A Travellerspoint blog

Diary of a Safari – Bonus – The Out-takes

semi-overcast 31 °C

Here we are in the ancient, (and somewhat crumbly), capital of Zanzibar, Stone Town, but our thoughts are still with the wild creatures of the Serengeti. Looking back over our safari pictures we see that there are so many that we weren't able to include in our daily diary entries – so here are just a few of the out takes as a bonus.
Although we often commented on our close proximity to so many of the animals, these pictures show just how close we came to the big cats. These three beautiful cheetahs sat just inches from our front bumper in the Serengeti...
large_Cheetahs.jpg
After a while they loped off to stalk some gazelles, The gazelles caught wind of them so, together with a fourth, the cheetahs came right back and lay down next to us in the shade of a small tree. Shade trees are a rare commodity in parts of the Ngorongoro crater so this lioness took shelter from the sun under the next best thing...
large_Foolish_lion.jpg
No matter what we or the driver and occupants of this jeep did, this friendly beast would not budge. After a lengthy stalemate the driver inched back and forth until he was able to get clear.

There are two types of animals in the world. The charismatic ones like pandas, koala bears and cheetahs - adored by all, and then there are those beloved only by their mothers and spouses – like this husband and wife team of dung beetle...
Dung_beatles.jpg
Before you poo-poo the idea of a creature living on dung just think how mucky this land would get without someone doing the daily chores. Dung beetles collect the fresh poop, form it into balls and roll it home for breakfast (lunch and dinner). If James was as strong as a dung beetle he would be able to move a rock weighing more than a hundred tons!

Another creature that would never make it to the centrefold of Playanimal magazine is this male warthog...
large_Warthog.jpg
These leopard tortoises on the other hand may be either charismatic, or not, depending on your point of view...
Leopard_tortoise.jpg
Because we focused on the tens, (possibly hundreds), of thousands of large mammals that we saw on our trip, we tended to lose sight of the fact that we were always surrounded by birds. We saw great flocks of pink flamingos...
large_Flamingos.jpg
We also saw large numbers of raptors. This is an augur buzzard...
Augur_Buzzard.jpg
And this one is ...
large_Mystery_bird.jpg
Maybe you can help out here because we just can't figure out what it is called.
These Maasai boys would probably know...
large_Maasai_boys.jpg
Maasai youths are circumcised at puberty and are then expected to make their own way in life as men. Many of them paint their faces and stand by the roadsides begging from passing tourists – they demanded $20 US for us to take this picture? As the average annual income in Tanzania is less than nine hundred dollars we thought that twenty was a bit steep. However, we managed to get them to give us, and you, a parting smile from the Serengeti for ten.
So that really is the end of our safari diary. Now we will dodge Zanzibar's tropical downpours to show you around this island in a few days.

Posted by Hawkson 02:18 Archived in Tanzania Comments (5)

Diary of a Safari – Day 9 The Final Chapter.

sunny 31 °C

We could write a hundred posts and show a thousand photos of our time in Tanzania but can never truly convey the intense emotional experience of being at one with some of the most powerful and beautiful wild animals in the world. Perhaps the majestic lions were our favourites...
large_Sisterly_love.jpg
And this cute creature is a bat-eared fox...
large_Bat_earred_fox.jpg
However, not all safaris are created equally. While we had a spacious land cruise and guide to ourselves, and dictated our own schedule and lodgings, most group tours had already left the lodges by the time we were enjoying a leisurely breakfast and arrived too late to enjoy the beautiful swimming pools in the afternoon sun. This is the pool at the Sopa Lodge overlooking the Great Rift Valley and Manyara Lake...
large_Pool_at_Lake_Manyara_Sopa.jpg
Although 2,000 feet above the valley, the water of the infinity pool seemingly flows into the lake below.

