DAY 207: KWAHERI TANZANIA – WE’RE BOUND FOR MOMBASA


Flying high across the plains of Africa

After our final day’s game drive yesterday we left Tarangire National Park this morning and headed to Arusha Airport where we caught a small charter flight to Mombasa, Kenya. The flight took us above the clouds and directly past the main peak of Mt Kilimanjaro, affording us an amazing view of “the white mountain” (in Swahili Kilima = mountain & Njaro = white).

 

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East Africa’s great white mountain.

 

 

Luckily we were able to have a bit of a nap on the fligh to Mombasa as neither of us got much sleep last night. Seems one of the downsides of sleeping nestled in the depths of the African bush is that sometimes the bush’s smallest inhabitants find their way into your tent… Returning from dinner last night we found a couple of large, hairy spiders crawling around inside our tent. Not really a problem – we quickly put a squishy end to those… But then we saw a scorpion scampering towards us, tail raised ready to attack! That scared the crap out of us and even though said scorpion was quickly flattened with a shoe, it left us a little shaken. We then proceeded to shake and bash every square inch of the tent to make sure we had no further surprises during the night – the thought of waking up in the middle of the night with a spider, scorpion or other creepy-crawley in bed with us did not appeal. Unfortunately our mosiquito net had holes in it and as soon as we had settled in to bed the buzzing dive-bombers attacked. The rest of the night was therefore spent swatting at stupid blood-sucking bities, and tossing restlessly as we worried about being attacked by flying, crawling and creeping bugs. Add to this the sounds of elephants walking literally through the middle of our camp and hyenas cackling in the background and we barely slept a wink. *SIGH* Luckily we survived it all and were somewhat compensated by a beautiful bush sunrise around 6:30 this morning…

 

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Scorpions, spiders, mosiquitos…. and a glorious bush sunrise.

 

 

After a quick breakfast we headed straight to Arusha to catch our flight to Mombasa. We’ll be spending Christmas and New Year’s with family and friends by the beach in Diani, on Mombasa’s South coast. They have a gorgeous house right by the ocean and have assured us we’re most welcome to stay and relax for as long as we want. This isn’t a great time of year to travel in Europe anyway so we’d thought we’d partake in their hospitality and fully unpack our backpacks for the first time in 7 months, put our feet up and just work on our suntans for a while. Kenya’s South coast is a beautiful part of the world with pristine white beaches, warm weather and some of the best fresh seafood available, so it won’t be a hard place to relax for a few weeks.

 

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This is home sweet home for the next few weeks. Our room is in the top left hand corner and has a private balcony. Very nice.

 

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We’ll be getting used to this view….

 

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…and to walks along this beach.

 

 

We’ve had an amazing 2 weeks on safari – both Kenya and Tanzania have provided us with spectacular wildlife spotting opportunities and the scenery hasn’t been half bad either. We’re so glad to have been able to enjoy the East African bush whilst it’s still (relatively) untouched; goodness knows how much longer places like Maasai Mara, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area will continue to exist. With the human population of both Kenya and Tanzania growing exponentially and land being such a valuable commodity, it will only be a matter of time before human/wildlife conflict, as its termed, results in the complete detruction of many of the ecosystems we’ve seen. Talking to people who’ve lived in Africa for 50 or more years, they say they’ve seen dramatic changes in the numbers of animals and in the sizes of many game parks in their lifetimes. In another 50 years who knows if there will be anything left – maybe just a few fenced wildlife reserves, that are no more than glorified zoos. For anyone keen to see the wilds of Africa for themselves, we would definitely recommend it – do it now whilst there are still animals in the wild to see!

  

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Africa is AWESOME!

 

 

DAY 206: ELEPHANTS & BAOBABS OF TARANGIRE NATIONAL PARK


A final day on safari….

The final stop on this epic safari of ours is Tarangire National Park. We arrived here late this morning after a short 3 hours drive from Ngorongoro Farmhouse and spent the better part of our day on a game drive through the park. Famous for its large herds of elephant and ancient baobab trees, Tarangire is very different to the other parks we’ve visited in Tanzania. It’s quite a dry area and much lower in altitude than either Ngorongoro or Serengeti, which also makes it much warmer. By the end of our 6 hour game drive we were hot and sweaty and covered in dust, but blissfully happy from another day of wildlife spotting.

