Jump to content

Trip report - Tanzania & Zanzibar


Jochen
 Share

Recommended Posts

Right...

 

I was asked to post my trip reports here too.

 

I'm currently writing one on Brazil (half way finished, in Dutch, see my website pixelpower.be) and when it's done I'll translate it and post it on aardvarktravel.net. And here, if I may.

 

But then there's that other trip report on Aardvark. The one of last year. Been thinking; perhaps better if I post it here too. Hell, why not!

 

So here goes...

 

(I am a lousy writer, so it's not like Matt's. Sorry B) . I hope it contains lots of valuable info on lodges, parks, gear, etc... though.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Where to start? I guess with the beginning. Nope not the 1st day... waaaay before that there was the...

 

1) PREPARATION.

 

As some of you may know, I put quite a lot of effort into preparing this trip. Where to go (paks, lodges), when to go, what to take, etc... You'll find more details on all this throughout the report, but let me start with a list of sites that proved to be helpfull:

 

- www.bwanamitch.com. This is the biggest Afrika portal site on the web. Through this site I found about all I was looking for, from general info down to travel guides.

 

- www.andybiggs.com . I knew Andy Biggs from www.dpreview.com, and knew he started a safari-business. So I got in touch with him for some very specific questions. One of those questions was about hand luggage (he's been using KLM a lot as well, so he knew all the tricks there are). Getting all camera gear in the overhead bins and not in the normal luggage compartment is important. Other questions were of course about photo gear (duh). For example, Andy was the one who pointed out the Kinésis Beanbag to me (http://kgear.com/r/). thanks Andy! Note; the banner on this website is Andy's B)

 

- I used http://mwanasimba.online.fr/E_index.html to learn some Swahili. As I didn't buy a general guidebook (why still bother with all that general info? It's all on the web anyway), this site was very handy. It may look very basic, but it works!

 

- Verious safari forums, such as aardvarktravel.net one, and Fodors.

 

- Howard Hillman safari guide. Good general info, and good migration-specific info: http://www.hillmanwonders.com/safari/index.htm#_vtop

 

- Tanzanian Tourist board: http://tanzaniatouristboard.com/index.php

 

- Safari web: http://www.safariweb.com/tanzania/attract.htm

 

- Africa Travel Resource: http://www.africatravelresource.com/africa...00-tanzania.htm

 

- African Mecca Safaris. Not as a tour operator, but they got videos of most camps & lodges on their site: http://www.africanmeccasafaris.com/safariafrica.asp

 

- http://www.go-safari.com/safari_Tanzania.htm. Eben & Carol got a lot of info & pics of all the lodges, and use GoogleEarth KMZ files as well. Great site. With their help, i was able to visualize my trip virtually, way before it started. Note; the KMZ's seem to have gone now, but I still have them :)

 

(I might have forgotten some links so check back as I might add some more later.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After having distilled a lot of info out of the above sites it was time to get down to business! First off, I decided on a period. It had to be a dry season (spotting reasons). As the winter season was more expensive, and as we already had plans for winter 2007 (Christmas & new-year will be celebrated at my parent's villa in the south of france), we decided on the summer dry season. Which is actually their "winter" over there so it seemed. I wanted a fair chance at spotting the migration, but also it became clear that we could not leave any sooner than the end of June (as one of my fellow travellers had kids who had exams at school, so she could only leave when school summer vacation started). In the end, we decided on leaving the last week of June.

 

Next, I chose the parks. Some skip parks. Others do them all but in a (IMHO) strange sequence. For example: they do Manyara, then Serengeti, then the crater, and then Tarangire. So all the way west and then back east by car too. It appears they do this to save some money (as they don't need any local flight back to Arusha). But I figured; the cost of that filght (about 100$) is of no comparison with the extra time spent on the road driving all the way back. And on top of that, taking a flight back enabled me to do the northern parks in a more logical order; starting with the most "simple" parks, and "saving the best for last". Our final itinerary; a day in Tarangire, a day in Manyara, three days in the crater and three days in Serengeti. With all the inbetween travelling included: 10 days of safari. And after that, a flight back to Arusha and then another 5 days in zanzibar.

 

Then I chose the lodges. No surprise perhaps; but again I chose the lodges not only by cost, but I also chose some for other important reasons, like having electricity to reload batteries and being in a location that minimized our time on the road.

the lodges I chose were:

- KIA lodge. We were going to arrive at Kili airport in the evening after a long day of travel. Having looked at the lodges near Arusha (more like hotels), I thought; why bother driving straight to Arusha? So KIA it was. It proved to be an excellent choice, as they agreed to also give us a "day-room" on our last day of the trip (on that day we come from Zanzibar in the morning, but the flight to Holland only leaves in the evening).

- Tarangire safari lodge. This one was near the entrance of the park. So that saves us some time on the road.

- Manyara Seronera. Close to Manyara gate. Unfortunately this one was full, even though I started planning this trip a year in advance! Finally it was Kirurumu tented camp. but you know what? I'm glad we weren't in Seronera, as this one looks like a small hotel. And Kirurumu, for us, was the best lodge throughout the trip. Great tents! And great location. And great food too!

- Ngorongoro Sopa. We wanted to be on the other side of the crater for a various reasons, so this was our only option. Those reasons were; a) we wanted to spend a day towards Empakai, so Sopa was excellent to minimize travel distance, and B) the road into the crater at Sopa is much better and waay less crowded in the morning.

- Ikoma tented camp. Recently being bought bu Moivaro (like KIA), the camp should have been improved (it was; you'll have more info later), and it was the only affordable camp close to where the migration should be at that moment. Note that the distance between Sopa and Ikoma is a bit too much to do in one day, so our final travel agent threw in one night at Ndutu lodge. Again an excellent choice.

 

You'll have more info on all the lodges as I write down the day by day details.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Then I looked for a tour operator that I could trust. Well maybe most companies on the web (that are a bit known) can be trusted, but this is not a cheap trip so I wanted to make sure.

 

Note that us Belgians, we're still very uncertain when it comes to doing business on the web. So we'd rather deal with someone who has an office over here in Belgium, or in Holland. No problem there: there's plenty of firms that are based "over here", but provide trips "over there". Here's how I chose them:

- I stayed away from the bigger firms. Ic the ones that have a brochure that can be found at all our local travel shops. Most Belgians still book through one of these travel shops, so those "bigger safari firms" allow themselves to sell at a higher price. It's almost a bit of a monopoly thing.

- I stayed away from websites that looked too amateuristic.

 

In the end, I had a list of about 10 firms. I wrote to them, gave them the itinerary and wanted lodges, and asked them for a price for 4, 6, 8... persons (at that time it was still unclear how much people of our photo club would join). I wanted at least one full jeep, but perhaps there'd be 2 jeeps. Note that a full jeep means a slightly lower price per person.

 

The replies I got were very divers. Some just gave us a sample trip of their own, completely ignoring our needs (location/parks/electricity/...). One didn't even bother writing back at all. But some took our request seriously, and put a lot of effort in answering questions etc. out of these we chose two "finalists". One Dutch firm, one Belgian. We asked both these firms to confirm their prices, and at that point the Belgian firm replied that "parks xx and yy had become much more expensive" (info which I knew was absolute BS) and that in their previous offer they'd forgot to include the cost of the local flight from Serengeti to Zanzibar. Their price was all of a sudden 500€ higher that their rival's price, altough the itinerary was 100% identical. Very dissapointing!

 

The verdict was easy; it became www.exploretanzania.com, a company owned by Marjolijn, who has been working in TZ for quite some time before starting her own business. It proved to be an excellent choice, and we are very VERY pleased! Note that the task for ExploreTanzania was not that easy; we experienced some changes in participants along the way due to personal issues (health).

 

Finally there was six of us; me and my wife and four other www.xposed.be photographers.

 

About the other firms; I do not have the intention of putting up a "black list" here, as I know my experience with them may well be the exception to the rule. It's not because someone doesn't reply that they do this every time (my mail may have got lost). And it's not because a firm gets the price wrong in my case, that they do this every time either.

 

But if you want to know the names of the other firms; just let me know!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2) PACKING

 

Well hand luggage was easy; all camera gear! We took 2 bags:

- My Lowepro fotobag, containing...

- EOS 20D

- 17-40mm L

- 35-350mm L

- 8mm peleng fish--eye

- 1,4x Teleconvertor

- 580EX flash

-... and the rest of the little holes were filled with spare batteries, chargers, universal adapter, CF cards, etc...

- A normal hand luggage bag (wheels, extendible handgrip) containing...

- 300D

- Tamron 85mm macro

- laptop

- binoculars

- field guides (see later)

- medication

- sunglasses

 

We barely had room for a set of spare underwear!

 

Our luggage were 2 bags containing typical safari clothing, toilet stuff, and plenty of socks & underwear. And two beach towels and an extra pair of shoes. We were within weight limits (15kg/bag max), even though the toilet stuff weighed a lot (typical; you come back with less kg, as in the end the shampoo bottle or suntan lotion, etc... is used up, or left behind).

 

As field guides, I chose:

- The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, and Primates by Richard D. Estes.

- Birds of Kenia & Northern Tanzania by by Dale A. Zimmerman, Donald A. Turner and David J. Pearson.

They can be bought @ www.amazon.com. Both were well worth the money. What also helped a lot; I studies these books prior to leaving, and added color-coded tags to easily find the animal I was looking for.

 

At this time, there's also a reptiles guide: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/012656470...ce&n=283155. I'm still gonna buy that one too, even though I'm already back at home.

 

All packed? Ready to go on safari!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 00 - departure

 

Our plane left at about 8AM, so we were there at 6AM. Koen did not want to check in yet, as he had "something very important to tell us".

 

???

 

We got away from the crowds and sat ourselves down in the chairs of a - still closed - bar atop the departure lounge. Koen took something out of his luggage. A shoe box.

 

And in there; Champagne and strawberries. He said no good trip starts without Champagne. I couldn't agree more, even at 6 in the morning!

 

After that we attached pieces of yellow ribbon to all our luggage (normal and hand luggage). Easier this way to spot our bags on the trransport belts of all the airports. Smart!

 

Next; checking in! Went pretty fast. I decided to hold on to my monopod & ballhead. I mean; I could have attached it to my backpack but why bother. And if someone complained, i could still give it to the air hostess to get it back after the flight. We did the exact same thing with a wooden giraffe of 1,5m when coming back from South Africa.

 

Big mistake! At the last chackpoint (way past initial checkpoints, tax free zone, etc..) I ran into one of those security guys... you know the type. And if you don't; check out fotographers sites such as dpreview.com. You'll find plenty of stories about these guys. They like to mistake photographers with terrorists, and like to misuse their powers. He said: "that can be used as a weapon and cannot pass".

 

The fact that others had their pod with them IN the bag, and passed by just fine; didn't matter.

The fact that a couple passed by with climbing sticks (Kili climb?), and that those sticks could be used as a weapon too, just as much as my pod: didn't matter.

the fact that an old man passed by on crutches and those also are comparable: didn't matter.

Etc...

 

The only thing to do was to go back to check in, and have the pod checked in, without any protection. Either that, or leave it behind. Is that any choice at all?

 

Check-in was waaaay on the other side of the airport; inbetween was the tax-free zone, and a very long tunnel under the tarmac of a runway. I had to run both ways to make it to the plane in time. However, when arriving at the check-in, it was already deserted. Coffee break, I guess. I found a manager somewhere in the back, and he was able to help me out. He also made a call to pick up the pod and bring it to the plane. Then I ran back, and was just in time to board. Luckily, the Champagne helped a lot. Otherwise, I'd have collapsed I think.

 

The only thing going through my mind when I was in my seat was; how on earth is that pod gonna get here? I decided to talk to one of the orange-jacket guys that was loading all kinds of stuff (this was a small "city hopper" plane, so no problem to talk to personnel on the ground). He promised to give me a thumbs-up when the pod was delivered. Well, the passanger door was shut, the pilot started giving some details, so I was about to give up ...when all of a sudden from the door on the right pops an orange jacket ...and a thumbs up! Whew!

 

After a short stop in Amsterdam, we boarded the 777 to Tanzania. Private video screens, three meals, etc... all was fine. I chose two African movies to get into the mood; "Tsotsi" and "The Constant gardener". I can recommend both!!

 

In the evening, the sun already gone, we arrived at Kilimanjaro airport. First; customs. Pole pole! :wink: You could also apply for a visa there, but I was told to do this in advance as it can take quite some time. So we did and sacrificed half a working day to get our visa from the embassy of Tanzania in Brussels.

Hmmm... from what I could tell; that was an unnecessary investment. At the airport, there was time enough to get the visa (you have to queue for customs anyway).

 

Then we arrived at the luggage belt ...but could not find any yellow ribbons. ALL our bags, including my monopod: NOT THERE! Aargh!

 

Apparently KLM screwed up and left our bags in Holland. All right... that ment more paperwork, and an extra hour at the airport. And sleeping without mosquito nets, and in the clothing we had been wearing the whole day. Also; no toothpaste & stuff. Oh well...

 

Next, we met our Gane & Marshall guide, David. A young guy who'd been a guide for only three years, but had been working for TTB before that. Also, we checked out the jeep. Looked exacly like we thought it would be!

 

He took us to KIA lodge, right next to the airport. It was already dark, so I didn't take any pictures that evening. We fell asleep very fast (long day) and heard absolutely nothing (nope, not any other planes either).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 01 - KIA, Arusha, Tarangire, Tarangire Safari lodge

 

At dawn, I took a pic of the rooms at KIA;

 

01.jpg

 

Behind the bedroom was a small storage room, and passed that; a bathroom with toilet. All rooms were separate buildings, spread out in a garden. We did not have much time to check it all out, so went straight to the restaurant for the breakfast buffet. The restaurant's outer wall was all made out of glass doors and all was opened. Fresh air coming in, along with numerous birds who tried to steal as much as their beaks would allow.

 

02.jpg

 

the garden looked great, but it was clouded. So Kili was not visible either. Too bad. (you'll get some pics at the end of this trip report when we return to KIA)

 

After breakfast, we left for Arusha. First stop was a department store and a "Woolworths" clothing store. After all, we needed a minimum of supplies to cover the period until we got our luggage. But how long would we miss our luggage? One day, A week? Extra problem; Arusha was the last possibility to buy something. We decided to hope for the best; hoping our luggage would arrive that evening, or the next day. So we all bought one pair of trousers or shorts, one shirt or T-shirt, and some underwear, soap, suntan lotion etc. Two people also bought a mosquito net.

