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Ndutu VI - vultures, hartebeest, elephants, jackals, lions

A lovely morning on the savannah


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

Zebra

Looks like we have us some zebra love here.

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It's pretty obvious that this liaison isn't going to result in any zebra babies!

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It looks like a kinky threesome to me.

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Cattle Egret

Wildebeest Buffet

Marabou Stork and a variety of Vultures feast on a wildebeest carcass left behind by a much larger predator. These scavenging raptors are the hyenas of the skies, playing a vital ecological clean-up role by disposing of decomposing carcasses.

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There is always a strict pecking order at such buffets, with the Lapped Faced Vulture being the first, as with their powerful hooked beaks they are the only raptor able to open up the carcass to allow other, smaller vultures to access the innards.

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These huge and aggressive birds stand more than a metre tall with wingspans of around three metres. They are also, however, known for being particularly affectionate and mate for life, which in the wild can be up to thirty years.

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I have to say that he doesn't look very 'affectionate'.

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Their heads are free of feathers to avoid blood clinging to it as they bury themselves deep into the carcass to get at the sinew, their preferred food. Potent stomach acids help them deal with the most putrid carcass.

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Vultures can store up to one kilo of consumed flesh in the distensible section of their oesophagus, called a crop. They have been known to eat so much that they become too heavy to physically take off; although should they sense danger, they are able to empty the crop for a quick get-away.

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Different species of vultures have different shaped beaks, which means they eat different parts of a carcass, hence they should - theoretically - all be able to eat peacefully at the 'dinner table'.

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Hartebeest

A large antelope, standing at around 1 metre at the shoulders (3 feet), hartebeest are gregarious animals that are usually found in herds, such as here.

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Now let's go back to what I said about the size of the Lapped Faced Vulture: should the bird be standing next to the Hartebeest, this is what it would look like.

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Giraffe

A lonesome giraffe eats his way across the savannah.

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Golden Jackal

She is sniffing around, looking for something, maybe food or a scent.

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She finds a hole and disappears into it.

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Elephants

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It's interesting to see the different lengths and angles of the tusks of these two elephants.

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Kori Bustard

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Eurasian Avocet

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Common Pratincole

Lions

At first the only evidence of the lions sleeping under this tree, is a paw sticking up.

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Later we a head appears, then drops down again.

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We let sleeping lions be, and carry on exploring.

Another Lion

A young male lion is surveying the landscape from a hillock overlooking Big Marsh.

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We can tell he is young – less than seven years old – from the fact that his nose is still pink. As they get older, their nose becomes black all over.

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He gets up and walks down onto the flat area.

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We move down to the flats too, and at one stage he comes up and lies under our car for the shade!

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Eventually he seems to settle down and go to sleep – in the middle of the sun – so we drive off to find somewhere to have our lunch.

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Picnic at Big Marsh

Malisa finds a great lunch spot overlooking a sea of wildebeest on Big Marsh.

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There is something really special about getting the picnic chairs out, in the company of wild animals.

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There are literally thousands of wildebeest down on the marsh.

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Judging by the number of Superb Starlings who join us, I would guess this is a popular picnic spot.

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"Got any food for me?"

I might just accidentally drop a piece of cake on the ground while I was eating; it is so easily done.

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Just as we are packing up, we hear a commotion down on the marsh, with thousands of hooves beating the ground as the whole herd – or confusion as a group of wildebeest are known as – make a run for it. Soon there are none.

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Just a couple of minutes ago, this was heaving with animals

I have no idea what spooked them, so we pop down to find out.

This safari was arranged by Calabash Adventures, the best safari operators by far.

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Posted by Grete Howard 07:10 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals wildlife elephants bird africa safari tanzania zebra birding african picnic start lions giraffe egret vultures avocet starlings wildebeest jackal kori_bustard bustard ndutu calabash_adventures hartebeest marabou_stork pratincole golden_jackal picnic_lunch picnic_box wildlife_photography big_marsh wildebeest_carcass feeding_the_birds superb-starling Comments (2)

Serengeti Part I - Lions and Leopards

Lions on a rock, leopard in a tree


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

Every morning Malisa starts the day with “Let's go and see what nature has to offer us today”.

Yes, let's.

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It looks like it could be a nice day.

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Another daily ritual on safari is naming our 'breakfast' – ie. the first animal we see of the day. Today it is a Black Backed Jackal.

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Eastern Chanting Goshawk

Lion

Fast asleep under a tree, all we can see of the cat is his stomach covered in flies.

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He has been feasting on a nearby buffalo kill, and a putrid smell still hangs in the air.

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In the trees vultures wait for their turn to finish off what little is left of the buffalo.

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In the distance, a hyena sniffs the air as he heads for the carcass.

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The road is like a quagmire; any more rain we are going to need a boat!

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Of course, a lion sighting attracts a huge crowd, which certainly doesn't help.

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More and more people are arriving.

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We leave them to it and carry on to “see what else nature has to offer us”.

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Black Breasted Snake Eagle

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Grey Backed Fiscal Shrike

They seem to be everywhere!

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Fork Tailed Drongo

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Close-up using Big Bertha (my 600mm lens + 1.4 converter + 1.6 cropped body = 1344mm)

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Fischer's Lovebirds

A whole tree full of them!

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That's a whole lotta loving

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White Rumped Helmetshrike

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Speckled Fronted Weaver

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Rock Hyrax

Lions

Two lions on top of a rock, not doing much.

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They both fidget a little, and occasionally put their heads up, but never at the same time.

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We move along a little to try and get a better view of them.

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We notice one of the females is collared for tracking purposes, but we still can't see them properly, so we move on.

Leopard

Another traffic jam very close by indicates that there is something else about, and Malisa hears on the radio that there is a leopard in a tree.

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I have no idea what this guy is doing, but I have to admit that I would not be walking about like that knowing that there is a leopard in the vicinity.

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As some of the other vehicles move off, we can get nearer to be able to see the big pussy cat.

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When I say “a bit nearer”, this guy is still quite some distance away, but with my long telephoto lenses I can manage to get some semi-decent images. As with most other places, there is some considerable atmospheric distortions when photographing close-ups of objects that far away.

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She is most definitely not settled on that branch and keeps moving around.

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It looks like she is going to jump down from the tree!

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Not so much 'jump' as gingerly making her way down the trunk like a scared y-cat!

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She's gone, lost in the long grass. We head back to the lions for another look.

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Time for our breakfast, and as we make our way to the picnic site, we stop for a couple of little birds.

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Willow Warbler

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Stout Cisticola - another lifer.

And some giraffes.

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Thank you Calabash Adventures for making this safari happen.

