Monday, October 14, 2013

Snippets of safari memories

By Halifa Suleiman

Northern Serengeti at the right time and in the right place.
The Mara River offers up what many hope to see: the crossing of the wildebeest and the monster crocodiles that wait from season to season to feed well. The croc was not so lucky this time - the wildebeest got away
The woodland hiding many creatures and a rhino......just chilling.

The kopjes all seem to glisten with cats this time, the trees hung with vultures and eagles waiting for their turn at the trough.. A Martial Eagle plucking an Egyptian Goose.

And the view, shaped by passing herds of elephant. A tree down here, a bush pulled up there.

The end of the dry - November in Serengeti

By Chediel Mnzava

The end of the dry season - it does not happen on a particular date or day or week. Each year is different and we usually chose two locations with flexibility or two different locations to give oursleves the best chance at meeting up with the herds.

The safari starts with a change of camp. The change in the weather means that the migrating animals are not where we had anticipated them to be at this time. So the first conversation I had with the clients was all about why we were going somewhere different.
On the vast short grass plains, as far as your eyes can see. Kopjes in the distance, big sky. That is how our safari started.

We were interested in everything: animals, birds, plants but our first big cat sighting was a leopard with a kill on top of a kopje. For me, it was particularly special as we were the only people there.

Ewanjan Camp in central Serengeti was our starting off point and we saw all the big cats, small to big antelopes, elephant and zebra.....and it rained while we were there so we saw a lot of wildebeest flowing into the area. Our three nights at the Makoma Hills were excellent.

The drive from Makoma hills to Lamai Camp was interesting, through the moving herds of gnu. Half an hour after we left camp, we spotted a Giant Eagle Owl then from nowhere, a leopard showed up and walked very closeto our vehicle. She came to drink water from one of the puddles just in front of us and then disappeared into thick vegetation. We all congratulated ourselves on our luck not knowing that she had not gone far. I heard a funny sounds from the kopjes and when I looked, I saw her two cubs.

The nice part of this safari was seeing the Serengeti landscape change from one area to another. The park is not huge in terms of kilometers but the variety of habitat is impressive.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

August - Ngorongoro and the Migration in Serengeti

Lake Magadi, Ngorongoro
Ngorongoro Crater, a cold, cloudy morning. A lioness lies by the road, hidden from a nearby wildebeest herd by the slope of a drainage ditch. She focuses on 3 animals that are drifting closer to her as they feed. Their path changes subtly; decision time. If she waits, they may walk out of range, but if she charges, she risks missing them as they are still a good distance away. In the end, hunger drives her to make the attempt, and the startled gnus run panic-stricken from her. Her presence is now known to all, so she decides to move on, try pastures new. She walks surprisingly fast. It is warm, approaching mid-day, an indication of how hungry she is. She spots a lone zebra out in the plain. Lone animals are easier to approach than herds, which have the benefit of lots of eyes all looking out for threats; alone, the zebra must rely on its own senses to survive. She starts her stalk along a small gulley. The zebra, unaware of the danger, moves onto more open ground. Suddenly he spots her approach and stares at her, snorting. She realises the game is up and moves off once more. From a small rise, she spots a line of wildebeest on the move. She moves fast to intercept them, getting into position in a grassy thicket close to their line of march. The herd keeps coming – it seems that they must tread on her. Suddenly, a tawny blur, wildebeest scattering in all directions. When the dust settles, she is left standing there. She has missed again. Frustrated, she lies down in the grass and begins to groom. It’s not as easy as it looks being King (Queen?) of the Jungle.

Hunting lioness
Kogakuria Kopje, north Serengeti. A dead spider lying on the path. Suddenly a shiny blue-black wasp emerges from a small hole, looks at the spider then continues excavating once more, showering earth particles backwards like a dog digging. After a few minutes, the wasp returns and drags the spider into the hole, which looks far too small. Somehow the wasp manages. The spider isn’t dead at all: the wasp has paralysed it’s prey with a careful sting; it will now lay a single egg on the spider – and the grub will be provisioned with plenty of fresh food when it hatches, a neat solution to the problem of food storage. Not a great outcome for the spider though…

Midday, north Serengeti. It’s hot. In a thick tangle of branches atop a nearby rock, we can just make out a patch of patterned fur. A resting leopard. We wait. There is a rustle in the bush and a lithe shape emerges onto the rock nearby, followed by second animal. With a mix of flirtatiousness and much snarling and apparent ill will, they mate in the typically perfunctory manner of large cats. Within minutes, they mate again – and then again. But the level of hostility doesn’t abate one jot.
(Watch the video:

Crossing season is in full swing, with herds lining up on the river bank, jostling and shoving, pouring down the bank and into the water.  A chaotic scene of dust and pounding hooves, the animals hurling themselves into the river, eyes wide with fear during the swim, then emerging dripping at the far side before running off once more over the plain.  Some youngsters decide to cross back again - a croc slides into the water, easily overtakes a straggler... there is a lunge, a brief swirl, and the brown water closes over the swimmer's head.
Mara River - crossing

Crossing the river
(Crossing video:

Kogakuria, early morning. We heard lions roaring as we set off, so we are trying to track them down. We try one set of rocks, where we estimate the sound came from but no joy. Then Jairo spots them, distant specks in the huge Serengeti landscape. They appear to be on the move - hunting? But all have full bellies. There is a fresh kill nearby and one small lioness has blood on her neck. One by one, the ladies move off, until we are left with two adult males and the small lioness. Suddenly, mayhem – the males attack the female, who defends herself ferociously, lashing out at them. They circle her, looking for an opening, as she crouches, ears laid back against her skull, snarling and spitting. They move in again and she launches herself at them, a blur of whirling claws and teeth. The males roar at the morning sky, then move off, leaving her to lick her wounds.
(Lion fight video:

Martial Eagle on Egyptian Goose kill

Lamai Wedge, North Serengeti