 

Having lost a few hours while shopping, we decided to skip the visit to Arusha, except for a stop at the ViaVia bar. A famous bar, run by Belgian people, whom we contacted a few weeks ago. We had a great chat about "living abroad". And for those who know me a bit; you can guess my ears were glowing as I plan to do the same thing somewhere in the future.

 

the ViaVia bar;

03.jpg

 

Soon enough, it was time to leave for Tarangire. The drive was uneventful I guess, but as it was our first day there, we enjoyed the scenery, and mount Meru, etc... at one point a huge herd of cattle crossed the road, led by Maasai, etc... We never got bored.

 

After about 1,5hrs of driving, we were at Tarangire gate. While David took care of the paperwork, we snatched our first pics. Birds mainly. The superb starlings with the dark blue shiny feathers (they are everywhere), and some sunbirds:

 

04.jpg

 

First we drove to Tarangire safari lodge (I'll post some pics of the lodge later). On our way there, we gasped at the big baobab trees.

 

05.jpg

 

After a quick check in (no luggage) and a quick bite to eat, we left for our first gamedrive. Itr was still partly clouded, but at least we got some sun now and then.

 

For Mira and me it was not our first safari, so our first animal encounters were a bit funny: every impala and zebra, even from 100M away, was photographed extensively by my fellow travelers (Koen, Tinne, Frans & Wiily), while me and Mira just relaxed and took the binoculars. The others looked at us in disbelief; how could we let those opportunities pass? B)

 

We got to see a lot, altough nothing special. Here's afew pics:

 

06.jpg

 

07.jpg

 

08.jpg

 

09.jpg

 

10.jpg

 

11.jpg

 

In the evening, at 6PM, we droved back to the lodge. Still no sign of our luggage. Quite normal, as it could not arrive @ KIA airport before 8PM that night. So while waiting for dinner, we enjoyed the view from the terrace of the lodge:

 

12.jpg

 

(notice the elephants on the right, at the river)

 

We had a great dinner (much better than expected again, just like previous meals), and after that most people went to sleep. But not me and Koen. We decided to go for some macro shots. Here's some of the things we found:

 

13.jpg

 

16.jpg

 

15.jpg

Nope, the last one isn't a macro. Obviously. 8)

 

Next; more Tarangire, then to Mto Wa Mbo and to Kirurumu tented camp!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 02 - Tarangire - Mto Wa Mbo - Kirurumu tented camp

 

OK, I promised more pics of the Tarangire safari lodge, so here is one:

 

01.jpg

 

It's a wide angle shot so you can see. the edge of the cliff on the right, and our tent (Mira in front) on the left, under the baobab trees. Further in the back they had some new bungalows as well. Altough these might have had a little more comfort (some of the tent's bathrooms were a bit too "open" and did not have mosquito nets - altough ours did), they seemed far less authentic than the tents.

 

At breakfast, we asked if our guide had any news on our luggage. He had 2 times good news:

 

- He had an envelope with in there a written report, a copy of the papers we filled in at the airport etc... and a fax report proving the whole thing was sent to our travel insurance company. Great job, G&M Tours!

- Our bags had arrived, and were being transferred to the next lodge (Kirurumu) right away;

 

About breakfast; it was a buffet with the typical stuff: bacon and eggs (I still cannot believe the amount of eggs I ate on the whole trip!), sausages, fresh fruit, toast and marmalade, cornflakes, etc...And coffee, tea or hot coco.

 

Forgot to mention; other meals were very good too. Most of it was buffet (about 3 or 4 choices of dishes).

 

So, we left the camp, still without bags, and in the clothes we bought yesterday. On our way out, we took some great shots. Most guest were still sleeping so they might have missed the impala on the edge of the cliff next to the pathway, the hornbills in the baobab tree, and certainly the other dikdik that was resting ...right behind our tent!

 

02.jpg

 

It got up a little later, and limped away. Perhaps that's why it was still laying there in the first place, even though the camp was waking up. It must have been attacked by a predator. Rather smart animal actually; by staying near the camp, it may actually recover just fine I think, as there should be less predators around.

 

In the jeep, we talked a bit more about predators. I told our guide David that I knew about the leopard that had been shot here in Tarangire safari lodge, a few months ago. He said it was actually worse; not one, but THREE leopards were shot. The reasoning behind it; they were uncertain which of the leopards attacked the little boy, so they just shot all leopards they found, just to make sure they got the one that tasted human flesh.

I must say I wasn't too pleased to hear this. I mean; I thought that these parks were there to keep animals alive. So much for that daydream; reality is that people still have a huge negative impact on nature, even in National Parks.

Recently, Johan (aka skimmer on fodors, a fellow shooter and Botswana-freak) told me he had to sign a paper every time, saying "the tour operator cannot be held responsible, yada yada yada...". He asked me if I had to sign such a thing. I did not. But IMHO that would be the right thing. After all; we are on their turf, so... With this kind of rules, the leopards might have lived. And the people in the park would be people who are there for the right reasons; to enjoy the wildlife, but also people who are prepared to take the risk. Tip for Tanapa!

 

On to the gamedrive!

 

I was warned by Andy Biggs that animals were spread out as there's plenty of green. That proved to be true, altough things were starting to become dry by now. so we never got bored. We didn't see any big cats, but no 15 minutes went by without seeing at least some giraffe, impala, ground hornbill, zebra, baboon, hyrax, blue monkey, etc... we took some pics (again; the others more than me), but as it was overcast they are not the best.

 

The animals we saw most were elephants. Well, the parks known for it but David said we were rather lucky. We found small herds, including newborns, near the roads at multiple occasions. One time, we saw them coming from far away, and waited a bit. Good move! Another jeep drove off, thinking they wouldn't show (we couldn't see them any more from where we were). But patience pays off! They passed by right in front of our jeep, and started eating on the other side of the road.

One of them wasn't too happy with our presence, and started flapping his ears, lifting his trunk, etc... altough he didn't do that real "fake charge" thing. We decided to leave them at peace before it came to a charge.

 

03.jpg

 

One of the coolest thing we saw that morning were a tawny eagle, and some mongoose playing around on a termite hill and at the base of a tree.

 

04.jpg

 

Ah yes, something I should mention; I am not showing my best pics here. I got to keep those for a calendar, an expo we are putting together, and possibly even a book.

 

And something else about that overcast weather; ampparently it's fairly common at the beginning of this "dry season". They call it "winter"; It's rather cold (for Africa), and it doesn't rain anymore. Just a layer of clouds that dissipates throughout the day. By noon you have these little fluffy clouds and in the evening plenty of stars. And the next morning; clouds again. It seems to be this way in all parks at the east side of the rift valley. The rift actually stops those clouds, so in Serengeti and the crater the pattern is rather the inverse; blue sky in the morning and clouds building up throughout the day. And in the crater you sometimes see those morning clouds come over they edge, after which they disperse and eventually dissapear completely.

 

We ended our morning gamedrive with a full hour of sun and some good elephant pics, and a good lunch. And then we left for Mto wa Mbo.

 

Mto Wa Mbo is next to Manyara lake, at the entrance of Manyara NP. A small town with narrow side streets, a lot of tourist shops and a local market with vegetables, fruits and fish from the lake (that was drying in the sun).

 

Some great pics to be taken I guess, but I felt a little awkward photographing those poor folks. Some others did, but soon the spontaneaty (spelling? B) ) was gone and salesmen were all around them trying to sell all kinds of stuff.

 

05.jpg

 

I focussed my lens on this fellow, flying above our heads.

 

06.jpg

 

...and then distributed some candy and pens & stuff to the kids.

 

After about 30 minutes, we continued our drive to Kirurumu tented camp.

 

This proved to be the best camp of the whole trip! Perhaps not in comfort (as Sopa Ngorongoro is far more luxurious for example). But I found this camp to be the most authentic, perfectly fitting in the environment, with great tents with a fair amount of comfort, with great views, and with really excellent food. And the "walking safari" with a maasai that they offered (for free!) was a really nice addition.

 

All tents are on the left coming from the entrance, and the reastaurant & bar were on the right.

 

07.jpg

 

This was our tent. I think it was nr. 10, but numbering was a bit strange: no 9 was even a bit further away from the restaurant, altough no 7 was a bit closer (those were the 3 tents we had). 7, as well as 3 and 4 were on the right of the path (meaning they were lower up on the cliff than the ones on the left) and closer to the reastaurant. while no. 14 and ours were on the left and had a view on the lake that was rather obscured by trees & bushes. I remember no. 7 had a great view on the lake, but I didn't check others. Uphill from our tent, they were constructing a new one.

 

This is the interior:

 

08.jpg

 

And this is the view from the bar, which is located below the restaurant.

 

09.jpg

 

That restaurant was IMHO the best we had on the mainland. No buffet here (except at breakfast), but a 3 or 4 course menu with 2 options for main dish. But it tasted absolutely great! I dunno what (famous?) chef cooks there, but I hereby like to compliment him on doing such a great job!

 

Oh yes; by night, there's alot of frogs croaking near the restaurant. Sometimes so loud you can barely understand each other! Now that's what I call dining in a natural environment! I hope the cook never ever puts frog legs on the menu!

 

There's this little pool right next to it, and there's where i found them:

 

10.jpg

 

Coming up; First Manyara. Then Ngorongoro crater, and Sopa. And a mysterious encounter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 03 - Manyara NP - Kirurumu walking safari

 

This 3rd day started out VERY grey. i got up before 6AM to photograph the sunrise, but it was very clouded. Too bad.

 

We left for Manyara very early (in fact; whenever possible we left very early, the words of Johan in mind: "the early bird catches the worm" ...altough in our case we were never quite as "lucky" as him).

 

The beginning of the park is a very green and thick forest; Not that easy to spot animals, but great for those "on the road shots" (a track with reddish earth, a jeep, some dust, and lotsa green around).

 

Right after we passed the entrance, we saw some blue monkeys (aka Sykes monkeys). Those I hadn't seen before!

 

01.jpg

 

We saw another one on the way out, and those pics turned out better than the above one. Altough all were taken at ISO1600 (not a lot of light available). I haven't heard from the other people, but as only two of us were shooting Canon (high ISO noise is hardly a problem with my dSLR), and as I was the one with the best tele (L-glass, fast AF), I guess I am the only one with succeeded pics of these monkeys. Not that they will ever be in a book. But they sure are good enough for a personal album. Tinne, who also shoots Canon, used a Bigma (Sigma 50-500), but if I recall correctly she could not get it focussed. Also, a bigma at full tele is F6.3, so rather dark to begin with.

 

A little bit after that; our first lion! Our guide - who like any other guide has eagle eyes (*) - saw it as he passed. It was hiding near the road. When he stopped, she got up and moved further away from the road.

 

(* or at least it seems that way to any of us tourists who are not that used to spotting animals)

 

02.jpg

 

I took the above shot, manual focus to get behind the branches in front of her. Apparently I am again the only one with a succeeded shot. Not great, but taking a shot was almost impossible.

 

After that we saw giraffe, some elephants (I got absolutely GREAT shots here; details of the head but also one of his but and the ears flapping above that as she walks off), and some ground hornbills.

 

And after that; another discovery. From very far away, and against the sun, but screw all that; at least i got some shots of an African harrier-hawk!

 

03.jpg

 

That shot is a crop, of course.

 

Soon after this, some velvet monkeys crossed the road, and started posing real nicely. maybe it was the morning light, maybe it was the background, I don't know but I really got excellent shots here. Note that the shot below is far from my best one. It doesn't have the green background of the place they sat down 2 minutes after I took this shot.

 

04.jpg

 

As everyone was still shooting the monkeys, I turned around, and saw this guy:

 

05.jpg

 

This is a white-browed coucal. It flew away after I took 2 shots, so again I guess I'm the only one with an image. The pic above is full frame, so the original shot has plenty of detail. I still wonder why it was sitting so close, and why it stayed there as the jeep stopped. Maybe it saw we were not looking at him. Perhaps thats why he flew off when I started shooting him.

 

Next, we came at the lake side. There was some kind of road ending where a lot of jeeps were standing. It was a roundabout of some sort. The water was 100m away, and it was plenty of wildlife; hippos storks and marabou storks (100s of them!), ibis, egrets, ... again we all took a lot of shots. But IMHO we were too far away to make great compo's.

 

After that, we had a picknick on a hill somewhere. There were some benches and a toilet. The usual thing.

 

Maybe a word on the lunchboxes; all lodges distribute these, if you tell them that you will not come back to the lodge for lunch (actually the guide takes care of this). Well after all, you booked full board, so the lodges have to provide something...

Some boxes may have the lodges' logo on it, but all are about the same size. And what's a bit worse; they always contain about the same thing. Certainly coming from one and the same lodge. By that I mean; if on day 1 you have a lunchbox from one particular lodge, and the next day you have again a lunchbox from the same lodge ...then you are almost 100% certain it is again going to contain about the same as yesterday. you may get some more variety switching from one lodge to the next, but still.

A typical box contains:

- a small tetra-pack with fruit juice

- some piece of fruit

- crackers and some cheese

- a hard-boiled egg

- a sandwich (2 loafs of bread with some chicken or ham)

- a piece of cake

If you are lucky, you may get a dessert like a chocolate bar. Also, one lodge had boxes with pasta in them (in an aluminium wrapping).

 

We actually never got bored with the lunch boxes. Our stay was too short for that. Perhaps only the eggs (I <still> cannot believe how many eggs I ate, also at breakfast). But the guides seemed to hate them because of the very little variety.

 

On with the show! We had arrived a little late at the picknick site, and all the others (including a bus full of children) were leaving. When we were alone, the silence came back, and so did the birds, looking for leftovers. The glossy starlings were there, as they are everywhere. And then there were red-and-yellow barbets:

 

06.jpg

 

A shot I have of one of these guys, on a branch of a tree, may well be the most beautiful shot I got. I just cannot get enough of the colors! Altough maybe, these guys come close as well: black-winged red bishops

 

07.jpg

 

Great colors too eh?

