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Following the Herds - Mkomazi, Tarangire, Serengeti and Manyara Ranch Conservancy - February 2015


Safaridude
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Too much is never enough.

 

- David Bowie

 

 

 

My wife has been to Africa with me four times. That’s a lot. She has thoroughly enjoyed each trip, and she looks forward to going back at some point in the future – just, just not now again. There are other places in the world she would like to see before going back to Africa. You see, she is reasonable – normal, one would say.

 

I am not. In the midst of enjoying a delightfully sub-zero, cheery, long winter in Connecticut, I am summoned to attend some conservation meetings in Tanzania in February. Chances of my missing that? Slim and none. Chances of my somehow not weaseling this into an extended safari? Less than zero.

 

Firstly, I must address some domestic sensitivities (you see, before these meetings came up, we had been talking about maybe heading down to the Caribbean)…

 

Dear Love of My Life,

 

You know Sweets that I should attend these meetings. I really don’t want to travel that far, but I figure I gotta do it for nature. You should join me, but I know you said you don’t want to go back to Africa so soon.

 

Say, my cousin Linda has been begging me to travel with her to Africa as you know. I am wondering if this might not be the perfect opportunity to weave in a safari. Yeah, the long-term weather forecast for CT is… well. I recently read somewhere that snow has insulative properties. That’s right! Snow actually keeps things warmer! …

 

So, here I go again. Mkomazi, Tarangire, Serengeti and Manyara Ranch, in that chronological order. In this missive, however, I come out with guns blazing: Serengeti first.

 

 

Serengeti National Park

 

Serengeti National Park is the premier wilderness area of Tanzania encompassing 14,763 km2 and harboring about 1.5 million wilde… ok, let me stop there. After all, what more can one say about Serengeti? Other than that it is the living library of life?

 

Verbiage, in this instance, is superfluous. This will be more of a pictorial report.

 

The Serengeti itinerary originally consisted of three nights at Nduara Loliondo (located outside the park to the east); two nights at the historic Ndutu Lodge; and three nights at Dunia Camp in the Moru Kopjes area. Due to almost unprecedented dryness in the short-grass plains area of the Serengeti ecosystem (Nduara is on the edge of the short-grass plains biome), however, a last-minute switch was made to trade the last night at Nduara for a night at Nomad Tanzania’s Serengeti Safari Camp located on the shore of Lake Masek.

 

We are guided by Craig Doria, a long-time friend and my go-to man in Tanzania. Never mind for the moment Craig’s intimate bush knowledge, which is second to none. I just never tire of Craig’s perspective on Africa’s history and culture and the spine-tingling stories about his stint with the ANC (Mandela’s party) as a young white South African and of course his Luangwa Valley days. Kennedy Koskey (or “Kennedy John” or “Ken”) is our driver/guide, and, quite simply, an amazing dude!

 

 

February 13

 

10:56am – We are driving from Ndutu to our destination, southern Loliondo. It hasn’t rained in weeks. The Ndutu area should be green, black and tawny with fresh grass, wildebeests and wildebeest calves but is totally devoid of them. The herds are in the woodlands to the southwest, and we are heading away from them. Grant’s gazelles don’t mind the dryness though. A male Grant’s gazelle struts amongst his kind and Thomson’s gazelles, picking off herbs on a desiccated plain just east of Ndutu.

 

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11:18am – The short-grass plains area of Serengeti is the best place to observe golden jackals.

 

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12:02pm – Spotted hyenas inhabit the various creases and burrows on the plains.

 

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12:36pm – I am convinced that if we could somehow harness the energy from the Thomsons’ gazelles’ wagging of their tails, Tanzania would solve its electricity shortage issue. 1.21 gigawatts!

 

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1:14pm – Unable to gallop very fast, elands need a head start to avoid harm. They have the farthest “flight distance” amongst Serengeti’s ungulates.

 

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4:37pm – A newborn Tommie is curled up out in the open. The mother has eaten the afterbirth and licked the calf all over in order to rid it of scent. Lying motionless until it is able to walk is the calf’s only defense. (Don't) see me, feel me, touch me, heal me.

 

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7:20pm – After a long, hot, dry, dusty day, a yurt-styled mess tent at Nduara Loliondo welcomes.

