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112 / 29 / 7 - Ice in the NCA


ice
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as some of you might know, me, myself and I have just returned from a return trip to the NCA - back stories can be found here

 

http://safaritalk.ne...ya-or-botswana/

http://safaritalk.ne...utu-early-2014/

 

as some of you might know, too, I spend 99% of my time at sightings with filming so do not expect a whole lot of quality pictures - those I did take were shot with the video camera and not with a fancy SLR

 

Getting there

 

At the start of my trip I was certainly worried: due to KLM'c clever computing I had little more than one hour to switch planes and terminals at Amsterdam. Now one hour is a lot of time (for Amsterdam) if your initial flight lands on time - but there is hardly any safety buffer if it does not. Actually, I was not so much worried about me not making it on time but rather about my luggage: a year and a half ago we landed in Jo'burg with our bags left behind in Frankfurt and it was certainly an ordeal to get them transferred to us. And that was between Jo'burg and Kruger, not between JRO and Ndutu...

 

Anyway, things did work out well enough until I had passed customs and immigration at JRO - in fact, at NBO I thought I saw my bag right next to the plane. However, at JRO some of us had to wait...and wait...and wait...but no bags. One woman was complaining that she was supposed to run a marathon the following day but how could she do that, with her running shoes in the main luggage? With big sighs and lots of curses we formed a line behing the missing baggage counter. Needless to say, the woman behind it had absolutely no clue at all, she certainly did not know where our bags were. She muttered something like "You'll have to wait until tomorrow" although Precision Air had at least one more flight from NBO to JRO later in the day. Anyway, while some had already left the airport the missing bags finally and miraculously appeared. Marathon Lady was happy and so was I.

 

For a number of (good) reasons I had opted for ground transportation between the various destinations of my trip. Outside the arrival building my driver for the day was already waiting. Me, myself, the bags and I jumped into the landcruiser and off we went. After an intermediate stop at Arusha to pay to the boss, to have a quick launch and to buy a local SIM card we continued to the NCA.

 

Rhino Lodge

 

Rhino Lodge was recommended to me by a few other travellers. Yes, it does not have the fancy Rim View and yes, it is a bit further away from the ascent road. However, I minded neither: the room was certainly bigger than the one I had in 2009 at the Wildlife Lodge and Rhino Lodge certainly felt more intimate and cozy than the latter. Also, it was a lot cheaper than the other options.

 

Later that night my driver returned to Arusha and I met Hamisi, who had come over from Ndutu Lodge and was going to be my driver and guide for the next 11 days.

 

Now I know pretty everybody here stresses how important a top notch guide is for the success of a safari. Well, with Hamisi I could not help but notice that he did not know why black rhinos are called black rhinos and why white rhinos are called white rhinos. He neither knew the difference between small spotted genets and large spotted genets although these creatures are to be seen each and every night in the dining room of Ndutu Lodge. I know he never acquired any guiding certificate. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he never went to a regualr school, either. However, in hindsight I could not have hoped for a "better" guide than him - in the end it all comes down to how you define "good" guiding.

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a gentle mellow start. I'm looking forward to the rest of the report! btw, the links bring me to the homepage of ST.

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What were your days of travel? Maybe I saw you.

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yes, he has told me he has worked there for more than 20 years...but actually, "112" is not the number of cats I saw but the number of hours I spend out in Ndutu's bush - I wasn't gonna explain this until the report but well, since you brought it up now :)

 

@@Atravelynn

 

I arrived at Ndutu on March 1st and left on March 11th

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madaboutcheetah

Marathon lady was running the next day in the Kilimanjaro marathon in Arusha and packed her shoes in her luggage??? what was she thinking! glad she got her bags and glad you saw all your super sightings too!!!!

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I arrived at Ndutu on March 1st and left on March 11th

Missed you. Thanks for the 112 clarification.

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I definitely know what you mean about guides. Your goal for this year required a particular skill-set.

 

I just realised I would have trouble telling the difference between large and small spotted genets too - although I don't have genets in my dining room.

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@@pault

 

it's pretty easy, though: the tip of the tail of the large spotted genet is usually black, the tip of the tail of the small spotted genet is usually white - and if they sit next to each other, like they sometimes do in Ndutu Lodge, you can see the different sizes of their spots

Edited by ice
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@@TonyQ

 

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

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March 01 - Crater Tour

 

It took us half an hour to get from Rhino Lodge to the descent road. Fifteen minutes later we were down at the bottom - and I caught eyes of of the first group of black rhinos! During the course of the day Hamisi and I would spot six different individuals, some of the multiple times.