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Posted by Grete Howard 02:31 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds wildlife africa safari tanzania eagle birding lion giraffe flooding leopard weaver shrike hyrax jackal drongo bird_watching african_safari calabash_adventures rock_hyrax snake_eagle safari_in_africa cisticola goshawk wildlife_photography fiscal_shrike quagmire lovebirds leopard_in_a_tree warbler Comments (2)

Lake Manyara - Serengeti - Mating Hyena, Serval

Not just one serval, but two! And a surprise camp.


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

Ngorongoro Crater Viewpoint

This is one of my most favourite places on this earth. I will never tire of seeing this view of the Ngorongoro Crater from above.

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When we came to Tanzania with our friends Lyn and Chris in 2016 for their very first safari, Chris was totally overwhelmed when we arrived at this point, and for the first time on the trip exclaimed: “WOW”. He is not normally a 'wow-man', so that was saying something.

Lyn and Chris we unable to accompany us on this trip, but we did manage to sort out a second best – having brought large photographs of them with us to recreate this 'wow-moment' in this place.

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Nyati Picnic Site

We stop for lunch at a designated site overlooking the crater. Hoping guests will leave a few crumbs behind, there are always a lot of birds to be found here.

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Black Kite

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Red Collared Widowbird - an exciting lifer!

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Baglafecht Weaver

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Common Bulbul and Baglafecht Weaver

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White Necked Raven - another lifer

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Black Kite circling above

As we are eating, the temperatures suddenly falls considerably, and soon we feel the arrival of large, heavy rain drops. Getting a little wet along the way, we hurriedly return to the car to continue on our journey. We still have a couple of hours' drive before we even reach Serengeti National Park at Naabi Hill Gate, and then there is a further half an hour drive to our camp.

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When the heavens open and we get a torrential rain shower, Malisa starts to worry about a certain river we have to cross on the way. As we are on the only road to Serengeti in this area, it would be a major problem if we were to be unable to get across.

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When the rain stops, the road becomes steamy in the oppressive heat.

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Zebra

Here in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, we often see wild animals intermingling with domestic sheep, goats or cattle; or even humans, such as here.

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Zebra mum with her three day old baby

We are initially concerned when we see this tiny baby lying motionless next to his mother, but much to our relief, he eventually sits up.

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It looks like the ink ran out during the printing process of this one.

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This sculpture is new since we were here last, some fifteen months ago – advertising Oldupai Gorge, AKA The Cradle of Mankind, where hominid footprints were found and a new museum has opened up.

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The skulls are not life sized

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As we make our way across the area known as the Short Grass Plains, we see the tail end of the migration – the horizon is dotted with the black outlines of wildebeest making their way to the Ndutu area for the birth of their babies.

We have now arrived at the river crossing that Malisa was worried about previously. He gingerly makes his way through the flooded river, and thankfully we make it to the other side without incident. Phew!

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Vultures on a carcass

A number of various vultures have descended on a predator's leftovers, and have now eaten so much they are unable to fly for the moment.

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Look at this guy at the front: he is so full he can't even move, let alone fly!

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Ostriches

This family consists of seven babies who are around two-three months old. Unusually, we only see one female adult: male ostriches have been known to take a harem of up to fifteen concubines!

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To think how wet and muddy everything was earlier – look at the dust generated here by the other car!

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Migratory Abdim's Storks flying in from Europe

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Hyenas

We see a couple of hyenas strutting their stuff, before 'getting intimate'.

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Jealousy is not a pretty emotion – a third hyena takes great interest in what they are doing, but gets chased off by the initial suitor.

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A Golden Jackal comes over to investigate. This confuses me: why would a jackal be interested in a couple of mating hyenas? Malisa explains that the growling sound made by the male seeing off his rival, is like the noise they make when squabbling over food.

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The jackal shakes his head and makes a dozen or more tsetse flies homeless.

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He realises that food is the last thing on the hyenas mind, and slopes off, disappointedly.

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Meanwhile, our hyena ménage à trois are back at it.

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And the interloper is still not welcome.

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Neither of them are prepared to give in, and they go round in circles for a while.

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Quite literally.

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Eventually he manages to get rid of his rival for good.

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We too move on as we still have quite a long way to go.

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Gabar Goshawk

There are several of these on the ground and in the trees.

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More Hyenas

A few miles later two males are in a dispute over a female. Again.

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Naabi Gate

The entrance gate to Serengeti National Park at Naabi Hill is one giant building site at the moment, and the lovely little pool which always used to attract such a great variety of birds, has all gone; as have the birds. David is also disappointed that the grocery store doesn't stock any of his favourite Savanna Cider; so we both sit and sulk in the car until Malisa comes back from registering us into the park.

Death by Poison

It is hard to see from this photo, but there is a carcass of a wildebeest, with a dead hyena next to it. Malisa believes that the wildebeest died from eating poison grass, which was so toxic that the hyena died almost as soon as he tucked into the meat! Now the two bodies lie there decomposing as a stark warning to other animals not to get anywhere near it for fear of death! Instinct tells animals to leave well alone - isn't nature grand?

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Immature Steppe Eagle

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Black Backed Jackal

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Tawny Eagle

There is so much water about after the rains, with flooding everywhere, and the Short Grass Plains will have to be renamed, as the grass is no longer short.

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Serval

Suddenly Malisa spots something altogether more interesting. This timid cat doesn't hang around long enough for us to photograph him properly and with the aforementioned 'short grass' being so long, it makes it all too easy for him to hide.

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All we can see is a couple of black stripes in amongst the vegetation.

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He turns around briefly, but is still very obscured by the greenery.

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Wandamu River

“You cannot be serious Malisa?”

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The crossing looks completely and utterly impossible. I cannot believe that Malisa would even think of attempting this! I hold my breath as he gingerly moves the car along the 'road', hidden somewhere under an unknown depth of water cleverly disguised as a river.

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We are surely going to get washed away?

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This image is not taken from the safety of a bridge, it is looking straight down out of the car window.

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Phew! I breathe a huge sigh of relief as we get to the other side without incident. I am not a nervous passenger by any stretch of the imagination, but I have to admit even I had serious concerns about our safety here. Thankfully Malisa really knows what he is doing and I should have realised that he would never attempt it if he's had any doubts. Sorry Malisa.

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Geese

Meanwhile, on the dam by the ford, there is a family of Egyptian Geese with several babies. My racing heart has still not settled down from the river crossing as I try to enjoy looking at the chicks.

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There are also hippos in the water

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Giraffes in the distance

Serval

Would you believe it! Servals are such rare cats to spot, and here we see two different ones within an hour of each other!

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This one is also almost completely hidden by the tall grass though.

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Helmeted Guineafowl

More babies!

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Sunset

It is getting late now and the daylight is fading fast. Here, so near the equator, the twilight is short and darkness descends quickly.

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Matawi Serengeti Camp

We knew earlier today that we wouldn't be staying at the 'advertised' accommodation, but Malisa would not tell us where Tillya had (yet again) upgraded us to.