We had arranged all of our stays in lodges within the national parks, but our Serengeti choice was swarmed by a group of 100 Americans and we were bumped. We were not happy campers especially when they said we had been upgraded ... to a tent. Roughing it just isn't our thing and the idea of sleeping under flimsy canvas in the midst of lions was not appealing. To make matters worse, we arrived at the campsite in semi-darkness during a tropical downpour and the generator wasn't working. There was nothing to do - the nearest hotel was several hours away and was probably full. However, this was no backpackers campsite and this was no hiker's tent..
large_Tent.jpg
It was fully furnished with two four-poster queen beds, an ensuite bathroom complete with his and hers sinks, and even a valet to turn down our beds and escort us to the sumptuous dining tent. And when the lights came on our tent turned into a palace.

Not all the animals in this Garden of Eden are wild. Outside of the national parks the Maasai herders drive their cattle and goats across the arid pastures in search of grazing. While the native Maasai espouse their desire to adhere to their traditional way of life, many of them spend their days dressing up and performing for tourists. We prefer to see them with their herds – though preferably not blocking the road...
Masaai_and_cattle.jpg
Now it is time to leave this wondrous place. It has truly been a trip of a lifetime and we have to thank Anne at Amazing Memories Safaris of Nairobi and especially our fantastic and knowledgeable driver and guide, Charles Edward, for creating this most memorable experience...
Charles_our_driver-guide.jpg
We are going to take a breather for a few days, but will be back soon with pictures and stories from the tropical spice island of Zanzibar. In the meantime, this is our farewell look at the incredible Ngorongoro Crater as we say goodbye to all the wondrous creatures and the many lovely people we have met here...
large_Jim_and_Sh.._Ngorongoro.jpg
Every day here has been filled with incredible sights and sounds, every meal has been excellent and every bed has been luxurious. But all good things must come to an end and so we leave you with this picture of the sunset over the Serengeti...
large_Sunset_on_the_Serengeti.jpg
Kwaheri – Goodbye for now from Northern Tanzania – the birthplace of our civilization.

Posted by Hawkson 05:00 Archived in Tanzania Comments (10)

Diary of a Safari – Day 8. Ngorongoro - The Dawn of Time

sunny 28 °C

Ngorongoro - For humankind, this is the place where life on earth began. This is the area of Ngorongoro in the heartland of East Africa known as the “Cradle of Civilization” - the very place where archaeological evidence has shown that primates first climbed down from the trees, stood upright, and began their long walk to the very ends of the earth. This is our, and your, ancestral homeland. The DNA of all of humans can be traced back to this land and this blue monkey seemed happy to welcome us home...
Blue_Monkey.jpg
If this sounds like the introduction to a National Geographic special it is because every moment here has been a truly amazing experience - and today was no exception. We began at dawn when the Ngorongoro crater was still bathed in mist. Our safari lodge was perched on the rim of the crater more than two thousand feet above the caldera's floor and by the time we began our descent through the acacia forest the sun rose and the skies cleared...
Road_to_Ngorongoro_crater.jpg
The Ngorongoro caldera is all that's left of a massive volcano that erupted catastrophically 3.2 million years ago. The explosion flung rocks the size of apartment buildings for a hundred kilometres in every direction and its effects would have been felt worldwide. The Ngorongoro caldera is a peaceful place today where more than 25,000 large wild animals have learned to co-exist with the jeeps filled with camera-wielding safari goers like us. This family of baboons was the first to greet us with a howl of welcome as we entered the crater in the rising sun...
Monkey_choir.jpg
And this massive male elephant stood calmly just ten feet away and gave us a nod of approval...
large_Elephant_greeter.jpg
This wild mammoth weighed at least 5 tons and could have picked us up, jeep and all, and tossed us like a kid's toy. But Charles just turned off the engine and we and the elephant looked at each other safe in the belief that neither of us wished the other ill will. After a few minutes we moved onto the crater floor where we found this lion eating wildebeest for breakfast...
large_Feeding_time.jpg
We had eaten pork bacon and beef sausages for our breakfast so we didn't begrudge him his bit of protein.
After breakfast the lion casually wandered across the road behind us, actually brushing himself against our back bumper, and went to quench his thirst at the river where the zebras were congregating for their morning assembly...
large_Zebra_coffee_morning.jpg
With the lion safely out of the way the scavengers quickly moved in on his leftovers. This golden jackal was hoping to get in on the act before the vultures arrived...
Golden_jackal.jpg
The Ngorongoro caldera covers some three hundred square kilometres, part of which is forested with yellow acacias, so it isn't always easy to spot the game. This is particularly true of the very few black rhinos that live here. The large herds of gazelles are much easier to find. This is a Grant's gazelle...
Grant_s_gazelle.jpg
Wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, warthogs and ostriches can be easily spotted on the open grasslands of the caldera, but rhinos tend to live in the shadows and we, together with jeep loads of other visitors, spent the morning searching for them. There are many animals in this picture – but can you see them? And can you spot a rhino?...
large_Crater_wall.jpg
Here are some fabulous birds that we could see at close quarters....
Crown_cranes.jpg
These are grey crown cranes – the national bird of Uganda.
Now – the bad news. After a day searching the Ngorongoro crater for rhinos we finally gave up and headed back to our lodge . Rhinos have lived here far longer than mankind, and will probably still be here after we have become extinct, but life carries on – and so must we. Tomorrow is our last day on safari in Africa.

