June 29, 2006

Tanzania Diary - Day 6

Posted at 9:22 by tom in Tanzania 06 | | Comments (0)

Day 6 - May 31st
We got up very early and had breakfast. Then while waiting for our guide who was taking us on the morning game walk I heard a Woodpecker drumming. I turned around and saw a pair of Cardinal Woodpeckers walking up and down a dead tree stump. They showed very well with the red headed male staying there for 5 minutes although the female flew off after about a minute. Then our guide arrived so we set off on the morning game walk.

We started with a pair of Marabous that flew from the road and quickly got Grey-capped Social Weaver and various Masked weaver sp. There were lots of small footprints on the road that our guide said were Mongoose. We then saw several Red-billed Buffalo Weavers and Cardinal Queleas.

Then we got to the bottom of a big hill and the guide asked "Do you want to climb it?" Everyone immediately said "Yes!" so we began the trek. After about 10 minutes we got to the first stopping point. Already tired after the easiest part of the climb we had good views over the Serengeti. We carried on to the next point and stopped for a breather. We did this again and again, at least it seemed that way! "From the bottom it looked like a gentle stroll!" we all said. Finally, tired and out of water, we reached the top although the reward of the climb was a fantastic view over the Serengeti.

Then we walked back down the other side and walked back to the lodge. It wasn't really a game walk as there was no game but having climbed to the top of a big hill by 10:00AM was a good way to start an action packed day.

When we got back we packed up, had lunch and got in the jeep for our afternoon game drive. We started with lots of Impalas, an Elephant, several parties of Giraffe and a mixed herd of Zebra, Wildebeest, Thompson's Gazelle and Grant's Gazelle. Then we went to a Hippo pool where there are normally several very large Crocodiles. We were not disappointed with at least 5 Crocs feeding off a Hippo carcass. We also saw loads of Hippos in the pool and 3 Dik-Diks around the edges of the pool.

We then found several Baboons on the roadside, a group of Topi and a spectacular Verraux's Eagle Owl in a tree. As usual several different types of Vulture and lots of Marabous were soaring in the midday heat. Then I saw an African Hoopoe fly past and in a small pool we had good views of a Black Crake. Also a Red-billed Oxpecker was sitting on the neck of a Giraffe in a small group. Fischer's Lovebird and White-headed Buffalo Weavers were also conspicuous.

Then we got back to the Seronera area and found a group of Buffalo in a small marshy area. Also around here at least 20 Little Bee-eaters were flying around. The Lions were showing well this afternoon with 2 females in trees about 100 metres away from each other and the group of 3 that I spotted yesterday in long grass beside the road.

Then as the beautiful african sunset began we found the young Leopard that we had seen on our first Serengeti game drive again. It was in a tree just a bit further on and had another half-eaten Impala beside it. There was no sign of the female nearby but we did have excellent views of a Bateleur Eagle on a nest with a fairly large chick inside and a Grey Hornbill flying around. Then whilst driving back to the campsite for dinner we spotted another Lion in a tree. A perfect way to end the day.

When we got back to camp we had dinner with the bugs! Then the ranger came to our campsite and said something to Maravit. Maravit said that the ranger had just seen a Lioness attempt to take down a Wildebeest about 500 metres from the campsite. The grunts of the wildebeest made this clearly evident throughout the night but more was to come. To be continued.......

June 24, 2006

Tanzania Diary - Day 5

Posted at 13:50 by tom in Tanzania 06 | | Comments (0)

Day 5 - May 30th
We got up early in the morning, got dressed and had breakfast. During the night we had heard Lions and Hyenas although they were far away. An Ostrich and about 10 Wildebeest were on the plain behind the campsite. After breakfast we set off for our morning game drive.

We began with lots of Impalas, a very common animal that we somehow didn't see yesterday. We then saw Topi and Hartebeest. Soon we got to the waterhole where we had seen the Hippos yesterday. Also today there were Vervet Monkeys, Blacksmith Plovers, Egyptian Geese, Marabous, Crowned Cranes, a Black-headed Heron and a Crocodile. Thousands upon thousands of Wildebeests and Zebras were now moving across the plains although these were only the last few of the 1.5 million Wildebeest and 400,000 Zebra that are now in the Western Corridor of the Serengeti and making their way to the north of the park and the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Then whilst watching another group of Vervet Monkeys I spotted an eagle in a tree which turned out to be a juvenile Bateleur Eagle, a beautiful bird although this bird was a rather dull brown colour as it was a juvenile. Ruppells Griffon, Lappet-faced, White-backed and a few Hooded Vultures were all around us in the sky and the Marabous were also in good number. Then we saw Helmeted Guineafowl, Red-billed Hornbill and I saw a Grey-backed Fiscal.

