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So many truly fantastic photos.

I like all of them, perhaps the close-ups of the malachite kingfishers are the one s that I like best - stunningly sharp detail and colours.

What lens was you using for those?

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Monday 9th November   This was our first full day on safari – so up before 6.00am, grabbing a cup of tea/coffee and a biscuit (the little doughnut like biscuits coated in icing sugar were absolutely

Before we went away on our trip we thoroughly enjoyed reading the various trip reports on Safaritalk, so I made a promise to myself that when we got back from our trip I would “return the favour” and

Wednesday 11th November   Today we set out a little later as we were taking an all-day drive. We actually had breakfast in camp, which gave us a chance to see this morning’s understudy for Lagos and

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So many truly fantastic photos.

I like all of them, perhaps the close-ups of the malachite kingfishers are the one s that I like best - stunningly sharp detail and colours.

What lens was you using for those?


@@Julian. The majority of the photos in this TR were taken on 2 Sony DSLRs - with a few taken on an Olympus compact camera. Checking the Kingfisher photos you're referring to - these were taken using a Sony A99 with a Sony 70-400mm G SSM Lens. This is definetely our main 'go to' lens for this type of trip and from reviews is considered one of Sony's best lens - we got an amazing deal on this a few years back from Amazon (it was an 'open box' new lens at a significant discount).


At times we would like the extra 'reach' of the larger Canon and Nikon 600+ mm lens - but to be honest I'm not sure we could afford the extra weight of those lens as we were already slightly over the total of 16 kilos baggage limit per person imposed by Coastal.


Overall, we are very happy with this lens and are pleased that you like the results.

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Everything looks gorgeous, wet or dry.

You are upping the adrenaline factor with a mamba followed immediately by bees; the foxes came as something of a relief!

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more stunning photos!

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Your writing continues to be very engaging and your photos stunning.

I alsolove your Bat-eared foxes, and the Dik Dik are very cute. Kudu are excellent - and the bored lion cub.

Your bird photos are stunning - and who can not adore baby elephants?

(Did the tetse repellant dung work?)

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To post 32.


You got the gloss in the glossy ibis. In fact all of your bird photos have distinctive color. If you had to go home after the elephant shrew, your trip would have been a success. What an obliging little creature. Such willingness to expose itself may mean it won't be a subject for future photographers.


I wonder if you saw an Eastern Green Snake. Nonpoisonous. Your photo reminded me of one a got a shot of that was ID'd by the guide. Whatever it was, you captured the brilliant green.

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Yea on the bat-eared foxes and yikes on the black mamba. (Although I'm like you. I'd kind of like to see the snake, but from a safe distance. 10 feet long? Wow.)

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Wow, wow. Too many favorites to mention.

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Peter Connan

Wow, what a beautiful TR and stunning photography throughout!


Thanks @@PCNW for the heads-up!

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Your writing continues to be very engaging and your photos stunning.

I alsolove your Bat-eared foxes, and the Dik Dik are very cute. Kudu are excellent - and the bored lion cub.

Your bird photos are stunning - and who can not adore baby elephants?

(Did the tetse repellant dung work?)




Glad you are enjoying - look out for the return of the bat eared foxes in a future episode.

We certainly adore baby elephants - mind you the more we go to Africa, the more creatures we find we do adore - even those that other people tend not to like so much.


So did the dung work - hmmm - well I think it did a bit - when the wind was blowing in the right direction, you did have to watch out for a slightly blue haze in some of the photos, and the @##@!! tsetse flies are determined beyond belief, and will bite through anything and everything. About the only thing they did not bite through was my walking shoes. Luckily I found that I do not react badly to these bites and hydrocortisone cream seemed to clear them up quite quickly for me. We did see some people with bites that had gone quite nasty though.

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To post 32.


You got the gloss in the glossy ibis. In fact all of your bird photos have distinctive color. If you had to go home after the elephant shrew, your trip would have been a success. What an obliging little creature. Such willingness to expose itself may mean it won't be a subject for future photographers.


I wonder if you saw an Eastern Green Snake. Nonpoisonous. Your photo reminded me of one a got a shot of that was ID'd by the guide. Whatever it was, you captured the brilliant green.




