We are unable to get into the actual picnic site as the ground is too sodden and muddy, so we set up our table and chairs on the side of the road instead. We are the only people here, so it doesn't really matter.
New for this year, are the posh chairs, with little foldable tables attached, complete with cup holder.
Another great breakfast provided by Matawi Serengeti Camp
What a great idea to have a shape cut out to include the cup handle.
We may be the only humans here, but a couple of lions have walked right through the site this morning.
On the other side of our table are fresh hyena prints. We are definitely out in the wild here.
We have seen more butterflies on this trip than any other safari in the past, with some places featuring literally hundreds of them. They are very difficult to photograph as they rarely hang around for very long, although I managed to catch this one as it landed for a few seconds.
Swallows dart around, pausing briefly to pick up crumbs left on the ground.
Lesser Striped Swallow
White Rumped Swift
In the distance we see a car being helped out of the mud by several other drivers.
This huge eagle is easily recognisable by its relatively short tail. Such a powerful bird, it has been known to just fly down and pick up baby antelopes. Farmers fear it as it will attack livestock, which in turn makes it one of the most persecuted eagle in Africa. It is classed as 'vulnerable', heading towards extinction as a result.
Here you can better see the short tail without the confusion of the branch behind
These really are such ugly birds.
Lilac Breasted Roller
He's found a bug
He briefly lands on the road
Then takes off again
The roads are still very muddy
Named for the huge sausage-like fruits hanging down, which in fact are poisonous when raw. They can, however, be dried, roasted or fermented to make an alcoholic beverage.
Eastern Chanting Goshawk
Malisa suggests we head north towards Lobo, partly to get away from all the crowds in Seronera, and also in the hope of seeing some elephants. I have been very surprised at the lack of pachyderms on this trip.
We need to get out of this mess
Another flooded river crossing
The first thing we see is a large herd of buffalo; although all we can really see is the top of their backs sticking up over the long grass.
A large troupe of baboons walk past our car on the road.
Little Bee Eater
Pin Tailed Whydah
Fan Tailed Widowbird
Orangi River crossing
Apparently this was full and overflowing yesterday. It's amazing how quickly it dries out in this heat.
Red Billed Hornbill
Lilac Breasted Roller
The landscape is very different up here.
Eastern Chanting Goshawk
Malisa spots the tiniest little turtle, his shell not much bigger than my thumbnail, trying to climb the mountainous (to him) tyre track in the road. We stop and make sure he gets out of the way before we carry on. He's heading for a small pond at the side of the road.
As soon as we stop, we get eaten alive by the &*%@# tsetse flies!
White Headed Vulture
The rare and endangered White Headed Vulture beaming down on us.
It seems the only animals around here are the tsetse flies. We take a joint decision to return to Central Serengeti
Yet another Lilac Breasted Roller
Little Bee Eater
He's not happy with us!
Another turtle – the water here is incredibly clear!
We meet a ranger who tells us there elephants the other side of the kopje. We check it out, but they are so far away that I don't even bother to try and take a photograph. Instead we stop for our lunch picnic. More in the next blog entry.
We are greeted by a somewhat unusual and intriguing sunrise this morning, with crepuscular rays appearing to radiate from the glow of the sun on the horizon. Very dramatic.
Our 'breakfast' this morning (Malisa's expression for the first animal / bird we see of the day) is a pack of hyenas chasing a herd of impala.
We take off in hot pursuit.
The hyena is no match for the super-quick antelopes, and they all get to live another day.
The hyenas wander off in search of something else for breakfast.
The sun is just making an appearance over the horizon, colouring the sky with a promise of a beautiful day.
In the distance we see three lions, they are brothers, aged around ten years, which is considered old as far as lions go (they generally live for 12-15 years in the wild).
One by one they wake up, making the most of the early morning sunlight.
Shaking the sleep away
Strolling along the road, they walk straight past our car, one after the other.
He's looking up at David as he passes. "Is that a Sony camcorder you are using?"
Marking his territory
Looking bedraggled and grumpy, his fur still damp from the morning dew; the second lion doesn't look to amused to be confronted by the paparazzi just after waking up.
I'd say he's got more problems than a few eager photographers: just look at his left eye!
He too marks his territory in the same place as his brother.
The last one to walk past us looks a much healthier specimen.
They leave the road and soon disappear into the long grass.
We move on to “see what else nature has to offer us today”.
Red Necked Spurfowl
He is trying his very best to impress her, but she is having none of it!
He may be far, far away, but this is the fifth leopard we have seen in three days. Quite unbelievable.
I can't even make out what it is with the naked eye, but using my 600mm with a 1.4x extender on a crop factor camera (making it an effective focal lens of 1344mm) and cropping in Photoshop, I can definitely see it's a leopard!
The distance is making photography unsatisfactory as the atmospheric distortion creates soft images; so we don't hang around for very long.
Last night we were chatting with the Swedish couple during dinner, and they were not leaving the camp until eight this morning. It is now coming up for eight o'clock, and we've already seen a pack of hyenas chase a herd of impala, had three lions walk right by our car, and seen a leopard in the tree. I cannot understand people who come on safari and don't take advantage of the first couple of hours of daylight, which is when the animals are usually most active.
A lone Cape Buffalo
The buffalo comes complete with passengers: Red Billed Oxpeckers.
A band of curious little mongooses check out the parking area near a picnic site.
Inspecting the suspension of another safari vehicle
"I want THAT blade of grass!"
Nearby a Dwarf Mongoose is sunning himself on a rock.
White Rumped Helmetshrike
It's time for us to go and have our picnic box in a designated area, and for me to finish this blog entry. Stay tuned.
Thank you Calabash for another exciting morning on safari.
Always busy at lunchtime, we get the last free picnic table in the grounds. The place may be commercialised, but it has a very decent toilet block these days, and there are always lots of birds, rock hyraxes and lizards around to amuse us.
Grey Headed Social Weaver
Speckled Fronted Weaver
Mwanza Flat Headed Rock Agama
Once we have finished eating, we move on “to see what else nature has to offer us” - Malisa's favourite saying.
He looks like he is smiling
This poor guy has a bad limp and barely gets out of the way of the passing car.
I fear he will come a cropper sooner rather than later.
We spend a long time watching the comings and goings at a small pond.
A baby baboon has found a bottle top that someone has dropped. He hope he doesn't choke on it.
Big Bertha* tries to get inside the nostrils of a hippo (*my 600mm lens)
Spur Wing Plover
"Look into my eyes..."
