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Tanzania 2011 - my first safari ever


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#1 michael-ibk

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 07:15 PM

I´m not an English native speaker,  so please don´t wonder at weird expressions and wrong spellings, I just don´t know any better. ;-)
 
Day 1:
 
We arrived at Kilimanjaro Airport late in the evening. I was quite astounded with the very strict security checks and even felt a bit uneasy about having to give my fingerprints on a touchscreen. More rigorous than at home, and not really what I had expected. Only when the lights went out all around the airport (which apparently was no surprise whatsoever to staff) it was evident that I really was very far away from home. 
 
After quick introductions with the rest of our group (12 including the two of us) we were picked up by our guide for the next week and driven to Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge near Arusha. A nice facility with very spacious accomodations, but which definitely had left its best days behind for quite some time. I think the place could host several hundred guests so it was a bit weird that our group were the only ones there. Especially with a dinner staff that outnumbered us about 5:1. But food was excellent, and the huge rooms more than satisfactory. And I was really happy about the Marabou Storks all over the premises waiting for scraps. Yes, I really was in Africa.  :)
 

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The next day we went to Arusha NP, our first safari outing. Wasn´t expecting too much, I had read that the park was comparatively tiny, and therefore couldn´t sustain elephants or bigger carnivores. Well, as it seems even a tiny NP in Africa is more than enough to grant one little Austrian with one of the best days of his life. Arusha may be small but it is home to lots of animals. Just a few minutes after entering we came by a herd of cape buffalos, some zebras and warthogs and several massai giraffes. Pure magic for me, as I never had encountered African wildlife before, and therefore I was just grinning maniacly and couldn´t take my eyes off them. The more seasoned members of my group had to get used to my ever-present Toll, toll, toll (Great, great, great). Luckily they didn´t mind my enthusiasm.
 

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Next we entered the forest. Extremely green and lush, and we were lucky enough to spot a group of mantled guerezas, some Anubis baboons, a silvery-cheeked hornbill and a blue monkey. The Rhino viewpoint to the Ngurdoto crater didn´t produce many animals especially no rhinos who are supposed to show up there once in a while, but the view alone was spectacular enough so I almost didn´t mind.
 

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Afterwards we proceeded to the Momela lakes, and had some zebras, a young short-toed snake eagle and some baboons. Including an albino one which is apparently a rare thing, so even our driver took a photo. When entering the lake area four warthogs were welcoming us. I tried to communicate with them but my best try at speaking warthoggish must have sounded rude to them so they ran off. The lakes were full of (lesser?) flamingos, thousands and thousands of them. Nearby we saw some ellipsen waterbucks, and after a cape buffalo finally left its comfortable resting place on the road and let us move on it was giraffe overload on Serengeti Ndogo, the little Serengeti.
 
 

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After (a very good) lunch with apples, potatoes, bread and chicken the best part came along: A walk through the park with a ranger named Rehema, curiously dressed in Austrian military uniform and armed with an old Austrian military gun. Didn´t dare to inquire where and how that stuff got down here. The Lady was very knowledgeable, so I learned about dikdiks toilet habits and the best way to get out of a cape buffalo wants to kill your-situation. The solutions isn´t very satisfactory, running away isn´t an option because of course they will outrun you. Your best option seems to be lying down on the ground cause the buffalos don´t like to step on wabbly human bodies. But they will rasp away your skin with their tongue, which doesn´t sound too good, either. After having learned there´s no good way to flee an angry cape buffalo of course I approached them testing how close you can get without making them angry. All under Rehema´s watchful eyes, of course.
 
 


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After a walk to a beautiful waterfall (with lots of warthogs and baboons on the way) the day finally had to end, and we returned to the Ndurgoto Mountain Lodge. After a short swim (the pool was very cold) and a fabulous dinner I went to bed absolutely and unreservedly happy. I remember thinking that this day alone would have been worth it on its own.

