Monday, November 8, 2010

All of a twitter...........

By Jules Knocker

The cacophony of bird song in dry country areas is spectacular. If you live in mainly green surrounds, you forget the sheer volume and variety of the various calls from these noisy creatures that are your constant companions from before daybreak to after night fall. Twitcher or not, these birds demand your attention and there is no escape.

It starts pretty early, especially if there is a full moon, with the squeaky bed-spring bird that has decided that the patch just by your tent is the perfect place to let rip. Koki koki koki, getting faster and faster as the Coqui Francolin gets into its stride. Any thoughts of a lie-in are swiftly dismissed, as you awake with a start. Who needs a morning wake up at 6.15 am when these birds will happily do it at 5.30? It seems pretty ironic that this incredibly loud sound emits from such a skulking, shy creature.

Not surprisingly, the tuneless alarm, with no snooze button, gets the others going and soon you are surrounded by Red-eyed Doves (I AM the red-eyed dove), Mourning Doves (wu HOOO wu, wu HOOO wu krrrrrroaw) and all their numerous relatives and friends, full of morning vim and vigour as you stagger to your vehicle, clutching binoculars and peering owlishly through your specs at the scene that greets you: that wonderful, crisp, clear morning air before the African sun has started warming the earth.

In the bush around your car, the Red-billed Buffalo Weavers and the Masked Weavers have got going and are hopping around the trees and the ground below, being very, very busy indeed.

The Red-billed Hornbill sits on a termite mound, peeping gently to the inhabitants within. WuckWuckWuckWuckaWucka. Soon, a brown, furry head pops up out of the hole, scratches itself and heads back to wake the rest of the dwarf mongoose pack. Since, by this stage, you have been awake for more than two hours, you are definitely envious that these smart creatures have such a civilised introduction to the day.
By breakfast time, more of the avifauna are ruffling their feathers, preening and setting out for yet another successful forage. The helmeted guinea fowl chuckle softly, moving onto an alarmed kakakakakakakaaarrrrrrr, fluffing up their billowing, spotted skirts, as they run this way and that, worried at intrusions and eventually settling down to a determined peck.

You are just about to tuck into your bacon and egg sandwich when a loud Screeeeech gives you pause for thought and a brilliant flash of green and orange whistles past into the dense foliage of a nearby baobab. The Orange-bellied Parrot. Much more soothing, but no less dramatic, are the mini-screeches from the small flocks of Yellow-collared Lovebirds, as they flit to and fro, from ground to tree, a spectacularly colourful display of emerald green and sunflower yellow.

No dry season would be complete without the large flocks of Red-billed Quelea. Thousands move as one, flowing in waves, twisting and turning with the leaders. Catch them in the heat of midday coming into drink at the river and the sight is spectacular. The noise from thousands upon thousands of continuous, small chatterings can be almost deafening.

The soft boom of the Southern Ground Hornbill or the squawk of the Violet-backed Starlings; the Babblers and Barbets, Brown-hooded Kingfishers, European Bee-eaters, Nubian Woodpeckers; the tink tink tink of the Blacksmith Plover and the kreekree kreeip of the Crowned Plover. The list is endless, the sounds distinctive and the action ubiquitous. There is never a dull moment in a dry season park, as there is always some interesting, feathered friend hopping about and chirping brightly.

Not all the birds are as noisy and active. Early morning will see the large birds of prey sitting gloomily on the top of a tree, waiting for the sun to give them enough thermal lift. You feel they share some of your horror at the early morning wake up, as they get mobbed by screeching Shrikes and Starlings if they are discovered too close to some nest or territory.

As night falls, the birds all head to their roosts and silence slowly descends as they fall asleep, exhausted from the day’s exertions. Not long after, you do the same. But just as you start floating off, the Pearl-spotted Owlet with its rising peep gets going or the prrrrrp-prrrrrrp of the Scops Owl seeps into your tent along with the wikwikwikuwik of the Slender-tailed Nightjar on the move, gently reminding you that this is their time. Luckily, they have more respect for the sanctity of the night and the gentle hoots will lull you to sleep.

