A Travellerspoint blog

Serengeti Day I Part I - Lion Cubs and Topi Fighting

A beautiful morning. Again.


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Although I slept well, I wake up feeling crap this morning, and struggle to walk from the room to the restaurant even at a snail's pace, having to stop several times to catch my breath. Thankfully Malisa very kindly brings the car half way down the slope enabling me to miss out on climbing most of the steep hill.

This morning starts with one of the strangest – and most spectacular – sunrises I have ever seen.

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Across a gully we see a large pride of eleven lions. I do miss Ndutu and being able to drive off-road. Here at Serengeti that is a definite no-no, so we remain at some distance from the cats

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While the adults mostly just lie around enjoying the early morning sunshine, some of the cubs captivate us with their play fighting and usual energetic antics.

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Making the most of the morning sunshine, this rare mongoose is in a difficult spot for photographing; but it is a thrilling sighting for us: only once before and only for a brief blink-and-you'd-miss-it moment have we seen one of these.

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We haven't travelled far before we spot three more lions.

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They are heading directly for the big cats.

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We had been planning to go for breakfast, but decide to hang around to see what pans out between the wildebeest and the lions.

So we wait. And wait. And wait. It all peters out and we head for the picnic site. That's the nature of safari – occasionally you are rewarded with something exciting, but mostly you spend a lot of time waiting for nothing.

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On our way we spot a couple of topi. They are so remarkably near that Malisa comments he has never seen any so close to the car before.

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They are presumably engrossed in the job in hand – fighting for a female.

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Although it seems all rather half-hearted to me – they clash, then stare each other out and them look all chilled out as if they are best of mates.

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The truce doesn't last long, however, and hostilities soon recommence.

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Topi fighting is scary stuff, especially if you are a topi. The guy on the left is so petrified he shits himself.

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Mind you, I would be frightened if I had a huge horned antelope coming towards me like this.

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The fighting gazelles are right by the car, and we can hear the loud clashing of the horns.

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By now they are so close I can't get them both in the picture, even at the widest setting on my lens.

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An uneasy ceasefire is declared for a spot of breakfast.

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Ding! Ding! Time for Round Three.

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Will this end only on the death of one of them as often happens?

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Thankfully not; one of the would-be suitors capitulates and runs off to lick his wounds, leaving the victor standing proud.

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Just like we did last year, we stop at the Visitors Centre to have our breakfast. Not only do they have a number of shaded picnic tables, there are also nice, modern toilet facilities.

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The breakfast supplied by Kubu Kubu is excellent: omelette, potatoes, sausage and bacon; plus several pastries, bread and cakes. We are certainly not going hungry on this trip. The only thing that rather amuses me, is seeing half a tomato in the fruit salad. It reminds me of the saying: "Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad."

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The other good thing about the Visitor's Centre is all the local residents – a large number of Tree and Rock Hyraxes.

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Another great morning game viewing with much more to come in the next instalment of my blog. Thank you Calabash Adventures for arranging it all.

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Posted by Grete Howard 01:49 Archived in Tanzania Tagged travel adventure sunrise breakfast fun tanzania lions serengeti topi mongoose calabash_adventures serengeti_visitors_centre wildebesst sasafari Comments (2)

Naabi Hill - Kubu Kubu

The BIG FIVE are in the bag!


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

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So called because they were the five most dangerous (and desired) animals for hunters to capture. These days of course 'hunters' are replaced by 'photographers'.

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At the entrance gate to the Serengeti National Park, we take our lunch picnic overlooking a small bird bath for entertainment.

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Superb starling partaking in their daily ablutions

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Laughing Dove

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Speckled Pigeon

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Ashy Starling

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Lesser Masked Weaver

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Superb Starling

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Superb Starling having a wardrobe malfunction.

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Red Billed Buffalo Weaver

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Hildebrand Starling

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Speckled Fronted Weaver

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Wattled Starling

With all those breadcrumbs flying around, it is not just birds who are attracted to this picnic area.

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Field mouse?

We also watch a small herd of elephants walk past. As you do.

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Having failed miserably to get his beloved Savannah Cider in Arusha, David is delighted to find that the small grocery store at Naabi Hill sells it.

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The UNESCO Heritage ecosystem of Serengeti is one of the oldest and most diverse in the world, and has barely changed in the past million years or so.

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It is, however, the annual migration that the Serengeti is most famous for, consisting of over a million wildebeest and some 200,000 zebra making their way from the north to south and back to the north continuously every year following the rain in search of greener pastures.

Below is a map of the Serengeti showing approximately where the migration usually is during the month of May. This morning we left Lake Masek Tented Camp at the bottom right of the map and later we entered the park through Naabi Hill Gate. We are heading for the Seronera area tonight.

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Soon after we enter the park, we encounter a few thousand of the migrating animals. It is hard to get my head around the fact that all those little dots in the distance are animals

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Serengeti has to be one of my favourite places in the world, but today I seem to be sleeping my way through the wilderness. I guess those antibiotics must be working. I feel totally knocked out. Fortunately David and Malisa do wake me up when they see something of interest.

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Such as this leopard with her kill in a tree, resting on a branch right above the road.

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There are already a few cars at the scene – we have been so spoilt in Ndutu by mostly being completely on our own at animal sightings, that having company takes a bit of getting used to.

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Malisa points out the bad form by this driver – he has a full vehicle, yet he positions himself face on to the sighting, which means his passengers (seated in three rows) have to try and dodge each other to be able to photograph the leopard.

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Looking around at the other cars, we seem to be the only ones that are not taking selfies with the leopard. It's not just youngsters either, it seems 'everyone' is doing it, even people our age. I just don't get it....

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Our leopard is most definitely not comfortable, and keeps fidgeting and moving to a different position.

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Feeling sure she is going to jump down from the tree and head off for a drink shortly, we stand around in the vehicle, waiting, waiting, waiting, while all the leopard does is shuffle around some more. I am feeling rather fatigued by it all, but I don't want to miss any action by sitting down.

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Malisa believes that if the leopard yawns three times in a quick succession, it is an indication she will leave the tree and go for a drink.

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One.... two...

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Three.... four....

Bang goes that theory.

Or does it? Maybe she was particularly tired and just wanted an extra yawn today? We all get very excited when she stands up.

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Excitement over. It seems she is just hungry.

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She then proceeds to pull off the tuft on the baby wildebeest's tail with her teeth, getting quite distressed when she gets a mouthful of hair, trying desperately to spit it out.

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Obviously feeling hungry - again - from all that effort required to de-tail the wildebeest, she tucks into some juicy leg meat.

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Right! She has finished eating, maybe she will now go for a drink?

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Apparently not, although we hope she may just move the kill to a better and safer position, then jump down to look for a drink.

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Ooops! Almost dropped it!

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With some serious effort, she manages to haul her trophy back onto the branch again.

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She puts her dinner back in the fork of the tree where it was before. Well, that was really worth the effort wasn't it?

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Determined to find a better place to store the kill (to safeguard it while she leaves the tree for a drink hopefully), she has another go at moving it.

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Sigh. She has another feed. Doesn't look like she is going anywhere for a while.

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Suddenly her ears prick up and she sits bolt upright looking to our right. With eyesight and hearing five times as good as humans, our leopard has sensed something in the long grass.

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She goes off on another branch to investigate.

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It takes a couple of minutes before us humans can make out what she is looking at: a hyena.

