Tag Archives: Tanzania

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

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Heron, Grey

Heron, Grey

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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.

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Fabulous Trip to Africa, 22 Sep to 4 Oct 2015, Post 6 – Serengeti

Out into the cold and dark…   Breakfast was early as predicted. We finally got on the road at 7:30, and made our way out to where the game were. That’s a bit of a bad way of saying it, as game are all around us here. We pass through zebra, giraffe, and several kinds of antelope before we get very far.

But first I should comment on our lodgings. This is a tent place. All the buildings, of which there are about 15 are tents. 20150928-DSC_2403The main tent is about twice as large as the cabin tents, giving it room for a nice lounge on one side and dining tables on the other. There are chandeliers hanging from the ceiling providing light, and electricity for most of your needs. This is provided by sun power, which collects the electricity in batteries during the day, and then allows use at night. There is a generator which kicks in if the batteries get low. As with each of these individual-tent-cabin places in the middle of wild animals, one of the camp’s employees (ours is Sampson) accompanies you whenever you go out in the dark.  By the way, the curtain behind Gwen hides the bathroom facilities, so we didn’t have to go outside to relieve ourselves.

Our room cabin tent is very large, probably 40 feet by 24 feet, with a full stand-up bathroom at one end. The room centers around the double bed, enshrouded with netting to keep away the mosquitoes at night. The other aspect of living in a tent in the Serengeti are the noises in the night. Lots of animals sound off (we really couldn’t tell what we were listening to), and then there is the wind, which was loud last night.

So on to today. Each day seems to get better, and today was no exception.

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Vervet monkeys

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Zebra fight!

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Momma and baby Kongoni

Momma and baby Kongoni

Momma and baby

Momma and baby

The savannah in the Serengeti seems dryer than what we saw in Amboseli or in Ngorongoro.  I guess there is enough to eat, but our guide tells us that the rains have been sparse so far, so the fields are not as supportive of the large herds are they have been in the past.  Still we see lots of wildlife during the day.

20150928-DSC_2485Our most exciting leopard story starts when Philip or Everest spied a female leopard heading toward a stand of trees and rocks.  20150928-DSC_2501We stopped to watch, and then decided that she probably was going to move through to the other side, so we moved the vehicle to be able to see her if that is what she did. Sure enough, she shortly showed up there, heading out into a field on a path that paralleled the track the truck was on. 20150928-DSC_2552We saw that she had brought a friend (male, we think). 20150928-DSC_2561The two of them walked through the tall grass, moving unhurriedly, and we did our best to keep them in sight. Eventually, they decided they wanted to cross the road, and indeed on they came. They passed in front of our truck no more than 10 feet away. Great for pictures. 20150928-DSC_2574 20150928-DSC_2576

They continued on toward another rock 20150928-DSC_2595outcropping, 20150928-DSC_2604and once they got there, we thought we saw the female kill a small field animal that didn’t move quickly enough. I guess that was their goal, as we lost sight of them and shortly thereafter, we moved on.

As had become usual, we saw a number of the larger land animals.

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Impala

Impala

We also saw a number of birds.

Vulture, Cape (juv)

Vulture, Cape (juv)

Stork, Yellow-billed; Goose, Egyptian; Stilt, Black-winged; Plover, Blacksmith

Stork, Yellow-billed; Goose, Egyptian; Stilt, Black-winged; Plover, Blacksmith

Stilt, Black-winged

Stilt, Black-winged

Weavers' nests

Weavers’ nests

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Vulture, Lappet-faced

Vulture, Lappet-faced

We saw other leopards today, 20150928-DSC_2810both of the two we saw were up a tree, (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) which we watched for awhile.  The leopards were watching the animals in a large field beyond the tree each was in. We tried to see what each was seeing, but didn’t see anything that would excite them to do something dramatic. It was fun to watch for awhile, and then we moved on.  Can you see the one in the tree below?

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As for lions, we saw probably 30 all told. All were resting, and we saw only walking type movement from any of them. 20150928-DSC_2853 20150928-DSC_2898In one area were two females sitting under a tree, while across the path at the next tree, two males were lazing away their late morning. We watched the males for awhile, and then moved on. 20150928-DSC_3098 20150928-DSC_3113 20150928-DSC_3133The last sighting was the largest, Seven youngsters (less than a year) were sleeping under a tree under the oversight of two older females. Eventually, the two older ones and five of the youngsters cross and joined two more females and two more youngsters under a much larger tree. We watched them for awhile, then moved on.