#2 twaffle

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 09:34 PM

I love the refreshing enjoyment you have brought to your first day on safari, it reminds me why I keep going back.

… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#3 Atravelynn

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 09:53 PM

Toll, toll, toll!

 

Albino baboon.  What a first safari find!  Loved looking at Arusha NP, where I hope to be in a couple of weeks.  Your English skills are great, even if your warthog is not.


When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#4 Rainbirder

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 11:28 PM

Great trip report!!!
Love the Cape Buffalo image ......can almost make out what they are thinking -"Is that guy really walking straight towards us?" ;)

Forgive my suggestion but the young eagle image is a juvenile Martial Eagle -a more impressive bird than a Snake Eagle.

#5 Atravelynn

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 01:49 AM



After a short swim (the pool was very cold) and a fabulous dinner I went to bed absolutely and unreservedly happy. I remember thinking that this day alone would have been worth it on its own.

We part ways on the swim, but it's great to see such love and enthusiasm for Africa.  And you've only covered Arusha NP!


When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#6 johnkok

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 08:57 AM

What a great TR of your first day. You must have an infectious enthusiasm. And I can't believe you actually walked towards a herd of Cape Buffalo, and came back to tell the tale - skin unlicked. I have seen my ranger and tracker come rushing back up a slope back to the vehicle when they spotted some buffalo after having gone down to have a quick look for some leopard tracks.

#7 Sangeeta

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 05:08 AM

Very enjoyable - your day at ANP was eerily similar to mine. We saw the same suspects, almost in the exact order as you did! Brought back lovely memories and look forward to reading more. Your English is great.

Zindagi na milegi dobara... Chalo Africa
You only live once...Go To Africa

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#8 michael-ibk

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 07:40 PM

Thank you all for the very nice feedback indeed. :)
 
@Sangeeta: Maybe you were part of my group?  ;)
@Atravellynn: "Part ways with the swim" - how so? (Maybe I just don´t understand the expression. And by the way, I really really have loved reading your reports. It´s a bit unfair to single somebody out here because nearly all reports are awesome but I :wub: yours most. )
 
Anyway, here´s Day 2:
 
 
We left Ndurgoto Mountain Lodge in the morning and passed through Arusha. My first African town, and I can´t say it was a pleasant experience. Arusha is incredibly dusty, dirty and smelly and I was a bit shocked about all the dumped waste at roadsides. Certainly not a nice place to live, and I felt sorry for all the people who did live here, most of whom didn´t look very happy at all. When buying water for the next few days some of our group thought it necessary to heartily argue and complain about the price and even felt robbed, not because of the money but as a matter of principle. We ourselves however couldn´t and wouldn´t bother just one bit if we had to pay one or two dollars more or less, so we were glad when this tiresome quarrel was over and we could finally get on our way to Tarangire. I was quite astounded about the street quality, perfect smooth asphalt, totally up to par with European standards. We were told that the Japanese had funded the streets, because they would only be able to sell their cars if there were streets which would allow driving in more delicate cars. J
 
After a few hours time we arrived at Tarangire. Instantly loved it, very different from Arusha, much drier, but all the mighty Baobabs and acacias really give it an archaic, more African feel. And we were welcomed by a flock of yellow-collared lovebirds, a lovely sight.
 

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As Tarangire is apparently heavily infested by Tsetses, all cars were treated with some chemicals, and we did our best to spray ourselves with repellent as thoroughly as possible. Finally we did enter the park, and immediately saw several ostrichs (boy with several girls).
 

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Good start, and I watched these huge birds for quite some time before we moved on. Smaller herds of zebras and wildebeest soon followed, all hiding away from the sun under the trees. A very special sight (for me) was up next my first elephants. Yes, of course I had seen these majestic animals before in zoos but it´s something quite different having the privilege to see them out there, in the wild. We were all very much in awe and grinned sheepishly for joy.
 

