After a 7 hour flight from Istanbul, and another 6 hours of waiting at Nairobi airport, we are finally going to Tanzania!
It's a 2 hour drive to from Kilimanjaro airport to Arusha, where we picked up a picnic lunch
And another 2 hours to Karatu. At Mto Wa Mbu, the weekly Maasai market was going on
We saw large groups of Maasai all walking to the market
Some were taking the local bus
No animals except for this nest of yellow billed stork
Finally, exhausted, we arrived at the Ngorongoro Farm House, which is set on a coffee plantation and had lovely gardens.
I wanted a lodge with proper running water the first night. The room was very nice and we immediately took a nap
After the nap and gin & tonic, I felt much better :)
The scotch helped too
I got dragged up to dance along with the staff to dance along with some traditional music. It was kitschy but fun
Next morning we decided to go to Lake Manyara. Everyone said not to expect too many animals, but we thought the park was beautiful and we had many sightings
There were a large number of baboons
But the highlight of the day was a large herd of elephants
We were in the midst of more than 80 elephants
They were migrating from Tarangire to Manyara, and were much larger than the "local" elephants
Saw lots of babies with the herd. In fact, we saw lots of babies of every kind on this trip
We drove down to to the shores of the lake, and there were giraffes, zebras, wilderbeests
Lots of flamingos at the lake, but very far away
First picnic lunch of the trip near the lake
I wandered closer to the lake to try for a better flamingo shot
Kissing baboons - almost Valentines day!
After lunch we saw this lion in a tree. Our first tree-climbing lion! Our guide Godfrey was the first to spot her.
A panorama of the Rift Valley and Lake Manyara while driving back to the Farm House.
Next morning we left early and headed to the Ngorongoro Crater
We checked out the info center while Godfrey took care of the paper work
The park paperwork in Tanzania can take quite some time
Shortly after the gate, we are at the Crater Rim view lookout
From there it was another hour to get down to the crater.
We saw lots of zebras
This was exciting since we didn't see very many zebras in Botswana
And certainly no babies
Also some wildebeests. Because the lack of rain, the wildebeests were delaying birthing. We saw lots of babies. This one is about 1 week old
While beautiful, the crater was my least favorite park. It was crowded and felt like a park, not the wilderness. Perhaps it would be different if we were able to stay at the rim and get down early?
Despite its reputation of being full of lions, we only saw one.
This young male. He's just starting to get his mane.
A silverback jackel
Thompson gazelle. This was our first one, but we later saw thousands. They also migrate
A kori bustard. It's the largest bird capable of flight. We saw one fly a couple of days later. It was an awesome sight
Beautiful sky -- the clouds were gathering and it rained later. Only rain on our trip. I think a bit more rain would've helped with the dust and heat. Next time we may consider going during the short rain season
Family of warthogs with little piglets
Hyena among the wildebeests. It takes more than one to take down a wildebeest, so no one was worried. The animals have amazing intelligence. A gazelle would stare down a cheetah when it knows the distance is such that it can out run the predator
Wildebeest standing guard in the defensive formation -- looking in every direction for predators. You'll see them in this particular formation everywhere at the edges of the herd
Hippo pool and buffaloes
There were very big buffalo herds in the crater. Most buffaloes for the trip
A buffalo and two crowned cranes
I thought the crowned crane was a beautiful bird
There's a lake in the crater, also with some flamingos. Again, very far
Our first and only rhino sighting on this trip. Since you can't drive off road, it was quite far away
I know they're rare, but must confess I don't find them very exciting.
Another hyena. As I said, we didn't see too much in the crater. It was beautiful though
Leaving the crater
One last look from the rim, and then it was a jarring hour drive to Olduvai Camp
This was our tent. It's a permanent camp with electricity and hot running water. Last chance for a real shower!
We arrived around 5, and shortly after, went for a sunset walk with a Maasai guide
There were no animals in the area at this time, just a lot of Maasai herding goats and cows. However, supposedly during late Jan the migration was in the area, which must have been awesome.
The camp was run by Maasai staff
We climbed up to the top of a kopje (a granite rock formation) to watch the sunset
Our guide Popoye
Sunset. Because they don't allow driving in the dark, we saw a lot more sunrises than sunsets on this trip
We walked back to the camp and had a nice dinner, shower, and great night sleep. Dinner is served at individual tables at this camp, so not quite as convivial as some of the other ones.
