Julian

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About Julian

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    Wildlife, countryside, nature, photography , angling, good food and wine

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  1. [youtube] [/youtube] Ten minutes in our tent to freshen up and change and we ready to be escorted to the campfire area where drinks are served and we chatted with other guests and some staff. It was a very sociable atmosphere here and everyone joined in the conversations until we were called in to the dining tent for our dinner. As this was another Asilia camp we guessed the dinner format would be the same. First the meal is described then the wine selection is announced. Some staff and guides sit with the guests around one large table and the conversations continued throughout the excellent meal. It was a great start to our time here at Namiri Plains.
  2. As we approached a small waterhole we could see some small lion cubs in the foreground. Then we noticed behind the cubs were two adult females asleep together in some reeds, and an adult male also fast asleep, but on his own a few yards away from the others. However the six cubs, which were about 10 to 12 weeks old, were not asleep and were at first watching us, but then they started to play. What followed was by far the best lion cubs interaction we have ever seen. They played non-stop and after about half an hour they decided to wake their mothers up. It was amazing to watch the continuous play and often amusing as well. After a while the two lionesses got up and moved out of the reeds and then the adult male woke up, but he certainly wasn’t going to play with them. Eventually the lions all started to move off by which time the sun had already set. We had forgotten about the time and we had been watching the lions for a whole hour. Therefore we had to race back the considerable distance to camp and by the time we actually arrived it was almost pitch dark. (While watching these lions Rachel and I had taken nearly 500 photos and 4 video clips. Here is a selection of the best of those.)
  3. Our guide Living suggested we begin the drive by looking for cheetahs, so we were feeling optimistic that some big cats might be seen on our first game drive here. It was a hot afternoon and the plains activity was very limited, but the endless open but hilly plains were broken up every so often by the beautiful kopjes that we regularly drove up to. The enormous size of the rocks always amazes me and they look so strange appearing at random on an otherwise mostly completely flat landscape. Although most species seemed to have disappeared at this hot time of day there were a few small groups of hartebeest grazing, some with their young. We quickly began to realise that on game drives here you need to cover a lot of ground moving from one potential wildlife opportunity to the next, which means some relatively fast driving across the plains. Also as Living was only taking on this one game drive he was determined to find us something interesting and here at Namiri that usually means big cats. However after nearly an hour of mostly fast driving, on the very dusty tracks (it was still the dry season at Namiri), we had not located any cheetahs, and Living was now hoping he could find us some lions. We were not going to be disappointed.
  4. Arriving in camp we were given a quick camp briefing by Diana, followed immediately by an excellent lunch which was served outside with all the guests round one long table. It was good to talk with the other guests, including one couple, Hank and Diane, who we had already met while at Highlands camp and they were now on their final day here. It is a traditional style camp with typical bush tents, and also a tented main area with a lounge bar and a dining tent, which are very simple but stylish as well. They even have an additional toilet tent in this area with a very rustic style washbasin. After lunch we were taken to our tent – number 8 – the furthest from the camp central area. Although it is traditional and looks very basic, the tents are spacious and have a large comfortable bed, plus a plumbed in sink, toilet and shower, and additionally a second outside shower. All the tents face out towards an open area of bush with a small river nearby but it is very private as there are no driving tracks in that direction. We spent the next hour and a half getting settled, checking cameras, and having a shower by which time it was approaching 4.00pm and time for our afternoon game drive.
