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Ndutu X - lion, 1000 wildebeest, dung beetles, cheetah cubs

A perfect end to a perfect day


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We set off after lunch to see what nature has to offer us here in Ndutu, and hopefully find a wildebeest herd where we can witness a birth.

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African Hoopoe

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Juvenile Red Billed Buffalo Weaver

Lion

Under a tree we see a magnificent male lion. Initially just resting, he soon sits up surveying the tourists arriving.

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Big yawn. And other funny facial expressions.

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He licks his chops and walks straight towards us.

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Too close for comfort, or at least for photography!

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It's only when we drive away that we realise that Dickson (our driver during our first three safaris in Tanzania) and his clients are right behind us.

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Two Banded Courser

Eurasian Avocet

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"What are you looking at?"

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Blacksmith Plover

Wildebeest Migration

Continuing on our way, we drive alongside thousands of wildebeest, running in an (almost) single file.

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The line seems to go on forever, then group into a HUGE herd, surrounding us on every side, and they just keep on coming.

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More and more and more arrive, a never ending stream of wildebeest join the mêlée, until there is just a sea of horns.

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We see very few babies in amongst this crowd though. A few of the females look like they are ready – they are fat, their nipples have developed and they are struggling to walk – but none are just about to drop. Oh well, we'll keep searching.

Zebra

A few zebras have joined the wildebeest, and we see a few babies too. Our hearts stop as we spot what appears to be a dead baby zebra in the grass.

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We hold our breath when the mother appears and starts nudging her little foal. Is he alive?

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Yes, he is, and he soon runs off with his mother. Phew.

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Dung Beetles

So many wildebeest in one place means two things: 1. we are eaten alive by pesky flies, and 2. it is a dung beetle's paradise.

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Within a few minutes, large piles of dung are turned into neat little balls and rolled away.

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With my love of dung beetles, I am totally in my element here, and before I know it I have taken over a thousand photos of... basically a pile of shit - plus these fascinating insects, of course.

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It is now several hours since we last saw any other cars or human activity. This may be the height of the season in Ndutu, but it is still possible to have large areas all to yourself. Most people go back to the lodge for lunch, preferring to stay out of the sun in the midday heat. I can see why, as we are being cooked to perfection even in the shade of the car. I wouldn't want to miss an animal experience though!

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Greater Spotted Thick Knee

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Light Tawny Eagle

European White Stork

A number of storks return to roost for the night, gliding effortlessly across the savannah.

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Not dozens, not hundreds, but thousands! They just keep on coming.

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And I just keep on photographing them.

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And the wildebeest just keep on walking.

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The storks are followed by a large flock of Cattle Egrets.

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Even a small chattering of Wattled Starlings join in. (chattering is the collective noun for starlings)

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Cheetah

A mum and her two cubs are very active in the late afternoon sun, running around and playing and for the next 30 minutes or so we delight in their antics. The dozen or so photos you will see here, are whittled down from a massive 1200 images – that amounts to around one picture a second!

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I have nothing more to say about this encounter, I think the note I made in my journal at the time sums it up!

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Much as we'd love to stay and watch these adorable little animals for longer, we really have to go. We are still quite some distance away from the lodge, and have to be back by 19:00.

Sunset

As we approach Lake Ndutu, I gasp. I don't think I have ever seen such a spectacular sunset here in Tanzania before.

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I make poor Malisa stop time after time as a new vista comes into view.

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Thankfully sunsets are over rather rapidly this close to the Equator, and we can continue on our way back to the lodge as originally planned.

Until we get to the Marsh.

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The light is really poor now, too dark for photography, so I don't feel bad that we don't stop long.

We do, however, stop to help out this vehicle which is well and truly bogged down.

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Not sure I'd like to be out of the vehicle this close to two lions.

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And they're out!

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Having to rush along the basic tracks that make up Ndutu's 'road system', we dislodge an enormous amount of dust. It seems almost incongruous that a few days ago there was heavy rain and every track was a mud bath.

Ndutu Lodge

We finally make it back to the lodge by 19:30, and after a quick shower and change we are the last to dinner. Again.

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Apple, feta and walnut stack with home made dressing

Somehow I forget to take a photo of the main course, which was lamb tagine with couscous, green beans and courgettes. I do, however, snap a picture of a large moth enjoying what's left on David's plate.

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A very tasty Malva Pudding for dessert

The excellent arrangements for this safari was made by Calabash Adventures, the best safari company by far.

