I wake early, on this, our last day on safari in Tanzania, to a glorious sunrise over Lake Masek, giving the sky and everything in its wake a lovely orange glow.
The swimming pool at Lake Masek Tented Camp
The food is always good here in Lake Masek Tented Camp, and this morning's breakfast spread is no exception. As well as the usual selection of pastries, meats, yogurts, cheeses etc, there is a chef making fresh sandwiches for us using what appears to be leftovers from last night's dinner with lots of choices of fillings and relishes/salads. I love it when we can select what goes in our packed breakfast and lunch boxes as not only does it mean that we get our own choice of food, it also saves on any waste.
Getting ready for another day with some gentle bending, stretching and preening.
Brown Snake Eagle
At first glance he is hiding his beautiful red cap, but as soon as he bends forward we can see it clearly.
When Malisa spots the prints of a cheetah adult and cub in the dirt track, the excitement in the car soars.
We follow the tracks for a while, hoping they will lead us to the cats; but the prints soon disappear into the long grass.
White Browed Coucal
This elusive animal is right at the very top of my wish list each time I come on safari, and the joke is that I have to keep coming back to Tanzania until I see one. This morning we see an aardvark hole in which these nocturnal animals live, and a fresh footprint. I get terribly excited, but as usual, that is all we see.
Black Shouldered Kite
Desperately looking for food to fill his empty belly, this painfully thin male lion is presumably feeling rather vulnerable, as he is determined to hide from us. I have to say that the camouflage is excellent.
After a while hunger wins over the fear of us, and he starts to wander across the plains, hoping to find a little something for breakfast. There does not appear to be much around these parts though, for him to eat or us to photograph.
The breakfast buffet is not looking too promising
Bat Eared Fox Den
The parents of these cute little two-month-old babies are tenacious in their effort to lure us away from the den in order to keep their babies safe.
The pups are curious but shy and have obviously been trained not to speak to strangers.
One of the beauties of a game drive in the Ndutu area is that off-road driving is permitted. In an open area with good visibility to ensure we are safe from predators, we get our picnic stuff out and enjoy the lovingly prepared breakfast boxes, while surrounded by wild nature. And five dozen wasps. Attracted by our food they appear out of nowhere and quickly become our 'public enemy number one' as they irritatingly whirr around our plates, hands and faces, making for a miserable experience. When I said “safe from predators”, I didn't consider the buzzing kind.
We promptly eat up to get away from the wicked flying beasts, and Lyn and I go for our 'call of nature' behind the car while the boys clear away the tables and chairs.
When we are all back in the vehicle and Malia starts up the car to continue on our journey, I feel a sharp smarting sensation on my bum. “Ouch”. Just as I am thinking that I must somehow have managed to pick up a prickly leaf when pulling my knickers back up after peeing, it happens again. And again. A painful stabbing sensation in an out-of-reach area. After a recurring onslaught of three or four more stings, I have had enough, and in some considerable distress whip down my trousers and knickers while pleading with David to discover the culprit of my torment and eliminate it.
By now my shrieks have attracted the attention of the others, who look on with great concern, then look away with great embarrassment as I unashamedly undress in their midst. As soon as my knickers have been lowered to thigh level, the evil perpetrator makes a mad dash for freedom: an enraged and terrified wasp leaving behind a trail of destruction and a humiliated Grete. Job done!
The whole episode causes much amusement to everyone else; who of course, do not let me hear the end of it for the rest of the day/trip, and still haven't to this day.
You will be pleased to know that there is no photographic evidence of the episode.
On that note I will leave you for now – thank you Calabash Adventures for arranging this amazing safari.
All ready to go to see more wildlife this morning:
Ngare Naironya Springs
After breakfast we return to the waterhole, which is now full of zebras coming and going, splashing about, drinking and generally being zebras.
Clouds of dust swirl around in the air as the zebra are spooked by our car or each other at different times.
A hyena appearing on the horizon sends the skittish zebras into a mass exodus.
