Atravelynn

Wishing and Waiting for Rain. Ndutu & Kusini, Feb 7-18

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Posted (edited)

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The rainbow does not mean that the wait for rain was over, wishes fulfilled. Distant showers bathed the crater, not Ndutu. 

I was told that when you see a rainbow on the horizon you won’t get rain anytime soon where you stand. 

Those words proved accurate.

 

 

Itinerary – February 2017

7 total nights Ndutu (Njozi Camp), split in the middle by 3 nights Kusini (Kimondo Camp)

 

6  Depart Chicago on KLM

7 Arrive JRO, o/nt Tulip

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8, 9, 10  Ndutu at Njozi Camp. 7-ish hour drive from Arusha. 

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Njozi indoor dining area, as

lovely as the outdoor area

 

11, 12, 13  Kusini at Kimondo Camp. 1.5 hour drive from Njozi Camp

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View from Kusini, Ngorongoro

Mountains in background

 

14, 15, 16, 17  (back to) Ndutu at Njozi Camp 1.5 hour drive from Kimondo Camp

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Njozi tent.  Njozi means dream

and it was very comfortable for

sweet dreams.

 

18   Ndutu to JRO, depart on KLM. 7.75-ish hour drive from Njozi Camp

19  Arrive Chicago, KLM

 

This itinerary split a week in Ndutu into two stays, with a 3-day gap between.  I was trying to be in Ndutu close to the start of the rains and then return for what is traditionally peak birthing time in mid-February.  Kusini, also excellently located for green season travel, divided the two Ndutu segments.

We were out each day about 12 hours with packed breakfast and lunch, as has always been the approach with The Wild Source in Feb and March in Ndutu/Serengeti.  We usually ate lunch outside of the vehicle and stretched our legs. There were even lawn chairs to sit on. (Of course, you don’t have to be out 12 hours/day; it’s just a nice option.)

 

George was the guide from the 8th to the 14th.  Deo was the guide from the 15th to the 18th.  Both were marvelous throughout.  Great guides and great guys!

 

This split-Ndutu approach was also used by @FlyTraveler this past Feb.  We tried to meet in Ndutu but did not manage it.

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As you can see by the map, Kusini is in Southern Serengeti, and it even means “south” in Swahili.

 

It was a good itinerary, even if the rains did not cooperate. In Nov-Dec, rain was sparse.  Then after what seemed a promising start in late Jan-early Feb, the spigot was shut off.  Instead of lush, green habitat, we had dry, often dust-blown conditions.

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This is Lake Ndutu, its entire perimeter captured in this

NON-panoramic shot.  Very little water.

 

“The sky is practicing cloudy,” is The Quote of the Trip, and was originally provided by a Botswana guide back in August 2005. Most every afternoon was cloudy practice overhead, but the clouds always dissipated by nightfall and no rain.

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Evidence of “the sky is practicing cloudy.”  Unfortunately, no rain followed. Ndutu.

 

Despite these arid conditions, within 45 minutes of entering Ndutu, we saw 10!! cheetah!!  Two families of a mother and 4 cubs boost duma totals quickly. Those 10 represented about a third of our total cheetah sightings this trip (some were the same cats seen more than once).

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Mother and 4 nearly adult cubs, Ndutu

 

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Pile ‘o sleeping cheetah, Ndutu

The second cheetah family of four had younger cubs.

 

 

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Mother and 4 approx 4-month old cubs, Ndutu

 

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One of the approx. 4-month old cubs, Ndutu

 

We encountered the mother with four near adult cubs again in a situation that was both record setting and appalling.

The record setting occurred when 2 males appeared, paying close attention to the family. There could soon be several females of interest for the males between the maturing female cubs and the mother, who would be receptive again when her cubs left.  The result was 7 cheetah in one view. A coalition, plus!

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7 cheetah can be counted – a mother & 4 near-adult cubs plus two males. Seen on the plain halfway between big marsh and small marsh

 

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Mother cheetah checking out the intruding males

 

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3 of 4 near adult cubs and Mom

 

The appalling part was that a hot air balloon landed illegally right where these 7 cheetah were milling about, and then the crew proceeded to set up the breakfast table. George pointed out they were not allowed to do that. “The wind pushed us,” was their excuse. Yeah, right.  Mother Cheetah had enough to worry about with the gentlemen callers and did not need a balloon safari to contend with.  Fortunately, all the cheetah seemed to ignore the entire balloon affair and distanced themselves with an air of disdain.

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Note the family is more interested in the male cheetahs (out of the frame) than the balloon behind them.

 

 

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to be continued

Edited by Atravelynn
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Lynn, been looking forward to this report - I got the preview when the photos you loaded in the gallery popped up in my "what's new" feed ...... Cheetah everywhere!!! 

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Posted (edited)

Included in our 30-ish cheetah sightings were 4 cheetah kills—3 in Ndutu and 1 in Kusini.  The first Ndutu kill was watched through binocs in Makao Plains because moving closer could have startled the Grant’s Gazelle that was looking down at us warily from its hilltop perch.

