Ellie

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About Ellie

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    Thousand Oaks,CA
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  1. Inyathi, thanks for the "myth-busting" information - very interesting. I also didn't realize how dangerous the asian bull elephants were.
  2. Glad to hear Sheldrick is that successful with its orphans! Another question or concern re: riding or walking with these elephants for me would be safety - are african elephants ever truly "tame"? I guess I've always thought only asian elephants could be domesticated.
  3. Some of the elephant orphans rescued by the Sheldrick Elephant orphanage in Kenya seem to have been successfully returned to the wild. They have voluntarily joined wild herds even though they still will return to visit the orphanage from time to time. I suppose saving an elephant is more important than the choice of whether it is able to "live wild" or not live at all. My cousin sent me a picture this christmas showing her and her husband aboard an african elephant, and it was probably this place or one very like it that they visited. It wouldn't have been my choice for a safari experience. I'm not sure how I feel about elephants being used for tourist rides - reminds me of the L.A. zoo elephant rides, but those were asian elephants, and probably safer to ride, as well as more amenable to a captive existence?
  4. I think the problem may be that a lot of folks are on a 3-day or 4-day safari, and don't think they'll ever make it back to Africa, making them feel like they have to see all the "biggies" like lions, etc. while they have the chance. Too bad they don't know how much they are missing by doing that!
  5. Lynn, your photos are wonderful - makes me want to be back there again!
  6. Lynn, I'm loving your photos and report! When were you at the Talek River area?
  7. We really had wonderful photo ops on this trip - we're not great photographers, but the circumstances allowed us to get some very nice shots. Mags, you're probably right about the 2-legged inadvertent voyeurs - I guess being embarrassed (or bare assed as the case might be) would still be preferable to getting scared "witless" by a 4-legged marauder! Lynn, those two baobab serving bowls are by far the best anniversary gifts we've ever received, and personally I think they should definitely replace one of the traditional ones - who needs diamonds when you can get baobab nuts/fruits/whatever!
  8. Selous cont'd 9/26 - We decided to do another bush breakfast today, and it was a good thing. While I was videoing a nice group of elephants with 2 tiny babies, one of the other trucks from our camp found the Wild Dogs, and they were quite a ways away. We made a speed run about 30 km from camp to where the other truck waited for us, to make sure we found them. I have no idea how the other truck found these dogs, which were laid up in a sandy culvert completely out of sight and pretty much in the middle of nowhere, or how they managed to guide us to their location. There are no signposts, and nothing really obvious as landmarks, and we twisted and turned on little tracks through the bush for nearly an hour before reaching them! These guides are really something else when it comes to spotting game and knowing the area like the backs of their hands. What a treat on our last day on safari to see the Wild Dogs. This was a nice pack of 10 dogs, 4 adults and 6 one-year old juveniles. When we came upon them, they were resting in a dry wash, in the cool sand. At one point their rest was interrupted when one of them jumped to its feet and began growling at something in the distance. Immediately, all of the dogs went on alert. After about 3 or 4 minutes, they apparently decided there was nothing to be concerned about, and down went all 10 heads again. A few minutes later the alpha male got up, walked a few steps from where everyone was bedded down in the cool sand, and watered some tall grass. He went back and laid down, and a few minutes later, the alpha female got up, wandered over and watered the same spot. Then the alpha male got up and re-watered that area, and everybody settled back down. These are such unusual-looking animals, and the first we’ve seen. We continued on after watching the dogs for a while, and had breakfast at a lovely spot next to one of the 5 lakes in the area. Lots of shore birds, little Nile Crocodiles, and some dorky wildebeest and not dorky zebra in the distance. After breakfast, we found a nice herd of Kudu down at the lake's edge for a drink. Another really nice male with very large horns was leading this group, and we got some good pictures of the group, including one of a young male dodging the dominant male. We also spotted our first Savannah Monitor Lizard (or everyone else did - it disappeared into the bush before I got a good look at it). During lunch I asked Mohammed what the small serving bowls used by the camp were made of. He said they were halves of baobab fruits. He offered to get me some, but I said he didn't need to bother. Then this afternoon on our drive, Aly pulled over suddenly and jumped out of the truck, returning with a large ripe baobab pod. I assumed that Mohammed had said something to him or to Hussein, but when we got back for dinner, Mohammed assured me he hadn't, so it was just a nice coincidence (along with Aly and Hussein knowing by this time that I like to see just about everything…). I didn't think U.S. Customs would let us bring a fruit (or nut) into the country, so