Yet this time, your sleep will be a satisfying one and the extra early wake-up, a pleasure. The best thing about all of this avi-torture is that you soon become an instant bird expert, picking out the loud Haaa Haaa Haaa of the Go-away Bird with the ease of a professional. The calls are so distinctive and individual, that the names will just trip off your tongue, as you point, with knowing smugness, in the direction of the third branch from the top of the small acacia bush on the right, where a Diederik Cuckoo is perched. deedeedeeDEEderick

Waiting to Cross

    By Chediel Mnzava

For more than twenty years, my clients had been hoping not only to see the Migration, but also to see the wildebeest crossing the Mara River in the northern Serengeti. On 5th Sept 2010, I met them at Lake Manyara airstrip but it was not until four days later that we got to the northern Serengeti, as we spent two days exploring Ngorongoro Crater and the Highlands and another two days exploring central Serengeti.
We finally got to northern Serengeti on the fifth day. With our fingers firmly crossed, hoping to catch a crossing, we set out for the Mara River to see if anything was happening there.

We found a big herd of wildebeest gathered by the river, with more coming from the plains behind to join them. The pressure from the collective herd was growing and they wanted to cross but were undecided if this was the best time or place. So they kept following the river downstream and we kept following them, from a distance, so as not to panic them. After some time, they started to pick up speed. I raised my binoculars to my eyes to see what was going on. "They are crossing" I said briefly, so as not to waste time talking. We rushed to the crossing point and there it was, a perfect crossing. The herd was huge; the river bank high; the river deep and the current strong, but their instint was definitely stronger than all of that and they kept running down to the crossing point from all directions and they kept crossing.

We watched this drama going on for rmore than 40 minutes non-stop. We could not have asked for more. The clients felt their dream had come true.  "I have been involved in several animal counts in southern Africa but never in my life have I seen so many animals as I have seen here, and on this entire trip. Anyone who wants to see game should come to Tanzania, you have a great country."

An average safari stay......or is it?

By Halifa Suleiman

The first day from the airstrip to the camp is as good a start to a safari as you could possibly hope for: a herd of elephants cross in front of our vehicle, a hyena rests in the mud wallow and there are always the giraffe to look at.

During our stay at the mobile camp, we had good sightings of the wildebeest crossing the Mara River The crossing lasted for about 30 minutes but only after a long wait. A lioness was teaching her cub how to hunt. She brought down a wildebeest calf but left it only half-dead and then let the cub do the rest. Amazingly, on our way back to camp, a black rhino emerged from the bush. There are so few of these endangered animals left in the wild that any sighting is truly special.

Next was a visit to the village school and the BBQ of goat roasted by the Maasai.

The crocodile enjoy a free meal of some weak wildebeest that had drowned and the hippo are chilled out, sunbathing and watching the mass of wildebeest and zebra being pushed down by the water and current then struggling to reach the other side of this monster river.

The three cheetah brothers chase a yearling wildebeest and bring it down, tucking in from the rear, eating as fast as they can. Within a few minutes, the vultures arrive and wait around to take their turn.

Did I forget to mention the oribi, jackal and all the other game we saw?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Savour the moment - a close encounter with an elephant in Tarangire

              By Jules Knocker

We sat and waited in complete silence as the solitary male elephant ambled along between the acacia trees in our direction. Early morning and no other cars around to stress him nor to rob us of the exquisite moment. He was happy to take his time, as he followed a meandering game trail towards the track. We were happy to wait and accept whatever he offered us.
The elephant wandered out and stopped, inches in front of the car, then turned his head calmly, to consider us. His drooping eyes opened wide for a brief moment and the rising sun caught the full beauty of that ruby chestnut colour, usually hidden behind long lashes. He slowly brought up his trunk and reached over to the windscreen. We savoured the moment, almost feeling the rough and the smooth, as he whiffled the end of his trunk over us for a few seconds, before losing interest and slowly scrunching away in the sand – looking for that tasty acacia seedpod or an early morning tipple in the river.

We were all transfixed with the sheer majesty of the moment, to be so close to an elephant that was at peace with itself and its surrounds. To be accepted as part of the landscape and to be included, in such a natural way, in his perambulations was a moment to savour for always.

......And we never got a photograph. Despite the fact that we were holding the cameras all ready, it never crossed our minds to raise them and record the moment. If we had, I suspect we would not have been touched so fundamentally by that brief, magical moment of sharing. While the camera will keep your memories safe for the future, and your memories fade over time, the sad fact is the lens, between your eye and your experience, keeps you at one stage removed from whatever you are photographing at all times.

Sometimes, it is better just to sit and enjoy.

