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My Own Private Africa - Serengeti and Ngorongoro Late March 2015


Steph8586
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A couple of months ago we decided somewhat spur of the moment to travel to Africa. Contrary to many of the members of this forum, it wasn't a long-planned bucket list trip, but an opportunistic chance at adventure that we seized. My husband loves photography, and particularly wildlife and birds. We traveled to the Pantanal in November 2013 and had a wonderful time and that made me think an African safari might also be a wonderful experience. I connected (after a not so great connection with a local Africa travel specialist) with Mary at Planet Africa Safari's in Cape Town. I was completely happy with her listening, suggestions and don't think I would have changed a think about where we went if I had it to do all over again (except maybe skip the Crater... but we'll get there).

 

While most of the still photos are my husbands, and I will leave him to join in with posting some of them (or allow me to do so), I very much appreciate the help SafariTalk provided and I was inspired bySaminKaz to actually make videos each day. I will start of the trip with the first day's video (my apologies for the lack of a Steadi-Cam but it was a learning process...)

 

Our trip was as follows:

March 22, 2015 - Overnight at Onsea House Arusha

March 23-26, 2015 - Namiri Plains Camp with Erasto (guide) and Shinoi (Spotter)

March 27-30, 2016 - Sayari Camp with Calson (guide)

March 30-31, 2015 - Ngorongoro Crater Lodge with Jackson (Planet Africa/Asilia Guide)

 

Bear with me and here is the first video. More report to follow!

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And the video did not successfully upload - hopefully will be back later with some technical help or get it on our website and post a link. Sorry for the false start.

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@@Steph8586 no worries. I'm looking forward to read about your adventures. :)

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@@Steph8586

 

HI, Steph, don't worry it will eventually come on and we will all enjoy; did you upload to Utube make it public and share the link; that is how I do it and i am a techie failure. Since you live in Seattle you must have tons of tech kids walking by you; grab one and ask...

 

We can't wait to hear about the adventure!

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HI I'm Stephanie's Husband, bringing the photos. Here are some from our drive from Seronera to Namiri Plains:

 

Lilac-breasted Roller:

 

gallery_49063_1236_9071.jpg

 

Lioness stalking a warthog (off image):

 

gallery_49063_1236_1114992.jpg

 

Bull Elephant Challenge:

 

gallery_49063_1236_172968.jpg

 

Secretary Bird chasing a cricket:

 

gallery_49063_1236_842444.jpg

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post-49296-0-81805200-1429287101_thumb.jpg

 

~ Hello, @@Steph8586 & @@Scott8586!

 

WOW! WOW! WOW!

That is one FANTASTIC image !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The color, focus, composition — stellar action image.

Both bird and insect prey rendered with remarkable clarity.

Really, really fine photography.

Thank you so much for sharing it.

Although I've lived in Asia for decades, I'm a graduate of Bellevue High School and Medina Elementary School.

It's very nice to see Safaritalk members from the Pacific Northwest. My family relocated to the north shore of Kauai, with fond memories of the Puget Sound area.

Tom K.

 

 

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Wonderful photos! The elephants grappling with each other are especially well-framed; they really dominate the scene around them. I'll have to check out the video this evening.

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Great Shots!! as emphasized above..

 

Somehow I could not see the video..the download stopped. Hm...is it on you tube?

Would love to see it if there is some other way, please let me know!

Thanks..

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Great Shots!! as emphasized above..

 

Somehow I could not see the video..the download stopped. Hm...is it on you tube?

Would love to see it if there is some other way, please let me know!

Thanks..

Yes, I tried hosting the video at our own server, but it seems our internet bandwidth just isn't up to the task. We'll find another solution, and in the mean time we will continue with the report and pictures!

 

Sorry about this!

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Great Shots!! as emphasized above..

 

Somehow I could not see the video..the download stopped. Hm...is it on you tube?

Would love to see it if there is some other way, please let me know!

Thanks..

Yes, I tried hosting the video at our own server, but it seems our internet bandwidth just isn't up to the task. We'll find another solution, and in the mean time we will continue with the report and pictures!

 

Sorry about this!

 

Thanks, I'll just wait and hear about it!

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I am eagerly waiting for the video.

 

It is easy to publish it if you have it on youtube.com.

 

Just copy the link of your video and paste it into you post.