 

We got some other great shots of a caterpillar with long spikes that was crawling around near the benches, and then we left.

 

We drove further into the park, and the land got drier, and very flat (towards the lake side then). We took some great panos of the lake, with one elephant (or giraffe) in the forground. And then we turned back.

 

On the way back; more of the same animals, and also two grey-headed kingfishers. Here's one:

 

08.jpg

 

Almost at the entrance of the park (where we again found a Sykes monkey), we also saw a lot of black-and-white-casqued hornbills, high up in the trees.

 

You know; identifying all those species of animals is maybe not easy, but the books I had really were a HUGE help! The birds-book was great for identification, while the "mammals" book was great for observing animal behavior. I forgot to mention this before; but on several occasions by now, the "mammals" book helped me to make the right decision; move on, or wait for something that's about to happen. I'm not gonna go into all the details here, but learning about (for example) displacement behavior really makes a huge difference! At times, I wish I had a carpet. I'd roll it out on the jeep floor, face in the direction of the Smithsonian institute, get on my knees and pray "Estes is great"!

 

On the drive back to the lodge, we stopped on the way up of the rift and took some more pano shots of the lake.

 

Back at Kirurumu, we booked the (complemenary) walking safari. A Maasai walked us around in the garden and showed us some trees & plants and their usages.

 

09.jpg

 

May sound silly but it was an eye opener! Unbelievable that they can get a better result with a piece of bark, while we - with our modern medicine - only get as far as a half-working pill with tons of side effects. B)

 

We left the Kirurumu property, and he took us to a place where you could see the other side of the rift valley. The guide named all the mountains we could see far away. Unfortunately it was too clouded to see Oldonyo Lengai. In our opinion, it was a greater view than the lakeside. So we agreed to return to the same place the next morning, with the Maasai. Hopefully we'd get some great morning light then...

 

Here's the shot taken in the evening. On the right we could actually see part of the Ngorongoro crater rim.

 

10.jpg

 

After the walk; another great diner accompanied by frog songs. And at the bar there was this dance act, with acrobats. We didn't stay too long though. We had to rest our eyes for tomorrow.

 

Coming up; Ngorongoro crater, Soipa lodge, and... the lions will get a new toy!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 04 - Ngorongoro - Sopa lodge

 

The next morning, me, Frans ans Koen were up at 5h30AM, wanting to see that non-lake rift valley view in the morning light. Unfortunately it was again very clouded. Also, the sun was about to rise and our Maasai, who promised to be there, wasn't showing up. So off we went on our own. The Maasai came running after us about 10 mins. later, apologizing about a 1001 times for oversleeping. :lol:

 

We got to the edge of the rift valley but ...naah. We took some pics but IMHO again they are just not that good enough.

 

So we came back for breakfast, we packed (note; this was the first time we actually had to travel WITH our luggage in the jeep), and left for the crater.

 

Our guide had told us there were some good souvenir shops on that road. Buying souvenirs is not my cup of tea (you'll see later what > I < "bought" for myself as a souvenir), but the ladies had a point when they said; "we haven't bought anything yet and this is our last opportunity, as after that it's 100% national parks and no more local shops (unless an expensive hotel shop)".

 

So we stopped at one of those shops and the ladies started bargaining. I must admit the whole thing seemed absolutely silly to me. First off; 90% are wooden sculptures, and I dunno about you but is that Maasai anyway? I've never seen any wooden sculpture in a Maasai hut, nor a mask, etc... and I've never actually seen a Maasai sculpting something out of a piece of wood either. But maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, if it was up to me, I'd get a spear or a shield orsomething. But our women were in control of the shopping.

On top of that; that bargaining thing. For a simple necklace (a piece of wire and some plastic (!) beads: "for you madam, special price 25$". B) They put the initial price so high that the whole thing becomes absolutely silly. But it works, as in the end you pay waaaay too much of course. For us, it became a rather enerving experience. We wanted SOMETHING, as it was our last chance, so we tried cutting them short by directly setting a reasonable price (read; still way too much as we'd never pay the same amount for the same thing in our own country). But the salesmen still did not agree, and kept on coming down with their price, dollar after dollar, which seemed to take ages. And we wanted to get to the crater ASAP! :angry:

 

When the wholething was finally over, we had to make another stop for gas. And after that: straight to the NCA gates!

 

I forgot to mention this, but the entrance fee prices of the parks changed on the 1st july 2006, ic the day we visited Manyara. Our guide had a bit of a problem that day, and needed to phone the office as Gane & Marshall apparently forgot this. But it was arranged very quickly, so I guess G&M too care of things. If anyone wants the prices; I think I have pics of all the boards at the entrances of the parks.

 

On our way up to the crater rim, we took some nice pics of the valley we came from, but when we finally came to the viewpoint, we weren't prepared for the amazing view that awaited us. Incredible! Here's a fish eye shot:

 

01.jpg

 

As this shot is 8mm, it makes the crater look rather small but I can assure you it's not. I got these set of pics that I needed to stitch together into a pano. No use posting that here; it only works well looked at in full size. it's on our dining room wall right now.

 

After shooting some pics, we left for Sopa. We took the road to the right, while all others took the road to the left. That's because Sopa is the only lodge on the northern rim, while others are on the southern rim.

 

Anyway, we barely left the viewpoint (we could not have driven more than 50 meters!) when all of a sudden, a leopard crosses the road right in front of our jeep! It came out of the crater and dissapeared on the other side of the road. We were all too surprised to take pics. Koen says he has one pic, alas with a window-edge right in the middle of the leopards body.

 

We wanted to know if it was still there. The driver told me I could get out, but that I should run back if I saw it. So I did (my wife started freaking out :) ). But it was gone. Too bad!

 

The drive to Sopa took about 40 minutes after that, and the whole time we were discussing what happened to us. Even David said he'd never seen that before. It should not have been there. And come to think of it; less than 50m away of where it was, there were people standing outside of their jeep, taking pics of the crater, not watching their backs at all.

 

We came to Sopa, dropped off the bags, filled in the paperwork, but decided not to waste time going to our rooms. We'd rather leave straight away for the crater. With all that happened to us (including that shopping ordeal) we were already an hour late; it was 1PM, and we only had until 6PM!

 

So we drove straight into the crater! The first thing we saw was a large buffalo herd crossing the road, towards a small pool.

 

Our guide drove us straight to the pickinck site; it was already almost 2PM in the afternoon, and we still hadn't touched our lunchboxes.

 

Apparently there are only two picknick sites in the crater. The one where we were now, at the shores of a small lake (VERY pretty!), and another one at the edge of Lerai forest, right next to the northern road leading out of the crater.

 

At the picknick site, there were quite a lot of kites circling overhead, so you have to watch out or they snatch something out of your lunchbox, our straight out of your hands.

 

02.jpg

 

Again, as with every picknick site; when most people leave, when the quiet returns, a lot of birds pop up. We saw a lot of starlings, masked weavers, an ibis, etc... I also have some pics of a red dragonfly and a blue dragonfly. But the most pretty may have been these fan-tailed widowbirds:

 

03.jpg

 

We left camp in search of some animals that we hadn't seen yet. Our guide drove us towards Lerai forest. On the way we saw ostrich, kori bustards, etc... and then: 2 hyenas. Both sleeping in a ditch next to the road, 100m apart. Both got up when they heard us coming, only to walk 50m and then lay down again in the grass to continue their nap.

 

04.jpg

 

I got some great headshots of hyena, with sparkling eyes! Yes! After the hyenas, we saw a jackal but could not photograph it. Also; waterbuck and Egyptian goose.

 

Then we came to the second picknick site, where we stopped for a visit to the loo. Here, no kites, but velvet monkeys stealing anything that looks edible.

 

We drove further into the forest and there they were; a pride of lions! 8 or 9 in total I believe. They were resting in the grass, or even on the road in the shade of a jeep. We started shooting like crazy. They didn't do much, but once in a while one got up and moved towards where another pride member was resting, or one lifted his head and stared back at us, etc...

 

Our guide saw a better spot for our jeep, started the engine, and hit a bump while driving only 2km/h. But it was enough for Willy's lenscap to fly off his lens, and onto the ground, right in front of the lions! O-ow!

 

Willy was a bit in a panic straight away; the rest of his trip with no lenscap means a lot of pics with lens flare. So he wanted the cap back.

 

I must say, being the oldest member of the group, Willy had a bit of trouble adapting to the situation. Not only to our pace of travel, but he'd also never been to another continent. As a result, he really ment it when he said "move over and open the door, Jochen. I'm gonna get my cap back. The lions are sleeping anyway".

 

We all started talking to him at the same time, convincing him that he'd be lion lunch once they saw a prey coming out of a jeep. He was still uncertain as to what to do - even though out guide said it was forbidden - when a lionesse started developping an interest for the new toy we gave them:

 

05.jpg

 

She played around with it for a bit, rolling it back and forth, and then very gently picked it up:

 

06.jpg

 

Then she walked towards a male lion and layed beside him, holding the lenscap between her paws.

 

07.jpg

 

Willy understood at that point that he couldn't get it back. At least not now. We also showed him the humour of the situation; his lenscap would be famous! He could even write Nikon, so they can start a marketing campaign saying "lions like Nikon" or something. Our imagination was running wild!

 

A bit later, the lions moved on and lost interest of the lenscap. Our guide drove right next to it, and so did another jeep so no lion could get inbetween. Frans picked up the cap with his monopod, and Willy is now the proud owner of a lenscap that was chewed upon by Ngorongoro lions! Altough he was a bit dissapointed; it had only ONE toothmark. The lioness had been too gentle with it. We teased him a bit, saying "see? Nikon makes stuff that's too strong".

 

No, the cap will not be for sale on Ebay. I think it got a prominent spot on top of his fireplace or something. :)

 

We left the lions in search of other photographic oportunities. We saw baboon,

zebra, etc... And then we came to the soda lake where we saw two rhino (mother and youngster, but rather far away) and flamingos.

 

08.jpg

 

After that, it was time to go back to the lodge, as we needed to make it in time; we had to be at the gate at 18h00. We just made it in time. we also found out that the "6hrs max per day" rule was not being imposed. Apparently it had proven to be too difficult for a lot of tour operators. Raah! To realize we could have spent the whole day in the crater, but instead having lost two hours at some stupid shop! :angry:

 

At Sopa lodge, we finally got to see our rooms. They were really big, with two king sized beds, a verandah, etc...

 

09.jpg

 

The whole lodge turned out to be a little bit too luxurious, a little bit over the top. At least for us; it seemed a bit out of place. Such wealth! Out here on the rim! To prove my point; this was the dining area:

 

10.jpg

 

In the middle was a huge chimney for 3 fireplaces. You should have seen the 5m high, beautifully sculpted wooden doors at the entrance of the restaurant. Well actually the whole lodge was full of extravagant things like that. Every table had it's own waiter. The food was incredible as well. A fixed menu, but with choice between 2 platters.

 

We slept in one bed, wondering why the 2nd bed was needed. Perhaps in other countries these were "queen size", not "king size". A weight thing? ;)

 

The next day: something very - VERY - different than gamedrives.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 05 - Empakai crater - Boma visit

 

As they would say in Monthy Python; "and now for something completely different". A day without a gamedrive! But first; a drive without game. Or not?

 

The road to Empakai is a dirt road, just like any other road we'd seen in the parks, but this one was in a bit of a worse shape. At times it was narrow too, making us think: "if we'd had to pass a car here we'd be in trouble". As a result, the drive to Empakai takes an hour and a half. From Sopa, that is. So three hours in total.

 

Our first stop was the crater entrance gate. Today, we would not make a left, into the crater park, but a right turn, away from the crater. But David had to pick someone up at the gate. Apparently, if you visit Empakai, you need someone to protect you, as you may run into a leopard. So we had this young guy in our jeep that day, who looked kinda like a soldier; green outfit, sergeant's hat, and a long rifle.

 

Now, you should know: I have this thing about guns. I kinda hate them. A lot. At the first oportunity I got; I made it very clear to the guy that I did not want any animal shot because of my presence. I looked him into the eyes and said: "If a leopard attacks me, then shoot ME, not the leopard. Put me out of my misery." from his reaction (very surprised) it was clear I was the first ever to say that kind of thing to him. But I did mean what I said. Why would a leopard have to die because of a human being? We're on his turf anyway. Besides, there's plenty of humans around, but not nearly enough leopards.

 

Of course, my plea lost a little bit of it's impact when my fellow travellers said, while laughing: "that only accounts for him, not for the rest of us". B)

 

Anyway, I think he's there just because of liability issues or something. IMHO, as said before, they should make people sign a paper saying that nobody can be held responsible in case something happens with a wild animal.

 

Soon after we left the crater rim, the landscape changed drastically. Huge grass plains, dotted with Maasai bomas and groups of cattle (always with one or two Maasai standing nearby). At the end of those plains; small, rocky mountains with clouds hanging around them.

 

The Maasai herds were not only cows, as I thought it traditionally was. We also saw a lot of goats, and even donkeys. Apparently donkeys are used for trnsportation of good to annd from the market. Here's a Maasai with herd. A boma in the back too.

 

001.jpg

 

The most beautiful vistas were on the right (this pic was shot on the left), but the sun was in the wrong spot. So while I took plenty of shots, the ones on the way back turned out better (see later).

 

So is this all there is to see underway? Nope. We had ourselves a small gamedrive, actually. Zebra, impala, thomson gazelles, ostrish, ... they were all there. Maybe a bit less than what we'd seen at Tarangire for example, but the Maasai and the landscape made up for that. And how about predators? Well we only saw one type, but at least four of them; silver backed jackals! Two of which were near enough to photograph. Altough not easy; once you stop the car, they run off, only to stop a bit further on and look back. Very annoying; a few seconds after we stopped, the dust trail from our jeep would catch up with us, making it almost impossible to shoot a decent pic. The trick was to shoot as fast as possible after the jeep had stopped. Even before the jackall scoots off, and before the dust obscures the view.

 

002.jpg

 

Before we knew it, we were on the rim of the Empakai crater. Our guide stopped on the road, at a spot where you have a beautiful vista of the crater. Here you go:

 

003.jpg

 

Stopping on the road? How about other cars that need to pass by? Ahem... total count of other vehicles seen that day; zero. We're talking "motorized vehicles" here, of course.