 

At maybe 9 am we found part of the Munge Pride. I later learned that the current group of four dominant males is the first ruling coaltion that has come from outside the Crater for more than 50 years. Scientists seem to be excited about the prospect of new genes injected into the local pool. Sure enough, two of the males were busy mating while some of the females had climbed into a tree, a behaviour I had only witnessed twice before: in Kruger and at Lake Nakuru.

 

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We spent quite some time with the pride and then continued our leisure drive around the bottom of the crater. At appr. 1 pm it was time for a meal break - hooray for the famous lunchboxes. I must admit I was ill prepared for what happened next: before I realised what was going on I had been literally attacked by the black kites flying around the picnic area. In fact I was pretty lucky to sustain only minor scratches, at least two attacks were directed to my hands in front of my mouth, one claw ripped open my skin only 2 inches below my right eye.

 

Shortly after having finsihed what the birds had left me it was time to leave the Crater. At 6 pm we arrived at Lake Ndutu where we witnessed a minor cossing: a group of maybe 50 wildebeets and zebras swam through the lake.

 

 

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Great Start.Ice, can't wait to hear/see what is to come.

 

Black kites - are they birds; I thought maybe someone was out on a kite flying expedition? Did they really attack? So far ,I just worried about lions when in the bush. :huh: Did not realize I'd have to watch for the twitters.

 

Haven't made it to NCA or Serengeti...would love to set up a walk with Alex Walker one day.

I can't decide the other parts of the trip, so perhaps your report will inspire me.

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@@graceland

 

Black Kite - Milvus migrans...and yes, they did attack, not only me

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Thanks Ice...I "wikied" them...yikes, they are known to steal food...yours must have looked especially appetizing!

 

Can't wait for more stories of wild birds and predators!

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Ndutu Safari Lodge

 

Hamisi and I arrived arrived at the lodge at 6:30 pm. During my months-long eMail exchanges with Ainslie, the manager, I had asked for a separate standing hut and No. 6 (separately standing) it was. I had booked directly with the lodge, accomodation plus guide and private vehicle and in the days to come I couldn't help but notice that the staff was slightly more concerned about my well being that about the well being of "regular" guests who had come with their own driver / guide and booked through an agency.

 

The huts are more than adequate in size. A double bed, a small table with two chairs, a cabinet with hangers and a rather huge bathroom. Both in the evenings and the morning there was more than enough hot water which, however, contains sodium carbonate, so you always have that soapy feeling (unlike at Rhino Lodge). Ndutu Lodge provides "fresh" water for drinking and tooth brushing purposes, though.

 

In previous years I had stayed (among others) at Wildlife Lodge at Ngorongoro, at Seronera in the Serengeti, at Serena in the Triangle and at Mara Savora and Keekorok. Comparing these with Ndutu Lodge I see quite a few differences, for example Ndutu Lodge is slighly smaller than most of the other lodges listed above, it certainly felt less like a hotel than Wildlife Lodge or Seronera. However, Ndutu's service is somewhat subpar: e.g. they do provide mosquito nets but it's up to the guests to put them around their beds. Personally I did not really care but others might.

 

Soft drinks at Ndutu Lodge cost 3 $ a bottle, rather expensive I think.

 

My biggest problem was their meal concept: at Rhino Lodge we could have a full breakfast even at 6 am, at Ndutu the regular breakfast does not start until 7 am, too late for my taste. "No problem", I thought after Ainslie in her mails started raving about their famous picnic breakfast. Well, this famous picnic breakfast consisted of a few slices of bread, a hard boiled egg, tee and coffee (which I don't drink), some juice and fruits, pancakes and on some days muffins were added. Not bad but certainly nothing to rave about (at least not imho).

 

Obviously it's possible to split your day in morning and afternoon game drives, returning to the lodge to have a proper lunch. However, since everybody had adviced me to spend the entire day out in the bush to increase my chances of witnessing a hunt from start to finish, I just did do, each and every day. For an addt'l 20 $ a day I could have gotten lunch boxes but to be honest, I like the typical East African Lunchbox even less than Ndutu's picnic breakfast so I had booked only halfboard. Now all I could do is hope for dinner. Unfortunately Ndutu Lodge serves a set meal, four courses but still set which means you have to eat what is on your plate. No chance to ask for a second helping and certainly no choices. I'm sure the quality of their food is great - the quantity certainly isn't. In a Lodge this big I simply expect buffet dinners, especially if most guests do not have a proper breakfast.

 

So would I still return? Most likely so; however I'd certainly bring lots of food with me - no problem, because I'd do road tranfers again.

