Nicely refreshed after a break to stretch our legs, use the facilities, eat our breakfast picnic packs and photograph the hippos at Retima Hippo Pool, we set off again to “see what nature has to offer us”.
We don't have to travel far before we see our first animal, These cute little antelopes are within the grounds of the picnic site. Dik Diks mate for life and you usually see two of them together, such as here.
Also at the rest stop is a family of warthogs, including these arorable baby piglets.
Tower of Giraffes
Mum keeps her 2-3 day old baby close.
Look at those ears! The baby is all legs and ears, it seems.
The baby suckles her mum.
While the rest of the voyeuristic family look on.
Malisa stops the car near a few other vehicles. “Lioness” he informs us. We all look in the distance but none of us can spot the cat.
“There” Malisa exclaims with more than a hint of amusement in his voice, pointing downwards, “right by the car”.
She has been out hunting and has returned to where she thinks she left her babies last night, and is now searching for them.
Even the abandoned aardvark hole is inspected.
Appearing to be in distress, she stops and calls out to her cubs, but there is no obvious reply.
"Have you seen my babies?"
Turning this way and that, there is still no sign of her offspring.
On the side of her head a nasty gash is indicative of a much-too-close encounter with the horn of a wildebeest or buffalo.
As she walks from one side of the road to the other between the vehicles gathered here, still calling out, I feel like we are somewhat invading her personal space, meddling in nature's progress. Is our presence preventing her cubs from coming forward?
We leave her to carry on looking for her lion cubs and continue on our way, as we have a fair distance to travel today.
Above us a Marabou Stork is circling, creating a striking image against the bubbling white clouds.
An altogether larger bird.
White Rumped Helmetshrike
As we pull up at the waterhole, Malisa announces that we have a flat tyre and gets out of the vehicle to put the spare on. Before he can even get anywhere near the jack, he has to get our luggage out, which he then puts of the roof for safety (the green bits you see on the roof are a couple of our bags).
In the distance we can see a herd of elephants approaching the waterhole and we become aware that we are right in the path between them and the water, which causes us some concern, especially as we realise that we are unable to move the car anywhere with one wheel off.
As the majestic animals rapidly approach, we urge Malisa to get back in the car; from the safety of which we watch them all walk past and around us in order to reach the water where they spend their time splashing around, drinking and bathing.
One of the elephants sports a shortened trunk, probably the result of a crocodile attack (or maybe even a poacher), although it does not seem to hamper him much as he appears to have learnt to live with his disability.
Bath time is over for now, and the large animals clumsily climb out of the waterhole.
I'd love to say they do it with elegance and grace, but the truth is anything but.
Meanwhile there are still only three wheels on our wagon.
There is an unwritten rule of safaris that you don't park between another vehicle and the animal sighting; but some people have no consideration for others. Not only is he blocking my view of half the waterhole, his aerial is dissecting all my photos in the other half. Thankfully this sort of thing happens very rarely, but he is most definitely not a good advert for his company.
I can get rid of the aerial in Photoshop, as I have in the image below, but that is not the point. Malisa asks him politely to move on, and he does.
Once all the elephants have finished bathing, have climbed out of the waterhole and are on their way to pastures new, another driver pulls his vehicle up right against ours to block the elephants' view of Operation Tyre Change.
Malisa, with the help of is mate from the other vehicle, gets out of the car again and manages to complete that tyre change in record time. Phew.
With a fresh new tyre, we move ever further south towards the exit gate of Serengeti.
Thank you Calabash for arranging this amazing safari for us.
After a very nice packed lunch, a stroll around the Visitors Centre, a use of the facilities and a tank full of petrol, we set off for some more explorations of the Seronera area of Serengeti.
Baby Thomson's Gazelle
This little youngster, here seen with his older brother, is less than two weeks old. All together now: “Awwww”.
If we thought yesterday's herd was big at 75 animals, today we count 83 elephants. They are, however, technically two large herds in close proximity. Not just to each other, but also to us, walking right by all the cars gathered.
Two males are bonding with a spot of play-fighting, or is it a bromance?
The herd, or memory as a group of elephants is also known, consists of several cute youngsters.
We stay with the elephants for a long time, just watching them make their way across the savanna, heading for an area with palm trees and water.
Under this tree in the far distance is a big male cheetah. Honestly.
He is keeping a close eye on a warthog in the even further distance.
