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Lake Natron

Fish pedicure and hominid footprints


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Lake Natron Camp

We can see the camp from a distance, initially looking little more than dark pointy hillocks or large boulders on the landscape.

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The 'boulders' are in fact large camouflage Bedu style net covers, hiding the accommodation. Like everywhere else we have been so far, a whole army of helpers arrive to help carry our stuff as soon as we pull up in the car, and we are ushered into the open mess tent which doubles as a reception.

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After the usual formalities, we are shown to our tent. They are well spread out, making them very private. The whole tent, as I said, is under a huge fly sheet, offering shade from hot sun.

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The accommodation is relatively spacious and offers three parts – first the screened veranda , with a couple of chairs and a table. The staff leave our lunch boxes here, which we brought with us from Kilimamoja this morning.

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The main part has a large double bed, a writing desk and a day bed which in our case doubles as a luggage rack.

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A partial wall separates the bedroom from the bathroom, where there is a wash basin, compostable eco-toilet and bucket shower.

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We dump our stuff, change into swimwear and head down to the 'spa area'.

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This is another area shaded by a large fly sheet, offering chairs, day beds and a couple of hammocks alongside a natural spring which feeds the main lake.

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We take our picnic boxes with us and enjoy our lunch overlooking the spring and the marshland.

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The main attractions here, however, as far as I am concerned, is the little freshwater spring. As soon as we step into the cool water, the endemic cichlids start to nibble at our feet.

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For a number of years I have wanted to have a fish pedicure, but I have always been concerned about the hygiene in the tanks in British salons (they have since been banned in the UK for that very reason). Here, however, I have no such concern, and am loving every minute of it!

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David, on the other hand, is way too ticklish to get pleasure from it, and merely dips his feet in briefly.

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I could spend hours here, but the sun is very strong and I worry about my photo-sensitive dermatitis on my shins; so we reluctantly go back to the tent.

This area is affectionately known as 'Zanzibar' to the locals, as it is very much hotter than Arusha and the northern safari circuit. We try to have a little siesta, but it is really rather too hot to get any decent sleep.

The not-so-distant thunder than rumbles on and on and on doesn't exactly help. We prepare ourselves for a deluge, but it appears the storm travels all around us, and by the time we are ready for an afternoon excursion, it is thankfully still dry.

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Malisa, ready to see what nature has to offer us this afternoon

Homenid Footprints

Malisa is taking us, along with a local Maasai guide arranged by the camp, to see some old footprints left on the mud flats. When we spoke with Malisa about it yesterday, he had some concern about whether we would be able to reach the site because of all the flooding, and indeed we do get a little lost this afternoon as the road has washed away.

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The floods and subsequent receding water have left some strange formations in the mud.

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When I say “some old footprints”, I am grossly understating, of course, these impressions captured for eternity are seriously cool.

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Some 19,000 years ago, the nearby Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano erupted, spewing out its innards down to the shores of the lake. Unable to outrun the fast flowing lava, the local people left their footprints in the hot magma as they made their desperate escape attempts.

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Judging by the way the footprints are facing in different directions, it is assumed that the family (there are different sized prints too) were overcome with panic, unsure of which way to run.

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While these imprints are seriously cool to see, I can only begin to imagine the anguish the people felt at the time, stepping on the ground which measured at 600 °C.

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The Ol Doinyo Lengai is unique in that it is the only active volcano known to erupt carbonatite lava. What that meant for these people, is that the thin silvery lava flowed faster than they could run, so there was no escape.

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Today the volcano looks peaceful.

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From here we continue on foot down to the lake edge for bird watching.

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Great White Pelican, Lesser Flamingo, Great Cormorant, Long Tailed Cormorant, Slender Bill Gull

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Blacksmith Plover

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Chestnut Banded Plover, our second lifer on this trip.

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Eurasian Avocet - I love the way they move their head from side to side to stir up the bottom, just like a spoonbill.

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Thomson's Gazelle

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The Gang

Flamingos

As I said in my previous blog entry, this time of year normally sees thousands of flamingos descend on the lake to breed. Here the water evaporates leaving behind very high concentrations of soda. Algae and zooplankton thrive in this water, which in turn supports great numbers of flamingos. The combination of remoteness and the hostility of the soda mud-flats provides the flamingos with a relatively safe area to breed and rear chicks. This year, however, as a result of the heavy rains, the vast majority of them have remained at Big Momella Lake in Arusha National Park. We still see a few here though.