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@@ice am enjoying the report! That's great news on the lion front in the crater. There had been concerns about inbreeding when I was there last year. Amazing the male lions found a way into the crater.

 

The kites sound vicious! Hope you've recovered from the injuries.

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@@Kitsafari

 

thanks for your concern - the "injuries" were (thank God) only minor surface scratches, it was more the shock of being attacked from the air than actual pain

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You didn't get warned about the kites? Obviously, the kites knew this..They are not there early. - tip for people with a phobia since watching The Birds.

 

You also weren't warned about the breakfast boxes in Tanzania! If you had asked I would have told you to get both lunch and breakfast boxes, and between them you can find about enough to make a decenl meal, provided you like bananas. Going half board was brave.... I can hear your stomach gurgling from Bangkok. Still, it's not why we go!

 

Trip is going very well so far, and we know it is about to get even better. Nice sightings in the Crater. Are we going to see some film clips later?

 

Very encouraging news about packed meals in Uganda! I suppose I'll have to put up with little hints like this until the week before I go, when you'll doubtless start your report.

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@@pault

 

film clips will come but not very soon - in my workflow, I always start with writing a script for my entire trip, sometimes 40 pages and more. Only then the editing process begins. Although I really have to hurry (early July we will be leaving for Botswana and South Africa), it will take me at least another two weeks to finish my (German) script.

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Ndutu Day 01 - March 02

 

I couldn't help but notice how many popular @@Atravelynn's notes about her times spent at sightings and about the number of vehicles around her are, so I decided to include these informations in this TR - yes, I do take notes as well but certainly not as comprehensive and detailed as she does; however I can fall back on the date - time - stamps of my video clips

 

On this first day Hamisi took the "popular" route, meaning we headed out to the marshes and sure we enough we found 11 members of the Marsh Pride: one of the two dominant lions, Katavi, four females and sechs subadults / cubs of various ages. We spent maybe 45 minutes with them. In the end I would estimate there were 8-9 other vehicles around us - after all, this is, like I mentioned before. the popular route, taken my first time safarinistas who more than anything else want to see lions and also preferred by guests who are not willing to spend an entire day out in the bush

 

Next we followed two cheetahs. To better keep track, I'll start to number them. #1 was a female, #2 a male. Hamisi told me they were brother and sister, other guides thought they were a mum with a subadult male. Anyway, #1 and #2 gave me the overwhelming joy of (sort of) witnessing my first hunt from start to finish, ever - after all, that was the one and only reason I had come to Ndutu to. However, I have to say "sort of" because everything went way to quick for me: the cheetahs (and Hamisi) had spotted a single gnu baby, so the cheetahs started to get into a hunting mode and Hamisi raced to get our car in a better position. While I was still trying to get my video camera back on the tripod, the cheetahs had already taken the wildebeest down which means I missed the chase but at least saw the final kill.

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Next to us I heard a lot of shouting. At first I didn't understand what the fuss was all about. Later, though we met one of the parties involved: two guys from South Africa had spent the last 8 weeks or so filming cheetahs for an upcoming NatGeo Wild Docu. One of them, Boris, was operating a 100,000 dollar high speed camera which was able to film 1,000 shots per second. Seems like the cheetahs raced straight into the focus of his camera when all of sudden the driver of a Leopard Tours car drove right through his field of vision - "the shot of a lifetime ruined", as he later put it. From what I heard, Leopard Tour drivers are somewhat notorious for their ruthless behaviour. Anyway, Boris was still mightily pissed when I spoke to him during our mutual breakfast stop - understandably so, if you ask me, especially since pretty much all the other drivers and guides I saw during my stay behaved perfectly.

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You must have been thrilled after that first hunt, something you had waited to see for a long time. If only you know more successful hunts would follow that one! Your remark about it all going so fast is the whole survival system of the cheetah.

I think I saw those film guys. In "mini-vehicles"? Anyway I saw some atrocious Leopard Safari Company behavior as well by one of the guides. Nothing to do with wildlife, just other people. I think Leopard has about 200 guides. Quality control is hard to do with those numbers.

 

I'm glad you felt the other drivers behaved "perfectly." That's what I saw. Now that I think about it, I rarely encountered another Leopard vehicle at a sighting to judge their behavior.

 

"Although I really have to hurry (early July we will be leaving for Botswana and South Africa), it will take me at least another two weeks to finish my (German) script. " You'll probably get little sympathy around here.

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@@Atravelynn

 

yeah, mini vehicles, green colour, no roof tops, have a look here

 

 

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