The approach road to the camp is no more than a couple of tyre tracks in the grass, and the reception area is extremely low key. With only six luxury tents, this camp is very exclusive and private, with exceptionally friendly service.

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The communal tent where the reception, lounge, bar and restaurant are found

We are asked if we'd prefer a double or a twin room, and on confirming the latter, we are taken to our tent by an askari (Maasai guard).

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The tent is large, with one double and one single mosquito-screened bed; two armchairs and a small coffee table, a little fridge (great for keeping the Coke and cider cold), a writing desk and chair, free standing claw-feet bath, and a separate shower and toilet.

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What a strange idea to put spiky branches in a vase on the coffee table!

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Dinner

As the only guests staying we are greeted warmly when we arrive in the restaurant. I try out my little bit of Swahili, much to the delight of the staff.

“Habari za jioni?” (good evening, how are you)
“Nzuri, asante, ne wewe?” (well, thank you, and you?)
“Nzuri sana, asante” (very well, thank you)
“Samahani, ongeza pilpili tafadhali” (excuse me, I'd like some more hot sauce please)
“Chakula nikitamu, asante” (the food was delicious, thank you)
“Usiku mwema” (goodnight)
“Lala salama” (sleep well)
“Tutaonana kesho” (see you tomorrow)

It may be just a greeting and a few pleasantries, but everyone joins in and one guy whispers to Malisa: “Does she speak Swahili? We have to be careful what we say...”

The food is delicious, with a very peppery butternut squash soup to start, followed by what they describe as “ram meat”, which turns out to be a goat curry.

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The chocolate dessert is very creamy with a hint of coffee.

As the askari walks us back to the tent after dinner, we can hear the hyenas very close by. Thank goodness he has a big stick to protect us! We can still hear them from the inside of the tent, and the sound of hyenas mating carries on most of the night. I struggle to sleep, not just because of the hyena porn going on outside; but I have not so much 'restless legs', as 'restless body'. I am twitching and itching and unable to find a comfortable position.

At 23:30 I hear vehicles arrive and people chatting. Malisa was telling us earlier that a group of Korean tourists (three cars) were unable to reach their accommodation further north this evening because of the bad state of the roads and the amount of flooding (large parts of the Serengeti are completely inaccessible at the moment for that reason); and they were heading to our camp. They have obviously arrived.

In addition to the sex-mad hyenas and lost tourists, I am kept awake by the rain; as well as dust on my lungs, resulting in wheezing and squeaking when I breathe. When I finally manage to drop off, I suffer a terrible nightmare in which I fall off a high walkway! Thanks Lariam!

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

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Posted by Grete Howard 16:30 Archived in Tanzania Tagged birds rain wildlife raven tent africa dinner safari animal zebra eagle hawk birding adventures picnic national_park hippo flooding serengeti ngorongoro hyena stork vultures geese ford glamping weaver olduvai jackal poison swahili ngorongoro_crater bird_watching african_safari wild_animals ostriches serval serengeti_national_park fording calabash oldupai tse_tse_flies askari guineafowl golden_jackal picnic_lunch goshawk naabi_gate wildlife_photography steppe_eagle black_kite river_crossing abdim's_stork ngorongo_conservation_area nyati_picnic_site lunch_box widowbird baabi_hill wildebest short-grass_plains vultures_on_kill menage_a_trois gabar_goshawk wandamu_river matawi matawi_serengeti_camp matawi_camp permenent_tented_camp Comments (2)

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)

Serengeti Day 3 Part 1 - Tommy porn, jackal w/rabbit, croc

Elephants galore


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

Even before we are dressed and getting ready to go out on today's safari, at the unearthly hour of 05:15, we can hear the roar of a lion. It sounds terribly close by.

Giraffe

Our 'breakfast this morning' (as in the first animal we see today) is a giraffe, just sauntering past the camp. The sun is still considering its next move while painting the sky with purples and pinks.

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Topi

A few metres further along, we see a mother topi with her very young baby, the kid being maybe a day or so old.

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Spotted Hyena

Hyenas are Malisa's favourite animals. While at certain angles and in a certain light, they can look kinda cute (I suppose); at other times the hyena's sloping back gives it a rather menacing demeanour.

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Dik Dik

These, the smallest of Tanzania's antelopes, mate for life and are often found in family units of three such as this.

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Tommy Porn

Avert your eyes as a couple of Thomson's Gazelles put on an energetic display of early morning sex for us.

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When I say “energetic”, I mean that he is putting a lot of effort in, while she is so not interested (preferring to continue eating), resulting in a number of aborted attempts.

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This must be particularly frustrating as Thomson's Gazelles only mate twice a year to coincide with babies being born at the end of the rainy season after a gestation period of 5-6 months.

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Success at last! Although you may notice she is still eating.

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Pygmy Falcon

This bundle of fluff is just about the cutest thing we'll see this morning.

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Black Breasted Snake Eagle

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Black Backed Jackal

We come across this jackal having his breakfast and stay with him for a while as he (unsuccessfully) tries to get the last leg of a hare down his throat.

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Balloons

A few hot air balloons glide effortlessly by.

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Marabou Stork

While Pygmy Falcons score highly on the cuteness scale, the Marabou Stork has to have been hiding behind a bush when looks were given out. There is nothing remotely attractive about this scavenger bird.

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They seem to be 'everywhere'.

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Nile Crocodile

The pond is also home to a rather large crocodile, sunning himself on the bank. Crocodiles are often found with their mouths wide open like this, hoping that any rotting food leftover in their teeth will attract insects and the insects in turn will draw birds to enter the cavity... and wham!

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Also hippo wallowing in the mud. As they do.

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Suddenly an almighty racket occurs as the Egyptian Geese on the shore start urgent and deafening honking.

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We soon discover the reason for their panic: Mr Crocodile is on the move. How exciting, it is something we have very, very rarely seen, if at all.

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He soon settles down and the geese seem to be almost mocking him by getting dangerously close.

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Meanwhile, the hot air balloon has finished its morning flight and landed safely. As safely as you can while surrounded by wild animals.

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Lilac Breasted Roller

No blog entry from Tanzania is complete with at least one roller picture.

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Sausage Tree

The original vegetarian sausages anyone? These elongated fruits are much loved by a variety of animals, and, although poisonous in their raw state, humans have been known to use them for medicinal purposes to treat fungal infections, eczema, psoriasis, boils, diabetes, pneumonia. More importantly, the fruit can also be used to ferment beer!

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Lions

Lazing in the shade, the four lions are nonetheless very aware of the Thomson's Gazelle not terribly far away behind them. The Tommy, however, is totally oblivious to the danger lurking underneath the tree.

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With a jolt, he realises that he could so easily become breakfast and runs for his life. Good move Tommy, good move.

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Yellow Throated Sandgrouse

Often found in large flocks, these noisy birds seem to just keep coming and coming until there are sandgrouse everywhere.

