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Tanzania mid-March. 70% Serengeti, 100% Sensational. Includes Daily Weather


Atravelynn

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michael-ibk

Now I will have to think all day about your salami mystery. Damn. Give us some clues at least. :)

 

Your information on all the lodges is very helpful, thank you for it. Arumeru is a must now for any return to Arusha, as a dikdik-fan I would love to see those "diminutages", especially a baby of course. Great pics, my favourites are the last nursing cheetah shot and the white stork/zebra combination.

 

And you just know ýou´ll have to show me more of "my" albino baboon buddy. B)

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My first sighting of this young dik dik fawn, early in the morning

WEATHER REPORT ACCOMPANYING ITINERARY Cheetahs playing in Ndutu

The cheetah action started moments after we arrived at Lake Ndutu where we spotted a mother and four subadult cubs waking from their afternoon snooze. And it never let up.   Found this family sho

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Atravelynn

I first saw that albino baboon--or at least one of them--in your post, @Michale-ibk. I fortunately did get more shots of him. I like @@pault's version of the salami mystery. With more time, I could have set up all night surveillance to discover who was stashing the salami.

 

@Hari, we saw the same cheetahs, just not at the same time.

 

 

Magical Lanterns

From the Nasikia website: “Between the resident tents and the dining tent, the camp arranges a magical path of lanterns to light your way.” Since I was the only visitor in the mobile camp the first day, I got some on-the-job training at my request and learned how to place the lanterns just so, to maximize the magic. Seems a shame to waste that training and my newly acquired skills so I’ll just have to return someday to continue my lantern duties. And if I do, I hope Evans, the staff member who schooled me in lantern placement, will be there and we can resume our most interesting nightly chats around the campfire…until the lions roared nearby in the night. At which point I requested we move our conversation to the dining tent tout suite, hoping the magical lanterns that surrounded it also served as lion deterrents. They did.

 

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Ndutu

 

Quote of the Trip that Passed the Censors

My last night at Nasikia Mobile coincided with the second night on safari for a couple celebrating the man’s 60th birthday. They were thrilled with their first safari and enthusiastically described to me their sightings so far. They couldn’t remember the name of one of the antelopes they had seen so the gentleman did an impression, wiggling two raised index fingers behind his bobbing head. He was just adorable but all that came to mind was Peter Cottontail--and that couldn’t be right. Then he added that they had seen the antelope on big rocks. “Klipspringer!” I guessed. Bingo!

 

With charades over, I mentioned it was my last night of 14 days on safari. The wife asked, “Do you still find interesting things to look at, even after 14 days?”

 

“Yes, even after 14 days,” I responded, then added, “Or after 14 trips or probably after 14 years. Every day brings something amazing.” I smiled to myself at how they will consider that question very naïve after a few more days on safari, given their bubbling enthusiasm for klipspringers and such. And I realized I had found a sufficiently tasteful and thought provoking quote of the trip.

 

Even after almost 20 years of guiding, George saw three new things on our safari: (1) an albino/ leucistic Lappet faced Vulture. (2) 18 Bat eared foxes in one morning. (3) A white-tailed mongoose at midday—being chased by 4 cheetahs, no less. He also witnessed animal behavior that he had seen only once before: a banded mongoose raised a dung ball (that the mongoose knew contained dung beetle larvae) above its head and flung the ball onto the ground several times to crack it open. A mongoose melee ensued during which several mongoose battled for the dung ball and we never did see if the larvae were eaten or were left intact to one day become beetles.

 

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Albino /leucistic Lappet faced Vulture in Ndutu

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Ndutu Banded mongoose fighting over dung ball with larvae inside, after body slamming it to the ground

 

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Cheetahs chasing a white tailed mongoose that they had disturbed midday

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Atravelynn

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Ndutu

 

 

Some Time Estimates

The phrase “direct, purposeful driving, no stops” rarely describes reality with tourists on board but it offers a timeframe.