 

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Welcome to Tarangire National Park, Tanzania.

 

 

The landscape of Tarangire National Park is all rolling hills covered in acacia trees and palm forests, punctuated by immense baobab trees – some thousands of years old. Baobab is the common name for the Adansonia tree. These trees are huge, reahcing heights of up to 50m and with trunk diameters of upto 10m. They are also very long-lived, with trees living up to 6,000 years.  In most of Africa they are considered sacred trees as they provide shelter, clothing, food and water for the animal and human inhabitants of the African savannah regions. The cork-like bark and huge stem are fire resistant and are used for making cloth and rope. The leaves are used as food and medicines. The fruit, called “monkey bread”, is edible, and full of Vitamin C. The tree is also used as a source of water as it can store hundreds of litres of water in its trunk. Humans and elephants alike often tap into the trees during the dry season to access the fresh, pure water flowing through the tree’s core. They’re very common in Tarangire and we were lucky enough to see some truly majestic specimens during our game drive today.

 

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It’s relatively rare to see baobab trees in full foliage like this – they spend much of the year with bare branches which is why they’re sometimes referred to as “upside down trees” (their bare branches look like roots pointing skywards).

 

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This huge old tree died and fell over when its trunk was hollowed out and destroyed, most likely by elephants looking for water.

 

 

Located in the Rift Valley, Tarangire National Park covers almost 3,000 square kilometers and attracts many animals from surrounding areas because of the Tarangire River that flows through its centre. During the dry season especially the Tarangire River is only source of water for wild animals and thus a great place to go wildlife spotting. Even during the “short rains” (i.e. October-December) the river is a hive of activity, as we discovered today. We saw heaps of birds, giraffe, water buck, zebra, gazelles, ostrich, mongoose, lions and, of course, hundreds and hundreds of elephants.

 

 

 

 

The park is home to thousands of elephants; herds of up to 300 elephants rely on the Tarangire River for water and so live in the park. They spend their days stripping trees of their leaves for sustenance, bathing in mud pools and wallowing in the river. We got to see sooooo many elephants – including a whole host of babies that would have been just a few months old.

 

 

 

Tarangire National Park is also home to numerous predators, attracted to the area by the abundance of herbivores to feast on. One of the funniest parts of the day came when we came across 3 lionesses and their cubs asleep in the long grass. We watched for ages as they rolled around in the grass, stretched, yawned and played.

 

 

 

As the sun began to set on our final game drive we headed to our abode for the night – another tented camp built just on the outskirts of the national park. The camp was set in amongst the bush, with a wonderful restaurant and bar area that gave us views directly into Tarangire National Park. We spent our last evening on safari watching the zebra, gazelles and water buck wander through the bush, just a few hundred metres away. We watched as the sun set in the West all we could think about was how lucky we’ve been to be able to see so much of Kenya and Tanzania over the past 2 weeks. Africa is amazing!

 

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Relaxing back at camp with a cup of tea (beer in Shane’s case).

 

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Our tented camp tonight is right on the edge of the park and there are all sorts of animals grazing in the bush just a few metres away.

 

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Our last sunset in the African bush….

DAY 205: NGORONGORO CRATER – THE LAND BEFORE TIME


Ngorongoro Crater exploration

Ngorongoro Crater is spectacular. Never have we seen so many wild animals, such incredible scenery and enjoyed a day’s game drive so much. We were up at 5:00am this morning, eager to hit the road early so we could see the crater come alive with the dawn. We also wanted to get through the gate early as they limit the number of safari vehicles that can enter the crater at any one time to 500 and we didn’t want to miss out! As we descended down through the forest that lines the steep slopes of this ancient caldera the early morning mists gradually abated, revealing a cloudless blue sky above us and an ocean of green grass below us on the crater floor.

 

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Ngorongoro Crater at about 7:30am, once the morning mist had lifted and the sky revealed itself.