 

After having taken some shots, our guide drove another five minutes to where there was a little patch of grass next to the road. A camping site of some sort, but deserted. Here's where we got out, and soon enough, we started taking the trail downwards.

A great walk! Tropical forest, huge trees with strange roots, lots of butterflies and flowers, etc. And sometimes another great viewpoint of the crater. This pathway proved to be more crowded than the main road; we enccountered one man and one cow, and had to step around a cow turd. :angry:

 

004.jpg

 

The way down was easy. And absolutely worth it, as the view that awaited us was breathtaking:

 

005.jpg

 

Just like previous pic, the original is a pano composed of shots made in landscape format. I think it's 17000x3000 pixels or something.

 

We were not alone in the crater; To the left of us, there was a young Maasai boy, with his herd of cows. Koen went to talk to the Maasai, while the rest of us went the other way, towards the flamingoes on the shore.

 

006.jpg

 

Unfortunately, the armed guy was in front of us, and thought it would be a cool thing for the tourists to scare the flamingoes so they'd fly away.

 

007.jpg

 

We were not too happy about that. But it was too late anyway, so no use complaining. We didn't even mention it. But let this be a tip for all of you out there who want to visit Empakai; ask your guide NOT to scare away the birds.

 

After a short rest on the "beach", we decided it was time to head back. The same path we'd come down. But this time slower. Much slower. And way more stops. :) By now the sun was at it's highest point (it was already 1PM), so the last kilometer, where there's no more shade, proved to be a bit of a challenge. My wife had to sit down for a bit and eat some grape sugar at one point. But maybe it was because she had always taken the lead. The smokers in our group always lagged behind, and Willy, the oldest person, gave his backpack to Koen. But they all made it just fine.

 

008.jpg

 

When we arrived at the jeep, we were very hungry. So we devoured our lunch boxes. Or at least the parts we liked (spoiled tourists as we are).

 

Time to go back "home". But this time, with a little more stops on the way, for landscape shots. I got some pretty dramatic vistas. here's one with clouds aove the mountains, and a Maasai with cattle on the grass plains. But it's lost most of it's impact as websizes are just too small for this type of shots:

 

009.jpg

 

Finally, we stopped at a boma picked out by our guide. We had asked him to do so. He first thought we wanted to visit one of those "commercial boma's", on the way from ngorongoro crater towards Serengeti. But we told him we were warned by the internet boards. No fake BS for us! We want to smell the cow dung, we want to see the Maasai as they really are! Our guide just lit up as we told him that. Finally some tourists that gave a damn! (his words)

 

He negotiated an entrance fee first. He came back to the car saying it was 10$, but he needed a bit more time to bring that figure down. We told him not to bother.

 

So finally we entered the boma. Standing in the middle of the enclosure (used to protect the cattle from predators at night) the first thing that hit us was the smell of cow dung. And right after that; the poverty of these people. No singing Maasai women here. No Maasai warriors dancing. No vibrant red Maasai clothing either. Yes, they still wore red. But it was washed out. And underneath; some other - very, very old - clothing. More holes than clothing. And then there were the flies. Hundreds of them!

 

I'll let the images speak for themselves:

 

010.jpg

 

011.jpg

 

012.jpg

 

I didn't feel at all cmfortable, photographing these poor folks. So I took very little shots. Others were taking plenty anyway. So no use of all of us shooting the same person.

 

Instead I asked if I could visit a hut. I could. So in I went. The guide went first. Inside, it was pitch black. Per "room" there was only one window of about 5cm in diameter. So hardly any light at all. I switched on my flash, aimed at nothing, and fired a shot (the infrared beam of my flash helped in finding a focus). Then I aimed the other way, and fired again. Then I got out as fast as I could. The smell, the flies, the dark, etc... it was getting to me. No, I am normally not claustrophobic at all.

 

Only afterwards I looked at my shots. One is a woman and little girl standing in the doorway. The other was this one; two guys sleeping, one of which was the "father" of this whole boma (all 14 wives, and all the children were his), the other his brother if I recall correctly:

 

013.jpg

 

Out of the hut again, I took some more pics. But not a lot. I felt very uncomfortable.

 

014.jpg

 

Time to give these folks something in return. Especially the kids. Not just $ (those 10$ pp would go to the "dad" anyway). I wish we were more prepared. We gave them the rest of all our lunchboxes, which proved to be quite a lot as most of hadn't touched our rice or apple, etc. we distributed some pencils and balloons. And we distributed a whole lot of candy. But they weren't even used to that; most kids ate theirs straight away, without even unwrapping it; Then finally, we gave them a leather football. Once again, Koen made the day. Very smart thinking: he brought some (flat) footballs and a little pump!

 

Soon enough the kids were playing football with us, and everybody just lit up. The children were all cheering, and i trhink the women thanked us about a 1000 times. I guess it was a bit of a christmas for them.

 

After that we left, still discussing what we've experienced. But soon enough it was silent in the jeep. I think we were all trying to "place" the whole experience in our heads.

 

In the morning, my wife got a call from Belgium but was too late to answer. It was a number we didn't know. They left a voice mail. But we didn't listen to it, thinking it was the carpenter (while we were in Tanzania, he was doing some repair work to our furniture). But now, on our way back to Sopa, my wife got an SMS from her brother, saying "did you get my voice mail?". Once we had a decent coverage, my wife phoned him back to see what was wrong. Apparently her grandfather - who was in the hospital when we left - had died. He was 85 and died of heart failure. I know that's old, and a good way to go, but still... we were very close to him, so it came as a bit of a shock. Especially since it seemed he was recovering just fine from his surgery.

 

We arrived at the Sopa lodge, and that was a shock as well. All of a sudden the whole thing seemed very much out of place. The difference between the luxury of the lodge, and the poverty of that boma just 30 minutes away... I felt ashamed for being there. In the restaurant, we ate our food, but altough it must have been delicious, I didn't taste much of it. I barely touched it.

What didn't help either was the assistant manager coming over to our table, bragging about the fact that the huge glass windows came from Belgium, our home country. From Glaverbel, no doubt. And "that they had to bring them here over all those dirt roads, in a time even the road to Manyara was not even asphalt".

 

The only thing we enjoyed that evening was what nature gave us: the sunset:

 

015.jpg

 

This pic's for you, grampa!

 

 

Tomorrow; another day in the crater, and the drive to Ndutu.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 06 - Ngorongoro crater - Ndutu lodge

 

The next day, we agreed on leaving very early. We wanted to be the first down in the crater, when the gate opened. So we checked out of the hotel at 5h30AM, taking all our luggage and two lunchboxes per person; one for breakfast, one for lunch.

 

We were at the gate at 6AM sharp. The sun had not yet come up! Apparently the guard also had to wake up, as it took rather long before we could go on.

 

In the beginning of the long way down into the crater, you pass a forest of flat topped accacia trees, and other than trees down on the plains, these are very green. Two days ago, driving back to the gate in a hurry, I thought; "I got to get a pic of these trees next time". Big mistake! Now it was still too dark to take decent pics.

 

So here's a tip for you; if you ever think of postponing taking a pic, as you will get the opportunity later again anyway; don't!

 

Here's one of the first pics I took, at first light. The first animal we passed, too...

 

001.jpg

 

After that we saw a herd of grants gazelles, a rhino (from rather far away again) and some buffaloes.

 

Then we came to a hippo pool. There was this one spot, a parking spot, so to speak, where you could drive right up to the edge of the pool and from where you had a great view; We waited a while, and soon enough birds came back. So we took quite a lot of pics again. Altough none of the bird species was anything we hadn't seen before.

 

The animals stealing the show were of course the hippos themselves.

 

Warning for people under 18: leave this thread now! Do NOT scroll down!

Just close that browser, and go watch some decent channel on the telly or something.

No, not National Geographic or Animal Planet, you smart@ss! Go watch CNN or FOX or something. :angry:

 

OK...

 

Now the kids are gone, lets have a look at what hippos do in the morning.

 

First, there's foreplay... you guys are very lucky you don't get to hear her moan, by the way.

 

002.jpg

 

Then there's "the checking of the oil". (you may want to accompany this with the Bloodhound Gang singing:

"you and me baby we're nothing but mammals,

So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel")

 

003.jpg

 

And finally, there's the "post orgasmic grin".

 

004.jpg

 

I must say, seeing (and hearing) this on our empty tummies is not what we expected to get from the crater. Not very good for the appetite either.

I think it was my wife who said "thank god they don't have a mating dance". Even the hippo thought that was a good one!

 

005.jpg

 

Time to eat breakfast! We went back to the picknick spot by the lake (the most pretty one of the two), and on our way there we saw warthog, some male tommies fighting and ostrish.

 

At the picknick spot, we found out we had the whole placel to ourselves. So we were able to take fantastic pics of ourselves, eating by the lake, next to the jeep, and in the background the huge tree near the lake, and the crater rim, with clouds coming over it (from the rift valley).

 

And the birds were back too. Altough the kites were still sleeping. But we got plenty of masked weaver and superb starling closeups. But maybe this is even better, with the skull in the foreground and the rim in the back:

 

006.jpg

 

Throughout the day, we talked a lot about our boma visit of yesterday. Seemed like we all had been thinking about it that night. We agreed that yesterday was just perfect. Not only was it an atypical day, and as such a great break from the normal game drive days. But also, it gave us a reality check. It showed us how fragile the balance is over there. It burst our bubble of Tanzania as the perfect place, where animal life and human life both coexist and prosper. I guess a lot of visitors close their eyes to these problems. Or they never even see them, as their touroperator shields them from the reality.

 

But we didn't actually reach a consensus of what should be done ...if something should be done.

 

My personal vision; the human species is a self-centered species. When we see one of our own kind in trouble, we often help out. But with our numbers still increasing, is that really necessary? I know it sounds harch, if you focus on those individuals who happen to have the bad luck of being the person in distress. But what if you look at the bigger picture? To give you a few Serengeti-examples:

-There are currently no wild dogs in the park. Those were all killed due to rabies and other diseases, spread by human cattle and stray dogs

- In the nineties, 3/4 of all lions died due to similar causes

- A few decades ago, all elephants were gone from Serengeti. Poached for their ivory. Now they are back (from mara).

- In the west of the Serengeti, there's currently a big bushmeat-problem (more on this later when we get to Ikoma).

And so on... there's plenty of examples. Just read any photo book on the Serengeti. The book of Jonathan and Angela Scott is an eye-opener, for example. The truth is: those "proud Maasai warriors" and wildlife do not always coexist as we'd want them to do.

 

So my opinion is; what are we, as tourists, trying to accomplish by helping those poor folks? Increasing their numbers? Alienating them from their natural habitat? I think we, as tourists, do not have the knowledge nor the power to be able to do the right thing.

I think it's best to stay humble, and agree that it's better to leave decisions to people and organisations who are more knowledgeable. And to support those organisations. Of course, I hope that they are fully aware of the importance of the National parks as last havens for African wildlife.

 

In the end, I think it's maybe better to give them things like we gave them, but not huge amounts of money (which would disturb the economical balance with other bomas nearby), or a diesel engine (making them lose their traditional ways of doing certain things and polluting nature), or whatever.

 

Of course, that's my opinion. Yours may vary. B)

 

Anyway, on with the gamedrive!

 

After breakfast, we finally found some lions! Lots of them! Another pride this time. A group of 6 females and two young males. As those males hardly had any manes at all, I assume they were rather young, and that they worked together to scare off the former "pater familias". This may also explain why there were no cubs. Those were probably killed by the males, to make the females come into oestrus again. I know infanticide is responsible of 25% of all cub deaths.

 

Here's one of the females. Looks like a snarl, but is the end of a yawn. :)

 

007.jpg

 

There was one almost adult cub who stole the show.

 

008.jpg

 

The lions were not that active. Maybe they had already fed. You might ask: "Was our early morning gamedrive for nothing then?" No, certainly not. The light is much better at those hours. So great pics are easy.

 

However, I remember that it was very cold the first two hours of gamedriving that day. We all wore our fleece sweaters, but still we were cold. Certainly our fingers; we had to keep them warm to be able to hold our cams as should. Lions often kill in the morning, before the heat of the day. But it may well be that in the crater they start off a little later than elsewhere, because of the cold. It cerainly looked that way (read on).

 

We left the lions afte having taken about 34.565.324.789.526 pics (give or take a few), and then drove on. At one point we saw some more lionesses, one of which was stalking some wathogs coming her way. Would we see a kill?

 

009.jpg

 

Nope. Unfortunately a younger female screwed up by giving away her position. Too bad. Exciting moment, though!

 

After this: more grants gazelles and about 100 crowned cranes. And one topi, who liked to pose.

 

We finally came to the soda lake, and were often chased by "dust devils"; small whirlwinds of dust and salt.

 

010.jpg

 

Then we came to Lerai forest and the second picknick spot. Time to eat lunch, as it was already 1PM.

 

I saw my first hoopoe here. But I got some better pics in the Serengeti. So hold your horses for a hoopoe pic.

 

You know; we were told to watch our lunchboxes as the velvet monkeys nearby are little thieves. Well, guess who did not watch his lunchbox; David, our guide! the very person who warned us in the first place.

 

Net result: a lunchbox minus bisquits.

 

011.jpg

 

again, note that the "6hrs max per day in the crater"-rule is not being enforced. It proved to be too much of a hassle for tour-operators. So we got to stay in the crater for as long as we liked (or at least; the entire day).

 

Well, in reality we spent only 8-9hrs in the crater, as soon after lunch we left for Ndutu; It's a 2,5 hour drive, so... we did one last tour of Lerai forest looking for rhino (but unfortunately... the guide told us that the best road to spot rhinos was closed due to an incident a while ago; too many vehicles were around a mother and calf. And the calf got separated, as it was scared of the jeeps. At that point a lion popped up and killed the calf. Another example of our impact on nature).

 

We left the crater via the southern exit, a much steeper road compared to the Sopa one. And in a worse condition too. We took some last shots of the beautiful views of the crater and then scooted off to Ndutu.

 

First, we passed some boma's of which we could see that they really were of the "commercial" type; they even had a parking lot in front!

