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Toubab

July 13th to 26th - Tanzania Northern circuit (+Zanzibar)

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Toubab

Hi,

 

Left the plane less than 2 hours ago, back from my first safari in Tanzania, going through the "usual suspects" circuit (Manyara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire then a couple of days in Zanzibar to relax).

 

In a word: AWESOME!

 

In more words... well, it's the purpose of this report which, as a Swiss-German origin person, I am considering splitting along the following lines.

  1. Summary of stuff seen, heard. smelt... (spoiler: the Big 5 were all accounted for)
  2. A quick comparison of Tanzania vs. Senegal, from an animal, economic and sociological point of view
  3. Packing list: was was done right, what was done wrong
  4. Photo equipment: same thing
  5. Some general remarks on the safari company (Moderators, please let me know if names are OK here, not only companies but also driver names)
  6. and then, with one post a day, the core of the report, i.e. the animals and scenery (I kept quite detailed, 15 min by 15 min, notes, though I completely suck with precise locations)

I'll try to post items 1 to 4 today, the rest will most likely come tomorrow and over the week-end. I will post unedited photos in the posts of 6, but will do a proper, LR-treated slideshow on my blog over the following week, time permitting.

 

Cheers

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Toubab

SUMMARY

 

The circuit was as such (I was joining two co-travelers coming from France):

  • 13th: travel from Dakar to Arusha via Nairobi
  • 14th: catch-up sleep, wait for co-travelers and make last minute acquisitions at Arusha (night at Arusha Coffee Lodge)
  • 15th: Lake Manyara Park (night at Plantation Lodge in Karatu)
  • 16th: driving towards the Serengeti, with lunch at the park gate and afternoon in the center of the Park (night at Mbalageti Tented lodge)
  • 17th: morning in the north-western part, afternoon in the south-western one (night at Mbalageti Tented lodge)
  • 18th: morning in the northern part, lunch at the lodge (that was the main logistics mistake of the trip), afternoon spent driving like crazy to make the 6pm cut at the Ngorongoro gate (night at Rothia Valley Lodge)
  • 19th: day in the Crater, with the eastern part in the morning and the western part in the afternoon (night at Rothia Valley Lodge)
  • 20th: road to Tarangire, then Park, with a relatively early arrival at the lodge, but with a night safari scheduled afterwards (night at Tarangire Tree tops)
  • 21st: road to Arusha with lunch at Arusha Coffee Lodge, then a huge mix up by Precision Air which made us arrive in Zanzibar 4 hours later than expected (night at Emmerson Spice)
  • 22nd: morning visiting Stone Town, then transfer to the north-eastern beaches (night at Sunshine Hotel)
  • 23rd-24th: beach chillaxing (nights at Sunshine Hotel)
  • 25th: morning at the beach, then transfer to the airport for flight to Nairobi (night at Safari Club Hotel)
  • 26th: flight from Nairobi to Dakar (via Abidjan)

Ok, let's concentrate on the fauna now. By decreasing order of frequency, and by park, here is what we saw (old timers will probably frown upon some taxonomy generalizations made, especially on the birds side... feel free to correct me):

 

LAKE MANYARA

- zebras: ca. 30

- baboons: ca. 30

- impalas: ca. 20

- gnus: ca. 20

- elephants: 15

- impalas: 12

- giraffes: 3

- hippos: 2

- vervets: 2

- dik dik: 1

- kob: 1

 

plus some buffaloes far away so not sure about the number. As for birds, lots of storks, especially at the entry, as well as some ibises and herons

 

SERENGETI (including road in and out)

- gnus: way too many to count, maybe something like 100.000 but that's really a wild guess

- zebras: pretty similar, with a figure probably more in the 20.000 area

- gazelles: same here, probably around 10.000, with about 2/3 Thomson and 1/3 Grant

- impalas: figures dropping here, I'd say something like 800

- warthogs: similar order of magnitude (I just LOVE to watch them trotting: they are way cuter than the massive ones we have here in Senegal)

- baboons: probably around 250

- hippos: 125

- vultures: 88

- giraffes: 32

- lions : 27 (including one with a radio tag)

- buffaloes: 23

- elephants :20

- crocodiles: 20

- ostriches: 17

- hyenas: 14

- topis: 12

- mongooses: 8

- jackal: 5

- kobs: 3

- ibises: 3

- serpent eagles: 2

- leopard: 1

- varanus: 1

 

plus some storks (did not write down exact number, it was around 20 IIRC, plus about 10 marabou storks) and vervets (probably about 20)

 

NGORONGORO CRATER

- flamingoes: too many and too distant to count, maybe in the 500 area

- buffaloes: around 100

- gnus: around 100 as well

- warthogs: about 80

- zebras: same here

- hippos: 24

- lions : 22 (including a young one having a buffalo indigestion and 4 barely 30 cm from the tyres...)