 

Piece of cake!

Edited by Sverker
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We've uploaded the videos to Vimeo. Here is Stephanie's movie for the first day at Namiri Plains, March 2015:

 

 

(please ignore the earlier post to the mp4 video - those will nolonger work - sorry for the confusion).

Edited by Scott8586
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Just got a chance to download your video. Very nice cheetah sighting by the water!

Music was a fun choice as well. :)

 

Edit: I must have downloaded it right before the stream went up. Great video either way.

Edited by Marks
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After nearly 21 hours of travel we arrived at JRO, secured our visas and were met outside by Asilia driver Godlisten, who quickly had us on the road to the Onsea House in Arusha. It was a late night arrival, so there was no light, but I did manage to spot one donkey along the roadside on the drive. We arrived around 9:30 p.m., and we were offered dinner, but we just wanted to call it a night because we had a pick up at 7:10 for the drive to the Arusha airport. The room was small, but nice with a large bathroom, a small terrace and screened windows. We pulled the mosquito net closed and managed to catch up on some much needed sleep. Breakfast the next morning was a buffet of fruits, muffins and eggs to order -- and our first and most important discovery of the trip. Tanzanian coffee is amazing. Believe me, we come from the land of coffee snobs and are quite spoiled in the coffee department. It was a universal truth of this trip that every time we had coffee it was delicious and not to be refused!

 

The next morning was misty and foggy, so no views of Kilimanjaro, although the clouds did lift occasionally allowing glimpses of Mount Meru. The drive to the Arusha airport was uneventful, and we enjoyed watching the children in their school uniforms heading to classes. The Arusha airport somewhat amusing in that they actually had us go through metal detectors and Xrayed our luggage (ipads had to be out of the bag) only to land on a dirt airstrip where for the rest of the trip we hopped on and off of planes with no security at all. While waiting for our flight we pulled out the binoculars and started birdwatching, there was a type of hummingbird (I think it was a variable sunbird) feeding in the shrubs nearby, but no cameras were out to get a photo! We also saw lots of Pied Crows...

 

We had a driect flight to Seronera with only three others on the plane. Waiting for us there was our Namiri Plains guide, Erasto, and Shinoi a young maasai who was working as his spotter. Shinoi had on a maasai shuka with a belt and knife and this beautiful beaded pouch with silver "spangles" beaded onto it. (I later learned it contained a Samsung smart phone!). While we waited for Erasto to complete the "paperwork" Scott pulled out the binoculars and said, "I see a giraffe". I said, "No you don't", but Shinoi confirmed (it was quite some distance off) and then we were off.

 

Asilia uses open Toyotal Land Cruisers with three rows (two seats each row) and we were the only ones in the vehicle for our entire stay, which was wonderful. Within 30 seconds of leaving the airstrip we saw Helmeted Guinea Fowl and Lillian's lovebirds. Erasto stopped to show us a Lilac Breasted Roller sitting on a tree at the side of the road. It was as if he was there to welcome us to the Serengeti and when he flew the turquoise streaks on his wings flashed like jewels in the sun. It was an amazing sight and I continued to smile every time I saw a Roller at the roadside (there were lots of them). Tanzania does not have a national bird, but my nominee is the Lilac Breasted Roller. Right after the Roller, we saw a cutthroat finch, some Thompson's Gazelles and about a dozen banded mongoose chasing along the roadside after something.

 

Then some distance later we stopped. I didn't see anything, but Shinoi and Erasto were scanning a field and pointed out a young male lion under a tree. Then, they saw the lioness in Scott's photograph above; she was in blowing long grass carefully watching a warthog some distance away hunting in the middle of the day. We watched for awhile, but then the warthog realized the lion was there and took off, so we moved on. Africa was already delivering so many wonderful animal sightings and experiences I thought it couldn't get any better. I was wrong.

 

It wasn't long before we stopped for two male elephants in the distance having a bit of a showdown. They are also pictured above along with the amazing Secretary Bird that was stomping to scare up grasshoppers for dinner that Scott managed to capture with dinner in the frame. A few hours later We arrived at Namiri Plains Camp where we were greeted with cold towels and a cold drink and shown to our tent. The tent was great and we dropped our things and were served a late lunch and then after a quick rest we headed out again for the evening. It was hot and windy, so fairly dusty, but it was even windier the following day. I remember in the bathroom of the tent thinking, oh how nice there is a little jar of cotton balls and cotton swabs. When we returned that evening I decided to clean my ears. Oh my goodness, the first one was dark brown! I had no idea that dust was everywhere. Let's just say that it took more than one of those cotton swabs to remove the Serengeti from my ears!

