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Sangeeta

Serengeti Dreamin'

90 posts in this topic

July 10, 2011

 

The weaver bird nests at the hotel are just as active as they were when I was here 2 years ago. I feel like I'm saying hello to old friends as I see them they zip back and forth from their nests to the palm tree across the street. They hurry back with palm fronds clutched in their beaks. These birds are reason enough to overnight at the Southern Sun in Dar.

 

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Next morning, while waiting for our flight to Seronera, we meet Anjum, the wife of travel book writer Graham Mercer. They are en route to Selous. We rush to the bookshop, buy some of his books & promptly prevail upon Graham to sign them for us. Thank you for bargaining for us at the bookstore, Anjum. Thanks also for the very informative & entertaining half-hour spent with both of you before the flight!

 

Corrugated iron roofs and vast brown landscapes below. Soon the thrumming plane makes us drowsy. Luckily not all of us nod off. There, there - to the right - there, above the clouds, gleams Mt. Kilimanjaro. The window of the airplane is dirty & I know the picture will be fuzzy. But I take it as good omen No. 3 of the morning.

 

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The airport at Arusha is as quaint as ever, but are there many more planes on the runway now?

 

Nice nip in the air. We order fish & chips & a coffee before heading out to Seronera.

 

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This mobile safari has been organized for us by Bill Given at the Wild Source and we will use his Safaribeest Mobile facilities on the trip. Our guides through the entire 12 day adventure will be Deo Magoye, Bill's partner in Tz, and Peter Huka. Deo is guide extraordinaire with a long, long list of accomplishments under his belt. Peter is actually a Nomad guide on sabbatical. I spend most of my time with Peter and by the time the trip ends, I think he is guide extraordinaire as well.

 

What with a late Dar departure, a long Arusha layover, and a stop at Manyara, it's almost 3 PM by the time we land at the Seronera airstrip. The formalities take forever because the phone lines for the credit card transactions are painfully slow. But we finally make it out. "Let's go find some leopards", says Deo, and...

 

Is this really our very first sighting of the trip??

 

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We have to be at our campsite in Moru by 6 PM, Deo & Peter tell us, we can't linger today. But it's hard not to linger when you see this...

 

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And this...

 

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And this...

 

 

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Could that possibly be a leopard?

 

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Leopard No. 2 you say?

 

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Wait, wait, that can't possibly be! But it is. Leopard No. 3!

 

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And soon after that...

 

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We drive past hyenas emerging from their dens, nursing zebra babies, a huge herd of buffalo and the ever-present tommies wiggling and swishing their tails as we pass them.

 

It's past dusk when we finally reach our Moru special campsite 3 . Hamadi, the camp-in-charge, smiles at us as we clamber out of the 2 Land Cruisers, shaking our heads in wonderment and astonishment. He, and his crew of 6, will remain with us throughout.

 

A Moru Kopjes sunset.

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The campsite is nestled into its own kopje. The tents are large enough to accomodate 3 beds, though it is a bit snug in that configuration. My brother has only 1 bed in his tent and it looks palatial inside! En-suite showers and loos. A mess tent with a bar, dining table and a sofa arrangement.

 

Hot bucket showers and we gather around the campfire. My first G&T though it's way past sundown by now. This is my brother's first safari. The rest of us are repeats. We try to tell him that the afternoon drive was nowhere near normal, but I suspect he doesn't quite believe us. We're all grinning from ear to ear as we troop in for dinner.

 

Our first dinner cooked by Dudu, bush chef extraordinaire. Some of us are vegetarian and some not, so this can't be easy for him. But he makes it look easy. We don't repeat a single soup throughout the trip. Today was carrot & cream soup. Delicious. Fresh bush-baked bread. Even more delicious.

 

I snuggle under my duvet. It's only 9 PM but the hyenas are calling. Have I died and gone to heaven?

 

Matt - I promise I won't use any more large images in this TR. The light was really bad that 1st evening and I really want to show everyone the incredible sightings we had in 1 short 3 hour period.

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Great start so far, and re the images, that's okay then... Look forward to reading more :)

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Sangeeta, this has been much awaited. I've been following "The Loch Ness Monster" recently for my (mobile camping) plans to visit the Serengeti in March-April, and am glad you're back and writing.

 

Great start and look forward to seeing more!

 

Shreyas

 

P.S. The day is blessed with 2 different reports started on ST with awesome Leopard sightings...Slurp! ;)

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Welcome back, Sangeeta!!! Will eagerly await more! Sounds a fabulous trip!!!!

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Wow.

 

If that sets the tone for your next safari days...

 

:o

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Amazing start Sangeeta :)

 

Cannot wait for the next installment and especially the Northern Serengeti bit. Hurrry!!!!!!! :)

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Welcome back, Sangeeta!