The cheetah gets up, walks around a bit, then lies down again. Too much excitement for one day.
I don't think he fancies his chances against the elephants on the horizon.
We let him carry on with his siesta and continue on our way to “see what nature has to offer us”.
Lilac Breasted Roller
Grey Backed Fiscal Shrike
We see a couple of these birds within minutes of each other, or maybe it is the same one following us.
Different bush, different light
Malisa tells us that a campaign has been in place to thin out the numbers of hyenas in the Ngorongoro crater as there were too many in such a small space. A number of them were tranquillised, marked and moved to the Serengeti; however, within sixteen hours they were back in the crater. I guess it is easier to eat your food in a bowl such as Ngorongoro rather than trying to chase your peas around a large dinner plate like the Serengeti.
Two males fight for control of the large harem. The following conversation then occurs in the vehicle:
Malisa: “Thomson's Gazelles are polyandrous, females mate with several males”
Grete: “Lucky girls”.
Chris: “I'd call them sluts”
Secretary Bird and Roadkill
She is eating a hedgehog, although it is unlikely that she killed it herself, it was most likely the victim of a road accident.
This mini dust tornado barges its way across the savanna with no regard for man or beast in its way.
Just out for an afternoon stroll
He stops off for a snack along the way.
White Browed Coucal
"You looking at me"?
You can see why these sponge-like fruits are used as loofahs.
Black Faced Vervet Monkeys
As soon as we stop the car, it is like the dust suddenly catches up with us, and for a while the animals are enveloped in a cloud of brown 'smog'.
It takes a minute or so for the dust to settle. Thankfully on this occasion the monkey didn't make a run for it before the air had cleared.
As is often the case when you see Vervet Monkeys, we find Thomson's Gazelles nearby. They have a symbiotic relationship based on commensalism, where the gazelles benefit from fruits dropped from the trees by the monkeys and their early warning signals of impending danger.
Waterholes are always a hive of activity, especially at this time of year when much of the savannah has completely dried out.
Three Banded Plover
Three Banded Plover
Shade created by a tall tree shelters four lions from the midday sun. These are three cubs from two different mothers. One of the females has gone off, leaving the other in charge of the babies. She may be hunting or she may have 'sacrificed herself' by going off to mate with a strange male to stop him from coming into the pride and killing the cubs.
We hear it long before we see it. It's a strange sound, a bit like tires on gravel or ice, but without the engine noise. The cubs can hear it too, and it seems to really spook them.
One the dust devil has passed, they all gather together and peace is yet again restored to this small lion family.
Troop of Olive Baboons
Young and old baboons are all around us – on the ground, climbing the trees and eating the flowers, riding on their parents' backs or bellies...
Thank you Calabash, the best safari company by far, for another terrific morning in Serengeti.
Almost immediately after leaving the lodge this morning, in the darkness before daybreak, we spot a male lion and his two females near a river. We stay with them until the sun comes up.
And what a sunrise it is!
The lions are joined by a black backed jackal, so I guess they have a kill around here somewhere.
We stick around to find out.
Meanwhile the sun is still painting the sky red on its quest to conquer the darkness of night.
Barely visible through the long grass, our lion is moving his breakfast to a better place.
There is not a lot of meat left on what was once a zebra; it hardly seems worth the effort of moving it.
Oops. The thin sinew holding it all together has snapped and the ribs are left behind, something that hasn't gone unnoticed by the vultures waiting in the wings.
The vultures are thwarted again in their quest for food.
A Marabou Stork also tries to muscle in on the action.
As well as a Tawny Eagle.
A couple of other females, from another pride, are cautiously, and surreptitiously (they think) making their way towards the kill too, pretending that they are not the least bit interested in the food.
The newcomers, however, have been spotted and are closely watched by our two original lionesses.
As these latecomers have not helped out with the kill, they are not welcome at the dining table either, and are chased off with some gusto.
Meanwhile the jackal sees an opportunity to get a morsel or two of meat and makes his move while the lionesses are busy chasing rivals.
Time for us to move along too. The sun is now well above the horizon, painting everything in its wake a golden hue, contrasting beautifully with the long, dark shadows.
A very noisy Rufous Tailed Weaver makes sure we are all awake and fully alert.
Because they spend most of their day submerged in water, seeing a hippo on land always causes some excitement.
