Our Intrepid Traveller Part 12

20-23 JANUARY -  This morning you will drive to the Serengeti National Park via Olduvai Gorge for a stay of four nights at Dunia Camp.

Jan 20 – began drive to Serengeti and stopped at Masai village.  You have to pay $50 per car and are treated to a Masai welcome song, a dance where Masai warriors jump to impress the females, and then taken to a traditional house made of mud dung.  They are rounded and about 5 feet high and about 12 feet in diameter.  The shell is acacia branches and then other brush is woven between the branches and then the  wet mud/dung is applied to the outside.  About 120 people lived in this village of 24 huts.  The kraal is in the middle of the huts which are in a circle around the kraal.  This holds the cattle, sheep, and goats at night.  Around the outside of the huts is a thorn fence to keep out lions and other animals.  The house Steve and I visited was cooking maize in the middle of the hut.  Inside were two beds, if you could call them that, and a few belongings.  The smoke was filtering out a window about 8”x4”.  The village owned about 1000 cows and 300 sheep and goats.  Outside hanging on the kraal were beaded things and lion’s tooth things that one could buy.  I was on to that since I had done this before so I didn’t take any money with me, not that I wanted anything anyway.  They have lots of eye problems because of the flies and the smoke in the huts.  They do not go to doctors; everything is traditional medicine and everyone knows it.  When the young boys go out with the cows an older warrior accompanies them and explains which trees and bushes are medicinal so that when they are alone, they will know how to take care of any problems.  Circumcision is practiced at 14 and the boys go off into the wilds for 6 months to a year.     They come back a warrior.  Traditionally they used to have to kill a lion but now that the area is a conservation/national park area, that has stopped.  Girls also at 14 have a cliterectomy.   That is illegal now, but everyone knows it still happens.  Boys can’t be married unless they are circumcised and the same for girls–at least in the past. 

Next stop was Olduvai Gorge.  I wrote about that last time I was here.  Louis and Mary Leaky made many discoveries here.  I photographed 2 Agama lizards. 

Next stop was the shifting sand dune made of sand and iron so it is very heavy.  The winds move it 15-20 meters per year.   It is dark charcoal in color.

Just before going into the Serengeti, we drove off road (you are not allowed to in the park) to witness the migration of wildebeest.  There were wildebeest running, eating and lying down for 360 degrees as far as the eye could see on the plains.  There were thousands. 

While out there we also saw two Golden (Common) Jackals, Secretary Bird, Grey Heron, Yellow Billed Stork, Spotted Hyena (4 of them beside a waterhole and a fifth one farther out by a large rut that had water in it), Giraffe (8), Crowned Crane, Elephant, Ostrich, Warthog, and Hartebeest. 

There are 4 million animals in the Serengeti–mind you, not 4 million and one but just 4 million.  Serengeti means “endless plain” and the park is 14,763 sq. km., or roughly the size of Connecticut. 

We arrived at the tent camp about 5:30 p.m.  Our tent is one of the largest I have ever stayed in.  In addition to the 2 single beds, a chair, headboard with lamps, and a chest, and the bathroom behind the flaps behind the beds, there is an extension in front of about 6 feet which has another chair, small table and a couch.  It is quite spacious.  The bath has a long table with the sink.  Water is in a jug beside the sink and when that runs out, there is a bucket below the table with more which you dip from.  That area is about 3 feet by 16 feet.  Behind that is a flap with the toilet and the other half is a flap with the shower.  You tell the staff when you want a shower and they will bring the 15 liters of heated water and put it in the bag outside and let you know when they have done so.  Then you have a shower head in the shower with a chain that you regulate the flow with.  There is a wooden floor over a hole where the water drains. 

And every night we get treated to a campfire–the African Bush television–with only one channel.

