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 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 – 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.

Baobab Tree

We just returned from safari and are slowly adjusting to life back home. Whereas last year we visited South Africa and Botswana, this time we visited Tanzania, specifically Tarangire National Park, Lake Maryana, the Ngorongoro Crater, and finally the Serengeti. I’ll be posting pictures from our trip over the next several weeks, after we’ve gotten back into living in the correct timezone. But for now, here’s a picture of a Baobab Tree from Tarangire, and way more information than you wanted to know about it.

The Baobab tree is not actually a tree, but a succulent, meaning it has more in common with a cactus than a redwood. They can live over 1000 years, and it’s impossible to date them. There are no rings to count and carbon dating is inexact at best because the ‘tree’ is somewhat fibrous and regrows itself over time. Because of the way they grow, they end up hollow, making a nice space for people or critters to live. Elephants will often strip the bark off the tree, either through random damage or for eating, and that appears to have happened with this tree.

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