We saw some more hippos sleeping in a pond, and quite a few birds. We saw eland, kongoni, dik-dik’s, and at least one other new-to-us antelopes, water bucks. It was quite a day.

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Kongoni

Heron, Great Blue

Heron, Great Blue

Weaver, White-headed Buffalo

Weaver, White-headed Buffalo

Hyrax trying to mooch some food from us humans

Hyrax trying to mooch some food from us humans

Shrike, Northern White-Crowned

Shrike, Northern White-Crowned

Dwarf Mongoose standing watch in an abandoned termite mound

Dwarf Mongoose standing watch in an abandoned termite mound

Vervet Monkey

Vervet Monkey

Water Bucks

Water Bucks

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Dik-diks

Topi compared to zebra

Topi compared to zebra

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Starling, Superb

Starling, Superb

Weaver, Thick-billed

Weaver, Thick-billed

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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

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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.

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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

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Kongoni

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Grant’s Gazelle

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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

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Fabulous Trip to Africa, 22 Sep to 4 Oct 2015, Post 4 – Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Today is spent all in the caldera. As most all our days, this one starts early, with breakfast at 6:00 and on our way at 6:30.  Morning light breaking through the clouds that seem to hover around the volcano early was fascinating to see from our vehicle as it headed down the steep road from the lip to the floor.  The reflection of the light in the infrequent water helped us see what was below.

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We spent about seven hours in the caldera, and it was fun almost from the get-go. The first of the highlights were the black rhinos, one of which we saw almost right off, and then later on we saw two more. All were at a distance, but hopefully the camera was up to recording them. We later learned that these black rhinos are extremely rare, there being approximately 25 left in the wild.  So seeing 3 of the 25 was even more of a treasure than we realized at the time.

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There are four lions sleeping in this stone formation.

The second was a pride of lions all sleeping in and amongst some rocks on the side of a rise toward the middle of the caldera. Down below them we noticed a number of hyena, and a jackal or two.

Oh, no you don;t!

Oh, no you don’t!

Three of the hyena, sometimes joined by a fourth had a piece of a kill about 100 yards below them, and were busily taking hunks out of it. 20150926-DSC_1422One of the jackals tried several times to get a few bites, but was chased off by one of the hyenas each time. It was only as we climbed the rise behind the lions that we were able to see there were a number of hyena congregated in a depression below the ground level a bit farther away from the lions. We surmised that they were devouring what was left of a carcass that the lions had brought down and had sated themselves with last night. 20150926-DSC_1351There was a hyena that we had first noticed on our left as we were driving toward the area where we first saw the lions. He (or she) crossed our path between where we first stopped and where the lions slept and headed for the depression, but eventually stopped, watched what was going on for awhile, and after the appearance of a couple of other hyenas, decided that discretion was the better part of valor and came back across the road where he watched what was going on. We only really understood his actions after we spotted the hyena group as we drove above it. One of Gwen’s favorite aspects of the day was hearing the hyenas “talking” to each other during this episode.

We saw quite a variety of wildlife, most of which we had seen before, but I can never get enough of them, especially the birds.

Crane, Grey-Crowned

Crane, Grey-Crowned

Crane, Grey-Crowned

Crane, Grey-Crowned

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Crake, Black

Crake, Black

Pelican, Great White

Pelican, Great White

Ibis, Sacred

Ibis, Sacred

Bustard, Kori

Bustard, Kori

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Eagle, Tawny or Eagle, Wahlberg's

Eagle, Tawny or Eagle, Wahlberg’s

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We managed to get very close to some warthogs as we drove along.

20150926-DSC_1534 20150926-DSC_1678One of the more amazing sights were the herds of wildebeest stretching out to the horizon, or coming over the hill toward us at a distance.