- grey crowned cranes: 10

- ospreys: 10

- bustards: 8

- elephants: 4

- serpent eagles: 4

- jackals: 3

- hyena: 3

- rhinos: 2

- cheetah: 1

- hartebeest: 1

 

plus a few dozen impalas / gazelles which I did not count

 

TARANGIRE (DAY)

- elephants: about 300 (that was really crazy to become almost "blase" when seeing yet another elephant...)

- giraffes: 26

- ostriches: 10

- hyraxes: 6

- wild dogs: 3

- dik diks: 5

- leopards: 2

- buffaloes: 1

- dik dik eagles: 1

 

plus also some impalas / gazelles

 

TARANGIRE (NIGHT)

- impalas: 47

- elephants: 16

- scrub hares: 4

- jump hares: 4

- dik diks: 3

- bat heared foxes: 2

- steinbocks: 1

 

This night safari was a very fun experience, with other senses (smell and hearing) way more sensitive.

 

So that about sums the experience from an animal point of view. I am sure I forgot lots of species, especially among birds and the various sorts of antelopes or gazelles, though.

 

Cheers

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Toubab

TANZANIA VS. SENEGAL

 

Leaving in another African country, I thought I would add some elements of comparison between both countries

 

 

ECONOMICS

I was quite astonished to just check and see TZ is 50% richer, GDP-per-capita-wise, than SN. It does not seem to show so much, both in terms of private and public investments. But again, a similar wealth can hide vastly different realities (China and Cape Verde have roughly similars GDP/cap, but one certainly does not believe so visiting each country)

 

SOCIAL

Coming from West Africa where suffi Islam is king, it was curious to find again a more traditional version of Islam, whith many more veiled women or men with beards

 

FOOD

Vastly varied experiences, so cannot comment on average but it seems TZ cuisine is a bit fresher and healthier... probably getting fed up of the Senegalese ubiquitous rice :unsure:

 

CULTURE

Gosh, I so missed the West-African rhythms. Not sure whether it is due to a more traditional view of Islam (which would not apply in Northern TZ anyway) but music was almost absent from all places, quite the opposite of SN

 

FAUNA

just kidding, it's really 100 to 1 here... we do have some warthogs, but they look like bland, big and unagile boars

 

FLORA

Greenery was great to find in Manyara Lake park!

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Toubab

PACKING LIST

 

- cargo pants: x2 => should have taken one only

- cargo half-pants: x2 => fine

- polo shirts: x4 => should have taken five or six

- underwear sets (briefs & socks): x4 => should have taken five or six

- safari sandals => great thing (and very nice for the international flight, when luggage weight is no longer an issue)

- hiking shoes => could have gone for lighter ones, but they were useful a few times

- medicine => nothing special (the YF booklet was the first thing asked for at JRO; I took Malarone I had left from my time in India just in case)

- jumper suit => was very welcome, especially for the early departure to the Ngorongoro crater

- fleece jacket => did not have one and did not miss it

- safari / photo jacket => extremely useful, in particular when juggling with photo equipment

- notebook => quite hard to write on the road, but a clipboard helps slightly

- sun equipment (lotion & glasses) => took only the latter, but did not use them; did not miss the former

- hat (Tilley as main one, cap as backup) => very useful, though it can interefere with photos in portrait format

- ear plugs => useful for the nights when truck sounds are more numerous than fauna ones

 

I think that's it for the main articles. All this was bagged in a soft duffel bag (with small wheels), which seemed to be by far the preferred option (along with huge trail backpacks) for other travelers.

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Toubab

indeed, it was an improper, or rather incomplete, translation; waterbuck is "cobe a croissant" (crescent kob) in French.

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africapurohit

Toubab - glad you had an awesome time. Forget the big five, the 3 wild dogs in Tarangire would steal the show for me :)

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Toubab

PHOTO GEAR

 

This was my first experience at shooting "moving stuff" since I am usually more of a churches / museums / old stones person when it comes to photo interests. So I had made some gear provisions, which turned out to be mostly quite relevant:

 

- Nikon D300s as main body => great and fast AF (which is why I did not "upgrade" to the D7000), and nice to have the APS-C 1.5x magnification factor; postprocessing will tell how much of an issue the low resolution by today's standard (12 MP) really was; also, the menu banks took too long to change, so I almost always stayed on a rather standard Landscape setup

- Nikkor 70-200/2.8 VRII lens => fantastic AF, even with the TC (see below); no "breathing" which is great when there is so much dust outside

- Nikon TC 20E-III (2x TC) => used it in combination with the 70-200 for about 90% of the shots; one of my co-travelers was not shooting, the other had a more versatile (on paper) Sigma 50-500/3.5-6.3 but he had a very hard job with AF, ISO and speed in comparison; I have not yet looked at a lot of the 4000+ pics, but IQ does not seem to suffer too much from this TC. LR stats will confirm, but I think I was able to keep ISO between 200 and 400 max, with speeds never below 1/125th.