Yes the ibis did indeed live up to its name. The elephant shrew was a real surprise - as i said it is something I hoped to see but did not really expect to see. Amazingly I saw three on this trip. The little one that came out to have his photo taken (I hope he becomes a little more cautious too), one at night at Selous Impala, and another one (fleeting glimpse only) that ran away as we drove along.


Thank you for the possible id of the snake - it certainly looks like it could be, and from its habitat information (likes being near water and climbing trees) would appear to be a good match.

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3 of them?! Quit hogging the elephant shrews!


Off topic: Though you are not telling your gender, that snowman looks rather masculine to me.

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Thursday 19th November

Today is another full day game drive. The first animals we come across are a pair of black backed jackals. They were in a great hurry, as they trotted along rapidly, mostly ignoring us other than to make a large circle to avoid getting within easy photographic range.


The morning light meant we got some nice photos of helmeted guinea fowl, wart hogs, some greater kudu and a von der dickens hornbill.





Kahimba spotted some lions snoozing in the early morning heat and we headed in their direction, however we suddenly diverted. From our research we thought that there were three kinds of mongoose in Ruaha: banded mongoose, slender mongoose and dwarf mongoose, however we now know that there are more types of mongoose, including this quite large Egyptian mongoose who having posed for a photo, ran off rapidly into the bush. We returned to the lions, who were in a very lazy mood, however one little one was obviously hungry, and ignoring us entirely suckled furiously. Seeing as the rest of the lions were only interested in snoozing we did not stay long here.



What a lovely place to have breakfast. The breakfast spot today was truly special, tucked beside a large rock and under a big tree it overlooked the dry riverbed of the Mwagusi River. There was a bit of water in a few pools, including one at the bottom of our rock, which meant that there was a bit of greenery and a few animals were mooching around the riverbed pools.



As we arrived there were some red necked spur-fowl wandering around much more relaxed than usual. As soon as we sat down for breakfast the charming unstriped ground squirrels arrived. They sat there looking at us (clearly hoping for food – which we did not give them although no doubt there would have been crumbs left). However they continued to scamper around the trees and rocks while we were there totally unbothered by the tourist invasion. In one of the trees nearby there was a nest from hammerkop, although the bird itself was out getting its own food.




After breakfast Kahimba found this rather charming pearl spotted owlet in the tree just above our heads. At one point it almost bothered to open an eye but it was just a bit too much effort.


Looking along the river we became aware of a small herd of elephants walking towards us. Kahimba said we could sit on the large rock to watch, so we clambered up quickly before the elephants came round the river bend. We sat watching as they came closer and closer and much to our surprise (and delight) wandered straight over to the small pool right at the bottom of our rock – splashing in the water and slurping up a few mouth(well trunk)fuls. We could hear the soft grumblings that they made as they drank. After a short while the big male who had been at the back came charging up and marched into the middle of the pool, moving all of the others on. He noisily slurped a couple of trunkful’s of water before suddenly realising there were some strange creatures on top of the rock. He rapidly retreated, ears flaring, trunk up – smelling us and trying to figure out what we were. After a couple of minutes when we wondered if he would actually charge the rock, he decided we were not a threat and came back to slurp up some more water. He stirred the slightly green covered water with his trunk, then blew and slurped (like a child with a straw) - eyeing us all the time. J and I had read the stories of @zimproguide (http://safaritalk.net/topic/14313-we-were-blessed/#entry153598) before we went away and both of us remembered the story of the elephant who sprayed water at him and some guests hiding in a bush and wondered if we were in for a similar incident – both of us were ready to cover the cameras, however despite eyeing us warily he just drank his water before wandering off to join his family further down the river bed.








The whole herd proceeded to drink from holes they had dug in the sandy river bed so that they could reach the water which obviously ran underneath what looked like totally barren sand. Having watched the elephants for a while we moved on for the rest of our morning drive.






Before lunch we saw more impala and wart hog, a young male greater kudu and a pair of young giraffe sitting comfortably under the shade. Bird wise we saw a nice brown crowned tchagra and one of the recently recognised endemic Ruaha hornbills.








Kahimba had told us earlier that morning that there were no ostrich sightings in Ruaha, but of course the animals always want to prove you wrong, and we came across this nice couple with a substantial number of youngsters. We tried to count them but they were a fair way off, they were in the long grass and every time we tried to count the youngsters would move rapidly between the male and female and we would lose count. In the end we guesstimated around fourteen to eighteen baby ostrich. Let’s hope lots of them grow up and there will be more ostrich in Ruaha.