Another Grey Heron
Three Banded Plover
A Rueppell's Long Tailed Glossy Starling shows off his beautiful feathers
He later also shows off his singing voice – he's a bit of an extrovert, this one.
Nearby a family of baboons eat their way through the vegetation.
We reluctantly tear ourselves away from all the activities that are going on here by the water's edge, and move on to pastures new.
A young giraffe
The sky is dark and foreboding and a sudden gust of wind blows across the savannah. Are we in for a storm?
I love how names in Swahili are very often repeated, such as Dik Dik. These, the smallest of Tanzania's antelopes, mate for life, and when you see one of them, there is usually another one nearby - here you can see his mate in the bushes behind.
When a lioness with young goes off hunting, she will leave her cubs behind, with strict instructions to stay where they are (we have seen this in action previously – fascinating!). This little cub obviously did not do as he was told, and wandered off. Now he can't find his siblings, nor his mum.
He walks out onto the road, but is unsure of which way to go.
Maybe she went this way?
He strikes a lonesome, forlorn figure. We follow him for a while as he makes his way along the road, aimlessly darting into the grass on the left, only to pop over to the right hand side soon after.
Eventually he changes his mind completely, and walks back the way he came, right by our car.
Providing he doesn't deviate too far from where she left him, there is every chance that they will be reunited. When the mum gets back, she will call out for him.
I was right earlier when I surmised we'd get a bit of a storm – after some huge lightning bolts and deafening thunder, the heavens open.
Followed by a rainbow.
This one is very much bigger than the one we saw earlier.
It is still raining, and the poor hoopoe is looking somewhat bedraggled.
Two Banded Courser
An old male giraffe is being greatly bothered by the Oxpeckers all up his spine. His tail cannot reach that far so he shakes his neck violently to try and rid himself of the birds.
Unusually, he is feeding on the ground rather than from a tree.
Augur Buzzard spreading his wings to dry after the rain
Seeing a leopard on safari is always rewarding, as they are the most difficult of the three big cats to spot. Seeing two leopards is lucky! Seeing THREE leopards in the same day is just greedy! (we saw two others earlier in the day at two different sightings)
This guy is posing beautifully for us.
He's a big male, and judging by his restlessness, he's about to jump down from the tree.
He is soon on the move.
Is he going to jump or just rearrange himself in a different branch?
As he disappears the other side of the trunk, I expect he will be gone without a sight now.
There he is! He's coming down!
All around me I can hear the high speed clicking of cameras. Unlike everywhere else we've been at any time in Tanzania, this sighting has attracted a number of serious photographers, including half a dozen other Big Berthas.
Having a high frame rate certainly increases the odds of capturing the animal just at the right time.
Soon all we can see is the top of his tail. I can't believe just how long the grass is!
It looks like he is making his way towards the road.
Could we be lucky?
There he goes, between the cars!
He re-emerges briefly the other side of the road, and disappears into the bush for the night.
We really need to get going anyway, as the day draws to a close.
We make a brief stop at a very exciting lifer - the Green Winged Pytillia
There is not much of a sunset tonight, but Malisa does stop a couple of times for me to photograph some dramatic cloud formations.
Looks like rain in the distance
My lips feel very sore this evening when I get back to the tent. After a couple of incidents over the years, my bottom lip in particular has developed photosensitive dermatitis, and I am quite paranoid that they have become sunburnt. Three years ago an innocent sunburn turned into a secondary infection covering my entire mouth is open sores, something I really don't want a repeat of.
My arms are itching like mad and I soon discover why – the bites from those horrible little tsetse flies have turned into blisters and angry red patches. I smother them in antihistamine cream and hope they get better overnight.
We have company this evening in the restaurant: a Swedish couple and their driver.
After another delicious dinner, starting with green banana soup (which tastes much better than it sounds); we retire to bed to the sounds of a not-so-distant lion.
Main course: tender steak with croquette potatoes, vegetables and a fruity salad
We took breakfast in the hotel this morning, but for lunch we have the first of many picnic boxes we will enjoy on this trip. We climb to the top of a small hill where picnic tables have been arranged overlooking Big Momella Lake.
We are joined for lunch by this damselfly.
And a Speckled Mousebird, trying its best to hide behind a thin branch.
They may be 'just a chicken', but their babies are cute – a family of guineafowl attempt to cross a muddy path.
Some of you will already know the story behind the 'just a chicken' comment: many years ago in a vehicle in Sikkim, India, David exclaims: “Oh look, a colourful bird!” With more than a hint of disdain in his voice, the driver replies: “It's a chicken!” Malisa has cottoned on to the joke (as did Lyn and Chris when they travelled with us a couple of times on safari) and every time we see a guineafowl, at least one of us makes this 'joke'.
As I mentioned in yesterday's post, one of the main reasons for visiting Arusha National Park on this trip, is to see the flamingos that spend part of the year on Big Momella Lake.
Normally at this time of year they will mostly have flown to Lake Natron (where we are going tomorrow), but because of the recent heavy rains, the vast majority of them are still here.
I love how each of these bovine animals have a completely different look and personality!
A band of mongooses frolic in the grass. The collective noun for these animals is band; and the plural of mongoose is mongooses, not mongeese.
You looking at me?
Look at those claws! Her nails are longer than mine. Just right for digging out termites.
Who knew mongooses liked dust baths?
More and more join them.
As we make our way towards the park gate, we see our injured waterbuck again; apparently lying down to die. It is always sad when nature takes its course like that, but there is nothing we, as visitors to their domain, can, or should, do.
We consider Malisa almost as an adopted son, and he calls us Mama and Papa. Today we get the opportunity to meet his family for the first time while visiting his house.
We are made to feel very welcome, offered refreshments and given gifts and lots of hugs.
The track leading to and from Malisa's house is more like a river than a road.
At Mto Wa Mbu we once again leave our comfortable ride behind and head off down another dirt track towards our accommodation for the night.
On arrival at the lodge, we are greeted by an army of helpers who take every piece of luggage we remove from the car; we are not allowed to carry anything! A few staff sing and dance for us, and adorn us with a traditional Maasai necklace.
The lodge is fairly large, with 49 rooms spread around sprawling grounds, perched on a cliff overlooking The Great Rift Valley.
Sculptures in the grounds
The pool with the Rift Valley beyond
The palatial lobby sports high ceilings and grandiose furniture; much like Palace of the Lost City in Sun City (South Africa) – the only six star hotel we have ever stayed in.
The reception has a life size sculpture of an elephant; another similarity to The Lost City.