 

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7:23pm – Apertif? How civilized!

 

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7:38pm - One of the askaris by the fire.

 

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Edited by Safaridude
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~ @Safaridude:

 

You find the most intimate moments and take shots that make me shake my head — not in envy, but in pleasure at being able to see a bit of what you saw.

I'd always wondered what a newborn Thomson's Gazelle might look like. Thanks to you, know I know.

Very nice.

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So that's what they're like. Heretofore, a field guide species for me. Your image is so compelling. I especially appreciate being able to read the EXIF. Without you behind the camera, the same settings mean little, but they do provide some sense of how such a fine image was made.

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I'm comforted to know that I'm not alone in posting an ISO 25,600 image in a Safaritalk trip report. The snap reaction to seeing this image was that the low light reflections on the bottles and wood had something about them like Rembrandt's palette, who painted indoors by candlelight in his later years.

As ever, enjoy and learn from your lively writing. It's consistently a joy to read.

Tom K.

Edited by Tom Kellie
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Great beginning of another excellent report of yours, @@Safaridude! Looking forward to seeing the rest!

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@@Safaridude,

So you really are the 'dude. I like your David Bowie reference, and The Who....I hope more musicians are woven throughout!

 

Of course everyone wants a Safaridude report; there is always a twist!

 

Lets get it on....(Marvin Gaye) going.

Had to add that :ph34r: or I'd be kicked out.

 

Like the camp, I have YET to get to N. Tz, so can't wait for your take on it. Just might change my mind.

 

Newborn - ONE of a kind! Love...

Edited by graceland
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How joyous, a Safaridude trip report begins. I'm afraid to say that Mrs Safaridude will probably get very little sympathy here as we savour your journey. Serengeti never fails to impress, and like an addiction draws the visitor back again and again.

 

Love the photo of the tommie fawn and the jackal. I've never been happy with my Golden jackals but I haven't given up.

 

I'm particularly looking forward to your review of Mkomazi.

 

PS. Love the lyrics, fits well with your lyrical photographic style.

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what a delight! woke up this morning and found a @@Safaridude trip report. Ive been tied up with work and home stuff and had little time to read ST, but i'll bookmark this and will wait for one quiet, restful weekend to thoroughly enjoy it in chunks. :)

 

a marvellous photo of the baby gazelle trying to sink into the sand to hide, and a lovely pix of the hyena dusting itself.

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Here we go, a @Safaridude report.

Only one post in and already I am hooked.

Beautiful newborn gazelle!

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Thank you all for your kind comments.

 

@@graceland

 

Love the Marvin Gaye reference. Now I am pressured to come up with more music references! (I wonder how many people got the "Tommie" reference)

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Thank you all for your kind comments.

 

@@graceland

 

Love the Marvin Gaye reference. Now I am pressured to come up with more music references! (I wonder how many people got the "Tommie" reference)

Some may be too young :wacko:

 

Nevertheless, no pressure...I' sure I can come up with some :P

 

Very much looking forward to this report...

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February 14

 

 

7:36am – Cat sightings start small. An African wild cat out in the open.

 

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7:59am – It’s dry, dry, dry! It looks more like August then February. When green, there is no better place to witness the wildebeest migration than on these short-grass plains east of the Serengeti National Park boundary. No wildebeests here at the moment unfortunately, but lots of gazelles.

 

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8:16am – Elands are astonishing jumpers.

 

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8:21am – Always keeping a safe distance…

 

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8:48am – My cousin’s first lion sighting. Puddles dry up very quickly on the short-grass plains. During dry times, animals and livestock drink from the few natural springs near Nduara Loliondo.

 

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11:10am – A sighting that would have twitchers buzzing: a Denham’s bustard. A truly rare sighting in this part of Tanzania.

 

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4:24pm – Flap-necked chameleon

 

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6:17pm – Kennedy. He is such a dude!

 

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Really like the dusty hyena and some others!

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Nice work on the leaping eland and a wild cat! Exceptionally good capture.

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Are you ever NOT on safari?