- Nikkor 17-55/2.8 => did not use it at all on safari (would have taken too much time to change lens, I already hated the 2 or 3 occasions when I had to remove or add the TC in a matter of a couple seconds) but was great in Zanzibar's Stone Town.

- Canon Powershot SX260 HS => I did not have the means nor the interest to invest in a second DSLR body as backup, so I opted for this state-of-the-art compact. I had limited expectations, but it turned out way better than expected, in particular w.r.t white balance, contrast management and HD movies (stabilization was unimpressive though). I did not use the Nikon for movies at all.

- cleaning kit (Lenspen & Gitzo) => every evening; seems I managed to avoid big, visible dust particules

- bean bag => an absolute must; I had the rather sophisticated Skimmersack (filled with red beans; better than rice IMO in that it does not have "sudden landslides" as rice can have) but a pillow sheet could probably do as well. My shooting co-traveler was shooting hand held at 500mm, that seemed absolutely crazy to me. Next time, I may have two, one to grip to each side of the car.

- photo vest => small mistake here in that I hard ordered an XXL version of the Domke Photogs Vest (I'm 6'6"), forgetting that US sizes vary more in width than height... I thus had looooots of room to maneuver within the vest, which in fact turned out to be quite practical (e.g. when putting a caseload of books in the internal pockets for the internal flights...)

- binoculars => Steiner 10x26 Predator ; they were fantastic for the job (they seem to have a special treatment to enhance savannah contrasts), though I had to remove my glasses to use them comfortably.

- tripod => from a safari point of view, that was absolutely silly (even though, at 1.6 kg, it did not burn too much in the luggage allowance), but I used it mainly for astrophotography (with a Phottix remote control) as it was my first time in the Southern hemisphere and I wanted to check how the sky looked like from this perspective); on a second occasion, I will definitely not take it, hence more room for the missing polos!

 

And now for the backup routine:

- the D300s contains two slots, a CF one (which I used for RAW shots, on 2x 32 GB cards) and an SD one (which I used for the JPEG versions, on various cards representing a total of 40 GB)

- the Canon contains one slot, with its own 16 GB SD card (JPG pics and MOV movies mixed)

- every evening, I would do a backup of the day's pics on my netbook (which could take quite some time if I had to juggle through several cards and folders); it's a long-battery Asus (7+ hours) so that was great when I could not recharge easily

- I would then copy this RAW+JPG+MOV daily folder onto two separate (roughed) external HDs

- these copies would always (except in the plane of course) travel separately: laptop in my main bag, one HD in my camera bag and one HD in my vest

 

In terms of camera setup, I changed few things from one shot to the other (aside from zoom, obviously):

- working always in Aperture priority (except for a few fast actions where I switched to Speed), I shot about 70% at f/8.0 (sharpness sweetspot) and the rest at either f/5.6 or f/2.8 depending on whether the TC was on or not

- the other main change was the AF tracking, either on single shot (about 80% of the shots) or continuous (remaining 20%) when following a moving animal

 

I think that's if for the photo part.

Edited by Toubab

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Toubab

@africapurohit: indeed, we could not believe our luck, as they were right on the side of the road, only 5 minutes heading south from the Tarangire park main gate; the absence of any other wildlife in the vicinity as a consequence of their presence was also impressing.

 

The only other animal I would really have liked to see is the honey badger, but that gives me a reason for a second time, after all (plus of course seeing more of the ones already seen)

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Sangeeta

Wow! I wish I had a tenth of your organizational skills!

 

Looking forward to hearing the stories :)

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pault

Sounds like a fantastic first trip. I look forward to reading the rest.

 

I've been to a few places where there have been cobe a croissant at breakfast... (not eating them of course). Now I have a nice little ice-breaker joke for any French guests in the future.... although I'll probably mangle the pronunciation of "croissant', completely defeating the object and causing them some alarm. :)

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Toubab

ADDITIONAL INFO ON PHOTO GEAR

 

I realize I only reported on the "done right" side, not the "done wrong" for photo; if I had to do it again, here would be the mistakes to correct:

- budget permitting, a second DSLR body would be quite useful; the issue being which one to choose: another D300s for the AF and because I know it, or A 7000 for the MP count? Maybe the new D3200 one could be an option, I still have to read some more detailed reviews

- on this second (probably higher MP-count) body would be a 200-400/4 (yeah, this one is reaaaaally "budget-permitting" :( ), with maybe a 1.4 TC in the pocket for the few occasions where you want definitely more reach than 400 (that was mostly the case for the Ngorongoro on this occasion, for both the rhinos and the cheetah, plus occasionally with some birds)

- as mentioned, I would probably not take the tripod again, which was not safari gear per se anyway