Next morning we went to the Olduvai Gorge, the site of some of the greatest paleoanthropology finds of early humans. The Leaky museum is located there
This Japanese man re-created the "great journey" of how mankind spread out over the planet from where we were standing, in reverse, on a bicycle
It took him 9 years!
Here's the bicycle
We listened to a good lecture about the discoveries in the rest area. I thought this sign was interesting... not sure I agree :)
The other interesting thing is there are all kinds of activities down in the gorge
Cattle, goats, people
Even some villages
We probably wouldn't go out of our way to visit the museum or the gorge, but as it was 10 minutes from camp, it made for a nice stop
After the museum, we went the long way and drove across the plain. We could have made it to Ndutu in 2 hours, but Godfrey says since we have 3 days there, it would be better to see a "new place". Did not see another car for the entire day. It was great!
Saw a few giraffes
And some ostriches
a few zebras
This area is part of the Ngorongoro Conservation, so we can drive off road
and some elands
We had seen elands in the crater, but very far away so this was nice
also some abandoned Maasai village
We stopped in the middle of nowhere for a picnic lunch. Even though we didn't see many animals, it was one of my favorite days. It felt incredible to be driving across this vast African plain with no one in sight
After lunch we saw 3 hyenas
While we were looking for lions under trees, we found this baby wildebeest who has gotten lost from its mother
Godfrey made the wildebeest noise (buh... buh...), and it came to him, thinking he was its mother. It was sad, the baby probably wouldn't survive
We briefly thought about bringing him in the truck and leaving him with a herd. Apparently a female wildebeest will feed any baby. But we didn't know where the herd was or how long it would take us to find it
So, sadly, we left him kept driving, and saw these vultures
And a few more giraffes
But finally, after seemingly looking under every tree, we found these 4 lions. Godfrey was satisfied :)
But as we got closer to our Ndutu camp, lions were everywhere. Here's 7 under a tree
We saw a total of 65 unique lions, some of which we saw multiple times. This included 4 tiny cubs and 3 in trees!
We arrived at Olakira camp, our home for next 3 nights. This was my favorite camp of all time, including Mombo in Botswana. The food was excellent and the staff wonderful. We also met some very interesting people at this camp with whom we hope to stay in touch. I had WAY too much wine the first night over some great conversation about everyone's amazing travel experiences
It's a mobile camp and doesn't have running water, but the bucket shower is ready in under 5 minutes!
Next morning we left at 6:15, and saw the sun rise over lake Ndutu
It was a beautiful morning after an overnight rain.
Almost immediately we saw a cheetah Mom with 4 cubs
This is the first time we've ever seen cheetah cubs. They are so cute.
We saw the Mom go after a rabbit, but she missed as it ran into a hole. The cheetah moves FAST!
The cubs were very playful
They look really funny, more like house cats than cheetahs
They were quite active and moving quite a bit in the early morning
We decided to leave them alone to go see something else
... and found another pride of lions, this time including 4 very young cubs
they were very playful
this pride had 13 lions in total
4 small cubs, 5 bigger cubs, and 4 female adults
We watched the cubs play for a long time. Sadly, there's an unhappy ending to some of the cubs the next day (stay tuned...)
After leaving the pride, we saw this lone male. It was our first grown male lion on this trip
It was getting to be late morning, and the cats are starting to go to sleep
The migration was supposed to be in Ndutu, but because there's no rain, everybody was up north. However, with the rain last night, some were coming back. We saw long line of zebras and gazelles marching
We were really happy we booked 2 nights in the Serengeti just in case. Some people were making the 3.5 hour one-way drive to go see the migration on a day trip!
Without the migration, there were lots of elands
And gazelles, who prefer short grass
Godfrey went searching for 3 cheetah brothers in their usual area, but they had crossed over to the Serengeti. We saw them stalk and streak after a baby wildebeest in a hunting attempt -- it was nothing but a blur
They did not seem successful
We broke the rule and snuck across the border for a quick photo. We did not pay the park fees for Serengeti ($50/person) for our days in the NCA
This poor hyena has a hurt leg, you can see the bone. ouch.
But Godfrey says he will survive, even if he only has 3 legs
Same pride with the cubs, now sleeping. Really, early morning drives are so much better
Suddenly Godfrey got very excited. Apparently one of his colleagues had seen a striped hyena
This is very rare, as they are mostly nocturnal
We even saw her baby come out of the den!