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Greater Flamingo

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Lesser Flamingo

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There is a group of four South Africans staying at the camp tonight too, and we see them walking with their guide much nearer the lake edge.

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They look rather unsteady as they cross a small stream, and I keep my camera handy should one of them take a tumble. I am all heart!

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No-one fell!

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We return to the camp via the spa area, where Malisa also finds the fish pedicure too ticklish!

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Little Egret

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White Throated Bee Eater

Sundowners

It is time to sit and watch the sunset with a drink or two.

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The camp fire is lit, but the sunset is rather unimpressive.

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It turns out we've all been facing the wrong direction, the clouds away from the sunset are colouring up beautifully!

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Sustainable Tourism

Lake Natron Camp prides itself on being eco-friendly, with $15 per guest per night going to the local village (as well as an annual fee for rental of the land). It has been agreed that this money be used primarily for secondary education. They are also involved in community projects that have been requested by the villagers themselves such as building new classrooms at the school, teaching the local community about permaculture, making keyhole gardens in the local bomas and creating a vegetable patch by the school.

The camp employs local staff, with 19 Maasai woman working on a 6-week rotation to give an opportunity to other Maasai ladies who may wish to have a job here.

The structures are 100% removable, the toilets compostable with all human waste taken off the site. All kitchen waste is taken off site with all non-biodegradable waste removed to Arusha for disposal, while paper waste is incinerated. Limited charcoal for cooking comes from eco-friendly brickettes – made from recycled wood or coconut husk sources. The decking and furniture in the mess area and pool area, is made out of recycled plastic by a local company from discarded items collected from Arusha.

The glassware they use is from Shanga Shaanga. Over the years Shanga has grown to employ more than 60 people with a range of disabilities to make creative products including weaving, glass blowing, beading, paper making and metal work, using recycled materials wherever possible. We were lucky enough to visit this enterprise in 2011 and 2016.

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Dinner

Once the colourful clouds have disappeared, we move on to the mess tent for dinner.

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Tilapia fish from Lake Victoria - fish and chips Tanzania style

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Ginger pudding with custard

By the time we have finished eating, the camp fire has gone out. So much for toasting marshmallows!

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I set my camera up on a tripod with a wide angle lens to try and capture some of the amazing stars; but the bright moon and bottle of wine (as well as a couple of rum and cokes) that I have consumed this evening, renders it a complete failure.

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Instead we watch parts of Malisa's wedding video on his laptop before retiring to our tent for the night.

Thank you Calabash Adventures for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 15:53 Archived in Tanzania Tagged birds sunset volcano tent safari tanzania camping wine moon birding spa hot lava seagull maasai flamingo thunder eco egret pelican avocet community_projects glamping magma cormorant sustainable gull bird_watching sundowners camp_fire calabash_adventures shanga plover bee_eater lake_natron ol_doynio_lengai volcanic_eruption lake_natron_camp compostable_toilet fish_pedicure freshwater_spring homenid_footprints footprints_in_lava carbonatite_lava shanga_shaanga Comments (1)

Lobo - Ndutu Part 3 - elephants, warthogs, giraffes

...and a couple of 'almost' leopard sightings.


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

More Elephants

This time under the shade of a tree

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Black Faced Vervet Monkey

This young lady is carrying the tiniest of babies, but she doesn't seem to want to show him off to us.

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For a moment it looks like the baby is losing his grip on mum's belly.

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Whirlwind

We've seen a lot of these mini-tornadoes on this trip, with more windy weather than we've ever experienced in the past.

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Another Leopard Tree

Just like before, the leopard has jumped down from the tree before we arrive, and could be absolutely anywhere by now.

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Kill in Tree

This is beginning to be the 'Story of Our Day' as we see the carcass of a reedbuck in a tree. The predator has deserted her kill to go off hunting again. Knowing that she is likely to return to move the kill to protect it from lions, we wait. And wait. And wait. “Just ten minutes more”. Eventually, after what seems to me like an eternity, we take a vote and decide to move on to “see what else nature has to offer us”.

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Helmeted Guineafowl

I know they are birds, but it is still unusual to see the guineafowl in a tree.

