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Niyam's African Adventure (August 2013)


africapurohit

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africapurohit

Niyam's favourite bird in Mkomazi was the Yellow-necked Spurfowl (Francolinus leucoscepus) and it was also one of the most frequently sighted. Therefore, I am shocked that it has never had its photo added to the "Africa birds, identification images and audio" subforum :D - so it will get centre stage on this post. Mkomazi is famous for its raptors and although we sighted various species of eagles and buzzards, they were never perched or too far away to take photos. I did come across a co-operative Pigmy Falcon and Eastern Chanting-Goshawk though. We were also fortunate to see another Mkomazi special - the African Orange-bellied Parrot - very difficult to find anywhere else in Tanzania (and another new entry for the "identification images and audio" subforum).

 

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Yellow-necked Spurfowl

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Yellow-necked Spurfowl with chicks and Woolly-necked Stork

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Pygmy Falcon and Eastern Chanting-Goshawk

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African Orange-bellied Parrots

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Laughing Dove

 

 

 

 

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Game Warden

Well you know what to do @@africapurohit - go straight to the African birding ID section and start a couple of new topics :)

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africapurohit

@@Game Warden I literally have hundreds of new bird photos to contribute to that sub-forum - that will be my next project after this trip report. As you can probably tell from the report so far, Mkomazi (and Niyam's new interest) also turned me into a certified twitcher, 17 years after my first safari - better late than never.

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africapurohit

Closing comments on Mkomazi National Park

 

I thought this place was magical - it was like having your own vast private concession in high season, at a bargain price! Even Botswana's private concessions would feel busy compared to Mkomazi! It's still early days in its recovery process, but the potential of Mkomazi is huge. During our trip we barely scratched the surface of the eastern section of the park, never mind exploring the central and western regions! But it would be difficult to explore further afield unless there were camps in these areas or you planned a special mobile safari. 

 

We were very lucky with the cheetah sighting but we also saw fresh hyena and lion tracks - so they are around. As well as numerous other birds not included in my report, we also had sightings of other animals such as olive baboon, waterbuck and what looked very much like desert warthog (but I don't have photos to confirm). Another thing I found unique to Mkomazi was the silence during the night as I heard no animals, frogs or insects - this is not something I'm used to in Africa! Unfortunately, I wasn't organised enough to deploy my trail camera whilst staying at Babu's Camp.

 

I would love to return after the rains when the waterholes and dams are full - with lush green vegetation added to the current backdrop, it would look stunning. But some of the newer tracks that we drove on were through black cotton soil, so would pose problems after the rains. I was told that animal numbers in the eastern regions increase significantly following the rains and sightings of gerenuk, fringe-eared oryx, elephant and buffalo are more common as they take advantage of the new browse and graze. The birdlife is also more prolific.

 

From a photography perspective, Mkomazi is great for landscapes and birds - when we were there, the lighting was not great but in return we had some fantastic cloud formations. The slower pace of Mkomazi helped Niyam settle into this new safari lifestyle quickly and also taught me much about what would work best with Niyam before we entered the busier national parks.

 

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Game Warden

From your experiences, do you think Mkomazi will become a more visited destination in TZ?

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africapurohit

I think it will but it will require TANAPA to plan more gamedrive tracks and loops. Even man-made waterholes (with photographic hides) may help the cause during the dry season.

 

Mkomazi also needs camps in other parts of the park. Imagine a luxury tented camp (along the lines of Nomad, Serian etc) in the central or western section of the park with an airstrip; with its own waterhole/hide; allowance to walk and off-road (within reason as with other national parks in Tanzania); combined with almost a guarantee that you will not see any other vehicles. I think this idea would sell and have a similar romance to visiting Katavi.

 

Right now Mkomazi does need help to increase the numbers of visitors - I'm not usually a fan of made-made waterholes, but in this case I would support the idea, especially if combined with photographic hides. This would be a new concept for a Tanzanian National Park but it would be quite unique and attract visitors. It probably wouldn't be too expensive to construct and maintain.