Godfrey said he hasn't seen one since 2009
For some reason he did not radio, and we had the sighting all to ourselves
After leaving the hyena, we saw this cheetah who had successfully gotten a gazelle
When we got there she was chowing down
There were a LOT of people at this sighting. This is probably the most number of trucks we seen. Tanzania definitely has more tourists than Botswana
We went back to camp for a delicious lunch of African burrito with avocados and fishballs, and went on another drive around 4
We saw these beautiful giraffes
And went down to Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek for flamingo pictures
On this day we were not able to get very close and got these shots
I got amazing flamingo shots the next day at Lake Masek. Stay tuned!
Saw another lion - they were everywhere in Ndutu
This one growled at us. Alan said he was frightened.
Next morning was another 6:15 start, and another beautiful sunrise
We really enjoyed the early morning drives. It's nice to be back at camp during the mid-day heat, and both of us were still slightly jetlagged and waking up early anyways
We saw this large pride of 8 lions
including this big male
we don't think he's the same male as the one we saw yesterday, as he seemed slightly smaller
This is possibly my favorite safari photo of all time
Cannot believe the timing as the balloon drifted directly over the parading lions. Later on we met a couple who was on that balloon and saw the lions!
This area was the "big marsh", and the lions like to wallow in the mud
Rolling in the mud to relief itch from dry skin and ticks. It's like putting on lotion :)
Godfrey heard on the radio that this pride had just gotten into a flight with the other pride with the cubs, and the big male had tried to kill all the cubs. The Moms fought back, but lost 2 of the 4
We saw the lions from the other pride run really fast in another direction
We found the other pride, and there are now only 2 cubs. so sad.
After leaving the lions, we found this leopard in a tree
Our first leopard of the trip
New animal: the bat ear fox
Another cheetah. We saw 11 unique cheetahs all together
These don't count, they're the same 3 brothers, resting today.
Driving back to lunch, we saw the dead cub. Can't believe it was just playing so rambunctiously yesterday
A great giraffe pose to start the afternoon drive
But what I wanted most was to see flamingos up close. Godfrey took a chance to drive down to the shore of Lake Masek, and we saw this flock flying almost immediately
We stayed for a long time taking photos of the flamingos
I was obsessed with flamingos on this trip -- so beautiful
Somehow I find all that pink irresistible against all the green/brown/tan/gray....
It was a wonderfully calm day and the reflections were beautiful
As was the late afternoon light
Then, suddenly, the flamingos started to bunch up...
I put the camera in "sport" mode (continuous shooting)...
and were able to get these photos of them in flight!
I was so excited!
Only to find out when we got to Zanzibar that I had accidentally deleted that afternoon's photos (don't ask how)
I was so disappointed!
But couples of weeks after coming home, I found a recovery program, and got them all back!
So, these pictures are very special to me.
Oh yeah, there were some hippos in the lake too, including this baby hippo.
But we stayed at the lake for a while longer
Trying to capture the perfect reflection
I think this one does the trick!
Next day, we're off to the Serengeti! Buffaloes on the way.
Godfrey hoped to save time by having lunch under a tree, but it was already occupied -- by cheetahs!!
We got to the Seronera about 2:30, and saw hippos in the Seronera river
Lots of elephants in the Serengeti, everyone is looking for shade
Another baby elephant
But finally, we started to see parts of the Migration!
Zebras and Wilderbeests everywhere
So many babies. Zebras give birth usually in Nov/Dec, so most of these are about 3 months old. They seem huge!
The herds would run down to the river to drink, and then thunder back up the hill
Long lines of zebras for as far as the eye can see. The migration is awesome, but unfortunately very difficult to photograph
taking turns drinking at the watering hole
Late that afternoon, we saw this young lion appearing to stalk
She got quite close to the zebras and we were all hoping she would hunt
But she was only walking back to her pride. The lions were not interested in hunting. They were all terribly fat from all the food available
They were thirsty though
The entire pride walked down to the watering hole
for a drink
On the way to camp, we saw another lion in a tree. That makes 3 over all!
Giants outfield 2010: a gazelle among elephants :).
Dunia camp -- lovely tent
Great view. But be aware, to get to this camp, you have to drive through an area with a lot of tse tse flies. This was our first encounter with the flies. The bites sting!