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Luckily we should see even many more elephants this day, lots of them with little ones.
More zebras and wildebeest, impalas, giraffes, a bushbuck, ellipsen-waterbucks and an incredibly cute dikdik ensured that there seemed to be something new and beautiful after every hill, and we all enjoyed the peace and quiet. (No other cars were in our vicinity).

 


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Or would have liked to enjoyed the peace, but unfortunately we had a little recurrent disturbance: One lady in our car was so afraid of being bitten by Tsetses and having to die horribly and alone out here that she would get in little hysterical fits every time any insect would near the car. As there were many insects around it could get a little unnerving. (Since this is the second time in this post I mention some discontentedness with the rest of our group I ´d like to stress that we got along very well during the whole trip, and even would stick together in Zanzibar later on most of the time when we really wouldn´t have had to any longer. It was just once in a while that somebody could display some annoying traits but that doesn´t mean I didn´t like them as a person. So the group thing didn´t bother me at all.)
 
The highlight of the safari was only waiting for us as we got closer to the (nearly dried out) Tarangire River bed. Lots of animals were congregating there, and this huge amount of nature, just as I had seen and loved it so often on TV documentaries, was pure happiness, not only for me but for all of us in the car. Three group companions in my car had been to Namibia and South Africa before but they repeatedly stated that nothing they had seen there could compare with this magnificence.
 

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Hard to leave this place, but since other cars waited for their spot, we had to. So we drove to a picnic place just atop the river bed (big meeting place with quite a lot of people there) to have our lunch. Which you had to be careful about because if you wouldn´t watch your lunch box for just one second you could be sure your lunch was gone in the edacious hands of a vervet monkey! There were some school kids there who couldn´t get enough of teasing the little creatures. They had driven around in a bus, apparently it was a school trip. Made me smile, I expect that many kids there would have no idea of the paradise they are living next to because they never get to see it.
 

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After (late) lunch our time in the park was nearly over, but Tarangire decided to grant us with one perfect farewell gift sight: Our first pride of lions. With cubs! Not that close but as so often this day, an unforgettable first for me. I distinctly remember the intense, sharp smell.
One little elephant seemed to see us of, then and we had to leave the park and a great outing -behind.
 

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We drove on to a little town named Karatu (in the vicinity of the Ngorongoro Crater) where we would settle in our new accommodations for the night, the Highview Hotel. Okay for what it was, staff were extremely friendly, food absolutely alright and the surroundings quite nice. But if you´re looking for authentic African safari feeling it´s definitely not the right place. ;)
Didn´t matter though, because next day should take us into the Serengeti itself with all the African safari feeling one could ask for. J
 

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#9 Atravelynn

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 02:43 AM

We just officially met on the intro site!

 

Your first line here was about English as a second language so I should have remembered that before using such expressions. Part ways with the swimmming means I don't care for the pool when it's cold water.  Brrr  You can go swimming but not me!


When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#10 michael-ibk

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 08:27 PM

Ok, no cold water for the two of us. Cold drinks? ;-)

Day 3:

We started after breakfast and made our way to the Serengeti, the area I had been looking forward to the most. After a short stop at the Ngorongoro entrance gate we passed the crater street. Weather wasn´t too good, so there wasn´t much of a view, but I enjoyed the thick vegetation up there albeit it was somewhat stained from all the car fumes. As a German-speaking group a stop at the Grzimek-tomb was clearly our call of duty. I don´t know how well known the Grzimeks are abroad but they were probably the most popular wildlife persons in Germany and Austria to a lesser extent, mainly for a regular nature TV show and their Serengeti must not die-movie.

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After driving through the Conservation area (with a few giraffes and ostrichs on the way) we got to Olduvai Gorge. I know it is an extremely important paleoanthropological site but to be honest the few bones there on exhibition didn´t exactly thrill me. The view however did very much so!
 