Our caution and restraint, and that of the other vehicle at this sighting, helped deliver a meal for the cheetah and her 3-ish month old cub, after a lengthy chase. The single 3-month old cub was given the task of opening the Grant’s carcass.  In George’s opinion, that was starting very young, but it looked like this little guy had ripped open hide before.

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Mother only joined in after the cub had opened the carcass.

 

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Grant’s Gazelle kill in Makao Plains, Ndutu

 

We thought we might see another mother cheetah and her one nearly grown son take down a wildebeest calf.  A herd with calves passed within 3 meters of where the cats were resting, hidden under some brush.  We were dismayed as they ignored the single file line of wildes with calves trailing near the end that seemed a perfect opportunity, until we noticed hyenas in the distance.  The cheetahs had calculated that it was not worth expending their energy to kill when the hyenas would just rush in to steal the prize.  This logic was repeated with different cheetahs several times throughout the trip.

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Mother and near adult son, Ndutu

 

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Near adult son, Ndutu.  Sometimes personalities can be detected.  This guy was exceedingly shy and wary.  His mom was not.

 

A highlight was a new litter of lion cubs.  I observed them in Days 11-20 of their early life over about a dozen visits, in their well concealed den near Ndutu’s marsh woodland.  We stayed a respectable distance and I often used 50x zoom. 

Months later I learned three cubs survived; one was killed by a jackal that had also killed another litter of cubs born just a few days before these four and raised just 200 meters away.  The mother that lost the cubs joined her sister so that there was extra milk and extra vigilance for these four cubs.

Visit #1 to 11-day old lion cubs.

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This may be my favorite of the lion cub photos.

 

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4 lion cubs about 11 days old. Near marsh woodland in Ndutu.

 

The likely father of these cubs was patrolling with his brother early in the morning.  We left each day before dawn, about 6 am, so it was still dark.

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Ndutu

The previous year in Ndutu, male lions were all over, including a coalition of 5 young studs.  This year, sightings of male lions were less common, so it was nice to see these guys. 

One species that always seems to be everywhere and in everybody’s business is the black backed jackal.

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Triangle in Ndutu.  A pair of black backed jackals approached these warthogs.

 

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The jackals seem to be boldly cozying up to the hyenas. Ndutu

 

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Hyena eats before the jackal

 

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Shy, young jackal in Triangle of Ndutu.  Scurried into the den.

 

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Largest and (I’ve been told) tastiest of the antelope—Eland.  Their popularity with all predators and the fact

that their heft reduces their acceleration, contributes to their extreme shyness.

 

Visit #2 to 11-day old lion cubs.

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Big paw, small paw.  Litter of four 11-day old lion cubs. Near marsh woodland in Ndutu.

 

to be continued

Edited by Atravelynn
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Posted (edited)

Omg those lion cubs are precious!  Love that last shot of the big and little paws. And so many cheetah! But Ndutu is definitely the place for cheetah, we were only there four nights and saw 14. (That was years ago at Ndutu Safari Lodge.)

 

glad to see this report on Njozi camp as Bill keeps trying to get me to go.looking forward to the continuation. 

Edited by janzin
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Posted (edited)

The dry conditions seemed to diminish the birdlife. Still we saw some nice birds and a few bird pics follow.

 

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Crowned lapwing, Ndutu.  There is an egg under its breast.

 

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White-headed Vulture between 2 Ruppell’s Griffon Vultures.  That white head is glaring in the sun!

 

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Black crowned Night Heron, Small Marsh, Ndutu

 

 

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Ostriches running

 

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Tawny Eagles in Ndutu and Yellow-throated Sandgrouse in Kusini

 

large.599bb1b5340d6_IMG_3151ndutumarshow

Marsh Owl near Lake Ndutu

 

The European Rollers, in softer pastels than their bold and brash Lilac-breasted cousins, were flitting about, even catching beetles.

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European Roller meal

 

 

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European Rollers, Ndutu

 

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Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Kusini and Long-crested Eagle, Ndutu

 

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Moru Kopjes area of Serengeti. Parent and chick Ground Hornbills.  Both parents were present, but not photographed. 

Though it was dry in Ndutu, the big and small marshes were wet.

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Zebras at Big Marsh, Ndutu

 

Visit #3 to 11-day old lion cubs.

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Visit #4 to 12-day old lion cubs.

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Visit #5 to 13-day old lion cubs.

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Near marsh woodland in Ndutu.  Litter of 4 lion cubs under 2 weeks old.

 

To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn
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1 hour ago, madaboutcheetah said:

Lynn, been looking forward to this report - I got the preview when the photos you loaded in the gallery popped up in my "what's new" feed ...... Cheetah everywhere!!! 

I have noticed when uploading pics that it really becomes a big photo dump that stretches on for miles (kilometers)!  There were lots of cheetah around I have head are they are becoming more plentiful, not less in Ndutu.  Good news.  I saw at least 7 cubs in 3 families that were nearly ready to be on their own, so that's encouraging that they made it that far.