Jan 21 awakened at 6 with coffee and hot chocolate ordered the night before.  Breakfast at 6:30 and morning drive 7 am-1:30 p.m.:  Cape Buffalo, Impala, Topi, Fischer’s Lovebird, Ruppell’s Longtail Starling, White Headed Buffalo Weaver, Baboon, fever trees, acacia trees, Red necked Spur Fowl, White Headed Shrike, White Backed Vulture, Grant’s Gazelle, Lioness, Tawny Eagle, LBR, Blacksmith Lapwing, Red Winged Bush Lark, Lesser Kestrel tree (about 23 in a very small tree), Black Coucal, Ostrich, Grey backed Fiscal, LBR, Superb Starling, Tawny Eagle, Fischer’s Lovebird, Giraffe, and finally a Leopard in a tree.  We waited for about a half hour watching and she came down and disappeared into the grasslands.  That completes our BIG FIVE:  Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino, and Cape Buffalo.  The Big NINE will be complete when we see a Cheetah.  Those are:  Cheetah, Hippo, Giraffe, and Zebra.  And I have to admit to Lens Envy:  One 4×4 had two guys each with an 800 mm lens shooting the leopard.   Continuing on with the drive we saw a Magpie Shrike, Hippos, Grey Heron, Rock Hyrax, Grey HB, Dark Chanting Goshawk, a huge herd of Elephant (close to 100) spread out on the plains, a Nile Crocodile, a herd of 40+ female Impala with their one male.  The males typically only last for 2-3 months before being removed by another male fighting to have his genes carried fwd by the herd. 

Afternoon drive:  90-100 female Impala with their one male (he will last only 2-3 months because he is constantly fighting other males who want his harem and he is constantly looking for danger for the herd.  Baboon, Topi, Reed Buck, Hartebeest, Two banded Courser, Gray HB, Cape Buffalo, Egyptian Goose, 2 male impala in the batchelor herd practicing their fighting skills, Black Chested Snake Eagle.  We were looking for Black Rhino which were introduced a few years back and there are now about 17 of them.  They have guards 24 hrs per day and the rangers must account for all of them each day.  We didn’t find any but the scenery was beautiful as it had many kopje, which are rocky outcrops. 

Jan. 22nd – I was picked up at 5:10 a.m. to go on my hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti.  My partner in my section of the carriage was Mark from Canada.  He asked if I had ever been in bed with a stranger and I replied ‘No.”  He replied that I had now.  It was awfully tight quarters.  We saw 4 lioness on the ground, 2 Golden Jackals, Topi, Giraffe, Hippo, Baboons and monkeys in acacia trees and the landscape and sunrise were beautiful.  Afterwards had champagne to celebrate, and were taken to a place in the bush where they had tables set up for breakfast of fruits, bacon, sausage, eggs, beans, bread, and tea or coffee.  And we got our certificate. 

Then was taken to one of the Gates of the Serengeti where I met our guide and Caroline, Steve and Ellen.  We continued on our drive:  Lioness and 3 cubs close to the road and who moved back to a tree where the cubs were practicing climbing the small tree*, Tawny Eagle with a kill and we watched as he picked the feathers from his kill (couldn’t tell what type of bird he had), walking Leopard on a kopje about 15-20 feet from us, herd of elephant close to road, Blacksmith Plover, Crowned Crane, Ostrich, juvenile Dark Chanting Goshawk.  Began to rain big fat drops but lasted only 5 minutes.  4 lioness with older cubs, 2 lion cubs in tree, Secretary Bird, Baboon, Black Backed Jackal, Buffalo, warthogs, Fever Trees and other Acacias. 

This is the beginning of their rainy season and apparently the week before we arrived, at least one camp was washed away.  There are dirt roads and tracks and when it rains many are full of ruts and deep water holes.  The Acacias and Fever trees are turning green, and the Baobab trees were fully leafed out.  They are usually called ‘upside down trees’ because when they lose their leaves in the dry season, their limbs look like roots.  This is the first time I have seen Baobabs with leaves.