 

So glad you had a fantastic safari

 

This first day has been epic.

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Thanks so much for your kind words, GW, Shreyas, Hari, Jochen, Tanya & Paolo. I have a special thank you embedded for you in Day 2, Paolo.

 

July 11, 2011

 

5 AM. "Good Morning. Your water for washing is ready." We will wake up to these same words every morning for the next 10 days.

 

I jump out of bed under the very amused eyes of my husband and daughter, both of whom are used to dragging me out from under the covers on any non-African vacation. A quick wash, some steaming hot coffee and we pull out of the campsite just as the eastern skies start getting brushed with tints of apricot and rose.

 

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We turn a few corners and there she is, a beautifully poised young lady, waiting for us on a termite mound.

 

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At least I think she's a lady - she looks too delicately etched to be anything else. But we soon learn that she's an indecisive young lady, or perhaps just an inexperienced young lady. She's clearly hungry and two groups of tommies are grazing not far away. She looks left, she looks right, a few steps here, a few steps there, and back to the mound she goes.

 

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We decide to stay with her as she makes up her mind.

 

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Almost two hours, and finally an unsuccessful chase. I felt sorry for the tommies when she was stalking them. Now I feel sorry for her. We move along and see a lioness stretched out under an acacia tree, not far from our cheetah girl. Perhaps that's why she is so apprehensive.

 

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Posted (edited)

A pair of black-backed jackals are out on their morning constitutional. We watch them sniff blades of grass, peer behind rocks, dig up stones and jog briskly across the plains. Their busy gait reminds me of our own dog, Sydney, who never sits still and is forever poking his nose into everything.

 

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We call it a morning & head back to camp for brunch. I order an Indian style omelette, complete with onions, tomatoes and chillis. But Dudu is wiser than I am. He sends the pili-pili separately. It is fiery hot and only a Tusker can rescue my burning tongue.

 

Moru Kopjes (pronounced "copies") is a beautiful area of the Serengeti, about 30 kms south of Seronera. The plains are studded with enormous rock outcroppings that have been hewn into fantastic shapes by wind, sand and rain. The plains are dotted with umbrella acacias and the area has an excellent resident population of animals that do not follow the migration. The hills on the horizon are home to most of the wild rhinos of the Serengeti. Moru is also home to Ngong Rock and a Maasai rock painting, both of which we plan to visit today.

 

I added Moru to the itinerary based purely on Paolo's recommendation and the entire group wants to extend a very big thank you to you for that, Paolo. The trip would not have been the same without it.

 

The first 2 leopard sightings and the lion-in-tree sighting at Seronera were very busy. But at Moru, only a short distance away, we are alone for the most part. The cheetah sighting above was shared for a while with 2 other vehicles, but since everyone kept a respectful distance from the action, it was all quite unobtrusive.

 

The afternoon drive brings us to a very arrogant juvenile martial eagle perched on his hyrax kill. He tries to stare us down, and when we don't move, he turns around and does this...

 

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As we head home for the evening from Ngong Rock,

 

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a hyena crosses the track in front of us. We follow her along, and uh oh, who can that be?

 

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Hyena-Warthog standoff, Round 1.

 

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Warthog wins!

 

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Hyena-Warthog standoff, Round 2.

 

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Warthog wins again!

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Hyena-Warthog standoff, Round 3.

 

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Game, set and match to Mr. Warthog.

 

This is the first time I've actually seen a warthog enter bottom first into its burrow. His triumphant face peering out at me is delightful.

 

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Soup of the day: Pumpkin-ginger.

Edited by Sangeeta

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Sangeeta,

 

I am really happy that you and your group enjoyed Moru. It is a special place indeed.

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What a first day! I'm looking forward to the rest of the days as well.

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This is entertaining reading. Thanks Sangeeta.

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The next day was a humdinger too. The cheetah is very attractive and I hope she eventually got something to eat.

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July 12, 2011

 

I asked my husband to read through this TR last night and his first comment was that the picture quality was seriously in need of improvement. To whit, a short discussion on what amateur photographers are likely to experience in most areas of the Serengeti.

 

All pics from Day 2 onwards have been taken by my 16 year old daughter. She was shooting with a Nikon D40 SLR with a 70-300 mm lens. This was her first safari using an SLR so naturally there's room for improvement & thank you for making allowances for her age/inexperience. Having said that, however, it was our experience that off-roading restrictions in the Serengeti make close-ups hard for people who don't have professional or semi-professional camera equipment. Her photographs from Botswana are much sharper though she was using a pretty basic Canon S3 with a teleconvertor lens on that trip. But we were in private concessions there & she was much closer to the animals.