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Being able to smell the much coveted fresh kill, the hyena makes his way towards the tree.

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Under the watchful eye of the leopard at all times of course.

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The hyena finds a few small morsels of meat that dropped onto the ground when the leopard moved the prey earlier.

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The light is fading fast (it was never very good for this whole encounter to be fair, it is just as well my Canon EOS 5D IV performs so well under low light / high ISO), and it is getting very late, so we have to leave the leopard and hyena to make our way to our lodge for the night.

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Despite the fact that she never actually did leave the tree while we were here, it is still the best leopard sighting we have ever had in Tanzania (or anywhere else for that matter, we've been lucky enough to see them in Kenya, South Africa, Sri Lanka and India as well), so it is two very happy campers who drive away into the sunset.

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I offer no apologies for the number of sunset pictures I have included in this blog.

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Before we left home, Tillya told us he had a surprise for us for our wedding anniversary, and this evening's accommodation is it.

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Spectacularly situated on the slope of an escarpment, we can see the lodge from a distance as we approach.

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We arrive at the lodge and are helped with our luggage by the local porters. One of them promptly grabs my camera and proceeds to take several photos.

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As I try to get it off him again, he is full of apologies, but all I want is to change the settings on the camera so the pictures won't be so grainy (It is pretty dark by now). Then I give it back for him to play with again.

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At first glance the lodge looks very much like so many other tented camps in Tanzania, but this one is rather special.

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We are shown down into the main building which houses the reception, bar and restaurant, plus a large open atrium in the middle. Outside is a lovely wooden deck with far-reaching views of the Serengeti plains and a swimming pool on a lower level.

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Our room – named Swala, which means gazelle in Swahili – is about half way down the path. In all the hotels I have been trying to ask for a room as close to the reception as possible, as I am still feeling pretty awful and struggle to breathe, making walking a real effort, especially uphill.

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Our tent is beautifully furnished, with a large four poster bed, a seating area, a writing desk, a water cooler / heater and an outside terrace on stilts with a table and chairs.

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A large dressing area leads to the separate toilet and outside shower room – which has amazing views.

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Views from the outdoor shower

Hot water is plentiful, heated by large solar panels during the day.

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After a refreshing shower, we go for dinner – the best meal so far on this trip, with a BBQ chef cooking steaks to our liking and other dishes (lamb, chicken, okra curry, crispy spinach and macaroni) brought to our table. If ever proof was needed that I am quite ill, it is this: I didn't take any photos of our dinner!

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Making our way slowly back to our room accompanied by an askari (Maasai guard), we see the eyes of three hyenas in the long grass on the slope between the tents. As we walk along, so do they, constantly following us with their eyes. Although hyenas are not generally known for attacking people, I still find it a little disconcerting and I am pleased when we make it to the safety of our room.

This blog was made possible thanks to Calabash Adventures – the best safari operator by far!

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Posted by Grete Howard 15:50 Archived in Tanzania Tagged birds adventure africa safari tanzania birding serengeti leopard hyena bird_watching african_safari tented_camp calabash_adventures naabi_hill seronera african_bush kubu_kubu kubu_kubu_tented_camp Comments (6)

Ndutu - Naabi Hill

And now for a little light relief


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Those of you who read my previous blog entry, will be pleased to know that all that blood and gore is followed by a large dose of cuteness.

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Aren't these baby falcons cute?

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A nice little lifer for us this morning (a 'new' bird which we haven't seen before)

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Having spent nearly two hours with the lions, we head for Ndutu Airstrip to have our picnic.

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Malisa spots something moving in the grass and sets off across country.

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“It's only a chicken.”

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There's a bit of a story behind this saying: back in 2008, in Sikkim (India), David spotted something and shouted excitedly from the back of the car: “It's a colourful bird!”. With an obvious tone of despair and disinterest, the driver replied: “It's only a chicken”. Malisa has perfected that same tone and the expression has become synonymous with disappointment at seeing something not as exciting as expected.

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The black bellied bustard is followed very shortly by a couple of White Bellied Bustards.

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This place is full of bustards!

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Running away from us of course.

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Having not encountered any other cars since we've been here in the Ndutu area, we are almost startled by the vehicles down on the marsh watching the elephants.

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One of the cars carries a Facebook friend, Jim, his wife and their friends. I knew he was going to be in the area at the same time as us, but not exactly where or when, so it is quite a coincidence that he is the first person we see after three days of not seeing any other human activity outside the lodge.

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There are two groups of elephants here, this one on the right with 17 members...

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...and a similar sized herd coming in from the left.

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We speculate what will happen when they all meet in the middle. Are they fractions of the same herd, or will there be conflict?

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Apparently not. After some initial trumpeting (which we take to mean "hello, how are you doing, long time no see", they seem to just mingle and chill. I guess they are all the same family.

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Gotta love those little ones.

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They all meander as one down to the small pond, enjoying the green grass and fresh, cool water.

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The herd has yet again split up, which means that everywhere you look, all around us, are elephants.

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Some of the group decide to head for the trees rather than the water.

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Elephants are very protective of their little ones, and will usually try their best to hide them in the middle of the herd.

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But when you have an itch, you've got to scratch it! And trees make very good scratching posts.

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But mum soon appears to offer her baby protection from any would-be predators. Although it is unusual, lions have been known to attack young elephants.

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When the tree doesn't do the trick, our little fellah resorts to using his own legs to soothe that itch.

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Check out David's video for an extra dose of cuteness.

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We spend a considerable amount of time watching the elephants, taking great delight in their shenanigans and interactions with each other.

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We watch the elephants slowly make their way into the forest, before turning our attention to other attractions in the immediate surroundings.

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The pond is also home to a number of birds

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Grey Heron

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Black Headed Heron

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Laughing Doves

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Serrated Terrapin

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Augur Buzzard

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Another Black Headed Heron

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Leopard Tortoise

We also come across a lone elephant taking a shower.

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We say goodbye to the Ndutu area as we make our way towards Serengeti this morning, with a last look at Lake Ndutu and the animals it attracts.

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Lake Ndutu

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Giraffe

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Hartebeest and zebra

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Hartebeest

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Black Breasted Snake Eagle

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Grant's Gazelle

And here they are all together: Grant's Gazelle and Hartebeest with the snake eagle in the tree
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Two Banded Courser

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In order to save time at the Serengeti Gate, we sign out of Ngorongoro Conservation Area at the Ndutu Ranger Station.

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At Malisa's recommendation, I resist using the toilets here, preferring to wait until we get to the proper Serengeti gate at Naabi Hill, where I know the facilities are modern and clean.

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With the correct paperwork in hand, we leave Ndutu behind and make the journey across the Short Grass Plains to reach the official gate to enter the Serengeti for the next chapter of our adventure.

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On the way we meet up with James and his client in one of the other Calabash vehicles.

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Another drinking giraffe.

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And a huddle of zebras under a tree.

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This Long Crested Eagles takes off and we follow him - at the same speed and height - down the road for some time. A very cool experience.

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Much as I hate to say goodbye to Ndutu (it is one of my favourite places in Tanzania), I am looking forward to seeing what Serengeti has to offer us. Thank you Calabash Adventures for giving us this opportunity.