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Next up was a visit of a Maasai village who presented a tribal dance, showed us their huts, their school and explained their way of life (especially the blood drinking/eating thing) and of course wanted us to buy their things. Which we politely did. An interesting experience, but it was painfully obvious that they were doing this several times a day for this group or another so it was anything but authentic. I couldn´t shake the feeling that they all would go home to their real houses and get a beer from the fridge once we would drive off. (I know they don´t, of course ).
 
 

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Finally we passed the entrance gate to the Serengeti! It didn´t live up to my expectations at first because everything was dried out and a dull treeless brown dominated the landscape. Two distant Grant´s gazelles were the only animals we could spot. A little disappointing.
 

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We (and lots of other people) had our lunch at Naabi Hill Gate where things started to get better. I enjoyed all the Hildebrandt´s Starlings around:
 

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The view from the hill over this endless sea of grass felt spectacular:
 
 

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And what a little beauty this little guy was:
 
 

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(Red-Headed Rock Agama)


When we drove on, more and more animals got into sight. A serval, which really is a beautiful cat:
 

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A Kori bustard, apparently the heaviest bird still able to fly:
 
 

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And then this lappet-faced vulture, sitting next to the road:
 
 

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Unfortunately we had the feeling that something was amiss with this bird, its whole posture felt quite unnatural. Some reedbucks were up next, a giraffe, some helmeted guineafowls, and cape buffaloes following shortly afterwards. We also saw several hartebeest, unfortunately quite distant,too. Especially unfortunate because this also should be our last encounter with this weird-looking antelopes.
 
 

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Then we had a real magical sighting. A beautiful lioness and her cub were lying on a Kopje. Apparently she decided that we deserved to get a much clearer look at her so she came down from the rock and positioned herself about 10 m away from the car. Her cub followed her down shortly later, and we could watch them for about a good quarter. Just wonderful, and another truly-deserved Toll, Toll, Toll-moment.
 
 

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But of course, finally we had to leave again. And met a herd of cape buffaloes again. It was very noticeable how much bigger than their Arusha conspecifics they were.
 
 

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A side-striped jackal, the ever-reliable zebras and an elephant herd were up next.
 
 

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And then the cream of the crop! A cheetah was sitting next to the road, intensely watching a big herd of Thompson´s Gazelles nearby. It watched and watched and watched tightened sped off with incredible speed and killed! Quite amazing for the gazelles had been quite far away and I didn´t really expect the cheetah to rocket off from this distance. My pulse was racing like crazy, I was absolutely stunned with this experience. Not alone, all in our group had been so in awe and were just watching instead of taking pictures. It´s funny, when watching TV documentaries I´m always rooting for the prey to get away from the big, bad carnivore but here it was completely different, I was really happy for the cheetah and his/her(?) successful hunt.
 
 

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That the sun set afterwards and the Serengeti was bathing in its famous golden light (whereas before it had been very cloudy all day) was just the icing on the cake.
 
 

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We finally arrived in the Serengeti wildcamp (which I will describe in the next installment) and were all giddy with pleasure how this day had just turned better and better.
 
 

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#11 twaffle

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 09:32 PM

What a wonderful introduction to the Serengeti, a cheetah hunt!!! :)

… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#12 PCNW

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 07:35 AM

I'm really enjoying your enthusiasm for this first trip. I too felt this way on our first (only trip). I was so excited that I couldn't sleep at night and grining like a silly goon for most of our trip.

#13 michael-ibk

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 09:48 PM

Thank you, and about the matter of not sleeping...:

We arrived at our accommodations for the next two nights, the Serengeti Wildcamp (in the Seronera area). This was just my cup of tea, waaaaaaaay better than the Ndurgoto Mountain Lodge or the Highview Hotel. The camp is quite basic, but in the middle of the wilderness and therefore a much more exciting location. Gazelles and zebras were to be seen all around when we arrived.
 
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The tents had comfortable beds, chemicals toilets (with no flush though) and even showers, supplied with sun-warmed buckets of water.
 
