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Green Season On The Serengeti, March/April 2013


AKChui
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Those of you who remember my Green Season On The Mara TR (http://safaritalk.net/topic/9071-green-season-on-the-masai-mara-may-2012/) from last year might remember that my preference for photo safaris in East Africa is during the Green Season--from better lighting and backgrounds to fewer safari vehicles. Not to mention cost.

In late March/early April of this year I enjoyed another such experience, but this time on the Serengeti, which only served to reinforce my preference. And it helps when you share your experience with a few hundred thousand furry friends (wildebeest, not tourists!).

Here's the link: http://martinwgrosnick.com/Tanzania13TR.html

Feel free to ask questions!

Martin

 

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Game Warden

Feel free to ask questions!

Okay: why don't you post it here as well? ;)

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Feel free to ask questions!

Okay: why don't you post it here as well? ;)

 

Call me paranoid, but I prefer to have control over my images and keep them on my server. This may not be a concern for most ST members, but for a professional photographer that is important, and for some images I'm even taking a chance on future sales by "publishing" them on this site. Hence, the smaller size and the obnoxious © notices.

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Game Warden

Completely understandable.

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Martin,

 

Another spectacular trip report with wonderful photographs. Amongst your many exceptional shots, I particularly liked the lioness stretched out on the tree branch, the male lion walking by a pond with his reflection captured in the water and the shot from the Nasera rock overlooking the Serengeti with vultures in the trees and the Wilderbeests below. Thanks for sharing this. If you can please provide some details/ tips on exit data and photography techniques applied.

 

 

I too, love the Green Season for the lush landscape at that time of the year.

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I was waiting for this one. Didn't know you were on the trip, Chui. I noted the stuck in the mud photo, one of the downsides. But those beautiful sunrise/sunset shots, the gorgeous landscapes along with the herds, and the cheetah gems make up for it. I am only on page 1 so far.

 

 

 

Looking forward to the rest!

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Beautiful photos and enough writing to add to the story. Thank you.

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@@AKChui..... Thanks, that was a very enjoyable lunch break thanks to your report. Great stuff - cheetah males with the cubs was the highlight for me. Really wish that I'd been there for that.

 

I'm not clear what you were doing in NCA. Three nights and just a nice location, some giraffes and the Maasai? I know it's just the way you decided to report (and you did warn us at the beginning) but I have to wonder.

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I'm not clear what you were doing in NCA. Three nights and just a nice location, some giraffes and the Maasai? I know it's just the way you decided to report (and you did warn us at the beginning) but I have to wonder.

 

Actually all of my days, with the exception of the three spent at Rongai 1 in the NP proper, were spent in the NCA.

 

Like I said, the TR was image driven, so the Nasera Rock part was based on a sampling of images I decided to process (not that I won't process more in the future). So I didn't mention searching for leopards that our Masai watchman "guaranteed" he could find (he got lost!), or hours spent combing luggas for leopards, or searching for wild dogs that had been seen several days previous. Plus some of the Nasera Rock area images were used earlier in the report.

 

But I was impressed with the Nasera Rock area--the openness of the Serengeti with hills to provide enough elevation to appreciate the vastness--and wouldn't mind returning there in the future.

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I very much enjoyed your report and photos; great photos esp. the CHEETAHS. oh my..love them.

 

Though I am skipping the Serengeti (what!) I am looking forward to my Sept. visit to Ruaha.

 

Perhaps another time I'd spend some time in Central and maybe North, but the thought of so many vehicles (esp. after Botswana - where the max we saw were three) I just could not drum up enthusisam for it. However, I do enjoy my vicarious travels thru others.

 

And, now I know why my photos are not "professional quality" We had so many blue skies! Made me feel better about my rather amateur ability.

 

Thanks Chui!

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Thanks, each of you, for the positive comments! With such excellent writers on ST (I don't dare mention names, for the fear of missing someone) the bar is set very high, which can be daunting. I don't think of myself as a writer, just because I have to spend so much time editing what I write.