After a welcome drink and paperwork formalities where we are introduced to Lilian, 'who will be looking after us during our stay' (a bit like having our very own butler-esse), we are shown to our very impressive room.
I do like my mosquito nets to be away from the bed at night, for two reasons: I have been known to wake up in the morning with my knuckles covered in insect bites where my hand has been resting against the net overnight; and I so hate to have to fight with the net before I can even put my feet on the floor when I get up to use the bathroom in the night. This room has got it right, with a good foot on all sides of the bed (the net pulls around the canopy above the bed), and even the bedside tables are inside it - another pet hate of mine is having to find the opening of the net if I want to have a drink in the night.
There is a comfortable armchair and foot rest in the room too, which we have filled up with some of all our stuff, as well as a chaise longue . A fireplace offers warmth on a chilly evening and beyond that you can see the double (!) shower unit! That is a first for us!
Double hand basins, naturally.
Every comfort has been thought of – there is also an outdoor shower should you prefer to shower in the fresh air - which is something I love, especially in the rain – there is nothing quite like standing under the African sky, with the hot shower mixing with the cool rain. But on this occasion we take a shower side by side in the bathroom. It certainly speeds things up, leaving more time for a pre-dinner drink on the balcony.
The spacious balcony wraps around two sides of the room, with great views over the valley beyond. It is furnished with a circular day bed, two wicker chair plus a table, and a hanging egg chair.
The entire wall of the bedroom is made up of sliding doors, giving the impression when open that the balcony is very much part of the room. I love it!
We reluctantly tear ourselves away from the luxurious room to wander up to the restaurant for something to eat.
Lilian, our 'personal assistant' is there with the menu. There are four other tables occupied, and a plethora of staff milling around. The service is professional, yet very personal, with Lilian and the waiting staff using our first names at every opportunity.
'Design your own salad' for starter, with a choice from tomato, bell peppers, carrots, onion, black olives and cheese. All drizzled with a tasty 'chef's dressing'.
The menu shows a choice of main courses, or so we think. It turns out that we get all of it: beef fillet stir fry, pan roasted king fish in a Swahili sauce, and chicken rubbed with mild mustard and herbs. Three waitresses walk around the table at the same time serving us both simultaneously from platters. The meats are accompanied by a potato and chick pea curry, roasted herb potatoes and Swahili chapatis.
Dessert is a choice of fruit custard or chocolate fondant, and the latter is to die for. It comes out as a bit of a dull-looking pudding, but once I cut into it and the melted chocolate starts oozing out... O.M.G.
The chef later takes a walk around the tables, and we see him chuckling to himself as he meanders back to the kitchen after I tell him the dessert was “better than sex”.
Back in the room we enjoy a glass of Amarula and Captain and Coke on the balcony before going to bed.
While we were at dinner, staff have been in to perform turn-back service, leaving us a couple of little chocolates on a dish, with the message: "La la salama", which means "sleep well" in Swahili. While turn-back service is fairly common in higher class establishment, providing chocolate as part of it is not so prevalent these days. Last time we experienced that was when we were in Tanzania with Lyn and Chris in 2018, staying at the Ole Serai in Serengeti. We later learn that this hotel is part of the same chain.
Thank you Tillya of Calabash Adventures for booking us in to this amazing lodge, as well as arranging our seventh safari in Tanzania.
While we are having our picnic lunch, the leopard (the reason we are eating inside the car) jumps down from the tree and disappears in the long grass. Good for him, getting away from the baying crowd.
A small pond is home to a handful of hippos, including a couple of youngsters.
Yellow Billed Stork
Black Winged Stilt
Those legs are impossibly tall!
It must seem like a long way down.
Including some cute little babies.
The public transport of choice in the Serengeti.
Three young babies, around two months old, have been left home alone while mum goes off shopping (AKA as hunting for food); and chances are that she will stay out all night. In the UK she would have Social Services on her back.
Being under strict instructions from mum to stay put (we actually saw this in action on our last safari, the way a lioness 'barked' orders to her offspring – very impressive) doesn't seem to deter the naughty youngsters who boldly leave the safety of their hideaway in the long grass to explore the world around them, oblivious to dangers.
Saddle Billed Stork
Although not a lifer, it is a very unusual bird to see and the first time I have been able to take a decent photo of one.
Startled by our vehicle, these steenbok make some impressive jumps trying to get away.
Pale Tawny Eagle
White Bellied Bustard
Lilac Breasted Roller
I love the long shadows created by the late afternoon sun.
He's out looking for love by the looks of it.
Brown Snake Eagle
Hiding in the bushes
Lilac Breasted Roller
Another roller, this time captured by Big Bertha, bathed in the delightful golden hour.
Backlit elephants + dust + setting sun = happy photographer
With side-light, the mood changes drastically.
Plural of mongoose is mongooses, not mongeese, and a group of these animals is called a band.
They are looking for termites.
Yellow Fronted Sandgrouse
Doing what reedbucks do best: hiding in the reeds.
The light is fading fast now.
Lots of cars are gathered around these four lions, three of which are sleeping.
The large rasta, however, is walking near, and later on, the road. One of the drivers gets so close to the animal that I fear he is going to run the poor guy over.
White Headed Vulture
Black Backed Jackal
As we yet again rush back to reach camp before dark, we are following several other vehicles. I love it when this happens as the cars kick up lots of dust which add wonderful atmosphere to my photos.
Just before we turn off towards the lodge, a leopard crosses the road just in front of us. He has gone long before Malisa manages to stop, let alone us getting cameras out. How exciting, though.
Evening at Ole Serai
At dinner this evening Rashid, the manager of Ole Serai Luxury Camp, spends a lot of time chatting with us. Even chef Raymond comes out from duties in the kitchen to say hello.
Lyn and Chris join us in our tent for a drink after dinner. From very close proximity we can hear the roar of a lion, as well as the loud American group who arrived today. Go lion, go!
I have my first walkie-talkie experience this evening as I call for the askari (Maasai escort) to take the others back to their tent. Hearing the lion so close by, they are naturally nervous. It is very dark out there, the cat could be anywhere.
Trying to get in, Lyn and Chris find the padlock on their tent stuck. The askari tries everything, including the master key, but to no avail. The lion is still very vocal, very near. Eventually they use a rock to break open the padlock and our friends can let out a sigh of relief as they return to the safety of their room. An added adventure they could probably have done without.
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.
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.
A few metres further along, we see a mother topi with her very young baby, the kid being maybe a day or so old.