 

 

Ngorongoro Crater lies at the heart of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This large, unbroken caldera formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed in on itself some 3 million years ago (scientists estimate that, had it not imploded, the Ngorongoro volcano would have rivalled Mt Kilimanjaro in size). The crater is about 20kms across and sinks to a depth of 610m; it’s surrounded by steep forested walls that create a natural barrier which keeps the animals in and (most) people out. This unique geographical formation has played host to numerous documentary crews, scientific research teams and film crews (many scenes from “Out of Africa” were filmed there). It also welcomes half a million tourists just like us every year, all keen to see some of the crater’s famous wildlife at play.

 

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Within the Ngorongoro Crater there are a number of different types of vegetation areas, including grassy plains, wetlands and acacia forests like this.

 

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The soil in this area is all red, rich, fertile volcanic soil.

 

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There is even a lake in the crater that supports a healthy population of flamingo and other water birds.

 

 

Within the crater there are some 25,000 large animals – including 26 black rhinos, 62 elephants, a few dozen hippos, 100+ giraffe, 200+ ostrich, 7,000+ wildebeests, 4,000+ zebras, 4,000+ buffalos, 3,000+ eland, 3,000+ impala, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles and what seemed like a million warthogs. Feeding off these happy grass-munchers are the the crater’s carnivores – Ngorongoro Crater contains leopards, hyenas, jackals, wild dogs, cheetahs, and the densest known population of lions in the world. Additionally there are vast flocks of water birds, including pelicans and flamingos, which hang around Lake Magadi – a “soda lake” which lies within the crater. All of this incredible diversity of wildlife, concentrated in such a small contained area, makes Ngorongoro Crater one of the most amazing places in the world to go for a game drive. We saw so many animals in the 6 hours* we were there, it was fantastic!

*In an attempt to control traffic through Ngorongoro Crater the Tanzanian Wildlife Authority not only restricts how many safari vehicles can enter the crater at once but also how long you can be in there for: you only get 6 hours per day of game drive time. For us this meant we were basically back at Ngorongoro Farmhouse in time for lunch which was nice!


 

 

 

There are so many animals within Ngrorongoro Crater that we were literally stumbling across wildlife left, right and centre – even better, sometimes all we had to do was turn the engine off and stay still as the wildlife came to us!  That’s exactly what happened when, in the heat of the late morning, we spotted a heavily pregnant lioness heading towards us. She waddled towards us in that ungainly way all heavily pregnant female mammals waddle, passed within touching distance and then, with a great sigh of exhaustion, flopped down right beside us in the shade of the safari vehicle. Charles, our driver/guide, postulated that she may have been on her way to find a place to give birth and was just enjoying the shade whilst she could. Whatever the reason, it was amazing having this wild animal sitting just a metre or so away and being able to watch her undisturbed for so long. We eventually switched our engine back on and continued on, much to the lionesses consternation! As soon as her shade was removed, she heaved herself to her feet and continued on, towards the crater rim and the forest.

 

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We saw the lioness approaching from a distance….

 

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We sat and waited to see what she would do… she just kept coming towards us.

 

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Pregnant and obviously wounded (you can see the gash on her rear left leg in this photo), she seemed keen to rest in the shade of our car for a while.

 

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We happily let her relax in the shade beside our safari vehicle for a while, admiring her leonine profile.

 

 

As if the pregnant lioness wasn’t enough, we also got to see a young lion couple slinking off into the bushes for some “private time”, and a whole lots of hippos and elephants basking in the water holes which had been filled after the recent rain.

 

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These guys slunk back into the reeds for more, ahem, “private time” after a brief interlude and a look around.

 

 

There were flocks of flamingos along the shores of Lake Magadi, Kori bustards foraging for insects in the grass and some beautiful crested cranes as well.

 

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Crested cranes mate for life and often die if their life partner is killed.

 

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The crested crane is Uganda’s national emblem.

 

 

One of the goriest discoveries of the day was when we came across a couple of jackals eating a hare they had recently caught and dismembered. Ahhh, the wonders of the “circle of life”…

 

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Jackal enjoys breakfast of hare foot/leg.