Then whilst driving through an area of long grass I spotted some Lions for just a brief second. When we went back to see them we couldn't see them at first but then 2 females and 1 male sat up. Our two jeeps were quickly joined by many others. The Lions were preparing to mate and the male was scent marking on a tree. We watched them for about 20 minutes and then we left. By the time we left their were 12 other jeeps there watching so I was quite happy with that sighting.

Then we drove to the Masai Kopjes (Koppies) to look for some of the diverse wildlife that these mini eco-systems support. Kopjes are large rocks that were made when a volcano did something and they are a unique feature of the Serengeti. They are often used as resting spots for Lions as well as supporting Hyraxes, Klipspringers, Bushbucks, many snakes, breeding Black Eagles and many other birds. Also the Moru Kopjes are where the park's only remaining Black Rhino (7) can be found. When we got to the Masai Kopjes we quickly spotted a female Lion resting on the top of a Kopje enjoying the sun. Then just a tiny bit further on we found a group of 6 (1 male and 5 females) lazing around.

Further on we found a army of jeeps looking into an area of grass when a Cheetah popped its head up. Then to our surprise up popped another head and then another. Three Cheetahs all at once! This group must have been what is called a coalition of Cheetahs. Coalitions of Cheetahs are male Cheetahs (normally brothers although some may join with other males) that live together so they can hunt larger prey such as Wildebeest. Coalitions normally number two or three although when a nearby female is in oestrus they split for a short time and one goes to mate with her. Sadly though the two Cheetahs who showed second went back down and did not show again. Then the adults' jeep arrived, too late to see three, although I'm sure that one was good enough. After watching the Cheetah for a while we carried on.

Then came our next surprise, a pair of Secretary birds beside the road, something I'd been really wanting to see. We then travelled back to towards our campsite at Seronera to have lunch. On the way back we saw 2 female Lions lying in a tree, Warthog and Grey Hornbill. We had lunch at the campsite and then drove to the Ikoma wildlife area outside of the parks where we were staying that night. We didn't have to take down the tents because Arnold the cook was staying at the campsite. On the way to Ikoma we saw Fischer's Lovebird, Thompson's Gazelle, Hippo, Yellow-billed Stork, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Ostrich, Defassa Waterbuck, Zebra, Warthog, Topi, Hartebeest, Wildebeest and many Impalas.

When we left the park it was only a 5 minute drive to the lodge. We then relaxed in our luxurious tents which had hot water, comfy beds, a nice toilet and a wonderful view over the plains. We were not the only inhabitants of our tents, a pair of toads were on the inside and several lizards were on the outside. Then we had dinner and played Cluedo. We were supposed to be going on a night drive at 9:00 although at 9.30 we were told that it wasn't on because the jeep was broken. Some other people said that the jeep had been broken yesterday and they were told that the drive would be on today. The management gave us free drinks but it wasn't a very good consolation so that was a bit of a disappointment. Then we went off to bed in our cozy tents.

June 16, 2006

Tanzania Diary - Day 4

Posted at 20:28 by tom in Tanzania 06 | | Comments (0)

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.

June 09, 2006

Tanzania Diary - Day 3

Posted at 19:11 by tom in Tanzania 06 | | Comments (1)

Day 3 - May 28th
We woke up in the morning to the sound of the Ibises squawking away. We got dressed and went down to breakfast. On the way to breakfast we saw some Sunbirds although we couldn't find out what type they were. For breakfast I had beans on toast and omelette. Whilst having breakfast we saw 2 African Pied Wagtails hopping around outside. They look similar to the ones we have in England but the pattern of black and white is very different. After breakfast we packed our bags, said goodbye to GordonBob and went to meet our guides who were waiting for us at the entrance of the hotel.

There were two jeeps and we decided to split with the children in one jeep with with Maravit or timeschair as his name means in Swahili and the adults in the other jeep with Hermann. We then drove to our campsite in Mto Wa Mbu near lake Manyara NP. On the way there I saw loads of birds including Cattle Egret (lots), Augur Buzzard, Black-chested Snake Eagle, another Black Kite and all the usual stuff which now included Ring-necked Dove. Also there were 12 Giraffes feeding beside the road and a dead Hyena on the road.

When we got to our campsite we set up our tents and had lunch. Above the campsite lots of birds were soaring including 3 Marabou Storks and about 10 Pelicans although we couldn't tell what type they were. At 3.00PM we set off for our afternoon game-drive at Lake Manyara NP. Although it only took 5 minutes to get there on the way we saw some Marabou Storks and I saw a Grey Heron and a Great Egret in a field.