- on the cards side, I had plenty of room left (used about 36 GB on CF for RAW, and 24 GB on SD for JPG) but some of them (20 MB/s and below) were sometimes a bit slow => an upgrade to 30 MB/s could be useful

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Toubab

SAFARI COMPANY & ACCOMODATIONS

 

The trip had been organized in France via Maison de l'Afrique; they used Ranger Safaris for the parks part, but we had our own choice of hotels

 

RANGER SAFARIS

 

This seems to be the second largest fleet (130 vehicles) after Leopard Tours, according to what we saw at the various gates / picnic places, which can be a good thing in terms of communication network among company vehicles to spot places of interest (even though I had mixed feelings about this "let's all gather in front of the same lion cub" attitude). The vehicle was in top condition, and we had few issues with it:

- one flat tyre upon exiting the Serengeti (changed quickly, and exchanged the day after at their dedicated Ngorongoro garage);

- a weird noise near a tyre on the way down to the Ngorongoro, which happened to be a minor, purely cosmetic, loose piece of plastic on the suspension.

 

As one of the travelers was not too English-fluent, we had requested a French-speaking guide (I can give his name by MP, or here if moderators are OK). Now, this part was not as good as expected:

- as a driver, he was excellent: he managed to get us in hard to access places (Rothia Valley Lodge by night in particular, or quick exit of the Serengeti), he knew his vehicle well enough, he was prudent at all times... no complain at all on this side;

- as a translator, his level of French was in the lower-middle category, which is understandable since he was a self-trained speaker; the issue was that his English level was no better (possibly worse), which made further explanations quite difficult;

- as a guide, he knew his way almost all of the time, but did not bother to explain why he would go this or that way when given an option... a bit annoying at times;

- as a time keeper, he was average by African standards, i.e. 10 to 15 minutes late all the time (and 30 minutes on the first day, apparently due to "wet paint" on the vehicle);

- as an animal spotter, he was not very good (I am fully aware he had the worst location for that, though), not only for seeing fauna as it appeared (but my non-photographying co-traveller has an eagle eye for them, which made this task unnecessary), but also for tracking animals (he only managed to track some once, a 7-member lion family hidden at the basis of some bushes after feasting on a gnu);

- as an animal lover, he was inexistant, which was the worst part; when stopping for some shots, he gave us the basic info (name, life expectancy, weight range, number of cubs on average...) then would spend all his time texting friends; that was a very frustrating part at first, but after we admitted that this was probably just a job as any other for him, we did not care so much.

 

Anyway, next time I go on safari (especially on a solo trip), I will make sure to go for a much more specialized company, with real animal lovers as guides (see Tarangire night safari report later for a comparison).

 

HOTELS

 

Arusha: Arusha Coffee Lodge

Relatively nice place considering the dull cement cubes within the city. Rooms were organized in a slighly impractical manner sometimes (light switches at the other end of the room, unnecessary steps...) and some small details needed works attention, but nothing too serious.

Food was mostly very good (except our wine choice), especially at breakfast.

 

Karatu: Plantation Lodge

Superb surroundings, with a beautiful garden, an extremely nice bar and great cuisine. On average, our best experience among safari-part places.

 

Serengeti: Mbalageti Tented Lodge

Quite a bit out of the way, not only due to being in the Western corridor, but also as the private path to get there is quite long (about 40 minutes). Not an issue for me as it was there we saw our first family of hyenas, and the only mongooses we saw.

Rooms a bit basic & cramped for the price, and the restaurant was definitely a "American package tour" place: buffet only, with mostly international dishes, and cheezy "Masai" dances. The view was very nice however.

 

Ngorongoro: Rothia Valley Lodge

Quite hard to reach, especially at night (took us 75 minutes of continuous ascent in almost pitch black on the first night), but pleasant surroundings. Comfort and staff professionalism can of course not be compared with commercial places (this is mainly an orphanage, after all), but given this caveat, the team did a good job

 

Tarangire: Tree Tops

Magical place, especially at dusk, both from the rooms and the lobby area. Definitely not a backpacker place, but it was nice to splurge for the last night. Food however was rather mediocre for the place, but you have to consider the logistics challenge. Their night safari was a very fun experience.

 

Stone Town: Emerson Spice

Stunning rooms and inside courtyard, as well as view from the top. Location is a bit noisy (across the street from a Mosque, and Ramadan had started two days before), but nothing too serious. Breakfast was a huge let down, though.

 

Zanzibar Coast: Sunshine

In spite of the uninspired name, this was an amazing place. Less than 15 rooms split however a couple of huge bungalows, tastefully decorated, with the best-smelling clove soaps ever. Cuisine was superb and changed on a daily basis. Beach was very nice (it puzzles me why people going there would spend all their time at or near the pool, but anyway, there were two of them; only used them for swimming laps one day)

 

Nairobi: Safari Club

Dull, uninspired hotel next to a highway. Due to poor noise insulation, quite hard to sleep, even with earplugs and at the 11th floor. Surroundings look very uninspiring at night. This really was just for layover, thankfully.