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Immature Silverbird

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White Rumped Helmetshrike

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Cape Buffalo

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Elephants

This is by far the largest herd of elephants I have ever seen. Just as we think we have counted them all, more appear. And then some. There are at least 75 of them, with elephants as far as the eye can see in two directions. Wow, wow and wow.

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Giraffe

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Lion Crowd

Nestled in the shade of a tree, three lionesses with two cubs seem to have drawn quite a crowd with more coming all the time.

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Having had the luxury so far of generally being on our own at sightings (or at most, a couple of other vehicles), seeing so many trucks in one place comes as a bit of a shock. It doesn't take long, however, before photographing the lions seems to take second place for these people as their attention is drawn away from the cats to our vehicle. Big Bertha is now the main attraction and 'everyone' wants to take her photo. For those who have not been following this blog, Big Bertha is my newly acquired, and impressively massive, 600mm lens.

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Banded Mongoose

On a small mound just behind the lions, is a band mongooses, with their sentries keeping a close eye on the big cats and other dangers.

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Leaving the lions behind, we make our way to one of our favourite picnic sites for breakfast.

Thank you Calabash Adventures for yet another fantastic morning in the bush.

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Posted by Grete Howard 01:27 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds elephants africa safari tanzania crocodile buffalo balloons lions giraffe hippo roller hyena stork geese topi mongoose hot_air_balloon jackal bird_watching game_drive calabash_adventures marabou_stork banded_mongoose spotted_hyena dik_dik thomson't_gazelle tommy_porn pygmy_falcon lilca_breasted_roller sausage_tree sandgrouse silverbird large_herd_of_elephants Comments (1)

Serengeti Day 2 Part 3 - rimlit lion, anniversary dinner

A lion's share of cats this afternoon


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

Lunch

Just like breakfast, Ole Serai (the luxury camp we stayed at last night) has provided us with a terribly posh lunch hamper, complete with 'hot' food in traditional tiffin containers.

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We are joined by a couple of Superb Starlings in a nearby tree.

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Moving on from our picnic site, we stop at a small pond area that reveals a hippo and a couple of birds.

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Ruff

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Three Banded Plover

Lions

Across the dry, grassy plains we barely see the tops of a pride of six lions, eating the remains of a warthog.

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The older animals patiently wait for the youngsters to finish their meal for deciding to go off for water.

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Whirlwind

A really strange sound, like rubber tyres on tarmac, reaches us, and we become aware that it is a 'mini-tornado'. Quickly covering up all electronic equipment, by the time the whirlwind reaches us we become sandblasted and totally engulfed in dust. For ages afterwards we feel as if we are eating grit.

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King of the Castle

A lot of the plains animals of Serengeti like to use termite mounds as look-out posts, surveying the surrounding landscape for any predators or prey depending on which end of the food chain they are.

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Thomson's Gazelle

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Hartebeest

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Black Bellied Bustard

Topi

At a dried-out waterhole near Ogol Kopjes, a herd of topi have gathered to lap up what little water there is left.

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Over their lifetime topi go through six set of teeth, the last of which grow when they are around 15 years old. When they lose those teeth, in what is their old age, they basically starve to death. Nature can be so cruel at times.

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Lioness

Not far away, in the shade of a tree, a healthy looking lioness is chilling.

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She certainly looks like she has a belly full of food.

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When, after a lot of fidgeting, rolling, yawning and several changes of plan, she finally stands up, the topi are on high alert.

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Our beautiful girl has other ideas, however, and walks off in a different direction, towards a warthog in the far, far distance.

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Then she changes her mind again – talk about fickle!

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When she has yet another change of plan and lies down in the long grass, we give up on her and move on to see what else “nature has to offer us” (one of Malisa's favourite sayings, which has now become mine too).

Yellow Fronted Sandgrouse

While spotting animals is theoretically easier during the dry season, the problem with coming this time of year is that everything is so brown; and birds, such as this Yellow Fronted Sandgrouse, are extremely well camouflaged. And photos look so...well, brown.

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Baby Black Backed Jackal

Another brown animal on the brown earth surrounded by brown grass.

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This one looks so much like a puppy dog, I just want to throw him a stick and shout "fetch!"

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It looks like he heard me, as he has picked up a small piece of wood.

Aardvark

For the last four or five (or maybe even more) safaris we have taken in Tanzania, my dream has been to see an aardvark. Imagine my excitement when Malisa points out a fresh aardvark hole. That is, however, all we see. A hole.

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Helmeted Guineafowl

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while, will probably remember that we have a saying “just a chicken” referring to an incident back in 2007 in Sikkim when David exclaimed excitedly “Oh look, a colourful bird!” The driver let out a loud exhalation of air while stating in a most disinterested and almost despairing voice: “It's just a chicken”. Malisa has the intonation down to a T, and won't let David hear the end of it, referring to all guinea-fowls as “just a chicken”.

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Baby Thomson's Gazelle

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Hartebeest

The Research Pride

In case you have ever wondered, this is what eighteen sleeping lions look like.

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There is some slow and gentle movement within the pride, but mostly it is all about that late afternoon siesta.

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Rimlit Lion

One of the (many) things I admire about Malisa, is the fact that he is very interested in photography himself and has an excellent eye for a great photo, knowing where to position the car for the best light for instance. When he sees a lion walking across the plains in the setting sun, Malisa has a plan...

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He keeps moving the car every minute or so, which means that we are shooting straight into the sun at all times as the lion continues walking with the occasional sit-down for a rest.

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I try out a number of different camera settings for various high key and low key effects, and play with some of the images further in post processing too.

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Of all the pictures I took, I think this is probably my favourite and is most like the image I had in mind when deliberately underexposing to get that rim-light effect.

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Reedbuck

Trying to remain inconspicuous by hiding in a tree, this reedbuck's camouflage tactics are no match for Malisa's eagle eye.

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Yet another lion

We have certainly seen more than our fair share of big cats today (31 lions at six different sightings and three cheetahs). Lyn spots this one, initially just seeing the lower parts of his legs as he rolls over in the long grass.

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The Golden Hour – every photographer's favourite time of day.

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Our young man is fighting a losing battle with the pesky tse tse flies.

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He's not a happy bunny.

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Sunset

We make Malisa stop for more photos as the setting sun peeks from behind a low cloud, creating some of my favourite crepuscular rays.

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I continue shooting as Malisa makes his way to the camp. As usual it is a mad dash to get back before darkness sets in (it is against the law to drive within the national parks in Tanzania after darkness).

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'Drive-by shooting' is never easy from a moving safari vehicle on a dusty, bumpy dirt track, but I don't think I am doing too badly with some of these photos.

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We make it back to base just as the last remnants of daylight leaves the African plains, all too soon followed by that all-encompassing darkness you only see in places with very little light pollution.