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Posted by Grete Howard 15:59 Archived in Tanzania Tagged birds sunset wildlife africa safari tanzania zebra eagle birding cheetah lion stork egrets avocet starlings migration wildebeest courser bird_watching hoopoe wild_animals dung_beetles ndutu calabash_adventures lake_ndutu thick_knee wildebeest_migration tawny_eagle plover lapwing game_viewing blacksmith_plover annual_migration wildlife_photography big_marsh wild_birds cheetah_cubs ndutu_lodge the_great_migration african_birds cattle_egrets africa_safari aniams african-animals thickknee Comments (2)

Ndutu VI - vultures, hartebeest, elephants, jackals, lions

A lovely morning on the savannah


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Zebra

Looks like we have us some zebra love here.

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It's pretty obvious that this liaison isn't going to result in any zebra babies!

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It looks like a kinky threesome to me.

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Cattle Egret

Wildebeest Buffet

Marabou Stork and a variety of Vultures feast on a wildebeest carcass left behind by a much larger predator. These scavenging raptors are the hyenas of the skies, playing a vital ecological clean-up role by disposing of decomposing carcasses.

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There is always a strict pecking order at such buffets, with the Lapped Faced Vulture being the first, as with their powerful hooked beaks they are the only raptor able to open up the carcass to allow other, smaller vultures to access the innards.

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These huge and aggressive birds stand more than a metre tall with wingspans of around three metres. They are also, however, known for being particularly affectionate and mate for life, which in the wild can be up to thirty years.

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I have to say that he doesn't look very 'affectionate'.

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Their heads are free of feathers to avoid blood clinging to it as they bury themselves deep into the carcass to get at the sinew, their preferred food. Potent stomach acids help them deal with the most putrid carcass.

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Vultures can store up to one kilo of consumed flesh in the distensible section of their oesophagus, called a crop. They have been known to eat so much that they become too heavy to physically take off; although should they sense danger, they are able to empty the crop for a quick get-away.

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Different species of vultures have different shaped beaks, which means they eat different parts of a carcass, hence they should - theoretically - all be able to eat peacefully at the 'dinner table'.

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Hartebeest

A large antelope, standing at around 1 metre at the shoulders (3 feet), hartebeest are gregarious animals that are usually found in herds, such as here.

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Now let's go back to what I said about the size of the Lapped Faced Vulture: should the bird be standing next to the Hartebeest, this is what it would look like.

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Giraffe

A lonesome giraffe eats his way across the savannah.

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Golden Jackal

She is sniffing around, looking for something, maybe food or a scent.

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She finds a hole and disappears into it.

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Elephants

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It's interesting to see the different lengths and angles of the tusks of these two elephants.

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Kori Bustard

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Eurasian Avocet

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Common Pratincole

Lions

At first the only evidence of the lions sleeping under this tree, is a paw sticking up.

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Later we a head appears, then drops down again.

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We let sleeping lions be, and carry on exploring.

Another Lion

A young male lion is surveying the landscape from a hillock overlooking Big Marsh.

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We can tell he is young – less than seven years old – from the fact that his nose is still pink. As they get older, their nose becomes black all over.

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He gets up and walks down onto the flat area.

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We move down to the flats too, and at one stage he comes up and lies under our car for the shade!

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Eventually he seems to settle down and go to sleep – in the middle of the sun – so we drive off to find somewhere to have our lunch.

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Picnic at Big Marsh

Malisa finds a great lunch spot overlooking a sea of wildebeest on Big Marsh.

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There is something really special about getting the picnic chairs out, in the company of wild animals.

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There are literally thousands of wildebeest down on the marsh.

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Judging by the number of Superb Starlings who join us, I would guess this is a popular picnic spot.

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"Got any food for me?"

I might just accidentally drop a piece of cake on the ground while I was eating; it is so easily done.

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Just as we are packing up, we hear a commotion down on the marsh, with thousands of hooves beating the ground as the whole herd – or confusion as a group of wildebeest are known as – make a run for it. Soon there are none.

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Just a couple of minutes ago, this was heaving with animals

I have no idea what spooked them, so we pop down to find out.

This safari was arranged by Calabash Adventures, the best safari operators by far.

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Posted by Grete Howard 07:10 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals wildlife elephants bird africa safari tanzania zebra birding african picnic start lions giraffe egret vultures avocet starlings wildebeest jackal kori_bustard bustard ndutu calabash_adventures hartebeest marabou_stork pratincole golden_jackal picnic_lunch picnic_box wildlife_photography big_marsh wildebeest_carcass feeding_the_birds superb-starling Comments (2)

Ndutu II: lion in a tree, lots of birds, migration

A cool morning at Ndutu


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

We go down to the lounge area early this morning to grab a coffee and check out the internet before we set off for the day; only to find the man with the key to the reception isn't there yet, so no internet.