 

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Jackal enjoys breakfast of hare head/face.

 

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Jackal decides to take his breakfast leftovers and store them somewhere safe for later.

 

 

In some ways it’s such a pity we only had 6 hours inside the crater – there’s just so much to see down there and because it’s a relatively small area, it’s so easy to see so much! Unspoilt and isolated as it is, Ngorongoro Crater is like a small piece of Eden frozen in time. It is without a doubt one of our favourite safari destinations and a place we’d love to come back to some day.

 

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Ngorongoro Crater – definitely worth coming back to one day!

DAY 204: NGORONGORO HIGHLAND SPECTACULAR


Wonders of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area 

We left the Serengeti today and drove across the plains into the neighbouring national park of Ngorongoro. Despite the distance being less 100 kms, the drive took us almost 6 hours due to the state of the roads – seems the rain we had the other day washed half of them away! It was an incredible journey – the scenery was amazing and along the way we stumbled across a cheetah that had just taken down a gazelle and was busy having its breakfast. We were close enough to see the flesh being ripped from the dead gazelles flank, to smell the iron tang of blood in the air, and to hear the cheetah breathing heavily as it gulped down mouthful after mouthful of meat. An unforgettable way to start our day! 

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Encompassing three spectacular volcanic craters, Olduvai Gorge, huge expanses of lush green savannah, forest and bush land, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area covers 8,300 square kilometres and is also the only place on Earth where mankind and wild animals co-exist in harmony. Unique amongst Africa’s national parks, Ngorongoro allows Maasai tribesmen to live and graze their cattle alongside giraffe, elephants, gazelles, antelope, zebra, rhino, lions and a whole host of other wild creatures. The Maasai live (mostly) in harmony with the wild animals, as they have done for centuries – here humans, livestock and wild animals live in peace. As we drove through the park we even saw Maasai cattle grazing alongside zebras!

  

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The Ngorongoro Conservation Area also contains numerous paleontological, archaeological, and anthropological sites of exceptional quality. It’s here, at Olduvai Gorge, that the remains of the world’s first humans (Homo habilis) were discovered by Louis and Mary Leakey. With its rolling green hills, lush forests and wild animal population, Ngorongoro really is like a remnant of the Garden of Eden.

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Central to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is Ngorongroro Crater, which we’re going to explore tomorrow. For today however we had to satisy ourselves with peering over the rim of the collapsed volcano crater and marvelling at the view. Whilst we were standing at the crater’s rim, admiring the view, Charles our driver/guide informed us that the word ngorongoro means “cold high place” in Maa, the language of the Maasai. A fitting name considering we’re more than 2000 m up and it is rather chilly here!

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After the long drive through the Ngorongoro highlands we were relieved to finally arrive at our home-away-from-home for the next couple of day: Ngorongoro Farmhouse. Set on 750 acres of private farmland, Ngorongoro Farmhouse is a fully functional farm that also happens to have a few cottages available for tourists like us, keen to explore the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The farm is beautiful, with acres of maincured lawns, decorative gardens, tea plants, coffee plants and various other crops laid out all around us. And the old farm house – which has been converted into the “hotel’s” main bar, dining and lounge area – is lovely. What a great, “civlised” home base from which to explore one of the world’s most amazing wild places!


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DAY 203: THE ENDLESS EXPANSE OF THE SERENGETI


In Maa, the Maasai language, Serengeti means “endless plains”…

The Serengeti is one of Africa’s largest national parks – it stretches across the North-Western corner of Tanzania, all the way to the Kenyan border (the Serengeti and Kenya’s Maasai Mara are joined and are actually part of the same ecosystem). It’s 30,000 square kilometers of grassy green plains, punctuated by the occasional flat-topped acacia tree and rocky outcroppings called kopjes. Home to a huge variety of widlife, the Serengeti really is one of the most amazing natural wonders of the world. It was also the inspiration and (fictious) setting for Disney’s “The Lion King” – you may even recognise this scene from the cartoon….

 

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The endless plains of the Serengeti.