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Staff managed to cook delicious dinner with little equipment, and had even wine (a quite good South-African one) and whiskey. We enjoyed some of that after dinner sitting around at campfire. A magic evening beneath the stars, and more and more gleamy eyes closed in on us and we were wondering what animals were watching us. As it turned out mostly hyenas who were never far from camp because they were going for the kitchen scraps. I fell asleep practically immediately after going to bed, but all that wine tooks its toll and sometime in the middle of the night I woke up really having to go. I didn´t dare to get up, though, because surely a monster herd of huge animals were stomping and snorting just outside my tent. Giant elephants, surely. I have to admit that I needed to pull myself together a bit before opening the fly sheet and peek outside. My scary elephants turned out to be a herd of zebras, grazing peacefully between the tents. One came so close to me that I could have touched it, while it was never noticing me. That sight, this beautiful trusting animal in the moonlight, is a memory that will stay with me all my life, I think.

When I got up in the morning, fresh elephant droppings were waiting for me just in front of our tent, so maybe I had not only heard zebras after all? The next night apparently some lions had wandered though camp. I´m quite glad I slept through that, wouldn´t have been able to close an eye with them as close as my zebra the day before. And sleep was shorter than expected anyway since a cape buffalo had blocked the entrance to the tent for quite some time.

In short, Serengeti Wild Camp was just perfect, and when (not if) I return to Africa I intend to stay only in accommodations like this. Anyway, back to proper safari stuff:

A lone wildebeest started the day for us. It´s a bit weird seeing them solitary like this, one is so used to them being in large herds.
 
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A Lilac-Breasted Roller came up next. I was completely rubbish with birds then and have only grown more interested in them since my trip to India, but this little fellow is just beautiful.
 
 
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Lots of game accompanied us for the next few hours, especially zebras and Thomson´s gazelles. They were that numerous that we hardly ever would stop for them anymore which I nearly felt a bit guilty about.
 
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After some giraffes we came upon several Impalas. One lady of our group mentioned that the shape of their behind very much resembles the McDonald´s M, marking them as lions´equivalent of Burgers. Though I think they are more on a Leopard´s menu (aren´t they?) the point itself stands valid:
 
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A very red-skinned (mating?) ostrich passed by:
 
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A spotted hyena was our next encounter. I know a lot of people don´t like them but I grew quite fond of them, maybe because I´m a dog person. And doesn´t this one look like it wants to be cuddled a bit? While not minding a bit that it was blocking the road.
 
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After some topis, lions (one with a noticeable collar) and a little hippo pool the morning highlight presented itself: A leopard with impaly prey on its tree. Unfortunately quite far away, and not photo material at all, but it loved watching this elegant cat with the binocs and counting its rings.
 
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We were not alone.
 
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Moments like this were rare, normally our car was alone or only in company with the second car of our group. Only predator encounters would draw big crowds, but they would disperse swiftly again. A martial eagle and a warthog with very scary teeth were the next bigger sightings before a short break at a designated resting spot.
 
 
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Here a white-headed buffalo weaver was hiding in the bushes:
 
 
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On the subject of birds, is this a black kite?
 
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On our way back to camp we had a wonderful sighting of an elephant herd. They were having fun in a little mud pool, before they wandered off, not without one younger tusker mock-charging the other car of our group.
 
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Some lions and giraffes were our last sightings before noon, and we had lunch at camp.
 
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#14 Game Warden

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 09:59 PM

That sight, this beautiful trusting animal in the moonlight, is a memory that will stay with me all my life, I think.

 

Liking this comment a lot... :)


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#15 michael-ibk

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 07:14 PM

After a nice rest we went on our afternoon drive. Heavy clouds had started to gather, and it was quite apparent that it would soon be raining. Didn´t matter to us, because the temperature was much more pleasant because of it. The Tommies seemed to look forward to the rain, too:

 

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We soon came across some lions who were staring intensely in one direction. I was excited because it seemed that they were on the verge of a hunt.