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.
These, the smallest of Tanzania's antelopes, mate for life and are often found in family units of three such as this.
Avert your eyes as a couple of Thomson's Gazelles put on an energetic display of early morning sex for us.
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.
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.
Success at last! Although you may notice she is still eating.
This bundle of fluff is just about the cutest thing we'll see this morning.
Black Breasted Snake Eagle
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.
A few hot air balloons glide effortlessly by.
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.
They seem to be 'everywhere'.
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!
Also hippo wallowing in the mud. As they do.
Suddenly an almighty racket occurs as the Egyptian Geese on the shore start urgent and deafening honking.
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.
He soon settles down and the geese seem to be almost mocking him by getting dangerously close.
Meanwhile, the hot air balloon has finished its morning flight and landed safely. As safely as you can while surrounded by wild animals.
Lilac Breasted Roller
No blog entry from Tanzania is complete with at least one roller picture.
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!
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.
With a jolt, he realises that he could so easily become breakfast and runs for his life. Good move Tommy, good move.
Yellow Throated Sandgrouse
Often found in large flocks, these noisy birds seem to just keep coming and coming until there are sandgrouse everywhere.
White Rumped Helmetshrike
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.
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.
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.
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.
Leaving the lions behind, we make our way to one of our favourite picnic sites for breakfast.
Fully fed and watered after a delicious picnic breakfast, we are soon on our way to “see what nature brings us this afternoon”.
Despite the rainy season being upon us, there doesn't seem to be much water in the Tarangire River at the moment.
A family of Lesser Striped Swallows dig in the dried riverbed for worms.
The normally shy impala stay by the side of the road looking at us as if transfixed. It makes a great change from them running away as soon as the car pulls up alongside them.
Like the elephants, they are so close I can almost touch them.
They are such elegant creatures.
Impala are affectionately known as “McDonalds”. Not because they make great burgers, but because of their rump markings resemble the “M” on the famous fast food chain's logo.
Another large herd – or memory – of elephants appears as if out of nowhere.
There are 16 family members in total, including a tiny infant, no more than 10 days old at the most. You can just about see him here (below), immediately behind the leading matriarch, being protected by his older sister with her trunk slung affectionately over his back.
The rest of the family follow behind.
It is fascinating to watch: when the matriarch at the front stops, everyone else stops, even those at the back. When she moves, the rest move.
We get really excited when we realise they are all going to cross the road. We might even get to see that baby properly.
Sixteen large animals crossing the road and the only sound we can hear is that of the grass rustling as they walk through. Elephants move in almost total silence, thanks to their spongy hooves that make for a soft step.
The elephants just keep coming and coming. One after another, all in a straight line. Just like Jungle Book.
One of them deviates from the line and walks right by our car.
This little guy seems to have lost his tail, poor thing.
The elephants continue on their journey through the park, and so do we.
At around eight feet tall, these large flowering plants make me think of a horror film for some reason, where ordinary small plants grow to enormous proportions and take over the world. Yes, I know, I have an over-active imagination.
At the other end of the scale, the Namaqua Dove is surprisingly small.
The elephants of Tarangire are known for their aggression and dislike of people, and one of these makes it quite clear what he thinks of humans as he feels the car is too close to his domain.
The male is energetically performing a courtship ritual by jumping from branch to branch like a lunatic. The female looks totally unimpressed.
It doesn't take us many minutes after getting out of the car before we decide that this is most definitely not the place to have lunch. The area is absolutely full of pesky tse tse flies.
The black and blue flag you can see on the picture, is supposed to help keep the population of these horrible little insects down, as the tse tse are particularly attracted to those two colours. The flags are impregnated with a substance which make them infertile, thus the number of flies should become reduced. Sorry guys, it doesn't seem to be working.
We quickly get back in the car again and head back to Matete where we had breakfast this morning, game viewing on the way.
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.
They look such cute little things, but 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 devestating to those already barely getting by.
From our point of view, however, it is amazing to see and hear them take off en masse – the whoosh sound they make as they all fly from tree to tree is quite something.
Looking on the bright side, I suppose while they are here in the national park eating wild grasses, they are not causing destruction to farmers.
Some months ago I answered a question on Trip Advisor from someone who wanted suggestions for a safari company in Tanzania. Having recommended Calabash, the original poster and I continued to talk from time to time, right up until we left for Africa, and soon realising we'd be in Tanzania at the same time. We knew the only opportunity we had to be able to actually meet in person, would be today in Tarangire. I spot their car from quite a distance, thanks to the Calabash logo on the side.
It is great to finally be able to put a face to the name, and Agata is every bit as lovely in real life as she is on line. Her partner Dom is a really sweet guy too; and of course it is nice for Malisa that gets to chat with John, their guide, and catch up on news.
Today seems to be full of animals and bird that come really close to the car. Unlike most impala, who run away as soon as the vehicle pulls up next to them, these stay right by the side of the road as we stop to admire their graceful appearance.
We have a youngster with an itch that appears hard to scratch.
“I just can't quite reach...”
A family of mongooses who are milling around in a clearing stop and briefly look at us before carrying on with their lives.
Today really is a day full of close encounters! Crossing the road right in front of us makes this my closest sighting ever of these small furry mammals.
Eggs are one of their favourite foods, and this guy has got a large one. (Excuse the very bad photo, it's the only one I managed to get)
Another one of Tarangire's claims to fame is the number, size and age of its baobab trees. Popular with elephants for the ability to store water in their trunks, baobabs are often left with battle scars from the encounters.
Malisa explains that providing this tree does not receive any further assaults from elephants, it should be able to re-grow and continue to live. Any more battering will surely be the end of it though as it will collapse and die.
As we are talking about baobabs, a lion appears 'out of nowhere', leisurely walking along the road in front of us, before taking a rest.
After a short break, he continues on his way, slipping into the long grass beside the road. It is all over in a few minutes, and we are the only people who saw him. Right time, right place I guess.
Lions are said to be hard to spot in Tarangire, but we have had some luck over the years with a sighting on all but one of our visits (and on the one visit we did miss, we saw a lioness and two cubs outside the park boundaries)
Unlike earlier when we stopped here for breakfast, now the picnic site is full of tourists enjoying a break and having lunch.
The presence of lots of people also attracts these scavengers to the picnic site.
They may look cute, but they are scheming little thieves, who hang around the picnic tables, waiting for an opportunity to nab any unprotected food.
