Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cyber safari news

 By Jules Knocker and Ali Kea

Smart phones have changed the way we view safaris. Some changes are good and some changes are not so welcome.
- Many people use the phone as their camera (by the way, not recommended - while phone cameras are good quality, they cannot replicate the majesty and the size of animals. Most end up looking small and a bit dull and not your best safari momento)
- you can share your day with friends and family back home, when you are at a lodge with Internet
- and we can hear about your safari from the guide as you go along and see the pictures, which we love

But it can become addictive, so much so that people forget to appreciate what they see first hand and concentrate on enjoying it second hand, via their phone - missing out on the full experience. So we really recommend that people 'switch off' during their game drives and at the lodge round the fire place, relax and enjoy!

19 Jan 06:12 - Alikea: Hi Sara !! Was good start yesterday, pick them up from Manyara we went in Manyara park and first thing was baboon, elephant very close to the road, giraffe , hippos , warthog and many water bird...
19 Jan 06:12 - Alikea: IMG-20150119-WA0004.jpg (file attached)
19 Jan 06:14 - Alikea: I mean very close to the road

19 Jan 17:30 - Alikea: Hi Sara! We had a nice morning, we left Sopa lodge at around 6:30 am with picnic b/fast and we went down in crater. We saw a pride of lions at Munge river. Was six of them next to a big group of Buffalo all looking to each other, big bull elephant, lots of nyumbu and zebra, gazelles, one rhino from distance. Then we had b/ fast at table mountain after that we found a pair of meting lion very close to road. A few meters away was another big male with a black main, close to them, around 2:30 client ask to come back to lodge for late lunch and rest..that is all about today...
19 Jan 17:31 - Alikea: IMG-20150119-WA0006.jpg (file attached)

19 Jan 19:48 - Sara May Ashby: Great stuff keep them coming

Safari myths and tall stories

By Kennedy John  

It is 1400 and too hot, so we decide to drive to our Lodge. We are staying at Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. On the way, we make jokes about the famous tree-climbing lions of Lake Manyara National Park, which, in my experience, you rarely see, despite the fact I have visited the park many, many times.
Some guides and guide books claim you can only see lions up trees in Lake Manyara and nowhere else. Of course, this is not true. Lions, like all cats, can climb trees and the younger ones often do.

Imagine my surprise when we round a corner and about a kilometer before the lodges, we saw five of them: 3 females and 2 young males, sitting in the branches of a kigelia (sausage) tree

Big is beautiful

Trips with a big group can be daunting - and not just from the organisation point of view and the logistics of moving so many people around but also making sure everyone gets the best possible experience and no-one is left out. 
We recently ran a trip for 42 people in the Serengeti and Zanzibar. The trip was a great success for all - not just the safari visitors but for our guides as well. It is not often that they get to do trips together and have fun, relaxing with their friends. As well as the jokes, there was plenty of time to learn from others, to help each other out. Here goes with a few comments from our guides.....

And if you think the thrill of having a fully grown lion near you dims with repetition - it does not. Look at Rem's face!

- our mission was hippopotamus today, at Retima. It was fabulous, crocodiles as usual and hippos piled up. Don't forget soooooo many different types of birds. and the evening was something unique. Mating lions before sundowners and accompanied by traditional maasai dancing. To be honest, from my side, the safari was excellent. (Rem)

- the first late afternoon drive was adrenalin laced, when we spotted a lone cheetah stalking some gazelles. The deed was done in the thickets! And an imposing memory of the African elephant sauntering across the plains in the midst of the wildebeest and zebra migration was a highlight of my safari. (Masaa)

- it was a great safari with knowledgeable guides. Full of a variety of animals, birds and trees.  It was terrific (Ali Kea)

First impressions are always important. Here goes with an impressive fan of our vehicles, all spic and span, ready for anything.
Safari duties are not always about spotting game and driving across the bush. Here, our intrepid guide team rigged up some parafin lights to help the celebrations along

Is a safari ever long enough?