 

After that, one straight line to Ndutu (at one point we passed a road on our right, going to Naabi gate).

 

That long drive was fun in itself too. Drivers speed up to about 70-80 km/h here. Makes you kinda glide over all the bumps instead of feeling them. It puts quite a lot of stress on the suspension of the jeeps, but everyone does this.

 

I put on my fish eye, and again took some great landscape images.

 

012.jpg

 

Really strange landscape in the end. VERY flat. VERY dry. And untouched; the way to Ndutu is hardly a road, but more some intertwining tyre-tracks that all more or less follow a straight line towards Ndutu. At one point, we passed a fracture in the earth, as if an earthquake had lifted the plane before us by about half a meter. We could see the fracture was very old. It could have been there for ages. Should anything like that happen here in Belgium, trhe fracture would be gone in no time, ploughed away by farmers, etc. But not there in Tanzania.

 

Before we came to the forest surrounding Ndutu lake, we saw another hyena, and a lot of tommies.

 

And then we came at Ndutu lodge, where a campfire awaited us

 

013.jpg

 

We sat down for a bit photographing the sunset...

 

014.jpg

 

...and then showered and went to the restaurant for dinner. In the restaurant, we saw the spotted genet cat for which the lodge is known;

 

015.jpg

 

I'll post some more pics further on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 07 - Serengeti - Ikoma

 

Right, as promised, I'll start with some pics of Ndutu lodge first. Here's our room:

 

001.jpg

 

All rooms were small houses. Some stood apart completely, some had joining walls, like can be seen in the background here:

 

002.jpg

 

All houses were standing in one single line, the main building (restaurant etc) was right in the middle. No fences or anything. Altough the level of comfort was maybe a bit less (well, the shower had brackish water from the lake, but who cares?), I liked this lodge far better than Sopa. That was a hotel. This is a lodge.

 

Last evening, I had a chat with David, about safari businesses. Altough too much to write that all down; it was an eye opener again. Behind the scenes, things are arranged in a much different way than you'd expect. And I also found out a driver does not get the same luxuries at us. Not by far. They have to sleep in separate buildings, sometimes 4 of them together, and sometimes those buildings are in a very bad shape. That was the case at Kirurumu for example; while it may be heaven for us, it is not for him. Apparently all drivers (also from some other neighbouring lodges of Kirurumu) were sent to a particular building in the neighbourhood that serves as "driver motel".

 

He said Ndutu was OK though.

 

Even though I stayed up late, I got up early to catch the sunrise. Surprise surprise; there were all the others too. Standing in the garden, waiting for Laura.

 

Well, I got me some great sunrise shots. As did the others. And after that I turned my attention to the plants. In the pic above, you could see this plant with red flowers, and that plant worked like a magnet for sunbirds. Here's a scarlet-chested sunbird for ya;

 

003.jpg

 

We had breakfast (buffet, more eggs), and someone filled up the little bird bath in front of the restaurant. Within minutes, the place was swarming with agapornis, and weavers, etc... I also got a pic of a lizard on the trunk of a tree. I could have spent some more time here, but ...time to leave!

 

We left the lodge for a tour around the lake. We barely left the lodge when Koen saw this lesser spotted eagle, plucking feathers out of his freshly caught prey:

 

004.jpg

 

That prey proved to be a guineafowl and it wasn't dead yet. It moved it's head back and forth, while the eagle was eating him. Apparently the eagle didn't like the fact that his prey still moved; the first thing he did was bite the neck so the head would come off.

 

Eventually it did.

 

Afterthat we had a tour around the lake (obligatory pano taken), but there wasn't much to see. David warned us for this; wrong season to be here. well... we just booked a night here as the trip from crater to Ikoma would be too much to do in one afternoon.

 

As the place was deserted, we decided not to spend anymore time here, and to scoot off right away, towards Naabi gate, the entrance of Serengeti.

 

The road from Ndutu to Naabi hill was rather uneventfull. Except for a hyena and some tommies.

 

After about an hour, maybe a bit less, we came to Naabi gate. While David took care of the papers, we had a walk around. This place was very fertile, and as a result; lots of animals!

 

For example, there were these Hildebrandt's starlings, which to me were more beautifull than the regular type; slightly different colors, and reddish eyes:

 

005.jpg

 

But there was far more to see than just starlings! The whole place was crawling with mice. A different subject, but fun. At one point, I couldn't decide where to turn my attention to first. Koen saw this chameleon...

 

006.jpg

 

...while I spotted an agame lizard 2 meters further. I ended up going back and forth between both. Little did I know the place was full of agame lizards; as I took the little path up the hill towards the viewpoint, I found lot's more of them. Here's a nice one:

 

007.jpg

 

I took another landscape/pano shot from the view of the serengeti, found some more birds and another type of lizard (less colorfull). And then... I saw a lion's head pop up from under a tree, about 200m from where I was standing. I guess it was resting as the head was gone before I could take a shot. Or was it sneaking up on us? I warned the others of what I saw and came back to where our jeep was. I wanted to ask the guide if the lion could be dangerous, but before I even got to him, some other people (tourists as well as guides) pointed out another lion to me. This one being even closer; about 50m from the restrooms.

 

008.jpg

 

Yes, it was dangerous, so they warned me to stay alert and to not get closer. I decided to go back up the hill again, as Koen, Frans & Willy were still up there. But they were down already, saying they hadn't seen a lion, but they saw a giraffe.

 

All the while, Tinne stayed where she was. She's really into bird photography, but kinda liked the mice as well. I joined her and shot some more birds, like this bronze sunbird:

 

009.jpg

 

Then we turned our attention to the other side of the road, where there were plenty of weavers' nests. we spent some time trying to get pics of a weaver popping out of it's nest. But then it was time to leave again. Even though this stop took quite long (busy gate, Naabi hill), it wouldn't have bothered me one bit to have stayed even longer. So many beautiful things to see here!

But apparently a lot of people think differently: They were hanging around their jeep, waiting impatiently, not even trying to climb the hill to get the view. It seems most of them are focussed on the big game, and couldn't care less about the rest. Damn shame! To give you an example; at one point I went back to where the chameleon was. By now it was high up in the tree, and it finally had it's tail all curled up. While I was aiming to get a shot, some toursists went by behind my back, and I heard this:

 

"what the hell is he shooting"

 

...silence...

 

other guy; "just the branches I guess".

 

B)

 

I didn't even bother to point out the chameleon to them; If they couldn't see him, they were probably blind anyway.

 

On with the gamerdrive! From east to west, through the Serengeti. That morning we saw lots more tommies, ostrish, wathogs, impala, grants, topis, ... you name it, we saw it! Well... no predators along that "main road". But other than that..

 

We also passed our first "kopjes".

 

At one point PSSSHHHH! ... flat tyre! Sh*t happens. Oh well. Koen, who has the same type of jeep at home and who is used to driving a 4x4, told us what to do and the wheel was changed in no time. Certainly much faster than the driver could have done it all by himself. He said that happens a lot; the dtrver changing the wheel, while all the tourists remained seated. :)

 

010.jpg

 

It was already past noon, so David took us to the picknick spot in central serengeti. On the way we passed the Seronera airstrip. And there the whole area was full of zebra. 1000s of them Apparently, they had quite some difficulty keeping them off the runway.

 

We were told that this was a very small part of the migration, which had been totally different than what one can normally expect. Most of the animals were already back in the Mara (I was warned by Andy before we left that they were back at Lobo - where they shouldn't have been in the first place - and we thought we could still catch up with them there, but ...nope). but some parts were still here, or in the west (more on that later).

 

Anyway, we came to the picknick spot, took some plastic chairs to the garden underneath a tree, and ate our lunchboxes. Again, the place was swarming with birds. Tinne's paradise! She got down, on her belly, and started shooting like crazy while all of us were sitting around her, eating lunch. Pretty funny sight.

 

But there was more to see here. there's this small open air museum, with a little path that goes around some rocks (more "kopjes" as they call them, or "koppies" a South African word, which is about the same as in my language - Dutch - and just means "heads")

 

On these koppies were lots these guys;

 

011.jpg

 

No, not the bearded monkey! That's Koen! (I know he's reading this, heehee). I'm talking about rock hyrax, aka klipdassies. The place was full of them. But also; butterflies, small lizards, and this guy: a nubian woodpecker:

 

012.jpg

 

I also got a great shot of a red-fronted barbet, but I can't show them all, can I ?!

 

After lunch, we continued our drive west; David took us to the hippo pool, where lots of hippos were wallowing around in a mixture of their own faeces, mud, and water. A great sight! Crocodiles too! But the sun was standing right in front of us, so... we decided to come back here the next morning, or perhaps the morning after that.

 

After that, we passed an almost dried out river, where we saw Hadada ibis, sacred ibis, and egyptian geese.

 

The last bit of the drive, towards Ikoma gate, proved to be rather dull. The last hour of driving, about all the game dissapeared.

 

When we passed the gate, David took a left turn, and there it was; Ikoma camp.

 

I was told that Moivaro invested some money into upgrading the camp's tents. Well; I think they weren't talking about the main building (restaurant/bar), as that one seemed rather old, and a little bit dull with all those green mosquito nets hanging around. And they certainly weren't talking about the first tents we passed as those seemed extremely old. But after these old tents, they placed some new tents, and I think that's Moivaro's first investment over there. I think the old tents weren't even occcupied. Never saw any signs of life when passing them.

 

Our tent was great! With furniture made out of wooden branches, etc... here it is;

 

013.jpg

 

Also, again not fenced and a great view on the bush. Tents were rather far apart either: 50M or so. In Tarangire, there'd been another tent in between! As a result of the tents being that far apart, it was quite a long walk (half a km?) to the restaurant. Not that we minded. Was quite fun at night, with the flashlight and all. A guy would follow you then, armed with ...a bow! Folklore I guess, as he was only there from the restaurant towards the tent, and not when you walked the other way.

 

I soon found out our section of new tents was called "north", and the old tents inbetween "north" and the restaurant were "east". Apparently there was a "south" and a "west" too, at the other side of the restaurant, but I never saw these so I don't even know if they're old or new.

 

Hey, here's another view of the tents. Here's me in what I call paradise :angry: :

 

014.jpg

 

So was the camp OK then? I know a lot of you want to know this. Well, our adventure started a bit "en mineur".

 

First of all, we had no running water that evening. They told us that it would be fixed soon. Apparently they share a source with Ikoma village, and the camp can only replenish it's supplies in the morning and in the evening, and something had gone wrong, but "now the water was coming in". Nope... no water that night.

 

Secondly the first dinner we had was quite below expectations as well. It was a barbecue, outside the restaurant. But the meat was incredibly scorched and the sauce could make a dead man rise out of his grave and run a marathon.

 

But before you judge by what I just wrote; it did get better after that (you'll have to wait two more days to read my final word on Ikoma :angry: )

 

Next; another gamedrive in central Serengeti!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 08 - Serengeti

 

All right! Our first real day in the serengeti (well, at least the 1st day where we could decide ourselves what to do and where to go to).

 

Could we get to the migration? Nope. The biggest part of it was already in the Mara. So it was even useless to drive all the way up to Lobo.

 

Should we do the Grumeti track? Our guide said that the Grumeti river was pretty dry by now, and that there were not that many animals. Also, it would take a while to get there. That is true; I kinda screwed up on this one. I chose Ikoma, not only for the migration - which should have been nearby - but also as it looked rather close to the Grumeti river. I had better consulted a ROAD map. B) Apparently we had to drive a long way northeast before we could get on another road southwest to Grumeti area. Damn.

 

Our guide suggested central Serengeti. The Seronera river always has water, and most game was to be found there, and we'd have a fair chance of seeing leopard and cheetah. OK! I like the sound of that! And if we are unsuccesful at finding them, we could go back the day after that. Or the opposite; when succesful, we can still spend the next day @ Grumeti.

 

Off we went (late start though).

 

First, we had again that uneventful piece of road to do. Takes about 45 minutes... Then we came to the river we passed yesterday. The same animals were still there; the sacred ibises, the hadada ibises, etc... But this time there was also a marabou (great pics, yet again) and... a fish eagle perched in a tree nearby.

 

001.jpg

 

Next thing we saw: a lappet-faced vulture flying by:

 

002.jpg

 

And then there was this other marabou...

 

003.jpg

 

... and just when we were about to leave Frans spotted something else crawling around. It was a monitor lizard.

 

004.jpg

 

Doesn't show from the picture but these guys are actually rather large (50cm+).

 

I took some pics of a three-banded plover that was walking around there as well, and then we left.

 

After that we saw our first lion of the day, sitting under some accacia bush.

 

Also; some buffaloes with oxpeckers on them.

 

Then again some more lion resting under a tree.

 

(at this point I'm giving up on mentioning tommies, impala, zebra and wildebeest. You know they're there, OK? :) )

 

And finally we saw a waterbuck from cluse up:

 

005.jpg

 

next we saw of giraffes coming our way, and again under a bush nearby; two female lions. One of them was sitting upright keeping a close eye on the giraffes. The giraffes (three of them by now) started eating from an acacia tree nearby, and at one point one of them saw something, because they all started running away. Strangely enough in the wrong direction, as the two lions we knew about were on our left. Here's a running giraffe, something not seen on pic often:

 

006.jpg

 

We thought the lions were going to attack but they did not. Apparently there were too little lions to do this. Or they weren't hungry.

 

We drove further down the Seronera rivertrack and came to a pool of water where zebra started drinking. But unfortunatelly; no crocs. :lol:

 

Then this white-headed buffalo weaver sat nearby. He had just caught something:

 

007.jpg

 

We also saw this black-headed heron:

 

008.jpg

 

Some other "stuff" along the road: agame lizards, lilac breasted roller, etc...

 

And then! A leopard! But too far away. It was in a tree, and we could only see it's silhouette (it was against the sun as well). Damn!

 

At that time it was already way past noon so we headed to the picknick site. Underway: more vultures, the regular grazers and also topi

 

We did not stay long this time, as we already took our time yesterday, shooting all there is to see at the picknick site.

 

So off we went again. This time David took us to the Maasai kopjes. Quite a long drive, and once you leave the river area; not that much to see. Well, there was a lot of grass, and I took a pano (or two, or three, or four :angry: ) but other than that...