 

We spent our day today driving through the Serengeti, around the park’s heartland (often referred to as the Seronera region). During our epic 10 hour game drive we saw elephants, giraffe, gazelles, hippos, ostrich, jackals, hyenas, a wholehost of different birds and, of course, a huge number of migrating wildebeest and zebra. At one point we stopped and climbed a kopje to get a view over the surrounding landscape and all we could see for miles around us was a sea of grazing animals. It was amazing.

 

 

 

The highlights of the day, however, were the big cats. The Serengeti is home to Africa’s largest population of cheetah, lions and leopards and we got to see them all today! First up we came across a young female leopard asleep high in a tree. Leopards are generally elusive, nocturnal and solitary animals, so seeing one at all whilst on safari is generally considered to be a big deal. Although they’re the smallest of the big cats, they’re still pretty impressive with their long tails, spotted hides and muscular bodies*.

*Leopards are really strong – they haul their kills up into the trees to ensure the carcass isn’t stolen by lions or hyenas. Sometimes the carcasses weigh more then the leopard itself and they drag it 5-10m up the tree whilst holding it between their teeth! 


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Can you spot the leopard?

 

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Ah – there she is!

 

 

We also got to see a couple of young male cheetahs, brothers no doubt*, setting out to hunt. Like leopards, cheetah have spotted fur, though they’re much leaner then their tree-climbing cousins. Built for speed, cheetah are famous for being the fastest land animal (they can reach speeds of up to 120 km/h and accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3-4 seconds). They’re amazing to watch – very graceful and beautiful, in a deadly/predatory kind of way.

*Female cheetah always live alone, except when they are raising cubs (they raise their cubs on their own). Males, however, stay with their brothers for life and hunt together as a group. 


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The cheetah’s spots make them surprisingly well camouflaged.

 

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We watched these 2 young cheetahs scoping out a herd of gazelle, preparing to hunt themselves some lunch.

 

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Tall and lean, cheetah are built for speed.

 

 

Finally, we also got to watch a pride of lions devouring a recently killed buffalo. It’s a cliche, we know, but lions are so majestic. This was a large pride of 23 (18 adults and 5 cubs), with a single male lording it over his harem of females and offspring*. The 800 kg carcass of the dead buffalo was lying on its side its innards torn out. The adults had obviously had their fill for the time being, however, as the cubs were playing with the carcass. No doubt the buffalo was killed last night (lions usually hunt nocturnally) and the adults had eaten their 20-30 kg of meat already. The lionesses and male lion were flat on their backs under a nearby tree, fat bellies pointing skywards. Lions sleep up to 20 hours per day, and with that much dead buffalo in their bellies, we didn’t expect to see too much action from the well-fed beasts. We watched the cubs for a while however, as they practicing their pouncing and attacking skills for a later date when it will be their turn to hunt and “bring home the bacon”, so to speak.

*Lions are the most socially inclined of all the wild cats, living in family groups of 5 to 30 beasts. Prides generally consist of at least 5 females, their cubs and a male that acts as the pride’s protector against annoyances like hyenas. Sometimes 2 related male lions will form an alliance and rule a pride jointly. Ruling males are ousted from their position of supremacy once past their prime, with most males lasting 5-6 years in the “top job”. Once they reach maturity (around 2-3 years of age), young male cubs are forced to leave the pride by their dad and live as solitary “nomads”. These nomads are always on the look out for a pride of their own however and may challenge an ageing male for the lead role or even steal a young lioness or two and start their own, new pride. Unless they are nomads, male lions don’t tend to do any of the hunting – that’s all down to females (though at least the male lion watches the cubs whilst waiting for the lionesses to return from the hunt).


 

 

The lions, cheetahs and leopards were incredible to watch (from the safety of a safari vehicle, that is). Not that all the other creatures we got to see weren’t amazing as well, it’s just that those big cats can be quite hard to spot and it’s not often you get the privilege of being able to observe them all in one day, in the wild just “doing their thing”. Certainly of all the places we’ve been on safari so far, the Serengeti ranks up the top as one of the best places to observe nature at its best!