18 minutes ago, janzin said:

Omg those lion cubs are precious!  Love that last shot of the big and little paws. And so many cheetah! But Ndutu is definitely the place for cheetah, we were only there four nights and saw 14. (That was years ago at Ndutu Safari Lodge.)

 

glad to see this report on Njozi camp as Bill keeps trying to get me to go. Well then you must! looking forward to the continuation. I don't have a lot of comments on Njozi in this report.  It was great like last time.  Here is more on it from a previous report.

Njozi Ndutu Camp

 

Because we were out all day, every day, I did not have the opportunity to experience Njozi and see the animal visitors during the day. I would ask about who showed up while we had been out and was told about giraffe, elephants, and zebras. I did get to see a few zebras and a giraffe, along with some impala, looking out from camp.

 

William did a great job as my tent over-seer. He even assisted me in star photography with my tripod one evening because I was not to be outside the tent alone. The results were a dud, through no fault of William’s. He was quite helpful and patient. I need some more practice or better equipment for celestial night shots.

 

On one of the few days we were back a little early because of heavy rain, Saimon the camp manager added librarian to his job description by delivering an assortment of books to me from the camp “library” that stretched from guide books to novels.

 

The food at camp was outstanding, and plentiful. I had to request half rations so as not to leave food on my plate. The banana soup sticks out as a culinary highlight.

 

For the wonderful breakfast & lunch boxes, my request was for 1/3 the normal amount of food, the boxes were so ample. Really appreciated all the fresh fruit in the breakfast box. Sometimes I’d save some for a fruit snack later in the day in the vehicle. Quality boxed meals were an important component of the trip because we were out 6:00 am – 6:15 pm or 6:30 pm most every day, and did not return to camp for meals. Ndutu’s official hours are 6-6. The extension a little bit beyond the 6 pm deadline usually occurred on the road to the camp.

 

I got to experience Njozi with a group of 8 or 9 guests; with a couple from the office staff; and as a solo. All configurations were handled well. One of the group members was so impressed with the excellent cuisine that she asked if the chef was married. I don’t recall the response. He may have diplomatically evaded the question.  Update in 2017, the lady who asked that question returned again this year.  We all remembered her!

 

When I was a solo, Manager Saimon (now playing waiter) provided tent/room-service for my evening meal on the verandah, out of the evening rain.

 

* Njozi Ndutu Camp has pioneered adding camp biologists to the staff to study animal behavior, specifically lions preying on livestock and using cheetah recognition software.

 

* The family tent’s furniture, scheduled to arrive soon, will be all locally made out of recycled materials by an Arusha based architect turned creative furniture maker.

 

* Garbage is shipped out of camp to be disposed of in an ecological manner.

 

* Toilet sanitation is treated by the special bio-bacteria process.

 

* Njozi became solar powered in December. Right now they still use a generator a little bit each day for their freezer but everything else is working off the sun's grid.

 

* One amenity in which I did not personally partake, since I am not a coffee drinker, is the high quality coffee made from beans bought directly from small batch farmers who don't have enough volume to get the best prices from the wholesalers. But I am going to make it a point to have a sip of coffee next time (with lots of cream and sugar.)

 

I had the last, end tent on the right when facing the dining tent. I don’t think there are #s or animal names for the tents. It was great and the bucket showers were nice and warm, though I felt a little guilty requesting one during a downpour one evening, meaning William got a shower too, but his was far less pleasant and relaxing. Thanks again, William. There was also the option of round-the-clock warm water from the sink in the basin.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Wow, @Atravelynn I am getting really excited about going to Ndutu a year from now with the volume of cats that you saw.  Ndutu looks to be well stocked with cats .That's quite a deal when you have to describe the number of sightings by saying "30ish"!!!

 

Were you able to see any of the wildebeests calving with the dry weather?

 

You have some really great pictures.  I especially like the pile of 5 sleeping cheetahs, the large group of running ostriches, the 3 sub-adult sitting cheetahs, the large paw small paw lions and the bolting zebra. 

Edited by mapumbo
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Lovely photos of the lioin cubs, and great to see so many cheetah. Also a beautiful picture of the roller!

Big paw little paw is wonderful!

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9 hours ago, mapumbo said:

Wow, @Atravelynn I am getting really excited about going to Ndutu a year from now with the volume of cats that you saw.  Ndutu looks to be well stocked with cats .That's quite a deal when you have to describe the number of sightings by saying "30ish"!!!  I did not take photos of all of them.  We had 2 sightings on different days and in different places of the two mothers with four cubs each; a mother and two near adults; a mother and one near adult son seen on two different days; a mother and a young cub who tore into the Grant's; 2 coalitions of 2 males, one of them seen in both am and pm; 1 lone male killing a wilde calf; 1 napping, non-hunting female; 1 in the early morning dark, 1 unfortunately limping.

 

2 x [2 x (1 + 4)] + (1 + 2) + 2 x (1 + 1)  + (1 + 1)  + 2 +( 2 x 2) + 1+ 1 + 1 + 1 =

(2 x 10) + 3 + (2 x 2) + 2 + 2 + 4 + 4 =

20 + 3 + 4 + 4 + 8 =

27 + 12 = 39.  Almost 40!