@@AKR1. The majority of shots were taken with two lenses: The much maligned Canon 100-400 and the 24-105. I naturally lugged around a whole arsenal of lenses, but those two lenses did just about everything. The 500f4 was useful in stationary set-ups like the cheetah family, but can be cumbersome with action shots. My camera bodies were a 5D Mark II and Mark III, both with excellent resolution. I always tried to use the Mark III in low light, because of its low noise qualities in low light. One tip I can offer, if your camera supports it, is to set the ISO to Automatic; this will insure a usable image if the light suddenly drops. I always shoot on Aperture Priority so I can maintain the best f stop for sharpness or depth of fiend--I have gotten too many soft images from too slow of a shutter when using a set ISO.

Unfortunately camera and lenses are only a part of photography, and the quality of your photos depends a lot on your computer skills. The camera can produce acceptable jpegs, but you are throwing away lots of pixels; by shooting RAW images, you can better process the images to your liking, and then throw away some pixels when you save them as jpegs. Plus you always have the original "negative" to rework the image later when you have improved computer skills (or convert it to B&W). And @@graceland, another reason for shooting RAWs is the greater control over such things as exposure, color balance, contrast, etc., plus lighting up dark shadows so they don't distract from the image (especially if shooting in bright sunlight).

I think that each manufacturer provides adequate software for most users to produce a decent image, so it is up to the user how much time he/she wants to spend learning how to use it.

I better stop or Matt will accuse me of hijacking my own TR! And tell me to get a room (the photography forum)!

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The people watching the lion on the tire is disturbing. The fact that you'd return in March/April to Serengeti is a good indicator of the rewards vs. the rain/mud. Your excellent photos are a good indicator too. The cloud reflection in the lake is lovely. So is the zebra "fur" closeup. A photographer's eye was needed to pick that out.

 

In Lake Natron you mention in the dry season, people walk for an hour to near the lake to see any flamingos. Is that supposed to be a desirable setup for seeing/photographing flamingos? Not sure of how that would work. If you have further info, I'd be interested.

 

Could you summarize your itinerary here?

 

Hope you got some images that sell! You have some great ones.

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In Lake Natron you mention in the dry season, people walk for an hour to near the lake to see any flamingos. Is that supposed to be a desirable setup for seeing/photographing flamingos? Not sure of how that would work. If you have further info, I'd be interested.

 

Could you summarize your itinerary here?

 

As I understand it, lower water levels aren't really beneficial, since the lake (on the south end anyway) is so shallow that maybe the water level only dropped 6" to expose that much more lake bottom. And there is the question of how close the flamingos would allow you to approach--I doubt that they are that familiar with people. My take of this is that you really can't do much photography from shore; ideally you would use a helicopter or airplane for aerial shots (and risk disturbing the flamingos, and during nesting season, scaring the adults off the nests).

 

For a good background, try to find the documentary "The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos" as they follow the flamingos over a year.

 

My itinerary for this trip:

March 19 -> 21: Fly from ANC to JRO via AMS

March 22 -> 24: Rongai 1 Campsite, Serengeti NP

March 25 -> 31: Big Marsh Campsite, Ndutu Area, NCA

April 1 -> 3: Nasera Rock, NCA

April 4 -> 5: Ngare Sero Lake Natron Camp

April 6: Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge (no crater visit)

April 7 -> 9: Fly from JRO -> ANC via AMS

 

And yes, the flights were that long--to hold down the costs, I flew from ANC -> ORD on an Alaska Air mileage ticket, so the connections were not ideal. You can guess my shock when I stepped off the plane into a blizzard on arrival in ANC!

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Wonderful report @@AKChui, with lots of great photos. This really fuels my wish to travel in the green season.

 

Thanks for sharing!

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Thanks for the Natron info as well as your itinerary. I won't be hiring a helicopter. What's next? It's peak time in Alaska right now for wildlife!

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What's next? It's peak time in Alaska right now for wildlife!

 

I'm afraid I'm chained to this computer for awhile; after Tanzania, I spent 16 days in Iceland, so have oodles of images to process and send off to my agency, as well as update my website. After our "little" heat wave hatched so many mosquitoes (actually its a little more complicated than that), I don't mind spending time inside! And after Africa and Iceland both this year and last, I need to stay home and save some $$$...

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More mosquitoes than what is customary for Alaska? It is beyond my imagination. Hope you find enjoyable ways to save money. Posting here is inexpensive. We may see more of you for that reason.