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africapurohit

Tarangire National Park

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Including stops for fuel, lunch and some curio browsing, the journey by road from the Mkomazi gate to the Tarangire gate took just under 6 hours. Here is a breakdown of the journey with approximate times and distances:

  • Mkomazi gate to Moshi = 90 minutes (112 km)
  • Moshi to Arusha = 80 minutes (80 km)
  • Arusha to Tarangire gate = 110 minutes (120 km)

Oliver's Camp is a further 70 km from the main gate, so you need to allow for about 2 hours of gamedriving before reaching the camp. Although early August is not considered the peak of the dry season, I still expected to see large numbers of elephants congregating around Silale Swap and they did not disappoint. Elephants were the stars of the show but the birdlife was also great. When groups of elephants were close to the vehicle the 16-35 mm lens was very useful in capturing the scenes and retaining the detail.

 

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Great ele encounters! Interesting that for Silale Swamp you got a lot closer to the elephants than we did when the swamp was pretty much completely dry. Have to wonder whether in the center-south of the park the game viewing might actually be better in August than in October, at least from an "up close" perspective. Certainly nice to have a bit of green. I await the next couple of installments to find out.

 

Thanks for the excellent Mkomazi report. Now essential reading for any visitor

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africapurohit

@@pault with Frank being an Asilia guide with 9 years of experience in Tarangire, he knew the park inside out. He was very good at predicting when the herds were either making their way to the swamp or leaving the swamp and the route they would take, so always positioned the car for good close-up photo opportunities. The swamp was very green during our time there and the Tarangire river still held some water - but Tanzania had very good rains this year.

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@@africapurohit..... Yes, local knowledge a factor for sure, and I guess we were also not really looking to get close to them either. Too early even for a hypothesis - I'll ponder again when you're finished with Tarangire. ;-)

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Excellent trip report - quite methodical actually! It gives a nice perspective and pace to all the experiences.....can't wait to see what you have to give out on Katavi.

Also can't believe you pulled it off with a 6 yr old successfully....Niyam is sure a mega-adventurer in the making :)

And nice set of photography gear - already have some killer shots here!

 

Many thanks for sharing, and look forward to more!

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africapurohit

By now we were settling into a routine that meant Niyam had to have dinner at around 7pm and had to be in bed by 8pm - giving him his needed 9-10 hours of sleep to be ready for a 6am start. He is also at that age where he refuses an afternoon nap! This meant my dinner and bedtime was also early resulting in a lack of socialising in the evenings with other guests and staff - but my priority was ensuring he was ready for the early starts. Oliver's Camp was brilliant - despite running like a well-oiled machine, there was a very relaxed ambience in camp. During our stay the camp was managed by Michelle, a relief manager for Asilia's camps, and she was great. Niyam was fascinated by the display table containing skulls, bones, shells. feathers and snake skins. He also loved the library of photographic books available. We had some interesting visitors in camp and I regretted not packing the macro lens but I made do with the 70-200 mm. Hopefully, @@armchair bushman can help to identify the spider - the biggest I've seen in Africa!

 

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Room 5 at Oliver's Camp was very spacious, with a back door leading to an outdoor shower

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The display table

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The library area

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Praying Mantis in the shower

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Niyam spotted this on the canvas ceiling of our tent - the diagonal leg span was approximately 10cm

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Another photo of our non-paying guest after it was evacuated using a long handled broom

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The belly of a female Boomslang in the tree next to the main reception area

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Super LEEDS

Not a fan of creepy crawlies but loving your TR :)

 

Mkomazi fascinates me, just like Tsavo. One would have to really hunt to see things there.

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Game Warden

If Niyam is 6, I'm thinking with all the safaris he'll go on in future, thanks to your encouragement, he'll be able to write a lot of trip reports and upload many, many photos. Have you bought him the 200-400 yet? Got to start off with the next generation of Safaritalkers :)

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africapurohit

@@Super LEEDS in Mkomazi, I remember getting excited with every sighting - like it was my first safari! You do have to work hard and a good pair of binos is essential. Niyam spotted the spider while he was on the iPad and said "Dad, there's a spider" and just carried on with what he was doing! This spider was big and even the staff were a bit surprised by its size!

