Tanzania Safari Report – Final Day

Lee suggested that we’d have time for a brief drive before our flight this morning. We jumped at the opportunity to do so, calling it our bonus drive, and we were immediately rewarded. Lee mentioned that he had heard some lion calls near our lodge in the night, so we went looking for them, and 10 minutes later came across a pair of lions mating. Out of respect for the delicate readers of this blog, this first photo is post-coitus. The male lion is walking away to find something to read while the female lion rolls on her back, pawing the air and says “Wait, can’t we talk about feelings now?”

The mating process takes around 3 days, during which they will have sex approximately every 20 minutes. I got tired just typing that sentence. Each, umm, event, only takes about 10 seconds. Feel free to insert your own jokes here. At the point of climax, both lions roar. It’s quite impressive. Especially when you’re just 20 feet away.

At the end of our bonus drive we came across a pair of jackals. They’re small, canine scavengers. These guys were definitely less shy than the other jackals we saw on the trip.

Thus ends our safari adventure. I hope that both of you reading this enjoyed it!

Tanzania Safari Report – Day 8 / Serengeti

As mentioned previously, we set out this morning to see hippos and crocs. The section of the Grumeti river where the hippos and crocs were located is a two hour drive from our camp, so we left the lodge early. On the way there, we came across three cheetah, a mother and her two one year old sons. We found them in a tree, and followed them for half an hour as they stalked some Thomson’s Gazelle. The gazelle caught wind of them (literally, the cheetah were upwind of them), and so the hunt was soon over, and we continued on our drive.

The rest of the drive was uneventful and we eventually came upon the crocs and hippos. This next photo is of a large pod of hippo that we watched for awhile. Hippo apparently taste pretty good (my go to question to our driver Lee when seeing any particular species of animal was “So, how do they taste?”), and so I have decided that hippos should be referred to from now on as ‘river pigs’. That’s a lot of bacon! Fun fact: apparently one cup of Hippo fat can feed 8 people.

We thought tonight’s drive was to be our final drive before our flight to Dar es Salaam tomorrow morning. It was fairly uneventful with the exception of seeing a large herd of elephant by another section of the Grumeti. We were hoping that we’d get some pictures of elephants frolicking in the river, but they did not cooperate.

Tanzania Safari Report – Day 7 / Serengeti

Things really kicked into gear today. Our wakeup call was at 5:15am for our 6am drive to the balloon. The balloon flight was outstanding, lasting a little more than an hour. We then had an extended game drive until around 12:30pm, and another game drive in the evening. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here’s a view from the balloon of some of the wildebeest. They look almost like ant trails when viewed from a few hundred feet AGL.

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After the balloon ride, we spent most of the morning with the wildebeest. These next two photos are of a few of them stampeding, as they are prone to do on a regular basis. It is rather impressive when you’re in the middle of it.

Everybody just wants their picture taken.

We ended the morning with 4 lions, sleeping under trees. The afternoon drive started with a cheetah. She had eaten recently and was just lounging the day away. Kind of like us, really. This was the first time in our safaris that we had been close to a cheetah. Pretty neat.

The rest of the afternoon game drive, in handy bullet point form:

  1. Elephants
  2. Elephants fighting under a tree with a lioness hanging out in the tree
  3. Storm clouds approaching, trying to outrun the storm
  4. A pride of 12 lions feasting on a recent wildebeest kill
  5. Making it back to the lodge without getting drenched
  6. Leveraging synergies and shifting paradigms

As referenced by bullet point #2, here’s a lion in a tree, trying to stay away from an angry Elephant. The photo’s not great, but by the time we got into position, the lion had moved further into the tree and you couldn’t see her at all.

Once again we had to outrun the evening rain showers. It did make for some great light, however.

Tomorrow: crocodiles and hippos!

Tanzania Safari Report – Day 6 / Serengeti

This morning we took an hour flight north to the lodge we’re at now. Our lodge overlooks the Serengeti from a hill. The first pic is the view from the lodge itself. Those dots down there? Each is most likely a wildebeest, although they could also be zebras, antelope of various species, lions, leopards, hyena, and, well, you get the picture. The Great Migration started 3 days ago, and should last about 8 days. It’s 1.2M wildebeest, and markedly less of the other species. We really lucked out being here when it happened, as predicting its start is an inexact science.

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The weather didn’t look great, but we decided to do a game drive in the afternoon anyways. As you can see from this picture, the sky looked threatening. About 20 minutes into the drive, it started to pour. Torrential downpour, thunder and lightning, hail, dogs & cats living together, the whole works. We hightailed it back to the lodge, but got soaked in the process. Things cleared up 30 minutes later, and being gamers, we went out again. You’ll never guess what happened 20 minutes after that. So, we didn’t really do much animal sighting today.

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Tanzania Safari Report – Day 5 / Ngorongoro Crater

Welcome to Ngorongoro Crater. Today’s trip into the crater was our best game drive yet on this trip. The crater forms a natural enclosure, roughly the size of San Francisco. There’s little shelter in the crater and abundant wildlife, leading to many sightings.