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Posted by Grete Howard 06:31 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds elephants africa safari tanzania terrapin buzzard ndutu calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area Comments (3)

Ndutu: Lions versus giraffe

Warning - this entry contains images that some people may find disturbing


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I have a restless night, more awake and distressed than I am sleep. After around 15 minutes sleep, I wake up and have to sit upright to cough and blow my nose before lying down again trying to get some more rest. This cycle is repeated time and time and time again. By 02:00 I feel absolutely dreadful. So much so that I want to go home. Right now. As soon as it is daylight I shall have to tell Malisa to take us back to Arusha so that we can arrange a flight to the UK at the earliest opportunity. Later, as I am gasping for breath in the middle of a particularly severe coughing fit, a thought strikes me... I wonder if I am actually fit enough to fly? I guess they will have oxygen on the aircraft if I collapse during the flight. The thought continues to worry me as the rest of the night goes by through a haze of nasty dreams, waking up unable to breathe, panicking, sitting bolt upright, then coughing for England. Or is that Tanzania? I feel so ill I am not even sure where I am.

By 05:00 when it is time to get up I feel a little more 'with it' and decide that perhaps I won't go home just yet after all. Perhaps I will see how I feel after another day out here – hopefully by then the antibiotics will have had time to work and I can function a bit better. I am grateful that at least no-one else was staying in this camp last night so that I didn't keep anyone else awake all night. David slept through most of it thankfully.

The day immediately seems better when the sun comes up, painting the sky a beautiful crimson.

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The first animals we spot this morning are a couple of lions, and when they head off into the bush, we follow to see what they are up to. Unlike most other parks in Tanzania, here in the Ndutu area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area off-road driving is permitted.

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Meanwhile the sun has just made it above the horizon.

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And there are more lions. Five in total.

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They're on the move.

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On the lookout for breakfast no doubt.

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“I'm so hungry I could turn vegetarian!”

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In the distance, behind the trees, we spot a giraffe. So do the lions.

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“Let's go and investigate”

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The giraffe is blissfully unaware as she enjoys her breakfast of acacia leaves.

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Manoeuvring silently through the undergrowth, the lions move nearer their intended prey.

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Continuing to be totally engrossed in her food, the giraffe is still completely oblivious to the dangerously close predators.

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Go! Go! Go! Afraid that the giraffe is going to spot them before their backup arrives, the two lions abruptly launch into a chase, using the element of surprise to gain a second or two advantage.

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Assessing the size of his opponent (it is extremely rare for lions to even attempt to take down a fully grown giraffe for that reason), the hungry lion looks to see which direction his leggy prey is going to be taking and tries to be one step ahead.

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It is not just to see which way the giraffe is heading that the lion keeps a very close eye on the legs – those six feet long limbs have been known to cause some serious damage, with giraffes using high kicks to fight off predators.

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Where they go, we follow, in hot pursuit.

“Hold on, watch out” shouts Malisa as we race underneath a prickly acacia tree. Too late. Unable to hold on and 'watch out' at the same time (I am holding on with one hand, having the camera in the other), the thorns catch my hand and arm. Nothing serious, but I am always concerned about such scratches after an incident in Kenya back in 1993 when a scratch turned into blood poisoning resulting a blister covering most of the top of my hand and down my fingers. After lancing the blister, the medical staff then had to cut my wedding ring off, and put me on antibiotics to stop the poison spreading. I could see it as a black line running up my arm, and it did rather scare me.

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This time the injuries are very mild

Meanwhile, the giraffe is not doing too well.

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Unfortunately, she cannot sustain a lengthy chase, something the lions are acutely aware of, and this becomes her downfall.

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The giraffe has run out of steam and our two lions have caught up with her. A third comes in from the right to help out.

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The lions momentarily let go of their grip and the giraffe makes a desperate attempt at escaping.

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But to no avail. She doesn't get very far before a renewed onslaught has her well and truly fighting for her life.

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The powerful jaws and claws of the big cats are too much for the weakened ungulate, and with an elegance and awkwardness that only a giraffe possesses (even in her death throes), she sinks to the ground.

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We move nearer to get a better look as the lions tuck into fresh giraffe for breakfast. We haven't had ours yet!

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One of them goes for the jugular to ensure the giraffe is dead before they start tearing the animal apart.

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The hardest part is breaking through the skin. Usually the lions go for the soft options first and try to start with the internal organs.

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Trying to turn the carcass over to get to the softer underbelly proves fruitless as the dead giraffe is too heavy and bulky for the lions to be able to manoeuvre.

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Having not had anything to do with the actual kill, the fifth lion strolls in very late and sits down at the dining table. Typical male.

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I do find it somewhat disconcerting when the lions look us straight in the eye, their chins dripping with blood.

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Absurdly, other inquisitive giraffes appear from behind the trees, curious about what is going on. Can they not see from the sad state of their cousin, that this is most definitely not a good idea?

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Thinking she might get an extra breakfast, one of the lionesses decides to check out the audience.

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The giraffes decides that the show isn't worth hanging around for and saunters back into the bush. "Wise move Buster, wise move!"

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Something else off to our left has caught the lions' attention and they all stare attentively in that direction.

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We can't work out what has startled them, but we do spot the Ndutu Lodge behind the trees. Gosh, this kill really was mighty close to the accommodation – no more than around 100 metres! This time last year we were staying there, and I guess this reinforces why you don't venture out on your own.

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Ndutu Lodge Restaurant seen through the trees

You really don't want to meet this young lady on your way to the bar!

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This young male is being a little bit ambitious in thinking that his breakfast is a movable feast. “Give up son, you're fighting a losing battle”

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LOOK AWAY NOW IF YOU ARE PRONE TO FEELING QUEASY

Meanwhile, back at the rear end, the lions have found the intestines. It is not a pretty sight.

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As their sharp teeth break through the membrane, the content squirts out.

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I told you to look away!

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I think I will give my breakfast sausage a miss this morning.

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Once they have had their fill of giraffe-meat, the lions cover any spilt blood with earth to stop the smell attracting scavengers, then leave the carcass to search for a drink and take a much needed siesta. It must be hard work to have to run after your food, then make sure that it doesn't attack you before trying to bite through tough leather to get to it. Make my complaints about Tesco's packaging seem rather feeble.

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We continue on our way too.

If you still haven't had enough of blood and gore, check out David's video on youtube.

Thank you Calabash Adventures for bringing us this incredible experience.

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Posted by Grete Howard 00:12 Archived in Tanzania Tagged wildlife nature travel breakfast wild africa safari tanzania savannah lion lions giraffe kill intestines ndutu calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area lion_kill cruel_nature life_and_death african_bush Comments (2)

Ndutu Day II Part II (Wedding Anniversary)

Finally, some cats


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We're ready to roll for another afternoon of exciting adventures in the African wilderness.

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Dik diks mate for life, so more often than not you find two together or even three, like here with their offspring.

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“Sit down and close your window!” comes the urgent call from Malisa as we find ourselves right in the middle of a swarm of bees flying from one nest to another. Phew, that could have been nasty!

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We see three different vultures (Lappet Faced, African White backed and Hooded) sitting in a tree and wonder if there is a kill somewhere.

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It's mid-afternoon and we still haven't seen any cats today.

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Cute little baby, some 3-4 months old. Later we see an adult wildebeest, on his own, limping badly. I cannot help to think he will be someone's dinner tonight.

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There's a lot of dust around this afternoon and I am seriously worried about my lungs. They do not feel good. I am therefore grateful when the skies start getting darker and more threatening.

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With a strange light, dark clouds and rain on the horizon; it looks like we are in for some inclement weather.

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I am hoping for a dramatic thunder storm.