 

 

OK, now that the general stuff is done, let's go for a day by day report of the safari part!

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AKR1

Toubab

I really like the way you have organized your report and your concise, to the point writing style. Good coverage of logistical details along with the good and bad as you saw it. Thanks for your report.

 

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Toubab

Here start the daily reports of the actual safari (I won't post on the other days, as this is a specialized forum). Pics inserted are straight out of the cam, JPEG ones, the only changes made being resizing (though no crop) and the watermark at the bottom left.

 

DAY 1: Lake Manyara (15th)

 

We were scheduled to meet with the Ranger Safaris vehicle & guide at 8.30 (at Arusha Coffee Lodge) but he only arrived at 9.15, explaining that they had to do a late painting job on the vehicle, which was not dry soon enough. After a quick review of the vehicle, we leave around 9.30, heading west.

 

At the first village, I get some beans for the beanbag, which needs a quite astonishing 6 kgs to fill up (the shopkeeper looked at me as if crazy when I asked her to pour directly in the beanbag, and to almost completely fill it...).

 

Around 10.45, the previously arid landscapes give way to more forests and hills. At 11.40, we finally arrive at the entrance of Lake Manyara Park, with lots of storks, and the upper branches completely white as a result.

 

gallery_17482_674_60788.jpg

 

While our driver is getting the tickets (a process which appeared quite tedious at all gates, with lots of paper bits, stamps, certificates, and offices), we do a small tour of the forest part, where we glance from a bit far our first vervet monkey.

 

We get on the road again around 12.10 and see our first impalas around 12.40 (herd of about 12 individuals).

 

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We see some baboons around 12.50

 

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Around 13.10, we do a pit stop in a partially wood-fenced place (sorry, I really am bad with exact location names) with a couple of hippos, various birds, and our first zebras.

 

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(there were about 20 of them, there)

 

There are some buffaloes in the background, but hard to distinguish and count.

 

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We set sail again, and see some more zebras at 13.45, with our first giraffes in the background.

 

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At 13.50, we see some baboons playing between zebra legs.

 

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(yeah, I had not yet engaged the Speed priority / AF-C mode...)

 

At 14.00, we meet our first dik dik (guess Mrs. Dik Dik was hiding somewhere)

 

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We stop for lunch between 14.15 and 15, and see some birds (can't remember the name) at the picnic place waiting for crumbs.

 

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There are some baboons around as well, delicately picking leaves from acacia trees.

 

At 14.45, we see our first hints of elephants, but they are a bit shy (we count 5 of them here, including a mother and a young one)

 

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Driving further south, we have more luck, with 10 elephants closer to the road, including three young ones and two elderly.

 

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After admiring them for a good 30 minutes, we drive a bit more, and find a small group of giraffes (4), much closer than the previous ones, one of them crossing right after the vehicle.

 

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At 16.30, while heading to the exit, we see two dik dik males fighting for the control of a road. It's quite funny to see them banging heads at their size, but one of them had a huge edge from the beginning, and the other kept getting back to his side of the road, then crossing again to tackle his rival. He did the return trip about 20 times before we went.

 

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(could not shoot the actual fight, as I was standing on the back row, and they were fighting in front of the vehicle)

 

We are back at the park gate around 17.00. We then head towards the Ngorongoro, with the inevitable "art and craft store" stop on the way (fortunately, 15 minutes only), and are at our hotel (Plantation Lodge) in Karatu by 18.15

 

 

Let me know how you liked this first report, so that I can amend the next ones if need be. Next step: Day 2, from Karatu to Western Corridot via Central Serengeti.

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Toubab

DAY 2: Central Serengeti (16th)

 

That was a day with quite a bit of driving, but we managed to spend a decent amount of time in Central Serengeti anyway.

 

We left the lodge at Karatu around 08.35, and were able to pass the Ngorongoro gate at 09.30 (the number of vehicles there was quite impressing, so the absolute record would be held later at the Crater). We saw some buffaloes around 09.45 and made a 30 minute stop at the dedicated Ranger Safaris garage at 10.05 to check everything on the car and top up the tank. There was quite a bit of fog at the top of the crater.

 

gallery_17482_675_340483.jpg

 

We came across some Masai villages around 10.45. At 11.05, we saw some giraffes on a hill, which we jokingly called either the "port cranes" or "cable cars" due to the way they looked at the top of the hill from downside.

 

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We see some scattered ostriches quite far around 11.30, and reach the Serengeti / Ngorongoro portal at 12.10, with quite a few gazelles and some zebras around.

 

We reach the Serengeti toll office and park at 12.45, where we have lunch, with quite a few birds also (they look a bit like the blue-eared starlings we see in copious amounts in Dakar during colder months).