As we leave the pond area, we see the first other vehicle of today. This is what I love about travelling in the Green Season: the lack of other tourists.
Sitting in the middle of the road, the hyena gets up when we arrive, but she is in no hurry to let us pass as she has a good scratch and a shake before sauntering into the long grass.
Of course, the downside of travelling in the green season is the fact that the grass is so long, making it harder to see – and photograph – the animals.
The zebra are accompanied by wildebeest. Lots of them. This is part of the Great Annual Migration.
As we are heading for the exit gate along the bumpy tracks of the Serengeti, David tries out the stabiliser on his new Osmo camera (similar to a GoPro but without the hefty price tag).
Mounted on the end of a monopod and operated remotely by a mobile phone, he holds the camera out through the window and up above the roof, to get shots that would otherwise be difficult with a traditional camera.
Bearing in mind that the gravel road has a perfect washboard effect, I think this small video clip is unbelievably smooth. Well done Osmo and David - you both performed brilliantly!
At Simba Kopje, we encounter a small memory (collective noun) of elephants.
This girl is trying to get rid of the flies by swatting herself with a tree branch.
While another couple of them partake in a bonding session.
Clinging to the near-vertical side of the precipitous kopje rock face, the baboons scramble and play. It all looks rather precarious to me.
Once again our path is blocked by a cackle of hyenas.
In the distance we spot a couple of lions.
The 'couple of lions' turn out to be five – three male, two females. All youngsters. I guess this must be some sort of a youth club then.
Look at all those pesky flies!
Young sir is certainly not too impressed by them.
Despite the nuisance of the flies, they can still enjoy a tender moment.
“Please flies, go away!”
We bid our lovely lions goodbye and head for the park gate.
Serengeti (as well as the other parks in Tanzania) works on a strict 24 hour basis for the permits, so if you entered the park at 10:21 and buy a three day ticket, you have to be out of the park by 10:21 three days later. If you overstay your welcome, you get charged a penalty, usually the cost of another full day.
So here we are, Malisa has checked us out and we have breakfast with the birds, including a Superb Starling who sits on the back of the bench, hoping to get some crumbs from our picnic.
While a Marabou Stork walks right on by without a care in the world.
They are seriously big birds!
Today is the 17th May, which to Norwegians is a very special day indeed. The day commemorates the signing of the constitution on that date in 1814. In Norway, the occasion is celebrated in a big way, and to many this is at least as big as (if not bigger than) Christmas. It's the day everyone wears their national costume, eats too much ice cream, and wave the Norwegian flag around. (You can read more about it here)
Naturally we packed a few flags, and create our own little celebration this morning, although I have to admit it is mostly in order to take a photo so that we can send it to my dad today to wish him “Happy 17th May”.
And with that we leave Serengeti and head for pastures new. Thank you Calabash Adventures for putting together this awesome trip for us. Follow my blog for the next entry, with more animal pictures and stories.
So called because they were the five most dangerous (and desired) animals for hunters to capture. These days of course 'hunters' are replaced by 'photographers'.
At the entrance gate to the Serengeti National Park, we take our lunch picnic overlooking a small bird bath for entertainment.
Superb starling partaking in their daily ablutions
Lesser Masked Weaver
Superb Starling having a wardrobe malfunction.
Red Billed Buffalo Weaver
Speckled Fronted Weaver
With all those breadcrumbs flying around, it is not just birds who are attracted to this picnic area.
We also watch a small herd of elephants walk past. As you do.
Having failed miserably to get his beloved Savannah Cider in Arusha, David is delighted to find that the small grocery store at Naabi Hill sells it.
The UNESCO Heritage ecosystem of Serengeti is one of the oldest and most diverse in the world, and has barely changed in the past million years or so.
It is, however, the annual migration that the Serengeti is most famous for, consisting of over a million wildebeest and some 200,000 zebra making their way from the north to south and back to the north continuously every year following the rain in search of greener pastures.
Below is a map of the Serengeti showing approximately where the migration usually is during the month of May. This morning we left Lake Masek Tented Camp at the bottom right of the map and later we entered the park through Naabi Hill Gate. We are heading for the Seronera area tonight.
Soon after we enter the park, we encounter a few thousand of the migrating animals. It is hard to get my head around the fact that all those little dots in the distance are animals
Serengeti has to be one of my favourite places in the world, but today I seem to be sleeping my way through the wilderness. I guess those antibiotics must be working. I feel totally knocked out. Fortunately David and Malisa do wake me up when they see something of interest.