 

Park rangers are quite serious about enforcing off-roading restrictions. We found this to be especially true in the Moru Kopjes and Bologonja sections of the park. The strict enforcement is probably due to the presence of rhinos in the hills around Moru and in the Nyamalumbwa hills up north. According to our guides, park rangers keep an especially sharp eye out for the rhinos, and since they're always patrolling these areas, chances are that you'll be pulled up by rangers and cited if you're caught off-roading. Apparently it's okay to pull off the track for a picnic etc. They don't seem to mind quick in-and-out photographic forays either provided the animals are reasonably close to the road. But you simply cannot go off-road for any substantial period of time and park yourself at an action-filled spot. This partially explains the poor shots of the cheetah hunt and the hyena-warthog interaction I posted yesterday. Both of these occurred a fair distance from the road.

 

I go on safari without a camera because I spend all my time looking through my binoculars, so the off-roading restrictions don't bother me as much from a photographic perspective as they do from "wanting to be closer to the action" perspective, but there is no question that we were able to approach animals much more closely in Botswana and in the Mara (and perhaps all the other Kenyan parks? I don't know since I haven't been anywhere else in Kenya). Either way, serious amateurs would be wise to make provisions for the off-roading limitations that are prevalent in Tz parks.

 

Some highlights of the day:

 

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Moru sunrise.

 

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Lioness with cubs.

This is one of those quick in-and-out photo forays since mom & cubs are not far from the road.

 

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Tommie drinking water. Peter tells us that this is an unusual sight because tommies can go without actually drinking water for long periods of time since they obtain their moisture from the dewy grasses.

 

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Cheetah brothers. We only spot these guys because Deo happens to see 1 of them pop his head up for a brief moment. They are very well hidden in the tall grass.

 

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Mess tent and our tents.

Today we meet a very, very relaxed bull ele who, in the short space of half an hour, insists on showing us all aspects of proper ele behavior.

 

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This is the way I eat my food...

 

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This is the way I play with my water...

 

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This is the way I dust myself...

 

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This is the way I flap my ears...

 

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This is the way I fling my mud...

 

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This is the way I scratch myself...

 

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This is the way I say goodbye.

 

He is truly a heart-warming ele. He obligingly goes to the bathroom for us as well, but I think I'll keep his dignity intact...

 

The only "no soup" day of the trip. Dudu is busy baking a cake for our friends G & R who are celebrating an anniversary tonight. He also needs to pack breakfast & lunch for the group because tomorrow we break camp & move to Grumeti.

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Sangeeta,

 

As far as I know the Mara is the only main Kenya tourist area wgere offroad driving is /was permitted, but this is changing.

 

For instance, in 2009 offroad driving was not allowed in the Mara Triangle, and this rule was quite strictly enforced. They were more tolerant in the Narok side, but I am unsure which is the precise rule of law now.

 

back to the Serengeti, personally I went offroad in the Lamai Wedge and in the NCA side of the short grass plains. i do not know for how much time this possibility will remain, considering that there are more camps and visitors each year.

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Wonderful report, Sangeeta!! And great sightings and pics.

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Good observations on photography and lovely photos of the obliging elephant.

 

As far as off reading in the Mara my understanding of the rules is this. On the form you are given on entry it says you can off road in a direct line taking the shortest route to a sighting of lion, cheetah, rhino, leopard. You need to drive back out on the same track you made going in. There was a time limit I think. The reserve was tightening up off road rules but I don't remember a printed sheet expressing these. Mara North still allowed off roading.

 

Whilst it is great to get close to animals, if we want to protect the wilderness and also keep prices low enough for everyone to go, we just have to accept that off roading is pretty destructive, anti conservation behaviour

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Sorry about the predictive text errors on roading (I corrected roaring, reading once) I can't preview or edit on my iPhone. :(

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MARVELLOUS, just loving this, Sangeeta!

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Me too! Love reading this report and seeing pics. Thanks for posting.

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Posted (edited)

This has become my 1st port of call every morning. Great pics and going through your TR, now I am really counting days Sangeeta!

 

BTW the Masala Omelette ( and the pili pili) sounds heaven in the bush for me! Can survive everyday on this :)

Edited by tanya_1976

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WOW- particularly like your cheetah pictures!!

 

Serengeti is our next Africa trip!!

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Good observations on photography and lovely photos of the obliging elephant.

 

As far as off reading in the Mara my understanding of the rules is this. On the form you are given on entry it says you can off road in a direct line taking the shortest route to a sighting of lion, cheetah, rhino, leopard. You need to drive back out on the same track you made going in. There was a time limit I think. The reserve was tightening up off road rules but I don't remember a printed sheet expressing these. Mara North still allowed off roading.

