Clusters of strongly scented white flowers of the Umbrella Thorn Acacia tree, as well as the associated seed pods, provide food for the baboons.
The blooms also attract a number of insects, as we can see here.
The intention today was to look for cats rather than the migration, and although we did see a lone lion first thing and later a cheetah, we have also come across the migration – first the zebra leading the way just after breakfast, and now the wildebeest.
We are treated to a spectacular areal display by this impressive raptor.
Elephants in Bologonja River
It is pure entertainment watching this little elephant (less than two months old) drinking, as the babies don't start using their trunks until they are around five months old.
With a bit more practice it won't be long before he's got the hang of it.
The eroded dry riverbank makes for a good scratching post.
Also on the Bologonja riverbank, are three reedbucks. Normally solitary animals, it is unusual to see one male mating with two females.
Under a tree, we see a male lion, with a female on heat.
Nearby we see another female with couple of two-week old cubs, suckling.
We drive nearer to get a better view, and they retreat into the bush partially hidden from us.
They finally settle down at the edge of a thicket.
The cubs attempt to come out occasionally before being called back into safety by their mum, where they spend their time suckling, cuddling and sleeping.
Meanwhile, the male is completely crashed out after all the hard work of keeping his females happy.
Even though Malisa thinks the cubs will eventually brave it out into the open, we decide to move on to pastures new.
Grey Backed Fiscal Shrike
Bare Faced Go Away Bird
We follow this gorgeous animal as he meanders along the ridge, beautifully backlit by the setting sun.
I experiment with creating some silhouetted images too.
Lobo Wildlife Lodge
It must be so difficult for the safari guides to get the timing right on the daily game drives: yesterday we arrived late because we saw a leopard fairly close to the lodge; and today we see nothing as Malisa makes his way back to camp. The result is that for the first time on this trip, we arrive at the lodge in daylight.
Cute door handle to our room
Finding ourselves with some unexpected spare time, we go walkabout to check out the lodge and its surroundings. Whilst the accommodation itself is rather basic and in desperate need of refurbishment, its stunning position on the edge of a cliff with unrivalled views over the savannah below is breathtaking.
Set among the rocks of a kopje, surrounded by trees, the lodge features lots of different levels and angles, with wooden walkways and stone steps connecting them all.
As always, we wish we had more time in the lodge when we see the inviting swimming pool
Look at that view!
The bar looks inviting too
The place is swarming with rock hyraxes – one even manages to slip in to the restaurant as soon as the door is opened.
After a quick shower we enjoy a pre-dinner drink, then wander up for dinner.
This evening we are the only guests staying, and Malisa is allowed to eat with us. Going by the table service and quality of food tonight, we'd be forgiven to think we are staying in a different hotel this evening.
That brings us to the end of yet another amazing day as arranged by Calabash Adventures - the best safari company by far.
Despite being up and in the car by 05:40 this morning, we somehow don't seem to leave until 06:10. The good thing about this, of course, is that we actually get to see the Ole Serai Luxury camp in (almost) daylight.
This is the view at 05:40
It's getting lighter
The lodge reception. It is sad to leave Ole Serai behind as we have thoroughly enjoyed our stay here, but it is time to move on to our next accommodation and more adventures. When we depart, all the staff come out to wave us goodbye.
The sun rises really quickly this close to the equator.
The Three Brothers
Malisa explains that these three male lions are brothers, and that each of them has a distinct purpose: one is a fighter (we can distinguish him by the scars), one the lover (no physical scars visible, but he maybe has some mental ones?) and the last one acts as the lookout.
Look at those scars!
This must be the lover, he is very handsome
Judging by their flat bellies, they are all hungry. Because of their large, heavy size, they are more likely to take the easy option, however, and steal another lion's kill as it uses much less energy than trying to make a kill themselves. They are not the least bit interested in the Thomson's Gazelle in nearby.
The lions have drawn quite a crowd.
The brothers settle down to enjoy the warmth of the early morning sun and we move on to “see what else nature has to offer us today”, one of Malisa's favourite sayings.
Long Crested Eagle
Spotting something on the ground, he takes off, dives down, tries to grab whatever it was he saw, but returns to his lofty perch empty-handed. Or should that be empty-taloned?
The long pointy ears make it look like the hartebeest has four horns.
Serengeti Visitors Centre
This is always a good place to spot birds and small mammals, as many visitors have their picnic here leaving crumbs for the residents. We are stopping for breakfast today.
Red and Yellow Barbet
African Paradise Monarch
Speckled Fronted Weaver
Female Mwanza Flat Headed Rock Agama
After our picnic we go for a stroll along the interactive boardwalk around the kopje while Malisa goes off to get petrol for the car. Last time we came with Lyn and Chris (in 2016) it was closed for renovation, and last year (2017) when it was just the two of us I was unable to partake in the walk because I was suffering badly from pneumonia, so it was good to be able to see what they had done to it.
It's a fun walk, sympathetically created to blend in with nature, complete with lots of metal sculptures and explanation boards.
Those of you who have followed my blogs for a while, may remember that I have a soft spot for dung beetles.
Another good reason for stopping here is to use the very decent modern toilets.
A great big “THANKS” goes out to Calabash Adventures for organising yet another fantastic safari for us.
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.
