Jump to content

Niyam's African Adventure (August 2013)


Recommended Posts


Thanks @@michael-ibk. If we have any more kids, all safaris will stop because we'll have to save the money for a bigger house :D


I started dreaming about Katavi in 2005 but I did get there in the end, so never say never. Thirteen and a half days of reporting still to go........

Link to comment
Share on other sites


We had a relaxing lunch at the waterhole watching giraffe, warthog, impala and an array of birds come and go. Here some of the birds we saw, including a few I missed from the morning.......



Egyptian Goose


Lilac-breasted Roller


Red-billed Hornbill


African Fish Eagle


Wood Sandpiper


Three-banded Plover


African Spoonbills with a Spur-winged Goose


Verreaux's Eagle-Owl

After lunch, we headed on to towards Chada Plains and Lake Chada. The trees on the edges of Chada Plains are usually a good place to find leopard, but today they were filled with playful and relaxed Vervet Monkeys - not a good sign when you're looking for leopards! We estimated close to 1200 buffalo on Chada Plains but they were split into three separate groups. The main bulk of the herd was too far away for photos but still a great sighting using the binos. We also enjoyed watching a herd of Defassa Waterbuck and the birds.



One of the separate groups of buffalo with the black line on the horizon representing the bulk of the herd


Great White Pelican in the centre, surrounded by Yellow-billed Storks


Defassa Waterbuck


White-browed Coucal

Link to comment
Share on other sites


The woodland on the edge of the Chada Plains is a good spot to hang out in the afternoons (if you can tolerate the tsetse flies) because breeding herds of elephants are always passing through on their journeys to and from Lake Chada. We spent some time there before heading back to Katisunga for a late afternoon check on the Chada Pride. The elephants were always very cautious of us as our vehicle approached - it may have had something to do with the constant pile of elephant dung burning at the back of our vehicle?







We found the Chada Pride close to the airstrip so they hadn't moved very far since the morning. When we parked the vehicle, all members of the pride were sleeping in shaded spots but within a few minutes one of the lionesses got up and stalked towards the vehicle. She approached to within 5 metres of us, side-on to the vehicle, and locked her stare on Niyam who was closest to her. I instantly put my camera down and looked at Whiteman and, without saying a word, he repositioned the vehicle so that we were now closest to her. The lioness soon lost interest and slumped back down but her waking seemed to spark life into the other members of the pride.



Niyam's suiter....


getting up and......


looking for an alternative meal!



The Chada Pride male looking healthier in the late afternoon light



Link to comment
Share on other sites


here's a photo of Whiteman sitting at the waterhole. As you can see, it was large and still held lots of water from the rainy season! To reach this water hole, you follow the signs for Chada Camp when you get to Ikuu Bridge - so the opposite direction to the airstrip. I'm not sure if this is the same water hole? Does it look familiar?


Chada Plains were a huge contrast to Katisunga. It was as though the water from Lake Chada had spilled over on to the plains, so still very green. Good for the buffalo but very difficult to access because of the large amount of standing water.



Link to comment
Share on other sites


Great to see the report continuing - you have really become a bird photographer!

Excellent lion shots (and good to see the protective father taking over from the photographer)


The buffalo picture really gives a sense of the large numbers you describe - big herd nearby but possibly even bigger herd in the distance.

I am looking forward to more.....

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Jane Fox has just emailed and confirmed that it's known as the Kadibwe Waterhole. It could still be the same one?


@@Game Warden, Jane also said she will read the report on Safaritalk.


Thanks @@TonyQ, I wouldn't call myself a photographer, just someone who likes taking photos. The situation with the lioness was one of those moments that is difficult to describe and the lioness may have just been curious by the presence of a child. Later Nick said repositioning the vehicle was the correct thing to have done, because he has experienced similar lion behaviour where young children are concerned. Niyam was completely oblivious to what was happening.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


I will show Niyam your photo on Safaritalk and tell him that you were the "explorer" who discovered that waterhole - he enjoyed that waterhole. Your avatar does depict the classic African explorer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The situation with the lioness was one of those moments that is difficult to describe and the lioness may have just been curious by the presence of a child. Later Nick said repositioning the vehicle was the correct thing to have done, because he has experienced similar lion behaviour where young children are concerned. Niyam was completely oblivious to what was happening.

This is fairly typical of lions actually.

We have also had occasions when watching lions in close proximity; they have all totally ignored our presence, until Mast ZaminOz speaks, then one or on occasion all of the lions will suddenly raise their heads and stare piercingly at him.

Mrs ZaminOz has a great picture from 2010 when a pride of lions were feeding on a wildebeest. Adults in the vehicle had been talking to the guide, but the lions ignored us. The moment Mast ZaminOz spoke the entire pride glared at him. Mrs ZaminOz' photo captured that moment.