Posted by Hawkson 07:12 Archived in Tanzania Comments (4)

Diary of a Safari - Day 7. A Land of Plenty

sunny 27 °C

The Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania covers nearly six thousand square miles. It is home to millions of animals and has an incredibly diverse eco-system. While much of the park is a vast semi-arid savanna, there are oases and acacia forests. Many animals escape from the midday sun by sheltering under the aptly named umbrella trees that are scattered across parts of the landscape. This is a typical scene...
Tree_Landscape.jpg
However, the wide open grasslands are preferred by many herds of prey animals, despite the poor vegetation, as it offers little cover for the predators. These three lionesses were part of a pride of nineteen on the prowl in the long grass as they stalked a herd of zebra...
large_Lions_prowling.jpg
The Serengeti is just 2 degrees south of the equator so temperatures remain fairly constant throughout the year. However, there are long periods of drought followed by torrential tropical rains. Wildebeest and zebra constantly migrate to take advantage of the new growth when a drought breaks, while resident animals and plants have devised survival strategies to see them through prolonged dry periods...
large_Baobab.jpg
This giant baobab tree, (known as the upside-down tree because its branches resemble roots), can store up to a hundred thousand litres of water in its sponge-like trunk and can live a thousand years. Thirsty elephants rip off the bark and smash their way into the trunks of baobabs to get water during droughts.

Giraffes are able to withstand droughts because of their ability to eat the lofty leaves of acacia trees. The leaves are protected by long thorns, but the giraffe has evolved a specialised tongue which protects it from the needle like spikes...
Giraffe_eating.jpg
Another variety of acacia is known as the umbrella tree because of its shape. Its leaves are the favourite of elephants, but its horizontal branches are great places for leopards to use as lookout points to spot their prey...
large_Leopard_in_tree.jpg
The yellow acacias are tall trees that make great perches for birds of prey and scavengers like this maribu stork...
Maribu_stork.jpg
Another creature that uses the acacia tree is the weaver bird. There are numerous varieties of weavers here and the males make elaborate nests out of a thousand or more strands of grass...
large_Weaver_bird_nests.jpg
Once the nest is complete the male bird uses it to attract a female. If the female thinks it is up to snuff she moves in and quickly produces eggs.

One of the most unusual trees here is the sausage tree...
Sausage_tree.jpg
The sausage-like fruit are about a metre long and weigh upwards of 10lbs. Elephants love the fruit and it is said that it's a bad idea to rest under a sausage tree. If a falling sausage doesn't kill you an elephant will as it stampedes to get the fruit.

Christmas is coming and while we go to great lengths to decorate our trees, the Tanzanians let nature do it for them...
large_Flame_tree.jpg
This is a flame tree (a.k.a. The Tanzanian Xmas Tree). It is a member of the pea family and survives here because it is drought resistant.

Now we are on the move again. Our final safari stop will be the world's largest complete volcanic caldera - the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater. See you soon.

