Tanzania Diary – Day 9

Day 9 – June 3rd
When we got up we had breakfast and then relaxed, as we did not have a game-drive. Then we took down the tents and headed back to Arusha.

The journey was long and slow with the only birds of note being a Black Kite and many Cattle Egrets in the fields. Also the trailer attachment on the adults jeep broke so Arnold, our wonderful cook, had to stay and wait for another Tropical Trails jeep to come and pick it and him up.

When we arrived in Arusha we went to the Tropical Trails office and did some questionaires. We also arranged a trip to Arusha National Park for tommorow when we had a free day. Then we went to the pizza restaraunt next door although the pizza oven was broken so we couldn’t have pizza. Also the swing and the hammock broke so it wasn’t the safest restaraunt we’d ever been to.

After lunch we drove to the Ilboru Safari Lodge where we were staying our last night and had stayed our first. We then said goodbye to Hermann and Maravit although it wasn’t our last goodbye as Hermann was going to be our guide in Arusha NP and Maravit was meeting us at the airport tommorow.

We spent most of that afternoon in the pool before having dinner at the snack bar. Again the group of 3 Glossy Ibis were conspicous, flying over the pool repeatedly and calling during the night.

Tanzania Diary – Day 8

Day 8 – June 2nd
We got up early and got ready for our morning game drive. After singing happy birthday to mum who reached old age on this day (sorry mum) we realised that a Buffalo was happily munching grass about 20 metres away from where we were standing! Despite me showing no fear towards Lions and Hyenas around the campsite at Seronera I was rather scared about this Buffalo. I have always felt strange about cows and had previously thought of Buffalos as mindless killers. However this experience made me think differently and I now like Buffalo a lot more.

So we set off and after travelling down the crater descent road we arrived at the gate. We had to wait for a bit because the park doesn’t open until 7am. The Ngorongoro Crater National Park is the largest caldera (volcanic crater) in the world covering an area of 256sq km. It is home to nearly all of the mammals of the African savannah but Topi, Giraffe and Impala are not present. Giraffe cannot be seen here because they do not have the ability to get to the bottom of the crater whilst Impala would not be able to find enough food. As for Topi the reason of their absence is not known although there are many theories. Surprisingly many animals do travel up and down the crater and the Wildebeest here are largely migratory. It is an excellent site for Lions and Hyenas as well as being the top stop for Black Rhino in Tanzania with a respectable population of 16 animals in the crater.

The first things we saw were some Buffalo round the edges of the crater. Then Wildebeest, Thompson’s Gazelle and Zebra all appeared. Then we got our first sighting of a Hyena followed by a Side-striped Jackal on one side of the road and a Black-backed Jackal on the other.

Then we got to the edge of Lake Magadi, a soda lake similar to Lake Manyara and home to many flamingos. The flamingos were mainly Lesser although we could pick out at least 10 Greaters without looking too far away. Also a group of Grant’s Gazelle were beside the lake whilst a few Blacksmith Plovers, Crowned Lapwings and Kittlitz’s Plovers were the only waders.

Carrying on we got to a series of pools where we saw Hippo, Elephant, Grey Heron, Madagascar Squacco Heron, Black-headed Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Great Egret, more Flamingos and a Kori Bustard. Then whilst driving around a grassy area we saw large herds of Buffalo and Wildebeest with Zebra, Warthog, Eland and Hartebeest amongst them.

Then more Kori Bustards began to show including one with a chick and a displaying male. At one point I could see 5 at once. Also at least 10 Yellow-throated Sandgrouse were beside the road whilst Kittlitz’s and Chestnut-banded Plovers were running around on the road. Then we found a group of about 10 Hyenas in the grass sleeping and playing.

Our main target species then showed up, a Black Rhino. It was very distant although it completed the “Big 5” for us so we were happy. After watching it for a while we carried on and found a Cheetah in long grass. It was elusive and didn’t show well so it was good luck when we found 2 more only 15 minutes later.

Then came my highlight of the drive, a Martial Eagle right beside the road with a dead Rabbit. Our next sighting, after careful scrutiny through the binoculars were 2 more distant Black Rhino. Then whilst leaving the park we saw a pair of Crowned Cranes, some Vervet Monkeys and another Black-backed Jackal. Then from the crater ascent road we saw a party of Defassa Waterbuck and another African Hawk-Eagle.