 

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Just hanging out in Africa…

DAY 202: SERENGETI’S STUNNING LAKE NDUTU


The circle of life sure can be a little gory…

Disney’s “The Lion King” romanticised the concept of “the circle of life”. As we discovered today, however, the truth is far gorier than any cartoon would dare show you! Our lesson in life and death, savannah-style, came not long after breakfast as we set out on today’s game drive through Serengeti National Park. Within just a few short minutes we came across a zebra that had been attacked (and partially eaten) by lions the night before. The lions had had their fill and departed, leaving the vultures to fight over the remains. It was amazing (and more than a little terrifying) to watch the vultures peck and tear at the exposed flesh.

 

 

 

Our adventure today centred around Lake Ndutu, in the Southern reaches of the Serengeti. Lake Ndutu and its smaller neighbour, Lake Masek, are shallow soda (i.e. alkaline) lakes surrounded by woodland and grassy plains. The area attract lots of animals so as well as the eviscerated zebra we got to see a whole lot of other (living) wildlife as well. There were Maasai giraffes, elephants, gazelles, cheetah and even a leopard! Leopards are notoriously hard to spot on safari as they are very shy and tend to stay well away from the noise of the safari vehicles. We were just lucky that we happened to spot the leopard whilst she was making her way down from her perch up in a tree. We saw the leopard descend and then make a dash for it as 3-4 safari vehicles crowded around, trying to get a look at the beautiful spotted cat*.

*One of the worst things you see when on safari is safari vehicles literally chasing animals down, or crowds of up to 30 safari vehicles all clustered around a single cheetah or leopard. This tends to happen when the tourists within said cars are pushing the driver/guides to get closer and closer to the animals. I understand that people are excited about seeing these amazing animals in the wild, and that you often get better photos if you’re up really close, but it’s distressing when you see all these 4WDs roaring after a solitary, shy animal like a leopard. For us the joy of seeing animals in the wild is to see them in their natural habitat undisturbed (or as undisturbed as possible). We would much rather get our driver/guide to stop a little further away and just enjoy the scene from afar then traumatise an animal!


 

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The African leopard is actually related to the South American puma.

 

 

 

We also got to see a whole lot of wildebeest and zebra. These herbivorous animals are currently migrating from Seronera, the central part of the Serengeti, to Lake Ndutu and the Southern reaches of the park. Each year the great wildebeest migration follows the same pattern it has for millennia; this migration is a natural phenomenon determined by the availability of grazing. From approximately December to May some 750,000 zebra and 1.25 million wildebeest migrate South to the Ndutu area in search of food and water (so the animals we saw today were really just the vanguard). As the long rains end in May the animals start moving North-West, into the areas around the Grumeti River, where they typically remain until late June. July sees the main migration of wildebeest, zebra and gazelles North; they typically arrive in Kenya (Maasai Mara) in July/August where they stay for the remainder of the dry season. In November/December, with the start of the short rains, the migration starts moving South again and the whole cycle begins again.

 

The annual Serengeti/Maasai Mara wildebeest migration (www.kenyaforum.net).

 

It was amazing seeing thousands of zebras, wildebeest and gazelles all together. We’ve never seen so many animals in one place!  It’s amazing to think that once upon a time there were 10 times the numbers of wild animals roaming these plains. Hunting and destruction of habitat has greatly decreased the numbers of wildebeest and zebras (and every other wild animal!) in Africa, but still the sight of so many creatures in one place is awe-inspiring.

 

 

 

Our day ended with a bit of excitement when we got bogged in a particularly muddy patch of sodden earth. Luckily another safari vehicle was close by and came to our aid. Unfortunately as they were trying to pull us out they got stuck too. At this point Charles, our driver/guide, radioed for help. Said help arrived fairly promptly and both cars were soon freed of the mud. It was all quite funny actually – whilst we were waiting for the promised help we stood around chatting to the Belgian couple who had been in the second car and swapped stories about our respective African safari adventures. It’s great how friendships can blossom under such unusual circumstances!

 

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That’s our car – the one if the middle that’s well and truly stuck.

 

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Free at last!

 

 

After the day’s adventuring we headed back to the lodge where tea, freshly baked ginger biscuits and a whole lot of serenity awaited us. Man Africa is AWESOME!