Once the zebra have vacated the bar, a couple of warthogs saunter down to take a drink.
A couple of Hammerkops also make the most of the fresh water.
We move a short distance to another part of the springs where a steep-sided natural depression with water in the bottom is surrounded by trees. I guess this could be a bit of a death trap if a predator or two were to appear, as there is no easy escape route. The zebra seem acutely aware of the potential danger too – even just the shadows of a hammerkop flying above is enough to spook them.
With the zebra safely out of the way, a couple of Olive Baboons brave the waterhole.
This amazing place is a wildlife-watcher's paradise, and at times it is difficult to know which direction to look – and point the cameras – as there is something exciting going on all around us at all times.
Male impala are territorial, although usually only during the rutting season. You can tell these are two guys, as only males have horns. Impala are extremely agile and can jump up to three metres in height, covering a distance of 10 metres.
Meanwhile, the zebra think it is very much a laughing matter.
As I said in the title, here on these plains the stripes really are the stars. There are zebra everywhere, thousands of them, including some very young foals. Mummy zebras are fiercely protective of their offspring and will fight off any other strange adult who gets too close to her baby.
There is also some love in the air.
These zebra are part of the Great Migration – they tend to be out the front, before the other ungulates, as they will chomp on the taller grass that the wildebeest are unable eat, leaving the shorter grass for them. Easily spooked, thy are constantly on the move, and once one zebra runs, lots of zebra run. I spend ages and take hundreds of photos practising my panning skills, with varying success.
The heavily pregnant zebra on the right looks like she might give birth any moment.
Cape buffalo doing what cape buffalo do best: stare! I do find their gaze rather unnerving.
The buffalo will migrate too, but they don't do the complete circuit as they are unable to cross the biggest rivers.
Being slightly short-sighted, the buffalo are often spooked by warthogs as they confuse them for lions. I can see how the outline, size and colour of the two animals can appear slightly similar if your eyesight is not good. Try squinting at the picture below and you may be able to see what I mean.
Black Faced Vervet Monkeys
Tse Tse Flies
Despite smothering ourselves with Avon's Skin so Soft lotion, which greatly reduces the number of insect bites, we are hugely bothered by the tse tse flies here in this forest. This is the worst swarm of these pesky flies we've ever encountered, and when we stop the car, we can hear them as a constant buzz.
My ankles feel sore and tight, and I soon discover why – the top of my socks have really been digging in to my legs. Oops.
Buffalo lying down
You can see their horns are starting to wear down. Unlike antlers, bovine horns are permanent and do not fall off and regrow.
Malisa goes off the 'main road' along a track that can only be described as 'basic'.
Initially their short stature makes the baby piglets invisible in the long grass (which is why they run with their tails in the air, so that all the members of the family can see each other), it is only when they cross the dirt track behind us that we spot the cute little family.
Spot the Elephant
It is astonishing how easy it is to lose such an enormous animal.
There he is: a large bull elephant appears from behind the bushes.
He is eyeing us with suspicion as he walks along, grabbing some grass to eat as he goes.
Maybe suspicion wasn't his perspective, as he seems to be rather more excited to see us now.
Such an amazing organ, the elephant's trunk (you thought I was talking about something else there, didn't you?) has 150,000 muscles, helping it to eat, pick things up and communicate among other things.
Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. It seems this cheetah most definitely got that memo and has no intention of moving from his shady comfort zone.
The Affectionate Tree
I love the way the trunk of this tree appears to caress the round shapes of the rocky outcrop, bringing a whole new aspect to the expression 'tree hugging'.
His mate was a slow developer and only discovered the appeal of rocks in later life, resulting in a swift U-turn in his growth pattern. Not so much a hug as a desperate grab.
I will leave you with that rocky embrace for this time. Thank you Calabash Adventures, you're the best!
As often happens here on the south-western rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, a heavy mist hangs in the air as we leave this lovely camp behind and head off to “see what nature has to offer us this morning” (one of Malisa's favourite sayings).