Phil Berry also confirmed this to me at Kuyenda, saying that he has seen this behaviour in lions (and leopards) many times, and that they are finely tuned to the voices of young animals. Particularly if they are speaking in a plaintiff voice, or crying.

Edited by ZaminOz
Link to comment
Share on other sites

i love the pictures of the elephants. particularly the one of the tall solo elephant. @@africapurohit

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thanks @@Kitsafari, that particular elephant was trying to make himself look taller and obstruct us as we were trying to pass him - just another rowdy teenager!


@@ZaminOz Niyam's voice definitely triggered the lions' curiosity, not just on this occasion but on others too. Although, we only experienced this with the lion prides in Katavi. The Serengeti lions couldn't be bothered and ignored Niyam completely, as they were stuffed full of wildebeest! But then again, Niyam was more enclosed in the Land Cruiser we used in Serengeti. So the open vehicle in Katavi most definitely played a part in their behaviour.


When at Serian's Serengeti North Camp, I heard a story of a leopard who camped outside one of the tents during the night because of a crying baby. The leopard was even scratching at the canvas to try and get in :o - so the sound of babies and young children does seem to alter the behaviour of these large feline predators.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


that sounds a little terrifying, but there don't seem to be any incidents regarding young children so far? the only incident i can recall was in australia many years ago when a couple said their baby was carried away by dingoes but the mother was arrested for lack of evidence that the dingoes were involved. i think subsequently the wife was freed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites




Tragically,in 2005, a young french boy (6 or 7 years old) was killed by a leopard in one of the camps in Tarangire. He was left unsupervised during the evening whilst his parents were having dinner. Amazingly, the camp was found negligent in Tanzanian courts.


During our 26 day trip, even when we were walking in camp grounds, Niyam never strayed more than 2 metres from me. That was my rule and he followed it. There was only one instance where I left him for a about a minute, to go and get a camera, but he was under the supervision of Alex Walker at Serian and they were playing football together outside. I even arranged to have dinner early with him, so that he was always under my supervision.


In my personal opinion all parents/guardians planning to take a child/children on safari should sign and agree to the following statement "your child's safety is your responsibility and you must ensure they are supervised at all times". If they can't agree to this statement during the planning stage, then they shouldn't be taking children on safari! I think it's also important that travel agents and tour operators emphasise this early on.


Since that incident in 2005, the camps in Tanzania make you sign liability waivers to that effect, especially if you are travelling with children.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


As evening was approaching we headed back to camp via Ikuu Bridge. Here are some of the sightings, including a family of Southern Ground Hornbills frantically going about their business (these birds never stay still!).



A bull coming from the Katuma River



This particular bull seemed to have a longer trunk and legs than usual - or maybe it was just my eyes?


The beauty of giraffes seemed heightened in that warm late-afternoon light


Another road block.......


.....to let a smaller member of the family cross the road


African Fish Eagles were always easy to find along the Katuma River




Grey Heron


A Saddle-billed Stork with a catch


Another photo demonstrating the size of the Big Boss under Ikuu Bridge


A Bohor Reedbuck fluffing-up for the night


The Southern Ground Hornbill family on Katisunga Plains









Link to comment
Share on other sites

Watch th.e movie - it'll be great to watch if you don't know the story. Your memory of events is sufficiently wrong that you will be able to do that. Don't google the story first (oh, I bet you did!!). The story was still among the hottest topics when I lived in Australia for a while in the late 80s and people were quite evenly divided about whether she had done it or not (although I was in the small country towns more than the more sophisticated big cities) although of course those who thought she had were more vocal. It's really a story that you can see both sides of for a while, but......well, I'll say no more in case someone wants to watch the movie without knowing the story.

Edited by kittykat23uk
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@africapurohit. More really enjoyable stuff... glad there are so many days still to go. That crocodile is a beauty.


Your point of view on children is interesting, as a parent. I agree but I think a lot of parents would take the view that the camps should be more alert to the presence of big cats and other dangerous game ..... sometimes reasonably and sometimes simply out if ignorance of how difficult it is to know when some of these creatures are around and in fact that they are always around and have the right to be. The case you mention was a lodge rather than a small camp, spread over a large area, and the leopard had been a regular "guest" on barbecue dinner nights, suggesting it was getting food (although that may just be what people guess since that lodge is also a refuge for small antelopes). I don't know of course, but I always thought both parties were in denial (probably because of a mix of the absolute horror of what happened and the pending legal action - more the former) and that the judge's decision was reasonable and understandable based on what an ordinary person could be expected to know, although I really hate the idea of tourists doing stupid things and then suing for the consequences, or even just suing for bad luck. Still, a kind of "perfect storm" freak incident.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fantastic saddle billed stork and reedbuck photos!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


First on the agenda for Day 5 in Katavi was to try and find a leopard. The previous day Nick and the guests he picked up from the airstrip found a female leopard sitting in a tree near the springs at the edge of Katisunga, so this was where we were heading - but only after Niyam gorged himself on cornflakes and milk! Niyam was making up for the last three days and even Nick was shocked by how much a 6-year old could eat in one sitting! One of the inadvertent effects of focussing on a particular animal is that you tend to ignore many others. So, photographically, it was one of the quieter days.