We visited little Serengeti and it really does look like the Serengeti – the vegetation is clearer with beautiful acacia trees. It is one of the few places in Ruaha where you have a chance of seeing cheetah, we did look, but if there was a cheetah there it was not willing to be seen. There were a couple of oribi in the shade of one of the acacias, and we saw both yellow throated sandgrouse and white bellied bustard in this area.








Coming back along the Great Ruaha River we saw small pride of lions who had found a patch of shade to sit in whilst they waited, hoping for lunch to come to them. A number of smaller groups of zebra, appeared to have joined into one larger group, and were crossing the road, in front and behind us. A juvenile bateleur eagle was also looking down into the dried river bank.






A small group of vervet monkeys were playing in the afternoon sun, and a woodland kingfisher sat high in the branches of a nearby tree.



Now we approached down a narrow track carefully and it was obvious that Kahimba knew something interesting was ahead. We pulled under a tree and Kahimba said look up. It took while but eventually we could make out a spotted branch (oh no that’s not a branch – that’s a tail – a spotted tail). It wasn’t easy. After a bit of manoeuvring we could make out the bottom of leopard sitting on top of the branches. We moved away from the tree, and eventually managed to get an angle on the top of the tree which showed a young female leopard perched on the top of the thick foliage. She sat up and yawned, before shuffling and stretching, careful to keep an eye on us. We were told that she was still with her mum, but that mum had left her in this tree while she went off somewhere.





We now headed back closer to Mdonya camp. We could see up ahead a single male lion. He was lying around what looked to be a dried out pond. He looked to be a young lion, and appeared to have a Mohican hair cut (which will hopefully grow out as it’s not a great fashion statement). We did not see the females at first as they were much more tucked into the bushes.




Leaving the lions we headed back to camp. The park rangers had been busy today, and had been putting out new anti-tsetse flags. These black and blue flags attract the tsetse flies, and are impregnated with some kind of insecticide. (If you are visiting Ruaha – do not whatever you do take clothing in the black or blue range – it really does attract the flies, and it’s bad enough without encouraging them). I don’t know if it was psychosomatic but even the next morning there did appear to be less tsetse flies.


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3 of them?! Quit hogging the elephant shrews!


Off topic: Though you are not telling your gender, that snowman looks rather masculine to me.






But I like elephant shrews ( and we have never seen them before this trip). J only saw two of them, but one was the fabulous sighting (which he reminds me he found) and the other was a lovely sighting at night found by our Masai escort.


I'm not quite sure what gender the snowman is - we never asked it! As it happens J is male, and I'm female. The gender box doesn't let us put both in.

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So strange to see the elephants digging for water in the Mwagusi riverbed knowing that in just a few weeks the river would be in full flood actually bursting it's banks.


Nice shot of Little Serengeti. Somehow I never got that perspective.

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Friday 20th November


Our last day at Mdonya – but even so we were up early and out for our game drive with the luggage in the back of the vehicle. We took advantage of a slightly later start to take photographs of the camp residents including hildenbrandts francolin, red necked spurfowl and some of the vervet monkeys.






Just outside the camp grounds we found a mother impala was cleaning off her just born calf. It was still damp from the birth process and very wobbly and uncertain on its legs.


Before we headed off on this trip we had done our research, having a look at the various creatures that we might see. One of the birds we had noticed that was on the list of residents was the crested guinea fowl (yes crested not helmeted). I loved the look of this beastie and gave it a nickname which J thought was hilarious and very appropriate. Anyway it turned out that unlike the helmeted guinea fowl, which pretty much trot around anywhere, crested guinea fowl hide in thick bush, and run away from everything. Kahimba had spotted some earlier this week, but they had gone before he managed to show them to us. So this being our last morning around Manze, and the vegetation that they like we had pretty much given up on seeing them. We were barely out of camp when Kahimba suddenly called a stop. We scrambled to look, and there racing off from the thick bush to the even thicker bush were three crested guinea fowl. We crowed with glee, but sighed that they ran off so quick. Kahimba laughed and said “no one ever gets a photo of these”. Well maybe it’s not the best photo – but we did get a shot, and it shows exactly why we gave it its nickname.