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Warthogs

Heading for the waterhole

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Rolling around in the pond, the warthogs are essentially 'applying sunscreen' using the thick mud for protection.

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Seeing warthogs walk makes me think that they look like ladies in stilettos.

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Thomson's Gazelles

Also at the waterhole are a few Thomson's gazelles.

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Reedbucks

The shy reedbuck stay in the distance, hoping for the gazelles to vacate the waterhole so they can go down to drink in peace.

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Elephants

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This herd includes a couple of really young babies, just two and three months old.

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Mum is very protective over her baby.

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Note the dust devil in the background – as I said earlier, we saw more of these on this trip than we have on all the previous safaris put together.

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Lioness

This young lady is having an afternoon siesta under a tree, all by herself.

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Topi

Surveying the landscape from the top of a small mound. As they do.

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White Bellied Bustard

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Steenbok

Not sure what this steenbok has done with his ears – he looks rather odd.

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Short Grass Plains

Looking out over the area that they call Short Grass Plains, I can understand how Serengeti got its name: Endless Plains (the meaning of the name Serengeti in the local Maa language).

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Dust

At this time of year, vehicles travelling on the dirt tracks of the Serengeti throw up huge clouds of dust, especially the large trucks.

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Common Kestrel

He has a little lizard in his talons, but seems more interested in looking around than eating, but eventually bites its head off and flies off holding the rest of his lunch in his claws.

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Steppe Eagle

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Chipped Windscreen

The problem with these dry gravel tracks is not just the dust, there are also little stones being thrown up. This started as a small chip less than an inch long a few days ago, but with the vibrations of the uneven surface and the vacuum effect caused by driving at speed, it is now almost a foot long. Every time we pass another vehicle, Malisa holds on to the windscreen with his spare hand to lessen the chance of it shattering. Fortunately there is very little traffic today.

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Naabi Gate

By the time we reach the gate to exit Serengeti, both David and I have the runs; thankfully the toilets here are clean and modern these days.

Ndutu

After completing the formalities and leaving Serengeti, we enter one of my favourite places in Tanzania: Ndutu. Part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Ndutu encompasses a lake of the same name as well as Lake Masek.

Baby Golden Jackal

There is no sign of the rest of his family, I am guessing (hoping) they are hiding somewhere nearby.

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Spotted Hyena

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Fireball Lily

Unlike our last two visits, which have been in May when the plains are turned into enormous, colourful meadows, at this time of year it is unusual to see any flowers, making this fireball lily all the more special.

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Flamingos on Lake Ndutu

The way they move when they are feeding, tripping up and down, lifting one leg, then the other, always makes me think of little children needing the toilet. They are, of course, doing it to try and disturb algae.

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Yellow Necked Francolin

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Giraffe

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As I said earlier, the dry soil means that the car kicks up a large amount of dust as we are driving along the dirt tracks. While we are moving, it is not so noticeable, as the dust is mostly behind us; but as soon as we stop, the fine powder seems to catch up with us, making photography impossible for a minute or so until it settles.

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While I was complaining about the dust a minute ago, I love it when we get back-light from the setting sun and the animals themselves kick up the dust. It adds a magical atmosphere to the photographs.

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Elephants

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Wait for me!

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The elephants are heading to the Big Marsh area to have a drink before bed time.

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Fork Tailed Drongo

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More Elephants

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We notice one of them has a broken tusk, probably destroyed it while trying to bring down a tree.

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The light is really failing now as Malisa makes his way to our camp for the night.

Tawny Eagle

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Black Backed Jackal

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Striped Hyena

I always travel to Tanzania with a wish list of some animals I would really like to see. While I am of course excited by whatever “nature has to offer us”, there are still some animals that we have yet to encounter in the wild. Striped Hyena is one of those. It has been on my wish lists every single one of the six times we have come to Tanzania on safari.

Just before we arrive at our night stop, Malisa abruptly stops the car as an animal crosses the track in front of us at the speed of light. “What was that” I ask as I instinctively grab my camera. Malisa is almost too excited to speak. “Striped Hyena”. Wow. Not only is the light so low by now (ISO 20,000 for my photography friends), the hyena is such a fast mover, that he is way into the bush by the time I press the shutter.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am very excited to announce that this is a STRIPED HYENA. Honestly.