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No such luck though. The rain is somewhat localised, and fortunately not in our locale.

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But I guess it is best to start heading towards the camp.

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Before long, the skies are blue with pretty pink clouds. Talk about changeable!

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Time is getting on, the light is fading fast, and we have given up all hope of seeing any big cats today, which means these two lions are a real bonus.

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Not that they do much, but enough to get a few nice photos to round the day off nicely.

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She is greatly bothered by flies, and tries to wipe them off with her paw.

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It doesn't last long, however.

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Time is moving on, the lions are tired and we really should be getting back to camp.

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On the way we see a lone buffalo in the sunset.

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And then another.

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One of the things I love about a safari in Africa is that we get well away from any light pollution, making the stars all the more visible at night. I am very surprised, and delighted, that we are able to see any stars at all this evening after all the thick, dark clouds that covered the sky just a couple of hours ago.

The downside of being in the wilderness, of course, is the fact that we are surrounded by wild and dangerous animals, which means I can't stray far from the lodge and the armed askari guards.

Setting up my tripod just outside the entrance to the lodge means I do get some stray light from behind, but we can still see the milky way quite clearly.

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As I said in the very first blog post from this trip, the reason for being here in our favourite part of the world at this time, is to celebrate forty years of married bliss.

We brought with us a bottle of bubbly from the UK, which Nina, the waiter, kindly opens for us at dinner.

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I clear my throat, bring out a scroll tied with red ribbon, unroll it and begin to read:

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Ode to marriage

The year was 1974
In Wembley near London Town
A boy wooed a girl with flowers and more
He wanted to settle down

The girl was from Norway, her English not good
He loved her accent and eyes
Always a gentleman, just as he should
Much better than other guys

She was so young and impressed by his car
Just 16 years old, in her prime
He chatted her up in the Century bar
Into his Lotus she'd climb

Education finished, she left her school
To Norway she must return
If he let her go, he would be a fool
He knew he would always yearn

He told her he loved her and would she be his?
She said “yes” straight away
They must stay together, she surely agrees
“Let's get married, without delay”

Friday the 13th the engagement took place
But the very next day she left
He jacked in his job and took up the chase
To Norway, feeling bereft

Friday the 13th, such a special date
“Let's see when the next one is”
The following year was the estimate
To enter married bliss

By 1977 they wed
In Oslo Town Hall it was
From the bright lights of London to Bristol they fled
In a fancy car of course

They easily settled as husband and wife
Both working as hard as they could
To pay for their major passion in life
Exploring the neighbourhood

Their travels took them to near and far
A never-ending quest
From Antarctica, to China to Zanzibar
They were totally obsessed

The years quickly passed amid work and fun
And travels to faraway lands
A number of bucket list items were done
Scuba, canoeing, and boarding on sands

Work in IT and banking, a means to an end
For funding the thrill-seekers' aim
Rafting and driving a tank round the bend
Quite the daredevils they became

Zeppelin, bobsleigh and bamboo raft
Plus driving a Formula Ford
They sailed and quad-biked and often laughed
Even bungy, but never bored

DIY, cars and cycling too
Always busy, he loved to be
Participating in local voodoo
He even learned to ski

Her passions are cooking and photography
And travelling as much as she can
Sociable, smiling and very carefree
She idolises her man

Old age has crept up, with health not so great
But they're only as young as they feel
Troubles are easy when shared with your mate
Which was always part of the deal

To mark this occasion, where should they be?
A favourite haunt for sure
Tanzania of course, for a safari
Such a wonderful place to explore

As they sit here tonight, celebrating their love
Memories plenty to look back on
They thank their stars and heavens above
For the 40 years that have gone

It's 40 years since she gave him her heart
And she loves him more than ever
She said she's be with him “till death us do part”
And even then it's forever

By the time I am finished there is not a dry eye in the house, even the waiter has to wipe away a tear.

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As was the case at lunch, a selection of several dishes are brought to our table: stir fried chicken, curried vegetables, lentils, potatoes and rice, preceded by soup and followed by fresh fruit.

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Malisa also has a surprise up his sleeve: he has arranged for the lodge to make us a cake. The entire staff of the lodge accompany it is brought out, singing traditional Tanzanian songs and keeping the rhythm by banging kitchen utensils. Love it!

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.

Who would have thought, all those years ago, that this young couple would be here in the African wilderness forty years later, drinking champagne and eating celebration cake.

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Calabash Adventures really are the best, thank you so much for all the arrangements.

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Posted by Grete Howard 15:09 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds monkeys rain elephants cake clouds africa safari tanzania celebrations birding lions vultures weaver wildebeest bird_watching bustard ndutu calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area lake_masek_tented_camp dik_dik wedding_anniversary champage mousebird stormy_weather Comments (4)

Ndutu Day II Part I (Mist, Dung Beetle and Elephant Mudbath)

From misty beginnings


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I drag myself out of our tent at 05:45 only to find that the world outside is enveloped in a thick mist this morning.

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It is not easy to spot any animals in the thick pea-soup surrounding us. These hartebeest are so close to the vehicle it would be hard to miss them, but goodness knows what else is hiding behind nature's grey cloak.

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The sun is trying its best to burn off the low cloud, which it manages eventually, but meanwhile it turns the mist a delicate shade of pink.

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The morning mist has also ensured that dew drops on the spider's webs glow delicately in the low sun.

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With cute little babies.

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Life is always more colourful with a Lilac Breasted Roller

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Another one. They're common as muck around here.

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We find a suitable place in the shade of a tree, with no obvious predators in the vicinity, to stop and have our breakfast.

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David doing his artistic bit

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We are soon on our way again “to see what nature has to offer us” out here on the Short Grass Plains.

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With a tiny baby, no more than than two weeks old.

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The wildebeest have scent glands in their hooves helping the others to follow the leader. The theory is: if their man (beast) at the front gets through, then it must be safe.

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That is why you often see them walking in a single file, keeping their heads down.

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As always, lots of dust being kicked up.

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It makes such a pleasant change to see these ungulates standing still rather than running away from us for dear life.

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Or rather, just her eggs. I have no idea how Malisa manages to spot these things as he is driving along, they are so well camouflaged!

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Those of you who followed my blog from Tanzania last year, will probably remember my fascination with dung beetles.

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This little stretch of land is Dung Beetle Central! Everywhere you look there is a beetle rolling its prized poo ball across the plains.

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So what's the collective noun for a gang of dung beetles? Shitload. Not sure if that is the official term, but it sure fits!

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As the original recyclers, dung beetles are probably the most industrious resident on the savannah, clearing up the mess left behind by other animals.

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Imagining the savannah knee-deep in excrement, makes you appreciate the importance of these tiny animals.

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“Let me whisper sweet nothings in your ear...”

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“Lean on me”

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We see a hyena hiding in the undergrowth and drive nearer to take a better look, by which time she has completely disappeared, so I guess she has a den hidden somewhere in the grass.

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Keen to locate a big cat of some sort, Malisa drives from tree to tree, copse to copse to check out what is hiding in the shade, but no luck.

We do see a few other birds and animals though.

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It is strange how the distribution of animals is so different from this same week last year – so far we have seen more steenbok in the first couple of days than we saw on the entire trip in 2016.

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Another Long Crested Eagle – this one is having a bad hair day.

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When eating, the flamingo shift their legs up and down to disturb the algae, a movement Malisa likens to a dance. To me it looks more like little kids hopping from leg to leg shouting: “Mum, I need to pee!” Malisa agrees with me and finds my analogy particularly amusing.