If the opportunities are slow at materialising, these intelligent creatures create their own opportunities. The have learned that if they make a lot of loud noise, imitating their warning calls, down at the railings overlooking the valley, curios tourists will flock to see what is making the monkeys so agitated. This then gives their mates a chance to snatch any food left behind on the picnic tables. We see several people falling for this trick today.
It's not just the picnic tables that get the once over from these cheeky guys, here you can see one of them checking out our car for the slightest chance of some food. Fortunately we made doubly sure we closed and locked all windows, doors and roof.
Fed up with the opportunist thieves, a group of French tourists shout “allez, allez” at the monkeys. The would-be robbers take absolutely no notice of course, continuing to approach the table from every angle. Laughter ensues when an Englishman on the next table informs them that the monkeys "only speak English you know”.
One of the most remarkable things about the Black Faced Vervet Monkey, is its bright blue testicles. When I say “bright blue”, I mean iridescent, almost glow-in-the-dark blue.
Even a Superb Starling tries to muscle in on the action, looking for crumbs dropped by tourists.
We have to leave the picnic area, and in fact Tarangire National park, to make our way back to Arusha and later our flight home. We will of course “see what nature has to offer us” on the way to the park gate.
This enormous bird (it stands at 130cm / 4'3”) is the largest of all the hornbill species, and as the name suggests is usually found on the ground.
This female is doing what girls all over the world do every day: preening herself.
It looks like this year's elephant fashion includes pierced ears.
Another mongoose family. These, however, take fright as soon as they see us.
Stopping occasionally to check if we are still following them.
And so this ends our 2017 safari in Tanzania. Despite being awfully poorly, I have enjoyed myself very much, thanks to being so extremely well looked after by David, Malisa and all the lodge staff along the way. Not to mention Tillya of Calabash Adventures of course, who made sure I was still OK and coping every day.
Being able to carry on as 'normal' as possible on the trip has been mostly down to adrenalin and as soon as we leave the last park and start the long journey home, I relax and it hits me big time. Everything from then on is a blur: the visit to Tillya's beautiful new office; trying to find a toilet in a leisure centre when I suddenly have a bout of diarrhoea; the emotional moment we have to say goodbye to Malisa; the check in to Kia Lodge in Arusha for a shower, change and dinner; the moving to a different room because the A/C is not working and there is no drinking water in the room; the transfer bus to Kilimanjaro Airport; the panic upon being asked for my UK visa at the check-in desk and having to explain that as an EEA national I don't need one despite the Brexit; the flights from Kilimanjaro – Istanbul – Birmingham; being transported from the plane in a wheelchair; and the drive home where I can finally collapse in bed.
Writing this blog and editing the photos back home has been great for me, as there is so much of the trip that I don't remember. So many of the notes I made at the time (thank goodness I did) where I have had to ask David: “what did I mean by this?”. This time, instead of re-living the trip as I usually do when I publish my blog after our return home; I have really just 'lived it' as I missed so much the first time round.
Here's to the next safari (this time hopefully in perfect health!) with Calabash Adventures, the best safari operators by far!
It is still dark when we leave the lodge this morning, just as it has been every single morning since we arrived here. Today is our last day in Tanzania, so it won't be long before we are able to have a lie-in once we get home.
There is no sign of the lion from last night around the hotel grounds this morning, but we do see a lot of giraffe close to the lodge today, as well as a couple of waterbuck.
The weather is still pretty murky by the time we reach the Tarangire National Park gates, hence the quality (graininess) of the first handful of photos.
These girls belong to a harem. Male impala sometimes have as many as 50 or so females in his harem, here there are nowhere near that many. Where there is an impala harem, there is usually a bachelor herd nearby waiting for the polygamous husband to retire (or maybe just tire, with so many females to service) so that they can move in.
Tarangire is famous for its incredible bird life, especially at this time of year, with nearly 500 species recorded in the park. We see quite a few this morning, including a few species that are new to us (known as a lifer - a new addition to the life list)
We're having to put the roof up, down, up, down this morning as the showers come and go at various intervals. I think you could call the weather changeable.
White Browed Coucal
Black Faced Sandgrouse
White Headed Buffalo Weaver
Brown Snake Eagle
Brown Snake Eagle
Yellow Necked Spurfowl
Yellow Necked Spurfowl
While the mongooses we saw earlier were quite some distance away, these are really close by the road, where an abandoned termite mound has been converted into social housing for a family on mongooses.
As we stay to observe them for a while, small, furry heads pop out of various orifices in the mound, including some cute babies.
And angry little not-so-cute adults.
You can distinguish the Common Waterbuck from the other species found here, the Defassa Waterbuck, by the white markings on its rump, commonly referred to as the toilet seat.
Tarangire National Park is famous for its huge herds of elephants, so we are quite surprised to not have seen any yet this morning, just damage caused by these large animals as they passed through.
Not long afterwards, when we are on on our way to the Matete Picnic Site for breakfast, we see a lone elephant, as if on cue.
Then a large bachelor herd appears.
Time for morning ablutions, in the form of a little dust bath.
The mood suddenly turns nasty, with an unfriendly mob marching angrily towards us. Malisa proves that he is just as capable (and safe) a driver backwards, as he has to quickly reverse the car out of the way of the bullies. Never argue with an angry elephant.
It's not all anger management issues this morning, however, there's a bit of bonding session going on here with two teenage brothers butting against each other.
When they have finished showering each other with affection, they walk right past out car, so close I could reach out and touch them. I have to really restrain myself not to.
I feel so incredibly privileged to be here so close to these majestic giants, watching them go about their daily lives and be party to their family interactions, I almost cry with happiness.
All around us are elephants, in every direction we look. I have to pinch myself to make sure this is really happening. To think I was only complaining a couple of minutes ago that we hadn't seen any elephants yet.
More family snuggles. This is like reality TV but with animals. Much more interesting.
For some reason this next picture reminds me of Colonel Hathi in the Jungle Book cartoon.
I have heard of 'pink elephants', but never 'red'. These eles have obviously been rolling in the mud. Or maybe it's the latest must-have face mask.
She has a young baby with her, probably around four months old. We can only just see the top of his back over the long grass.
In places the grass is shorter so we can see him better.
On the other side of the car is an even younger baby, this one is less than 2 weeks old. All together now: “awwwww”
Look at the difference in size!
We leave the elephants behind (pun intended) and (yet again) try to make our way towards the picnic site. This could take a while, depending on what we see on the way.
We finally make it for breakfast, to a completely empty picnic site. This place has changed beyond all recognition since we were first here ten years ago: back then there was one squalid long-drop toilet. Now there is a very modern facilities block with clean flushable toilets, lockable doors, water, soap and toilet paper.