 

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My excitement immediately turned into unease when I saw what they had focused on:

 

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A cheetah with two of their offspring! I know that lions kill cheetahs, so I was really worried, as they were just 100 m away! And curiously just staring back, without even seeming to be all too nervous about the situation.

 

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Well, I was, but luckily the lions lost interest and went the other way. Which made me go real “Pheeeeeewww!”  The cheetah mother and her kids wandered off, too, and it was a joy binoc-watching them playing games with each other. All the gazelles didn´t really mind them because of their playful and conspicous manner it was evident that hunting was not on their schedule.

 

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Or so I thought. Because all of a sudden mother cheetah dashed off and 10 seconds later a little Tommy which was apparently too surprised to even try to flee was no more. Great, great sighting (albeit quite distant), and I was wondering if the “Don´t mind us we´re just fooling around” thing was specific hunting tactis of this cheetah.

 

As expected, rain started to pour down immediately afterwards and changed the landscape. The animals evidently relished the rain and it was just beautiful witnessing their joy. We saw elephants, reedbucks, impalas, hippos, cape buffalos and more and returned to camp very satisfied and … just happy again.

 

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The next morning it was goodbye to Serengeti Wildcamp. I would have loved to stay there longer and someday I just have to return there, because everything there just felt perfect, just the way I had dreamed about this safari trip.

 

Giraffes, zebras and tommies were congregating to give us a nice farewell-scene.

 

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A lonely topi was posing for us, I enjoyed its yellow “socks” and weird face.

 

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Some zebras decided to give us a special show and were doing some acrobatics:

 

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Then we came to a extremely populated hippo pool:

 

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Great, great spot, because there´s a steep slope on one side so you can get very close to the hippos. Which is wonderful for the eyes, but not so much for the nose. Puh! The pool consisted of about 50 % water and about 50 % hippo feces, so it really can´t be too much fun for those grumpy pachyderms.

 

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The crocs were therefore wisely keeping their distance.

 

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We stayed with the hippos for about an hour and then … really had to leave the pool and the Serengeti itself, too. I was nearly getting a bit unhappy about having to leave this miracle of nature, but “Dumbo” here really cheered me up instantly. This little guy really makes one believe that little elephants can fly.

 

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We enjoyed some baboon family interaction and even a vervet baby.

 

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And then – like this lappet-faced vulture – we left the Serengeti and drove back to Karatu. Next destination: Ngorongoro!

 

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#16 michael-ibk

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Posted 16 March 2013 - 08:32 PM

On our way back to Karatu I started getting worried a bit because some sinister force seemed to repeatedly kick the car underside directly under my seat. Well, the shock absorber had given up, so the rest of the drive overdid the “African Massage” somewhat, but with proper “Hakuna Matata” attitude we managed to keep our spirits up and our heads down, except for the two times I tested the strength of the car´s roof with my head. People sometimes call me a bit bull-headed but no contest, the roof definitely won.

 

So we were quite relieved when we got back to the wonderfully smooth Japanese streets and made a stop in Karatu to visit the local market. A nice experience, people were very friendly, smiling at us (well, not on this pic I admit :) )  and I tasted some baobab fruit and red bananas. Delicious, tasting a bit like strawberries.

 

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By necessity I had  gotten used to all the children that would unavoidably follow your every step and beg for a little something with heartbreaking looks. Still, it´s not that easy just to ignore little children telling you that they are dying if you don´t give them money but I managed till we drove off again where I just had to give them something.

 

Although driving off took some time. Some of our group had decided to stay back in the car because they hadn´t felt comfortable about the market visit and had safety issues about it. Not a good choice because in the time we were away a real siege had built up around the car. More than a dozen of young men armed with T-shirts, bracelets and other touristy stuff were hellbent on making a sell, so all of them were knocking on the car´s windows and two of them even tried to push them aside. The situation quickly resolved after our return, and our companions were very relieved about the “save”.