Our Tarangire elephant - the only shot we took, when he was about 40 yards away

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Home on the plains - Katavi National Park

                                                         By Squack Evans

So, after a very long time away from my favorite park in Tanzania, I got to go back, guiding a great couple for 5 days. It was a bit like coming home, as I was the Manager of this camp for a couple of years, although there were lots of differences as well. Chada camp was as I remember it, with a few, small, cosmetic changes and some major reorganisation to the stores and kitchen and back of house. I believe though that major upgrades are scheduled for the camp soon, so we can expect a completely revamped camp in the not-too-distant future.

The park was a lot wetter than the years I spent there and, as a result, the river still had a lot of water; it must have only stopped flowing a few weeks before. Hippo were spread out along the length of the river, as were the crocs. It seemed like the egg-laying had just completed, with rather a lot of crocs guarding nests on the river bank. The storks and pelicans were enjoying plentiful bounty with the catfish and the fish eagles were enjoying a bit of piracy, robbing the hard-working storks of their catch. We saw one congregation of 11 Saddle-bill Storks in one small pool, along with hundreds of Yellow-billed, Marabou and Openbills along the remaining water.

There are some regular pachyderm visitors to the camp and we even had one stroppy, young bull give us a head shake as he took a few steps toward us, when we left the dining tent. They were enjoying the Tamarind fruit falling from the trees in camp and also appeared to enjoy using the tents as rubbing posts!

A pride of 7 lions kept us awake on our second night, as they caused a commotion by murdering one large member of the 800+ strong buffalo herd just outside of camp. Between the hyaena, the buffalo and the lion, there was quite a furore! It did provide us with some fantastic viewing over the next few days, though, with lots of interaction between the lions and other scavengers waiting in the wings (or in the case of the vultures… on the wing!).

The last day found the pride snoozing up in trees on the edge of the floodplain; who says you have to go to Lake Manyara to see tree climbing lions?!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Phenomenal Serengeti!

Posted by Squack Evans

The Serengeti this year has proven to be phenomenal; we spent a week with a lovely Chicago family exploring the northern and western reaches of the area.
We started in Kleins, just outside the park, on the north-eastern boundary - the idea being to have a great Maasai experience before the wildlife spectacle of the migration.

Within five minutes of landing, we had found a huge male leopard ensconced in a tree and, on closer inspection, we found a pride of 4 lion feeding on a zebra carcass about 30 yards from his tree!

We found a further 6 lions in two groups on the way into the lodge and only got in around 9 o'clock, after some spectacular viewing. Over the next few days, we enjoyed more game; more lion and lots of plains game and some elephant herds plus a great afternoon and evening with the Maasai, followed by a spectacular electrical storm.

By day four of the trip, we had seen a leopard a day; and all amazing sightings with great light. On our first morning in Kogatende, we only had a brief wait on the banks of the Mara River and witnessed a herd of some 25,000 wildebeest crossing. They chose a bad spot to leave the river and in the first few minutes of the crossing, we witnessed some 40 - 50 wildebeest drown before they found a better place to get out. After an hour of watching, we returned to our breakfast that we had hastily abandoned as the crossing started.

Our last stop was Grumeti Reserves for a bit of pampering. The spa was well used and we also managed to fit in an early morning balloon flight, which was phenomenal, and to cap off our previous experiences, we had a female cheetah kill a Thomson's Gazelle right in front of the car. Again, after waiting only a short time. It became more and more difficult as the days went by to convince the family that these things don't happen every day on safari!

Our final day was one of smoke and fire. Sadly, there was a huge bushfire which burnt its way across the reserve, consuming some 30,000 acres or more of grazing.

We moved out of the lodge we were in so as to escape the smoke, as the fire came right up to the lodge itself. We spent our last night gazing across the plains at the beautiful, if sad, picture of jumping flames and glowing skies in the distance. What an action packed 8 days!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Controversy over the new proposed road across the Serengeti

By Jules Knocker

Economic livelihood or conservation - which should win out or can both co-exist in relative harmony? Right now, the impassioned debate is focussed around a new, proposed road that crosses the north of the Serengeti National Park and which has received the go-ahead from the government, despite strong protests from environmentalists and reported opposition from TANAPA
First, what is at stake?