Check out my next blog entry for more animal encounters with Calabash Adventures, the best safari operators by far.
Making our way across the savannah, I am surprised to see how dry the grass is already considering we are still in the wet season, albeit towards the end.
Parched from the hot sun, the surface of the earth has cracked, forming a thin crust easily disturbed by passing animals.
With the gentle movement of the car, the warm sun and the number of tablets I am taking for my chest infection; I go into a deep sleep. Only when the car slows to a standstill nearly an hour later, do I wake up.
Our reason for stopping soon becomes obvious.
On a nearby rock, another lioness is sunning herself.
While we are busy photographing the cats, my Facebook friend Jim and his family / friends turn up. Serengeti is a large place, so the chances of seeing him here today is very small. We have already seen them once in Ndutu. It really is a small world.
Bored with sunbathing, the lioness jumps down and takes a stroll in morning heat.
The Red Headed Rock Agama doesn't seem the least bit bothered about a lioness walking past his rock.
Nor does the Black Backed Jackal.
Resting peacefully in the shade of a tree, two 'Rasta Lions' momentarily sit up, barely opening their eyes to check us out, then lie down to sleep again. Oh, it is such a hard life to be a lion here.
This picture shows the difference between the Superb and the Hildebrand Starlings.
The Superb in the foreground has a white band on his chest and a white eye; whereas the Hildebrand (singing his little heart out) has no marking between the orange and blue, and the eye is black.
This guy has obviously lost a horn while fighting for a female. I hope she was worth it!
A very similar antelope to the topi, but as you can see, the colouring is not the same (the topi has very dark markings on the head and legs), and the horns are different shapes.
The name 'Serengeti' comes from a local Maa word 'sirenget' (the language spoken by the Maasai tribe) meaning 'endless plains'. Driving for what seems like an eternity (in reality probably no more than around half an hour) across the flat, parched landscape, seemingly devoid of all life, I can certainly see that the name is very fitting.
Arriving at a series of waterholes known as Research Ponds, we stay for a while to watch the goings on at the water's edge. Although initially appearing somewhat uninspiring, with just a couple of buffalo and some Grant's gazelle grazing in the background, this place proves to be rather fruitful in terms of animal sightings and interactions.
A dazzle of zebra (other collective nouns for zebra include zeal and cohort) make their way to the ponds.
More and more animals arrive as we sit by the ponds in the oppressive midday heat.
It's like Happy Hour at our local bar!
Additional animals are constantly appearing, their hooves throwing up clouds of dust that hang heavily in the hot air.
The zebra, like the buffalo before them, immerse themselves in the still water, drinking, bathing and cooling down.
On the horizon a herd of eland nervously make their way towards the waterhole. Normally extremely shy (as a result of being endlessly hunted for their delicious meat), we wonder if – or more likely when – they will start running in the opposite direction.
So far so good as they cautiously move nearer and nearer the water.
I am so excited to see them drinking – this is definitely a first for us!
The other elands are looking at us apprehensively, as they consider whether it is safe enough to quench that thirst.
The zebra, on the other hand, do not seem to have a worry in the world.
Another eland has braved it to the water's edge.
But will he drink?
Yes, he will. They are getting very brave now.
The zebra look on with amazement (or is that my overactive imagination again?) as a band on mongooses make their way down to the water for a drink.
They are loving the water, rolling around in the mud at the shoreline.
From a quiet waterhole with just a couple of sleepy buffalo, the place has now come alive with activity and several different animal species. This is awesome!
There is even a couple of amorous Egyptian Geese on the water.
Having all these newcomers disturbing his hitherto peaceful morning siesta, Mr Buffalo gets up and moves on to pastures new.
He looks thoroughly pissed off.
The mongoose have had enough too.
Even the zebra are on the move.
I have never noticed before that zebras vary so much in colouration. Look at how dark the one on the left is compared to the zebra behind him.
Just as we decide to leave, a European White Stork arrives. They are not native to the African continent (the clue is in the name), rather a migrant. A bit like us then.
Another stork arrives, much to the bemusement of the eland.
The moment Malisa starts the car engine, the shy elands scatter. As expected. I am surprised they stayed this long.
As we travel towards Ogol Kopjes, we see a few animals on our way.
A spotted hyena who barely raises his head from the puddle he was sleeping in when we pass.
Common Praticole - a nice little lifer (a new bird species for us)!
Another lifer, the European Roller. This one has been on my wish list for a while now, so I am particularly excited to see him. Or her. I really can't ell from this distance.
A couple of topi on a mound looking out for predators.
A cute little zebra foal, grazing with his mummy.
And some eland - running away from us of course.
Eland are pretty huge animals (around the size of an average horse), and create quite a considerable amount of dust as they gallop across the dry savannah.
We leave Ogol Kopjes behind and search for some shade for our lunch picnic.
Be sure to check out my next blog entry for the rest of this afternoon's safari experiences with Calabash Adventures, the best safari operator by far.
When on safari, we spend all day every day in specially adapted Landcruisers, with a lifting roof and large opening side window for all-round viewing.
We either sit down to view and photograph the animals...
... or stand up for a 360° view of the savannah around us.
We are also lucky to have our amazing guide Malisa with us, who is not just a great friend, but an exceptional spotter and extremely knowledgable about animals and birds, the environment, geology, ecology, history, culture, animal behaviour....
More sleep in the car for me this afternoon, this chest infection sure is taking its toll on me. The boys make sure I am awake for any bird or animal sightings though, such as the wildlife we find when we stop at this small pond.
A very uncooperative crocodile refuses to turn around and face the camera on request. Pfft. Doesn't he know who we are? So, it looks like a bum shot it is then.
The hippo aren't much better – all we can see is the top of their backs. We can certainly smell them though!
Every picnic site should have a giraffe in the distance...
Mawe Meupe, which means “The White Rocks”, is a small hillock dotted with picnic tables and a great place to spot birds.
Lilac Breasted Roller
White Headed Buffalo Weaver
The birds are so used to people and quite unafraid. They come right up to our table hoping for a small offering from our lunch. I hold my hand out with a few crumbs and a starling lands on it and sits there while he is eating. I also get a severe telling off – quite rightly – by Malisa. The birds and animals in the Serengeti are wild and should remain so. They can find their own food and should not be encouraged to rely on humans. I consider myself properly chastised and promise not to do it again. Then feel guilty about it for the rest of the trip.