 

The Nasikia Serengeti Camp, while not a mobile canp, does move seasonally. Its location when I was there was near Rongai, north of Moru Kopjes and south of Seronera River.

 

Kilimanjaro to Arumeru Lodge = 40 minutes

Arumeru Lodge to Arusha Nat Park = 20 minutes

Arumeru Lodge to Ngorongoro Gate = 3 hours 55 minutes (one gas stop)

Ngorongoro Gate to Sopa Lodge = 50 minutes (one scenic lookout stop)

Ngorongoro Gate to Naabi Hill = 3 hours 40 minutes (one gas stop, couple of photo stops, 20 minutes for lunch)

Naabi Hill to Serenera Wildlife Lodge = 1 hour 40 minutes (couple of photo stops)

Seronera Wildlife Lodge to Retima Hippo Pool = 1 hour 15 minutes as a game drive there.

Seronera Wildlife Lodge to Nasikia Serengeti Camp = 35 minutes with direct, purposeful driving, no stops

Nasikia Serengeti Camp to Moru Kopjes = 25 minutes with direct, purposeful driving, no stops

Nasikia to Naabi Hill = 45 minutes with direct, purposeful driving, no stops

Nasikia Serengeti Camp to Ndutu = about 2 hours with direct, purposeful driving, no stops

Nasikia Serengeti Camp to Gol Kopjes = about 1 hour with direct, purposeful driving, no stops

Nasikia Serengeti Camp to Simba Kopjes = 25 minutes with direct, purposeful driving, no stops

Airstrip to Maasai Kopjes = 30 minutes with direct, purposeful driving, no stops

Maasai to Research Kopjes = 15 minutes with direct, purposeful driving, no stops

Makao Plains of Ndutu to Ngorongoro Gate = 3 hours, with a few photo stops. But if heavy rains result in a sudden increase in river and stream flows, vehicles can be delayed entering/exiting the Serengeti for up to 3 hours.

Ngorongoro Gate to JRO Airport = 4 hours

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Seronera Ndutu

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Ndutu

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graceland

Great Report - funny too. Glad I tuned in.

 

I've been fortunate to lunch with Eben and his wife and their stories are ALMOST as funny as yours! Someone needs to write a book on the Pith Helmets of Safaritalk. They seem to come back with the most exquisite photos, stories and escapades. :D

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Safaridude

Lynn, this TR is hilarious. Hope there is more salami mystery to come.

 

And yes, the baby dik-dik might be the cutest thing ever.

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Atravelynn

Battery Recharging (and More Salami)

A photo is worth a thousand words.

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Eben’s vehicles have battery chargers provided. The duct/electrical tape I roll onto a pencil and pack came in handy when I used it to secure my charger to the vehicle outlet so it wouldn’t fall out on the bumpy roads. Actually, just the battery did fall from the charger one time before I securely rubberbanded it. We looked all over the vehicle but couldn’t find the missing battery. I figured it had fallen out when I exited the vehicle for a pit stop. That’s why I bring 3-4 batteries, 2 chargers, and 2 adapters. If something happens to one of them, it’s not a disaster. In my search for the battery I found a piece of Canadian bacon under my seat that had escaped from the lunchbox. When I held it up and told George, “Look what I found,” he responded, “Is it salami?”

 

That night I found my battery inside my backpack, where it had fallen into an unzipped compartment. So all batteries were accounted for.

 

Every place I stayed allowed battery charging, but some had limited hours, so the vehicle option was handy.

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Gol Kopjes

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Atravelynn

This is where the salami ends @@Safaridude. I missed seeing Eben by one day @@graceland. It's nice you connected with them.