Between the massive tectonic plate shifts that created the great Rift Valley and the volcanoes that created the crater (one of many in the area, actually), this place has certainly seen its share of geologic adventure.

The crater is near where Mary and Louis Leakey did their pioneering archeology work. At our lodge, we talked with an older couple from the mid-west who were scheduled to drive through there today, including stopping at the main site of the Leakey’s research. The couple seemed most excited about using that opportunity for a bathroom break. Evidence, maybe, that belief in evolution is still evolving in parts of the U.S.A.

Let’s get to the photos. We started the day early and the sky was overcast. Descending into the crater:

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You can see the walls of the crater in the background.

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This is a female Ostrich. The males are black.

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We saw a lot of Zebra. They mostly prefer large groups, but this guy was all alone.

Lion with lioness sleeping:

As the day progressed, the overcast burned off, until the sky was clear in the crater and we were left with fog hovering at the rim.

This Hyena was a bit messy from recently feeding.

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Here’s a Serval, which is a small cat (roughly 30 pounds). People have been known to keep servals as pets and they can be bred with domestic house cats, leading to a breed called a Savannah. Think of a normal kitty that’s about 30 pounds, and that’s what they’re apparently like.

Tomorrow is a travel day; we’re off to the Serengeti.

Tanzania Safari Report – Day 4 / Tarangire And Lake Maryana

Today was another long day. It took about 3 hours to exit the Tarangire game preserve. On the way out, however, we happened upon two adult lions (one male, one female) with their 3 cubs. So that was good. Plus some friendly warthogs, which was a nice touch. Unfortunately the lions were not close to a road, so I was unable to get any decent photos. You’ll just have to trust me. Did I mention that one of the lions had a zebra riding on it’s back? And that the zebra had a monkey on it’s back? Like I said, you’ll just have to trust me.

Then it was an hour drive to Lake Maryana, a small game preserve/lake smack up against the Rift Valley wall. It’s known for a massive stork population. We also saw three different species of monkeys and some hippos.

From there, we drove up the Rift Valley wall and on to our current destination, a coffee plantation a few minutes drive from the Crater at Ngorongoro.

Did you know that in the original story, the three pigs end up eating the wolf?

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Blue Monkeys in Lake Maryana National Park.

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Lake Maryana is known to have one of the largest stork populations in Africa. So of course I was not able to get any decent pictures of them. Again, you’ll just have to trust me; there were a lot of storks there.

Next week I’ll be back with pictures from the Crater at Ngorongoro and from the Serengeti.

Tanzania Safari Report – Day 3 / Tarangire

We did another marathon all day game drive today. It was fun but tiring. And a little disappointing because we didn’t see any lions or leopards. It appears to us that there’s little communication between the various drivers, so that finding shy creatures like lions or leopards is more luck than anything else. If we ran the place, things would be different. Because we clearly know better. Of course.

On with the photos. Jackals are small scavengers. They’re quite skittish, so getting pictures of them is challenging. This guy paused for a minute on a road besides some elephant dung before loping off.

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Impala are a common type of antelope found throughout Africa. The coloring on their backside and tails forms the letter M, as you can see with some of the antelope in the background of this photo. The common, if exceptionally poor, joke is that the M stands for McDonalds, as these guys feed many other animals. That’s safari humor for you. Try the fish and please remember to tip your waitstaff.

Apparently like many species of mammals in Africa, and the star of one really bad reality show in America, Impala males have harems. That leads to a bunch of single male Impala having to hang out with each other. It’s like working at a software company. Here are a bunch of bachelors.

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And finally, here’s today’s obligatory Elephant photo. Tomorrow is a travel day.

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Tanzania Safari Report – Day 2 / Tarangire

We were woken up around 5am today by what we thought were elephant calls from two elephants. One was calling from one side of the camp, the other was calling from the other. Turns out that two lions were hunting in our camp, and those were roars. Everyone was still here when we finally did get up, so I guess the hunt was not successful. The camp is a series of tent bungalows that overlook a large grassy plain. As I type this, there are groups of zebras, impalas, waterbuck, vervet monkeys, and a couple elephants wandering around, all within maybe 1000 feet of me. And maybe the two lions from this morning.

I had an important learning today. I noticed a couple of related things. First, there are a lot of tsetse flies around. These aren’t your garden variety houseflies. No sir. These not-so-little winged devils bite! The second thing I noticed were all these black and blue flags hanging from trees. Here’s an example of one (the normally black stripes are more of a grey here).

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It turns out that tsetse flies are attracted to the colors blue and black. These flags are coated with insecticide and serve to reduce the population of the winged monsters.

Now, learning is power and all that, but it’s only powerful if it happens at the right time. The right time for this particular learning for me would have been a week ago, while I was packing for this trip. For, you see, the vast majority of my clothes are either blue or black. I’m a walking tsetse fly attractor! Now I understand why people dress in khaki while on safari (we thought everyone was just posing as Master Safari Expeditioneers(TM)).