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Celebratory Dinner

After a quick shower and pre-dinner drink while we get ready, we meet up with the anniversary lovebirds for an evening of celebrations. The dining room looks very welcoming with soft lighting, period furniture and white tablecloths

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Tonight Malisa has been given permission to eat with us as we are celebrating Lyn and Chris' 40th Wedding Anniversary. It's a shame that he couldn't join us for dinner every night – that would make this place absolutely perfect!

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After dinner all the staff come out playing drums and singing the customary celebration song, just as they did at Ang'Ata Nyeti. Poles apart, the two lots of accommodation couldn't be more different, yet both extremely enjoyable and both places made us feel part of the family. Only two other people are staying here tonight, and I feel somewhat sorry for them as they are rather left out of all the fun!

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Once it is all over we go back to Lyn and Chris' tent for a couple of drinks before returning to our own tent and settling in to bed ready for another early start tomorrow morning.

Thank you yet again to Calabash Adventures for making this dream safari come true, and to Tillya for the fabulous surprise stay in Ole Serai.

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Posted by Grete Howard 14:08 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds sunset party dinner safari tanzania celebrations birding picnic lions serengeti topi starling jackal bustard game_drive whirlwind calabash_adventures hartebeest tse_tse_flies plover guineafowl superb_starling game_viewing 40th_anniversary 40_years ole_serai sandgrouse lunch_picnic ruff mini_tornado thomson's_gazelle aardvark research_pride rimlit Comments (2)

Serengeti Day 2 Part 2 - lion cubs, cheetah, eles on kopje

Cuteness overload with a lioness and her three cubs


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

Having had a lovely relaxing breakfast, it is time to go out and see "what nature has to offer us" today.

Hyena

Presumably injured in a fight for food, this hyena is limping badly.

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Coqui Francolin

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Rattling Cisticola

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Short Toed Snake Eagle (I think)

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Magpie Shrike

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Black Shouldered Kite

Lioness with cubs

Perched on the edge of a kopje (rocky outcrop), a lioness tries to sleep as her three cubs mill around, suckling and wanting to play and explore their surroundings.

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One of the cubs appears to have an eye infection.

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Why so melancholy, young man?

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Over the time we spend observing these little cats, the different personalities of each of the cubs begins to shine through.

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"Mum, I'm bored!"

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This guy has a bit of a 'gormless' character, he looks like he is blissfully happy but doesn't know why.

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I take over 1,000 photos of the young family, and make no apologies for the cuteness overload to follow.

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I would love to get a picture of the lion cubs on my mobile that I can upload to Facebook when we get back to the lodge tonight, and after lamenting that I am unable to zoom in enough to get a decent shot, Malisa takes my phone and tries to take a photo through the binoculars.

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While it works reasonably well, the lions have other ideas and by the time Malisa has managed to line everything up and focus both binos and phone, the cubs have moved out of sight. Doh.

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Not a bad picture considering it was taken with a mobile phone through binoculars

LBB

The world is full of LBBs (Little Brown Bird), also known as SUBBs (Small Unidentified Brown Bird). On closer inspection this one turns out to be a Rattling Cisticola.

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Spotted Hyena

We follow this lone hyena down the road for a while.

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Common Morning Glory

Unlike our two previous visits when we have travelled at the end of the rainy season and everything is green with an abundance of flowers; at this time of year seeing flowering plants is a bit of a novelty. Malisa never ceases to amaze me with his knowledge: not only can he identify animals and birds, he also knows the names of the plants we see.

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White Bellied Bustards

Doing their best to hide in the long grass.

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Black Backed Jackals

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There are two of them.

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Cheetah

We spot a cheetah mum with two five-month old cubs.

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She appears to be a good mum as both she and her cubs look healthy and well fed. This morning she starts to stalk a Thomson's Gazelle for their breakfast.

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Unfortunately the Tommy spots the hunter and makes a dash for it; so no breakfast for the beautiful cats this morning.

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Instead she leads her family to find some shade – a single tree next to a low kopje.

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Mum has a good sniff around to make sure they are not settling down on the patch of a rival cheetah family or other obvious danger.

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The cats are quite some distance away (the photos are taken with a 600mm lens and significantly cropped in the post processing stage), but here in the Serengeti off-road driving is not permitted so we can't get any closer. We are therefore rather dismayed to see several cars blatantly flout this law. Shame on them.

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When the cats settle down under the tree we leave them to it and move on.

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Eurasian Roller

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White Rumped Helmetshrike

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Ficher's Sparrow Lark

Elephants

So far on this trip we haven't seen many elephants, but that is about to change as a herd - or memory as they are also called - of 15 elephants walk past.

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They have some very small babies too. Aww.

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Having a herd of elephants just strolling by your car as if you are not there is a magical experience, making you feel like you are part of some wildlife documentary.

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Mwanza Flat Headed Rock Agama

You'd be forgiven for thinking these are two totally separate species of lizards, seeing the flashy and vibrant male against the terribly drab female.

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Little Bee Eater

More Elephants

Colourful as they are, it is not the lizards that are the star attraction here at this kopje – there are nine elephants dotted around, between and on top of this rocky outcrop. I have to say that it is the first time I have seen rock climbing elephants!

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These enormous creatures are surprisingly quiet as they walk – the soles of their feet have built in 'sponges', which not just makes them 'light' on their feet, but they also use their feet to communicate. One elephant will 'talk' with his trunk on the ground, which others can pick up by putting more pressure on one leg than the other. When you see elephants leaning to one side, they are basically having a chat with their mates. Pretty cool eh?

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Copying the older elephants, the five-month old baby tries to pick up smaller stones from the kopje in order to get to the essential minerals.

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A couple of other trucks have gathered here too, including one containing an overexcited Asian female, squealing in an infuriatingly high pitched voice “OMG OMG OMG, those red things” when she sees the rock agama, followed by “OMG OMG OMG he's smiling” and “OMG OMG OMG he's peeing” referring to the elephants. Thank goodness she is not in our vehicle.

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Nothing can mar the magical experience, however, of having a herd of nine wild elephants walk right around the car, a mere ten feet away.

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It seems everywhere we look there are elephants.

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One of the youngsters squeezes through a gap between the rocks, but when his older sister tries, she gets stuck for a while before wriggling herself loose.

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The youngster is still suckling.

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We stay with them for one-and-a-half hours (taking hundreds of photos) until they walk off into the distance. What a special time that was!

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Tawny Eagle

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Two Banded Courser

Lappet Faced Vulture

Amazingly, this is the first vulture we have seen on this trip, when we came before we encountered so many kills left on the ground with the remains being devoured by a variety of scavengers. Not so this time.

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Lesser Kestrel

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Time to stop for lunch after yet again spending an exciting morning in the Serengeti. Thank you to Calabash Adventures for another terrific safari.