The nickname – oh yes – may I introduce you to “Elvis”.


We travelled through a more wooded area and found a beautiful purple-crested turaco (it was obviously going to be a day for crested creatures). A tiny little leopard tortoise was trying to cross the road. Luckily Celestine saw it and managed to avoid it before reversing to let us have a proper look. We were told that was actually out and about a bit early – they did not really expect to see these until they had received some heavy rains.



We went up to Kilimatonga Hill, I think Kahimba was looking for leopards but they were being elusive, however we did come across a herd of fabulous elephants. The matriarch of the herd was very definitely keeping herself between us and the younger elephants. They had found a pool of water which they were stirring to make a red wash for themselves. They were then using their trunks to spray paint themselves quite a bright red. The smallest of the elephants actually clambered into the pool.





At 11.30 we headed to the airport, to transfer to a Kwihala Camp vehicle. We took a fairly relaxed drive to Kwihala Camp, where Tam went through the standard briefing, before we were shown to our tent (number umbele). The camp here is less permanent than all of the others, and had the least prepossessing view, being just (just!!) bush. The main reception / dining area was a tent, without any of the solid flooring of the other camps. Basically the camp could pick up and move with much less evidence of its location. It is a much smaller camp with only half a dozen tents and the tents themselves are a different design, bigger, with a lovely attached bathroom (no unzipping to access the bathroom). There is power socket in the tent which allows for charging of camera batteries etc, and there is lighting and a fan in the tent. The showers here are bucket showers, basically a container of water is hoisted above the tent, and a chain allows the water to fall down on your head – cold water is provided at lunch time, although the sun was so hot that by the time we got to it, it was more than warm enough. Hot water was provided when you got back from your evening drive. There is a method to taking a bucket shower but we have used them before and there were no problems, and in fact they were fun.



Lunch was back in the dining tent buffet style (which meant if you were late back there was no issue), and was excellent (again all the food here was fabulous.) After lunch we relaxed on our patio area, having filled up the little bird bath to see what would turn up. A number of birds visited but the only photo today was of an eastern violet-backed sunbird.


We headed back to the reception tent for a drink before our afternoon guide. There were a small group of people who were not staying at Kwihala but who were chatting to Tam. Speaking to them we found out they were from the Ruaha Carnivore Project, including Amy Dickman who is the director of this group. They were doing surveys of the various predators which involved giving guides a digital camera and a tablet to take photos and record data on the carnivores. A number of other groups were also taking advantage of this huge resource and other pages had been added to allow data on other animals to be recorded. After a certain amount of data had been recorded, the guides could retain the cameras. We had seen the guides fill in data previously but had not realised the scope of the data gathering. In addition the Ruaha Carnivore Project were working with local farmers to try and find a way to protect their animals from predators – they were looking at dogs, but the local ones were too small, and dogs brought in from outside of Africa tended to contract local disease and die. They were looking to see if they could cross breed a local dog with a bitch from one of the herd protecting European breeds.

Anyway we got talking about what we had seen that morning – and we said it had been an odd morning but that at least we had seen crested guinea fowl. They were a bit taken aback, not just that we knew what these were, but that we considered it a find. When I explained about the nickname – they asked what it was. I grinned and said “Elvis”. For a second they looked at me, and then burst out laughing. “So right” they said. I wonder if next time we go to Ruaha, we will find the guides calling them Elvis?

At 4.30 we headed out for our afternoon drive with Alex our guide. We found a large group of baboons, who were grooming each other in the warm afternoon sun.




This afternoon we saw some nice giraffe, impala and some very pretty zebras with quite a young foal. The baobub trees for which Ruaha is well known were glowing in the afternoon light, and then we found some lions.





The lions were relaxing in the same lovely light, and there was some nice interaction between one of the adults and the smallest cub.






As the light went down to give another beautiful African sunset we sipped our sundowners before returning to camp for dinner and sleep.



Overnight we heard hyenas whooping. At one point they were clearly directly outside the tent. We had a look with the torch to see if we could spot them but could not see them – and they moved off soon after we looked, leaving us to get a good nights sleep.

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3 of them?! Quit hogging the elephant shrews!


Off topic: Though you are not telling your gender, that snowman looks rather masculine to me.