A wildebeest herd and flock of birds in the Ngorongoro caldera

A wildebeest herd off in the distance

The third amazing find were a family group of elephants we passed as we came onto the rise where the road started to climb out of the caldera. This rise is hilly, with a number of trees of various kinds forming a loosely packed forest, enabling easy movement by the elephants as well as shelter from the sun when desired (like it was as it was well after noon by this time). 20150926-DSC_1887At first, we saw three females and two youngsters (one very young, a second perhaps a juvenile) eating grass and leaves from a tree not too far off the road. As we watched, the five became seven, as there was another youngster behind the tree-eater, and another older juvenile with the first youngster. 20150926-DSC_1875 20150926-DSC_1858There were about a dozen zebra on the other side of the vehicle happily munching away at the shorter grass shaded by the trees as well. As we continued on, the road took a turn which took us in front of the elephants, and we discovered the rest of the group, with at least three more adult females, a couple more juveniles and yet another youngster. 20150926-DSC_1895We watched them continue to eat, and some decided we were too close, so they headed away from us while two or three headed to an area we couldn’t see ahead of us. 20150926-DSC_1924 20150926-DSC_1923We eventually moved in that direction, and found a stream where four elephants, including one youngster and at least one juvenile were enjoying playing with the water. The baby was having the most fun, kicking up water with his feet and trunk, while the others were enjoying spraying themselves with the water, and doing their own dance to keep their feet cool. It was delightful to watch, and was a really nice way to end our tour of the area.

This afternoon we have another talk by Philip. He talked about Kenya and Tanzania, and the relative size and populations of them. In response to questions, he focused more on the education systems in the two countries and how they have evolved.

Tomorrow it is on to Oldivai Gorge (rather the museum the Leakeys created near there) to hear about the finds there, and then the afternoon is a tour which should end us in the Serengeti.

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Fabulous Trip to Africa, 22 Sep to 4 Oct 2015, Post 3 – Amboseli National Park to Ngorongoro caldera

Today is the long drive between Amboseli and the next major stop, the Ngorongoro caldera where wildlife has been able to grow and survive without outside interference for thousands of years.   It is 20 km across, and while not round, is close. We are staying in the Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, which sits just inside the rim of this extinct volcano.

Our ride today was indeed long, 11 hours total. The first part was a “race” through the Amboseli Park, taking us quickly by many of the wildlife we had seen before, including lots of wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, a few elephants, more than a few gazelles, and even some rather interesting looking cape buffalo.

Secretary

Secretary bird

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Out of the park, we ran on corduroy roads at top speed until we got to the border with Tanzania. Here we bade farewell to Charles and climbed on board a more modern version of the same vehicle type. This meant the springs and suspension had not been so badly treated, but of course from here on we were on paved roads so we were much relieved.  The trip in Tanzania differed from that before in that the towns we went through seemed to have a better economy. This evidenced itself in the substantial number of brick buildings as a proportion of the tin-roofed wooden shacks. The town centers seemed to have more store-fronts built from cinder block rather than wood and cloth. The trip differed also in the number of potential police (or para-police) stops we passed through. Except for two, we passed through without stopping. Phillip says that we should pass freely as tourists get that privilege. At the two stops, Everest (our new driver) was able to talk his way through, thus all turned out well.  At about 1:00, we got to a coffee plantation. This is a privately owned farm which does meals for travelers in a very nice purpose-built building. They then provide you with their pitch on the 40 steps coffee goes through from bean harvesting to drink enjoyment. Because we could be there only a short time, the daughter of the owners gave us her 15-minute version of the coffee roasting process. It was a very well done presentation, and very informative, going from first “crack” at 13 minutes to second “crack” at 15 minutes, and talking about what all this meant. We were impressed enough to purchase a couple of pounds to take home with us.  (Now having tasted it, I can attest that they grow and roast some of the best coffee I’ve tasted.)

Tanzanian Coffee plantation

Tanzanian Coffee plantation

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Carrying LARGE coffee bean bags on her head

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Baobab tree

On our way through, we saw Baobab trees, something that we saw more of on our trip in 2009.  As it turned out, this was the only time we saw them on this trip.  We also passed a very interesting “car-boot” sale — notice the amount of blue covering the booths.  Finally we got to the Ngorongoro entrance.

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When we got to the Ngorongoro volcano caldera, we found a lookout point and were able to view the expanse of it. It really is quite spectacular, and we are all looking forward to our exploration tomorrow.  The banner at the top of this post shows cape buffalo as they were beginning to bed down for the night at a great distance down in the crater.

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On our way to dinner at the new safari camp, we found the lounge was a place of entertainment, including a dancer on some stilts which put him into the overhanging lights (he was careful not to hurt himself), and a band of gymnasts who performed lots of tumbling on the hard floor without mat protection of any kind.  Their towers got high enough to require them to avoid the lights as well, but they were very well practiced, and made it look like part of the act.

Dancer on stilts

Dancer on stilts

Gynnasts without mats

Gynnasts without mats

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