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Posted by Grete Howard 04:03 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds food flowers elephants flag breakfast cute kite anniversary africa safari tanzania eagle celebrations lizard birding cheetah picnic eating lions wind lion_cubs lioness roller hyena vulture eggs starling shrike agama jackal pastries bird_watching bacon suckling bustard sausages omg game_drive kestrel hamper lark limping calabash_adventures cuteness_overload kopje wedding_anniversary francolin breakfast_picnic bee_eater cisticola game_viewing breakfast_box 40_years packed_breakfast ole_serai tiffin posh_food cuteness lbb subb morning_glory purple_flowers helmetshrike rock_agama Comments (3)

Arusha - Ngorongoro Crater Day 1 Part 1

Worth the early start


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

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

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

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Augur Buzzard

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

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

Lodoare Gate

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

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Crater View Point

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

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

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Porcupine

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

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Chameleon

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

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Ngorongoro Crater

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

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

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

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Sodom's Apple

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

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Olive Baboons

A large troupe of baboons crosses our path.

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The little one who almost got left behind.

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

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

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

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Speckled Mousebirds

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

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Cape Buffalo

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He is right beside the car

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

Got to scratch that itch!

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Northern Wheatear (non-breeding female)

Warthogs

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The sort of face only a mother could love

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

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Ostrich

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

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

Zebra

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Grant's Gazelle

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Crested Lark

Black Backed Jackal

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Secretary Bird

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

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Lion

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

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She's just a big pussycat really

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

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Big baby belly

Too late, they've discovered her.

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

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

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Little Bee Eater

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Levaillant's Cisticola

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Singing his little heart out

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Tawny Eagle

Hippos

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

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

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Ostrich Porn

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

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

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

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

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Zebras

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

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

Waterhole

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

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

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African Fish Eagle

Red Billed Quelea

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

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

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

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

Pench National Park - Part I

A very rare and endangered sighting this afternoon


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There appears to be some sort of confusion about our park tickets for today. It seems our agent booked them for the wrong gate, some 60km away. Hence the very early start of 04:30. Rakesh (the driver who brought us down from Jabalpur) is picking us up and driving us to the gate in his car, where we will change into the open top safari vehicle (known as a 'gypsy'), so that we won't get frozen solid by taking the long journey in an open top car. Wise move.

4:30 comes and goes. No Rakesh. At 05:00 I ask the young receptionist what is happening. He wanders off to check with the manager. After a few minutes, he comes running back and continues on to the car park.

A short while later a Gypsy arrives for us. There has been a change of plan. We are going to the nearest gate just a few kilometres away after all; and will pay for a new ticket instead, saving all the hassle of the long journey. That sounds good to me, as it would take well in excess of an hour to travel 60 km on these roads.

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We also have to pay for a (compulsory) park guide who will accompany us on this morning's safari. Once that is all in order, we can enter the park.

The first thing we spot, is an Oriental Honey Buzzard, another new tick on our life list.

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Seeing very fresh tiger pug marks is promising for a sighting this morning.

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The sun is just beginning to break through the mist as we make our way deeper into the forest.

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Dhole
We are very excited when our guide spots a rare and endangered dhole (Indian wild dog) in between the trees. Our very first sighting of this species in the wild.

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There are thought to be fewer than 2500 of these animals left in the wild, so it is in fact even more rare than the tiger.

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We follow him as he makes his way through the forest.

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Indian Ghost Trees
Found all throughout the park (as well as being quite common elsewhere on the subcontinent), the bark of this very distinctive tree (Sterculia urens) exudes a gum that is used for laxatives.

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Rufous Treepie

Jungle Fowl

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The sun is slowly warming up the air, but the mist is still hanging over the lower ground, creating a mystical and eerie atmosphere.

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Yellow Footed Green Pigeon

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Spotted Dove

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Indian Peafowl

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Indian Pond Heron

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Indian Pond Heron

Changeable Hawk Eagle

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Another Peacock sunning himself

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Brown Fish Owl
The guide keeps telling us the name of this bird, but I just can't get what he is trying to say. It sounds something like 'ground peace owl'. It is not until very much later that I realise he is saying 'Brown Fish Owl'.

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We pass a flooded area with a Green Sandpiper feeding in the shallows.

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Golden Jackals in the far distance

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Indian Roller

Breakfast
We stop for breakfast in a dedicated picnic area. A structure has been created to provide shade or shelter you from the rain, but as the temperature this morning is still very much on the cool side, everyone remains outside to catch some warmth from the sun's rays.

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The breakfast box is rather disappointing this morning, especially considering how superior the food was at the lodge yesterday.

A rather hideous plastic Mowgli adorns the site, which is appropriately called Mowgli Picnic Area.

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We continue to a large wetlands area that is teeming with birds, and spend some time with binoculars picking out various species, many of which are new to us. It is all rather exciting.

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Indian Cormorant

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Bonelli's Eagle

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Green Sandpiper

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Little Ringed Plovers

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Painted Storks

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White Rumped Vulture

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Indian Pond Heron having a bad hair day

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Great Egret

There are also a couple of jackals around.

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We reluctantly leave the pond area behind to go in search of more wildlife.

Hanuman Langurs

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Red Wattled Lapwing

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Hoopoe

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Chital

Nilgai
This is the first nilgai we see on this trip, and then only for a few seconds as she disappears into the forest.

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Jungle Owlet

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Black Drongo

Upon hearing loud warning calls, the driver stops the car and we sit and wait. There is obviously a predator in the vicinity, and a lot of very distressed langurs. We wait. And wait. And wait. As time is now getting on, we eventually have to move, despite not having seen any tigers.

It is time to leave the park and return to the Lodge as the park rules have very strict timings for just morning and evening safaris rather than the whole day as we are used to from Africa.

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On the way we spot these two gorgeous Indian Rollers, one with his lunch.

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As we were up so early this morning (plus I didn't sleep well last night), I decide to forego lunch and spend the time snoozing instead.

Stay tuned for the next entry.

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Posted by Grete Howard 02:37 Archived in India Tagged animals birds india sunrise breakfast safari eagle mist birding picnic national_park pigeon peacock roller heron egret stork vulture dove langur gypsy owl cormorant jackal chital drongo bird_watching pench nilgai buzzard early_morning hanuman_langur owlet plover tiger_park breakfast_picnic pench_tiger_park pench-tree-lodge pench_national_park tiger_pug_marks dhole indian_wild_dog wild_dog ghost_tree indian_ghost_tree treepie jungle_fowl early_morning_mist mowgli sandpiper hoppoe snooze Comments (3)

Kanha National Park Part II - Suri Zone

Another tiger?


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When we arrive back at Kipling Camp after our morning safari drive, we are greeted with the very welcome wet flannels (a custom I like very much – here in India it happens after every game drive and is very much a necessity because of all the dust. In Africa, despite the same amount of dirt generated, the flannels are generally just offered on your very first arrival at a lodge, not usually thereafter)

Tara

One of the main reasons I chose Kipling Camp when I was in the planning stages of this trip, was Tara, the resident elephant. Featured in the book Travels on my Elephant by Mark Shand, Tara was gifted to Kipling Camp in 1989 (you can read the full story of how Tara came to live at Kipling Camp here)

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Lunch

A lunch table is laid out in the shady courtyard under the trees, and we have a refreshing nimbu soda (fresh lime soda) while we wait for the food to arrive.