Such as this leopard with her kill in a tree, resting on a branch right above the road.
There are already a few cars at the scene – we have been so spoilt in Ndutu by mostly being completely on our own at animal sightings, that having company takes a bit of getting used to.
Malisa points out the bad form by this driver – he has a full vehicle, yet he positions himself face on to the sighting, which means his passengers (seated in three rows) have to try and dodge each other to be able to photograph the leopard.
Looking around at the other cars, we seem to be the only ones that are not taking selfies with the leopard. It's not just youngsters either, it seems 'everyone' is doing it, even people our age. I just don't get it....
Our leopard is most definitely not comfortable, and keeps fidgeting and moving to a different position.
Feeling sure she is going to jump down from the tree and head off for a drink shortly, we stand around in the vehicle, waiting, waiting, waiting, while all the leopard does is shuffle around some more. I am feeling rather fatigued by it all, but I don't want to miss any action by sitting down.
Malisa believes that if the leopard yawns three times in a quick succession, it is an indication she will leave the tree and go for a drink.
Bang goes that theory.
Or does it? Maybe she was particularly tired and just wanted an extra yawn today? We all get very excited when she stands up.
Excitement over. It seems she is just hungry.
She then proceeds to pull off the tuft on the baby wildebeest's tail with her teeth, getting quite distressed when she gets a mouthful of hair, trying desperately to spit it out.
Obviously feeling hungry - again - from all that effort required to de-tail the wildebeest, she tucks into some juicy leg meat.
Right! She has finished eating, maybe she will now go for a drink?
Apparently not, although we hope she may just move the kill to a better and safer position, then jump down to look for a drink.
Ooops! Almost dropped it!
With some serious effort, she manages to haul her trophy back onto the branch again.
She puts her dinner back in the fork of the tree where it was before. Well, that was really worth the effort wasn't it?
Determined to find a better place to store the kill (to safeguard it while she leaves the tree for a drink hopefully), she has another go at moving it.
Sigh. She has another feed. Doesn't look like she is going anywhere for a while.
Suddenly her ears prick up and she sits bolt upright looking to our right. With eyesight and hearing five times as good as humans, our leopard has sensed something in the long grass.
She goes off on another branch to investigate.
It takes a couple of minutes before us humans can make out what she is looking at: a hyena.
Being able to smell the much coveted fresh kill, the hyena makes his way towards the tree.
Under the watchful eye of the leopard at all times of course.
The hyena finds a few small morsels of meat that dropped onto the ground when the leopard moved the prey earlier.
The light is fading fast (it was never very good for this whole encounter to be fair, it is just as well my Canon EOS 5D IV performs so well under low light / high ISO), and it is getting very late, so we have to leave the leopard and hyena to make our way to our lodge for the night.
Despite the fact that she never actually did leave the tree while we were here, it is still the best leopard sighting we have ever had in Tanzania (or anywhere else for that matter, we've been lucky enough to see them in Kenya, South Africa, Sri Lanka and India as well), so it is two very happy campers who drive away into the sunset.
I offer no apologies for the number of sunset pictures I have included in this blog.
Before we left home, Tillya told us he had a surprise for us for our wedding anniversary, and this evening's accommodation is it.
Spectacularly situated on the slope of an escarpment, we can see the lodge from a distance as we approach.
We arrive at the lodge and are helped with our luggage by the local porters. One of them promptly grabs my camera and proceeds to take several photos.
As I try to get it off him again, he is full of apologies, but all I want is to change the settings on the camera so the pictures won't be so grainy (It is pretty dark by now). Then I give it back for him to play with again.
At first glance the lodge looks very much like so many other tented camps in Tanzania, but this one is rather special.
We are shown down into the main building which houses the reception, bar and restaurant, plus a large open atrium in the middle. Outside is a lovely wooden deck with far-reaching views of the Serengeti plains and a swimming pool on a lower level.
Our room – named Swala, which means gazelle in Swahili – is about half way down the path. In all the hotels I have been trying to ask for a room as close to the reception as possible, as I am still feeling pretty awful and struggle to breathe, making walking a real effort, especially uphill.
Our tent is beautifully furnished, with a large four poster bed, a seating area, a writing desk, a water cooler / heater and an outside terrace on stilts with a table and chairs.
