Sporting an old wound on his hind quarters, probably as a result of a slap from a lion while trying to steal food, this guy looks rather sorry for himself.
A few more adults and sub-adults are scattered around in the long, dry grass.
Not far away we come across their den in an old disused aardvark hole.
This family cackle (collective noun for a group of hyenas) consists of at least two different litters of pups, six weeks and four weeks old respectively.
Hyena pups are born black and start to grow their spots at around two weeks old.
Common Flat Lizards
We spot these little reptiles from a great distance because of their bright, almost luminous, colours. They are a new species to us, causing some excitement, at least for me. I am bemused by their name though - surely there is nothing 'common' about these flamboyant lizards?
Little Bee Eater
It is easy to tell the genders of steenboks apart, as only the males have horns.
Love the photobomb!
Down on the Big Marsh
Since we left the lodge this morning, Malisa has been driving around from bush to tree, mound to rock, all across the plains, checking out all the usual places cheetah are known to hang out. Here in Ndutu, cheetah are usually quite easy to spot and Malisa is determined not to leave here until we've seen one. Finally we find not one, but two: a mother and her one-year old cub.
Every time we think we have a great view for photographs, the cats turn their heads and/or bodies the opposite direction, so we end up driving round and round the tree several times to try and get a decent picture.
As we have a long way to go to get back to Arusha today, we reluctantly leave the cheetah behind. Only for the cats to move to a different position as soon as the car starts up. So we stay for a little while longer.
But we really have to go. But then the cub gets up. Just a little bit longer.
Now we truly must make a move. But then mum gets up. Just a few more photographs.
Then they sit down again.
Look at those claws!
It is absolutely necessary for us to get on our way now. Then they start licking. We can't go quite yet.
There comes a time when we cannot put off our departure any longer, and we all agree that this is a very special 'leaving present'. What a way to go out on a high.
We start to make our way back to Arusha, but we have a considerable distance to cover yet (another seven hours driving at least).
One of the main differences between National Parks and Conservation Areas in Tanzania (we are currently in the latter) is that wildlife share the Conservation Areas with the local people and their livestock, who are banned from National Parks.
We see a couple of young kids with erm... young kids (ie. baby goats). One of the children is leading a new born goat, so new he is still very wobbly (the goat, not the child). Lyn and I get totally carried away snapping pictures of this cute little one, until the infuriated adult herder comes over to shout angrily at Malisa. “He is unhappy the you will sell the photo and get lots of money while he gets nothing”. Malisa assures him that no-one is intending to make a profit from selling the pictures of his baby goat, but we slip him some money anyway.
Apparently devoid of all vegetation, our surroundings still appear to support a vast number of giraffes. What on earth do they find to feed on?
Leaving the sanctity of the vehicle to 'answer the call of nature' in this barren, desolate and forbidding area, we find ourselves roasting in the formidable heat and sandblasted by the violent gusts carrying clouds of dust. With no vegetation or human habitation as far as the eye can see, you would not survive long on foot in this furnace-like terrain.
The temperatures drop noticeably as we climb to higher altitudes. We will be reaching the same altitude as the highest mountain in Norway at some stage on our way to Arusha today – that rather puts it into perspective.
Vegetation has begun to appear, both wild and cultivated, as has a few Maasai settlements including a school and even a small hospital. The Maasai people have a reputation as fierce warriors, and are not always terribly hospitable to outside visitors. The children, however, break into a sprint as they see our car approaching, hoping we will stop and maybe bestow them with a gift in the form of a pen, sweets or money.
This is not the place to make a 'call of nature', but both Lyn and I are desperate. After what seems like an eternity, but in reality is only about an hour, Malisa finally finds a suitable spot with no kids or houses within sight. Phew. A communal "ahhhhhh" can be heard from all sides of the vehicle.
This magnificent birds is sitting close to the road, but doesn't automatically fly off as soon as we pull up in the car, as they usually do. When he starts to look around, we stay for a while, hoping he might fly off.
And he does, skimming the ground at low level, presumably looking for mice or other small rodents.
Oops. It looks like the left front wheel of this vehicle has sheered off.
Nyati Transit Picnic Site
Positioned near the Ang'Ata Camp we stayed at the first night out in the bush, this picnic area has stunning views out over the Ngorongoro Crater.
We are joined for lunch by a number of Black Kites who soar overhead, ready to swoop on any unattended food. The seagulls of Ngorongoro.
While I am busy photographing the flying birds, I hear some distant music. Coming from my trouser pocket. Having spent the last six days with no mobile signal, it takes me a while to register that the noise is my phone ringing. Panicking that there is a problem with my dad, I am relieved when it is only a confirmation of an appointment the day after we get back.
I notice that my face and neck is covered in dust from the dirt tracks in the park today. As always, I am looking forward top getting in the shower tonight.
On our way again
Once we reach Lodoare Gate and exit the Conservation Area, the road is sealed and very smooth, sending me into a nice, comfortable slumber. It is also very steep and winding, and we see a number of accidents along the way, far more than we have ever seen in the past.
Just outside Arusha, we meet up with Tillya at a modern shopping mall, where the clean, modern toilets are very welcome. A quest to spot a Shoebill rumoured to be hanging around the local fields is fruitless, however.
From here we hit the urban jungle with traffic jams, road works and pedestrians milling round. By the time we reach Kia Lodge near the airport, it is dark and quite late. We have to say goodbye to Malisa here, as he will be going home to his family tonight, so the lodge will arrange our airport transfer tomorrow morning. Parting is always such sweet sorrow, but David and I have already decided that we will be back in 15 months' time.
Every time we leave Tanzania after a safari, we wonder how any subsequent trip could possibly live up to the one we have just had. This time is no exception – it seems like each time we come, the safari experience gets better than the next.
Having travelled a great deal, using a vast number of operators, including a dozen or so different safari outfitters, I can categorically confirm that Calabash Adventures tops them all. Malisa, who has been our driver-guide for the last three safaris, and Dickson, who took us for the previous three, both have exceptional knowledge in all areas pertaining to the natural world, charming personalities, delightful sense of humour, and graceful compassion towards both man and beast.
Tillya, the owner of Calabash Adventures, is devoted to ensuring each and every client gets the most out of their time in the bush and has the best time ever.