After a season with abundant rain this year, this part of Malanja Depression has been transformed into a lake. Malisa tells me this is the first time surface water has collected here like this since 1997. There must have been a terrific amount of water here after the rains, seeing as we are now right at the end of the dry season and yet a considerable sized lake remains.
It seems that in my drunken stupor last night, I left my camera on Tungsten White Balance and EV+2 from shooting the stars (or rather attempting to), resulting in a rather blue, overexposed image this morning. Thankfully it can be largely corrected in Photoshop.
As we head towards the Lemala Descent Road, we see the crater bathed in a glorious sunrise.
We are heading down into the crater this morning for a second visit.
By the time we get to the bottom, the caldera is shrouded in mist and full of dust unsettled by vehicles and animals.
Red Billed Queleas
Thomson's Gazelles fighting over a female
It's pretty serious stuff with a lot of effort and loud crashing of horns. They often fight until death.
They look so cute and harmless, but they can be quite ferocious when the affections of a female is at stake.
Male wildebeest have specially modified glands situated under the eye called pre orbital glands, and here he is rubbing his face on the ground leaving a scent to mark his territory.
He seems rather pleased with himself
They remain totally unperturbed by the hyena in their midst.
Two males and one female, just lying around doing absolutely nothing.
Occasionally one lifts his head to see if there is anything worth getting excited about before settling down again.
There are a few of them dotted around.
Once an area of dense forest, Lerai is now more like a woodland glade, mostly because of the destructive actions of elephants such as this guy.
We spend ages watching him decimate everything in his path until a ranger on foot comes along and (unintentionally) scares him away.
Elephants aren't the only animals who live in Lerai Forest.
Scraping at the bark of the tree to get to nectar or maybe insects
It is hard to believe that this mass of hanging branches is all one tree.
Little Bee Eater
A colourful raptor with a large wingspan and very short tail, although this guy does look like he has even lost what little he had from before.
Black Faced Vervet Monkey
Call me infantile, but I am forever fascinated by their blue balls!
And evidentially, so is he.
As we try to make our way to the Lerai Picnic Site for breakfast, we are waylaid by a youngish (some 30 years old maybe) bull elephant on the road.
He munches his way right past our car – if I was so inclined I could reach out and touch him. He seems completely unfazed by us.
We finally manage to get to the picnic site for our breakfast. And so ends Part ONE of today's adventures. Thank you Calabash Adventures for this great opportunity to see such amazing wildlife.
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.
A mere 100 metres down the road from the hotel we spot our first wildlife of the day: the regal Augur Buzzard.
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).
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).
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.
Malisa assures us that the small blob we see in the far, far distance is in fact a rhino.
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.
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.
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.
The trees, with their characteristic flat tops (hence the name), act as umbrellas and protect the soil from erosion during heavy rains.
Look at how dense that canopy is ~ isn't nature wonderful?
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.
A large troupe of baboons crosses our path.
The little one who almost got left behind.
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.
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.
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.
He is right beside the car
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!
Northern Wheatear (non-breeding female)
The sort of face only a mother could love
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.
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.
Augur Buzzard, apparently in a 'strop', stamping his feet: "I don't want to fly off!"
Black Backed Jackal
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.
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.
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.
Big baby belly
Too late, they've discovered her.
Instead she saunters off to try and find a safe place to give birth. I wish we could stay around for that.
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.
Little Bee Eater
Singing his little heart out
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.
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.
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.
She is bowled over by his sexy moves and capitulates to his charms.
David caught it all on video, with narration provided by Chris
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!
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.
European White Stork - not a permanent resident in Tanzania, the stork is a seasonal migrant visitor from Europe
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.
I love the way Big Bertha seems to have picked out the personality of these buffalo.
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.
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.