Mohammed had it cut in half and cleaned out and gave the two pieces back to me the next morning. Best souvenir of all! The afternoon drive was again relatively uneventful. We saw a huge termite mound using a tree for support, and a very cooperative Lilac-breasted Roller that didn’t fly off right away. Hussein tossed his hat toward the bird to get it to fly, to see if we could get a shot of its beautiful flight colors, but the bird was faster than we were; it was all just a blur... Then Hussein and Aly managed to find the African Skimmers I'd wanted to see. We found a whole flock of them resting on the beach of one of the lakes. After a while, one of them took off to test the waters I guess, and then 3 or 4 more took off and soon they were skimming back and forth along the shallows, lower mandible dragging in the water, leaving little wakes behind them. Very beautiful to watch. We also came across a small group of elephants ripping up short palms and eating them. Its just amazing how strong their trunks are to be able to wrap around a palm frond and yank it off the tree (sometimes with part of the tree still attached). Elephants will apparently eat just about anything that doesn't move. The highlight of this drive was stopping to watch some youngish baboons. One dashed over to a bush and then peeked out at us from behind it. Aly grabbed the overhead bar of the truck and slapped the door frame with his other hand, making a face at the baboon. The baboon began copying everything Aly did - if Aly reached up, the baboon reached up; if Aly jerked left, the baboon jerked left. This went on for several minutes and had Dick, Hussein and me in stiches! Really funny to watch! Factoid of the day - when a litter of warthogs is born, each one finds a teat to suckle, and thereafter, that teat is off-limits to any other warthog in the litter. Honestly, how do you suppose someone found out that particular tidbit? This was our last night at Impala camp, and since it will be our 43rd anniversary in a few days, for dinner we were given the honeymooner’s table next to the pool, off by ourselves. Very romantic, until the Large-spotted Genet that hangs around the bar area at night decided to come visit us, along with a bushbaby in the tree overhead. I of course still had my binoculars, so we were able to really get a good look at the genet as it wandered around, in and out of the shadows. Never saw anything of the bushbaby but its eyes reflecting our flashlight, but at least it was fairly quiet! There was a special cake for us, along with singing of the Jambo song by Mohammed and some of the other staff, and it was all really nice. Great way to celebrate an anniversary! Impala Camp, like Tarangire Safari Camp, is great for seeing wildlife in or from camp, without having to go on a drive. We saw Golden palm-weavers really close up and personal squirrels , a “resident” giraffe, the bar-loving genet, and elephants and hippos in or along the river, among others. A tiny frog visited us in the lounge one afternoon as well. We will be sorry to leave this camp, but we’re running out of battery life on our camera, and our battery charger was broken back at the crater, so it must be nearly time for us to go home.
  9. Selous Cont'd. Lots of new birds here: Water Thick-knee (which looks like a plover with bulbous knees), Black-shouldered Kite, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Hooded Vulture, African Wattled Plover, Emerald-Spotted Wood Doves (which are very hard to photograph) Crested Barbet, Green Wood Hoopoe, Red-capped Lark, Common Bulbul, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Golden Palm Weavers Black-headed Weaver, White-browed Sparrow Weaver, Grey-capped Social Weaver, Greater Blue-eared Starling (probably the most gorgeous bird we’ve seen) and some others that weren't in my book and the names of which I can't remember! Factoid of the day - Some of the small Hornbills nest in hollows in trees, and after the eggs are laid, the male walls in the opening of the hollow with mud, leaving only a small opening through which he feeds the female while she incubates the eggs. Now, that's both devotion and trust! We really love the location of our tent in Impala Camp. During the noon break we watched a family of elephants come down to drink, with one little baby I was afraid would float away or get grabbed by a croc. The afternoon drive was very uneventful. A few new birds including our first Great White Pelican flying by, some nice elephant and giraffe sightings, a couple of sparring impalas, lots of zebras and some wildebeest. I finally got a picture of a Whistling Acacia Tree with some blooms (I know, big whoop…) Dinner was great, as was lunch - meals here have been a real treat. Our server is Mohammed, a lovely man from Dar who is very interesting to talk to and has a fine sense of humor. I've also discovered the way to survive that long walk to and from the tent - don't do it very often! While Dick heads back to the tent for a shower, I now spend that half hour or so between arriving back at camp and time for lunch or dinner sitting in the bar having meaningful (or not) conversations with the barman while enjoying a local beer or a gin and tonic. Much better than taking a hike in the stifling heat, trust me! Another great thing about our tent location was seeing the sunset from the deck. The sunsets have gotten better and better as we came south. 