 

It is always nice to find an opportunity for a little simple Algebra!

 

Next problem:  If a cheetah is running at 60 miles per hour for 500 yards at an angle that is 40 degrees from its prey, which is 70 yards away and does not take off until 3 seconds after the cheetah accelerates and then runs at 50 miles per hour, will you get a photo?

 

I've done 4 green season trips with George (in this case George and Deo)  and while this was the most cheetahs, all the trips have had numerous quality cheetah sightings.  Later in the season, like March usually increases cheetah #s but decreases the chances of seeing births. But this year, I bet wilde calves were dropping into March with the late rain. There are fewer cars in March also, an added bonus. 

 

 

9 hours ago, mapumbo said:

Were you able to see any of the wildebeests calving with the dry weather?  Surprisingly yes.  I even have an instruction manual coming up.  Not on how to give birth to a wildebeest calf, but on how to find wildes that are about to give birth.

 

You have some really great pictures.  I especially like the pile of 5 sleeping cheetahs, the large group of running ostriches, the 3 sub-adult sitting cheetahs, the large paw small paw lions and the bolting zebra.  Thanks!

(I don't know why your quote split in two parts)

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My eyes glassed over when I saw the math equation.  I would have never passed high school algebra except the coach was the math teacher.  Anyway, the final total is mind blowing.

 

The split quote was probably because I did an edit after I had posted because I thought of something I wanted to add.

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Very enjoyable trip report and many nice photos - thanks @Atravelynn!     Ndutu sounds like paradise for Cheetah lovers and it looks to have good birding as well.

 

And I am very jealous of the Marsh Owl - great photo BTW.

 

The Zebra action shots are also choice.  

 

You are also posting prodigiously - makes the rest of us look slack with our TRs.

 

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9 hours ago, TonyQ said:

Lovely photos of the lioin cubs, and great to see so many cheetah. Also a beautiful picture of the roller!

Big paw little paw is wonderful!  I remember a travelmate in Uganda years ago (who is still a buddy since that trip) took a beautiful gorilla hand photo to share with us.  Since then if hands or feet look interesting, I try to get them.

 

5 hours ago, mapumbo said:

My eyes glassed over when I saw the math equation.  I would have never passed high school algebra except the coach was the math teacher.  Anyway, the final total is mind blowing. Yes, even a fraction of that would be a successful trip.

 

The split quote was probably because I did an edit after I had posted because I thought of something I wanted to add.  These forums can outsmart me.

 

5 hours ago, offshorebirder said:

Very enjoyable trip report and many nice photos - thanks @Atravelynn!     Ndutu sounds like paradise for Cheetah lovers and it looks to have good birding as well.

 

And I am very jealous of the Marsh Owl - great photo BTW.  My best Marsh Owl ever and a nice setting.

 

The Zebra action shots are also choice.  

 

You are also posting prodigiously - makes the rest of us look slack with our TRs.  Prodigious after procrastination.  Note that this trip was 6 months ago.  I have a good excuse though.  Two other safaritalkers held me captive in Ethiopia about a month after this trip and then forced me to contribute my share to the "Above the Clouds" Ethiopian report.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

When putting this trip together, Asilia’s Kimondo Camp in Kusini appealed to me for several reasons.  (1) It is good place to stay during the calving season because it is far south in the Seregneti, where large herds would likely be found. (2) Portions of Kusini allow driving off road, like Ndutu allows.  (3) Kusini is less visited than other parts of the Serengeti.  (4) It’s close to Ndutu, about a 90-minute drive. (5) It is possible to reach the Central Serengeti from Kimondo, on an all-day outing to the north.

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Rarely do I find the occupants of another vehicle more interesting subjects

This is one of those cases.  than the wildlife around them.  Kusini early morning.

 

Kimondo Camp was gorgeous, the staff was wonderful, food was outstanding, the surrounding area was very attractive, there was some fine predator activity, but the dry conditions meant the wildebeest and zebra herds were far from Kusini.  

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In addition to fine predator activity, Kusini had fine reptile activity. 

Good eyes, George for spotting the fleeing chameleon!

 

I earned the first of my two Junior Ranger stripes when I spotted these two brothers in the dark.  “Something looks like two little haystacks over there,” I observed to George.

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Two cheetah brothers in Kusini beating the dawn and looking like two short haystacks in the dark.

 

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One of Kusini brothers, early morning.  I like the purple flowers.

 

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Putting the finishing touch on the morning routine, Kusini

Later in the day, we watched the brothers make a quick kill, working in tandem.  One brother tired the young Tommy and the other raced in to make the kill.  It was over in seconds and then they shared without squabbles.

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Two brothers in Kusini.  The dry vegetation is also evident.

In contrast to the brothers, who were quite active, we found one lone female keeping a low profile.  We watched her for several hours, thinking she might pursue some of the distant gazelles.  She teased us by showing interest in the prey on the horizon at times, but remained put. 

medium.59a60394c199b_IMG_2881femaleinkui

Lone Female in Kusini.  Baron around her.  The sky is practicing cloudy above her.