Next morning -- another beautiful sunrise. This was taken from our "front door"
Breakfast at Dunia
We saw the migration pass right pass the tent!
Alan was woken up by zebras chewing outside our tent
Driving towards the Seronera - long lines of zebras
Great luck - we saw 2 leopards in a tree. This is possibly my best leopard picture ever
Difference between new (35x) and old (10x) camera
More of the migration
Since this is our last full day on safari, we asked Godfrey to take some photos of us with animals. We don't really have any photos of us with animals on our previous safari
As we got closer to Seronera, the migration got more and more concentrated
You can see a bit of the line. It stretches for as far as the eye can see
This hippo actually crossed the road right in front of our truck. First time I saw a hippo up close on land
Another herd of elephants
Passing very close to the truck
A posing tawning eagle
At the hippo pool. This picture with animals is not going on our holiday card :)
It does not look like a very pleasant place at all. And very smelly!
Crocodile at the hippo pool
Everyone wants shade at noon
Very small zebra baby. This one is probably only about 1 week old
This one is around 9 months. They sure grow fast! At 1 year, they're almost the same size, a bit smaller and browner
Drinking in formation
A particularly beautiful watering hole
This one is a candidate for the holiday card :)
Just before lunch, we saw this zebra giving birth. But the baby was not coming. We watched for awhile, then went to lunch. Godfrey said this could take hours, and the baby was not necessarily stillborn
Lunch was a picnic at a beautiful spot overlooking the plains. Serengeti means "endless plain"
When we came back, there was no change. We looked in the same place next day, but she was gone. We'll never know if this story had a happy ending
Final lunch -- Godfrey showing us on the map all the places we've been, first on the big Tanzania map
And then on the Serengeti map
Our guide Godfrey -- so incredibly amazing. He made our trip
This zebra got stuck in the mud. Godfrey says he's not going to make it. A crocodile will get it
My tingatinga painting (which we bought later in Stone Town) actually shows storks above zebras. How perfect is that
Driving by the lake on the way back to camp, seeing a very well-fed stork
Last night on safari! We met some great people, including this lovely couple from San Juan Islands. They were at 2 camps with us, were on the same flights home via Zurich and Frankfurt, AND she has my birthday!!
Saw this on the way to the air strip -- Giraffes also migrate, just more locally
It's unusual to see them across the plain like this. They usually prefer woodland
Last day -- group photo!
Saying goodbye to our wonderful guide at the Seronera airstrip
Our flight plan was Seronera - Manyara - Arusha - Zanzibar. Believe it or not, our plane got a flat tire while landing at Manyara. Unfortunately my camera was packed and I don't have a picture. How ironic, after driving for 9 days without incident, our *plane* gets a flat tire
We waited there for a couple of hours while our plane blocked the runway and delayed everyone else (many folks told us later they were delayed by a plane on the runway - ours :)
Coastal aviation sent a rescue plane with an engineer, and it took us directly to Zanzibar
We finally made it to Matemwe 2 hours late, around 4PM. But our "room" was magnificent! This is the bedroom, the bed decorated with flowers shaped in a heart
The bath was huge with an ocean view
This was our private deck with a fully stocked bar, and where we had all our meals brought to us by our own "butler". Except the first night, they set up a special dinner for us on the beach, with hundreds of candles and a bottle of champagne. The most romantic evening ever!
Best part was the roof deck -- our own infinity plunge pool and a huge shade lounge
View from our roof deck!
Alan went snorkeling at Mnemba island
I didn't do much but dip in the pool and watch the activity on the ocean
Women collecting things (?) during low tide
kids playing on the beach
After 3 magical days at Matemwe, we moved to Stone Town. Our hotel is located on this street/alley
It was interesting, but hot and chaotic
We had fun shopping for a tingatinga painting. I wanted one only of zebras, and ended up with several guys running all over town looking for one. We got a beautiful one of a mother and baby
We hung out at this beach restaurant, Livingston's, both evenings
Believe it or not, it had some of the best spaghetti
Had a lot of fun watching tractors, buses, and trucks trying to get on the ferry without any boarding apparatus. It took an hour to unstuck the tractor from the sand. They literally had to lift up another truck to get this bus onboard
Lots of people enjoying the sunset
This was, without a doubt, our best vacation ever. There really is no place like Africa! Can't wait to go back!