A large dressing area leads to the separate toilet and outside shower room – which has amazing views.
Views from the outdoor shower
Hot water is plentiful, heated by large solar panels during the day.
After a refreshing shower, we go for dinner – the best meal so far on this trip, with a BBQ chef cooking steaks to our liking and other dishes (lamb, chicken, okra curry, crispy spinach and macaroni) brought to our table. If ever proof was needed that I am quite ill, it is this: I didn't take any photos of our dinner!
Making our way slowly back to our room accompanied by an askari (Maasai guard), we see the eyes of three hyenas in the long grass on the slope between the tents. As we walk along, so do they, constantly following us with their eyes. Although hyenas are not generally known for attacking people, I still find it a little disconcerting and I am pleased when we make it to the safety of our room.
Having been awake from 03:30 this morning scratching my insect bites, it's going to be a long day.
It is still dark when we leave the lodge at 06:00.
Brown Snake Eagle
A cackle of hyenas congregate on the road, and seem a lot less timid than the ones we have encountered previously, some are even bold enough to come right up to the car.
Not my favourite animal (sorry Malisa), but I will admit that this seven-month old juvenile is almost bordering on being cute.
A confusion of wildebeest are waiting to cross the Seronera River
A committee of vultures are waiting in a nearby tree for the wildebeest to get eaten by crocodiles while crossing the Seronera River.
I see no crocodiles…
The biggest eagle in Africa, the Martial Eagle can kill a baby antelope! He will grab it, lift it up and drop it until it is dead.
Hot Air Balloon
We are right in the flight path of the balloon as it glides across the savannah.
Watching the balloon
Usually hippos only come out at night to eat and go back to the water in the morning. During that one night, they can eat as much as 150kg of grass; followed by three days merely digesting the food: just lying around farting, burping, pooping.
”I know someone else like that” says David, just prior to being whacked around the head.
This hippo seems a little premature: although it is still eating, the smell of ammonia is so strong it makes Lyn gag, followed by a severe coughing fit.
White Browed Coucal
Close to the road, on a flat open area, we see two brothers with one female. It makes a nice change for them not to be half-hidden by the long grass.
The female is on heat, but the male isn’t the least bit interested at this stage. Dirty girl!
“Come and get me…”
“Not this morning dear, I have a headache”
Even threats don’t work!
Other than to make him back off further.
As she is obviously not going to get her wicked way with him this morning, she walks off in a huff.
It looks like she has had her nose put out of joint at some stage, and not just figuratively speaking. I am assuming that she got her deformity from a fight rather than a birth defect.
It seems the king has food - rather than sex - on his mind this morning.
Normally, the male lion will not let the female anywhere near his food until he has had his fill, as we have seen on a couple of occasions on this safari. When the female is on heat, however, it’s a different story: he will allow her to eat alongside him. Typical man! The only time he treats his woman to a meal is when he thinks there is something in it for him!
Why does this picture remind me of the spaghetti scene from Lady and the tramp cartoon?
Meanwhile, brother Leo comes to check out what all the fuss is about.
There’s no room for another diner, so Leo skulks off, complaining loudly.
Then goes for a drink instead.
Black Backed Jackal
A jackal waits nearby; ready to move in on the leftovers once the lions have had their fill. I think he'll have a long wait.
As we seem to be running out of time, we eat our boxed breakfast ‘on the hoof’ so to speak. We have to be out of the park by a certain time – the permits are purchased in blocks of 24 hours, and they are quite strict in enforcing the fines if you overstay.
A lone elephant is walking across the savannah, presumably to catch up with the large herd we can see in the distance.
Months of rain (we are right at the end of the rainy season now), tourist traffic, heavy trucks and the huge numbers of animals who also use the roads have taken their toll on the unsealed tracks.
By scraping off the top layer, the surface is smoothed out, getting rid of the washboard effect that is typical in this region.
Named after the Swahili word for ‘lion’, Simba Kopjes are the tallest kopjes (rocky outcrop) in Serengeti and as the name suggests, a good place to spot lions.
And guess what? There is the aforementioned simba!
We come across a breakaway crowd who have obviously been dawdling on their journey up north.
Look at that long line meandering in from somewhere beyond!
This marks the end of our safari in Serengeti, as we have now reached the entrance / exit gate at Naabi Hill. We have a coffee while Malisa completes the formalities.