 

Kusini has a reputation for honey badger sightings and we found two.

medium.599fa99e8ead0_kusinihoneybadgerco

 

There are kopjes in Kusini that allow close access by vehicle.  I don’t remember if they were in the offroad-permitted area or if the vehicle tracks just pass nearby for good views.  Morning offered good lighting on the kopjes.

medium.599fa960149ed_IMG_2936kuisinilion

 

medium.599fa966a9ace_IMG_2955kusinilions

 

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Kusini lions

 

large.599fa98fa296e_IMG_3077kusinilions.

Kusini lions - My favorite of the morning antics.

 

 

to be continued

 

Edited by Atravelynn
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Posted (edited)

Lynn, Where in Kusini is the Kimono location? Near the Kusini Plains? or more towards the Kopjes/woodland?

 

FYI - for those cheetah obsessed ..... I was told the absolute best time at Kusini for cheetah is end July into August (something to do with the gazelle movement) .......  I was told so, by my guide at Sanctuary Kusini.

Edited by madaboutcheetah
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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, madaboutcheetah said:

Lynn, Where in Kusini is the Kimono location? Near the Kusini Plains? or more towards the Kopjes/woodland?

 

FYI - for those cheetah obsessed ..... I was told the absolute best time at Kusini for cheetah is end July into August (something to do with the gazelle movement) .......  I was told so, by my guide at Sanctuary Kusini.

 

Thanks for the question and that fascinating comment!  Your question allows a little more elaboration on Kimondo, which deserves accolades.

 

Kimondo was put up on the edge of the plains.  If there had been herds in the area, they could have been seen  right out in front of camp.  We were told that was the case at the end of Jan, when there was rain.  But Kimondo is mobile, so it could be placed somewhere else in the future, if permission is granted.  In the dry season Kimondo is in northern Serengeti.  It has 8 tents.

 

Good old ATR has a nice map that shows Kimondo is the eastern-most of these southwestern camps.  You can see on this map that there are camps located far more south than Kimondo.

 

http://www.africatravelresource.com/locations/map/

 

ATR also gives a good aerial shot of Kimondo.

http://www.africatravelresource.com/kimondo-kusini/?gclid=Cj0KEQjwoZTNBRCWg6TbrNu9z6gBEiQA4xkeYQyLoAX0Nd09t_4zhLxgu_Kn7tiAJVSc7EsuOpdY5vsaAptu8P8HAQ

 

The two closest camps to Kimondo  are Ubuntu and Serian.  We saw their vehicles.

 

Was Sanctuary's Kusini Tented Camp more in the kopje and woodlands area?  We drove to the kopjes from Kimondo and judging by the times on my photos, it took 45 minutes at a leisurely pace, stopping for just one sunrise shot.

 

July-Aug in Kusini?  Hmmm.... You've gotten the wheels are turning in my head!  An added bonus is there would be fewer vehicles there at that time, unless the cheetah lovers of the world all read this.  Kimondo would not be an option July-Aug because it moves to N. Serengeti.  When were you at Sanctuary Kusini?

I thought Kimondo was a wonderful place to stay in Kusini! 

Edited by Atravelynn
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Really enjoying this report. Cheetahs galore!  The lion cubs were adorable. I've never had the good fortune to see any so young. 

 

That is a fantastic Marsh Owl sighting, and the morning light on the lions on the kopjes definitely captures the essence of "magical."

 

It does indeed look very dry. How are things faring there now, 6 months later?  Any word?

 

And.....banana soup?  That would be a first. The chef definitely wins points for creativity! 

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Adorable Lion cubs and great sighting of Honey badger! 

And of course alot more! 

Great! 

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Lynn, I was there at Sanctuary in June ........  Along with the trip to Kogatende in the North (you made a comment on the Kusini cheetah in my report ;)

 

Sanctuary - yes, they are up into the kopjes (about a flat out 25 minute drive) from the Plains.  They have resident Lions there .... We heard them all night long.  During the migration, their mobile camp would also be located in the Kusini Plains (I assume not far from Kimondo).

 

Re July/August for cheetah .......... If end of June was any indication (there was literally nobody around) we had that entire area to game drive with nobody at all around.  We'd bump into Tanapa Rangers and that's about all....... 

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Posted (edited)

12 hours ago, Alexander33 said:

Really enjoying this report. Cheetahs galore!  The lion cubs were adorable. I've never had the good fortune to see any so young. It was a rarity and that's why I spent so much time going back to check them out.  Also rare is that it was possible to see them on most visits, even if some views were obscured.  I was pleased to see the mother and the aunt pay no attention to any vehicles in the area.  In contrast, when a few zebras sauntered by they snapped to attention.  We even thought there might be a zebra kill but they were a little too eager and alerted the zebras, which promptly fled.  With 2 adults attending the cubs (Mother and Auntie who lost her litter) one lion could leave for a while and join the pride to dine and then return.  About half the time we saw only one adult with the cubs.  Fortunately both females could suckle them.