I guess the lioness we heard calling out for her babies yesterday afternoon didn't find them, as she was roaring all night. Hearing nature in all its raw glory is always exciting, but not necessarily conducive to a good sleep. With that and my incessant coughing, I didn't get a lot of rest last night. I feel embarrassed and concerned about keeping other guests awake too, so I am grateful there are no other tourists around in the lodge when we leave this morning.
The tables are laid out ready for breakfast, which starts from 06:00. I always find it strange that people don't want to make the most of their day on safari by getting out into the park at the earliest opportunity (06:00), which is also when the animals are at their most active. After all, a safari is not a cheap holiday, and for a number of people, a holiday of a lifetime. If you want to relax, build in some chill time at a beach resort afterwards.
Now getting off my soap box.
We leave the lodge in darkness. As the light of day starts to brighten up the sky, the promise of a beautiful sunrise teases us with a warm yellow glow above the savannah and a blue sky sporting fluffy clouds edged with crimson.
It is not long, however, before the sun sends its first rays of the day over the horizon, warming the cool morning air.
A wobble of ostriches (I love discovering apt and humorous collective nouns of animals) enjoy the warm glow of the sun. One male can have a dozen or more females in his harem.
He is in his breading colours as evidenced by his red neck and legs.
Having recently been kicked out of the herd (or obstinacy, as I am on a roll with collective nouns), the bull buffalo has anger management issues, as can be seen from his sweaty nose.
Having a 700 pound animal's stare directed right at me is more than a little intimidating, especially as he keeps walking closer and closer, while snorting angrily. Not that it seems to bother the oxpecker much.
Time to make a move.
Oh, to be in that basket floating effortlessly over the African plains in the early morning sun.
If it wasn't for the price tag I'd be there like a shot! I do realise, however, that part of the reason for the high cost is the huge fee they pay to the park authorities to be able to drive off-road to retrieve the balloon and its passengers.
Almost totally hidden by the tall grass, a lone hippo wanders towards a small pond. All we can see is the top of his back.
It is hard to describe the feeling of awe I get when we drive along and encounter wildlife – such as these hyenas – in the road. Being part of, or rather guests in, their natural habitat is an experience I will never tire of. It is at times like this that I realise that it is me who is the stranger here; this is their home. I feel incredibly humbled to have the privilege of being included in their lives, even for a short while.
There is some serious 'establishing of territory' going on here, with chasing, growling, barking and baring of teeth.
A cackle of hyenas (♥collective nouns) can be enormously intimidating, especially when they are plotting gang warfare such as here. Or maybe I just have an over-zealous imagination.
Although sometimes they can look almost cute.
Three amigos saunter off down the road...
… while another goes for a drink.
And then lies down in it to cool off.
The hyenas do not seem to bother this three banded plover though.
Hippo flatulence gives off a powerful ammonia-like aroma, with the result that you can usually smell the hippos before you see them, especially when they are present in numbers such as these.
Meanwhile, we head back to the Maasai Kopjes, where we immediately see a collared lioness atop a rock.
It looks like she has a cub with her.
As one cub walks off to the right, another one can be seen sitting up on the left.
Mum goes off to join the youngster on the left, and we discover another cub in the shade of the tree.
The Maasai Pride is huge, and rarely venture far from this collection of rocky outcrops known as the Maasai Kopjes (hence the name of the lion pride, of course).
At the base of the rocks we see another lioness, hiding five young cubs in the long grass.
The mum on top of the rock leaves her three cubs behind to go for a wander.
Prompting her babies to explore too.
Maasai kopjes is teeming with big cats this morning, spread out over a large area. Everywhere we look there is a lion; some seeking the cool shade of the shrubby undergrowth, others the warmth of the sunbaked rocks.
The kopjes are also home to a number of other species, such as this Dark Chanting Goshawk.
And the Crested Lark.
The lark has a most beautiful song, as you can hear in David's video below.
More lions to follow in the next instalment of my blog. Our safari was arranged by Calabash Adventures, the best safari operators by far.
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.