 

 

What I’d Do Differently Another Time

1. Flying on KLM through Amsterdam, I’d be tempted another time to stop off enroute for some canal skating when traveling in Jan, Feb or early March, but especially Feb. KLM allows two checked bags so ice-skates could be packed easily. If the Tanzania part of the trip were all driving (as mine was), then no problem lugging skates around. You could probably even stash the skates somewhere in Kilimanjaro instead of hauling them through Tanzania by vehicle or if internal flights limited luggage. Sadly, my investigations have shown that most years the Netherlands’ canals don’t freeze but they did in 2013, which offers a tempting glimmer of hope.

 

2. At the Maasai Joy School in Arusha, where I dropped off supplies through Pack for a Purpose, all the students assembled outside in rows by class and greeted me while I stood on a high cement ledge (kind of like a man-made kopje) next to the head teacher and the suitcase containing the donated items. Each of the 100 students from the school, on the ground below, stated their name and either sang a very short song (younger ones) or stated their career aspirations. Many spoke very softly and it would have been nice to stand closer to them to hear them better and maybe shake their hands. I stood where they told me to stand, up on the ledge, but another time I’d ask if I could more personally greet the students as each one spoke, which would not even take up more time.

 

3. When George and I went shopping for drinks on our day in Arusha, I chose a variety of Ceres juices, including 100% Pear. I’d buy several cartons of just Ceres 100% Pear Juice another time.

 

4. If lunchboxes in the vehicle will be a frequent routine, I suggest augmenting with fresh fruit, nuts, granola/energy bars, etc., from an Arusha grocery store before departing on safari. Heck, I kidded George that next time I’ll bring a hot pot to plug into the vehicle outlets and if we stocked up on supplies, George could order lunch from the “kitchen in the backseat” with me as the short-order cook!

 

5. If going in Feb rather than March, I would not have included the Ngorongoro Crater because it can get crowded in Feb, one of the busiest times of the year. However, I have had the privilege of visiting the crater a couple of times previously. If Feb were the only shot I would ever have at this World Heritage Site, I’d absolutely go to Ngorongoro Crater despite potential crowds. A good guide and an arrival of around 6 am with a breakfast box is an effective strategy.

 

6. Always hard to time things, but for a March visit, I’d get to Ndutu as close to March 1 as I could. Scheduling issues/coordinating with a travel partner forced me into arriving later. I'd spend even more time in Ndutu.

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Ndutu

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Atravelynn

What surprised me

1. Wildebest herd segregation along gender lines. Sometimes we’d drive for kilometers past wilde herds without seeing a single calf because they were all males. Males take leave of the females during calving and when the calves are young.

 

2. How many vehicles with solo travelers I saw. Far more than any other safari I have done.

 

3. Chilly temps and dampness (not tropical humidity) after rains. I always wore two pairs of trousers in the morning and then took one pair off as it warmed up. Each morning I wore a wool headband for standing up through the roof. Some mornings I wore wool gloves. It also was very windy much of the time.

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Note how I am clutching my hat in the strong wind, and dressed warmly. Also note the baby leopard tortoise.

 

4. The abundance of cheetah families in Ndutu. I knew it was a good area for cheetahs but the close proximity of families to each other surprised me. One mother and 2 cubs and another mother and 3 cubs stayed within a kilometer to about 700 meters of each other for several days. We wondered if the mothers might be sisters.

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Cheetah families were all over Ndutu. This is my favorite Norman Rockwell cheetah family scene.

 

5. How empty of vehicles the crater was a week into March and how short the grass was. Most of our crater sightings, even rhino and lion for an hour or more, we had to ourselves. The breakfast/lunch hippo pool and the non-dining hippo pool had 5-10 vehicles but those are the only places I saw others. In April the grass in the crater starts to get long when the big rains arrive but it was like a crew-cut in March.

 

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Hippo Pool in Crater

 

6. How dispersed the hoofed species were in the crater in March compared to dry season visits. One advantage of lower concentrations of animals was that it made me focus my viewing and photos on the magnificent crater landscape.

 

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Crater scenery with an animal or two

 

Speaking of surprises, here are 3 photos that revealed surprises to me only after I had looked at them about 15 times.