As “Never pass a toilet without using it” is my travel motto, I make a point of visiting the facilities before we leave. They are nice and clean with a lock on the door, paper and running water. Although the walk is a very short distance, it totally wears me out and I get back to the car completely breathless and coughing wildly. Being ill on holiday sucks!
Our path is blocked by a giraffe as we leave the picnic site to continue our afternoon game viewing.
A group of banded mongoose is called a band of mongoose of course.
The grass here is so long during the rainy season that it manages to almost completely lose the adult warthog. And that is why they run with their tails straight up, so that their babies can see them and follow.
Judging by the number of cars (I counted eleven) parked by the tree, it is obvious that the leopard we saw last night is still there.
And judging by the number of times she tosses and turns in the short time we are here, she obviously still hasn't found a comfortable position in that tree.
A very pale baby giraffe with his mummy - they get darker as they age.
Look at that hairstyle!
And look at that nose! The dik dik has an elongated snout which is very mobile, constantly twitching, with bellows-like muscles through which blood is pumped to help prevent the animal from over-heating. The flow of air and subsequent evaporation cools the blood before it is recirculated to the body. How ingenious!
Dik diks are monogamous, so you will almost always see them in pairs (or three, with their single offspring).
The female is looking for her babies. She walks into the long grass and stops to let out an almighty roar, a sound that carries a long distance, hoping that her offspring will make their way to where she is. There is no sign of any cubs though.
For the first time ever in our thirty years of safaris, I ask to be taken back to the lodge early. Malisa is so sweet, knowing that I would never want to return to base before sunset unless I am really ill, he is obviously concerned about me. He keeps offering me advice and suggestions, plus lots of sympathy. All I want right now is my bed though.
When I get back to the room I watch a couple of buffalo walk past the tent on the slope below, then go to bed. With some serious coughing fits and the lioness still roaring for her cubs, I struggle to stay asleep for more than a few minutes at a time. This is going to be a long night.
Although I slept well, I wake up feeling crap this morning, and struggle to walk from the room to the restaurant even at a snail's pace, having to stop several times to catch my breath. Thankfully Malisa very kindly brings the car half way down the slope enabling me to miss out on climbing most of the steep hill.
This morning starts with one of the strangest – and most spectacular – sunrises I have ever seen.
Across a gully we see a large pride of eleven lions. I do miss Ndutu and being able to drive off-road. Here at Serengeti that is a definite no-no, so we remain at some distance from the cats
While the adults mostly just lie around enjoying the early morning sunshine, some of the cubs captivate us with their play fighting and usual energetic antics.
Making the most of the morning sunshine, this rare mongoose is in a difficult spot for photographing; but it is a thrilling sighting for us: only once before and only for a brief blink-and-you'd-miss-it moment have we seen one of these.
We haven't travelled far before we spot three more lions.
They are heading directly for the big cats.
We had been planning to go for breakfast, but decide to hang around to see what pans out between the wildebeest and the lions.
So we wait. And wait. And wait. It all peters out and we head for the picnic site. That's the nature of safari – occasionally you are rewarded with something exciting, but mostly you spend a lot of time waiting for nothing.
On our way we spot a couple of topi. They are so remarkably near that Malisa comments he has never seen any so close to the car before.
They are presumably engrossed in the job in hand – fighting for a female.
Although it seems all rather half-hearted to me – they clash, then stare each other out and them look all chilled out as if they are best of mates.
The truce doesn't last long, however, and hostilities soon recommence.
Topi fighting is scary stuff, especially if you are a topi. The guy on the left is so petrified he shits himself.
Mind you, I would be frightened if I had a huge horned antelope coming towards me like this.
The fighting gazelles are right by the car, and we can hear the loud clashing of the horns.
By now they are so close I can't get them both in the picture, even at the widest setting on my lens.
An uneasy ceasefire is declared for a spot of breakfast.
Ding! Ding! Time for Round Three.
Will this end only on the death of one of them as often happens?
Thankfully not; one of the would-be suitors capitulates and runs off to lick his wounds, leaving the victor standing proud.
Just like we did last year, we stop at the Visitors Centre to have our breakfast. Not only do they have a number of shaded picnic tables, there are also nice, modern toilet facilities.
The breakfast supplied by Kubu Kubu is excellent: omelette, potatoes, sausage and bacon; plus several pastries, bread and cakes. We are certainly not going hungry on this trip. The only thing that rather amuses me, is seeing half a tomato in the fruit salad. It reminds me of the saying: "Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad."
The other good thing about the Visitor's Centre is all the local residents – a large number of Tree and Rock Hyraxes.
Another great morning game viewing with much more to come in the next instalment of my blog. Thank you Calabash Adventures for arranging it all.
After leaving the ‘Lion Tree’, we try to find somewhere to stop for our picnic lunch. Malisa’s initial plan is to park down by Lake Magadi, but there is no shade whatsoever and the sun is relentless.
On the shores of the lake, a number of terns are congregating: Whiskered, White Winged Black and Black. As we get closer, they all take off en masse.
Rueppell's Long Tailed Starling
Grey Backed Shrike
We finally find a tree to take our picnic under, listening to the grunting of hippo as we eat. When Lyn comments to Malisa that the sounds appear awfully near, his reply doesn’t exactly re-assure her: “This is leopard country…” Seeing the paw prints in the sand, Lyn makes a hasty retreat to the car.
This is an enormous family!
A buffalo tries – unsuccessfully – to hide in the long grass.
A male ostrich shows off his typical breeding plumage: bright pink legs and neck.
On top of one of the kopjes is a strategically placed, strange-shaped rock. This large rock with holes emits quite a gong when hit with a stone. In the old days – before the Maasai were relocated to make this an animal-only national park - it was used as a form of communication, to call together clan members to meetings. These days I guess they use mobile phones.
The kopjes here at Moru also hide a number of rock paintings believed to be several hundred years old. The colours used are similar to those on the Maasai shields, so it is thought that they were painted by a band of young Maasai warriors who wandered this area for several years before settling down to their pastoral life.
The colours used were created from plant matter: the black from volcanic ash, the white and yellow from different clay, and the red from the juice of the wild nightshade.
I am intrigued by the bicycle.
The area around the kopjes is supposed to be home to Serengeti’s last remaining black rhino and is a favourite hangout of leopards apparently. But all we see are a few rock hyraxes.
My tummy really is in a bad way now, causing me quite some concern; and I beg Malisa to find me a proper toilet. “We are very near” he tells me.