 

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There are also lots of frightening animals around some trees...

 

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We pass the gate at 13.45 and see three lionnesses ten minutes later.

 

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(I love how this one looks almost like a hunting dog)

 

At 14.30, we close in on a group of other cars, to find a lionness languishly sleeping in an acacia almost on top of our heads.

 

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At some point, we wonder who will win between her belly and the laws of gravity

 

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Not far from there, at 15.00, we get a similar situation with another big cat, who does not even grant us a single glimpse (and is quite further anyway).

 

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After 15 minutes there, he does not seem to be willing to move at all, so we go back to have another look at the lionness, still quite busy.

 

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At 15.30, driving a bit south, we find a couple of very amourous lions (quite far).

 

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At 15.45, we come across 6 hippos heading to the Turkish baths.

 

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About 15 minutes later, we come across a big group (ca. 120) of Thomson gazelles, and our first two warthogs from upclose. Among them is a single gnu, the first of a very, very, VERY long series!

 

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I love the rockstar ponytail, and the way they get down on the front-leg knees to eat.

 

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At 16.15, we find 4 lionnesses having a rest, 1 jackal (too fast to catch a pic) and 15 elephants in the distance.

 

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We then find some zebras and a lone giraffe.

 

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At 16.30, we find 4 more warthogs (we would soon stop keeping an exact count, though we would often ask the driver to stop to admire their trotting in line), about 20 Thomson (same here on counting) and a marabout stork.

 

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At 16.40, we come across 3 more elephants (including an old one).

 

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We then beginning a long drive west, seeing thousands of gnus, and quite a number of Thomson and zebras.

 

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Around 18.15, we enter the path leading to the lodge in the Western corridor.

 

At 18.45, we catch a glimpse of a hyena with her five adorable kids, and five minute later, eight mangooses. They all moved too suddenly to shoot, considering it was getting quite dark.

 

We arrived at the lodge (Mbalageti Tented Lodge) around 19.00.

 

 

That's it for Day 2! Day 3 will be all about Serengeti, focus on the Western side.

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twaffle

Getting a real feel for your trip, some excellent sightings. Looking forward to more.

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pault

To answer your question, the style is fine for me. Quite military (you're not in the police force are you?) but that's okay .... it's nice to read.

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Sangeeta

Your style is very good. And it paints a very true picture of all you saw. I would say, carry right along - no changes needed :)

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Toubab

Thanks for the feedback. I'll try to put a bit more "emotion" in the next ones :D (my two preferred days are yet to come anyway).

 

Just have to check how to put more pics, since I tried to post Day 3 but seems I had reached a maximum (not sure if it was max number of pics per post or per thread).

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Toubab

Mmmhh, I'm a bit puzzled here. I tried to post Day 3 again today on this thread (in case the pics limit was a daily one), then tried to start a new thread (in case the pics limit was a per thread one, which made most sense).

 

No luck in both cases! Seems I reached some sort of "per account" pics posting limit (possibly weekly? monthly?). So unfortunately, unless there is some sort of server-level change, I'm afraid the rest of the report will be unplished (or maybe in French, without pics, on my blog).

 

In any case, a selection of post-processed pic will appear on the blog, in the African galeries part.

 

Sorry about that, it was quite fun to do this report :(

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Game Warden

There's no such limit. You could have always sent me a PM to ask for help...

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Atravelynn

Thanks for all the information, good, bad, and in the middle. Your lions in the trees were great. Not many people get a photo of a rat/mouse. Nice catch!

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Toubab

OK, with the nice help of GW, I tried to assess why I could post no more pics, but no luck. I will thus keep on this report in text only, and will refer to my blog galleries (http://www.toubab.org/?flagallery=photos-afrique then choose the appropriate park in the bottom left corner) for some pics (on the bright side, it means edited photos ^_^ )

 

@Atravelynn: there is now an edited version of the lion, at pics 3 and 4 in the Serengeti gallery on my blog

 

 

DAY 3: Western Seregenti (17th)

 

We leave earlier to take advantage of our one full day in Seregenti, at 07.45. Thirty minutes later, we see two serpent eagles (pics 9 and 10 in the Serengeti gallery) and spend a good time watching them walking between gnus, warthogs and zebras.

 

Our first vultures arrive at 08.45, and we exit the private path of the lodge at 09.00, heading further West.

 

At 09.15, we find a gnu carcass with 15 vultures placing their order and taking their turn around, and 6 more waiting on a nearby branch (pic 12, the first of three with a thumbnail wrongly marked as "ERROR"). Fifteen minutes later, we enter a plaine full of gnus (pic 11 is just a small part) and continue due West, towards the air strip.

 

We see few new animals (a herd of Grant here and there, some ostriches, at pics 13 and 15) until 10.15, when we reach one crocodile and 5 hippos.