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Seronera, there is a third giraffe in the middle

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There is a croc to the front left of the Blacksmith Plover - Retima Hippo Pool in Seronera - I even have other shots that show the croc more clearly right in that position.

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A third cheetah cub is peeking through the bushes, ready to join in

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Atravelynn

 

 

Close to March 1 for:

 

Less chance of big rains that make getting around hard or impossible

With big rains comes longer grass

The really heavy rains can cancel outings altogether. Prior to my arrival there were some uncharacteristic very heavy rains in Serengeti and I talked with a frustrated photographer who said he was in camp for a few days straight.

 

Still closer to peak migration when births occur

 

But end of March there are fewer people, better prices, flowers as you mention.

 

It all depends on your goals. In fact I'd like to try an end of March or April trip--along with mid-Feb and a late Jan trip. Then there's June... Oh dear!

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Atravelynn

I have seen that "deep in April" as the best kept secret. Maybe we should not have written it.

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Atravelynn

No Offroading & Camera to Help Compensate

Kudos to Tanzania National Parks Authority for the no offroading rules that from my experience are generally adhered to. Unlike most other offroad-prohibited destinations I’ve visited, where following the rules really did not hinder viewing, Central Serengeti wildlife viewing did seem compromised (on this and previous visits) due to the rules. I think the Serengeti no offroading rules are more noticeable because the park is so vast and roads are so few. Still, I’m glad the rules are in place.

 

The rest of this blue section is for Image Stabilized, high-zoom P&S camera users who want really good results that will not be for sale or exhibit but will be more than merely memory joggers. It is not for photography gurus, pros, very serious amateurs or DSLR users.

 

I am so glad I got a 50x!! optical zoom (Canon SX50 HS) before this trip to help compensate for the no offroad rules. Without it, I’d have only leopard cub memories and no leopard cub photos. While the photos using the longest zoom may not win awards, they show the leopard cub.

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Here’s my pitch for the Canon SX50 HS, a high-end point and shoot: In addition to 50x optical zoom, there is up to 100 or even 200 digital zoom, good for identifying birds and for photos that won’t be enlarged. Quality at 100 and 200 definitely suffers, as with any digital zooming. I’ve used digital P&Ss by Nikon, Sony (3 kinds), and Panasonic (some of those cameras were used on this very trip) and have been very happy with the results. But this new Canon SX50 HS has the most to offer IMHO. The click, click, click, continuous shoot feature (in the P setting that retains all the automatic settings so it’s very easy to use) goes almost forever with no buffering. The even speedier 10 shots per second function has a fairly fast recovery time so you don’t miss pictures due to camera recovery time. I wait an eternity after my Sony HX1’s 10 shots per second burst. Eternity being about 15 seconds. The Canon has a reasonable megapixel count at 12. Too high of MP and I think quality/clarity actually suffers.

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Most of the leopard cub alone shots where it is on the limb are well beyond the 50x optical

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The leopard tree with no zoom, where bottom right cub was photographed

 

The only bad things about Canon SX50 HS can be solved by doling out a little more money. #1 You have to buy your own cable to connect the camera to your computer to download photos unless you already have a cable. (My Sony cable worked, fortunately.) #2 There is no hood that comes with the camera to help shield bright sun so I ordered a generic one online for a few dollars.

 

To keep expectations reasonable, at 50x if you are focusing on a tiny bird way out there, it will likely be a blurry bird. Trying to get action shots (running wildes for example) at more than about 35x optical also resulted in compromised quality. A monopod or beanbag, both of which I used—sometimes even together—really help at high zooms.

 

Some other brand may have leapfrogged way ahead of the Canon SX50 by the time this report gets done, offering more than 50x optical and other new features.

 

 

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twaffle

I wish the report was longer, captivating as always. That little camera performed a treat and gave us all an opportunity to share in the leopard sighting.