Afternoon game drive:  Caroline, Steve and Ellen decided they wanted to stay at camp and play bridge so it was just me.  Red billed HB, Impala with babies, Wildebeest, Cape Buffalo, Red necked Spur Fowl, Black Rhino and I now have the Big 5 in one day in the Serengeti.  Jackson told me that was not often accomplished.  4 Black backed Jackals (a mom and 3 juveniles playing very near a Crowned Crane who ignored them at a waterhole) and they made me miss Sasha.  Also saw Warthog, Elephant, Tawny Eagle, and Secretary Bird.  In addition I failed to mention that the camp is set in Tsetse  Fly territory.  And we have all been bitten so if I exhibit symptoms of African Sleeping Sickness, take me to a doctor; don’t assume I am just tired because you know I’m not usually tired.  The kopje had Euporbia bussei also on the hills.  LBR, Agama lizard, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Baboon, Coqui Francolin, same jackals as above (mom and 3 juvs.), White Backed Vulture and Ruppell’s Vulture waiting for the leopard to move off from his Impala kill.  We didn’t see the leopard but knew he was still around because the vultures were in 2 trees just waiting.  Giraffe, Redbilled HB, Dwarf Mongoose.

Jan. 23rd. -  All day game drive:  Cape Buffalo, Warthogs, Impala plus 1 juvenile Wildebeest, juv. Bateleur Eagle, Spotted Hyena at Impala kill from last night, Topi, Grant’s Gazelle, Blacksmith Plover, Hyena on road, Black backed Jackal, Cory Bustard, Giraffe, Zebra, Ostrich, Thompson’s Gazelle, Eland, Nubian Vulture (also called Lappet Faced Vulture), Agama lizard, Lapwing Plover, Secretary Bird, 4 Bat eared Fox, CHEETAH so I now have the Big 9 as well.  Hyena by waterhole, Cheetah – same one – Black Chested Snake Eagle, Golden Backed Jackal, Topi, Grant’s and Thompson’s Gazelles, Male Lion and 2 females (and I spotted them!!!!  I don’t think Jackson could believe that he had missed them).  It began to rain from 1:12 to 1:18 and then stopped completely.  We are on the Southern section of the Serengeti which is really the  shortgrass ‘endless plain’–the Swahili meaning of Serengeti.  Continuing on we saw Ostrich, Elephant, Cape Rook, Hartebeest, Lions in trees!!!! (7 in one tree and 1 female in another–Lake Manyara is famous for their lions which climb trees but we didn’t seen any there.  This sighting was of the same lions where the cubs were practicing climbing the small tree yesterday.    Hippos, Egyptian Goose, Crowned Crane, Topi, Cory Bustard, Warthog, and Giraffe. 

Jackson can’t get over having essentially no rain for our entire safari trip.  I explained that he was with me and about my luck with rain. 

‘What if” gene:  When a question begins with “what if” we …?  as in What if we get charged by an elephant.  What if we run out of gas?  What if we get lost?  Caroline seems to have that gene in spades.   It was rather endearing. 

Meals at this camp were rather spectacular considering we are in the middle of nowhere at a bush camp. 

First night:  Broccoli and cheese soup (they made me just broccoli soup).  Carrots and green beans wrapped in bacon, roasted chicken, potatoes au gratin (they made me a small bowl without the cheese), snowpeas, homemade rolls, and Chocolate Samosas for dessert.  I have had veg. samosas and meat and veg. samosas, but never a dessert samosa.  Was great.

Lunch next day was cucumber salad, beet and apple and cashew salad, veg. lasagna, and meat lasagna (they made me a bowl of meat, tomato,  and onion), a green salad and dessert was and Chocolate profiterole

2nd night:  Mashed potato puffs, beef stroganoff,herbed rice, chickpeas and zucchini, grilled red and green peppers, and Apple Charlotte

lunch Tandori chicken, rice, Tadka Dhal, mixed green salad, chutney, poppadums, and dessert was pineapple rum.

3rd .  night: Using a grill:  BBQ beef or chicken kebabs, pork ribs, boerowoeres (sausage), coleslaw, green salad, roast pumpkin, roast potatoes, BBQ and satay sauces, and lemon meringue pie.

4th night:  Roasted bell peppers with bacon wrapped ground beef inside,  potato cakes, roasted zucchini,  and I don’t remember rest. 

Ok, James J., are you satisfied with all the descriptions of the meals since you requested them???

Our Intrepid Traveller Part 11

18-19 JANUARY– After breakfast you will be driven to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area for a stay of two nights at Plantation Lodge.