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The elephants love to cover themselves in mud as this helps to get rid of any ticks.

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The small herd look like they are really enjoying their wallow – I expect the mud is nice and cooling in the midday sun too.

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They are so ungainly when they try to get out of the water!

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This little one is rubbing her belly on the ground to ensure the mud sticks.

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In their breeding plumage. Here seen with a Blue Capped Cordon Bleu.

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To me, this is the quintessential African safari scene – zebra and giraffe grazing on a dry, flat savannah.

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Nothing worse than being photobombed by a giraffe.

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It always amuses me the way they have to kneel when they eat because their neck isn't long enough to reach the ground.

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Apart from this guy at the back who seems to have perfected the art of eating standing up.

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Another giraffe photobomb.

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Giraffe are at their most vulnerable when drinking. Despite their long necks, they have to get themselves into a very awkward yoga pose in order to reach the water. Not only do they then struggle to get up again, they are also not able to keep a close eye on any predators that may be approaching.

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Not that it looks like there is much water there.

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As soon as the giraffe stands up, a number of oxpeckers fly off.

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The oxpecker has a symbiotic relationship with many of the larger animals on the savannah, cleaning its host by feeding on the ticks, horsefly larvae and other parasites that make their home on the skin. The bird also acts as an early warning signal, alerting the other animals to danger by making loud chirping and hissing noises.

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It seems they are enjoying themselves.

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In Lake Masek

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Normally we like to stay out all day, taking a picnic box with us for both breakfast and lunch, but today I thought it would be nice to go back to the camp for a meal in the middle of the day as it is our wedding anniversary.

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There is only us staying here these last two nights, but they have made us an impressive spread with a choice of dishes: spaghetti with a bolognaise sauce, okra curry with rice and mixed vegetables. Soup to start and fresh fruit to finish.

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After another amazing morning's safari with Calabash Adventures, it is time for a short break before we go out exploring again.

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Posted by Grete Howard 03:11 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds travel adventure africa safari tanzania zebra giraffe bird_watching african_safari ndutu calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area Comments (1)

Ndutu - Day I Part III (Elephants, Vultures and Lion)

What a memory!

semi-overcast 27 °C
View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Having left the cheetah versus lion stand-off behind, we continue in our search of wildlife experiences. Our first encounter is a lone elephant with one tusk.

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Followed by an Egyptian Goose family.

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In the distance, in amongst the trees, we see a couple more elephants and go to investigate. It turns out to be a large memory (the collective noun for elephants) of at least 32 animals, including several youngsters and a randy old bull.

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We follow them as they work their way through the forest, decimating bushes and trees in their wake.

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When they are not eating, they try to keep in the shade as much as possible. I don't blame them, that sun is mighty hot!

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The elephants are so huge, yet so amazingly silent; mainly because the soles of their feet have built in shock absorbers so it is like they are walking on sponges.

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With this area being very much drier than normal (despite this being the wet season), the elephants stir up a great amount of dust, as they slowly meander amongst the trees.

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The dust is playing havoc with my already-suffering lungs, and I try to cover my mouth and nose with a bandana so as not to breathe in any more dirt particles than I have to.

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This little guy certainly isn't helping!

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Having spent a magical 40 minutes just observing these gentle giants as the go about their daily life, we leave them to their clouds of dust and go to “see what else nature has to offer us.”

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One of my favourite African birds!

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Feasting on the carcass of a zebra who died of natural causes, a plethora of vultures are accompanied by a few storks.

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Rueppell's Griffon

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Marabou Stork

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African White Backed Vulture

What a racket! They sound like a huge flock of sheep as they squabble over the meat.

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Check out the short video clip below to hear the commotion a few birds can make!

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There is a distinct pecking order, and some of the birds are very aggressive. This guy is beating a newcomer to a pulp.

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Meanwhile, other vultures move in on the dining table and take his place, which means he has to fight them off too before he can dine. And so it goes on.

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After a while it turns into massive free-for-all brawl. Like Bristol on a Saturday night.

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More and more birds arrive, hoping to get a small piece of the action. Failing that, some food.

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You can see who gets to eat.

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Further along, a much more peaceful scene, this gorgeous little bee eater just sitting around minding his own business.

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Warning – the following photographs contain gory images

In the shade of a tree, we find a lioness feasting on a baby wildebeest.

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By the looks of the flies on her dinner, the kill is probably not fresh, so we guess it was an opportunist grab from a cheetah.

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Fed up with having an audience while she eats, the lioness decides to move her dinner elsewhere.

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Heading for the long grass, she cleverly hides herself and her dinner.

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It is time for us to head back to camp as the light fades and evening draws in. Government rules state that we have to leave the park by sundown, which is around 18:30.

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As is common when the soil is parched like this, as soon as we stop the car, the dust from the wheels seems to catch up with us, hanging heavily in the air.

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Waiting a couple of minutes sees the dust clearing. Normally a very skittish antelope, it is extremely unusual to see one standing still, just looking at us.

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As soon as we get back to the camp I jump in the shower, then start to get ready for dinner. I feel totally knocked out by this chest infection with absolutely no energy: all I want to do is sleep. I don't physically have the energy to get dressed, so I make my excuses and send David down to meet Malisa for dinner on his own. I immediately fall into a restless sleep, punctuated by coughing fits and recurring bad dreams. Oh joy.

Yet another wonderful day on safari with Calabash Adventures.

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Posted by Grete Howard 16:44 Archived in Tanzania Tagged travel elephants africa safari tanzania lion ngorongoro vultures geese goose lilac_breasted_roller ndutu calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area memory_of_elephants vulture_mayhem Comments (2)

Ndutu Day I Part II (Honey Badger and Cheetah)

OMG! It's the elusive honey badger!


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

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After breakfast we go and check on the lion cubs we saw earlier, to find they are all asleep; so we leave them to it and go to “see what nature will offer us”. This is one of Malisa's favourite sayings, and I love it!

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We all get very excited when Malisa spots a Lesser Spotted Thick Knee in the undergrowth. I know it is a crappy picture, but this is a lifer for us (first time we have seen one, to be added to the Life List). He is gone before I manage to get a better photo unfortunately.

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Mummy Plover is fiercely protecting her eggs, which are in a nest within a shallow hole on the Short Grass Plains of Serengeti, without any cover or other protection. We could so easily have run the nest over if Malisa wasn't so observant.

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Malisa explains that this area is the best place to see cheetah. Mind you, he said the same last year; and we didn't see any then either.

Although we can see jackals, hyenas, eland and Thomson's gazelles in the distance; I really struggle to keep awake.

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I certainly wake up and feel a surge of adrenalin when I see something in the distance and we discover they are a pair of honey badgers! Malisa races off at speed across the savannah, and I try to hold on for dear life while taking photos of the badgers. Unsuccessfully. The photography, that is, not holding on to my life.

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Trust me, these are honey badgers. Yes, really.

Here are some better pictures:

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A Thomson's Gazelle joins in with the race, just because.

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The badgers make several twists and turns to try and shake us off, but Malisa is determined not to lose them.

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Before we know it, they run into their little sett and are gone.

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What an amazing sighting: these beast are extremely rare to spot; in fact it is only Malisa's second time! Wow!

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Check out David's video showing the honey badgers in action.