We did one long game drive today. We left around 9am and returned around 3pm. This is different from what we were used to in South Africa and Botswana. There, we’d do two game drives, one in the morning from about 6:30am to 10:30am and one in the afternoon from about 4pm to 7pm. Our camp in Tarangire is currently surrounded by high grass, and it takes about an hour of driving to get to the areas where we can see game. So it makes sense to do one longer drive instead of two shorter drives.

There are a lot of monkeys around here, but it can be difficult to photograph them. They tend to scurry around. Here’s a Vervet that I managed to catch in the process of climbing a tree.

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Cape Buffalo are another animal found in large quantities in Tarangire. We came across a herd of them in the morning mist.

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And of course a post about Tarangire wouldn’t be complete without an elephant photo.

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Tanzania Safari Report – Day 1 / Tarangire

I started a tradition several years ago, when I started to travel more frequently. I would email a ‘Pic of the day’ to my family while traveling, along with a brief explanation of the photo and what I was doing. At first, the pictures were from my Treo 600 and the explanations were brief. But over the years, I upgraded my camera as well as my prose (well, I hope). These safari reports are adapted from those emails.

After spending a sleepless night in Nairobi after our delayed flight from Amsterdam, we had an early morning flight to Mt Kilimanjaro / Arusha airport. After landing, I was detained in customs. Tanzania has a requirement for a yellow fever vaccine if you’re coming from a specific list of countries. I don’t have the vaccine, but I also wasn’t coming from any of those countries. Except that, I was, because Kenya is on the list, and we had overnighted there because of our previous bad travel karma. It was looking like I was going to have to pay a fine and get vaccinated at the airport, neither of which I wished to do. After explaining our tale of travel woe, and with the help of some vocal Englishmen who were suffering the same fate, the customs agents relented and we were eventually on our way.

Anyways, we connected with our driver and, after 6 hours of driving made it to our first stop, a camp deep in the Tarangire National Park. It took 3 hours of driving to get to the entrance of the park, and then another 3 hours within the park to get to our camp. During that time we did some game driving, so it wasn’t just a straight shot through the park.

Tarangire is known for its zebra and elephant populations, and we immediately saw some of each. Here’s one guy playing king of the hill. He should have bigger ambitions.

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Elephants will coat themselves in mud to keep cool during the warm afternoons. You can see the remnants of a mud bathe on this guy.

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We also saw a couple warthogs right after entering the park. These guys, unlike most of the warthogs we saw in Tanzania, were not very skittish, so we were able to get fairly close.

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Finally, we saw some Waterbuck, which were voted by Suzanne as the cutest animal in the park.

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Tanzania Safari Report – Introduction

We recently spent 10 days on safari in Tanzania, across 4 different parks. It was our second safari trip, after last year’s trip to South Africa and Botswana. On this trip I took 1,998 photos. This time, inspired by Andy Bigg’s recent magnificent Sabi Sands Safari Reports, I thought I’d try something similar, and group several photos into each blog post along with some commentary about what happened when we were out there. In no way are my photos anywhere close to being in the same league as Andy’s, but I had a great time out there, and that’s all that matters. And it’s my blog, so, neener (don’t worry, someday I’ll start writing about startups and tech again). With that out of the way, let’s get to Africa.

We had a red-eye from Amsterdam to Nairobi, with a connection the next morning on to Arusha, Tanzania. Unfortunately, after spending 3 hours on the plane at the gate, mechanical issues scrubbed the flight until the next day. This threw our other plans into a little bit of chaos, but we eventually got things sorted. What this meant was that we ended up flying down during the day, and I was able to take some photos along the way.

We crossed over the Mediterranean into Africa over Libya. If the tracking map was to be believed, the city near the top of this photo is Benghazi. Apologies for the grainy iPhone photo.

Flying south from Amsterdam to Nairobi, we crossed over the Mediterranean into Africa over Libya. If the tracking map was to be believed, the city near the top of this photo is Benghazi.

Some time later, we passed over the Sahara desert. Taking pictures out of an airplane window at 34,000 feet isn’t ideal, but I thought it was a nice visual. Besides, the in-flight movie was “We Bought A Zoo”. I’d rather stare at a desert. And I did.

Flying over Africa, a view of the Sahara desert.

We made it to Nairobi about 12 hours later than planned and ended up staying overnight there, but we eventually made it out to Tarangire, our first stop.

The following picture gives you some idea of what being on safari is like. It was taken at our last safari destination, the Serengeti. You bound around in open air Land Rovers looking for interesting animals. It really is the most fun ever. For the most part, the animals pay no attention to you at all, as long as you don’t get out of the jeep.

There are two types of safaris, those that take place in national parks and those that take place on private lands, or concessions. In national parks, you are required to stay on the roads (really dirt trails) at all times. In the private concessions, you can drive anywhere. Both types lead to great experiences, but the private concessions do allow you to get really close to the animals even when they’re not near any roads.

We're in our Land Rover, watching another Land Rover watching a herd of Elephant. This was on the Serengeti.