 

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Serenity, Serengeti-style.

DAY 201: WHEN IT RAINS DOWN IN AFRICA…


Shaken, not stirred – thank you Charles…

When we booked our East African safari we knew some of the roads would be pretty bad, but nothing prepared for us for “African massage” we got today! We’ve been shaken, jolted, rattled, bumped and “massaged”* to within an inch of our lives and are sooooooo glad to finally be here at our lodge, relaxing with a cup of tea in one hand and a fresh baked biscuit in the other. To make the drive from Lake Manyara National Park to Serenegti National Park even more exciting/anxiety-inducing, we got caught in a massive storm and spent 2 hours driving through torrential rain along a “road” that soon became a river. Thank goodnes Charles, our safari driver/guide, is such an expert behind the wheel of a 4WD otherwise we’d no doubt still be stuck out there somewhere on the soggy plains of the Serengeti! Ahhh well, we’re here now and boy are we looking forward to spending a few days here in what is arguably Africa’s finest national park: the Serengeti.

*That’s what our safari driver/guide Charles euphemistically refers to it as.  


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Storm approaches…

 

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The progressively wetter road conditions made for a hair-raising drive today!

 

 

Due to the rain we didn’t go for a game drive this afternoon and instead enjoyed a few hours of down-time, relaxing at the lodge. It was actually really nice being able to sit on the verandah of our cabin and enjoy a cup of tea whilst enjoying the serenity of the African bush. The place we’re staying in right in the middle of the savannah, near a lake, so there are heaps of wild animals around. Sitting as quietly and still as possible we got to see gazelles, zebra and wildebeest roaming around in the not-so-distant distance this afternoon. The scenery in general was pretty awesome; as the storm moved Westwards and the sun came out again, we got to see the African bush gradually reawaken from its “shower”.

 

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Relaxing on our verandah watching the bush reawaken after the storm.

 

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We’re staying in this wonderful lodge, right in the middle of the Serengeti, just near Lake Ndutu.

 

 

Then, as evening fell, we saw some dik-diks creep out of the bush cautiously to come and nibble on the grass around our cabin. A dik-dik is a small antelope that’s only about 30cm high at the shoulder (they only weigh about 4-5kg). They’re tiny and very, very cute, though very, very shy. I guess when you’re that tiny and that tasty, it pays to be cautious! We managed to watch them for ages before some other tourists arrived and stomped their way to their cabin next door, frightening the dik-diks away for the evening.

 

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One of the lodge’s resident dik-diks.

 

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Dik-diks are pretty cute.

 

   

As dinner time approached we headed off to the main dining area and had a pre-dinner drink. As we were sitting there quietly by ourselves we heard a scrabblng sound across the roof above us and then saw the cutest little face poke out…. The face, it turned out, belonged to a female genet* who had recently made herself at home in the lodge’s roof. She had come looking for a safe place to have her 2 kittens and had decided humans beings would help keep her babies safe. The genets were adorable! Again, we sat as still and quietly as we could to see what would happen and were rewarded with a curious visit by the 2 kittens – they came right up to us as and sat on the couch with us! The kittens seemed just about ready to clamber on to our laps but Mum came along and shooed them away before they could get too comfortable. Totally awesome!

*Genets are small (2-3kg), omnivorous, cat-like mammals that are actually related to mongooses. They tend to be quite secretive and only come out at night. They’re also very cute, especially when they’re just a few weeks old – as we saw today!

 

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This little face belongs to the lodge’s resident genet.

 

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This is Mum – her 2 kittens were busy practicing insect-hunting in the rafters.

 

 

Dinner was great and after dinner we sat down by the camp fire chatting to the manager of the lodge. She’s a New Zealander and originally came out manage the lodge for 6 months. That was 3 years ago! She was lovely and had some amazing stories to share about life out in the bush and the challenges they face on a daily basis to keep the lodge running and stocked with food, water, soap, linen and all the other “luxuries” tourists demand. What a life!

 

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Views across Lake Ndutu from the lodge. Simply marvellous.