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This was one of my favourite places on the 2016 safari. What a difference a year makes! Last year the valley was lush and the waterhole was full of literally tens of thousands of animals drinking and bathing. This year the valley is dusty and the waterhole dry. And not a single animal!

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I feel very deflated and quite disappointed that Hidden Valley is devoid of life. I guess unpredictable rains will have this effect on nature. However, seeing a pair of reedbucks, normally very shy animals, partly makes up for it.

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They stand and look at us for a short moment before fleeing.

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A few hardy zebra eventually arrive at the desolate valley.

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Despite being fascinated by the unusual cloud formation; I find myself feeling more and more sleepy as we cross the short grass plains towards the Small Marsh, an area famed for being a good breeding site for both cheetah and lions. My chest infection has now turned into bronchitis, and I started a course of antibiotics this morning, which seems to have completely knocked me out. All my body wants to do is sleep. All my mind, heart and photography finger want to do is to see animals. Right now my body wins, and I drift into a peaceful slumber.

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The renowned cats in this area are certainly not around today; just a few zebra and giraffes graze quietly here this morning.

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Having our breakfast with the lions this morning meant we were unable to leave the vehicle to 'mark our territory'; and by now I am getting pretty desperate. I guess there not being many dangerous animals around is a benefit as I get my Shewee out and seek shelter and privacy to pee behind the car.

I am not quite sure how to explain this without going in to graphic detail, and trust me, you don't want to know. Suffice to say, I have a massive shewee fail. So here I am, in the middle of the wilderness of the Serengeti, changing my underwear; with a very bemused giraffe looking on! The adventures of the Howards are never boring! Sorry – or thankfully in my case – there are no pictures.

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So, Malisa was right after all (of course), this is a good place for lions. Considering a couple of minutes ago I was outside the vehicle wearing very little, this blog could have had a very different story - or even ending - to it.

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Not only do we see a lion, just a short distance away is also a lone female cheetah. Acutely aware of the lion down on the marsh, she rests uneasily in the shade of a bush.

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Although lions are not considered predators as far as cheetahs go, they can and will attack cheetahs as they are considered competitors within the food chain. Probably hiding babies in a bush somewhere, the cheetah is constantly on the move, trying to shake the lion off.

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As usual, we follow her and eventually she settles down, at least for a while.

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She is still very much alert, looking left and right to ensure she is safe.

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It's tiring work dodging lions.

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There is no chance of relaxing though.

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With a jolt, this beautiful slender cat stands up, having obviously spotted something.

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The reason for her sudden unease soon becomes clear.

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The Cheetah keeps a very close eye on the lioness as she gets nearer.

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The lioness, however, does not appear to be heading for the cheetah. The cheetah is on our left, whereas the lioness is heading to our right.

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For a long time nothing happens, as they are both settled into an uneasy truce, the cheetah some ten metres to our left, the lion – hidden in the bushes – about the same distance on our right side. We take lunch here, with another car picnic.

The cheetah is taking no chances though, and moves further into the bush. We follow of course, hoping she will lead us her to her babies; who by the looks of her teats, are very young.

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She is constantly checking to see if she is being followed.

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Eventually she walks down to the marsh where she settles down. No babies to see this time.

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It is time for us to move on and "see what else nature has to offer us". Be sure to read the next instalment to see what else we saw this first day on the plains of Ndutu. Thank you to the team at Calabash Adventures for putting together an amazing safari for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 05:35 Archived in Tanzania Tagged africa safari tanzania cheetah lion giraffe ngorongoro honey_badger calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area coucal dik_dik Comments (1)

Ndutu - Day I Part I (the Marsh Pride)

Cuteness overload!


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After a quick coffee, we leave the lodge dead on 06:00 this morning, while it is still dark.

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We can barely see the surroundings, but just about manage to make out this black backed jackal in the darkness.

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Just as the sun is rising, an elephant walks by. As they do.

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He gets mighty close to the car.

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As soon as we approach, they make a run for it.

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Talk about bad hair day!

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Malisa wants to go down on the Big Marsh to look for the lion cubs who live around that area.

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It doesn't take him long to find them.

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There were six of them, to two mothers, but sadly one was eaten by a python.

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The mischievous little cubs – they are 2½ months old now – spend their time playing, suckling and having fun.

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When they start to make their way across the marsh, mum keeps stopping to make sure they are all keeping up.

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Occasionally she stops and looks straight at us, and I wonder what is going through her mind at this time. Irritation? Fear? Curiosity? Breakfast?

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The cubs find a small dead bush and investigate.

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Before continuing on their way.

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The group leave the open marsh and head into the wilderness to explore. We follow. That is the beauty of the Ndutu area, it is one of the few places in the Tanzanian parks where safari vehicles are permitted to drive off the marked tracks.

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Like most kids, the cubs are into everything and explore high and low. This tree proves an irresistible challenge.

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Soon they're on the move again!

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Mum doesn't notice that one of her babies is underneath her as she tries to sit down.

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The cub manages to escape just in time to avoid being squashed.

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The two females share the parenting of all the cubs, so if one mum is busy or disinterested, the cubs can just go to the other to suckle.

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Although mum doesn't always seem to be quite so thrilled by the arrangement.

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Mum wants to move on, junior wants to eat!

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In fact, mum wants to eat too, but before she goes out hunting, she has to find a safe place to hide her cubs from predators.

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Mum heads for a large bush and the babies settle down to feed. Again.

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Another car arrives, and drives too close to the den for comfort, revving its engine as it does. Mum is not happy.

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When her darlings have had their fill, she leaves the den in her hunt for breakfast.

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Her offspring try to follow, but somehow she appears to communicate to them that they should stay put while she goes off hunting.

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As the cubs obediently settle down near the den, I get an overwhelming sense of privilege and gratitude, with a perception of being part of a wildlife documentary. I have to pinch myself to make sure this really is me having this incredible experience, not some kind of parallel universe.

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Nothing can beat watching wild animals in their natural habitat!

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We too leave the cubs behind and follow the females for a while, to see what they get up to.

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When it becomes evident that they are in no hurry to go chasing prey; we decide to have a break and open our breakfast box while we wait for any action.

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Lots of lovely fruit in today's breakfast box, as well as egg, bacon, sausage and yogurt. Plus a cake. We are certainly not going to starve on this trip!

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What an exciting morning, and it is only 09:15! Be sure to read the next instalment to see more of our experiences in Tanzania with Calabash Adventures.

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Posted by Grete Howard 00:43 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals elephants africa safari tanzania lions lion_cubs ngorongoro ndutu calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area Comments (4)

Ngorongoro - Ndutu

Lake Masek Tented Camp

rain
View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

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Having left Ngorongoro Crater behind, we make our way to our overnight accommodation at Ndutu, driving across the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. When they hear the name Ngorongoro, most people think only of the crater; but that is a just very small part of the overall reserve as the map below shows.

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As we make our way across the highlands we can once again see the Maasai tending to their cattle.

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After not having slept much last night and still struggling with being able to breathe, I am feeling extremely sleepy as we bump along the rough track, drifting into a lovely long snooze while Malisa negotiates the road to Ndutu. I don't wake up until we reach the beginning of the Ndutu Plains, some two hours later.

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It looks like this one feels about as sleepy as I do.

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Ostriches live in harems, with the male having several females such as these ten here. The male will mate with all of them and the females will share the babysitting duties.

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It is raining quite heavily now, and these giraffes look super miserable at getting wet.

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Bad hair day?