On the way to the front gate:  Monitor Lizard, Black Headed Heron, Hammerkop, Baboons, Monitor Lizard, Zanzibar Bishop, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Terrapin, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl (has pink eyelids), Elephant, Dikdik, Impala, Giraffe, Buffalo, Warthogs, Zebra, Waterbuck, Black Kite. 

NGORONGORO CRATER:  The rim is 2300 meters high; it is 260 sq. km. and is approx 90 km. long and 16 km wide in the crater floor.    There are approx. 20,000 animals on the crater floor and Ngorongoro is a World Heritage Site.    Female Elephants and young are all on the rim area of the crater and the males are on the crater floor. 

Afternoon Game Drive:  Cinnamon Bee-eater, Umbrella Acacia, Cape Buffalo, Western Wildebeest, Burchell’s Zebra, Grant’s Gazelle, Tawny Eagle, Spotted Hyena (and I spotted him a long ways away!) – only species where female also has a penis??? -, Cape Eland – the largest antelope, Cory Bustard, Crowned Crane, Abdim’s Stork, Elephant with big tusks, White Stork, Hippo, Black Rhino, CARACAL!!!!!!!   I have to insert some info here.  When the guide said caracal I could tell he was a bit more excited than he had been for other things but I thought he said Coucal and I wondered why he was so excited about a bird.  Then he said Caracal again and I got excited!!!  I never expected to see one ever.  This was the third one he had ever seen in 9 years of guiding.  They are usually more nocturnal and it was afternoon.  He/she was in the grass and in the open but posed and posed and posed.  Just ignored us to some extent but kept glancing toward us so my photos are pretty good!  He/she hung around for 10 minutes.  Still haven’t looked at the photos on the computer but I took over  100 easily.  It was a fabulous sighting and it made my week.   Now all I have to find is an Oryx, which I should find in Namibia in Sept., and a Pangolin.   After that I was excited for the rest of the day.   Continuing on, we say Thompson’s Gazelle, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Coke’s Hartebeest, 2 more Hyenas, a Cory Bustard displaying,  Hartebeest, Black Rhino, Black bellied Bustard, Black Headed Heron, Pink _____ Pelican, and 3 lionesses lying beside the road at the top of the crater.  It rained two times in the crater, but not where we were. 

 Jan 19th – Game drive in Crater:  Male Lion deep in grasses on the rim drive – there are 5 prides in the Park and some have about 20 lions –, Fiscal Shrike, Buffalo, Zebra, Grant’s Gazelle, Gnu, 2 lionesses lying down in grasslands a LONG way off so that they looked like golden rocks, warthogs with babies, 5 Hyena, Elephant, Crowned Crane, 2 lionesses lying in grass near road.  When they got hot, they just went into the shade of the 4×4’s and didn’t move when the engines of that 4×4 were started.  One of them had her paws underneath the vehicle near the tire so that the vehicle couldn’t move!.  Hippos, and a great 360 panorama of zebra, gnu, buffalo, and Thompson’s Gazelles.  We were in the middle of hundreds of all of them except the Gazelles.    Hartebeest, Wildebeest, Ostrich, Black Rhino in distance  Cory Bustard displaying, Masai Warriors guarding their cattle they bring into and out of the crater each day, Grant’s Gazelle female and baby, White browed Coucal, big tusked elephant, Spur Winged Goose, 3 black Rhino, and a male lion in distance.    At a rest area stop there were Euphorbia bussei on the hillside of the crater.  Also in the crater is the Euphorbia nyika (? spelling–Jackson isn’t a particularly good speller!) but I am not sure if I got any photos of that species. 

Box Lunch in the Crater was Hamburger patty, bun and tomato, apple juice, water, hard boiled egg, carrot sticks, another sandwich, a piece of not very good cake, and a Cadbury milk chocolate bar.  I had been having Chocolate withdrawal and Caroline even gave me half of hers!

Our Intrepid Traveller Part 10

15-17 JANUARY -  Depart on a game drive to Lake Manyara Tree Lodge for a stay of three nights.  

Was told there are about 120 tribes in Tanzania, of which Masai are not the largest.  Swahili is common language.  There are lots of orphanages, presumably because of AIDS.  About 50% of the population are farmers and have about 5 acres of land. 