 

Before we returned to the Highview Hotel we visited an orphanage nearby. Orphanages are oppressive by definition, and when the warden started to show us around the facility I felt very silly about all the note pads and crayons we had been told by the travel agency to bring along, and the sugar bought on the market didn´t do it either. It was very apparent from the scarcity and poorness of the institution that the one thing really needed was money. I was a bit disgusted when the warden would even show us the room with HIV-infected babies because it felt too much like visiting a zoo. But it´s totally understandable why they do it, they want the visitors to feel miserable and guilty about the whole thing, and want financial help. Luckily for them it works, it´s just impossible to leave this place without giving substantial donations, so it´s a good thing our travel agency had put this visit in the itinerary. We were seen off with a heart-warmingly uncoordinated and disharmonious chanting performance by all the kids.

 

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Next morning we headed to the Ngorongoro Crater. We all were curious if this place could live up to its reputation of having an almost as high game density like a zoological garden, as my travel guide book claimed. Of course this is widely exaggerated but the place is absolutely stunning nonetheless. Things started slow, on our way down the scenery itself was lovely, I especially enjoyed these mystical-looking trees.

 

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Game was reluctant at first. But soon, the ever-reliant zebras seemd to form a welcoming committee for us next to the road.

 

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Then we spotted cape buffalos, but before I could properly watch them the car raced off. Lions were nearby, and so we soon joined about a dozen of other jeeps waiting for a young lion to get closer. He did, and in fact so close that I could have touched him as he passed our car.

 

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Curiously he just kept walking on the road although he was permanently chased by the cars whose drivers always seemed to nearly fight each other for the best places. Which did spoil the sighting a bit, and I was quite relieved when the cars dispersed and we were alone again. It´s really remarkable how fast an almost traffic-jam-like congregation of jeeps can dissolve into nothing.

 

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Ostrichs, hyenas, more lions, a black-backed jackal and more zebras gave us some nice sightings. Then a big herd of hundreds of wildebeests surrounded us. A very special moment for me, probably my personal highlight of the day. We were alone, it was absolutely calm and all one could hear was a never-ending “gnu … blö … gnu …” from every side. Everything felt absolutely peaceful and perfect, a little taste of what experiencing the great migration must be like.

 

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We eventually moved on to Lake Magadi, with lots of Thomson´s, fewer Grant gazelles, some warthogs on the way and lots of flamingos, crowned cranes and Egyptian goose in the background.

 

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And then something I would never have spotted but our driver Roy really had eyes like an eagle. A caracal cat, apparently not something you see every day. Quite far away unfortunately, but its long and pointy ears were very visible.

 

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A lazy cheetah was dozing by the lake. Understandably, as it was getting quite hot now. We entered Lerai forest and I was quite surprised to see an elephant family. Surprised because my travel guide book claimed there were only tuskers down in the craters but no female and little ones. Definitely wrong. What we really had been hoping most for in the crater came next. Sort of. With the binocs I could … kind of see the butt of a rhino disappearing in the bushes. I think. Since about 30 cars were staring at those spot it´s no wonder it ran off.

 

At the picnic site we felt very elitist. While all the other cars had their packed lunches we enjoyed hot buffet prepared for us by the staff of Highview hotel. Yes, very decadent, but it still felt absolutely magnificent sitting there in the wild, enjoying the crater and having a fabulous meal. A Masai was standing guard, we were told that lions were afraid of them and therefore wouldn´t come close.

 

After lunch we encountered more lions.

 

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I was quite astouned to hear that apparently no less than nine prides are resident in the crater. Felt quite a lot to me, the place isn´t that big.

 

Kori bustards and ostrichs came next, and then two very sleepy spotted hyenas who had a bit of a bad-hair-day.

 

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Some hippos near the crater slope made me wonder how these big, short-legged animals had ever gotten down here. I can understand why giraffes don´t bother for the crater but I absolutely can´t fathom how and why the hippos managed to get there. We were circling back around Lake Magadi in hope of getting a better shot at the rhino. Caracal and cheetah were still dozing by the lake shore, and we enjoyed the flight of several crowned cranes.