9/25 - We went out early today, with a box breakfast. We first came upon a carcass being demolished by 3 different types of vultures. There must have been about 50 on the ground, either fighting over the leavings or hanging around in the wings waiting their turn. Vultures definitely do not play well together. Although there were only two of the Lappet-Faced Vultures, since they were so much larger than all the others, they tended to throw their weight around and chase the others away from the choicer goodies. I tried to video some of the birds as they made their running takeoffs, but I have no idea if I caught any! We drove quite a distance from the camp in search of the African Wild Dogs, of which there are 3 groups in the Selous. We didn't find them, or any recent sign of them. Apparently they haven't been seen in 3 or 4 days, and they have a really large range here. We did come upon one group of 15 giraffes, which was unusual since they mostly go in pairs or families of three or four. We finally saw a mature Bateleur eagle in flight, soaring overhead. They are really quite beautiful when seen from below. Also managed to capture a Fish Eagle in flight – another lovely bird both perched and in flight. [imghttp://safaritalk.net/uploads/1290198956/gallery_6396_329_20776.jpg[/img] [imghttp://safaritalk.net/uploads/1290198956/gallery_6396_329_17093.jpg[/img] Factoid of the day - don't take a bathroom break on the road side of a tree, even if your vehicle is parked on the opposite side. I missed being caught literally with my pants down by about a minute when another truck came by our very isolated breakfast stop! After lunch, it rained a bit, which was really nice, except that it brought out the African Giant Millipedes in droves. These are huge (up to 28 cm)! Apparently harmless, but who cares? (photo is from internet, but this is exactly what they looked like!) This afternoon we went out fishing on the Rufiji river with Moshi the boatman, and Hussein and Aly came along to assist. Actually, I think they wanted the change of pace from game drives as much as we did! We went upriver to where two channels of the river came together, and after getting the motor hung up in mud-bottomed shallows a few times on the way, we beached the boat on a nice sandy area and fished from shore. The fishing tackle was awful - 15 ft. surf rods which weighed a ton, the tip section missing from one, and the other had a tiny little spinning reel on it that you would normally use for trout or small bass! Since the catfish and tigerfish here can get really big (I think the camp record is 47 kilos [103 lbs]), they put 30 or 40 lb. test line on these spinning reels, so of course, the drag doesn’t work. The weights were bolts, tied on to the line above a swivel with the hook tied on below and baited with part of the fish that jumped into our boat on the scenic boat ride our first afternoon. This was Huck Finn fishing on the Rufiji…We had a bet going with a couple from London who were also going out fishing this afternoon, as to who would catch the most or largest fish. I won with a 4 kilo (9 lb.) catfish (the only fish I caught), Dick took second with a small tigerfish, and Aly came in third with a smaller tigerfish. The other couple got skunked - lots of little nibbles but nothing hooked. Watching Hussein play with the fish was almost as much fun as the fishing. He was like a little kid - fascinated and repelled at the same time. While we were fishing, the sun started down, and it was a gorgeous sunset, reflecting on the river and the animals along the river. Earlier I saw a hippo on land in the distance, with what appeared to be a small dog. When I looked through the binoculars, it turned out to be a newborn hippo baby - still all black and really tiny. (cont/d)
  10. Selous Trip Report 9/23 - This morning we had a late breakfast and left for Mtemwe airstrip about 9 a.m., doing a modified game drive on the way. We finally saw a male Greater Kudu with good horns, but he remained buried in the bush so we couldn't really get a good view of him. There was a bit of a mix-up at the airstrip about who was supposed to be going on which aircraft. A total of 3 planes were eventually on the ground, but since there were only a few of us going on to the Selous rather than Zanzibar or Dar, the mix-up didn’t involve us, and we were able to enjoy the sideshow and the back and forth of luggage as people and bags were on- and off-loaded from one aircraft to another. While we waited for this to get straightened out, a mini-van from a local village arrived. They weren’t going anywhere, just on an outing and wanting to see the airplanes close up. And of course, like tourists everywhere, they wanted their pictures taken! We arrived at the Selous airstrip a little late, but Hussein and Aly were waiting for us in an open-sided range rover like the ones we had in Zambia. We had a similar vehicle in Ruaha, and we really like them. We drove straight to Impala Camp since we were already late and hadn't yet had lunch. Impala camp is really nice, in a very lovely setting on the Rufiji River. There are lots of trees with leaves on them instead of bare branches, but the grasses are low and grazed-off since its the dry season, and game visibility is still very high. There are only 8 tents. Our tent is No. 1, which is farthest from the dining pavilion and bar, but overlooks the river and has no visible (or audible) neighbors. We’re in a really wonderful bush location, unless you don't care for a quarter-mile walk to the dining and bar area (well, maybe not quite that far…). The weather here is more humid than we seen so far, but definitely not unbearable, especially since there is a fan in our