 

That is a fantastic Marsh Owl sighting, (one of those "small things" that help make the trip) and the morning light on the lions on the kopjes definitely captures the essence of "magical."

 

It does indeed look very dry. How are things faring there now, 6 months later?  Any word?  I believe 3 of them "made it." 

 

And.....banana soup?  That would be a first. The chef definitely wins points for creativity! So many points that he got a marriage proposal from another guest.

 

11 hours ago, Antee said:

Adorable Lion cubs and great sighting of Honey badger!  I was glad we saw two of these "Kusini specials."  Apparently, honey badgers are more common here than some other places.

And of course alot more! 

Great! 

 

9 hours ago, madaboutcheetah said:

Lynn, I was there at Sanctuary in June ........  Along with the trip to Kogatende in the North (you made a comment on the Kusini cheetah in my report ;) I can never keep track of your wanderings and when--whether in Africa or India!  I remember those lovely cheetah.  

 

Sanctuary - yes, they are up into the kopjes (about a flat out 25 minute drive) from the Plains.  They have resident Lions there .... We heard them all night long.  During the migration, their mobile camp would also be located in the Kusini Plains (I assume not far from Kimondo). 

 

Re July/August for cheetah .......... If end of June was any indication (there was literally nobody around) we had that entire area to game drive with nobody at all around.  Good to know.  We'd bump into Tanapa Rangers and that's about all....... No people, lots of cheetahs.  That's a winning combo!  You must have figured Kusini would be productive

 

 

If there had been herds in Kusini, we might not have ventured to Central Serengeti and the Seronera Valley. But I was thankful that The Wild Source does not have mileage restrictions, so that the nearly 3-hour drive—making stops along the way—between Kimondo and Central Serengeti was possible.

 

Had I not gone to Seronera, I would have missed this fascinating loo shot.

large.59a0d5011f4f2_IMG_2364gentsandgent

Central Serengeti.  Males must decide if they are Gents or Gentlemen.

 

large.59a6d4467b265_zebraontermitemound.

Zebra on a termite mound is uncommon. It made my “top moments of the day” back at Kimondo Camp that evening at dinner.  

Moru Kopjes area of Serengeti.

 

Venturing north, a lion pride was dining.

large.599fa8958824d_Seroneralionesseat.j

Moru Kopjes area of Serengeti

 

large.59a6d9f779279_seronerafaceslions.j

 

medium.licking.jpg.fb982e98a514b0564344f

 

medium.599fa898d2c44_seroneraonemalelion

One of the brothers had lost an eye. The toughness and pain tolerance of predators is amazing. 

Moru Kopjes area of Serengeti.

 

large.59a6d8ad3462b_manyreedbuck.jpg.7dd

38 total reedbuck counted in one herd in Seronera Valley.  Most I’ve ever seen.  Usually they are in a pair, or maybe 2 pairs.

This too made my “top moments of the day” back at Kimondo Camp that evening at dinner.

 

medium.599fa885bb790_IMG_1946babyelesgiv

Seronera Valley.  The napping elephant calves are given additional shade by the adults.

 

The wildebeest herds lingered so long in Serengeti that some cows actually were calving there, which is extremely rare.  We saw no evidence of calving and just a calf or two when we were there.

 

There was a lovely lady at Kimondo who had made a trip up from South Africa with the main goal of seeing a wildebeest birth. She told me she had been waiting 25 years to see a wildebeest birth. She had seen no births during her days in Ndutu and now was at Kimondo in Kusini for about 3-4 days.  With maybe 9 wildebeest total in all of Kusini* there’d be no births nearby. 

 

She was going to try her luck in the Seronera Valley on an all-day trip, as a last resort.  I wished her luck, knowing the wildebeests don’t give birth in Seronera, and I hoped she would not be too disappointed that night at dinner. 

 

When we gathered for cocktails that evening, I noted her demeanor as I approached the bonfire. She was quite animated and smiley.  When I pulled up a chair to the fire, she was showing off a video of a wildebeest birth IN SERONERA!  There’s no offroading up there, but the cow was visible from a distance throughout the whole process!  Happy ending for the lovely South African lady and I hope for the calf.

 

Now you can add a new entry to your “it’s so dry” jokes.

               It’s so dry, the fire hydrants are chasing the dogs.

It’s so dry, the fish have forgotten how to swim.

It’s so dry, they had to close two lanes at the swimming pool.

              (my personal favorite)

                    It’s so dry, the dogs are marking the territory with chalk lines.
              It’s so dry, the cows are giving powdered milk.

             It’s so dry the wildebeest are calving in Seronera!

 

Ndutu is preferred for calving because when rains are normal, that’s where the abundant fresh grass is to nourish mother and calf.  They can eat their fill without needing to migrate long distances. The calves born in Central Serengeti will have a long journey ahead of them shortly after they are born to reach Ndutu.   Also the minerals in Ndutu’s grass promote healthy lactating and the wildebeest know this.  Survival for new calves is tougher if not born in Ndutu.