The initial moves to establishing a quick commercial connection between Arusha and Lake Victoria were included in the election manifesto but the issue only really came to public notice two or three years ago. The plan is a road which will run from Mto wa Mbu, via Natron, up to Wasso and along to Klein’s Gate on the park border. From there, it will cross the narrowest part of the Serengeti to Tabora B and onto Mugumu and the Lake region. The road would increase trade and services to an area of North Tanzania that has seen minimal benefits from the general development and infrastructure improvements happening in other areas of Tanzania. It will provide a quick link between Lake Victoria and Arusha, enabling both regions to benefit. The road would bring improved access to hospitals and schools; enable small business to set up, and current ones to flourish, by reducing the cost of operating and transporting goods; offer employment opportunities where there were few before. It will, no doubt, eventually bring the advantages of the national grid and access to reliable and cheap internet down the line. The quality of the daily life of many of the inhabitants of the region would improve. Regions of Tanzania that have been somewhat isolated, in one way or another, from the more prosperous eastern side of the country will be more accessible. The appeal of the project is clear, especially in an election year.

The current access to the Lake is a murram road, caught in a continual degrading cycle of erosion and repair, that goes between Karatu, around the Ngorongoro Crater rim, down to Naabi at the boundary of the Serengeti, Seronera, Ikoma and off to the Lake. The route is longer, crosses two major wildlife sanctuaries and is more expensive for the transit traveller than the proposed route.

On the conservation side, either road is a devastating and nett loss to the ecosystems and the effective husbanding of world- renowned natural resources. I suspect the extent of the impact of the new road is not easily predictable in advance and many of the changes or losses may not become apparent for several years, when the damage is done and it is too late to reverse. Let us not also forget the threat to tourism revenues, which play such a crucial role in government income and the health of the economy as a whole. A degrading of the tourism experience will lead to a drop in visitor numbers, as they look for other still-pristine environments.

On the current road, tourists, game, rickety buses and overloaded Fuso lorries fight it out along the dusty, bumpy length to the detriment of all. Accidents are quite common, as are road kills and the visitors’ experience of driving along such a busy highway is seriously poor. The road is not designed to cope with such heavy traffic and its very existence is anathema to a quality tourism product

The new route goes through the fragile eco-system of the volcanic plains west of Mtu wa Mbu, the green season pastures of the Tarangire/Manyara migration route and Lake Natron, a crucial nesting place for flamingos and subject of a recent battle over a proposed soda factory by TATA, supported by the government, which was opposed successfully by environmentalists. It then comes up onto the Loliondo plains, currently a Game Controlled Area and hunting block and into the Serengeti. Here, it crosses one of the lesser developed but very rich areas of the National Park: an area which is host to the spectacular draw of the wildebeest migration driving across the Mara River in the dry season and sustains the herds when the rich grass of the southern Serengeti plains have been exhausted with the end of the rains. The lyrical scenery hosts a multitude of wildlife all year round, not least rhino and oribi. It is a quiet and relatively undisturbed paradise, both for animals and for tourists. The new road will put all this at risk.

The concerns are numerous: the increased human development that will come along the length of the road in the areas outside the National Park, which are currently lightly populated, allowing a large number of game to live relatively freely will slowly push out the game; the disturbance to the wildlife patterns which many fear will have a negative impact on wildlife numbers in genreal throughout the eco-systems. (The Tarangire/Manyara/Gelai Migration route is already under serious threat from agricultural development and the restriction of wildlife corridors around the Tarangire and Manyara National Parks). How will the flamingos react at their nesting sites? Will the Migration be placed under damaging stress and will it reduce their numbers and reduce their ability to find adequate pasture and water that takes them thousands of kilometers each year? The increased pollution; the increasingly easy access for poachers; the degrading of the tourism experience, which will put the current attraction of the Serengeti as a must-see destination ubder question; the road kills (as everyone appreciates it is unrealistic to either build effective wildlife tunnels or put the road on raised pylons). And perhaps something that is often overlooked – it is unlikely that all transit, commercial traffic will be forcibly diverted to the new road as for some, the trip will be much longer. We will then end up with not one, but two, busy, commercial and destructive highways crossing the Serengeti at different points.

The government has deemed the negative impact on the environment to be outweighed by the economic benefits but there is a concern that the decision makers have a greater understanding of, and interest in, the commercial sector than they do in the environment. Perhaps they believe that the tourism revenue will continue to flow, regardless of the quality of the experience and the impact of the road. Perhaps they are less interested in the potential knock-on effects of putting several ecosystems at risk as these cannot be quantified learly in advance. TANAPA have stated that the decision is no longer in their hands. Frankfurt Zoological Society opposes the plan, as does AWF. Environmentalists are up in arms and have taken their fight global. Articles have appeared in the New York Times, The Sunday Times, The East African as well as the local papers.

So, people or wildlife? Who gets to make the choice and who gets to live with the consequences?

Or is there another alternative?

For many years, the proposed route for a commercial link to The Lake was very different from the current one.


Skirting Ngorongoro and Maswa Game Reserve to the south of the Serengeti, through Shinyanga and joining up to the lake. It is longer, and therefore more expensive to build, but it does not cross protected areas, it does not put eco-systems at risk, it does not threaten unique wildlife events and it does cross miles and miles of deprived areas where the local populations have long missed out on the benefits given to others. Same economic arguments but just a different group of people and greater numbers of people that would benefit. They are in the same situation as those in the north but perhaps they have even fewer opportunities available to them. At least there are noticeable rewards to be had from tourism already operating in the northern Serengeti and Natron area for some of the local residents. Looks like a win-win situation to me.

Why has this alternative been ignored? Why are the voices so insistent on a compromised and compromising plan that puts much at risk?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Guide training with the Map's Edge guides

By Richard Knocker
Guide Training – as ever, a double-edged sword. On the one hand, with so much to do, finding the time to take two weeks out of everyone’s schedule is always a problem. But then again, once out there I am caught up once more in the camaraderie of it all; the one time in the year when we all get together out in the bush, sharing ideas and learning lots of new stuff. Guide training is really fun.

This year, we headed out to Ndarakwai, a lovely private game ranch at the foot of Kilimanjaro, a couple of hours from Arusha.

My particular task was to head up the firearms training. Quite a hefty responsibility, given the need to make sure that the guides and scouts who are carrying a rifle, can actually do so safely and responsibly and that they are comfortable and good enough to take control in the bush. But we usually manage to have some fun along the way.

So off we tramped into the bush one day, with our rifles – and an old truck tyre. I wasn’t quite sure whether this was going to work but I needed a decent hill to find out. We found the perfect place in a remote corner of the ranch. I explained what we were trying to achieve, and then we rolled the tyre up the slope and… let it roll back down again towards where we stood in a small clearing at the bottom. There were some disbelieving glances and a lot of nervous laughter, for this was about as close as we could get to facing up to a charging buffalo without actually, err… facing up to a charging buffalo.

We had two hectic days of this: a couple of our number would toil up the slope, dragging the cursed thing into position, where it would be held in place by a Heath Robinson stick-and-a-piece-of-string trigger mechanism. Tug the string, and our ‘buffalo’ would come bounding down the hill. The trick was to try and get 2 good shots off – and then dodge it. Please trust me, this last bit is important: you would not want to be in the way of a 30kg tyre doing 40kph!

Like I say, we managed to test our abilities and have some serious fun while we were about it.

With the shooting bit out of the way, we devoted the rest of our time to practicing approaches on big game. There are usually some ellies to be found on Ndarakwai and luckily there were two or three herds around most of the time, this year. Things were spiced up a bit by the presence of an oestrous cow with some big musth bulls vying for her attentions. I’m glad to report that nobody was trying to get too close to them on foot, as things were just too unpredictable.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Safari visitors April 2010

Halifa Suleman

Ndutu : this is the south west of the Serengeti ecosystem. It is the favourite area, at this time of year, for the migration and by that I mean the great wildebeest migration and their fellow travellers who wander the plain looking for the green and nutritious pasture that grows in this volcanic ash from the Crater Highlands.

It is a quiet and very cold night. The owl, with its deep voice, makes this night seem very lonely with its mournful hoot. Far away, the hyena woops and lion roars, protecting their territory. I am half-asleep; half-awake and the moon is shining this great night. I see the shadow of an animal approaching the door of my small tent. It is a lioness, looking for shelter because it is raining. This little tent has a canopy fly-sheet which provides good shade for this poor lioness and she has no idea that a few centimetres away, Halifa is there!

It is amazing to experience: this lioness inspects the area by sniffing the site yet never turns her head towards the place where I was: with open eyes but as immobile as a dead man. This lioness spent some time cleaning and licking herself and shaking to clear the water. I am so pleased to be so close to the lioness and not inside a vehicle. Another lion came and greeted and played with my lioness and then they both left! The night was very long for me but such an enjoyable, easy night watching this beast.

The next day was another beautiful morning and I saw some tracks outside my tent.
We drive to Ndutu air strip where I am going to meet nine guests. Our first night, we saw a lioness with ten cubs along with giraffe, zebra, impala and some flowers and birds.

The second day we wandered off across the plain and we stopped at a water hole where we enjoyed looking at the animals coming and going: some of them drinking while others socialised, some lions tried several times to hunt but the day was not on their side - they missed! During our day’s adventure, we had a picnic breakfast with a perfect African view: to the West - Gol kopjes and Naabi hill; to the North, the short grass plains; to the East, Ngorongoro Highlands. What a site!
The rest of the day was a slow amble by Lemuta Hill stopping at one of the kopjes to stretch and look at the life around: the tracks and trails, dung and dung beetles, flowers, agama lizards catching flies, the vulture soaring ready to clean up the plain. Lunch at Nasera rock followed by a climb for the fit. It was a long day but very enjoyable. A hot shower got rid of the dust and then a refreshing, lovely cold drink and watching bush TV. Let’s call it a day

The challenge of the Migration

Chediel Mnzava

Here we are in the Southern Serengeti in April and the clients arrived from a safari in Kenya, with two of the top Kenyan Private Guides. The Challenge was on as they had all had a very successful safari in Kenya and had watched good sightings of almost all the big game but they wanted to witness the Wildebeest Migration and some lions. It was our job to show that the Serengeti could more than live up to its northern neighbour, not just for the Migration but for the whole safari experience. For many years, Tanzania had been seen as the poorer cousin in terms of safari but in the last ten years or so, it has managed to throw off that misconception and come into its own.

  At the end of their four nights, they were convinced that coming to Tanzania had added so much more than expected to their trip: a nice pride of 14 healthy lions, attempted lion hunts and the plains were teeming with wildebeest, zebra and plenty of other game. And the great Serengeti views: grassland, waterholes, kopjes, hills and mountains.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Good Safari Guide 2010

Some kind soul has nominated Richard and Squack in the Best Camp Guide category for The Map's Edge - which is a great honour. Many thanks to those of you who took the time to support the nomination at

Monday, April 12, 2010

Serengeti splendours in March 2010

                                               Richard Knocker

It is always fun going on safari with people you already know and John & Nano are old friends, having been on at least 5 safaris with me now.

We catch up with Charlie, a small and very mobile camp in the old style, at a stunning location next to Nasera Rock, an imposing granite monolith that looms over the entrance to Ang’ata Kiti on the eastern edge of the Serengeti Plain. This is our home for three nights, the perfect jumping off spot for an intensive search for wild dogs. We failed on this occasion to find them but the early morning light on the swooping plains and the great restless herds were well worth the price of admission. In the afternoon, we tried to climb Lemuta Hill but fresh lion scat and tracks made us think again.

Day 2 saw us taking a dramatic hike along Ol Karien Gorge in the Gol Mountains. The rains had washed away some useful props for getting down the trickier parts so we had to improvise. And we were rewarded with the drama of emerging from the deep, narrow cleft into the great cathedral space of the mouth of the gorge: hundreds of vultures wheeling overhead like something out of the Lost World and small screaming parties of swifts shooting by like fighter jets - an incredible scene.

Next day, the three of us, with Jairo, our driver, spend a leisurely day crossing the migration-strewn plain to Moru. Miraculously, the whole camp has leap-frogged ahead of us and there is Goodluck waiting for us with cold beers, tea and a big smile. We are in the heart of the Moru area, a tumble of great, rounded humps of granite, looming from the landscape like whale backs. These kopjes are home to a host of unusual species - plants, reptiles, birds and mammals – we have come to enjoy the smorgasbord of life on parade.

It is on Day 5 that we really catch up with those pesky pachyderms: large herds milling around, with us doing our best to keep up with all the goings on. At one stage, we turned out backs on the leopard in a sausage tree to watch a serious fight between two musth bulls skirmishing over an oestrous female. The occupants of a nearby vehicle thought we were mad.

After a pampered stay at Sabora Plains in the Grumeti Reserves concession, we fly to Shu’mata Camp, a new tented camp on the flanks of the hill of the same name. We are on the arid plain at the foot of Kili, just a few kilometers from Amboseli in Kenya. Acacia-dotted grassland stretches as far as the eye can see. Everything is green, thanks to recent rains, but one senses that it can get DRY here. A scorpion scuttles out of the way.

The first evening turns magical – beautiful sightings of gerenuk and lesser kudu on a hike around the hill back at camp. And next day, we walk right up to the elephant herd. The wind is perfect, with plenty of cover… they haven’t a clue we’re there.

So all in all, a great safari. If variety be the spice of life, then life is surely spicy.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

On Safari with the Map's Edge

Welcome to the Map's Edge blog, hopefully we will be able to provide you with regular updates, safari news, reports and pictures: when we are not in the bush of course!