After about 3 hours arrived at gate to Lake Manyara National Park.  The park is 230 sq. km. but the Lake is about 200 sq. km.  and salty.

The Lodge is the only lodge inside the park, (but there are camping sites) and is 45 km from the gate at the end of the park.  It takes a minimum of 2 hrs. on a dirt road/track to reach the lodge.  Since the lodge is not fenced off, we have to be walked to and from our room at dusk by Masai warriors with spears. 

On the game drive to the Lodge:  Baboons, Bushbuck, Burchell’s Zebra, African Elephant – hereinafter just called Elephant!, Brown Snake Eagle with a snake hanging from its beak as it was flying, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Masai Giraffe, Klipspringer, Warthogs, Impala. 

Arrived about 2-ish for lunch of spicy gazspacho, BBQ pork spareribs, rice, bean salad, pasta with onions and herbs.

Afternoon game drive:  Cape Buffalo, Impala, Hammerkop, Eastern Wildebeest (Gnu) (Eastern are lighter and Western are in Serengeti), Abdim’s Stork, Grey Headed KF, Saddle Billed Stork, Grey HB,  ? Wooddove, Crowned HB, Common Bulbul, Ground HB, about 20 Banded Mongoose, 2 Klipspringer, a Hot Springs where it is said one could boil an egg in 15 mins.,  Read Headed Weaver, Silvery Cheeked HB, Baboon troop on road.

We were assigned our own butler/waiter.  The room is about 7 or 8 feet above ground with a large wrap-around porch.  The ceiling is banana leaves and covered in thatch.  The beds again have mosquito netting, there’s a desk and chair, a couch and cocktail table, closet, and the bath has two sinks, a tub, and a toilet.  The shower is outside on the porch but fenced off with bamboo.  It is very elegant.  Dinner was Sirloin Steak, salad, green beans, zucchini, carrots, rice and dessert of banana fritters.  And Robert, our butler/waiter took very good care of us. 

 Jan. 16 - Breakfasts are buffet style with fruits, tomato, juices, cereal, eggs any way you want them or an omelet, pancakes/crepes, bacon or sausage, toast, coffee, hot choc., yoghurt, etc. 

All day game drive with lunch boxes of chicken, homemade buttermilk type biscuits but better, pasta, and butterscotch fudge.  We had tablecloth, cloth napkins, silverware, metal plates, and the items were in metal containers.  Only thing missing was candles! 

Baboons, Waterbuck, Strangler Fig, Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Red Headed Weaver, Zanzibar Bishop, Brown Snake Eagle, Little Bee-eater, Klipspringer, Ground HB, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Pintailed Whydah, Paradise Whydah, Egyptian Goose, Hadada Ibis, Vervet Monkey, White Browed Coucal, Impala everywhere, Masai Giraffe, Crowned Crane, Dikdik, Vervet Monkeys, Elephant, Zanzibar Bishop, Speckled Mousebird, Zebra, Elephant, Masai Giraffe, Masked Weaver, Elephant, Herd of Impala, a wide panorama along the lake of herds of Zebra, Elephant, Warthogs, 1 Impala, Cape Buffalo, and Wildebeest.  Namaqua Dove, the largest Baobab tree I have ever seen, Superb Starling, and Elephant.

Dinner was pumpkin soup, cashew encrusted tilapia, rice, veg. tortilla, bean moussaka, and pineapple crumbles for dessert. 

Jan 17 -  All day game drive:  Greater and Lesser Flamingos, some flying in choreographed formations along the lake, Marabou Stork, Hippo, Grey Headed KF, Monitor Lizard, Flamingos in the lake, Baboons, Terrapin, Zanzibar Bishop, Giraffe against lake background, Augur Buzzard, Dikdik, Impalas, Blue Monkey, Crested Guinea Fowl, Water Monitor, Hippo Pool with Red Billed Oxpeckers, Silvery Cheeked HB, Baboons on canopy top of Acacia tree, Elephant and 3 year old who trumpeted at us just after we passed trying to show off!, Grey Heron, and Little Bee-eater. 

Lunch was chicken with lemon sauce, apples, rice, bean salad, biscuits. 