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Sheltering from the rain

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Not only has it stopped raining by the time we reach our accommodation for the night; it is still daylight.

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We last stayed here in 2011, when we arrived after dark and left again the following morning before daybreak. This time we have three nights here, and it is lovely to be able to actually see what the camp looks like.

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The camp consists of 20 tents set on wooden platforms, linked by gravel paths, staggered for privacy and most (ours at least) overlooking the lake of the same name.

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There is also a large dining tent with a bar, restaurant and a wonderful terrace with sweeping views.

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This 'room' even brings glamping to a new dimension.

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Outside the main tent, but still protected from the bugs by mosquito netting, is a cool terrace with comfy chairs and a great view. The perfect place for a sundowner.

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The room itself features a huge four poster bed, bedside tables, a chest of drawers, two spacious luggage racks and a writing desk with chair.

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There is a telephone, torch, whistle to attract attention in case of emergency, 24 hour electricity, plug sockets for charging phones and a very handy water dispenser for cold drinking water as well as hot water for making tea and coffee.

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And the bathroom... what can I say? Twin vanity basins, a free-standing bath, bathrobe and hair drier, a wardrobe (with safety deposit box inside), and separate toilet and shower rooms.

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The highlight is having a shower in the outside cubicle – nothing can beat a hot shower in cool rain under a starry sky!

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David is most disappointed with his shower and complains that I have used up all the cold water: by the time he goes in (or rather out), it has stopped raining.

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We have to call an askari (Maasai warrior) to come and collect us from our tent when we go to the restaurant. Dinner is a quiet affair, the only other guests are a German group of four, and the food consists of a 'buffet' brought to our table. As is usual on safari, we don't linger after dinner, and return to our tent around 21:00. The askari chooses his weapon ( simple spear) and escorts us safely to our room.

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And so ends another amazing day on safari with Calabash Adventures.

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Posted by Grete Howard 16:27 Archived in Tanzania Tagged lake africa tanzania luxury giraffe ngorongoro hyena glamping impala safai ndutu calabash calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area _masek lake_masek_tented_camp askari Comments (2)

Ngorongoro Crater

The Eighth Wonder of the the World?


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

At 02:00 I wake in a mad panic with a feeling of being unable to breathe. My head is spinning, the floor is moving like ocean waves and my heart is beating so fast it feels like I have just run a marathon (not that I am ever likely to know what that feels like).

I walk to the bathroom, having to hold on to the furniture along the way so as not to stumble, and by the time I return to bed I feel exhausted. As soon as I lie back down again, I start coughing. Thanks David for giving me your cold. Having spent the first three months of the year being very ill / hospitalised with pneumonia, and having to cancel a holiday in February, I was so looking forward to this trip. I really don't want to be sick!

A large group of tourists are leaving the lodge at the same time as us this morning (06:00), but Malisa has conveniently placed himself in the car park rather than just outside the door, so we get away before they do, which means we enter the Crater as the very fist vehicle this morning.

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Ngorongoro crater as seen from the rim

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Like an African safari in miniature, the Ngorongoro Crater is an iconic soup bowl filled with animals and wrapped in superlatives. As the largest un-filled, un-broken caldera in the world, the crater boasts a number of 'records', including the densest animal population in Africa. No wonder it is dubbed as the 8th Wonder of the World. Created some three million years ago when a large volcano exploded, the caldera is ca 20 km across and 610 metres deep; and contains all the 'Big Five' as well as a number of other plains game. Only the giraffe is absent, as the caldera walls are too steep for them to climb.

Also absent these days is the Maasai cattle, having recently been banned from the caldera. When we first started coming to Tanzania some ten years ago, the cattle were only permitted on the caldera walls, but over the years they have been spreading themselves further and further down, and last year we were quite surprised to see them on the crater floor itself. No more. They are not permitted into the caldera at all now.

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Instead of Maasai cattle, we see a number of Cape Buffalo on the crater walls this morning. Considered one of the Big Five, this is an aggressive and dangerous animal, responsible for a number of human deaths each year.

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We spot our very first lions about half way down the descent road, and we follow the two females all the way to the bottom, where they move off the road in their continued quest for breakfast.

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In the distance we – and the lionesses – have spotted a warthog. He too is very aware of the predators approaching.

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What to do now? The clever hog finds himself a hole in the ground and goes into hiding by 'reversing' into the crevice.

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We hold our breaths as the lionesses arrive in the area the warthog is lurking, looking in a few of the small ravines for the breakfast they know is hiding somewhere close by.

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Unfortunately for the lionesses, but fortunately for the warthog, they never do discover his hiding place. Well played Mr Hogg, well played!

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We follow the lionesses for a little while longer, hoping they might lead us to their babies.

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No such luck, and we join the baboons in looking at the lions disappear into the forest.

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Wise advice

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When Malisa spots a lone lioness in the distance, we stay a while watching to see if the gazelles spot her before she spots them as potential breakfast.

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Again nothing happens, another lion foregoes breakfast and we - and the gazelles - move on the pastures new.

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Endemic to the open grasslands in sub-Saharan Africa, the Secretary Bird stands around four feet tall and is so named because of the quill-like crest on the backs of its heads that resemble 18th century clerks with pens tucked into their wigs.

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Unlike most birds of prey, the Secretary Bird doesn't swoop down to catch its prey, rather he hunts on foot, jumping up and down to flush out his intended breakfast (snakes and lizards mainly) and then kills them with a force five times his own weight.

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When we met up with Tillya yesterday, her told me I have to take some award-winning photos on this trip; and I asked him if there was anything in particular he had in mind. “Zebras fighting” was his reply.

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Fortunately, these two very cooperative zebras do seem to have received the memo and put on an obliging display for me.

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More zebras down by Lake Magadi.

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As well as wildebeest and a hyena.

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And a very cute baby Thomson's Gazelle.

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The lake is also home to a number of Lesser Flamingos.

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To say the weather is changeable today is an understatement; the lifting roof has come down and gone up more times than a hooker's undergarments this morning already. Each rain shower lasts only a few minutes and is not heavy, but the wind makes sure that everything inside the car gets soaked.

It does make for some dramatic skies though.

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As Africa's heaviest flying birds, the Kori Bustard can weigh up to 19kg and stands at around 120cm tall. During courtship displays, the male inflates his neck and dances for the female, although this guy is obviously a little confused, as we cannot see any females around. Perhaps he is just practising.

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On all our previous visits to Ngorongoro, we have only ever seen the rhino from a great distance, so when Malisa asked me about my wish list this year, seeing a rhino up close was mentioned.

And there he is!

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Black rhino are on the Critically Endangered conservation status list, so I feel quite honoured to see one of the 30 or so rhinos that inhabit the caldera.

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We see eight lions in the distance, mainly sleeping.

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This old male of around 55-60 years old (it is mostly males who live in the crater) likes to stay close to the swamp as he has lost his last molars so favours the soft grass found here. Look at those impressive tusks though! I think they are the longest tusks I have ever seen!

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Mum is accompanied by her baby, who is around 3½-4 months old.

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May is considered part of the 'Green Season' (otherwise known as the 'Rainy Season', but obviously tour operators feel that 'Green' sounds better than 'Rainy'), and as such the prices are lower and there are fewer people around.

We love it. Not only do we often have the animal sightings completely to ourselves, we also enjoy all the flowers and lush vegetation around at this time of year.

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This area beside a spring of the same name is popular with tourists, and we too stop here for breakfast.