 

medium.599fa87addbb3_IMG_0144serengetihe

Seronera Valley.  About a third of the wilde population was still in Seronera on the 12th of Feb. 

This was the largest herd I saw of the entire trip.  Note the grass was fairly green.

The midday sky is practicing cloudy.

 

 

There are no calves in the above Seronera Valley picture, which reinforces the wildebeest “rule of thumb” that calves are born in Ndutu.   It makes the few births that did occur in Seronera all the more of a significant indicator of how dry it was and how dire the situation had become.

 

*If there had been more rain, it is likely we would have had herds stretching across the plain in front of Kimondo with a view of the migration and maybe births right from one of the 8 tents.

 

 

We were watching a sleeping leopard in a Sausage Tree near the Seronera River.   After about 45 minutes of waiting for the leopard to lift its head and look our way, a reedbuck came bounding through the (what else) reeds.  The leopard snoozed no more and zeroed in on the antelope.

 

medium.599fa5de08c0b_IMG_1992reedbuckspi

Leopard spied a reedbuck.  Seronera Valley in Central Serengeti.

 

large.599fa5fe0c689_offtohuntinSeronera.

The leopard left the tree and stalked the reedbuck.  Seronera Valley in Central Serengeti. 

At this point, there were no other vehicles lingering at what had been a sleeping leopard.

 

medium.599fa60334a0c_okIMG_20662of4.jpg.

Within a minute or two of stalking the leopard made the kill not far from our vehicle.  We could see it all.

 

large.599fa5e231d71_IMG_2089ok(2).jpg.b4

 

medium.599fa60759a05_okIMG_2130.jpg.06f3

 

large.599fa60d84692_okIMG_2144.jpg.d7323

 

medium.599fa6146027e_okIMG_21762.jpg.955

The leopard dragged the carcass right past us. Seronera Valley in Central Serengeti.  By now other vehicles had arrived on the scene.

 

medium.599fa61a8ba40_okIMG_2179.jpg.919d

 

large.599fa62021a98_okIMG_2180ok.jpg.a32

 

large.599fa5eb28d70_IMG_2188reedbuckkill

Seronera Valley in Central Serengeti

 

medium.599fa6283f536_okIMG_2192.jpg.4732

 

large.599fa5f286332_IMG_2197bloodonforel

 

medium.IMG_2250.JPG.659e2327409333523862

The leopard treed the carcass at a far more distant tree than where it had originally been resting.   Seronera Valley in Central Serengeti.

 

Of course the leopard kill made my “top moments of the day” back at Kimondo Camp that evening at dinner.

 

medium.599fa957b9d60_IMG_2904steenbokand

The only way to cap off a day with a leopard kill right in front of us was a steenbok full of flies, seen once we were back in Kusini!  This fell short of the "top moments of the day” back at Kimondo Camp that evening at dinner.

 

A professional photographer made it a point that night at Kusini to come over and congratulate me on the leopard kill, something he had not seen in his long-lived career.  I did not have the heart to tell him that it was the second time George had shown me a leopard kill—the last one a wildebeest calf in Hidden Valley, Ndutu about 3 years ago. 

to be continued

 

 

 

 

Edited by Atravelynn
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Posted (edited)

edit error.

Edited by Atravelynn

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Great day for you @Atravelynn.  6 safaris for us to Africa and not a kill yet except for a LBR with a snake.  Gives us a good excuse to continue going back, not that we need one.

 

We will be with George in Ndutu next year so maybe your and his luck will produce for us.

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Fantastic, Lynn - this really seems to be Cheetah heaven. And like Janzin said, what a precious sighting of those lion cubs, really special to see them that young. The Leopard sequence is simply awesome! Steenbok is interesting, I've never seen one in East Africa - weird, in Southern africa they are everywhere.

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Exciting report as usual.  I will be in Ndutu for 10 days next March.  Can't wait!!  Looking forward to the rest of this report.

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Posted (edited)

9 hours ago, mapumbo said:

Great day for you @Atravelynn.  6 safaris for us to Africa and not a kill yet except for a LBR with a snake. I have never seen that.  Just a grasshopper. Gives us a good excuse to continue going back, not that we need one.

 

We will be with George in Ndutu next year so maybe your and his luck will produce for us.  Is that in green or dry season or both?

 

9 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Fantastic, Lynn - this really seems to be Cheetah heaven. And like Janzin said, what a precious sighting of those lion cubs, really special to see them that young. The Leopard sequence is simply awesome! Steenbok is interesting, I've never seen one in East Africa - weird, in Southern africa they are everywhere.  I think we saw about 6, but they are shy.

 

8 hours ago, kilopascal said:

Exciting report as usual.  I will be in Ndutu for 10 days next March. Perfect timing!  Can't wait!!  Looking forward to the rest of this report.

 

 

On the second leg of my split Ndutu itinerary (Ndutu-Kusini-Ndutu) I resumed visits to the lion cubs. This time Deo was the guide, as George, was off on another safari booked before I had booked mine.  And I book very early!