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Lake Masek Tented Camp

This is the third time we have stayed at this charming camp, and it never fails to delight us.

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After completing the usual formalities, we check out the new deck that has been built since we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary here in May last year.

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The view from here has always been spectacular, overlooking the lake of the same name.

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This evening a welcoming camp fire is burning in the elevated fire pit, with director's chairs surrounding it, facing the stunning outlook.

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We also see there is new and a very inviting-looking swimming pool on a lower deck. It is a shame we never have time to enjoy the facilities of these lodges – it's a balance between making the most of the animals on safari or the accommodation and the wildlife wins every time.

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Spacious tents on wooden platforms come complete with a four poster bed, large bathroom featuring a stand-alone bath, double basins, a separate toilet and an open air shower.

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The latter is a new experience for Lyn and Chris and causes much amazement and amusement. At dinner Chris regales us with an entertaining account of the conversation that occurred while they were getting ready:

Lyn: “The shower has no roof”
Chris, not taking a great deal of notice: “Oh yeah”
Lyn: “No, really, there is no roof.”
Chris, a little more interested now: “What do you mean 'no roof'?”
Lyn: “I can see the stars”
Chris, a little confused: “Really? Don't be silly”

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Unfortunately it is not raining this evening, as having a warm shower in the cool rain is an unforgettable experience. Mind you, so is star gazing while showering.

It is not until I take my watch off this evening that I realise just how much sun you can catch even though you are inside a vehicle and using a factor 20 sun tan lotion.

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We just about have time to enjoy a pre-dinner drink on the mosquito-screened balcony in front of our tent.

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One of the many things I like about this camp is that Malisa is permitted to eat with us, and we have a terrific evening with lots of raucous laughter, excellent food and free beer and wine. Thankfully the lodge is not full this evening, with only three other tables taken for dinner.

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All this was, of course, arranged by the ever-helpful Calabash Adventures, our favourite safari partner.

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Posted by Grete Howard 14:31 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals monkeys sunset elephants africa safari tanzania pond eagle birding lion windy giraffe wind swimming_pool lioness lily flamingos serengeti dust hyena sunburn gazelle topi warthog waterhole cracked jackal drongo bird_watching bustard tented_camp ndutu camp_fire kestrel whirlwind windshield calabash_adventures vervet_monkeys black_faced_vervet_monkeys lake_masek short_grass_plains black_backed_jackal spotted_hyena tawny_eagle lake_masek_tented_camp endless_plains spurfowl guineafowl francolin game_viewing golden_jackal mini_tornado white_bellied_bustard reedbuck dust_devil naabi_gate wildlife_photography leopard_kill thomsons_gazelle common_kestrel steppe_eagle chipped_windscreen windscreen baby_golden_jackal striped_hyena fireball_lily yellow_necked_spurfowl yellow_necked_francolin broken_tusk fork_tailed_drongo pre_dinner_drinks outdoor_shower Comments (6)

Ngorongoro Crater Day 1 Part 2 - lion cubs and more

An afternoon in the caldera


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

Ngoitoktok Springs

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

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Here you can see the crowds

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And here we are away from them all

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

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Helmeted Guineafowl

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Little Egret

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Black Kite

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Great White Pelicans

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Rufous Tailed Weaver

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Egyptian Geese

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Village Weaver

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Blacksmith Plover

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Superb Starling

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Southern Masked Weaver

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Little Egrets

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Southern Masked Weaver

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Black Kite

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Litle Bee Eaters

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

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An elephant saunters by

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Wildebeest and Zebra

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Hippo in the lake

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Hippo poo floats to the surface of the water

I love seeing pelicans flying

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

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A lone wildebeest

Grey Crowned Cranes

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Kori Bustard

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Common Fiscal Shrike

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Zebra

Secretary Bird

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

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

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

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

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Hippos

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

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Eurasian Avocet

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

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Lions

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

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

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

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

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He tries a different tactic.

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But eventually he gives up.

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

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Or maybe just a poo.

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Children are such messy eaters.

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Mum needs cleaning too.

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“Play with me mum!”

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

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Blacksmith Lapwing

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Hadada Ibis

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Superb Starling

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Tree Pipit

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Marabou Stork

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

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Yellow Billed Stork

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

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

Ang'Ata Nyati Camp

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

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

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

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40th wedding anniversary celebrations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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