Tag Archives: Hippos

Fabulous Trip to Africa, 22 Sep to 4 Oct 2015, Post 9 – Masai Mara

Up early again, we were on the road a little after 6:30. In addition to the normal animals, we saw five hot-air balloons rising near the camp. Gretchen got a good picture of a couple of them as they took off. She saw them from the bar area of the camp, as one of the balloon concessions is run out of our camp.

Guinea Fowl, Helmeted

Guinea Fowl, Helmeted

20151001-DSC_3991

Jackal with Crowned Plover (Lapwing) in the distance

Jackal with Crowned Plover (Lapwing) in the distance

It took awhile to get started, but we saw the cheetah mother and her cubs playing with each other near a different tree from yesterday.

20151001-DSC_4015 20151001-DSC_4021 20151001-DSC_4025 20151001-DSC_4028 20151001-DSC_4037 20151001-DSC_4053

We saw a group of hippos in a rather disgusting pond which had only still water, so their waste just stayed put.

Eagle, Tawny

Eagle, Tawny

20151001-DSC_4114

Vulture, Lappet-faced; Vulture, White-backed

Vulture, Lappet-faced; Vulture, White-backed

Vulture, Lappet-faced; Vulture, White-backed

Vulture, Lappet-faced; Vulture, White-backed

Vulture, Lappet-faced; Vulture, White-backed

Vulture, Lappet-faced; Vulture, White-backed

Vulture, Lappet-faced

Vulture, Lappet-faced

It was a small pond, with a number of hippos. One stayed off by him/herself, and she put on a good show. Among other things we saw a group of vultures surrounding a kill that had already been abandoned by the killer (a lion, it was guessed based on the footprints in the area). We also caught up with a number of warthogs and their youngsters. Apparently the warthogs at the height of their reproductive capability will have four babies, having graduated from one upward, and then as she declines, she will have less number of babies. The ones we saw typically had three babies, but at least one had four.

Warthogs - tails up!

Warthogs – tails up!

20151001-DSC_4212

Hightailing it!

Hightailing it!

The wildebeests were common all around, and we even had our breakfast in their midst (well, they were aways away really).

20151001-DSC_4083 20151001-DSC_4126

Picnicing in the midst of the wildebeest

Picnicing in the midst of the wildebeest

Sammy and I practicing to be Maasai

Sammy and I practicing to be Maasai

Another group lunching amongst the wildebeest

Another group lunching amongst the wildebeest

We went to a common crossing point in the Salama River (?) where there were a number of hippos, a number of crocodiles, and a number of vultures.

Vulture, White-backed; Goose, Egyptian

Vulture, White-backed; Goose, Egyptian

20151001-DSC_4319 20151001-DSC_4326 20151001-DSC_4309 20151001-DSC_4322 20151001-DSC_4366

There were also several wildebeest bodies hung up on the rocks in the river. We were told that the river had been much higher and faster last week, and the wildebeests had had a hard time getting across quickly. They stumbled over each other and in the process a few drowned, were captured by predators, or just weren’t strong enough to make it to the other side. It made for a gruesome scene, yet somehow from a distance, natural. We went to another area where it looked for awhile like a herd of wildebeest was going to cross, but they stopped, and we grew tired of waiting, so headed back for lunch.

20151001-DSC_4250 20151001-DSC_4257 20151001-DSC_4265

Young warthogs

Young warthogs

Topi

Topi

Stork, Yellow-billed

Stork, Yellow-billed

This afternoon, we’re going to a school to give them the school supplies we brought for them. The school is nearby, and one of the Masai warriors who work at the camp (Nixon is his name) has siblings who go there. It is the Loingo (?) Primary School, meaning it has children from nursery school through level 8. It is a residential school, so the students live there during the terms (three months in school and a fourth month at home). Unfortunately, there is a teachers’ strike right now. We are told the reason is that an official in the central government gave the teachers a 50% rise in pay, and it has since been determined that this is not really a good thing to do, so they have tried to rescind it, but the teachers now are striking to have it reinstated. The net result is that schools are not really in session. The only class running at this school is the level 8 class as the students have their state-run graduation test in November.

There are 19 in that class, 15 boys and 4 girls, at least there were on the day we were there. After a brief introduction by the principal, and a welcome song by the students, we were allowed to talk to them individually or in groups. I ended up talking to six boys who were quite interested in interviewing me (as I was them). They asked all sorts of questions about me, my occupation, what it meant, where I lived, what the USA is like (what is our economy based on — yes, that was one of the questions!), what our weather is like, what religions we have, what our political parties are, and a whole variety of other things. They knew President Obama, and wanted to know more about him.

20151001-DSC_4485 20151001-DSC_4486 20151001-DSC_4487 20151001-DSC_4489

I asked them about their economy (farming and herding based), their religion (mostly Christian, although they also knew of Muslims), their schooling (they do have high school, if the child and his/her parents choose to take advantage of it), what their ambitions are (pass the test, and then be herders), and so on. They were very attentive, and interested in the answers to their questions, as well as interested that I understand their answers to my questions.