 

Visit #6 to 17-day old lion cubs

medium.599db74f769dd_IMG_04606.JPG.544bb

 

Visit #7 to 18-day old lion cubs

medium.599c6aa51fcbd_IMG_0683lioncubs7.j

 

medium.599c6a99612e0_IMG_0678nurselioncu

 

medium.599c6a9006d35_IMG_0664lioncubs7.j

4 lion cubs under 3 weeks old. Near marsh woodland in Ndutu.

 

Previous green season travel to Ndutu had wildebeest herds as far as the eye could see.  Not so this year due to the dry conditions.

large.599bb1bc8f4dc_IMG_3193tommiesinfor

Some green and a few herds, behind the sparring Thomson’s Gazelles near Makao Plains waterhole, Ndutu

 

medium.599bb19acc26c_IMG_1497lonewilde.j

Possible explanations for this lone wildebeest in Ndutu: 

It was a mother who lost her calf and she is searching. 

This wilde was asleep when the herd moved on and woke up to emptiness.

A predator had scattered the herd and this one found itself alone.

 

Wildebeest calving without rain

During my first 3 days in Ndutu (Feb 8, 9, 10), wilde herds were small and scattered with few calves.  We found no placentas on the ground, meaning no calving had taken place recently.  That’s what would be expected with no rain.

 

However, George and I did see a Thomson's Gazezlle give birth.

large.599a5e9c40988_tommybirth.jpg.fa4c1

After giving birth to the baby gazelle, the mother hides it in the brush and leaves for a maybe 30-60 minutes,

so as not to draw attention to the new helpless fawn.

 

For wildebeest births, it is usually a moderate to heavy rain at night that signals cows to give birth the next day.  Even though rain had been removed from the equation, it was mid-Feb so Deo and I decided to try our luck anyway at finding the herds and scanning for females about to calve.  Note we had to “find” the herds.  This year they weren’t just all over, everywhere you looked.

 

This year the herds were split into about thirds—one third still in Seronera, one third in Ndutu, and one third dispersed in various areas such as Maswa the hunting concession.  Normally by the 15th of Feb, there’d very few wildes in Seronera and most to all would be in Ndutu.  But every so often, the calving season is set on its ear by odd weather.  I think it was 2010 and/or 2011 that was really off.

 

In a triangle between between Makao Plains, Kakesio, and Kakesio waterhole we located a herd with pregnant cows.  But would any be giving birth?

 

We saw only a couple of newly born calves and a couple of placentas while checking the herd for a couple of hours in the morning.   The lack of rain was definitely taking a toll on the pregnant cows, as shown in the next photo.

large.599a5e990af06_stressonbirthing.jpg

 

In previous years with adequate rain, I never saw a stillborn calf and no cow ever acted like some of these were, where they initiated birthing, then stopped, got up and ran around wildly, presumably realizing the fetus was dead.

 

This comparison shows how to tell if a cow may be ready to give birth by her tail.

large.599a5e7ff2f34_IMG_0176tailtutorial

The tricky part is keeping your eye on the wilde with extended tail (indicating a calf is due soon) when she moves into the center of a herd and disappears.

 

I earned the second of my two Junior Ranger stripes when I spotted the “water bottle” which generally means a birth will occur within minutes to about an hour.  We had been searching all morning for a possible birth with no signs when I saw it.  She ended up with a healthy calf as seen in the photos below.

medium.599a5e8a86c0e_IMG_0234waterbottle

We watched this wildebeest with the water bottle for an hour.

 

 

 

large.599517d3d3f37_4minutesbirthing.jpg

 

large.5995183ce0516_7minutesafterbirth.j

 

medium.599a5e6f79d2f_borntomoveout.jpg.6

The next day we returned to the same area to see if we might find any more births.  There was one birth early (photos below) and again we spied only a few newborn calves during our visit of a few hours. We saw no more births take place and only a few placentas.

large.599a5e760f705_hoovesvisiblefrombeh

In addition to checking for the water bottle and an extended tail, we also looked for

pointy little hooves sticking out the back, as seen here.

 

large.599a5e6e47b90_birthofwildecalc.jpg

 

large.599a5e73eff59_firstminutesoflife.j

 

large.599a5e8feb155_standingafterbirth.j

large.599a5e9fd5592_walkawaywithmother.j

Without rain, we were really lucky to see these births.  Well, it was luck, plus persistence and Deo’s knowledge of where these little splinter herds had settled. Because the herds were small and far away, a lot of guides did not even know where they were.  And it was a gamble to spend an entire morning requiring a long drive in search, knowing that seeing a birth was unlikely, given the dry conditions.  Anyway, it was very special to see these births by ourselves.

to be continued

Edited by Atravelynn
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1 hour ago, Atravelynn said:

We will be with George in Ndutu next year so maybe your and his luck will produce for us.  Is that in green or dry season or both?

 

That will be dry season.  We are staying 2 nights at Sanctuary Kusini on the way to Northern Serengeti to hopefully view the migration.  There will probably not be many people in Ndutu at that time but hopefully we will have good sightings of predators.

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