 

Love the jumping Elands especially and the Tommie fawn, great report - but then we wouldn't expect anything less from you. :)

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February 15

 

9:00am – We begin heading southwest toward Ndutu. A couple of giraffes wander. There was an intense storm last night in Loliondo that should have drifted into the Ndutu area as well. We hope that the rains will coax the wildebeests from the southwestern woodlands to the Ndutu area.

 

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9:33am – Kopjes, remnants of a violent geological past, near the Gol Mountains.

 

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9:55am – A lone tree, a survivor, somehow able to root itself in the shallow-soiled hardpan underlying the otherwise treeless short-grass plains.

 

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10:13am – Blue-headed tree agama

 

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10:33am – A casualty of the drought?

 

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12:03pm – We now enter an acacia woodland near Oldupai Gorge. A substantial number of giraffes inhabit this area.

 

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February 15 (Continued)

 

4:33pm – We luck into a cheetah mother and three cubs resting on the side of the road in the Ndutu woodland. We follow them for the next two hours as the mother searches for potential prey. February high season, no other vehicles… a true stroke of luck.

 

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7:20pm – Nomad Tanzania’s Serengeti Safari Camp turns out to be my favorite camp of the trip. Tasteful, simple luxury in the bush. Nomad has nailed it again!

 

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What a lovely start to a Saturday to read of @@Safaridude 's latest adventure.

 

 

The camp looks perfect.

 

I particularly like the 'Giraffe in landscape' shot, is there something sitting in the middle distance as well ?

 

 

and those cheetah shots are sublime. :)

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"Isn't it strange

How little we change"

- Pink Floyd

 

@@Safaridude,

Yet another brilliant report. Beautiful pictures. Look forward to more.

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Thank you.

 

A very keen pair of eyes you have @@wilddog!

 

Yes, it is an eland cow sitting in the middle of the photo. There are also two tommies in the photo, but they are hard to see.

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~ @@Safaridude:

 

I don't know you do it, but you do get the sweetest images, time and again.

This interaction isa Tanzanian safari's response to Michelangelo's God touching Adam fresco.

The detail of the chameleon's claw on the finger — that's fine.

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The grass heads, the bands on the tail, the turquoise scales.

More than beautiful. I'm partial to clear reptile photos.

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Those blues! As soon as I saw this lovely image I checked the EXIF to see what lens took that shot. It looks like I need to reconsider the EF 17-40mm f/4L lens which sits unused beside my desk. Then again, it wasn't the lens which composed such a fine image, at 1/10 sec., no less.

@@Safaridude, really appreciate photos and commentary. Your comment on kopjes was instructive to me, who hasn't had a handle on them, as a geological feature.

Tom K.

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Found them, I think.. one far left and below eland and one just right and below eland.

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@@Tom Kellie

 

You are too kind!

 

A dumb question for you… how are you able to get the metadata of the photos?

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Found them, I think.. one far left and below eland and one just right and below eland.

 

Yup. Very good! @@wilddog

Edited by Safaridude
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@@Tom Kellie

 

You are too kind!

 

A dumb question for you… how are you able to get the metadata of the photos?

 

~ @Safaridude:

 

I'm using a 27-inch iMac, with ample screen real estate.

When I spot any image on Safaritalk that really hits me, I drag it off to the desktop.

I then open the image, go to the toolbar at the top and click on ‘Tools’, then ‘Inspector’.

The EXIF file opens up.

If the photo was placed in a Safaritalk gallery and then loaded into a report, there's typically no available metadata.

For that reason I directly load images from my desktop to the trip report, so that anyone interested might peruse the EXIF file.

If for any reason you feel that it's too intrusive to have the metadata looked over, I'll cease and desist.

I've looked at it to get a handle on what you're doing with selected images. We own similar equipment, which is why knowing your settings is especially instructive.

In fact, I've never once used Aperture Priority, although during the October, 2014 safari I shot everything with Shutter Priority.

After admiring your images, I'm toying with the idea of exclusively shooting with Aperture Priority during the next safari, less than three weeks from now.

Tom K.

Edited by Tom Kellie
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@@Tom Kellie

 

That's interesting, because I load the images to the gallery first. Hmmm...

 

No, I don't mind if anyone looks at the metadata… there is no secret sauce to all this, so to speak.

 

I find that in the aperture priority mode, I have the most control over the kinds of shots I want to take.

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