Bruce's turn to be Maasai

Bruce’s turn to be Maasai

20151001-DSC_4444

Robin-chat, White-browed

Robin-chat, White-browed

After we finished, the principal had us into his office to do his bit for getting us to gift money to the school, but we demurred by suggesting he send a list of needed books to Philip who would forward it to us and then we would work on providing them to the school.

After we left, we came back to the camp, where we took the afternoon off, meeting again for dinner. The big adventure in this interval was the decision of a large baboon to visit Gretchen’s tent-cabin. He made a lot of noise, and when she came out to investigate, he was on her roof. She went back in to grab her camera, and when she reappeared, he had gone over to the side closest to our tent-cabin, and Gwen had come out to see what the commotion was all about. He saw Gwen, and ran back over to Gretchen’s side. He quickly decided that wouldn’t do, and disappeared up one of the many trees right above our tent-cabins. There was a smaller monkey in the trees as well, just to increase the fun. Unfortunately, no pictures were taken, so we have to rely on Gretchen’s and Gwen’s descriptions.

20151001-DSC_4495One other event worth recording is the latest adventure with Frederica and Nameless. They are the eland females who are domesticated enough to be allowed to inhabit the main areas of the camp. Before dinner, the three of us (Gretchen, Gwen and I) were sitting in the bar area, when the two eland walked by the registration desk and headed toward the patio just outside the barroom walls. Standing with her back to them was a young Japanese lady, who was almost rammed by Frederica. When she turned around to see who bumped into her, she screamed loudly and threw up her hands. The eland were remarkably calm about the whole thing, but the woman got flustered a bit. Gwen was closest to see, and tells me we should have a shot of the Japanese lady’s face when she realized she was being bumped by an animal that was just about her size!

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog, Travel to Africa

Fabulous Trip to Africa, 22 Sep to 4 Oct 2015, Post 7 – Serengeti to Lake Victoria

Today is the trip from the Serengeti to Lake Victoria. 20150929-DSC_3224The trip itself was not as strenuous as was imagined by the group. At one of the rest stops (read: bathroom break) Everest had to change one of the tires which had developed a slow leak.

Crocodile

Crocodile

One of the fun animal-related events was the sighting of our first crocodile, and in fact we ended up seeing two of them,20150929-DSC_3270 including one very large one out of the water sunning himself.

20150929-DSC_3256Lions are getting to be second nature, so we weren’t too excited by seeing a pride of perhaps 10 lions sleeping under two trees close to the road. Of interest was one of the pride was under one tree while all the others were under the other tree. I wonder what made that lioness so unpopular?

We saw other animals, as well as people along the way to Lake Victoria.

Stork, Marabou

Stork, Marabou

Stork, Saddle-billed

Stork, Saddle-billed

20150929-DSC_3276

Heron, Grey

Heron, Grey

20150929-DSC_3315

Later on in the day at the Lake Victoria beach-side hotel we went on a bird-watching tour.

Kingfisher, Gray-headed

Kingfisher, Gray-headed

Scimitarbill, Common (Greater)

Scimitarbill, Common (Greater)

Bulbul, Common

Bulbul, Common

Gonolek, Black-headed

Gonolek, Black-headed

Kingfisher, Pygmy

Kingfisher, Pygmy

Thick-knee, spotted

Thick-knee, spotted

Eagle, Fish

Eagle, Fish

Thick-knee, spotted

Thick-knee, spotted

Stilt, Black-winged

Stilt, Black-winged

Stilt, Black-winged; Ruff

Stilt, Black-winged; Ruff

Plover, Spur Winged

Plover, Spur Winged

Dove, African Mourning

Dove, African Mourning

Plover, Three-Banded

Plover, Three-Banded

Thick-knee, Water

Thick-knee, Water

Plover, Spur-Winged (Lapwing)

Plover, Spur-Winged (Lapwing)

Weaver, Yellow-backed female or juvenile

Weaver, Yellow-backed female or juvenile

Gwen is very happy about this place, as it is literally right on the shore of Lake Victoria. The wind is blowing the water right onto the rocks outside our cabin door, and the sights and sound remind her of the Caribbean. I have to admit, after the last week on the savannah, it is quite a nice change of atmosphere.

The bird watching was a good job done by a local connected with the hotel named George. The highlight for me were the Fish Eagles, who have a next in a tree about 30 yards off of the shore. I got a lot of pictures of lots of birds, and Gwen took notes, so we’ll put them together when we get home.

Tomorrow it is on to Maasai Mara by small airplane.