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Moonlight over Ndutu Lodge

Lions

Our 'breakfast' this morning (Malisa's expression for the first sighting of the day), is a male lion purposefully striding through the undergrowth quite near to the lodge.

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He is taking a great interest in a couple of men working down by the lake.

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Each lodge in the area have their own borehole at the edge of the lake, and fill their water tankers from there to take back to the lodges.

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We are joined by another couple of vehicles.

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Even more safari vehicles arrive

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The lion disappears out of sight into the bushes.

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But there's another one!

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From behind us a third lion appears, walking right by the side of the car.

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He disappears too, but we hang around for a bit watching the flamingos on Lake Ndutu.

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Suddenly someone notices that one of the lions has climbed a tree, so we set off, literally driving through the dense thicket to get nearer.

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After a while of being settled on the branch, he starts to fidget. Is he going to jump down?

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No, he is just rearranging himself.

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Meanwhile, I am distracted by a Beautiful Sunbird.

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This time our lion is definitely on the move.

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He does not look overly confident here.

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“Should I go this way?”

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“Hmm, maybe not...”

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Here we go!

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He soon disappears into the bushes, probably looking for a female on heat. We continue on our way, “to see what nature has to offer us” as Malisa would say.

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Jacobin Cuckoo

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Southern Red Bishop

Lesser Flamingos

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Marsh Sandpiper

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Kitlitz' Plover

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Lots of them flying

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Crowned Lapwing

Mud

In a low-lying marshy area, we see a car stuck in the mud. A lot of helpers are milling around, assisting in towing the vehicle out.

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Fearful of suffering the same fate, Malisa drives across at great speed. It works, we are fine.

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Southern Red Bishop

Usually very timid, this small bird surprises us by staying put on his perch as we pull up alongside him. It's not until another car drives past that he flies off.

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Greater Spotted Thick Knee

Wattled Starlings

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Marabou Stork

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This baby wildebeest didn't make it

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Secretary Bird

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Steppe Eagle

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Eurasian Roller

White Backed Vulture

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Spotted Hyena

The Great Migration

We've seen the migration on our previous visits, including being right in the middle of huge herds of animals in Togoro; plus we have been lucky enough to witness the wildebeest and zebra cross the mighty Mara River in the far north of the country; but never before have we seen it like it is here: one single line. This is how I have always imagined the migration to look like. The reason they walk behind each other in this way, is a scent emitted from the hooves of the animals at the front, which leads other to follow in exactly the same pathway.

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This tiny little baby struggles to keep up with mum; he's two hours old at the most.

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There are a few more youngsters today than there were yesterday. The whole idea of coming this time of year was to see the babies, and hopefully even a birth.

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We stop to have our breakfast in the car this morning, as there is a cold wind out. More to follow in the next blog entry.

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Thank you Calabash Adventures forarranging this safari.

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Posted by Grete Howard 01:21 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds wildlife well africa mud safari tanzania eagle birding moonlight lion flamingo roller internet stork vulture starlings wifi migration wildebeest cuckoo bird_watching wild_animals sunbird ndutu calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area wildebeest_migration plover lapwing sandpiper borehole game_viewing great_migration wildlife_photography red_bishop ndutu_lodge african_animals lion_in_a_tree ndutu_lake stuck_in_mud sead_wildebeest baby_wildebeest Comments (6)

Serengeti Day II Part II - Research Ponds

A smorgasbord of animals


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Making our way across the savannah, I am surprised to see how dry the grass is already considering we are still in the wet season, albeit towards the end.

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Parched from the hot sun, the surface of the earth has cracked, forming a thin crust easily disturbed by passing animals.

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With the gentle movement of the car, the warm sun and the number of tablets I am taking for my chest infection; I go into a deep sleep. Only when the car slows to a standstill nearly an hour later, do I wake up.

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Our reason for stopping soon becomes obvious.

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On a nearby rock, another lioness is sunning herself.

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While we are busy photographing the cats, my Facebook friend Jim and his family / friends turn up. Serengeti is a large place, so the chances of seeing him here today is very small. We have already seen them once in Ndutu. It really is a small world.

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Bored with sunbathing, the lioness jumps down and takes a stroll in morning heat.

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The Red Headed Rock Agama doesn't seem the least bit bothered about a lioness walking past his rock.