 

The purpose was to find cheetah. He drove around some kopjes, but unfortunately... no cheetah.

 

We were about to give up (we still had the long drive back to Ikoma gate, and had to make it before 6 o'clock), when we finally saw a cheetah. It was resting under an accacia bush, far away. We could only see it when it lifted it's head. And again; against the sun!

 

Damn, we were really unlucky that afternoon. And we couldn't wait for them to move either.

 

So we headed back to Ikoma. Along the way; the usual hoofed animals again, more lilac breasted rollers, warthog, ground hornbills, etc

 

You'll have to forgive me for not posting any more pics of that day; I did take quite a few but nothing really "new" or spectacular.

 

I promise the next day will be better. :angry:

 

That night, ikoma made a better impression on us. The water was back on. Apparently the problem had not been at the point where the water is divided into camp-pipeline and ikoma town-pipeline, but it was further towards us. Seems an elephant broke it, to drink. They had to inspect 3km of pipeline to find it.

 

Also, dinner was much better. OK, it's still not like upscale places such as Sopa, but at least it was good. I think the night before (that BBQ thing) there were way too many tourists in the camp for them to handle. Tonight, there were far less; the group of "Koning Aap" (a Dutch company) had left.

 

About Koning Aap; I've seen their adds in the Dutch National Geographic magazine quite a few times, and on the Dutch NG TV station as well. So I guess they're rather big, and I thought travelling with them would be a luxury thing too. But far from it; apparently that Ikoma BBQ was the best thing that happened to them so far (they'd been travelling for more than a week at that point). Also, they didn't go by jeep, but in the back of a huge truck! Some windows were "cut out", and long benches were installed.

I cannot imagine going to Africa, and having to sit on a bench with 2 other people at either side of me, and with 20 people in total. What kind of images would I get then? And how many time would I lose when waiting until everyone had gone to the loo (or something similar)? Sounds like a nightmare to me! Koning Aap would definitely not be my kind of travel. If I can afford getting to africa, I'd rather spend a little more as the net result (the total experience) will also definitely be better that way. Oh well... all kinds of customers I guess...

 

That night, there was the night game drive, but I didn't participate. Mira was a bit sick (stumach/bowel pains) so I stayed with her and we had an early nights' sleep.

 

The day after that was better; no more sickness for Mira, a night game drive, and one of the best safari experiences I ever had!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 09 - Serengeti

 

The night safari was quite a succes, it seemed. They saw a lot of night animals etc... will not go into the deails here as ...well... read on; I am going to get my own gamedrive this night.

 

I myself had a good night sleep, last night. Except for the hyena very close to our tent; he woke us up a few times.

 

Our last day in the serengeti! As tomorrow was rather unsuccesful, we wondered if it would be useful sacrificing the whole day looking for big cats again (well... non-lion). We decided it was not. What we had noticed is that life concentrates around water, but that you needed to get out of the jeep (or at least stop the jeep for quite some time) before you could actually see it (or before it chose to have a look at you).

 

So we decided to concentrate ourselves on the rivers and pools. After all; we're all a bit into birding. Especially Tinne!

 

Off we went. First to that hippo pool we say 2 days ago. But this time with the sun behind us!

 

On the way there: dikdik, and zebra...

 

001.jpg

 

Then we came to the hippo pool. it seemed even more crowded than last time. And the smell... ehm...forget napalm (Apocalypse now): there's nothing like the smell of a hippo pool in the morning! :)

 

002.jpg

 

There were again some crocs too, and a yellow-billed stork landed right in front of us:

 

003.jpg

 

And then the biggest surprise of all; behind the pool, in the dry riverbed, some zebras started to cross. Then some wildebeest. And more. And lots more. and they kept on coming! Yup; you guessed it: we finally caught a glimpse of the migration. I hope you can see them on this pic. Image is a bit too small to do justice to the scene.

 

004.jpg

 

A small part of the migration, for sure. But still lots of them; the whole time that we were there (more than half han hour) they kept on crossing the dry riverbed. I got some great shots here! And when we left, they still kept on coming.

 

And our luck wasn't over yet. Next; some hippos started fighting! Action photography!

 

005.jpg

 

Certainly a great start this day. We had already seen more than yesterday afternoon.

 

Next, David took us on a little part of the Grumeti track. He warned us that we needed to get through a tsetse fly zone though.

 

He was well informed. Unfortunately.

 

We experienced some tsetse before, one or two. But all of a sudden, about 5 to 10 at a time were attacking each person in the jeep.

 

We passed the area as fast as we could and killed quite a few with our game guides (another unknown advantage of game guides, lol!)

 

David said; "I'm gonna have to report this. It's not allowed to kill animals in the park". :angry:

 

After the tsetse zone, more zebra again, grazing on fresh shoots popping up on a burnt soil. An amidst the zebra... an eland!

 

006.jpg

 

Indeed a very shy animal as it ran away very fast after we could take a few pics.

After that, Davids road took us back to Seronera river. Not far from the river, we encountered about the biggest herd of impala we'd ever seen. If this was the pride of ONE male, he must have quite some cohones!

 

But the impala weren't the nicest thing at that spot. At the other side of the road was a hoopoe!

 

007.jpg

 

All of a sudden, the impalas started running away in 10 directions at a time! What the... ! A lion was right in the middle of them. She chased one impala, but due to the dust and the bushes near the river, we couldn't see her anymore. Was she succesful or not? We'll never know. But judgeing by the distance between the lionesse and her prey: i think so.

 

We also saw a crowned plover, some oxpeckers on impalas, a group of hippos out of the water (including a baby hippo), and some giraffes (again covered in oxpeckers)

 

And after that, less trees, more grass (I lost my sense of direction but as we crossed the main road I think this was towards the kopjes again). And in the grass; a little bee-eater, flying back and forth between two branches near the road:

 

008.jpg

 

Time for lunch! Back to the picknick spot.

 

Up until now it cerainly was a fruitful day. Would the afternoon be like that? Let's hope so!

 

Yesterday it was rush-rush, but today it was pole-pole: after dinner we went for a small walk. Not towards the open air museum, but this time towards the other side (next to where the picknick tables are there's a road leading to some storage buildings etc). Here, we found again some birds we hadn't seen before. Like this guy, an African paradise flycatcher!

 

009.jpg

 

But that's not all. I got some great pics from a red-and-yellow barbet (as we had also seen in Manyara) and a dwarf mongoose:

 

010.jpg

 

Time to leave again! We followed the Seronera river again, and finally, in a tree nearby; a leopard. Resting on a branch. Sometimes repositioning and opening it's eyes. We got to photograph it from all sides!

 

011.jpg

 

This certainly was a great day!

 

We took a lot of time for plenty of pics, and then left the leopard as we had to get back to Ikoma.

 

On the way back; a baby giraffe, secretary birds, and the usual animals.

 

Today, lots of clouds too. It seemed like it was going to rain but we did'nt stay long enough to find out. And by the time we were almost at Ikoma gate the clouds were gone.

 

By the way; we were 5 minutes away from the gate, and were just going to make it in time (18h00) when all of a sudden: another flat tyre! Again, we changed it very quickly. But we were 15 minutes late at the gate.

 

David said that was not a problem; apparently someone who passed us informed them.

 

That evening, a great meal once again. And time for a nightdrive. Mira was OK, but very tired. So she didn't come. And neither did Tinne. But all the guys came along.

 

We saw hares, cameleons, hyena (much closer to the camp than expected; 50m from our tents!), etc... no bushbabies though (altough the others saw that the evening before).

 

I got some pics but they're not that great (maybe just good enough for a personal album).

 

We also saw an animal of which i do not know the name! It looks like a rabbit with small ears, it has a very red fur, and black tip at it's tail. I found out later it was a springhare.

 

Next, they took us to the carcass of a dead elephant. Awfull smell! I hope the pic is big enoug to make out the head, and the bones of legs & feet. Also, you can see the ribcage still partky covered with skin.

 

013.jpg

 

When I thought I had seen it all... it seems they kept the best for last: all of a sudden we ran into these huge herds of wildebeest and zebra! We were driving along side them while they were running. And then, as if they popped up out of nowhere, they also were at the other side of the jeep. And both "herds" were getting bigger.

 

Yup, we became part of the migration! I never thought I'd get to see them this way. And this close! At one point we had to stop the jeep as they would have bumped into us (they were closing in on us from both sides).

 

I tried taking some pics, but the dust bounced back the light from the flash, so all i got was "mist". So we put our cameras down and just enjoyed the show for about half han hour. Were it the same animals that we saw that morning. Could be, I don't know.

 

Time to go to sleep! What a day!

 

Back in the camp that guy with the bow escorted me and Frans to our tents (they were the furthest away). Folklore! B) : When we came to Frans' tent, I told the guy that he didn't need to come as mine was the next one, 50m away.

 

And when I was 3m away from my tent I see something coming from behind it. 2 eyes looking at me...

 

A jackal! I turned the light towards me so he could see who he was facing. He ran off. Perhaps it's because I hadn't shaved. :angry: No no: I know we are not prey to them. We are way too big.

 

I entered the tent, and there's Mira, awake, in the middle of the bed. And a lot of candles were lit. The tent looked like the cave of Lourdes!

Now before someone starts to think I'm gonna throw the details of our lovelife on the net... it isn't what you're thinking! :lol: She was a bit scared: "something's scrathing the side of our tent"! Indeed, it was that jackal, looking for a snack I guess. There's plenty of life underneath the tents, like frogs and mice and such (water from the shower flows away underneath, and water is life, so that why they're there).

 

That night, the jackal came back multiple times, only to scoot off again when he saw our flash light or heard our voices. ;)

Also, the whole night, we heard the grunts of the wildebeest and that special sound the zebra make while running (sounds almost like laughing). I guess that "migration" we'd seen was not that far away.

 

The next day, we go to Zanzibar! I'll also write down my final thoughts on Ikoma in the next post.

And for thoise who think the safari-bit is over: think again!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 10 - Serengeti to Zanzibar

 

This morning we could sleep a bit longer than usual. No need to get up early; we had to be at Seronera airstrip at 11AM, so no time to do a gamedrive anyway.

 

Time to say goodby to Ikoma camp.

 

As promised: my final opinion on this camp.

While all I may have written about it may not be that positive (a day without water, one evening meal that was way below expectations....) I still would like to recommend it! It has some assets that count as well;

 

1) the night game drive, off road. In most lodges, within official park boundaries, it is not allowed to go off road, let alone go out after dark. And while I may hardly have any usuable images at all of that night; the experience was so unique I'm sure it will stick to my mind for the rest of my life. And on top of that, the night drive costed me 20$. How's that for a bargain?

 

2) the "bush camp" feel. This was THE camp that had the best feel. I'm talking about the sense of really being in the bush, walking around with your flashlight after dark, no fences, listening to animals at night. in no other park we had this (Ndutu and Tarangire safari lodge were silimar but it was a lot more quiet at night for example). Maybe there are some other camps out there that breathe the same atmosphere (Mbuzi Mawe?) but I guess those are much more expensive.

 

The major downside was of course the lack of animals the first half hour in the Serengeti NP when coming from Ikoma. Maybe this has something to do with the poaching problems they have in the west. But I guess at this point you could also compare with Ndutu: you have to be there in the right season; when the migration passes. And you have to be lucky too: we WERE at Ikoma in the right season, but that year the migration was very weird, with only a minor part being in the west.

A minor downside is the fact that there is no road that leads from Ikoma directly to the Grumeti area.

 

So; pro's and cons, but the pros outweighed the cons. I think the camp has potential. We also liked the staff, for example, altough they may look better in newer clothes (perhaps staff clothes, not their own :wink: ). I hope Moivaro people read this; I think with a little more investment (new dining area, solar power,...) the place could be a trend setter in no time.

 

Here's a last pic from a visitor in our tent (was on the rug under the bed):

 

001.jpg

 

We left Serengeti with an Air Excell flight of 12 people. Koen has a pilot license and talked to the pilot. So he was promoted to co-pilot.

 

002.jpg

 

We flew over all we had visited, like the kopjes etc. But high up in the air there's a sort of a haze, so taking pictures was not that easy. Here's one that worked out nice enough;

Maasaai boma's from above:

 

003.jpg

 

After a short stop in Arusha airport we took off to Zanzibar. I switched places with Koen.

 

004.jpg

 

This side of the rift valley, taking pics was easier. Here's the Tanzanian coastline...

 

005.jpg

 

...and Stone Town from the sky...

 

006.jpg

 

...and the landing strip...

 

007.jpg

 

The first thing we noticed is that Zanzibar was way more humid. We were picked up by a little bus and driven to our hotel, Pongwe beach. The drive in itself proved awkward. We were used to be able to drive like we were used to at home. But on Zanzibar, we were stopped by police every 10km. And every time the policeman stuck his head (and his AK-47) in the car and looked at the "cargo". Because that's clearly what we were to them: cargo. We might as well have been pigs or something. If you gave the copper a very friendy "hello", you got a blank stare in return.

 

At first, I thought it was because maybe we looked American (and them being muslim), but it was way more than that. It seemed that this is just the way things are in a muslim, "men-driven" society, or "macho" society, or whatever you want to call it. The cop proved to be the ultimate "macho" on the road. In fact the senario was like this: a pedestrian is forced OFF the road by a bicycle, because he is clearly not wothy to be on the road, as far as the cyclist concerns. And cyclists are forced off the road by cars and minibuses because of that very same reason.

We've experienced that a million times; our driver may have had 4 lanes of space to drive on, and the cyclist may be at the very edge of the road, he will still sound his horn until the bicycle is completely off the asphalt.

And then further up the ladder is the truck (forcing us off the road) and the cop (the ultimate a$$hole), forcing everyone to stop.

And the thing is; our driver LIKED to force people off the road, but was extremely pissed when a bigger vehicle did the same to him. He wasn't smart either, as for example he would show the cop he wasn't pleased because he had to show his papers again even though we had seen the very same cop 4 hours earlier. The fact that he showed his annoyance made the cop feel even better and made the stop longer as well as the cop would really take his time before letting us pass.

 

I'm sorry for the lengthy paragraph, but with the above example I intend to show you all how things really work on Zanzibar. I have read plenty of stuff on Zanzibar; the relaxed athmosphere, etc... romaticising the whole thing.