  5. Day 10: Sun 29th Oct – Transfer to Manyara airport, fly to Seronera, transfer to Namiri Plains camp The journey by road from Highlands Camp to Lake Manyara airport took nearly 3 hours. Good luck remained with us until our coastal flight was ready, then we said our farewells and boarded the plane. It was going to be a short flight as Seronera was the first stop. I took a few photos on the flight – including a view of Lake Manyara and of the Ngorongoro Crater. We landed at the Seronera airstrip just after 10.00am and were met by two Asilia staff in the small terminal building. Two more guests would be joining us for the transfer to Namiri when their plane arrived in about 20 minutes time. After introductions we chatted with Gabe and Carmen, an Austrian couple, who joined us for this transfer. It turned out they had been on safari 17 times to Africa and several times to India, including about 8 times to Northern Tanzania (although they had never visited the Ngorongoro Crater). We were pleased that they were clearly as enthusiastic as we were about wildlife and safaris as they were going to be sharing the vehicle with us on the game drives for the first 3 days of our 5 days stay at Namiri. Our guide’s name is Living but he will only be taking on this transfer drive and the late afternoon drive today. While at Highlands camp we had been told that one very large herd from the migration had already arrived in the Seronera valley area, and we had seen a few thousand wildebeest just before we landed. Therefore it was not surprising that we came across large numbers of wildebeest and some zebra just a few minutes after we started off, plus a solitary hyena. Living said the transfer would take about 90 minutes, longer if we stopped on the way. It was becoming very warm and as it was around midday we didn’t come across much else other than more wildebeest and a few other grazers on the plains, until we approached one of the Kopjes where there was a pair of lions using it as their refuge from their pride for a few days while they were mating. After that Living said he would drive quickly to get us to the camp so we would be able to join the other guests for lunch. We were surprised at how long it actually took to get to camp and just how remote and isolated it is out on these eastern plains. We saw no other vehicles at all for the last hour of the journey.
  6. @michael-ibk Thank you. Great to know that I’m successfully identifying birds from my copy of ‘birds of East Africa’ that I bought just before we went on this trip. The Highlands camp is really nice and unusual but I wouldn’t go back - it’s a fantastic place to go once, but unless you are really keen to do the exhausting walks to Olmoti and Empakaai it is a long way to go, meaning such a long drive to get to the Ngorongoro Crater. We do hope to go back to the Crater in a couple of years time as part of our trip when we go to see the mountain gorillas, and we will then probably stay at the Nomad camp on the Crater rim, as they are also on the north-east side and obviously use the eastern descent road which has very few vehicles. With regard to the caracal sighting - it was just before midday - probably the least likely time to see one - and amazingly at that time only two other visitors who saw it.
  7. It was now becoming hot and much of the wildlife was either settling down for a siesta or had vanished into some distant shade. However the Ngorongoro crater had one final special gift to show us, and that alone justified this second day spent in the crater. We noticed a vehicle ahead had stopped and the two guests were pointing their cameras at something close by. As we approached it came into view – a caracal – our first ever sighting! We stopped and hastily started to take photos – which was not easy as the caracal was moving about quite quickly. Clearly it was looking for something to eat, occasionally making small sounds. It came close to the side of our vehicle, walking round the back and then away from us on the other side of our vehicle, quickly disappearing into the background as its colour blended very well with the landscape. Between the two of us we took about 30 photos but most were spoilt to some degree by camera-shake. From the first view of the caracal to the last was only two minutes but it really rounded off the morning well. Goodluck had also taken a photo with his phone as he said his colleagues would not believe we saw a caracal that close. Now it was time for our packed lunch and to stretch our legs. After lunch we drove slowly around for quite a while but there was nothing really worth stopping for so by about 3.00pm we had decided it was time to head back to camp, as we had another early start in the morning as we have to depart for the Serengeti. Our final evening in the camp was as sociable as the previous three and the food equally as good. Our wakeup call was booked for 5.15am as we had a long day ahead of us tomorrow. Goodluck would be driving us back to Lake Manyara airport where we would board a flight to Seronera in central Serengeti, and there we would meet one or more Asilia staff to drive us to Namiri Plains camp.
  8. We decided to head towards the large swamp area to see if any bull elephants were in view, and as we approached the area we could see a group of three, but they never came close so we only took a couple of photos each. Also a very long way off on the edge of the swamp there were two more bull elephants, one of which was much larger than any we had seen in the crater so far, but it was not showing any signs of moving any nearer. There was also another herd of buffalo in this area. A few minutes later we watched a solitary lion pass by, heading towards a group of five lions resting in the distance, and even further away another three, a total of 7 lionesses and two sub-adult males which make up another different pride. Therefore we had now seen most of the lions from all three prides that are currently in the crater.

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