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Nor does the Black Backed Jackal.

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Resting peacefully in the shade of a tree, two 'Rasta Lions' momentarily sit up, barely opening their eyes to check us out, then lie down to sleep again. Oh, it is such a hard life to be a lion here.

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This picture shows the difference between the Superb and the Hildebrand Starlings.

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The Superb in the foreground has a white band on his chest and a white eye; whereas the Hildebrand (singing his little heart out) has no marking between the orange and blue, and the eye is black.

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This guy has obviously lost a horn while fighting for a female. I hope she was worth it!

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A very similar antelope to the topi, but as you can see, the colouring is not the same (the topi has very dark markings on the head and legs), and the horns are different shapes.

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The name 'Serengeti' comes from a local Maa word 'sirenget' (the language spoken by the Maasai tribe) meaning 'endless plains'. Driving for what seems like an eternity (in reality probably no more than around half an hour) across the flat, parched landscape, seemingly devoid of all life, I can certainly see that the name is very fitting.

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Arriving at a series of waterholes known as Research Ponds, we stay for a while to watch the goings on at the water's edge. Although initially appearing somewhat uninspiring, with just a couple of buffalo and some Grant's gazelle grazing in the background, this place proves to be rather fruitful in terms of animal sightings and interactions.

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A dazzle of zebra (other collective nouns for zebra include zeal and cohort) make their way to the ponds.

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More and more animals arrive as we sit by the ponds in the oppressive midday heat.

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It's like Happy Hour at our local bar!

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Additional animals are constantly appearing, their hooves throwing up clouds of dust that hang heavily in the hot air.

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The zebra, like the buffalo before them, immerse themselves in the still water, drinking, bathing and cooling down.

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On the horizon a herd of eland nervously make their way towards the waterhole. Normally extremely shy (as a result of being endlessly hunted for their delicious meat), we wonder if – or more likely when – they will start running in the opposite direction.

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So far so good as they cautiously move nearer and nearer the water.

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I am so excited to see them drinking – this is definitely a first for us!

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The other elands are looking at us apprehensively, as they consider whether it is safe enough to quench that thirst.

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The zebra, on the other hand, do not seem to have a worry in the world.

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Another eland has braved it to the water's edge.

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But will he drink?

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Yes, he will. They are getting very brave now.

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The zebra look on with amazement (or is that my overactive imagination again?) as a band on mongooses make their way down to the water for a drink.

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They are loving the water, rolling around in the mud at the shoreline.

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From a quiet waterhole with just a couple of sleepy buffalo, the place has now come alive with activity and several different animal species. This is awesome!

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There is even a couple of amorous Egyptian Geese on the water.

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Having all these newcomers disturbing his hitherto peaceful morning siesta, Mr Buffalo gets up and moves on to pastures new.

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He looks thoroughly pissed off.

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The mongoose have had enough too.

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Even the zebra are on the move.

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I have never noticed before that zebras vary so much in colouration. Look at how dark the one on the left is compared to the zebra behind him.

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Just as we decide to leave, a European White Stork arrives. They are not native to the African continent (the clue is in the name), rather a migrant. A bit like us then.

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Another stork arrives, much to the bemusement of the eland.

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And another.

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The moment Malisa starts the car engine, the shy elands scatter. As expected. I am surprised they stayed this long.

As we travel towards Ogol Kopjes, we see a few animals on our way.

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A spotted hyena who barely raises his head from the puddle he was sleeping in when we pass.

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Common Praticole - a nice little lifer (a new bird species for us)!

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Another lifer, the European Roller. This one has been on my wish list for a while now, so I am particularly excited to see him. Or her. I really can't ell from this distance.

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A couple of topi on a mound looking out for predators.

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A cute little zebra foal, grazing with his mummy.

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And some eland - running away from us of course.

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Eland are pretty huge animals (around the size of an average horse), and create quite a considerable amount of dust as they gallop across the dry savannah.

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We leave Ogol Kopjes behind and search for some shade for our lunch picnic.

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Be sure to check out my next blog entry for the rest of this afternoon's safari experiences with Calabash Adventures, the best safari operator by far.

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Posted by Grete Howard 05:56 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds travel africa safari tanzania zebra lizard birding dry buffalo lions roller serengeti hyena stork starlings topi mongoose jackal bird_watching eland calabash_adventures hartebeest cape_buffalo kopjes grant's_gazelle endless_plains research_ponds cracked_earth parched pratincole eurasian_roller agama_lizard ogola_kopjes Comments (2)

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