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Just read the report, Martin. Beautiful, beautiful images... and the writing isn't anything to scoff at either :) Would love to see some more photos as you process them.

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Thanks, Xxxxx! Isn't it interesting how 2 people can be on the same trip and end up with so many different images? Hopefully your laptop woes will end soon, so I can see what images you captured. I'm particularly interested in those after I left, as well as the rain/wildlife conditions, since you say that after April 10 is even better.

 

The Hyena Kill is on a separate page (not to offend the unprepared reader) linked off of the "Not For The Squeamish" paragraph on page 2.

 

No, I haven't been able to post the latest Iceland pics yet--I decided to do the Tanzania images first--but hopefully I can finish processing them soon. Like Alaska (and apparently lots of Northern Europe), their spring was 2-3 weeks late arriving, so I didn't shoot as much as last year. Just another reason to return there next year! (The highlands were still snowed in)

Edited by AKChui
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Now you've gone and done it. Made me realise I have been foolish to have let the rainy season put me off going during the rainy season :-)

 

Will have to put this on the ever growing list

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Darn! Shot myself in the foot--the next time I visit Ndutu in April there will be a traffic jam of STers! :-)

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That encounter with the male cheetahs and the cubs was fascinating. I too was thinking they figure they fathered the cubs in the area. I'm glad it turned out to be a harmless encounter. Now if only these big guys could help provide for their offspring.

 

I think you will be responsible for filling the camps in April in Ndutu.

 

How typical or typical do you think your experience was?

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My understanding of what I experienced in early April is the "norm", subject of course to the exact timing of the rains and how that influences where the migration herds are in their search for new grass. So in this current wacky world of weather extremes, it is somewhat of a gamble... Xxxxx probably has a better idea of the history of the rains on the Serengeti, from her research while planning for this trip.

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urologysteve

@@AKChui Thanks for the great trip report and pictures. Sorry I am so late coming to the thread, but was recovering from my trip earlier this month.

 

I will be in Seronera/Ndutu the end of march for 2 weeks with my family. I appreciate the insight, tips and pictures. Really gets me excited about our choice of timing for the trip. I've done other parts of Africa during their rainy and then later their dry season. There are perks to both, but I despise overcrowded areas and mobs of cars at sightings. Sounds like late march is a go choice. Thanks again for sharing, your photographs are great. My wife and I loved the cheetah cubs. Haven't seen any that young yet, but would love to.

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madaboutcheetah

Lynn I think it was quite typical for the timing. I expected to see the whole of the area north of Olduvai Gorge filled with the migration - and that was @@Paolo 's experience too in 2008 all the way to Nasera in the north and spreading to Gol Kopjes. They were everywhere, all around you as I sat on a hill top. And for 20-25km as we progressed north. For the guides that was huge. Though I would think, when they calve and are jam packed in Ndutu-Makao plains, they might be more impressive, though its difficult to get that kind of bird's eye view, then.

 

If I had seen calving, it would have been very strange- and so I didnt :)

 

In general, this area receives less rainfall earlier on in Dec-Jan and has no permanent water supplies- so its only after a few rains in March, that the grass ( which is same short grass as Ndutu etc) is very green, untouched ( the gnus have gone through the grass in Ndutu/Macao by then) and the temporary waterholes swell up. Ndutu area, which receives good rainfall during normal years in Nov-Jan, has the permanent water source in the marshes, is the frst to be 'hit' by the wildebeests though they travel south from the highlands around Nov-Dec. I have been told that first fortnight of Dec should again be very good -especially to see cat action in Ndutu as the migration just arrives (similar to the frenzy you see in Mara in late July-early August which by October quietens with the predators well fed). Calving would be tremendous, but the price to pay for that is too high with the crowds.

 

The only qualifier to going in long rains is you need a guide who himself would be adventurous enough to say 'Lets go and check it out' and not all defensive all the time with 'Do you want to get stuck by going there'. Now having been there once, its much clearer to me on the kind of mobile camping/crew and guide it would take to deliver a very superior experience.

 

Definitely agree .... My guide's B S factor was pretty high .... So obsessed with himself, his car and his cell phone ...... The icing on the cake was when he adamantly got me to cancel going to Ubuntu on the pretext of all this wet ground stuff ..... Until I caught his bluff later when the Ubuntu guides made it through to olakira.

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