June 16, 2006

Tanzania Diary - Day 4

Posted at June 16, 2006 08:28 PM by tom in Tanzania 06

Day 4 - May 29th
We got up early in the morning, packed our bags then had breakfast. After breakfast I was watching a pair of Common Bulbuls which are very common when suddenly a Kingfisher flew into the tree. Foolishly I immediately shouted "Kingfisher", but to my surprise the bird just remained sitting on a branch in full view. Then I looked in my bird book and identified it as Grey-headed Kingfisher, whilst standing literally underneath it. Then I showed mum who took some photos of it that will be put in the library soon. Grey-headed Kingfishers look quite different to the 1 type of Kingfisher that we have in England and are also larger. In Tanzania there are 13 different types of Kingfisher. Although common it was quite an amazing bird and it was amazing to get so close to it without it flying away.

Next we took down the tents got in the car and drove to the Serengeti, via Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a Masai village and the Olduvai Gorge. There wasn't much to see on the way to Ngorongoro Conservation Area (8,300sq km) although as soon as we arrived at the visitor centre we were greeted by a troop of Baboons who started running around on top of the car. Once they had gone thanks to Maravit (Baboons are actually very ferocious animals) we went for a loo stop. We carried on and found small numbers of game, mostly Zebra and Thompson's Gazelle but also Hartebeest, Eland, Buffalo, Giraffe and a Camel! According to Maravit the Camels are actually wild and they've just been moving down south! Also in terms of birds I saw 2 African Hawk Eagles, Kori Bustard, Marabou, Crowned Lapwing and plenty of Ostrich.

Then we drove to a Masai village that we were going to visit. I was a bit scared because if you don't pay them they throw their spears at you but as soon as we arrived we felt very calm after their amazing welcome dance. Then we went inside the village and they did more dances and some of us joined in. Also while they were doing this a Augur Buzzard flew over. Then we went into their huts and they told us all about their way of life which was quite interesting. Then we said goodbye and drove to the Olduvai Gorge.

We arrived at the Olduvai Gorge and then had lunch. Whilst we were having lunch we saw some nice birds like Masked Weavers, a very colourful Variable Sunbird, Grey-capped Social Weavers, Rufous Sparrows and also a few House Sparrows were picking up our scraps. Also there were Little Swifts everywhere. After having lunch we visited the museum and listened to a short lecture about the gorge. Then we set off for the great Serengeti National Park (14,763sq km).

The terrain around here was very dry and had lots of gazelles. Soon we drove past the Serengeti-Ngorongoro border and immediately saw thousand of Grant's and Thompson's Gazelles, a family of Warthogs and a few Ostrich, Hartebeest, Wildebeest and Zebra. This area is called the short-grass plains although we quickly got onto the long-grass plains where we found a group of 2 female and 1 male Lions. Soon we got to the official park entrance we we walked up to the viewpoint and looked over the Serengeti. Up there we saw lots of lizards and in the trees below we saw a Lappet-faced Vulture. After going to the loo we got back in the car and travelled to the Seronera area where we were camping. The Seronera valley or long-grass plains as the area is also known is a very good area to see Lions and Leopards and there are also many different birds and other mammals.

On the way there we saw lots of Vultures (Ruppells Griffon, Hooded, White-backed and Lappet-faced) and Marabou Storks sitting on trees. Also we saw a Lion in a tree which is now becoming a common thing in the Serengeti. However this is bad news as the tree-climbing lions are the main attraction of Lake Manyara along with the flamingos, and in Tanzania there is already the problem that so many people want to visit the Serengeti that other parks such as Arusha (which we visited on the last day) beome neglected and cannot keep running without the support of other parks such as the Serengeti. Also there were large herds of Wildebeests and Zebras along with a few Ostrich.

Then to my joy we found a Leopard sitting in a tree. With a beautiful African sunset forming behind it it was quite an amazing site. After watching the leopard for about 20 minutes we drove on and found a cluster of about 10 vehicles about 100m on looking at guess what, another Leopard! This one was showing much better and was slightly smaller than the other one so it seems as if the 2 Leopards were mother and cub. Maravit said this one was probably about 18 months old so it was very close to leaving its mum and the remains of an Impala in the tree showed us that it was ready to survive on its own. We watched it for quite a long time before carrying on.

We then saw a large troop of Baboons walking along the road with babies hanging from their tummy. It was interesting to see how wild these were as they showed no sign of coming near us even when we looked out from the roof. It was a conmplete contrast to the ones in Ngorongoro that jumped around on the car, put their noses to the windscreen and tried to steal food off unwary tourists. Then we briefly saw a Bat-eared Fox run across the road and into the grass although mum's jeep didn't see it. Then we drove past a water hole where we saw a Blacksmith Plover and a group of Vervet Monkeys in a tree.

Soon we arrived at the campsite and after setting up camp we tried out the pit toilets that smelt very bad although by the time we left the Serengeti nearly 4 days later I actually rather liked them! Around the campsite there were lots of Grey-capped Social Weaver nest and also Masked Weavers and Superb Starlings were numerous along with a few Hildebrandt's Starlings. For dinner we had the usual potato soup for starters and pasta today for the main course much to the delight of Claudio who was Italian.

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