A lion's share of cats this afternoon
04.11.2018 - 04.11.2018
Just like breakfast, Ole Serai (the luxury camp we stayed at last night) has provided us with a terribly posh lunch hamper, complete with 'hot' food in traditional tiffin containers.
We are joined by a couple of Superb Starlings in a nearby tree.
Moving on from our picnic site, we stop at a small pond area that reveals a hippo and a couple of birds.
Three Banded Plover
Across the dry, grassy plains we barely see the tops of a pride of six lions, eating the remains of a warthog.
The older animals patiently wait for the youngsters to finish their meal for deciding to go off for water.
A really strange sound, like rubber tyres on tarmac, reaches us, and we become aware that it is a 'mini-tornado'. Quickly covering up all electronic equipment, by the time the whirlwind reaches us we become sandblasted and totally engulfed in dust. For ages afterwards we feel as if we are eating grit.
King of the Castle
A lot of the plains animals of Serengeti like to use termite mounds as look-out posts, surveying the surrounding landscape for any predators or prey depending on which end of the food chain they are.
Black Bellied Bustard
At a dried-out waterhole near Ogol Kopjes, a herd of topi have gathered to lap up what little water there is left.
Over their lifetime topi go through six set of teeth, the last of which grow when they are around 15 years old. When they lose those teeth, in what is their old age, they basically starve to death. Nature can be so cruel at times.
Not far away, in the shade of a tree, a healthy looking lioness is chilling.
She certainly looks like she has a belly full of food.
When, after a lot of fidgeting, rolling, yawning and several changes of plan, she finally stands up, the topi are on high alert.
Our beautiful girl has other ideas, however, and walks off in a different direction, towards a warthog in the far, far distance.
Then she changes her mind again – talk about fickle!
When she has yet another change of plan and lies down in the long grass, we give up on her and move on to see what else “nature has to offer us” (one of Malisa's favourite sayings, which has now become mine too).
Yellow Fronted Sandgrouse
While spotting animals is theoretically easier during the dry season, the problem with coming this time of year is that everything is so brown; and birds, such as this Yellow Fronted Sandgrouse, are extremely well camouflaged. And photos look so...well, brown.
Baby Black Backed Jackal
Another brown animal on the brown earth surrounded by brown grass.
This one looks so much like a puppy dog, I just want to throw him a stick and shout "fetch!"
It looks like he heard me, as he has picked up a small piece of wood.
For the last four or five (or maybe even more) safaris we have taken in Tanzania, my dream has been to see an aardvark. Imagine my excitement when Malisa points out a fresh aardvark hole. That is, however, all we see. A hole.
Those of you who have been following this blog for a while, will probably remember that we have a saying “just a chicken” referring to an incident back in 2007 in Sikkim when David exclaimed excitedly “Oh look, a colourful bird!” The driver let out a loud exhalation of air while stating in a most disinterested and almost despairing voice: “It's just a chicken”. Malisa has the intonation down to a T, and won't let David hear the end of it, referring to all guinea-fowls as “just a chicken”.
Baby Thomson's Gazelle
The Research Pride
In case you have ever wondered, this is what eighteen sleeping lions look like.
There is some slow and gentle movement within the pride, but mostly it is all about that late afternoon siesta.
One of the (many) things I admire about Malisa, is the fact that he is very interested in photography himself and has an excellent eye for a great photo, knowing where to position the car for the best light for instance. When he sees a lion walking across the plains in the setting sun, Malisa has a plan...
He keeps moving the car every minute or so, which means that we are shooting straight into the sun at all times as the lion continues walking with the occasional sit-down for a rest.
I try out a number of different camera settings for various high key and low key effects, and play with some of the images further in post processing too.
Of all the pictures I took, I think this is probably my favourite and is most like the image I had in mind when deliberately underexposing to get that rim-light effect.
Trying to remain inconspicuous by hiding in a tree, this reedbuck's camouflage tactics are no match for Malisa's eagle eye.
Yet another lion
We have certainly seen more than our fair share of big cats today (31 lions at six different sightings and three cheetahs). Lyn spots this one, initially just seeing the lower parts of his legs as he rolls over in the long grass.
The Golden Hour – every photographer's favourite time of day.
Our young man is fighting a losing battle with the pesky tse tse flies.
He's not a happy bunny.
We make Malisa stop for more photos as the setting sun peeks from behind a low cloud, creating some of my favourite crepuscular rays.
I continue shooting as Malisa makes his way to the camp. As usual it is a mad dash to get back before darkness sets in (it is against the law to drive within the national parks in Tanzania after darkness).
'Drive-by shooting' is never easy from a moving safari vehicle on a dusty, bumpy dirt track, but I don't think I am doing too badly with some of these photos.
We make it back to base just as the last remnants of daylight leaves the African plains, all too soon followed by that all-encompassing darkness you only see in places with very little light pollution.
After a quick shower and pre-dinner drink while we get ready, we meet up with the anniversary lovebirds for an evening of celebrations. The dining room looks very welcoming with soft lighting, period furniture and white tablecloths
Tonight Malisa has been given permission to eat with us as we are celebrating Lyn and Chris' 40th Wedding Anniversary. It's a shame that he couldn't join us for dinner every night – that would make this place absolutely perfect!
After dinner all the staff come out playing drums and singing the customary celebration song, just as they did at Ang'Ata Nyeti. Poles apart, the two lots of accommodation couldn't be more different, yet both extremely enjoyable and both places made us feel part of the family. Only two other people are staying here tonight, and I feel somewhat sorry for them as they are rather left out of all the fun!
Once it is all over we go back to Lyn and Chris' tent for a couple of drinks before returning to our own tent and settling in to bed ready for another early start tomorrow morning.
Thank you yet again to Calabash Adventures for making this dream safari come true, and to Tillya for the fabulous surprise stay in Ole Serai.