But I like elephant shrews ( and we have never seen them before this trip). Ok, then you are entitled this one trip. J only saw two of them, but one was the fabulous sighting (which he reminds me he found) and the other was a lovely sighting at night found by our Masai escort.


I'm not quite sure what gender the snowman is - we never asked it! As it happens J is male, and I'm female. The gender box doesn't let us put both in. That box does limit a team approach.


In #63, so many great shots. The simple squirrel is a favorite and the tusk closeup. You caught the mother cub bonding of the lions and gorgeous sunsets. I am hoping the ostriches you saw populate the place by the time I get there in a couple of years. I didn't know there were apparently no ostrich in Ruaha.

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Bush dog



Great report and pictures.


To me, your pearl-spotted owlet looks more like a scops owl!

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Great report and pictures.


To me, your pearl-spotted owlet looks more like a scops owl!


@@Bush dog


Our guide stated that this was a pearl-spotted owlet and neither of us double checked the reference books as he seemed so confident. However, double checking now - we think that you are right as the patterning and facial features look a much better match for the african scops owl. So thank-you for the correct ID.

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Your photos and sightings continue to be wonderful.

Favourites include your two elephant group sightings, Elvis (of course),, the cub looking up in adoration ("My hero") and the new born Impala.

Your landscapes are also very special.

Both camps look very appealing.

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"Elvis lives," haha.

Great pictures! Interesting tsetse flags; I've seen the dung burning but not the flags before.

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Just fabulous photographs. I love the titles you give them (the one referencing the color blue was hilarious), and your anecdotes really add to the experience. Agree on the scops-owl, also.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Saturday 21st November


Our first full day at Kwihala Camp, and we were up and ready to get out on our drive at 6.00 am with the sun coming up. It seemed a bit cooler this morning, but not cold enough for us Brits to require the hot water bottles that had been provided in the vehicle (mind you I did use the blanket for the first hour or so).


Just as we left the camp we found a buff-crested bustard. In addition we saw some nice impala, giraffe and a white backed vulture.






We also found a large group of baboons, who were once again enjoying the morning light. Some of the youngsters had appropriated old fallen palm leaves, and were small enough and light enough to use them to climb and sit on them. One of youngsters posed, watched us and then changed his positon to pose for a further photograph. He was clearly thrilled with his new palm leaf and wanted to show off all the things he could with it.







A group of tree hyrax were lounging on a large termite mound warming up before beginning their day. A rufous-crowned roller (aka purple roller) was on the lookout for its first meal of the day. We therefore decided that it was time for our breakfast. The breakfast for Kwihala included their famous muesli – which we had heard of before we went and which fully lived up to expectation.




Not long after breakfast we finally managed to get a photo a pair of Verreaux’s Eagle Owls. Although we had seen these guys earlier they had always flown off. These two however were just too sleepy to fly away.


We headed back towards little serengeti, but the cheetah still proved impossible to find, however we did find yellow throated sandgrouse, a warthog mother and two nearly full grown offspring, a pair of jackals in the shade, who really did not want to move, and some kudu also hiding in the shade.








Near the airport we came across a good sized pride of lions. This pride had taken a giraffe, and although they had eaten most of it (as evidenced by the bulging tummies) one of the young males still had a little bit of space and was chewing at what looked like the foot of the unfortunate giraffe. This pride also included one of the spottiest young lions (not really a cub anymore but a juvenile) that we had ever seen. She actually seemed spottier than the younger cubs.







Back at camp we ate lunch and relaxed watching the birds at our birdbath, which included some red-cheeked cordon bleu, and a fork tailed drongo. The camp agama also came to visit.






In the afternoon we headed out at 4.30. We found three lionesses who had killed a zebra. Alex told us that this pride had three small cubs, but that earlier that week the lionesses had gone off on their own for a couple of days, and they had not seen the cubs since then. We looked around but could only see the lionesses and the carcass of a very recently killed zebra. Rather oddly they seemed to have eaten the meat off the head before tackling the main torso. As we watched the lionesses we became aware of movement in the bushes, and then managed to spot a small cub, and then another. The cubs finally came out, and started eating the carcass. One of the cubs was decidedly bold pushing its small face in front of the adult that was feeding and growling fiercely (I’m not sure it would appreciate how cute it sounded to us). The other cub disappeared from sight and we could only see where it was by the movement of the skin over the zebra’s side as it had literally crawled right inside the zebra’s belly and was eating from the inside. We had been watching the lions for quite a while when a third cub finally came out of the undergrowth. We were all really pleased to see all three cubs, clearly healthy and well fed.