 

That evening we saw cheetah, elephants and more cheetah! There was a lone Cheetah near the water we watched for a while. Then near sunset we followed a female and her adolescent son (whom we found again trying to hunt the next morning). The video I posted captures these pretty well, but after the editing it really isn't clear that there were two cheetah prowling at sunset. I will post the video of the next day below and try to share a bit more of the trip. I would highly recommend Namiri Plains Camp. I think they are looking at relocating some of the tents after they close in May for the rainy season, but we very much enjoyed the hosts Epimark and Blessed, drinks by the fire in the evenings and the wonderful food.

 

Of course, this is our first African Safari so we don't have many others to compare it to. Bucket showers were a non issue. They were ready when ordered and plenty of water for both of us in one bucket. Laundry was picked up and returned promptly although underwear were not washed here (it might be different in the busy season). Washing powder was provided. Food was outstanding and all in all we thought the camp's location and overall experience was great. In three days I think we saw only one other vehicle, and a research vehicle. There was one other couple staying there and our last night another trio arrived, so we were not alone but out in the Serengeti it felt as if we were, hence: My Own Private Africa.

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Day Two Namiri Plains Video

 

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Music was a fun choice as well. :)

Thanks Marks - I love that song. It is called "Warm Heart of Africa" performed by The Very Best (one guy is Swedish, one French and one Malawian) along with Ezra Koenig. Makes me smile every time I hear it...

 

More about this group. I need to find a thread about african music

 

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121969054

 

http://www.npr.org/2012/07/08/155724115/first-listen-the-very-best-mtmtmk

Edited by Steph8586
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The Secretary Bird and Cricket is a huge winner!

 

Have I mentioned your Avatar photo before? Forgive me if I brought this up earlier, but it looks like Alaska, maybe Katmai?

 

I was especially interested in your Namiri Plains videos. Great activity there, including good cheetah viewing. I like that!

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Hi Atravelynn,

 

Good eye, that photo was in Katmai -- at Hallo Bay in June 2014. I have one more Namiri Plains video. I am making myself write about it before posting. I may just get lazier as this goes on, but I really appreciated the trip reports when I was planning (it was only a week to plan it all) so I feel an obligation to pay it forward.

 

I guessed from your avatar you must love the Cheetahs. I loved them too...until I saw the lions and the leopards. Now I can't choose a favorite. So many beautiful animals to see!

 

Stephanie

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Hi Atravelynn,

 

Good eye, that photo was in Katmai -- at Hallo Bay in June 2014. I have one more Namiri Plains video. I am making myself write about it before posting. I may just get lazier as this goes on, but I really appreciated the trip reports when I was planning (it was only a week to plan it all) so I feel an obligation to pay it forward.

 

I guessed from your avatar you must love the Cheetahs. I loved them too...until I saw the lions and the leopards. Now I can't choose a favorite. So many beautiful animals to see!

 

Stephanie

 

Thanks for posting the videos, @@Steph8586 - I saw the cheetah and thought, oh goody; then I saw the lions and said...nothing like lions on a rock, and leopards..crazy over them.

So as you I cannot chose a fav. though rank high; then the cats. Well, just everything!

 

Namiri Plains came through for you. I do like the wind in the grasses as well. That is so Africa for me. Hope there is more to come!

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Pictures for day two at Namiri Plains, Young Elephants:

 

gallery_49063_1236_888011.jpg

 

Surveying the Landscape:

 

 

 

gallery_49063_1236_33828.jpg

 

 

This Cheetah was checking up on us, making sure we didn't follow her into the grass, where her cubs were certainly hidden:

 

gallery_49063_1236_1056009.jpg

 

Sunrise at Namiri Plains Camp:

 

gallery_49063_1236_1016505.jpg

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@@Scott8586 @@Steph8586

 

Beautiful elephant photo! Looking forward to more, as I am really keen to find out about Namiri.