 

As far as I know, pault is on the right track with the salami but even more than the slices being put out for the genets, you will find salami stain on all window sills. Each night the Askaris have a vote on who is their favourite guest and they get the salami for that night. Well, it makes sense to me! :D

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Atravelynn

I wish the report was longer, captivating as always. That little camera performed a treat and gave us all an opportunity to share in the leopard sighting.

 

As far as I know, pault is on the right track with the salami but even more than the slices being put out for the genets, you will find salami stain on all window sills. Each night the Askaris have a vote on who is their favourite guest and they get the salami for that night. Well, it makes sense to me! :D

Be careful what you wish for, Twaffle. There is more to come, but not about the salami. You win for solving the mystery. I must have been the favorite guest! That solves it. Thank you.

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Atravelynn

Bird List but not Every Single Bird Seen


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Jacobin's Coucal in Arusha Spoonbill in Crater Hildebrandt's Francolin in Crater


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Helmeted Guinea Fowl in Crater White Stork in Seronera. Why does this bird look like Loni Anderson to me? Martial Eagle in Seronera
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Atravelynn

Here come the birds

 

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Grey headed Woodpecker, crater Study in Herons: Grey Heron in back ground, Black headed Heron in foreground, crater

 

 

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Verreaux's Eagle Owl, Redbilled oxpeckers, black shouldered kite, Seronera

 

 

 

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Eurasian Roller, Seronera Rosy throated Longclaw, Seronera Knob nosed Ducks, Seronera

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Atravelynn

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Yellow billed Kite, crater Rufous naped Lark, crater

 

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Secretary bird, Seronera

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Rufous tailed Weaver engaged in nest building, crater

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Atravelynn

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Magpie Shrike

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Hoope, my favorite bird. This is a young one, Seronera Egyptian Geese family and baby baboon

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Lilac breasted Roller, Seronera

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Awesome report as always Lynn! I'm glad that you got to enjoy the crater in quieter times, that must have been really spectacular.

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Atravelynn

Empty crater is good.

 

Flycatcher Chatter

As George and I were looking at a Pale Flycatcher, I reminisced with him about an incident from our safari together 18 months earlier. I was desperately trying to photograph or at least just see any species of flycatcher on a safari spent primarily with Flycatcher Safaris. I had to see one flycatcher but it was looking like I’d miss them. With just a day or two left George spotted one for me and I snapped a shot. After recounting that story, I said to George, “I think this Pale Flycatcher may have been the one you found for me last time.” Without missing a beat he replied, “No, that was the Gray Flycatcher.” And he was right. I enjoyed the insight provided by that little exchange even more than the actual sight of the drab Pale Flycatcher.

 

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Flamingos, Arusha

 

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Black Hartlaub's Turacao, Arusha and Cinnamon Chested Bee Eaters, Arusha

 

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Atravelynn

ARUSHA

Arusha National Park

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Arusha National Park

 

There were black and white colobus everywhere in Arusha National Park. I probably saw 40 of them, singly and in groups up to 10. No wonder on the previous trip when these creatures had eluded us for almost an entire day (some of that day was spent canoeing and walking) my guide was dismayed and disappointed. We did end up seeing colobus with only 10 minutes left on that previous visit. Even with lots of views this trip, photos of colobus can be tricky because they are often up high, obscured by leaves, backlit, and moving.

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Arusha National Park

I asked if there was a best season of the year to see colobus and the answer was no. But for other species, such as buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, etc. the dry season is better. In fact, there is a place known as “Serengeti” in Arusha that was filled with grazing animals in Sept. Maybe half a dozen were there this time. The Mikundu Observation and Lookout Point was empty of animals on this trip. With water plentiful in the forest there is no need for these animals to graze in the open. Most people visit Arusha for primates or flamingos, not grazing species. Or they do canoeing and walking, which I enjoyed last time.