 

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Back in the forest, the elephants showed up again, and luckily, so did the rhino. Still quite distant unfortunately, but we were happy having completed the “Big 5”. (I assume old hands like most of you here will frown a little bit on this Big 5 thing but I have to admit for a first-timer like me it felt important.)

 

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It was time to leave the crater again, but not before it granted us one last special wish: I had seen lots of lions on this trip but no big male “lion king” specimen. And now there he lay, a few m next to the road, and veeeeeery evidently completely gorged. Our driver impolitely woke him up with an engine howl but the big guy just gave us one short stern look before he decided he couldn´t be bothered and went back to sleep.

 

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Great end to this trip to Ngorongoro, and everyone was smiling all the way back to the hotel thinking about the wonderful experiences this day had brought us.

 

A gorgeous sunrise marked the beginning of our last safari day next morning.

 

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Lake Manyara was our last stop. A bit of a disappointment. We had only two hours because we had to catch our plane to Zanzibar and surely this extremely short visit didn´t do the park justice. So, no lions on trees for us, not too much else in truth, but the more forest-like feel of the park is beautiful and you can see some enormous sausage trees there. Vervets, baboons, several hornbills, a nice hippo pool, some elephants and a solitary bushbuck showed up, too, so we didn´t see nothing but all consented that our Lake Manyara experience should just be seen as a coda to a wonderful safari week and not really as safari on its own right. (Zanzibar was wonderful btw, but since it´s not “safari”, I won´t write about it.)

 

Didn´t matter, as I said it had been a fantastic week, definitely one of the best of my life. The sheer beauty and power of Tanzania and its wildlife have touched me deeply. On bad days I like to just close my eyes and think back to my buffalo walk in Arusha, the Tarangire river with all its eles, impalas, wildebeest, giraffes, ostrichs and zebras congregating to drink, the cheetah kill in the Serengeti, my nocturnal zebra visitors in the camp, the stink of the hippo pool, the tranquillity in the middle of the wildebeest in Ngorongoro …  and feel better. So much better. I had loved animals as a kid, learned all their scientific names and would be most delighted about big encyclopedias with lots of pics and facts at Christmas. Somehow, growing up, I had lost this enthusiasm, or rather buried it. This safari brought it all back, and I´m quite sure that my enthusiasm for wildlife can´t be buried again.

 

It was fun writing this and reliving this very special week, I hope some of you enjoyed it, too.



#17 SafariChick

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Posted 17 March 2013 - 03:58 AM

@michael-ibk Great report! Your English is excellent and the writing was so vivid, I really got the picture of what it was like to be there. Sad about the orphanage and about the people who feel the need to try to sell things so much.  That male lion really was stuffed! I hope I'll get to this area some day, so far only been to Southern Africa. Thanks for sharing all this!



#18 twaffle

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 09:50 AM

Thank you for the excellent recounting of your trip, I think the final sunrise is a great reflection of your wonderful safari.


… clarity in thought comes after challenge …


#19 kitefarrago

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Posted 18 March 2013 - 10:36 PM

I did enjoy reading this. Some of your emotions I certainly shared on my first safari.

 

You asked in post #13 about the bird being a black kite - it's a juvenile bateleur.

 

So when are you going back?

 

Andrea



#20 michael-ibk

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Posted 19 March 2013 - 06:39 AM

@SafariChick

@twaffle

 

Thanks for the feedback. :)

 

@kitefarrago

 

And thanks to you, too, especially about the bateleur. One of the few African birds I know and actually was hoping to see, but I never realized I DID see one until now. The juvenile one really doesn´t look very much like the grown-up bird.  I will return to Africa next year, probably about March. Not Tansania though - Botswana.


Edited by michael-ibk, 19 March 2013 - 06:39 AM.






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