Edited by Safaridude
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Let me pick up with a bit more about our stay at Namiri Plains Camp. As we had dinner there was some talk about the need for escorts and animals in the camp. Apparently that morning as one of the staff was moving about there was a lion sleeping right by one of the tents. I piped up, "It wasn't our tent, was it?" and they admitted that yes, the lion had been sleeping right by our tent! That assured me that I would not ignore the requirement to radio for an escort after dark and to keep my eyes and ears open at all times. Occasionally we would hear the lions roar or growl in

 

That night as we returned to our tent for the night, they had thoughtfully put a hot water bottle on my side of the bed. How they knew it was my side, I don't know. Scott did not get one and in all honesty we really didn't need it, but it was a nice touch to slip into warm sheets. The bed was very comfortable and although you were asked not to charge items in the room, there was adequate power for the lights and powerstrips available at the main tent to charge our camera batteries, ipads, etc. The wifi was pretty limited at the main tent and we found better reception outside. They offered to have us go to the office, but it really wasn't a big deal -- just trying to ensure there were no fires at work!

 

As we tried to sleep, the sounds began. First, were most definitely hooves! At one point I picked up the flashlight provided in the room and shone it out the front of our tent (it was open all night with two separate screen panels. However, the screens just diffused/reflected the light so I couldn't see a thing. Eventually the animal started eating. I could clearly hear grass being ripped and chewed. At this point I convinced Scott we should take a look, who knew what we might be missing. We went out into the vestibule and I handed Scott the flashlight to hold while I unzipped a bit of the screen so he could shine the light outside. When he snapped the light on there were two huge Cape Buffalo about 10 yards away chomping on sedge. They looked right at us and their eyes reflected the light so I couldn't get a read on how they felt about the whole spotlight thing. I yelled "SHUT IT OFF! SHUT IT OFF NOW!" and Scott snapped off the light and I ran back to the bed and pulled up the covers and waited for the charge. Nothing happened other than more grass chomping. Whew.

 

Somehow, we managed to doze for a bit after the excitement and then we heard it. It is interesting having never seen a lion outside of a zoo until this day, that I immediately knew what it was: a lion! It was right outside our tent and I could hear its guttural breathing as well as sort of a purr/growl it muttered periodically. I turned to Scott - "Did you hear that?" He said,"Yes." My next response was, "Get the flashlight!" He said, "No way, are you kidding?" I was. Sort of. Anyway, we listed for a bit then it moved off. Before we knew it our coffee was being delivered and we were heading out for our game drive with a "bush breakfast."

 

I have to say Erasto and Shinoi were invariably cheerful, kind, and engaging - despite the long hours they work and the crazy hour of dawn when we set out. It was incredibly windy, like a monsoon without the rain. The rains were late this March and the days were loaded with that impending storm feeling, but it never rained. The winds had apparently been blowing like this for about a week. It did die down the next day, but this was the only day I was uncomfortable. Even with baseball caps, ponytails, headbands, there was no keeping my hair from escaping and whipping my face and mouth. We were in open vehicles (which I strongly prefer) but this day I wished I had brought gloves! Fortunately they have fleece blankets in the land cruiser so I could wrap up with additional layers. There was also a fridge with cold drinks in the vehicle and Namiri used stainless steel water bottles, so much more environmentally sound than those plastic bottles!

 

We started wtih a couple of cheetah, then made our way off to see elephants, lions. lots of hartebeests, gazelles and topi, and many more beautiful birds. The cheetah were hard to photograph (minimal light and distance) but the mother cheetah and her son were stalking a dik dik. The mother hung back and let her boy learn how to hunt, and while there was a chase, he was not successful. The dik dik lived to see another day and the cheetah went off searching for another meal so we moved on. We next ran across several hyena who had just finished eating a gazelle - one ran by with a leg bone in its mouth! Another young member of the group was gnawing on the base of the gazelle horns. I guess he was determined to get every last bit of what was edible.

 

There was a small fever tree forest not far from camp, and we watched some giraffe browsing there. Because of the amount of water in that area it was a verdant green contrast to the dusty plains around us. We had to eat our breakfast in the lee of the rocks at soit le montonyi because of the fearsome wind, but we still had a great time and it was much less windy the following day. Before stopping we checked the rocks carefully for leaopard - but no luck. We did not end up seeing leopard at Namiri, but they were there - we just missed them. The remains of their kills hanging in the trees attest to their presence.