 

Much as I enjoyed the beautiful colobus, there was another primate that captivated me—an albino baboon! There are at least two in Arusha National Park and I saw a young male as he interacted with a much younger normal colored baboon. What a lucky find and photos to boot!

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Albino Baboon, Arusha

Maasai Joy School and Pack for a Purpose

I spent a day in Arusha, at the Massai Joy School, recipient of Pack for a Purpose. I also visited Guide George’s lovely family and home.

 

http://packforapurpose.org/

Pack for a Purpose: “Use available space in your luggage to provide supplies to communities you visit.” There is a specific list of what to bring on the website or provided by the organization that receives the donations.

 

There are two ways to pack for a purpose if your safari provider participates in the program: (1) Hand over the items from your luggage to the person providing airport transfer or to the first hotel. (2) Visit the organization and personally deliver the goods.

 

I opted for #2 and really enjoyed my visit to Maasai Joy School and seeing the children. Hot lunch was ugali and garlic spinach, prepared for and served to 100 students plus staff by just one cook. It was delicious!

 

Maasai Joy School is a very impressive place filled with dedicated students and staff.

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Atravelynn

NGORONGORO CRATER

 

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The Collapsed Caldera

 

A new structure for a lookout point on the way up is being constructed.

 

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Crater Observation Point under construction Crater view from Observation Point Elephant in crater woodlands

 

 

I did an afternoon crater visit, about 2pm to 6pm, followed by a morning visit from 6:15 am when it was still dark to around 1 pm. Sopa Lodge, where I stayed, is only 10-15 minutes from an entrance gate. We packed a breakfast box and lunch box for the morning visit. For any crater visit I’d strongly suggest the packed breakfast box, and an early arrival, while most everyone else is eating breakfast at the rim.

 

Though no rain ever fell on our heads, we saw showers in the distance and some partial rainbows.

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Eland in the crater

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Atravelynn

Ngorongoro Crater, continued

 

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Golden Jackals in the crater

Of the 4 lion prides in the crater, we saw members of 3, probably 25 lions total.

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Lion Buffalo interaction in crater

 

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There are an estimated 400 hyenas in the crater and we saw about a quarter of them, though I only took one photo that contained a crater hyena.

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twaffle

Oh dear, I wrote the obituary for your report way too early. Glad to see it continue.

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Thanks for more crater talk. Great shot of the golden jackals (the crater is the only place that I have seen them).

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Atravelynn

and more crater talk

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Two members of a "crash" of three rhino in Ngorongoro Crater

There are 16 black rhino in the crater and we found 3 the first afternoon. The cattle egrets enhanced the majestic trio. The following morning I saw another 2 rhinos, too far for photos, and George spotted yet another rhino for a surprisingly high 6 black rhino sightings.

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Black Rhino in the crater

 

Abdim Storks were so numerous this time of year that they reminded me of black insects crawling around. Rather annoying looking things from a distance, but up close they were pleasingly colorful, though still short of attractive. Take your green season Abdim photos in the crater because there were almost none of this species in the Serengeti.

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Abdim Storks in crater

 

Khori Bustards were displaying in March and we saw one right next to the road, exhibiting the typically relaxed nature of crater creatures.

 

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Mating Season Display - Khori Bustard - Ngorongoro Crater

 

Absent from the crater are giraffes, impala, hartebeest, and elephant calves.

 

I saw the oldest, frailest lion I have ever seen and hoped the old boy had enjoyed a fruitful life and maybe was reminiscing about frisky lionesses, tasty buffalo meat, and romping cubs he had sired. He panted and drooled, resting apart from his pridemates.

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Very old lion, drooling and panting with effort

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Mother and teenage son - Ostrich in crater

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Maasai in Ngorongoro

End of my two Ngorongoro Crater visits, one in morning and one in afternoon. Lions were in morning, rhino in afternoon. Both of these highlights required 30-60 minutes of waiting for the animals to get close and nicely posed and both sightings we had to ourselves.

Edited by Atravelynn
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