When we got to the room, there was a drawn bubble bath in the tub.  Neither Ellen nor I like baths so it was wasted effort and water.  We went to the pool and read after sticking our legs in the cold pool. 

Dinner was champagne, roasted veg. soup, endive and green peppers with lemon dressing, tenderloin of beef, carrots, mashed potatoes with coconut milk,  peppers, onions and chickpeas, and dessert of honey cake with banana glaze.

When we got back to the room, there was a Bushbaby on the porch railing and he quickly scampered up to the roof and into the tree.  During showers we frequently see monkeys in the trees nearby.  We could hear hyenas in the distance.  We were told that Elephants frequently visit the Lodge environs but we never saw any.

Our Intrepid Traveller – Part 9

Jan 13 – AM Boat ride on Shire River and tributaries:  Have only me in the vehicle and boat rides. Don’t have to share so I can take all the time I want to take photos and decide what I want to stop for. 

Brown throated Weaver, Water Monitor, Malachite KF, Greenbacked Heron, Woodland KF, Malachite KF, African Jacana, lots of swallows, Great White Egret (I think this is what we call Great White Heron!), Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret on Hippo back, Mother and baby hippo with Cattle Egret on top of mother, Great White Egred, Hippos, Purple Heron, Blue Cheecked Bee-eater, Nile Crocs (6 of them), Hippos, Open Billed Stork, Malachite KF, Giant KF, male Elephant, Spur winged Lapwing and Blacksmith Lapwing,

Have now seen 5 KF’s–Giant, Woodland, Pied, Malachite, and Striped, of which Woodland and Striped are new for me. Love the snorfling grunt type noises the hippos make!

Age of Baobab trees is measure the circumference.  For each meter, assume 80-100 years old.  Some of the trees have an amazing girth so they have to be thousand or more years old. 

Evening Game Drive through Mopani Woodland (other has been Mopani Woodand and scrub)  :  LBR, Striped KF, baby impalas about 1 mo and 1 1/2 months old, AFE, Woodland KF, Red Billed HB, AFE Grey Lourie, Red Squirrel,  Sable Antelope in the wild–not in Sanctuary, 8 Sable females and 2-3 young plus 2 young males, Elephant family, another herd of Sable Antelope consisting of 17 females, 2 males and then one solitary male for a total of 43!!!!   After dark:  Elephant shrew, 2 genets, and 4 hares. 

 There is noise all day and all night in the bush–frogs, birds, crocs, hippos, insects, etc. 

 It is the beginning of their rainy season, but I have been dry! 

 First day there were 6 others, 2nd day there were 5 others, and last day there were only two others. 

 Had dinner at my lodge last night.  Was supposed to be on the porch but it was too buggy so I brought it inside. 

14 JANUARY Transfer to Lilongwe International Airport and fly to Nairobi where you connect onwards to Kilimanjaro.        Transfer by road to the Arusha Hotel to meet with your group and stay for one night.

Have seen no tractors or farming equipment.  Everything is done by hand–hoeing, harvesting, taking to mkt.  And about half of the people walk barefoot on the black tar highway or by the side of the road.  Water is from pumps in the villages, where they go each day for their daily water.  Many also wash their clothes at the well. 

Today was travel day; 4 hrs by car back to Lilongwe to fly to Nairobi and on to Kilamanjaro in Tanzania.  Had a bit of excitement on the Lilongwe to Nairobi flight.  The captain flashed the seat belt sign — mine was on — and almost immediately the plane dropped.  I had a coke on the way to my mouth and my had went down all the while trying to keep the coke in the glass.  The plane bounced up and my arm with up.  When the plane went down again my glass came down with about half of the coke still up in the air flying all over the two seats beside me.  That happened twice.  I had no coke left in the glass after that!  Luckily there was no one sitting beside me or in front of me.  The coke was still dripping from the ceiling of the overhead bins for another minute or so!  You know that photo where something is dropped in milk and the ring forms with droplets.  That’s what my coke sorta looked like as it was leaving the glass! 

Caroline, Steve, and their friend and my roommate Ellen, will be here sometime tonight.  It is now 11 p.m. and I am going to bed shortly.