Another early start in the dark today, complete with luggage as we are moving on to pastures new. Leaving Mbuzi Mawe this morning, we are all feeling the cold.
Lilac Breasted Roller
Much as I really enjoy leaving at the crack of dawn to make the most of the day on the savannah, this first hour or so is not conducive to photography. Darkness = high ISO = grainy and dull images.
This morning we appear to be in the heart of the migration, with wildebeest all around us. Unfortunately, with the animals come the tse tse flies. Nasty little buggers and they are particularly numerous and bothersome where there are trees, such as here.
Hot Air Balloon
A hot air balloon glides gracefully over the savannah as we make our way through the park.
Grey Headed Kingfisher
I think it must have rained heavily during the night, as the river is flowing over the causeway this morning.
Lappet Faced Vulture
Everywhere we look there are zebras. A huge herd – or dazzle – of zebras. Long lines of zebras. Adult zebras. Baby zebras. Lactating zebras. Mating zebras. Eating zebras. Zebra crossings. And more zebras. And then some.
Two young brothers can barely be seen above the long grass. Having just eaten (we missed it), they saunter off into the distance.
We follow a troop of baboons along the road for a while.
The baby is very young - no more than two or three days old at the most.
But I still think he looks like an old man.
Such a tender family moment!
That moment when your dad has got you by the scruff of the neck but mum is looking out for you.
Located in Seronera in Central Serengeti, the visitors centre is a good place to stop for several reasons: 1. they have new and very clean / modern toilets (I have a problem again today) 2. there is a nice picnic area with lots of semi-tame birds, hyraxes and mongooses 3. an intersting exhibition displays information about Serengeti in general and the wildebeest migration in particular 4. there is also a nice little nature walk on elevated wooden walkways.
Sadly the boardwalk is closed for crucial repairs today, but we are given a guided tour of the information centre.
Those of you who have been following this blog from the beginning, will know that I have a wish list, and that aardvark is on that list (and has been for the last four safaris here in Tanzania - it became a running joke with our previous driver Dickson). I still haven’t seen one, so I have to make do with a mural on the wall.
Rock and Tree Hyrax
It is very hard to tell the difference between these two different animals – the tree hyrax has a lighter stripe down the back, but it is not always obvious.
And I guess the Tree Hyrax is more often found in …. yes, you guessed it … trees.
But not always.
Although the hyrax, also called rock rabbit or dassie, are similar to the guinea pig in looks, its closest living relative is the elephant! They are present throughout most of Sub-Saharan Africa, and in some places they can become quite unafraid of humans and are considered a pest!
A hyrax with ambition: pretending to be a wildebeest.
Grey Capped Social Weaver
The Gowler African Adventure
On previous holidays with Lyn and Chris (canal barge cruising) we have always had a themed day where we all dress up for a bit of fun, so this time I made these T-shirts for us all to wear, with the ‘team logo’. This safari has been in the planning stages for well over a year, and along the way we have had a lot of fun.
After our usual packed breakfast at the picnic site here in the Visitors Centre, we continue our game drive, exploring more of the Serengeti.
Black Faced Vervet Monkey
Although we can only just see the tops of their backs, we can certainly smell them!
Black Headed Heron
Wire Tailed Swallow
Q: What do you call a group of giraffes? A: A tower, journey, corps or herd.
There’s a bit of trivia for your next pub quiz.
Suddenly they all turn to face the same direction and continue staring that way for quite some time. I wonder what they have spotted?
We'll never know.
They’re everywhere. So many of them – we count 31!
One of the older ladies appear a little ‘eccentric’, carrying grass on the top of her back.
Having a good scratch.
You know the grass is long when you can lose a couple of baby elephants in it.
For the next half an hour, the herd of elephants (also known as a memory or parade) slowly meander all around us – sometimes very close - as they munch their way across the savannah.
A lone male lion tries to hide in a prickly bush.
Earlier we saw an almost white giraffe, whereas this one is very dark. I had no idea giraffes vary so much in their colouration!
White Browed Coucal
Tse Tse Flies
This area seems to be teeming with these pesky little flies, and I get bitten around fifteen times in as many minutes. They hurt when they bite you and itch like **** afterwards.
Lions in a tree
Just like I was complaining about the tse tse flies a few minutes ago, lions sometimes climb onto tree branches to get away from them, but as you can see from the photo below, it doesn’t seem to make any difference.
On the other side is another lion in another tree.
After a while, another car pulls up. As usual, we can hear the Americans before we see them. They take a few shots with their mobile phones and numerous more selfies before they move on again. They are not even here for three minutes.
We, on the other hand, stick around to see what the lionesses might do, and are rewarded with a bit of action. If you can call it that – at least it is some movement rather than just photographing sleeping lions. Or photographing ourselves with sleeping lions in the background.
The lone lioness from the other tree decides to join her mates.
There is a lot of shuffling going on, they never seem to find a particularly comfortable position. I can see why you'll never see a male lion in a tree!
Look at the number of flies on this poor girl's face! It's no wonder she is not comfortable.
Well, that was certainly worth enduring the tse tse flies for!
Time to stop for lunch, and a convenient time to break this blog entry. This afternoon’s game drive will feature in a new entry
Thank you so much to our guide Malisa and Calabash Adventures - the best safari company by a long shot.