While Chris goes off to use the facilities, I prank him by hiding his coffee, putting an empty cup in its place. With hindsight it was not a good move, as anyone who knows Chris can attest for his love of coffee. Unfortunately Lyn gets the blame as he accuses her of drinking it. Oops. Sorry Chris. Sorry Lyn.
On a positive note: they have upgraded their toilets since our first visit in 2007 (PS these are the old ones)
We’ll be back!
Just because we have left the Serengeti behind, does not mean our adventure is over. As soon as we enter the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Malisa drives off-road. Because he can.
Just like us, the White Stork is not a resident in Tanzania, he has flown in from Europe and is just here for his holidays.
The zebra died of natural causes, and now the vultures are having a banquet!
I love the red-necked vultures – no, they are not a new species, that is blood from where they have stuck their heads right inside the carcass.
It’s a chaotic and grotesque scene, yet morbidly fascinating.
You can’t hear it too well in this short video clip because of the wind noise, but the sound is deafening: like a huge mob of bleating sheep!
It is unusual to see a giraffe sitting down as it makes them extremely vulnerably to predators. Here it seems every tree has one.
As we rejoin the main ‘road’, we also meet up with traffic. And traffic means dust. Lots of it.
The road to Arusha takes us back up into the highlands, and at this altitude David soon starts to feel the cold.
This area is farming land, and we see many herders with their livestock and small stock along the side and even on the road.
Not the worst view I have seen from a toilet stop.
But David is still feeling the cold.
The Maasai have an ingenious way of temporarily stopping their goats from reproducing. It is uncomplicated, cheap, safe for the animal and easily reversible – a simple flap physically stops the goats mating! I love it!
Maasai Village Elders’ Weekly Meeting
Beats a day at the office any time.
We have our lunch in a picnic area within a camp ground between Ngorongoro and Arusha. We are all very sad that the safari part of our holiday is now over. Apart from maybe Malisa, as he now gets to see his family again and have a few days off.
Coming back into ‘civilisation’ again after eight days in the wilderness seems almost surreal – markets, shops, saloon cars, motorbikes, noise, traffic, and even a political rally!
We also experience the ugly side of ‘civilisation’: Malisa is pulled over for ‘speeding’. Being totally secure in the fact that he was most definitely NOT speeding, Malisa argues the case, asking them to prove where and how fast he was going. Knowing they haven’t got that sort of evidence, the police eventually back down and let him go! Cheeky! I bet they were looking for a bribe!
Back in the big town there is a hive of activity as usual.
Due to some political agenda, there is a temporary shortage of sugar and we see long queues at the few stores that have any left.
“Do you need anything from town?” asks Malisa, “if not, Tillya has a surprise for you”.
Avoiding the centre of Arusha, Malisa turns off the main road and weaves his way through the middle of Tenguru weekly market.
Lake Dulutu Lodge
Surprise! Our original itinerary had us staying at Kibo Palace in the centre of Arusha, but Tillya felt that we needed to finish the trip in style; and he was worried that we might not sleep well as the area around Kibo is very noisy. The service we get from Calabash Adventures never ceases to amaze me.
And neither does Lake Dulutu Lodge. Wow!
The entrance drive is long, with vegetation either side, and the car park is empty when we arrive. Nothing particularly awesome so far.
While the receptionist performs the registration formalities, we are invited to sit down in the lounge. This is where the wow-ness starts. The lobby is like something out of Harper’s Bazaar and I feel decidedly scruffy in my dirty safari gear.
Our room is an individual cottage in the grounds, which look nothing much from the outside.
Once we get through the front door, however, its opulence is evident.
And the moment I enter the bathroom I am extremely impressed: despite having been lucky enough to stay in some pretty luxurious properties over the years, I have never seen a bathroom like this before.
Only two other tables in the restaurant are taken, so I guess the hotel is pretty quiet at this time of year. The service, food and wine are all excellent.
Vegetable Spring Roll with Chilli Sauce
Chicken with Rosemary Sauce
Beef Medallions with Pepper sauce
Banana Tart with Chocolate sauce
After all that we should sleep well, especially knowing we don't have to get up for a 6am game drive tomorrow morning.
Thank you so much to Calabash Adventures for the last eight days of safari, and for Malisa's expertise, knowledge, sense of humour, excellent driving and caring nature.
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.