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog, Travel to Africa

Fabulous Trip to Africa, 22 Sep to 4 Oct 2015, Post 5 – Olduvai Gorge to Serengeti

Today, it’s the cradle of mankind! Oh, what a day. Another long and hard one, based around riding in the van all day.  We started out in the morning early (as usual) and got the benefit of seeing the sun through the clouds again.  We drove by the entrance road to the Ngorongoro valley and onto the next one.

20150927-DSC_1932 20150927-DSC_1947

This one afforded us views of clouds still clinging to the surrounding hills, as well as views of the tribal huts that housed people in that area.

20150927-DSC_1961 20150927-DSC_1966

We were able to get out of Ngorongoro fairly easily, making our way to the Olduvai Gorge at the connection of the Ngorongoro and Serengeti Plain. The museum is right on the edge of the gorge, and does a good job describing the finds, and helping me remember the dates and sequence. It tells of Louis Leakey’s first experience at Oldupai Gorge in 1924, when he and a group of others were looking for dinosaur bones. He came back at the head of his own expedition in 1931. “Olduvai” was apparently a misspelling that stuck for Leakey’s publication, but locally it is known with a p instead of a v.

Looking down from Olduvai Gorge Museum

Looking down from Olduvai Gorge Museum

In 1934, he was joined by Mary, his eventual wife, as a student, along with others. Each year they came back and dug for bones, using the latest in archeological techniques. Finally in 1959, they discovered Zinjantropus, the first of several historic finds. Zinj, later renamed with a more scientific name was in the bottom most of four beds, and was determined to be 1.9 million years old. The lava base of the gorge is 2 million years old. Later came Homo Habilus (Handy Man) at 1.8 million years old, and Homo Erectus (stand-up man) at 1.6 million years old.  Mary and another colleague later (in the 1960’s?) found the footprints which had been frozen in time thought to be the prints of Austropithicus Ferensis (Lucy, found in Ethiopia, and thought to be 3.5 million years old. These footprints were found frozen in time several kilometers from the main gorge site.

After a brief lecture, one of the guides took us down into the gorge and showed us the site from its floor, and the marker which shows where Zinj was found.

Looking back toward the Museum

Looking back toward the Museum

We dropped him off, and made tracks for the Serengeti park.

20150927-DSC_2093

Starling, Superb

Starling, Superb

Weaver, Thick-billed

Weaver, Thick-billed

20150927-DSC_2100

20150927-DSC_2079At the gate to the park, we stopped and ate our lunch, provided by the last hotel, the Serena.  In this park, we were visited by a number of animals, most notably four elephants, who kindly allowed us to take their pictures.  We also saw quite a few birds, including many of the starlings that are more common in the Serengeti.  Oh, and a gecko that was pink and blue!The lunch was (as might be expected) too much food, but Philip took all the extra and made up packages for giving away to those who didn’t have any.

We continued on, but the road was the usual washboard, and it was noisy and bouncy. 20150927-DSC_2059We passed another native village, as we drove.  Finally a couple of hours later, we turned off into the game reserve (off the main road), and made our way to a number of spots where Philip and Everest thought we would see something. 20150927-DSC_2062 20150927-DSC_2079

Barbet, d'Arnaud's

Barbet, d’Arnaud’s

20150927-DSC_2147

Female Ostrich; the first willing to have its picture taken!

20150928-DSC_2825We saw the usual suspects, zebra, giraffes, grant’s gazelles as well as a new kind of antelope, the Reedbuck. It is larger than the gazelles we have been seeing, and has two stubbier horns on its head.

We saw a lion, sitting by itself (we presume), as well as a pod of hippopotamuses in the river we were roughly following.20150927-DSC_2301

Shrike, Grey-backed

Shrike, Grey-backed

Before we got to the pod, we saw an individual who walked along from one pond to another, and then dropped itself into the new pond to rest from its exertions.

20150927-DSC_2228 20150927-DSC_2238

Roller, Lilac-breasted

Roller, Lilac-breasted

Stork, Yellow-billed; Goose, Egyptian; Heron, Grey

Stork, Yellow-billed; Goose, Egyptian; Heron, Grey

Teal, Red-billed; Plover, Blacksmith; Stork, Yellow-billed; Goose, Egyptian; Heron, Grey

Teal, Red-billed; Plover, Blacksmith; Stork, Yellow-billed; Goose, Egyptian; Heron, Grey

Heron, Grey

Heron, Grey

20150927-DSC_2157

Kongoni

20150927-DSC_2308

Grant’s Gazelle

20150927-DSC_2350

Cape buffalo

The trip into the camp was long after that (another half an hour), and the most difficult part was it started raining! We have made it here, however, so we now are happily ensconced in our tent-mansions. This is the largest room we’ve been in on this trip, and it is all out of canvas. Hopefully the rain will subside so we can go out tomorrow and enjoy the sights of the Serengeti!

Saddle-billed stork watched with great interest

Saddle-billed stork watched with great interest

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog, Travel to Africa