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Lamb curry, okra, chillies, dhal, yogurt, chutney, poppadom and puri

All around the grounds there are signs of wildlife, from butterflies to frogs and birds.

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Greater Coucal

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Orange Headed Ground Thrush

Afternoon Game Drive

This afternoon we have been allocated the Suri Zone of Kanha National Park and we head off to see what this area has to offer.

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King Vulture, a very rare bird and a first for us

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Hanuman langurs

Sambar Deer

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Porcupine
There is much excitement when a porcupine is spotted; it's an extremely unusual rare sighting indeed and a first for us. Absolutely rubbish photo, as by the time I'd turned and pointed my camera, he was well on his way into the undergrowth. But trust me: this reallys is a porcupine.

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Jungle Owlet

Gaur (Indian Bison) - the laregst wild cow in the world

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Jackals

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Hanuman Langur

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This guy is also a new one to us: Lesser Adjutant

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And then he was gone

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Indian Roller

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Cheetal with a Black Drongo passenger

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Cheetal with a Common Myna on its back

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Cheetal

Barashinga
This particular genus of Barashinga, the Southern Swamp Deer, is only found here in Kanha National park, so it is obviously our first sighting in the wild, thus generating considerable excitement.

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We ford the river in a beautifully serene area, where we also spot a Common Kingfisher.

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Common Kingfisher

Bees Nest
The action of the bees moving in unison on this nest reminds me of a Mexican Wave.

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.

Barashinga in the water
As the sun becomes lower in the sky, we spot a small herd of barashinga in the water. As we stop they look up and across at us, water dripping from their heads, backlit by the evening sun. Another magical moment.

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More animals backlit by the low sun, this time cheetal

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More barashinga

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The last rays of the sun are seeping through the trees.

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Rose Ringed Parakeet

Sambar
The light is faded fast and it is getting dark quickly.

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Tiger
As we make our way back towards the exit gate to leave the park for the evening, I comment to Lyn that as we haven't seen a tiger, at least we don't have to tip the guide quite as much this afternoon. Then we turn a corner and see a number of vehicles all looking into the bushes.

Just as we pull up alongside them, we spot a tiger disappearing into the undergrowth. Wow! It is brief, but at least I manage to shoot off a couple of frames.

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“Hold on!” shouts Rahim, as he reverses the Gypsy at great speed, around sharp bends, on a badly potholed road, uphill; with some of the most admirable driving skills I have ever been party to. Experience and knowledge means he knows exactly where the tiger will be coming out of the bushes.

And he is right, of course. Again.

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Great excitement ensues as we are joined by the other vehicles (whose drivers were not as on-the-ball, or maybe not as capable, as Rahim, and thus much slower off the mark), to watch the tiger saunter down the road.

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It is getting quite dark now and I am having to push my ISO right up to 8,000 in order to get a decent shot.

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ISO 10,000 now, despite Rahim having moved the vehicle nearer the tiger for a closer shot.

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ISO 16,000 - gotta love the Canon 5D IV's low light capabilities!

Sadly we have to say “goodbye” to our new-found friend, as we have a deadline time to be out of the gate.

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There is now a mad rush to get to the gate so as not to be fined for overstaying our welcome.

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It's impossible to avoid the dust generated by the other vehicles.

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We do make a couple of stops though, one for a Sambar crossing the road...

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… and some wild boar.

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Including some little baby piglets.

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We make it out of the park without penalty and return to the lodge for a shower, change, drink and dinner.

What an amazing day we've had!

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Posted by Grete Howard 14:50 Archived in India Tagged india elephant lunch tiger tara national_park deer butterfly kanha bison bees vulture parakeet langur kingfisher jackal gaur chital sambar myna drongo indian_food swamp_deer porcupine coucal kipling_camp cheetal wild_cow travels_on_my_elephant mark_shand nimbu_soda thrush indian_bison adjutant barashinga spotted_deer wild-boar piglets Comments (6)

Kanha National Park Part I - Kanha Zone

Talk about "Beginner's Luck"!


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After a restless night full of meflaquine dreams (nightmare-inducing malaria prophylaxis), I wake to a knock on the door. Thinking that Ahmed will leave our coffee on the table outside the door, I just shout out “thanks” to him. It is several minutes later that I realise he is still standing outside waiting for us to open the door, and I feel really guilty about leaving him there.

Kipling Camp has its own Gypsy (specially converted safari vehicle), driven by Rahim, who is not just an excellent driver, spotter and identifier, he speaks good English too and is a thoroughly nice person. This morning we are also accompanied by Jeswin, the resident naturalist at Kipling Camp, whose enthusiasm is highly contagious.

Rahim ensures we arrive first at the gate, in the pitch black, some 50 minutes before they open. As time goes on, a huge queue forms (but unusually for India, it remains orderly), and by the time we are allowed in (after having passports checked and tickets issued), there are dozens of Gypsies behind us.

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Drivers queuing for tickets

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Long line of Gypsies behind us

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We are finally let through the gate

Kanha National Park is divided into four zones, and visitors must drive the circuit stipulated on their tickets. This morning we have been allocated Kanha Zone, The first animals we spot, just inside the gate, are a pack of jackals and some cheetal (Indian spotted deer). It is still very dark, so the pictures are extremely grainy as a result of the high ISO (ISO 32,000 for my photography friends).

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Sunrise

And then the sun comes up, and what a sunrise it is, culminating in an elephant and mahout appearing out of the mist. Such a magical moment.

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We continue driving, seeing more animals and birds along the way.

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Cheetal (Indian Spotted Deer)

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Eurasian Golden Oriole

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Hanuman Langur

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Cheetal

Tiger

Before leaving the UK, I had warned Lyn and Chris that seeing tiger is not easy, and to expect maybe one tiger sighting for every five game drives. And here we are, before 07:30 on our very first drive when we spot a tiger in the undergrowth. Wow!

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The tigress strolls along, taking no notice of us whatsoever.

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She heads straight for us initially, then veers off to her left, pausing briefly to turn towards the elephant that has appeared behind her.

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As the tigress saunters down the path, Rahim manoeuvres the Gypsy to a better position, anticipating the she will cross the road right in front of us.

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He is right, of course.

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You can see from the fact that I have caught part of the car in the bottom corner of the photo, just how close she is.

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And then she's gone. After nearly four minutes of sheer adrenalin and excitement, we are left with just one word on our lips: “Wow!” “We can go home now” says Chris, “we've seen what we came to see.” What an amazing experience and such a clear and close encounter. What a beautiful animal!