When we got to Lake Manyara the first things we saw were a troop of Baboons in a tree and an Elephant on the hill behind. We carried on and had amazing views of the lake with thousands of Flamingos although from this distance they were only pink dots. We then passed a small pool where we saw some Hippos and a Dik-Dik was beside the road a bit further on. Small herds of Impala began to become regular and in the sky I saw a Saddle-billed Stork amongst the numerous Marabous.

Then we saw some Lions in a tree with 2 cubs. Lake Manyara is famous for its tree-climbing Lions although now they have begun doing it in the Serengeti and we saw many doing it there as you will find out. The Lions do this to avoid termites and things on the ground and also to get a good view of an area so that they can spot their prey. Next to the Lions several Elephants were feeding and a bit further on we found a lot more and several very small ones. Then whilst watching some more Elephants a party of Giraffes came along and also about 15 Cattle Egrets were feeding around the Elephants. A bit further along we saw a large herd of about 40 Impala and also a Grey Hornbill.

Then we drove down to the Hippo pool where we saw a lot of birds. There were Marabou Stork, Fish Eagle, 2 Martial Eagles (that sat on a dead tree and gave amazing views), Yellow-billed Stork (at least 30), Egyptian Goose, Pink-backed Pelican, White-backed Pelican, Black-winged Stilt and Great Cormorant (the type we have in England). Also there was 1 Buffalo and 3 Giraffes on the plain by the pool. By this time it was time to go back to camp. On the way back there were lots of suicidal Crowned Lapwings who kept walking around on the road and then only flying away at the last minute. Also we found a large group of Vervet Monkeys going around their business all sitting in a patch of trees.

When we were driving back to the hotel we saw the Marabous again. When we got back we had a nice dinner of fish and then went to bed. Around the paths that we walked along to get from our tents to the place where we ate there were a lot of little frogs so we had to be careful not to tread on them.

Lake Manyara was a beautiful park and it was wonderful to see so many Elephants. Also the scenery was amazing although it was disappointing that we could not get closer to the lake.

June 06, 2006

Tanzania Diary - Day 1 & 2

Posted at 17:33 by tom in Tanzania 06 | | Comments (0)

During the half-term break me and mum went on safari to Tanzania and had a great time and saw many amazing things. The Adventure Company organised the trip although our guides were from Tropical Trails. I am going to write a day by day diary of our trip starting with day 1 & 2 together as they were spent travelling. Some of the photos that mum took will soon be added to the photo library.

Day 1 & 2 - May 26th & 27th
We drove to Heathrow Airport and met Dad who had got there on the bus because he was working in London. He drove the car home with Clara so that we wouldn't have to pay to park our car for a week. Then me and mum checked in and waited for our flight to Adis Ababa that left at 9.50PM. We met the other families before we got on the plane.

The plane was delayed for a bit and the journey wasn't very good as the food was bad and there wasn't much to do. Luckily for me I'd already had a pizza that I had made at school that afternoon. We arrived in Adis Ababa early in the morning ready to catch our flight to Kilimanjaro Airport that was due to leave at 10.10AM Ethiopian time (2 hours ahead of the UK).

Whilst we were waiting for the plane we had fantastic views of a pair of Black Kites as well as lots of Little Swifts, Common Swifts, Red-rumped Swallows, Pied Crows and several Common Buzzards. I also saw a Common Fiscal which is a type of Shrike (Butcherbird). Rather annoyingly at about 10.15AM we were told that our flight had been delayed until 12.15PM, but we got free cake as a result, so I didn't mind much! Finally we got on the plane although the plane didn't actually leave until about 1.30PM The journey took about 2 hours and we had great views of Mt. Kilimanjaro from the plane.

When we arrived at Kilimanjaro Airport I saw a Grey Kestrel as well as Little Swifts, Common Swifts, Red-rumped Swallows and several more Common Fiscals. Also a Grey Heron was in the long grass on the side of the runway. Around the airport there were a lot of Superb Starlings, spectaculer birds with many colours although these turned out to be very common. We then were driven to our hotel in Arusha, the Ilboru Safari Lodge.
On the way there we saw the usual Swallows, Swifts and Fiscals as well as lots of Superb Starlings and 2 Grey Kestrels.

When we got to the hotel we had a swim in the very cold pool! Whilst swimming 3 Glossy Ibis were flying around overhead making a racket. In our room we found a lizard that we called GordonBob. Then we had dinner which gave us a chance to get to know the other families. For dinner we had soup for starters and chicken and chips for main course. Mum had a vegetarian meal although I can't remember what she had! Then we went to bed although the Ibises were still making a racket so we couldn't get to sleep for a bit.