 

@@Game Warden next time I go on safari, I'm taking all three boys - for me the hardest part of the trip was missing the other two. So you'll have three recruits! I remember Alex Walker telling me that African wildlife is most beautiful and special through a child's eyes and I think he's right.

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armchair bushman

The spider is a female Nursery Web Spider (Euprosthenops sp.)

They can be very large, but are basically harmless to humans. if it were to bite you (and you'd really have to provoke it - picking it up and bugging the hell out of it), it might produce a bit of pain just from the puncture wound, but not real effects from venom.

 

Basically, unless you've got a Sac spider in your room, you really don't have to worry about spiders in East Africa.

 

I really like nursery web spiders. They're often very beautiful and colourful.

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africapurohit

Thanks @@armchair bushman - fantastic information. Everyone on ST will now ask for photos of a Sac spider, so they can be prepared :D

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armchair bushman

I've created a new topic with pics and description here

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Kitsafari

the swamp still looks as green as when we were there in late June. and your pix of Oliver's camp is making me nostalgic. we had a great time there altho Jackie and Justin were the managers - lovely people especially Jackie who is a great hostess. Lewis is an expert on walking tours, although we didn't take the walking tours, i did remember a Mozambique family that went on one and the father came back with his leg swollen twice the size of the normal leg. apparently he was allergic to tse tse flies. But we loved the scenery in tarangire, so thanks for sharing this, i'm happily walking down memory lane. :)

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africapurohit

During our stay in Tarangire, I had a choice to make - either stick around the Silale Swamp area and venture further north to avoid the tsetse flies or explore the southern and central woodland areas and face our tsetse nemesis. I chose the latter for two reasons:

  1. You can avoid the crowds and vehicle generated-dust
  2. I wanted Niyam to experience the tsetse attacks and get some fly-swatting practice before our next stop - Katavi, the tsetse Premier League!

You can call me a cruel dad, but I did make sure he was protected with "Rid" tropical strength insect repellant and it worked very well - over 5 days, Niyam was bitten only once (on his head when he had taken his cap off). I had about 30-40 bites but I wasn't using the Rid. Predator sightings were at a premium during our 5 nights but this was partly due to us ignoring a lot of the radio chatter and doing our own thing. No leopard sightings or even chatter about leopard sightings, they seemed to have disappeared! Only one lion sighting (a group of three males) but we did ignore a few radio shout-outs. Surprisingly, it was cheetahs that stole the show again. On two different days, we found a pair of male cheetahs and we also just missed another coalition of three males who were about 3 km from Oliver's Camp. Both cheetah sightings were shared with one other vehicle. Lesser kudu and gerenuk continued to elude us but we did record this season's first sightings of fringe-eared oryx and eland for Oliver's Camp. The birding was terrific including a few raptors and owls and the relaxed mongoose (banded and slender-tailed) were very photogenic. Here are some more scene setters:

 

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Wildebeest and zebra grazing in a typical Tarangire scene

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Elephants on a river sand bank

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Many of the male ostriches displayed rich colours

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One of the many impressive candelabra trees

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A breeding herd leaving Silale Swamp at dusk

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Zebras improvising to squeeze into a small space of shade during the heat of the day

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Protection

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A relaxed Kirk's Dikdik allowing for a portrait

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Cattle Egret headwear

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africapurohit

The Mongooses of Tarangire



Banded



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Slender



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Hello AP – I’m just getting caught up on some trip reports (a good Sunday morning activity)! This is great that you brought your son with you. It seems you may have planted the seed and have a lifetime safari buddy. I admit that I was not familiar with Mkomazi and your report had me thumbing through my old Tanzania guide. I’m glad that you got your vulturine guineafowl shots – they are terrific. I’m glad to hear (and see) that the investment in the upgraded eyeballs paid off for you with a good cheetah spot – very cool!

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