Posted by Hawkson 07:14 Archived in Tanzania Comments (5)

Diary of a Safari. Day 6. Flying High

semi-overcast 26 °C

Tanzania is a nation of world record breakers when it comes to land animals. For example: the African bush elephant can weigh up to 6,000 kilograms (6 tonnes); the giraffes of the Serengeti can reach a lofty 9 metres (19 feet) in height and the world's fastest land animals are the cheetahs: they can reach speeds in excess of 120 kilometres an hour. We have been lucky enough to see all of these creatures here – in fact we have seen many examples of each and have seen all of them in a single day. However, not content with hosting the biggest, tallest and fastest land animals Tanzania also is the place to see the creatures that rule the skies. This is a Ruppell's Griffon Vulture...
large_Ruppell_s_Griffon_Vulture.jpg
This vulture is the world's highest flying bird and can attain heights in excess of 37,000 feet – the same cruising height as a modern airliner. It can spend 6-7 hours per day in the air and lives 40-50 years. It is a critically endangered species and we were very lucky to see this one.
Vultures of all kinds, together with giant maribu storks, are never far away when there are leftovers, and this black-backed jackal didn't get a look in on a dead zebra when thirty or more vultures and storks came for breakfast...
Black_backed_jackal.jpg
Black-backed jackals are only found in southern and eastern Africa and the two habitats are separated by 900 kms. They are the world's oldest canine species.
Another record breaker found here is the kori bustard...
large_Kori_Bustard.jpg
This elegant, even haughty, bird is the heaviest creature capable of flight in the world and can weigh up to 40 lbs. However, it prefers to spend its time hunting small game on the ground.
But, when it comes to size, nothing comes close to the enormous male ostrich - the world's largest flightless bird....
large_Male_Ostrich.jpg
The ostrich's powerful long legs are used as weapons capable of killing a human or lion with a powerful kick, and don't even think about running away – it can sprint at 70 km per hour. Unfortunately the ostriches' nests are easily found on the ground and young Maasai boys steal the massive eggs in order to sell them to passing tourists.
Another fast mover on the ground is the secretary bird...
large_1-P1140963.jpg
This elegant creature has the longest legs of any bird of prey and gets it name from the crest of long quill feathers which gives it the appearance of a secretary in the 1800s. Although secretary birds can fly they spend much of their time on the ground.
Many of the larger birds stick to the ground unless escaping predators and this southern ground hornbill is no exception...
Southern_Ground_Hornbill.jpg
These are the largest of the hornbill species and they live on snakes, tortoises, lizards and small birds. Hornbills can live up to 70 years and are one of the longest living birds, however they only have two chicks every 9 years and only one of them will survive.
Another hornbill found in the Serengeti is the Von der Decken's hornbill, named after the German explorer...
Von_Der_Decken_Hornbill.jpg
These birds can live up to 20 years and survive on small animals, eggs and fruit.

large_Yellow_Billed_Stork.jpg
This yellow billed stork was keeping a healthy distance from a 12 foot Nile crocodile on the banks of a hippos bathing pool.
These storks use one foot to stir up water and flush out prey. They have very quick muscular reflexes which enable them to catch the food and, presumable, to keep clear of the crocodile's jaws,
Brown_Hooded_Kingfisher.jpg
This is a pretty brown headed kingfisher. Although part of the kingfisher family it is a bit of an imposter. It doesn't usually eat fish and is not dependant on water. It lives on insects, spiders, small reptiles and even birds.

Another pretty bird is the stunningly coloured greater blue eared starling...
large_Greater_Bl..ed_starling.jpg
This one joined us in the restaurant for breakfast one morning. Male and female look alike to us but the birds have four colour sensitive cones in their retina as opposed to our paltry three. The additional cone enables them to spot the difference between a competitor and a mate at a glance.

That's all for today. The sun is shining and we are going hunting for one of the biggest, and rarest, of the big game. We will let you know if we bag one.

Posted by Hawkson 06:56 Archived in Tanzania Comments (3)

(Entries 31 - 35 of 559) « Page .. 2 3 4 5 6 [7] 8 9 10 11 12 .. »