 

After lunch we headed to a water hole. While the water was low, we enjoyed watching a variety of animals in the area drinking and grazing. It was phenomenally beautiful with the still water and the light and the animals drinking deeply. We really weren't sure we wanted to leave Namiri Plains and the beautiful landscape and great camp. At this point I was ready to see some lions, so we headed to the Kopjes. Near Namiri, in addition to Soit le Montonyi, there is the Sambutu Kopjes, and Zebra Kopjes and another that I cannot recall the name of so there were a variety of places to find large prides of lions. The reputation of this place for big cats and few people exceeded all expectations.

 

We first found some lions napping on the top of the Kopje. As we circled there were a couple of more, and in all six or seven were lounging around the area. Then we drove a very short distance to a nearby watering hole where there was a Cape Buffalo vs. lion pride standoff in progress. The buffalo were not happy with the proximity of the lion pride to the water hole where they were drinking. I would point out that there were no adult male lions in the group of about 15 lions, many young cubs, mothers and a very old pair. The lion actually backed off, and the buffalo drank their fill and sauntered away. We stayed for some time watching the cubs pummeling one another and their mother as they rolled about. Then we drove back with another beautiful sunset (that dust creates some good color in the sky) over camp.

 

The third day, was a bit less windy and we started with front row seats to a lion mating marathon with a younger male who is establishing a pride with and three females. Apparently one of the females had three cubs and they had been in the area of the camp for several days a few weeks earlier when a group of younger male lions moved in and killed the cubs. Erasto thought one of the females in this new pride was the one whose cubs had been killed. This was quite a spectacle and I guess we learned a bit about lion mating/reproduction that we had never heard before.

 

After watching for a while we went to view another pride near the Sambutu Kopje. We continued to try and get a good shot of a warthog, but the minute the camera goes up they have usually already started running! The plains around Namiri were filled wtih gazelles and warthogs and a Hartebeest and Topi. Very few Zebra and giraffes and elepahants could also be readily found. I believe after we left the rains hit and the zebra and wildebeest moved into the area. There was always something to see, and of course there were always lions to be found. The next pride was mostly lazing in the shade of a tree, with the male (one of the three killers) surveying the area periodically.

 

We then found the cheetah and her son that we had been watching the previous morning - also resting in the shade of a large tree. After this we ended our day with a lioness and three cubs who were adorable. She eventually got up as the sun began going down and began to shepherd them off toward a nearby kopje for the night. We later saw them cuddled up together there so they all were safely tucked in.

 

We were somewhat sad about having to leave the next day, but had plans to leave early so we could do another game drive on our way to the airport.

 

 

Here is the link to the Day 3 video: https://vimeo.com/125412373

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What a great report and vid! I am loving your report ..sounds like it has started off with cats and right at your

Tent. Awesome. What a story to tell from your first safari

 

I could actually see the wind blowing through the mane of the lion, and the Cubs with Mom are as usual just adorable

 

Liked your choice of music as well. Was this all filmed with a go pro? Do you use a program to splice and dice?

 

Oh and second day not too shabby as well!

 

Looking forward to more stories and videos

( and getting my computer back. I hate typing on iPad)

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Hi Graceland -

 

No GoPro, too pricey when I already have a Lumix that we use for underwater shots that works fine. Scott can tell you the particular model. I have used in in Hawaii, Europe, Alaska and Belize so it has been in caves, underwater and all over the place. We bought a selfie stick which I used occasionally, but I never got the close up underwater hippo shot I dreamed of. (I didn't know how dangerous they were before arriving). I don't usually shoot video so I have a lot of improvements to make the next time out now that I have seen and evaluated the footage! Scott says a Steadicam would be in order, but hey those roads are often rough and sometimes I wanted the moving shots. Oh well. I took a gorilla pod and never used it, but was having fun trying something new.

 

I used iMovie on my iPad to make the videos each night. Because it was all new I made them way too long (in retrospect), but realize now I will be more ruthless the next edit. I have four more videos to get uploaded, and I will try to keep this trip report moving but I refuse to write it on an iPad and I am usually at a computer at work, so not much time to devote to side projects.

 

Stephanie

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