 

At 10.30, here are some more "cobes a croissant" ;) along with lots of Thomson. We then see few new animals (aside from vultures, gnous and herons) till lunch at 12.30, as we are exploring the Western end of the park.

 

We get back on the road at 13.15, and follow another vehicle whose driver-guide seems to be particularily good at finding animals. We get lucky 30 minutes later, with a (quickly vanishing) varanus among a number of baboons and zebras, in a small river.

 

At 14.00 we get to a river bank with 40 hippos. At some point, a crocodile enters the water towards them and, with an astonishing swiftness given their size, they all are in the water in a matter of seconds (pics 17 and 18).

 

At 14.45, we find 12 topis, then 15 minutes later a new "hippo + croc" place (respectively 30 and 3), with a similar pattern (50 + 3) at 15.30 (pics 19, 20 and 21).

 

At 15.45, we find ibises and storks in a river, then 3 buffaloes. At 16.00 is a shy elephant.

 

At 16.15, we find a gnu carcass with lots of vultures and some marabout storks around (pics 22, 23 and 24). For the only time of the whole trip, our driver manages to actually track some animals from there, and we soon find a whole family of lions (9 of them, pic 26 for the closest one, barely 5m from the car).

 

After admiring the family enjoying their digestion, we head back on the main road towards the lodge, and find some more croc & hippo combo (5 and 2) at 17.00 (pic 25). At 17.45, we enter the path to the lodge, and find two jackals at 18.00. We reach the lodge at 18.15

 

 

That's it for Day 3. Day 4 (exiting Serengeti, with a few hiccups) coming soon!

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Toubab

DAY 4: Western Serengeti to Karatu, in quite a rush (18th)

 

Knowing we have a busy day ahead of us, we leave the lodge at 07.40 for a last safari, but with the view of heading back there for lunch & check-out later (that was more or less imposed on us by the guide, and was retrospectively a big mistake).

 

Barely five minutes later, while crossing a river, we come across a big group of baboons (pic 30) then drinking gnus (pic 31) then a groupe of 2 hyenas among 15 buffaloes and 40 topis (pics 32, 33 and 34). We leave the lodge path at 08.30, and head North. We reach a new "vulture and marabout storks around a carcass" place at 08.45 (pic 40 and 1 respectively).

 

At 09.00, we find 12 giraffes (pics 35 and 36), then an elephant, a sole ostriche and 5 buffaloes at 09.15.

 

At 09.30, we reach a burnt-ground place, with some drinking gnus and zebras (pic 39), and two nicely contrasted lion couples (pics 40, 41 and 42).

 

After admiring them for some time, we hit the road again and find two giraffes at 10.00, then 8 croc and 2 hippos at 10.15. We find a big group of 50 baboons (pic 43) at 10.30 as well as 2 jackals. We enter the lodge path at 10.45 and find some more drinking animals (pic 44, last of the series).

 

We reach the lodge at 11.15 and manage to be served reasonably quickly, with a nice view from the terasse.

 

We leave at 12.40 and are a bit afraid when the driver announces that we have to rush, considering 300 km are to be covered before the 18.00 deadline at the Ngorongoro entry (in spite of us having asked him a number of times before if an early check-out & picnic would not be a better option, to avoid the 60 to 90 minutes return journey on the lodge path).

 

Adding to that stress, we get a tyre puncture as we leave this path, at 13.10. We are back on the road at 13.30.

 

At 15.10, as we are in central Serengeti, and find 4 lionesses, including one with a radio collar (not sure whether it allows tracking by safari companies, as there were 4 cars already on site).

 

Five minutes later, we find a pregnant hyena, before another one. Then is one ostrich, and another one.

 

At 15.50, just before reaching the Serengeti entrance, we find 5 giraffes. We spend 20 minutes for formalities (and the usual chat...) at the gate, then find a mix of 8 ostriches and 4 hyens at 16.30 (due to our rushing, we were never able to stop from then on :angry: ).

 

We reach the Serengeti / Ngorongoro frontier at 16.40, where the road becomes really poor (some heavy construction equipment had rolled on it, not sure if it was on purpose to avoid speeding vehicles). We have to take a side track to avoid another puncture (we go by at least 7 vehciles replacing tyres) and are back on the main path at 17.00, when we reach the first Masai villages

 

At 17.40, we find 4 giraffes including a baby. Ten minutes later, the flora begins to change radically as we begin the ascent towards the Ngorongoro (and we are ten minutes before the deadline!).

 

We reach the top barrier at 18.15, which by now is closed and guarded. A short explanation by our driver about the puncture, and we are allowed to go through (oddly enough, on the observation platform just behind, some tourists were still casually taking pictures).

 

We reach the Ngorongoro entry at 18.30. At 19.15, we leave the main road for a small and strongly ascending path towards our lodge, which is quite hard to reach, especially as it become pitch-black dark. We finally arrive at the lodge at 19.45.