How can you top that?

We continue on our game drive to see what else the park has to offer. At least the pressure is off now as far as finding tigers go.

We get quite excited seeing these Blackbucks, as they are a new species to us in the wild.

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The male is black, while the females are a more neutral fawn colour. Here seen with a male cheetal.

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Hanuman Langurs

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Red Wattled Lapwing

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Gaur (Indian Bison) sticking his head above the long grass

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At up to ten feet long and seven feet tall, the gaur is the world's biggest wild cow. They are HUUUUGE

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Scaly Breasted Munia

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Wild boar

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Indian Peafowl

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Jackal

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Jackal

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Cheetal - apparently there are some 22,000 of these spotted deer in the park

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Cattle egrets flying

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Stonechat

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Stonechat

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White Rumped Vulture

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Scaly Breasted Munia

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Paddyfield Pipit

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Indian Roller

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Common Kestrel

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Green Bee Eater

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Female Stonechat - very much more dull than her husband

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White Fronted Kingfisher

Breakfast picnic

At the Visitors Centre, we stop for a picnic. Kipling Camp made us some lovely scrambled egg wraps, plus fruit and juice - the best packed picnic on the whole trip.

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The monumental arch is made from antlers from cheetal, sambar and barashinga deer. Very impressive.

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Back on the road again for a little bit more game viewing before returning to the lodge for lunch. Unlike African safaris, Indian national parks only allow visitors to enter for a few hours in the morning and again late afternoon.

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Black Storks

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White Rumped Vulture

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Indian Roller

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Sambar

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Changeable Hawk Eagle

What an amazing morning's game viewing, not just a tiger, but also quite a few lifers (new birds to us) to add to our bird list. Well done Rahim and Kipling Camp.

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Posted by Grete Howard 01:31 Archived in India Tagged india elephant sunrise safari mist birding tiger peacock bison stork vulture peafowl egrets langur gypsy kingfisher oriole jackal gaur indian_roller chital sambar blackbuck stonechat kestrel wild_boar lapwing kipling_camp kanha_national_park tiger_park breakfast_picnic cheetal pipit munia wild_cow Comments (8)

Seronera - Naabi Hill

Farewell to Serengeti


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

Almost immediately after leaving the lodge this morning, in the darkness before daybreak, we spot a male lion and his two females near a river. We stay with them until the sun comes up.

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And what a sunrise it is!

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The lions are joined by a black backed jackal, so I guess they have a kill around here somewhere.

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We stick around to find out.

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Meanwhile the sun is still painting the sky red on its quest to conquer the darkness of night.

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Barely visible through the long grass, our lion is moving his breakfast to a better place.

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There is not a lot of meat left on what was once a zebra; it hardly seems worth the effort of moving it.

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Oops. The thin sinew holding it all together has snapped and the ribs are left behind, something that hasn't gone unnoticed by the vultures waiting in the wings.

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The vultures are thwarted again in their quest for food.

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A Marabou Stork also tries to muscle in on the action.

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As well as a Tawny Eagle.

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A couple of other females, from another pride, are cautiously, and surreptitiously (they think) making their way towards the kill too, pretending that they are not the least bit interested in the food.

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The newcomers, however, have been spotted and are closely watched by our two original lionesses.

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As these latecomers have not helped out with the kill, they are not welcome at the dining table either, and are chased off with some gusto.

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Meanwhile the jackal sees an opportunity to get a morsel or two of meat and makes his move while the lionesses are busy chasing rivals.

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Time for us to move along too. The sun is now well above the horizon, painting everything in its wake a golden hue, contrasting beautifully with the long, dark shadows.

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A very noisy Rufous Tailed Weaver makes sure we are all awake and fully alert.

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Because they spend most of their day submerged in water, seeing a hippo on land always causes some excitement.

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As we leave the pond area, we see the first other vehicle of today. This is what I love about travelling in the Green Season: the lack of other tourists.

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Sitting in the middle of the road, the hyena gets up when we arrive, but she is in no hurry to let us pass as she has a good scratch and a shake before sauntering into the long grass.

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Of course, the downside of travelling in the green season is the fact that the grass is so long, making it harder to see – and photograph – the animals.

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The zebra are accompanied by wildebeest. Lots of them. This is part of the Great Annual Migration.

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As we are heading for the exit gate along the bumpy tracks of the Serengeti, David tries out the stabiliser on his new Osmo camera (similar to a GoPro but without the hefty price tag).

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Mounted on the end of a monopod and operated remotely by a mobile phone, he holds the camera out through the window and up above the roof, to get shots that would otherwise be difficult with a traditional camera.

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Bearing in mind that the gravel road has a perfect washboard effect, I think this small video clip is unbelievably smooth. Well done Osmo and David - you both performed brilliantly!
 
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At Simba Kopje, we encounter a small memory (collective noun) of elephants.

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This girl is trying to get rid of the flies by swatting herself with a tree branch.

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While another couple of them partake in a bonding session.

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Clinging to the near-vertical side of the precipitous kopje rock face, the baboons scramble and play. It all looks rather precarious to me.

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Once again our path is blocked by a cackle of hyenas.

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In the distance we spot a couple of lions.

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The 'couple of lions' turn out to be five – three male, two females. All youngsters. I guess this must be some sort of a youth club then.

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Look at all those pesky flies!

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Young sir is certainly not too impressed by them.

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Despite the nuisance of the flies, they can still enjoy a tender moment.

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“Please flies, go away!”

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We bid our lovely lions goodbye and head for the park gate.

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Serengeti (as well as the other parks in Tanzania) works on a strict 24 hour basis for the permits, so if you entered the park at 10:21 and buy a three day ticket, you have to be out of the park by 10:21 three days later. If you overstay your welcome, you get charged a penalty, usually the cost of another full day.

So here we are, Malisa has checked us out and we have breakfast with the birds, including a Superb Starling who sits on the back of the bench, hoping to get some crumbs from our picnic.

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While a Marabou Stork walks right on by without a care in the world.

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They are seriously big birds!

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Today is the 17th May, which to Norwegians is a very special day indeed. The day commemorates the signing of the constitution on that date in 1814. In Norway, the occasion is celebrated in a big way, and to many this is at least as big as (if not bigger than) Christmas. It's the day everyone wears their national costume, eats too much ice cream, and wave the Norwegian flag around. (You can read more about it here)

Naturally we packed a few flags, and create our own little celebration this morning, although I have to admit it is mostly in order to take a photo so that we can send it to my dad today to wish him “Happy 17th May”.

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And with that we leave Serengeti and head for pastures new. Thank you Calabash Adventures for putting together this awesome trip for us. Follow my blog for the next entry, with more animal pictures and stories.

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Posted by Grete Howard 02:30 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals africa safari tanzania lion serengeti vulture jackal calabash_adventures lion_kill seronera safari_animals Comments (3)

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