 

Well, in the next parts of my trip report, I'm affraid I'm going to shatter some dreams. Especially when it comes to Stone Town. Zanzibar was not like what we had read at all. Your hotel may be romantic, yes. But Zanzibar in itself is not. You need some serious suspension of disbelief to experience zanzibar as nothing but the dream island for a romantic vacation.

 

In your hotel, on a private beach, you can indeed have a wonderfull time. But you cannot project that feeling onto the whole of Zanzibar.

 

You'll get more examples in the upcoming days.

 

We arrived at Pongwe and it proved to be (at least that little bit of) paradise like we had read about on the web.

 

It was pure luxury. Pongwe is a private piece of beach, with rocks at either end (altough you can go further at low tide). On that piece of beach; some small houses with 2 or 3 rooms. 14 rooms in total (so 28 guests), but a new bungalow with 2 rooms is being built (so headcount will eventually be 32). They also bought the little piece of land on the left (rocks, no beach), and on that side they are constructing a swimming pool, which should be finished by now (it was being dug out of the rock by hand!)

 

I think the hotel will not get much bigger than this. There may be space for one more bungalow where the pool is, but that's it. Also, as the interim manager said, the dining area cannot take more guests than that. The interim manager was a woman who had been running a lodge in the Mara for nearly 13 years, and she had a pet called "Kima", a very young velvet monkey that she rescued from stray dogs on the road. Kima is actually the swahili word for "monkey". How convenient. She was teaching the animal how to nourish in nature, and was going to return her to the forest once he/she was grown up.

 

Our friends got room 9 and 10. And we got "Val's room".

 

???

 

"Val's room" proved to be the room of the hotel manager (who was on a holiday himself). It was at the very edge of the beach, on top of the rocks, and the water beneath us. On those rocks, there was a round shaped teracce from where we had a nice view over the whole beach. While the room in itself was a bit less pretty than the other rooms (no tiled floor but painted cement for example), the location made it to be clearly the best room of the hotel. We certainly felt like king & queen!

 

Next; some pics of Pongwe paradise!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 11 - Pongwe beach

 

Today was going to be a lazy day. Sleeping out, late breakfast, and then a day of sunbathing at the beach, recuperating from our safari adventures.

 

Well... in the morning it was very cloudy. And we even had a few drops of rain. So we dropped the sunbathing plan and decided to have a morning walk towards Pongwe town. Via the beach, of course.

 

Here's a pano of the whole bay.

 

001.jpg

 

The island in front is used at low tide by fishermen (we could see their tools there). Pongwe town is the right. So is Mira (far right)

 

Some kids were playing at the beach. And as I said; the men were fishing. And the women collected seaweed (which - as we found out later - was laid out to dry on the asphalt road.

 

002.jpg

 

We did not follow the curb of the bay, but passed inbetween the island and the beach. The ground was a bit rocky: dead coral reef covered in seaweed, with plenty of life, like crabs, and also these guys:

 

003.jpg

 

Some kids came up to us, asking for pens, candy or money. But as we weren't prepared we could not give much. I think Frans distributed some pens. Other than the kids on the mainland, these were much more aggressive. They were not affraid to put their hands in our pockets, trying to steal anything they could get their fingers around.

 

They would also prove to be nearly impossible to photograph. But I'll write more on this when I write about Stone town.

 

When we reached the other end of the bay, the sun came through. So we decided to get back to the hotel for some suntanning. But the other guys would rather photograph some more, so we split up. Koen, Frans and Willy went to Pongwe town, and me Mira and Tinne took a straight line back to the hotel.

 

However, this time, we walked inbetween that little island and the sea. Some parts were almost quicksand, and at some points we lost a shoe or sandal and hed to dig it out. It was all very hilarious, but high tide was coming fast, so...

 

Note that we were advised to always wear something on our feet, as there may be sea urchins beneath the sand.

 

Here's a pic of a dimorphic egret flying by.

 

004.jpg

 

By the time we were out of Pongwe bay, the water barely left us 2 meters of sand to walk back to the hotel.

 

005.jpg

 

Time for lunch! Here's the bar and dining area of Pongwe:

 

006.jpg

 

The food at Pongwe was great! Altough the portions could have been a little bigger, especially in the morning (we seemed to always ask for more butter & marmalade).

 

No buffets here, but just one menu (altough with 2 choices of main dish at night). The menu was always advertised in avance, so of course if you didn't like what was planned (or if you were veggie or something) you could always ask for something different. We saw that a lot, especially for kids (they were served spaghetti, or croque monsieur, or hamburgers, etc...). However, my advise would be to stick with the cook's plans as the food was truly amazing!

 

What I also liked was saying "put it on Val's account"! Hey, after all, I had the owner's (Val's) room, remember?

 

The staff liked that too so they ended up calling me "boss", and of course a generous person as myself, I gave them all a raise (Val, if you're reading this: sorry dude! But hey... your staff's worth it! )

 

After lunch, we went to the beach in front of our room, and got some sun (altough at some times there were still a lot of clouds. Here's our room at the beach:

 

007.jpg

 

Of course, sunbathing the whole afternoon is not for me so I had a walk in the wonderfull garden, and photographed some flowers:

 

009.jpg

 

Somewhere in the afternoon, the guys came back as well, they had lunch in another (very basic) hotel, and came back by following the road.

 

When the sun is behind the trees (4PM'ish), we decided to leave the beach and enjoy the view from our terrace:

 

008.jpg

 

After a wonderfull dinner, we sat ourselves down at the campfire on the beach for some drinks.

 

010.jpg

 

We went to bed early however, as tomorrow we are going to Stone Town!

 

(I got some more info on Pongwe, but that's for the next posts too)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 12 - Stone Town

 

Today we left at 8AM to visit Stone Town. It's about an hour of driving from the hotel. We got the usual police stops, but other than that the drive was uneventful; not much traffic until you come to the suburbs of Stone town. So while driving we enjoyed the scenery, and tried to take some pictures along the way through the open windows. We passed towns, small shops, schools, rice fields...

 

001.jpg

 

Something about photographing people; I read somewhere that some people on Zanzibar don't like to be photographed so I asked the hotel crew for advise. They said; "just ask first, most will allow, some will maybe ask a dollar". Well that's not what we experienced. I thought some didn't like to have their PORTRAIT taken, but in reality we even experienced some hostility taking wide angle shots (clearly not aimed at anyone, just at the whole building or the whole market, etc...). People would turn their heads away very quickly, and make some verbal remarks. We even had that while "en route" to Stone Town.

This is something I never experienced before. Nowhere. I mean; I myself was photographed in the past, by Japanese tourists were visiting Brussels, and I was considered part of the "folklore" (we were students baptising other students; some university ritual). Imagine going to the middle aged town of Carcassonne, France, or the Mont St. Michel, and then getting angry looks and remarks by the local salesmen because you photograph their town. That's what we experienced.

For quite a while, we tried asking all of them for a picture when we wanted to take a portrait. But none of them wanted a picture taken. NONE. In the end, we just used our teles and aimed from far away. It was either that, or not get any images at all. Of course, with the narrow streets there's not much light. So pics are not what we expected to get.

 

We asked our guide to visit the market first (assuming the market would be before noon, as anywhere else in the world). So he parked his car somewhere near the harbour and then escorted us through some narrow streets, to the center of town. The first thing we noticed is how worn down everything was. Old, dirty, and about to collapse is how I would describe most houses. Here's a pic:

 

002.jpg

 

So very different from the things we expected to get ("palaces of the Sultan", 'the huge fort" or, "the houses of rich salesmen"). Here's a detail I like a lot:

 

003.jpg

 

(I made some people at the office believe that the bottom right window is actually the window of our hotel room. :wink: ...but then I told them that it's Mira bikini hanging to dry in front of the window. :lol: Well... the size was a give-away that I was joking. :angry: )

 

So finally we came to the market. The streets around it are packed with little grocery shops;

 

004.jpg

 

...and they're selling the typical spices and local fruits and vegetables:

 

005.jpg

 

The market itself was actually not that big. Some more grocery stands, and then a long building with inside 2 parts; a meat market, and a fish market.

 

In the first room of the meat market, one of the salesmen immediately started shouting at us, when he saw our cameras. We had not even take a pic yet. Fortunately, the people in the second room were not like that.

 

Here's some "fresh" meat on a "not so fresh" piece of cardboard.

 

006.jpg

 

the 3rd room was the fish market. Again the same thing; little stands with what seemed like fresh products, but not that much hygene; stained cardboard everywhere. No cooling. No nets to keep flies out.

 

007.jpg

 

The "fish" building could apparently not harbour all the salesmen so some were selling their stuff outside:

 

008.jpg

 

We also visited the church and the slavery monument (where the last slave market was). Then we went back to the seaside to have iunch at an Italian restaurant. I forgot the name. It was on the opposite side of "the Africa house", near the top hotels of Stone Town. Food was good, location too. But toilets were...how to put this... rudimentary. :)

 

After lunch, we dove back into the center of town, into the narrow streets filled with little shops, selling the usual tourist stuff; wooden Maasai figurines made in China and Maasai cloth made in India.

 

I'm dead serious here; Zanzibar does not have a cotton industry. And we saw the "made in China" boxes arrive at the shop. Altough I heard that a lot of the stuff is also made in factories in Kenya (Nairobi).

 

009.jpg

 

The streets with tourist stuff (painting, statues, masks, bracelets, you name it) just didn't seem to end. We got bored in the end! ;)

 

010.jpg

 

Finally we arrived at the harbour, where the fort is, and the museum, and some other nice buildings. Altough still there were these tourist shops. I think they exaggerate a little bit. Some examples; inside the fort are nothing but ...souvenir shops! And even the museum had a "arts & crafts shop". B)

 

011.jpg

 

We went to the seaside, but actually you couldn't really call it a harbour; there's hardly any docks or anything:

 

012.jpg

 

Not that much fisher boats either. But - you guessed it - a lot of souvenir stands once more. Koen bought plenty of cloth for his wife.

 

014.jpg

 

They had quite some choice:

 

013.jpg

 

We left at about 5PM, but I must say; with a bit of dissapointment. Stone Town was nothing like we had expected. there was harly any magic left from what I read about the place. No soul. No romantic mood. Nothing.

I know a lot of people still speak of Stone Town as an enchanting place but IMHO you need quite some suspension of disbelief to romanticise it in that way.

Of course, there are still some beautiful things to be found and photographed. But you need quite some time (and a good set of eyes) to find them.

Coincidence; I just ordered and recieved the Dutch National Geographic Traveler magazine (was formerly 6 issues a year, but this year only 3). This issue ("1/2006") had an article on Zanzibar. The article comes to about the same conclusions as we did, and apparently their photographer had a hard time looking for pleasing shots as well. Believe it or not, but the article contains a picture of a red & white cat, sleeping at the doorway of an old door that is painted in blue.

 

Well... altough the writer was there way before us... guess what we shot.

 

015.jpg

 

Indeed. EXACT the same door, and the same cat too! :angry:

 

Next; top-day on Zanzibar: a visit to Jozani forest!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 13 - JOZANI FOREST

 

The next day, even though it was clouded, we got a magnificent sunrise. But no picture for you! As the day after that was even better! :)

 

Early breakfast again, and at 8AM sharp: off to Jozani forest! It was quite a long drive; 1h15 minutes, even longer than to Stone Town. Seemed strange to me, as on a map the forest looked rather close to hotel. But in reality you have to follow the road back to Stone Town for quite a bit, before you come to a road that leads to Jozani. On top of that; construction works!

 

OK... Jozani forest. We paid an entrance fee of 8$ per person, and got a guide that took us on a trip through the forest. The forest is standing on dead coral reef, with 50cm of mud on top. So roots can not dig deep, which causes the forest to be very vulnerable to storms, but which also leads to some of the strangest root formations I have ever seen. Hey all, meet Frans!

 

001.jpg

 

We saw some Colobus monkeys straigt away, but these were rather shy, and high up in the trees. We got some shots, but not great ones. The guide told us this was a group that was not used to people, and that we'd see some other group later. And "from a bit closer".

 

Right... what else did we see? Big snails, very small frogs (2cm)...

 

002.jpg

 

... huge crickets and small lizards...

 

003.jpg

 

...and so on. Strange mushrooms too; the soil was very wet and muddy. Luckily there were a lot of dead leaves on top of the mud. Oh yes; and in the mud: lots of crabs too.

 

Also, our guide gave us a lot of info on various trees, and their uses.

 

004.jpg

 

He was also very good in imitating birds,and could get some to come closer and show themselves. Not close enough to photograph (not enough light for full tele under those trees, I was already using ISO1600 for normal shots), but good enough to get a decent look.

 

005.jpg

 

After about an hour and a half, we were back at the entrance, and the guide took us to some trees a bit fiurther on the main road, as he knew there were some Colobus monkeys there. So we walked into the bush...

 

...and there they were. Three of them. No, five. Wait, there's another one. Or two. Or seven. So that makes erm... where'd the first one go? Ah. Above me. What was that running between my legs? Was that a monkey?

 

Well... you get the idea. We were right in the middle of them, and they didn't seem to mind one bit. The place was swarming with Colobus monkeys. You cannot believe the shots we got. Here's one;

 

006.jpg

 

And another one.

 

007.jpg

 

And another couple.

 

008.jpg

 

Woops! (oh well, I told the kids to go watch TV anyway right?)

 

Note that these are just random pics, and far from the best. These guys knew how to pose! I got so many great shots that I don't know how to choose a few for the album. I think I'm gonna draw straws or something.

 

Weren't they dangerous then? No not really. Altough maybe... at one point it erh... started raining. Very locally: just a meter away, right next to me, and nowhere else. Srtange color too. Yellowish. So watch out for your gear; do not get underneath the monkeys.

