Some great sightings in a park without high expectations
05.02.2020 - 05.02.2020
Breakfast Picnic, Lake Manyara National Park
We find ourselves at a large picnic site overlooking the valley below, with several picnic tables dotted about, and thankfully no other tourists.
Last night the chef asked us what we wanted for our packed breakfast for today, and he suggested that we might like some croissants with bacon. It didn't expect three of them, plus boiled eggs and bacon, two yogurts and three bananas. We are certainly not going to starve on this trip. The croissants are, as you'd expect from an establishment such as the Kilimamoja Lodge, freshly made this morning, and were still warm when Malisa collected the boxes at 6am.
We are joined by an army of ants.
Later three cars with American tourists turn up. They are not the least bit interested in the view or other surroundings, they all want to see, feel, lift and have their photos taken with Big Bertha (my 600mm f/4 lens). It's a bit like having a puppy that everyone wants to stroke – she is certainly a talking point and a way of meeting people.
I use Bertha hand held to take this picture of elephants in the river way, way below us. With the 1.4x converter and the 7DII body, it makes an effective focal length of 1344mm. Bertha is really a bit too heavy to hand hold, so I used a 1/4000 second exposure, resulting in an ISO of 1000. Unfortunately the 7DII doesn't fare well with high ISO and the image is rather grainy as a result.
Not even Malisa and his super-skilled driving can manage to get us across this ravine where the road has been washed away as a result of recent heavy rain.
We, and the three cars behind us, have a bit of a job trying to reverse back to a place suitable for turning.
Lake Manyara National Park is supposedly famous for its tree-climbing lions. On neither of our two previous visits to the park did we see a lion, let alone one aloft any branches. Malisa hears on the radio that one has been spotted not far away, so sets off in hot pursuit.
We are not alone, and initially we can't get anywhere near the cats!
With a bit of skilful manoeuvring, however, and the goodwill of others drivers, we do eventually get to see one of the famous tree-lions of Manyara!
Under the tree we pick out two more. No, three. Actually, there are FOUR!
She doesn't look comfortable in her tree, and fidgets a lot, trying out different positions.
Neither are we. The pesky tsetse flies are irksome to say the least, and I feel like I am being eaten alive.
So, do we hang around here, hoping the lioness will jump down, or do we follow the news on the radio that there is a leopard in a tree too? We opt for the latter.
She is some distance away from the road (and my camera), and very well hidden in amongst the tree branches, making it very hard to focus. She too is unsettled.
Not long after we arrive, she starts to make her way down from the tree. We are very lucky to have got here just in time. She didn't hang around for me to get a clear photo of her.
On our way out of the park, we spot the Blue Monkey, a species that we have seen rarely on our previous safaris.
A new treetop walkway has opened up, just a five-minute drive from the main gate, and we stop there on our way.
First we take a short walk through the woods, and our guide explain a few things along the way.
So this is what the baboons were picking up from the floor and eating earlier.
Golden Orb Spider; a common insect in the forest
A gentle slope leads up to the first of ten platforms, and the start of the hanging rope bridges.
I start off nonchalantly, almost cocky, on the first bridge. Until it starts to sway. Considerably! Fear grips my like an iron glove and I feel myself starting to panic. Concentrating on breathing heavily, I stop and let the bridge settle down before continuing, this time much more gingerly and much less confidently.
I made it! Still shaking, only eight more bridges to go.
Even Malisa wavers a little at the swaying. To be fair, he is carrying my big camera in one hand, David's video camera in the other and his own over his shoulder.
It is the first treetop walkway in Tanzania and with a total of 370 metre,s one of the longest in Africa!
There are nine bridges and ten platforms.
By the time I get to the end of bridge number four, I have regained my confidence, and am beginning to enjoy it.
Having been on several of these in the past, I have no expectations of seeing any animals or even birds from it; I am just here to 'enjoy' the experience. I am therefore very surprised to see a couple of Blue Monkeys.
Look at the length of that tail!
The walkway’s highest point is 18 metres above the ground.
It's all downhill from now on.
Just a short walk through the woods back to the car and we'll be on our way for the third part of today's adventures. Stay tuned!
Thank you Calabash Adventures for arranging all this for us.