Dark Chanting Goshawk
Serengeti Rhino Project Visitors Centre
Half an hour later, we reach the Rhino Information Centre, where the toilets are indeed very good.
Mostly as a result of poaching, the black rhino population has declined to a critically endangered point, with an all time low of 2,300 individuals in the wild. Fewer than 700 eastern black rhinos survive in the wild, with Serengeti being home to around 30 of them.
Named after the German conservationist Michael Grzimek who devoted his life to the Serengeti, the Visitors Centre has displays about the rhino and how the conservation strategies are being employed to ensure the continued survival of the rhino.
The exact location of the park’s rhino population is a well kept secret, with a small army of rangers and wardens looking after the animals 24/7.
One of the reasons the crocodile is often found with his mouth wide open, is to attract insects, who are drawn to bits of meat left in the croc’s teeth. The insects again attract birds, and as soon as an unsuspecting bird enters the mouth – slam! The bird is no more.
For some reason that reminds me of this Youtube clip.
These enormous nests take the birds up to three months to build, and are the height of sophistication, with three rooms inside. The nests can weigh up to 90kg, measure 1.5 metres across, and are strong enough to support the weight of a man! These birds are compulsive nest builders, constructing three to five nests per year whether they are breeding or not. When the hamerkop abandons a nest, Egyptian Geese move in.
Many local people believe the hamerkop to be a ‘witch bird’ because they collect all sorts of stuff for their nest building, including human hair!
In Africa, rain is a blessing, for humans, animals and the environment.
♪♫♪ I bless the rains down in Africa… ♪♫♪
"Africa" by Toto
I hear the drums echoing tonight But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation She's coming in twelve-thirty flight Her moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation I stopped an old man along the way Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies He turned to me as if to say: "Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you"
It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do I bless the rains down in Africa Gonna take some time to do the things we never had
The wild dogs cry out in the night As they grow restless longing for some solitary company I know that I must do what's right Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti I seek to cure what's deep inside, frightened of this thing that I've become
It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do I bless the rains down in Africa Gonna take some time to do the things we never had
Rain can also be a blessing for photographers, creating some lovely moody shots.
Seeing a herd of Lancruisers in the distance, and knowing that they always hunt in packs, we surmise there must be a suitable prey around.
We are not disappointed. Wet and bedraggled, there is a pride (or sawt) of lions in the long grass, with what’s left of a dead wildebeest.
Two mums and three cubs (around 1½ - 2 months old) gather around the carcass.
The rain is persistent now; so we put the roof down to stop everything in the car getting wet. Although, looking to the west, it does seem that it might clear up soon.
Actually, almost as soon as we put the roof down, the rain eases off. Typical. We leave it down for a while to see what happens, but as the rain seems to hold off, we raise it again to allow for more movement and ease of photography.
One of the mums has had enough, and goes off, growling.
She then lies down in the short grass to tidy herself up from the eating and the rain.
Followed by a quick roll on the ground.
Before continuing her stroll.
The other mum watches her girlfriend with interest.
And decides that she too would like a roll in the long grass. Copy cat!
Obviously her tummy is not quite full yet: she goes back to the wildebeest for another bite or two.
The cubs try to emulate mum, tugging at their dinner.
I have to say that the normal cuteness associated with lion cubs is not very evident in the wet!
Eating is boring when you’re a young lion cub, playing with mum is much more fun!
Mum, on the other hand, is not impressed. “Will you stop that for goodness sake, I am trying to eat!”
Meanwhile, the sun is trying to come out.
It seems mum number two has also had her fill for the day, leaving the kill behind; licking her chops as she wanders off through the long grass.
She stops to sniff the air; her face still bloody from dinner.
Aha! So, that is what she could smell!
Dad settles down for a rest – or at least that’s what he thinks. The cubs have other ideas.
Just like mum, dad is not amused either and growls at the playing cubs, who have been jumping up and down on his back and rolling around all over him.
The playful kitties go back to annoying mum for a while.
She is still having none of it.
I am sure this is an expression mothers throughout the world can relate to: the sheer frustration of pleading young eyes.
Eventually they realise it is less hassle to just play amongst themselves.
Time to get a move-on
We reluctantly leave the playing kitties to head for camp. It is already 18:15 and we have another 45 minutes drive from here. "Depending on what we see on the way", as Malisa always says when we ask him how long it will take to get somewhere.
The roads are wet and slippery and in his rush to get to camp before we get into trouble, Malisa starts to skid on the muddy track, then over-compensates. For a brief moment we are hurtling sideways at some speed before he manages to skilfully correct the car. Well done that man! Although I found the ‘Serengeti Drift’ quite exhilarating!
This weather seems to have really brought out the hyenas, as we see a dozen or more during one particular stretch of road. Or perhaps they just like this specific area.
Shooting straight into the setting sun makes for some spectacular backlit images.
Seeing the rainbow, I ask Malisa to find me a giraffe for the foreground. Not too demanding then!
The nearest I get is an elephant and a tree. Beggars can’t be choosers, I guess.
This evening’s stormy clouds have created one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen in Africa, with moody, threatening clouds and ever-changing colours.
I hang out of the window with my camera all the way to the lodge; constantly changing the settings (mainly exposure and white balance) to try and achieve different effects. You can see some of the end results below.
Serengeti Serena Lodge
Just as we arrive at the lodge – in the dark – a long tailed mongoose crosses the road. A very rare animal to spot, it is a first for us. Even Malisa is exciting about it!
The car park is full and very dark; and we have to negotiate lots of obstacles to get to reception. They are busy and check-in is the slowest we have experienced so far. Eventually we are taken to our rooms – it is a great shame that we cannot see them, as they look very unusual and rather fancy from the post card!
The design of this hotel is based on traditional Maasai dwellings, with a number of thatched-roofed rondavels dotted around the ground. We give it the nickname of the ‘Nipple Hotel’ due to…. well, I am sure you can figure that out yourself.
The restaurant is disappointing, with no available tables when we arrive, and most of the buffet food is finished. I am feeling quite weary this evening, and I can’t even finish my one bottle of beer. I must be tired!
As he walks us back to the room, the escort points out a bush baby in the trees.
Lyn and Chris' room.
The room is much too hot despite a fan, and I cannot bear to be surrounded by the mosquito net, so I remove it. I am covered in bites anyway, and they itch like mad in the heat this evening so I struggle to sleep.
Despite an unsatisfactory evening and night, we had an otherwise excellent day on safari. Again. Thank you Calabash Adventures and guide Malisa.