When we got back to camp I saw the Stonechat again as well as the usual White-naped Ravens and Marabous. After having brunch we took down the tents, packed our stuff and headed to the nearby town of Karatu where we were staying the night.

I didn’t see any birds on the way to Karatu although as soon as we got there there were Pied Crows everywhere. When we got into the campsite we put up the tents and had a shower. We then went on a tour of Karatu. As well as being followed by an army of schoolchildren we saw a Long-tailed Fiscal and a Variable Sunbird.

That evening Arnold (the cook) cooked us African food. We all enjoyed the meal and at the end a surprise birthday cake was brought out for mum.

Tanzania Diary – Day 7

Day 7 – June 1st
It was about 5 in the morning and most of us were awake. The birds were singing but the Wildebeest had moved on. Suddenly everything went quiet. Then a loud barking noise came from very close by. It was a Hyena that had wandered into the campsite. Although we couldn’t see it was certainly very close. It stayed for several minutes before moving away and then calling from further away. It was a very exciting experience and one we won’t forget.

At about 5:30 we got up and went on our morning game drive – the last that we would do in the Serengeti. The first things we found were a group of Topi near the campsite. Also Impala were numerous in the area as there was much more vegetation here than around Seronera. Then we came up to an enormus herd of Wildebeest and Zebra – it was certainly the biggest we’d seen yet. Further away a single line of Wildebeest stretching for miles were galloping majesticly across the plains. Also around the herd was a Black-shouldered Kite, a Dark-Chanting Goshawk and several Wattled Starlings.

Then we got to the waterhole and saw Hippos, Blacksmith Plover, Crowned Crane and Black-headed Heron. Also a medium sized herd of about 30 Zebra were drinking from the edge. Then we set off to the Masai Kopjes again.

At the Masai Kopjes we got Red-necked Spurfowl, Hartebeest, Kori Bustard, Baboon and 2 Lions. The first Lion was a lone male lying on the top of one of the first Kopjes and the second was a female with a radio collar further on. Driving back towards Seronera we saw many Lilac-breasted Rollers as well as Red-billed Oxpeckers and Helmeted Guineafowl.

We then got to a marshy area where we hadn’t really been before and saw many different birds and mammals. Most notable were a pair of Giraffes with 2 young, a group of Elephants, Black-headed Heron, Little Bee-eater, Black Crake and Defassa Waterbuck.

Then the Lions began appearing everywhere. We first saw the mating ones that we’d seen twice before although this time there was only 1 female rather than 2. Then we found 2 in trees about 100m away the each other. Next we saw 2 females on a Kopje and then 1 lying on a log. Finally one was resting in a tree a few hundred metres away from the one on the log.

Then we went to the Serengeti visitor centre and walked around the place and read about the Serengeti. There were lots of Hyrax there and a Bateleur Eagle was soaring overhead amongst an army of Vultures and Marabous.

Next we went back to camp, had lunch and packed up. After our final visit to the pit we set off for our campsite on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater National Park. Driving through Seronera we saw many of the Lions that we had seen earlier and as soon as we got onto the short-grass plains we found another 3 beside the road. Also there were Thompson’s and Grant’s Gazelles everywhere with a few Hartebeest, Ostrich, Wildebeest and Zebra. Also Crowned Lapwings were numerous, either flying around in the sky or trying to get run over!

When we left the Serengeti and entered the Ngorongoro Conservation area there were still plently of Gazelles in the arid terrain. An African Hawk Eagle was beside the road and a flock of about 10 Olive Pigeons flew off from the road. To help us through the long journey we taught Maravit how to play eye spy so he could join in!

When we got to the campsite I saw a Stonechat of the african race that is black and white on a post by the entrance. Also 3 Marabous were on the grass and at least 5 White-naped Ravens were in the sky, sometimes coming down to the ground. After using the luxurious toilet facilities – at least compared to the Seronera campsite, we had some time to relax before dinner. The adults sat in the building and chatted although the kids played wrestling, some weird game involving trees and murders and petted one of the cats that lived around the campsite.

Then we had pasta again for dinner and went to bed ready for our early morning game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater National Park.