Alex said that there were two male lions in this pride as well, and that if they found the kill, they would eat all of it. It was therefore important for the females and the cubs to eat as much as possible – even if their bellies were already bulging.

Having spent quite a bit of time watching the lions we moved on, and found some more baboons, and a huge flock of open-billed storks which flew over (the photograph only shows about a quarter of them) before the sun started to sink and we had our sundowners watching the sun sink behind the palm trees.





Just as we finished our sundowner and were heading to Kwihala Camp news came over the radio that wild dog had been seen by the vehicle in front of us. Despite a swift drive, by the time we got there the dogs had headed off into the deep bush and could no longer be seen. We continued to camp disappointed but hoping that maybe we could see them tomorrow!

Dinner at Kwihala is round a single table, with Tam and some of the guides joining the guests. The food is probably the best of all the camps we stayed in, and there is plenty of it. Personally we prefer one big table for dinner as it is nice to chat to the other guests about what you have seen.


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Sunday 22nd November


Our final full day on Safari, and this morning we went looking for the dogs. We saw plenty of tracks and some recent droppings, but the dogs remained totally invisible. As one of the other guests said – you never see dogs when you are looking for them – only when you have given up on them. We saw some more dik dik, and then Alex took us back to the bat-eared fox den, which we had visited with Kahimba. It was no hardship to revisit these lovely little predators. The cubs seemed to have grown braver in the few days since we had last seen them, and were bolder and more playful than last time.







Whilst still keeping an eye open for the wild dogs we came across a levaillant’s cuckoo – the Swiss guy in the vehicle with us was apparently the head of the Swiss equivalent of RSPB, and seemed very pleased to see this bird. We also saw some more giraffe. Anyway whilst looking for the dogs, we found a leopard sitting on the top of the most beautiful rock.









Quite a long way back in the Ruaha vegetation we became aware of a pair of klipspringers – far too far away for a good photo, but in such a nice spot that it makes a good scenic.



Next we headed down to a bit of the river that actually had some water. A small pod of hippos was making the most of this very pretty spot. Whilst a fish eagle was looking for its breakfast, one of the grey herons had already made its catch and was wandering along looking for somewhere to settle and eat it.







We headed back to camp for another nice lunch and break, watching the birds at our little bird bath, including one that we have not managed to identify (any ideas?), and the resident agama lizards.





In the afternoon we went back to see the small pride of lions. The males had obviously not found the kill, but very close to where the lions were there was a jackal (it shot off from under a bush as we approached). It was also clear that the vultures had figured out there was a kill very close by. The lions had dragged the carcass deeper into the bush, but were still snacking on it and the vultures were totally unwilling to risk getting caught up in the bush with the lions still around.

Whilst watching the lions I became aware of a flash of colour in the wrong place. I looked harder and looked at Alex in confusion. One of the lionesses had also seen it too; she sat up sharply staring in the same direction, intent – concentrating.







Alex looked at me and said “people”, I gaped. Someone had decided to lead a group of people on a walking safari through the thick bush we were sitting in. They were unaware of our vehicle, let alone the lions, and it was all too clear that at least one of the lions was well aware of them. Alex got on his radio speaking to base camp, and we stayed watching, hoping that the walkers would not come any closer. Luckily they did not and the lion lost interest going back to the carcass. We later saw the vehicle containing the walkers – I don’t think they knew how close they came to having a far too close encounter with lions.

In addition to the lions we saw some zebra, before we had our sundowners as we watched the sun go down.


Tonight we had our night game drive. We did not expect to see a lot but it is nice to be out in the dark with all the sounds. We picked up our armed ranger and went to see what we could see. We saw a number of the smaller nocturnal creatures including bush babies, genets and a white tailed mongoose. In addition a verreaux’s eagle owl came to look at us to see what we were. There were quite a lot of nightjars that were sitting on the road and which would fly up into the headlights before heading away in the evening. We briefly saw a hyena which was clearly on a mission as it trotted sharply off into the night. Finally very close to the camp, we found the two male lions. They were fast asleep despite the late hour.








We headed back to camp for a late dinner and bed.

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