By Chediel Mnzava  

Our safari started at the Namanga, the border post between Tanzania and Kenya and we drove all the way to the Ngorongoro Highlands via Arusha, Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro is the largest free standing mountain in the world. and before it erupted many centuries ago, Mt Meru was even higher. The mountains were in our view but not for long, as they soon got covered in cloud. Best viewing times for the mountains are early morning and late afternoon.

Our first game drive was in Ngorongoro Crater and we had a very early morning start. It was worth waking up early today, as we saw a lot in the Crater, without most of the crowds. Ngorongoro has become very popular over the last decade. We saw wildebeest and zebras, elephants, lots of gazelles then we met up with some some lions and one lioness had three cubs. Cheetah and of flamingos on the lake. You could not beat that as a first day to introduce people to the joys of the wild. It was a good day.

Our next destination was Moru in the Serengeti National Park as that is where our mobile camp was. The great thing about transfer days is they often are glorified game drives and you see plenty along the way.
As we went across to Naabi hill, we started seeing some small herds of wildebeest. As we were got close to Moru, we noticed the Migration was getting thicker and thicker. By the time we got to Moru it was full of wildebeests and zebra. The sheer number of animals was astounding.

Yet along with the wildebeest, we saw plenty of other game from big cats down to small beetles; from colourful birds to colourful flowers. Each day brought something new or a different way of looking at animals. Eight days just was not enough

Predators and Prey in the Serengeti - March April

Predators and Prey in Serengeti by Halifa Suleiman

Good news......... in the Southern  Serengeti, the hunting dogs are around ! An early morning start will give you a good chance of enjoy the  dogs hunting.  The cheetah cubs plays under the shade of the acacia tree.

 The wildebeest are lactating, while the hyena rests in their den.  At the same time, some warthog wanted to get down the same den ( burrow) and the hyena were pushed out ! An elephant  family walks towards a water hole. It's hot for calf but they have to keep walking.

The Highlights of the Green

The Highlights of the Green - by Kennedy John
March 2013

Sexual shenanigans in Mahale! The present Alpha male chimp (Primus) behaves very badly by trying to rape his sister! This same behaviour led to Pimu, the previous Alpha, getting deposed and killed just last year. He needs to watch out as the Chimp group will not put up with that kind of bullying.

Ndutu southern short grass plains. Day 1 was shocking - no wildebeest. Then it rained and the masses started pouring into the area we were in and hence, the fun started. The climax? A mother cheetah with her 4 cubs killing a tommy and then the beests started dropping calves left right and centre (that's Ndutu at its best!).

Ngorongoro Crater,being there at first light was rewarding. The sight of a huge black-maned lion surrounded by a pack of hyenas enjoying his breakfast of the wildebeest he had just caught, with the most fantastic sunrise over the crater highlands..