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It's times like these that I am glad we are travelling on a private safari.

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We have company, eyeing up the leftover breakfast.

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Helmeted Guineafowl

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Rufous Tailed Weaver

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Superb Starling

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Sacred Ibis

Meaning “water coming from the ground”, the spring is favoured by hippos as well as tourists.

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Warthogs have to be some of the ugliest animals around, but look at those legs: they look like an elegant lady's with stiletto heels!

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The male puts on an impressive display for his intended female, with some elegant dance moves.

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I love the way it looks as if these baboons are picking up the flowers to take in the wonderful aroma.

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And everyone should have an elephant or two in their flower bed!

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This one is even wearing flowers in his hair!

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We encounter a large breeding herd of Cape Buffalo.

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I do find their menacing stare somewhat intimidating.

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Although some do look more like country yokels than inner city thugs.

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But the babies are cute. As most babies are. This one is very young, just one or two days old.

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Look at the flies!

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The buffalo are joined by an elephant.

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My camera seems to be malfunctioning at this stage, refusing to focus or fire and the viewfinder becoming very dark. I feel a growing sense of panic until I remove the battery grip and find it works fine again. Phew.

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Wherever the buffalo go, the Yellow Billed Oxpeckers follow.

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The birds enjoy a symbiotic relationship with the buffalo (as well as other animals here); where the animal provides a 'home' for the birds, while the oxpeckers assist the buffalo by removing the ticks and flies.

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And in the trees, the Barn Swallows gather.

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So called because they like to live in close proximity to each other, these small birds have filled this tree to beyond recognition with their elaborate nests!

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This enormous bird stands around 1.5m (5 ft) tall and can weigh up to 19kg (42 lbs).

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The pool doesn't just attract hippos, we also see a few birds here:

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Cattle Egret

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African Spoonbills hiding those beautiful beaks of theirs

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Egyptian Goose

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Blacksmith Plover

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Red Bishop

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Hammerkop

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Sacred Ibis

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This is one seriously big antelope, standing at around 180cm (6 feet) tall at the shoulders. It is also one of the most skittish of the plains game; mainly as a result of being extensively hunted for their delicious meat.

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As a result they are therefore usually seen running away as soon as we approach, so it makes a very pleasant change to be able to photograph them actually standing still.

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The older they get, the greyer they become (just like humans) and the larger the dewlap grows. This guy is a seriously old dude by the looks of it. Notice how all the youngsters stare at us while the old man carries on eating, totally oblivious.

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We become a little concerned when we see a baby zebra lying in the middle of the road with no apparent urge to move as we get closer.

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Mum soon arrives on the scene to 'rescue' her little darling...

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... who promptly throws a tantrum. "I don't wanna move!"

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But mum's having none of it and marches him out of harm's way.

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Less than a week old, he is just too adorable!

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In these pictures you can easily see the facial warts that have given this animal its name.

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As we say goodbye to Ngorongoro Crater, I can easily appreciate why it is often dubbed the 8th Wonder of the World.

Once back up on the rim, I can yet again feel the effect of the altitude on my chest. I did have some temporary relief down in the crater, which is over 600m lower than the surrounding area.

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Coughing madly and struggling to breathe, I curse David for bringing a cold with him on this trip.

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We take one last look at the crater below before we make our way to our next destination and new adventures.

This amazing experience was made a reality by the wonderful staff at Calabash African Adventures.

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Posted by Grete Howard 06:56 Archived in Tanzania Tagged elephant africa safari tanzania zebra buffalo lion rhino black_rhino ngorongoro hyena warthog ngorongoro_crater kori_bustard bustard rhinocerous calabash calabash_adventures hammerkop cape_buffalo secretary_bird zebras_fighting giant_tusk long_tusked_elephant Comments (7)

Kilimanjaro - Ngorongoro

Let the adventure begin


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Much too excited to sleep, I wake early this morning. Far too early. It's going to be a long day having had a mere two hours sleep.

We take breakfast in the lodge before Tillya and Malisa arrive to whisk us away on the start of our adventure. The first stop is in Arusha, at a different supermarket to the one we usually use. To David's horror they don't stock Savanna Cider!

While Malisa goes off to get us some brand new tyres for the safari vehicle, we enjoy a leisurely coffee.

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Nice wheels!

Having not slept well for the last three nights, I dose on and off as we make our way from Arusha towards Ngorongoro. This journey is becoming very familiar – it is now the fifth time we have driven this stretch over the years.

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Kisongo Market

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Kisongo Market

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Kisongo Market

Along the way we see three funeral cars for the children killed in the horrendous accident last week involving a school bus that plunged down a ravine killing 36 children. Later on in our journey we pass the exact spot it happened, but unlike some other safari vehicles, I request Malisa does not stop as I really don't feel the scene of such devastation should be treated as a tourist attraction.

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Cattle Crossing

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Yellow Billed Storks nesting at Mto Wa Mbu

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Yellow Billed Storks nesting at Mto Wa Mbu

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Yellow Billed Storks nesting at Mto Wa Mbu

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Butterflies at Mto Wa Mbu

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Although we usually have a picnic lunch box, today Tillya has arranged for us to take lunch in Karatu, at Kudu Lodge.

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Dining room

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Vegetable soup - lovely and peppery

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Creamy coconut chicken curry - delicious!

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You know it's a decent place when the public toilets have individual terry towels

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The lodge has beautiful grounds with this stunning Variable Sunbird flitting around

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After lunch we continue on our way, entering the Ngorongoro Conservation Area at Lodoare Gate and drive to my all time favourite view over the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater.

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Entering the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

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View over the crater from the rim

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Malisa assures us these are in fact lions. We take his word for it.

Malisa tries to speak with these Maasai women, but they either don't know, or refuse to understand, Swahili, only talking in their own Maa language.

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As we are arriving at our lodge during daylight hours for a change, we quickly shower and change, and head for the bar to wait for sunset and maybe even some stars later. I can really feel the altitude this time (we are at 2,326m/7,633 feet here), and with my lungs still being rather weak from the recent bout of pneumonia, I actually struggle to walk. I am therefore very grateful when the staff take pity on me and give us the room nearest the reception (which is still down two flights of stairs, but at least it is on the same level as the bar!).

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Our room

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Great view from the bed!

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The outside terrace of the bar

Choosing an appropriately named Ruby Cabernet (it is our 40th wedding anniversary tour after all!), we settle down to watch the clouds roll in and the shadows getting longer across this mesmerising vista.

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Great view

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Great wine

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The sunset is a total non-event, but the moonrise more than makes up for it.

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For dinner I choose a local dish called Kuku Wa Kupaka (Traditional Swahili favourite chicken simmered in coconut curry sauce served with naan, boiled and Tamu Tamu Rice), while David has the poached red snapper in garlic sauce.

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Chicken Curry

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Red Snapper

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Cream and Yogurt Mousse Cake with Chocolate Sauce

At this altitude the air is really quite cold tonight and I am feeling very grateful for the hot water bottle I discover in my bed when we return from dinner.

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This amazing adventure was made possible thanks to Calabash African Adventures.

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Posted by Grete Howard 02:21 Archived in Tanzania Tagged children adventure africa safari tanzania moonlight moonrise stars ngorongoro cider ngorongoro_crater night_sky african_safari african_food moon_rise calabash calabash_adventures ngrongoro_serena ngorongoro_conservation_area moonshine starry_night Comments (1)

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