When we got to the area where the leopard was sighted the previous day, the vervet monkeys gave us an indication that could still be in the area. They were all calling from the high branches of trees and their sight was focussed on the ground - an area of woodland inaccessible for the vehicle. Whiteman remained determined to get a sighting with a lot of circling and driving back and forth. A vehicle from Chada came by and was also called in to the search. Eventually the monkeys became silent which meant the leopard had gone or she was so well hidden that even the monkeys didn't know where she was! It was the latter, as we eventually discovered when we tracked her down - this was the clearest photo I could get of her!



Here some of the other images captured that day.......



A potential road-side vehicle basher


A lone bull in Katisunga


A breeding herd crossing Katisunga in the early morning


An impala ram with a huge harem in Katisunga


Some Brown Snake-Eagles



Sooty Chat


Red-billed Hornbill


looking for food.....


finding something......


and eating it


Impala ram


Banded Mongoose


I loved the expression on this giraffe's face



Vervet monkeys



This was part of a large group of more than 50 elephants coming out of the Katuma River


The bushbuck family living close to the camp




A big male Warthog




A small herd close to the Katuma River



A signature photo of Katavi

Edited by africapurohit
Link to comment
Share on other sites


It may have been a quiet day by your standards, but that's a great days photography by any other standard!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's a particualrly lovely Bushbuck and an especially fine Warthog. Bloody Leopard days are like that (not just "particular animal days" - this is a "Bloody Leopard day" ) but like ZaminOz, I'm happy with the results as a viewer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thanks @@ZaminOz, @@pault and @@Zim Girl. Poor Niyam couldn't spot the leopard and didn't believe there was one there, until I zoomed into the spots on the screen at the back of the camera! Who can tell where the leopard's head is?


A few more notes to close Day 5 in Katavi......

  • The camp's supply truck went on one of those weekly errands today and saw a pack of 12 wild dogs near Lake Katavi.
  • Niyam had his first tearful moment of the trip. We had come back to camp for lunch and I was walking on the decking of our banda with Niyam following behind me. On reaching the entrance to our tent, there was a huge bull elephant standing 3 metres away from me. He was well-known to the camp staff and was a regular visitor, particularly to Banda 1 where he liked to feed on the pods that had fallen around and on top of the tent. He was playing with the hammock, twisting it round and round. It was fascinating standing so close to him - I was on the raised decking and he was on the ground but he remained relaxed and continued playing with the hammock. Then Niyam appeared from behind me and the bull's mood suddenly changed - the elephant froze with his eyes locked on Niyam. This lasted about 10 seconds and Niyam reciprocated the stare. All of a sudden, the elephant trumpeted loudly and ran away from our banda as fast as he could. Niyam burst out crying and ran in the opposite direction with me chasing after him. Whiteman also heard the commotion and came to investigate. Whiteman and I quickly calmed Niyam and told him that the elephant was only saying "hello". Niyam asked Whiteman to tell all elephants to stop coming to our banda :D. Later when discussing this incident with the guides, we theorised that the elephant may have never seen a small-form human at such close quarters before. Elephants have poor eyesight and being so close to Niyam may have been his first sighting of a human child - which is probably what spooked this normally calm camp-habituated elephant.
  • During dinner, it was the first time I noticed the in-camp bat activity. Yellow Winged Bats have become habituated to hunting the insects attracted to the lanterns in the lounge/dining area. It was amazing watching them fly in, snatch an insect with such speed and precision and fly back out - before repeating this every 30 seconds or so.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's interesting to hear how the animals react so differently to children (the lions and the elephant).


I'd always assumed children weren't allowed in many camps or on walks due to concerns about how the children might behave, but perhaps it's just as much about how animals react.


Thinking about it, my pet cat is also strangely terrified of children. I've always thought it's because he's not used to people "on his level", and also just the more unpredictable jerky movements of children.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


I think it also depends on location too - places like the Mara, Serengeti, Kruger etc most likely get many child visitors and so the animals get used to their sounds, smells, appearance etc. Small children in Katavi is extremely rare, so this probably plays a part.


Never mind your pet cat, even I would be scared of the children around Stoke Newington :D - only joking!

Edited by africapurohit
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What a goofy looking giraffe! Poor Niyam - hope he got over that scare, and thereafter welcomed elephants in the camp....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Still enjoying it

Beautiful bushbuck photos - and I am amazed how close you are to them - in S.Luangwa it was always really difficult to get near to them and I never managed a decent photo.


It is interesting how the animals react differently to small children!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy