Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rewarding June

By Richard Knocker

My season kicked off the other day with a 4-day trip to Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro.  

Lake Manyara is looking great this early in the season, with plenty of water still, and lots of Lesser Flamingos too.  Much of the lake is fringed with pink and flocks can be seen flying from point to point a lot of the time.

A herd of 19 giraffe comes thundering out onto the lakeshore, then turns to stare back into the woodland.  We scan and scan for lion, but the bush is just too dense.

As we enter camp, we are surrounded by a herd of peacefully munching elephant, shattered trees lying all around.

During the night, the peace is broken by a troop of baboon, barking out in alarm as a leopard does the rounds.

We leave at first light for a leisurely morning in the southern part of the park. Breakfast is on the lakeshore with a dense wodge of flamingos barely 30m away.  More keep flying in and, as we eat, there is a constant babble of goose-like honking.

Probably the highlight of our Manyara stay is a large tom leopard strolling along the road ahead of us.  He disappears into the trees as we approach and we catch a glimpse of spotted coat in the bushes, before he melts into a thicket.  We sit quietly for 20 minutes or so, hoping he will re-emerge or climb a tree, but no joy.  Another group saw him later, and a female crossed the road nearby – most likely a mating pair.


 A wonderful sight on the descent into the crater: a caracal, the most beautiful of all the African cats. She is carrying a mouse, and as we watch, a well-grown kitten comes out of hiding and proceeds to eat.  They aren’t at all shy and we have a wonderful few minutes with them.

Up before 1st light so as to make the most of the early morning in the Crater.  There is a thick fog and as we make our way around the rim, we almost run into a buffalo on the road.  In the weird light, its dark body is almost invisible and we all but nudge its bottom before stopping.

On the descent, there is the caracal pair again.  The kitten is once more feeding on a mouse, presumably caught by the mother.  The light is very uncertain, but we get close-up views of the wonderful facial markings and long tufted ears that give this cat such an exotic look.  Gorgeous…

On the Crater floor, a large bull elephant comes walking along the road towards us; we pull up and wait for him – he walks right by, pausing to glare and flare his ears at us, just in case we haven’t grasped quite how massive he is.

Not long after, a pair of hunting lions.  They are in a good position, with plenty of game nearby.  A wildebeest walks right towards them, oblivious.  A short rush… and the lion stops dead.  It turns out that he is a youngster, still short of his 2nd birthday, and probably lacks the confidence to take on a fully-grown bull wildebeest like that, with scary looking horns!

And to round it off – a magnificent Martial Eagle atop an acacia, plucking and eating what looks like an Egyptian Goose.  What a fabulous bird….

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Leopard, and more leopard, December 2011

       By Squack Evans

During the course of 12 days or so, we travelled through Manyara having some phenomenal elephant viewing at close quarters..... some of the best I have had in Manyara for some time.

Following on from there, we went to Ngorongoro and on to Moru kopjies.

We had a lot of rain so were a little bit constrained due to mud, in some areas. However, we had phenomenal sightings. The leopard viewing started here and we saw, in one morning, 3 leopards. One at a distance had just killed and climbed a tree with a dikdik. We managed to find one of the resident lion prides as well as a Black Rhino.

We moved on to the northern Serengeti and the leopard sightings continued in earnest! A mother and adolescent cub with an oribi kill giving us some amazing shows. The cub had attitude; with a snarl and a hiss almost on the end of my camera lens and then it hopped up on to the bull bar of the car.

The next day we found the mother again hunting and climbing trees in the heat of the afternoon. In the evening, she had moved some distance again and gave a phenomenal modelling shoot!

Lions were plentiful as was other game and, being slightly out of season, there were very few other cars out and about.

Our send off at the end was 4 Black Rhino and some interesting interaction as it appeared that a female in the group was in season. Great trip..... and the leopard stole the show.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Misty mornings, Ndutu, November 2011

By Squack Evans

A wonderful week-long safari with the Wilderness Mobile Camp in Ngorongoro and the southern Serengeti with guests who have become firm friends over the years.

The first few nights we spent on the Crater rim, the campsite is already some way down the descent road so you are set to be first in to the Crater, with a good head start. We had some quality game viewing in the golden morning hours, while the late afternoon on the Crater floor is equally magic; everyone had headed home and we enjoyed the last light in glorious isolation.  

 As we arrived in Ndutu so too did the wildebeest, a few weeks earlier than we expected! The beauty of having a lighter-weight mobile camp and  travelling out of season means you can change plans on the move. As the wildebeest had arrived so early, we decided to stay put for the rest of the week. What a great time! The morning mist was so thick we couldn't see further than 40 yards ahead and what a  rare treat to be drifting slowly through the mist and watching shapes slowly appear and begin to take form as you approach, and then drift back into nothingness as you pass. 

Being on the plains as the mist finally burnt off was great. Suddenly, huge vistas of grassland and wildebeest opened up to accompany our picnic breakfast and tea.

We also spent a lot of evening time with a Striped Hyena and her pup. So rare to get good views of them and even more rare to watch behaviour between mother and pup.  

We had a cheetah mother and her cubs having a standoff with a few opportunistic Spotted Hyena, a lioness taking advantage of the sudden abundance of food among many other fantastic memories. 
The short grass plains in southern Serengeti in early season were both tranquil and beautiful! Next November anyone?