Friday, September 26, 2014

Bikes, bush and beauty - a safari with a difference

By Richard Knocker I'm half way up the 2nd hill - we've only just started, and it's clear that I just can't do it. This is ridiculous! Somehow I puff and pant my way to the top, and a lovely view opens up below: in the distance, the steep escarpment of the western wall of the Great Rift Valley; ahead the track swoops down to a broad plain, a patchwork quilt of maize and sugar cane fields; to the right glints Lake Babati, our destination for today, some 50 kms (30 miles) away. This is Part 2 of the Vijana Challenge (vijana = boys in kiSwahili) , a 3-week voyage of learning and adventure for my 4 young charges from Switzerland and Canada. We have already completed a short bush mechanics course and an introduction to wilderness 1st Aid; yesterday evening, we hiked up to view the ancient rock art of Kolo in the caves and rocky overhangs that dot that part of the Rift. We are just starting a 120-kms bike ride and the we are getting into our stride. Our guide for this section is Julius, a lean young man with dreads and a great sense of fun. For back up, we have Juma, a biking legend: he can fix anything on 2 wheels, under any circumstances. Free wheeling downhill with the wind in my face, my early sense of despondency quickly wears off and I soon start to enjoy the ride. This is easy! From now one. it's all fun: we pass through rural villages, where people smile and wave at the wazungu (white folk) on their bikes; through patches of airy forest, and through acres and acres of sugar cane. At the end of the day, I spot my chance: on the slope leading up to camp, I stand up on the pedals and push hard, blasting past Julius and the 4 teenagers, who, not suspecting that the old fuddy duddy bringing up the rear has it in him, are completely taken by surprise. Camp is a lovely spot in a grove of tall fever trees right on the lakeshore; fishermen come and go and some cows graze peacefully nearby, We go on a short bird walk, which yields fruit galore: highlights were a Purple Swamp-hen, a couple of hippo, a dik-dik and a Scarlet-chested Sunbird feeding above us. And lots of waterbirds... Next day we are, unsurprisingly, saddle-sore as we mount our trusty steeds once more. We have a little over 60 kms ahead of us, but I have no doubt that I can manage. Sure enough, we arrive in time for a late lunch at Magara Campsite, a pretty location on the edge of a sand river set about with big sycamore figs. A short distance away are the Magara Falls, where we go for a wallow in the chilly water and to be pummelled by the full force of the main waterfall. Hugely reinvigorating! Afterwards, a young local boy, Musa, demonstrates his gymnastic abilities, with a series of somersaults and back flips in the sand. Next morning, it's an early start: we're off to nearby Lake Manyara National Park. We have the option of a full day in the park, or a half day followed by another bike ride. The lads are unanimous: time for some seeeeeerious game viewing! Almost immediately we are in the middle of a group of elephant, feeding peacefully in the forest in the new southern extension to the park. Soon after, we emerge onto the lakeshore, where herds of wildebeest and zebra wander, with warthog and impala dotted around. As we approach the Maji Moto hippo pool, we come across throngs of water birds: storks, herons, ibis - and thousands upon thousands of pelicans. They are everywhere, swimming in vast flotillas, sailing majestically overhead, squabbling in the trees. Can there really be enough fish in the rapidly dwindling lake to support this many birds? The answer is clearly yes, but surely not for long? Next morning, it's time to move on. We say goodbye to Julius and the crew and head off with our new best friend & guide, Kilerai; we will spend the next few days with the Hadzabe, some of Tanzania's last hunter-gatherers, who somehow make a living from the harsh, jutting landscape of rock and thornbush around Mongo wa Mono and Yaeda Chini. It's an austere place, especially in the dry season, as now: the colour seems to have bled out of the world, leaving a palette of ochre, olive and grey. It is strangely beautiful. The next couple of days pass in a blur of wonderful times spent with the Hadza; a morning spent with the women as they dug up edible yam-like tubers; finding honey in a beehive high in a baobab tree; making arrows, Hadza-style; hiking across the Yaeda Valley; and heading out at dawn each morning on hunting expeditions, each boy accompanying a Hadza hunter. Each day is packed with fascinating incidents on their treks through the bush, covering many miles on each outing. One day, Jenerali notices that a nearby marula tree is fruiting and that many animals - kudu, bushpig, duiker - are visiting each night to hoover up the fallen fruit. After a brief discussion, we all set out to build a blind 20m from the tree and the boys wait up to try their luck. It is a beautiful full moon night. Towards morning, the clatter of a displaced pebble alerts them - there in the silvery light stands a herd of Greater Kudu; they are wary, their delicate ears twitching back and forth, searching for threats. They sense that something is wrong and they melt into the night once more. All too soon, this part of the adventure draws to a close, and we have to say goodbye to our Hadza friends. The final leg takes us to Tarangire for more big game; this park is excellent in the dry season, with large numbers of game dependent on the permanent water sources - the Tarangire River, Silale Swamp - now that the rest of the ecosystem has dried up. Elephant and large buffalo herds are everywhere and each night we are treated to a lion chorus as the different groups roar to each other. Damien is on a wild dog mission - there have been some reports of late, so we check out all the best places, but no joy. No luck either with oryx, but we score with lesser kudu, terrific cheetah and leopard sightings as well as some memorable views of lion.