 

 

That's it for Day 4, with a number of logistical mistakes (OK, we tend to be sticklers w.r.t to schedules, while Africa is not the best place for this :) ). Here comes Day 5 in the crater!

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Toubab

For this day, you may refer to the Ngorongoro gallery (to be chosen among "All categories") at http://www.toubab.org/?flagallery=photos-afrique

 

 

DAY 5: Ngorongoro Crater (19th)

 

Since we felt a bit frustrated after the previous day rush, we insist on an early departure, and manage to leave the (quite distant from the crater) lodge at 07.05.

 

Handling the path is much easier by day, and we reach the main, tar road at 07.20, leave our punctured tyre at a garage at 07.30, are back on the road at 07.45 and reach the gate at 08.05.

 

We leave the gate at 08.25, arrive at the Ranger Safaris garage at 09.05 for a check-up (seems they were not able to handle the tyre themselves) and leave at 09.25. No regret there for the time spent on logistics, as there was lots of fog in the crater.

 

At 10.00, we go through the dedicated portal on the way down to the crater, whose bottom we reach 10 minutes later, just as the fog is beginning to leave... perfect timing on this one!

 

At 10.20, we find 10 grey crowned cranes. As we see a group of 6 cars observing something on the road, we head there (in spite of the vehicle per animal limit, hoping there will be at least two of them :rolleyes: ). Cars are moving slowly, so we reach the place only at 10.50. There are eight lions gathered around a buffalo carcass, having a digesting nap or, for a young one, a healty throw-up (pic 1 on the Ngorongoro series, seconds before the "flow"... ; pic 2 for the group). As we leave, there are now no less than 16 cars waiting for their turn on either side!!

 

At 11.30, we find eight bustards (including a young one) and a huge group of about 100 buffaloes (pic 3), before two jackals and some zebras (pics 4 and 5, where two brothers kept annoying each other).

 

We find a pregnant hyena at 11.45 (pic 6) then a lion with a massive mane at 11.50 (pic 7), before finding 10 ospreys, then a lion, then a lionness.

 

We find 4 more lionesses as we enter deeper towards the lake at 12.30, then a move in the savannah attracts our sight. We head towards a group of cars, and hear they may have spotted a cheetah! Gosh, that would be a my-favourite-animal-as-a-kid dream coming true!!

 

We do indeed see what looks like a cheetah head in the distance, but way too far to formally confirm, and even more so to take any half-decent pic.

 

At 12.45, one of the 8 or so waiting cars tries to take a path to get closer, which in fact leads the cheetah, which has now begun to walk, towards us, then cross the path right behind the last car, and walk gently on the other side (pic 8... yeah, I know, barely half decent itself, but I could not do without it; the cheetah was still something like 250m away)

 

After this fantastic encounter, we drive towards the swampy areas of the park to find a 4-member family of cute hippos (pics 9 and 10; Dad really looked like a lawn mower!), just before reaching the lake with thousands of flamingoes, with gnus, hippos and zebras in the foreground (pics 11 and 12).

 

At 13.30, as we drive towards the picnic place at the opposite side of the entrance, we come across a lion breathing heavily, obviously of over-eating (pic 13). We stop at the pond for picnic among a herd of 200 or so Toyotas, plus 20 hippos in the pond (pic 14) from 13.45 to 14.30. We take this opportunity to fix a minor issue with the vehicle (springs cover getting loose, but not spotted by the garage a couple of hours before).

 

Heading towards the foresty part in the north-western end of the crater, we find an elephant cemetery (pic 16) at 14.50, then two hyenas and an elephant in the distance (pic 20).

 

At 15.10, we find a couple of lions roasting in the sun (pic 18).

 

It is then time to slowly drive towards the exit. As we approach a group of cars around 15.40, we ponder: are they really all gasping about the two buffaloes some 250m away? As we focus our binoculars, we find two more odd forms in the distance (about 400m away). There seems to be some plates on their rear... could that be...? Yep, one of them turns its head, and we see the horn! Here are our two rhinos, completing the Big Five! (They were way too far for a decent photo to be published though...).

 

At 16.20, we pass along four lionnesses sleeping on the side of the road, one of them barely 30cm from our tyres (pics 21 and 22, last ones). Ten minutes later, we pass a jackal at the beginning of the ascent of the exit road.

 

At 16.45, we reach the warden post of the crater exit, with a couple of goat herds with their Masai sheperds around.

 

At 17.15, we are almost toppled over by three elephants who wanted to cross the road between trees at the last second. We reach the park gate at 17.30, and get our repaired tyre back at 17.50.

 

We enter the path to the lodge at 18.05, and reach it more quickly than the day before, thanks to habit as well as more daylight.

 

 

That's it for Day 5! Stay tuned for the last Day, in Tarangire!

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