow by my friend Kay; and also because it reminds me very much of my first visit to Scotland in 1974 with my parents. My mum adored these cute bovine animals and used to call them 'hippy cows'.

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'Pretend' Hairy Coo at the Ralia Highland Gateway Centre where we stop for a pee break.

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Apparently, cuddling a metal coo doesn't count.

Sat Nav

Mid afternoon the Sat Nav dies, meaning we have to revert to the old fashioned way of finding our way using a map. Those of you who know me well, will realise that it is not a good idea to leave me to do the navigating while map reading. Not only do I get my lefts and rights mixed up, my sense of direction is so poor that I can get lost in my own back garden.

Let's hope we make it to the cabin this evening without too many detours and without having a major falling-out.

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Love the roads and the scenery!

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Loch Droma

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The further north we get (and nearer our cabin), the narrower the road gets.

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We find the turning off the main road without any major drama, despite me map reading, although I fear the credit has to go to David, who has a photographic memory when it comes to maps: once he has seen the route on a map, he can drive there.

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The Wee Barn

I booked this holiday on a whim a few weeks ago. We have been talking about visiting Scotland for a while now, but no actual plans, and certainly not this year. I thought I would just do an internet search to give me some idea of costs, and then I saw The Wee Barn and fell in love. Ten minutes later I had booked it.

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The Wee Barn is in what you could safely call a remote location. Some two miles down a single track road with a handful of other houses, a post box and telephone kiosk, It is situated down the lane leading to the landing where ferries take passengers across Little Loch Broom to the smattering of houses the other side. Surrounded by countryside on three side and water on the fourth, the setting is idyllic.

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The cabin itself is small, of course (there is a huge hint in the name), but more than adequate for us, with a living room / dining room and a very well equipped kitchen.

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As well as a bedroom and bathroom, the entrance hall has a comfy chair and a well stocked bookcase.

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Once we have unpacked, I whip up a quick dinner of cold Black Forest ham, scrambled eggs and roasted tomatoes.

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After dinner a settle down to relax, but David has other ideas, and suggests going out for a short drive. I shall make that the subject of the next blog entry however.

Posted by Grete Howard 04:16 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland salmon road_trip sculpture seal deer motorway highland_cow pitlochry cairngorms road_signs premier_inn arria angel_of_the_nauld auchenkilns cumbernauld andy_scott power_station hydro_electric fish_ladder hary_coo sika_deer red_deer harbour_seal Comments (3)

Home - Carlisle

A slow start to our Scotland Adventure

-50 °C
View In search of the Hairy Coo - Scottish Highlands 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Although we booked this trip some months ago, it wasn't until the very last minute (two days before departure to be exact), that we actually decided we were going to go. As many of you will know, my dad was very poorly recently, and we were unsure whether we were going to be able to get away at all.

Anyway, here we are, setting off for the long drive to Bonnie Scotland.

Apologies for the quality of today's photos, they are all taken with my mobile phone.

Motorway Madness

It doesn't start well. Just outside Birmingham we hit the first traffic jam. We see two fire engines, an ambulance and the Incident Manager go past. Oh dear, I hope it is not serious. At least we are just delayed, we are not involved in the 'incident'.

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Without notice, the traffic starts to move again and within seconds we are up to normal speed, with no sign of the incident that slowed us to a stand-still in the first place. How very odd.

It doesn't last long, however, and soon we are slowing right down again. This is when motorbikes come into their own – we see the whole chapter of Satan's Slaves go past, some 50+ bikers, weaving their way in and out of the lines of slow-moving cars.

Leaving the M5 and joining the M42, we arrive into another stationary traffic jam.

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Once we're on the M6, the story is the same – another load of slow moving traffic! There is one benefit: we may not be going anywhere fast, but at least we are getting in excess of 75 miles per gallon.

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Picnic lunch

The plan was to come off the motorway to find a small, rural place to have a leisure lunch in the countryside, but as we are making such slow progress, we are concerned about the distance we still have to travel, so pull into a Motorway Service Station where we have a car-picnic in the car park. Not quite the same.

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Without notice the Sat Nav decides to give up the ghost, forcing us to get out an old-fashioned map. Thankfully, the further north we go, the less traffic there is, and David is a master navigator anyway, with a non-rivalled memory for routes.

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Premier Inn and Beefeater at Carlisle

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Finally, after over eight hours on the road (the journey should have taken us 4½ hours), we eventually arrive at our overnight stop in Carlisle, where a very welcome drink awaits the driver.

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I ask for a pint of Morgan's Spiced and Coke (four measures topped up with Diet Coke). It goes down well.

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We both have fillet steak, mine with a salad and David's with chips.

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I'll drink to that!

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So much for being good and only having a salad with my steak: a churros sundae with a large Tia Maria isn't going to do my diet any good!

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When it comes to paying, we are really pleased when the waitress lets us use a discount code from an out-of-date voucher that doesn't even include steaks! Double success!

Full of good food and drink, we retire to bed ready for another long drive tomorrow.

Posted by Grete Howard 12:45 Archived in Scotland Tagged map cider birmingham steak sat_nav beefeater carlisle traffic_jam premier_inn churros_sundae tia_maria morgan's_spiced Comments (1)

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