 

The biggest threat isn't monkey pee though. The place was swarming with nests of red ants. They were not in the soil (too wet I guess), but made nests between the leaves. Big mofo's too (1cm+), and with a nasty sting. I must have missed a nest, as all of a sudden I was covered in them. They were everywhere! Altough I wouldn't have known if they hadn't started biting me. The problem was that the Colobus monkeys were just passing me by that very moment, and the sun was out from between the clouds, and in the right spot too. So I kinda divided my time between shooting colobus and swiping off ants. :angry:

 

After we took plenty of shots, we went back to the entrance for a drink. Our guide left us, but told us that at the other side of the reserve, you could pay a visit to the mangrove. That sounded excellent to us. The mangrove wasn't near the road though, but you have to walk (just follow the path) for about 500m.

 

There was a path in the mangrove (bridges made out of wood) that made a little "round tour"; only a 15 minute walk. I advise you to take some time. Wait for the animals to come out. Little fish, crabs...

 

009.jpg

 

... butterflies...

 

010.jpg

 

...and more crabs. And then even more.

 

When we came out of the mangrove, our guide had followed us with the minivan. Smart man!

 

Back to Pongwe! The same 1h15minute drive, great scenery so no time to get bored.

 

Ah yes; one thing I ought to mention; they got speed bumps there too! but not like we know them. On Zanzibar, they are SO ridiculously huge, that our van had to cross them sideways sloooooowly (at 1km/h). And still we heard a lot of scratching.

 

Our driver dropped us off at the hotel, and we paid him for the trip. Here we got another disturbing sign of how Islam (or macho) society works (or rather; does not work). This is just to prove it's not just about their aversion of getting photographed.

The driver was also the guy that initially waited for us at the airport. Hence why we booked him as our "taxi" for the Stone Town tour and the Jozani-tour. He worked for a local company called "Marzouk Tours". Apparently our driver was the brother of the owner. OK... imagine this... when paying him, he thanked us and asked us not to mention this trip to Marzouk Tours as this was a private trip!

 

Great business ethics; running a company with your brother, but hiding the fact that you're making money for him, while you are using the company van. B)

 

At this point, I think it's best I made something clear; I am NOT anti-Islam or something like that. I am just giving an honest description of what happened there.

Believe me; with all what Uncle Sam's screwing up in the middle east these days, I'd rather have preferred to meet friendly, welcoming people with just a liiiitle sense of business ethics. Just so I could tell any US-based person; "this is the way they are, and they are far from the demon-image you spread'.

So yes, I was very dissapointed in the locals. But please note that does not mean I believe the US-propaganda now. :angry:

 

In the afternoon, we had some good weather. So more suntanning for Mira and Tinne, and finally a good swim for me (high tide, full moon, and some little waves), and more macro photography for the other guys.

 

That evening, the others had a little surprise for me and Mira. As a "thank you" for organising the trip, they organised a private dinner for the two of us, on the beach. So they placed a table and two chairs on the sand, and dug some holes around that to put candles in. And then, they wore these yellow T-shirts with "staff" on them (the shirts the Pongwe staff normally wears), and served us our dinner. Thank you, guys! That was great!

 

No pics I'm affraid. Others took some pics of us, but I haven't seen them yet. Maybe this will do; this was our view that night:

 

011.jpg

 

After that, a few drinks around the campfire.

 

012.jpg

 

After a while a lot of staff joined us. But me and Mira, decided to do something else. After all, it was a full moon. Apparently, things got a bit out of control after we left. So it wasn't full moon just for us. More on that on monday.

 

Next, I'll write more on Pongwe too . We stayed at the hotel for a whole day (so did Frans), while Tinne, Koen and willy went "swimming with dolfins".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 14 - Pongwe

 

All right. For starters; I promised you a good sunrise pic. So here it comes. Imagine waking up, looking out of the window, and seeing this:

 

001.jpg

 

Not bad eh?

 

By the time we went to breakfast, the other people had already left to go "swimming with dolphins". So me, Mira and Frans went for a walk on the beach. This time, we took the left side:

 

004.jpg

 

It's incredible what we saw on that little walk (about one hour along the beach, and one hour back, but this time we stayed on the rocks, between the bushes.

 

So what did we see then. Hard to summarize it all. For starters, there were plenty of crabs. A lot of different species, in all kinds of colors.

 

005.jpg

 

Some are hiding in cavities in the rock, but these guys dig holes in the sand:

 

003.jpg

 

Getting them to come out is really easy; just take a piece of grass or a small stick, scratch it around at the entrance of their hole, and before you know it... SNAP! ...and then you can pull them right out.

 

But we saw plenty more than crabs. There were all kinds of snails (with ot without shell, those without shell look like a moving turd :roll: ), and sea urchins, and then these guys:

 

006.jpg

 

And on the rocks were very tiny lizards. They were crawling around everywhere, but were hard to photograph. It's better to go at them with to people. One person chasing them to the other sideof the rock, where the next person is waiting with a macro lens.

 

007.jpg

 

After about an hour, we returned via the rocks. The place is uninhabited, so no problem.

But you had to make your way through a lot of spider webs though. Little spiders mostly, with a strange body. It looked as if they were wearing horns, or kinda like they were crabs. So we ended up calling them "crab spiders" but I don't know if that name is correct. Besides spiders there were again beautiful butterflies, but also some dragonflies:

 

008.jpg

 

When we came to the hotel, it was almost time for lunch again. Well... by now we knew what the cook was capable of, so no problem for us! We could have kept on eating all day, until we exploded. To give you an idea; this is one platter that we got that noon:

 

009.jpg

 

After lunch, while Mira was sunbathing, I got a little chat with the interim manager who replaced Val. She told me that the night before things had really gotten out of hand. Apparently, some guys took alcohol from the bar without the managers knowing, and drank way too much. Things were still OK when we left. Yes, we could see some had been drinking (and they didn't want drinks from us), but for us it was great as they sang really beautiful Maasai songs etc. Also, Frans and Willy told me that they "traded cigarettes" with them. That is to say... F & W roll their own cigarettes, and so did some of the Maasai. But apparently it wasn't really tobacco, it was ganja! (hashish). Smoking pot on the beach on Zanzibar! B) Sounds incredible right? I mean, after all their religion prohibits this. OK, maybe not for the Maasai, but they only smoked pot. It was the non-Maasai who smoked pot ánd got really drunk.

Both Frans and Willy gave their joints to a newlywed couple who also sat at the fire. They were on their honeymoon... :)

Anyway, after all the partying on the beach that night, two of them started fighting. A Maasai tried to part them, but failed, and since one guy was heavily wounded already, he called the cops. I don't know what happened after that, but I know all the Maasai were still there, and that at least one person got fired. I guess stealing alcohol from the bar was not the smartest thing to do.

 

Now, onto the important stuff: I promised you more info of the hotel. Apparently more than 70 people were employed there! So about three employees for every guest! For example; all linnen (beds, restaurant, ...) was washed by hand. No washing mashines! They had 7 people doing laundry 24/7!

Apparently the laws on ZNZ say that if you hire employees, you have to give them food and shelter, and a minimum of 2$ per hour. Of course, Pongwe gives more than that minimum. The manager told me it was pretty difficult to get qualified personnel. I guess the language is one thing; they all had to know English (or at least I think so; even the people cleaning the beach in the morning spoke English to us), but some knew a bit of spanish as well, etc.

Some more "faits divers" on the hotel: all staff was really friendly, and there was no need to give any tips while there. Just at the end; they have a tip box (safe) where you put something in, and it gets divided equally at the end of the month.

The story on how the owner started the hotel is great as well. But too long to tell here. So if you go to Pongwe; just ask them!

 

Here's one last pano of the hotel, taken from the stairs between beach and the dining area:

 

002.jpg

 

That evening, Koen, Willy and Tinne came back from their trip very late. Apparently it was a very long and bumpy ride ("worse than on safari") to and from the harbour. But they had a great time, saw great stuff, and ate a great meal. The only dissapointment were the dolphins themselves; they saw some, but from really far away. Alo, the trip should be called "sailing with dolphins" and not "swimming with dolphins", as you don't really get to go in the water with them.

 

Anyway, I had a little surprise myself that evening; for our last meal, ALL of us were going to dine on the beach. Still a full moon and all... here's an image:

 

010.jpg

 

The day after, we fly back to the mainland, and then home to Belgium. You think the adventure is over? think again...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DAY 15 - Zanzibar to Arusha (KIA lodge)

 

 

That morning, it was time to leave our incredible room in our incredible hotel on that incredible beach of that incredible island. :cry:

 

Here's one last shot taken at the beach that morning; Mira and Tinne with some of the incredible staff (including the incredible cook).

 

002.jpg

 

Gotta stop using "incredible" now...

 

We drove back to the airport, and got on a flight to Kili airport, with a stop-over in Dar. Another airline this time, and the way they treated us, the luggage and the fllight itself was very different.

 

What a contrast with the flight going the other way! This time, we were checked multiple times (including the metal detector thingies where we had to take off shoes, belt, etc... every time), even two times in a row at Dar. At one point, some lighters were confiscated and thrown on the floor in front of us. Also, in Dar no one told us what to do. We looked for the desk of our airline company, and they just told us to wait at the gate where the plane leaves. OK... but we got no boarding passes for that plane. And in the end, we could almost not board the plane ...as "you forgot to get boarding passes, sir".

The whole thing was a bit of a struggle, while it could have been so easy. We tried to stay calm throughout the whole thing, but for some of us that was not that easy!

 

The flights were nice but uneventful.

 

When we arrived at KIA, there was a jeep from KIA lodge waiting for us. We got two day-rooms so we could spend the afternoon there. Great! My wife decided to relax at the pool, while most of us went on a "mini safari" in the garden. At that point, we could already see Kili mountain, but it was still ab bit too clouded to take pics (the day we arrived here it was completely overcast so we hadn't seen it yet).

 

I'm gonna include some pics here, to make a point:

 

1. Variable sunbird

003.jpg

 

2. Pin-tailed whydah (breeding male)

004.jpg

 

3. Red-cheecked cordon-bleu

005.jpg

 

4. african firefinch

006.jpg

 

I also got beautifiul pictures of laughing doves, 2 types of lizards that I hadn't seen yet, a hunters sunbird, etc... Well I can't show them all but the point I'm trying to make is: if you sit still at a quiet spot near water, and just WAIT, then this is what you get.

 

The spot I was at; near the entrance there's a small path going up the rocks, towards the pool. There's a bird bath on the right. Just sit down, shut up and wait! :angry:

 

All shots were taken in about one hour time (the hour after that was spoiled by a loud group of Dutch tourists (children). B)

 

Since the Dutch decibels scared all the birds away, I went back to Mira by the pool, and took some shots of Mount Kili!

 

007.jpg

 

Nice way to end a trip eh?

 

Well... the trip wasn't over yet; first a night-flight from KIA to Amsterdam. Then a flight from Amsterdam to Brussels. Both flights: KLM.

 

Or at least; that's what we thought! The next morning, while we were waiting for our flight to Brussels, we got to hear that it was "cancelled because of technical reasons". So we had to go to a "transfer desk" (that couldn't handle the number of people thrown at them; we had to wait for almost two hours before it was our turn), and there we got to hear that all next flights to Brussels were fully booked as well. So they gave us other tickets instead, for a train ride that takes 3 hours! :)

 

so, we collected our luggage, and went to the trainstation, and got on that (overcrowded) train. Koen, Willy and Frans got off in Antwerp, as that's closer to their front door. But me, Mira and Tinne traveled further south. In Mechelen, where Tinne had to get off, a conductor got on ...telling us the tickets were not valid for this trainride. Apparently we should have exchanged the tickets in Holland for Belgian railway tickets, but they forgot to tell us that at the transfer desk.

Anyway, the conductor left us two choices: get off the train or pay a (very high) fine. :angry: we got off, bought tickets for the remainder of the trip, and then got on the next train. 6 hours later than normal, we were at our doorstep.

 

This second screw-up of KLM was really too much! (our luggage arrived three days later in africa, remember?) So we decided to ask them for a refund. We checked all the regulations, and apparently new EU guidelines say we can get 250€ refund for a trip less than 1500km. So we mailed KLM, but got no reply (not even a "we received your email..." message or anything).

 

Then I contacted the travel agency where we bought the tickets, and they finally managed to contact someone who would follow up on this issue. (Thanks Miranda @ Maretours Aalst!)

Well... after a while we got a reply from KLM saying we're not entitled to a refund, because the new EU rules say that no refund needs to be given when the flight is cancelled due to "force majeure". Well guess what: for KLM, "technical difficulties" is a "force majeure"!

 

In other words; I'm gonna start an airline company, sell plenty of tickets, and then I'm going to give my customers train tickets instead, because hey... force majeure! I have no plane!

 

Well... need less to say that we thought of hiring an attorney and that we wrote to our government (the department that handles these things).

 

We actually don't understand why a big company like KLM handles their customers this way. A small refund should not make any difference to them.

 

Anayway, for all those who swear on going to Africa by KLM, because "it's the best"... (I read that a couple of times on various board): think again! Yes, the flight may be very comfy in that 777 ...but let's hope you don't get "technical difficulties" then, or that your luggage arrives!

 

I talked about this with Johan; he says the luggage-problem happens a lot with KLM. Apparently KLM is known for this. But the cancelled flight-ordeal was new to him too.

 

Anyway, may I suggest checking out British Airways (UK), or Lufthansa (Germany), or Air France? :lol:

 

No more KLM for me!

 

I know I flew my last time with KLM. Note that this is not the first time I have problems with them; on a previous safari, when coming back from Cape Town to Holland, our luggage stayed behind as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Jochen:

 

Your description of the Northern Circuit really brings back memories for me, and although I bypassed Tarangire, we made for Ngorongoro from Arusha in a morning's rush to make an afternoon drive in the crater basin. A morning drive in the crater, than the long drive up to Naabi Gate and three days in central Seronera. Then the drive back to Mto Wa Mbu, stopping off at Oldupai, a day at Manyara, a day with the Maasai before the drive to Longido.

 

Some wonderful images, and I have to say the series of the lions with the lens shade was excellent and that really makes part of the adventure that is safari: your colleague definitely has a unique story to tell "round the campfire".

 

Thanks for taking the time to post this and your friends certainly appear to have had an excellent trip.

 

What are your travel plans now?

 

Matt

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hey Matt,

 

Next year september; three weeks in Botswana with Johan!

 

So... "great expectations"! :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you're going with Johan then you are not the only one with high expectations - I'll look forward to seeing the images from that trip!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

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

Create an account

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

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

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