tent (whoohoo!). We opted for an evening boat tour instead of a game drive, since we hadn't had our daily nap, and it was a real treat. Lots of small Nile Crocodiles and some pods of hippos, many beautiful herons, egrets, sandpipers, plovers and other water birds, and best of all, three trees full of White-fronted Bee-eaters. The trees they were in were just above the clay cliffs along the river where they dug their 3-foot deep nest holes. There were groups of 5 to a dozen birds at a time that would land on the side of the cliff and spread out their wings, which are iridescent green. What a special sight! This group looked like a bee-eater choir! The river was very scenic, and the birdlife was abundant, including a gorgeous Malachite Kingfisher, a Pied Kingfisher and a Yellow-Billed Stork. On the way back to the camp, we beached the boat and climbed up an embankment to find that a table and chairs had been set up for the six of us along with a chilled bottle of a really tasty sparkling Rose wine and some snacks, for sundowners. Another fine treat. We had a honeymooning couple with us from Britain, and during the boat ride a fish jumped into the boat and landed right at the girl's feet! It was flopping around like mad, and she was squealing and almost went overboard trying to get away from it! She said later that she was so embarrassed at having been made to “scream like a girl.” That will surely be a moment from their honeymoon that they will remember for a long time! We also saw our first Nile Monitor Lizards which can reach up to 3 feet long and are usually found lying on a branch over the river. The ones we saw were smaller but very prettily marked (although the pictures don’t do it credit). Dinner was one of the best we've had anywhere - Indian Ocean Prawns with ratatouille of eggplant and peppers. And of course, the ginger carrot soup was great. Everywhere we've been the soups have been just wonderful. 9/24 - Last night we heard a lot of very “African bush” sounds: Bushbabies screaming, hyenas whooping and laughing, hippos grunting and splashing, and a lot of birds since there was a full moon. And as soon as it got light, the Vervet Monkeys started using our tent roof as a launching pad for the adjacent tree. So much for sleeping in. Today we did our first game drive in Selous, and it was really fine! Lots of new birds, and a Kudu with the biggest horns - and he finally managed to wander into a clear spot where we could not only see him clearly but get some good pictures of him! We also saw 3 young giraffes, one only a week or 10 days old, because part of his umbilicus was still attached. Later we saw a couple of 2- or 3-year old male lions (no manes yet and still some faint spots on the legs) walking through the bush at 11 a.m. or so, when most lions are sleeping. They didn't have the bulging stomachs lions get when they've had a good meal, so we figured they must be hungry and were in the mood to see what was available for lunch. We followed them for a while to see what would happen. Trouble was, it was really hot, they were panting and moving fairly slowly, and all the impalas and wildebeest either saw the lions or got wind of them, so finally the boys just gave it up and lay down under a shady tree for a nap.
  11. Reading Rolf's book (and seeing those fabulous paintings) definitely made the Selous more enjoyable, but even more it increased my appreciation of the whole of the african wilderness. I still can't quite comprehend the pleasure hunters find in shooting the animals rather than pictures, but the book overall was wonderful.
  12. Lynn, those are great shots of the Kudus running! We also found them very difficult to see clearly, let alone photograph, as they were very shy and usually in amongst the bushes. Gorgeous animals, though.
  13. We spent 4 days at Impala Camp on the Rufiji River in the northern part of the Selous in September 2010 (i'll be posting trip report and pictures in a few days on this last part of our trip, and on the couple of days we in Zanzibar, in Trip Report - Kenya & Tanzania Sept. 2010). We saw no evidence of poaching or hunting, and did not notice that the animals were more skittish than in other areas we visited in northern Tanzania. Lovely area, and nice change to be near the river and lakes after so much time in dry areas. The camp was quite nice, as well.
  14. Hi, Moses - We were in Land cruisers most of the time, with the exception of the elderly land rover in the Mara. The vehicles all had hatches and in the roofs, and all were quite roomy, at least for just the two of us. The Ruaha and Selous trucks were open sided, which was very nice; roof with hatches was available for shade, but otherwise it was an open vehicle, which made for a feeling of closer contact with the animals. As to crowding and too many vehicles surrounding animals, we did experience that in the Masai Mara and in the Crater. Our experience was that the drivers and the guests were quite respectful of the animals, and polite about moving out to allow others to have a chance to see the animals. That being said, it was much more satisfying when there we were the only vehicle or one of just a few. I agree with Game Warden - you should have this post moved to a separate topic and get more input from others on Safaritalk. P.S., thanks for the kind words about our photos - it really was a fabulous safari!
  15. Wonderful photos, Jan - looks like you had a great trip! That pangolin almost looks like it got INTO the campfire!

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