 

Whilst it is great to get close to animals, if we want to protect the wilderness and also keep prices low enough for everyone to go, we just have to accept that off roading is pretty destructive, anti conservation behaviour

 

I forgot to mention that there is a zone in the southern Mara Triangle, called the Mara Triangle Wilderness Area, where offroading is permitted at certain conditions.

 

As Twaffle correctly says, the possibility of offroading depends upon the numbers of visitors. Realistically, it can only take place in private concessions or very remote, seldom visited areas. Also, the nature of soil plays a part; for instance, the volcanic soil of the Serengeti southern short grass plains seems to tolerate offroad driving better than other type of grounds.

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July 12, 2011

 

I asked my husband to read through this TR last night and his first comment was that the picture quality was seriously in need of improvement. To whit, a short discussion on what amateur photographers are likely to experience in most areas of the Serengeti.

 

All pics from Day 2 onwards have been taken by my 16 year old daughter. She was shooting with a Nikon D40 SLR with a 70-300 mm lens. This was her first safari using an SLR so naturally there's room for improvement & thank you for making allowances for her age/inexperience. Having said that, however, it was our experience that off-roading restrictions in the Serengeti make close-ups hard for people who don't have professional or semi-professional camera equipment. Her photographs from Botswana are much sharper though she was using a pretty basic Canon S3 with a teleconvertor lens on that trip. But we were in private concessions there & she was much closer to the animals.

 

Park rangers are quite serious about enforcing off-roading restrictions. We found this to be especially true in the Moru Kopjes and Bologonja sections of the park. The strict enforcement is probably due to the presence of rhinos in the hills around Moru and in the Nyamalumbwa hills up north. According to our guides, park rangers keep an especially sharp eye out for the rhinos, and since they're always patrolling these areas, chances are that you'll be pulled up by rangers and cited if you're caught off-roading. Apparently it's okay to pull off the track for a picnic etc. They don't seem to mind quick in-and-out photographic forays either provided the animals are reasonably close to the road. But you simply cannot go off-road for any substantial period of time and park yourself at an action-filled spot. This partially explains the poor shots of the cheetah hunt and the hyena-warthog interaction I posted yesterday. Both of these occurred a fair distance from the road.

 

I go on safari without a camera because I spend all my time looking through my binoculars, so the off-roading restrictions don't bother me as much from a photographic perspective as they do from "wanting to be closer to the action" perspective, but there is no question that we were able to approach animals much more closely in Botswana and in the Mara (and perhaps all the other Kenyan parks? I don't know since I haven't been anywhere else in Kenya). Either way, serious amateurs would be wise to make provisions for the off-roading limitations that are prevalent in Tz parks.

 

Some highlights of the day:

 

med_gallery_5686_467_1484255.jpg

Moru sunrise.

 

med_gallery_5686_467_370012.jpg

 

med_gallery_5686_467_748957.jpg

Lioness with cubs.

This is one of those quick in-and-out photo forays since mom & cubs are not far from the road.

 

med_gallery_5686_467_361006.jpg

Tommie drinking water. Peter tells us that this is an unusual sight because tommies can go without actually drinking water for long periods of time since they obtain their moisture from the dewy grasses.

 

med_gallery_5686_467_2556534.jpgmed_gallery_5686_467_2075407.jpg

 

med_gallery_5686_467_2926106.jpg

Cheetah brothers. We only spot these guys because Deo happens to see 1 of them pop his head up for a brief moment. They are very well hidden in the tall grass.

 

med_gallery_5686_467_488970.jpg

 

med_gallery_5686_467_75653.jpg

Mess tent and our tents.

Today we meet a very, very relaxed bull ele who, in the short space of half an hour, insists on showing us all aspects of proper ele behavior.

 

med_gallery_5686_467_2019146.jpg

This is the way I eat my food...

 

med_gallery_5686_467_1433197.jpg

This is the way I play with my water...

 

med_gallery_5686_467_1274306.jpg

This is the way I dust myself...

 

med_gallery_5686_467_999186.jpg

This is the way I flap my ears...

 

med_gallery_5686_467_1448069.jpg

This is the way I fling my mud...

 

med_gallery_5686_467_2631268.jpg

 

med_gallery_5686_467_1254812.jpg

This is the way I scratch myself...

 

med_gallery_5686_467_1765975.jpg

This is the way I say goodbye.

 

He is truly a heart-warming ele. He obligingly goes to the bathroom for us as well, but I think I'll keep his dignity intact...

 

The only "no soup" day of the trip. Dudu is busy baking a cake for our friends G & R who are celebrating an anniversary tonight. He also needs to pack breakfast & lunch for the group because tomorrow we break camp & move to Grumeti.

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