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By the time we had finished our excellent lunch it was 2.15pm and it had become decidedly hot. There did not seem to be much activity out there as in the heat of the day some of the wildlife had obviously sought shade and most of the remaining wildlife appeared to be resting.  However we did get a good close view of a hyena resting and shortly after a couple of buffalo.

 

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There were more vehicles in the crater now but it really did not seem overly busy, in fact we were surprised that for many sightings we were on our own or with only one or two other vehicles.  After a while we noticed three vehicles parked up with all the guests looking in the same direction. As we approached we could not see anything, but Goodluck spoke to one of the guides and it turned out there was a cheetah lying down but it was about 70 or 80 yards away and completely camouflaged by fairly tall grasses.

 

It took a minute or two before Goodluck could see it with binoculars, and then we all eventually managed to locate it – with binoculars. We waited a while to see if it was going to get up but given the heat and the time of day it seemed unlikely. Then just as were about to move on it stood up, turned round and sat back down again. Therefore all I have is a poor photo of the back of it – but as it is apparently the only cheetah currently in the Crater it was good to see it.

 

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We moved on and it was now around 3.30pm so we were hoping for something else interesting to happen before it would be time to leave. Then we saw another bull elephant in the distance but heading closer to the track. This bull looked a little larger than the others we had seen and was walking steadily but determinedly with a purpose.

 

As we got closer we could see that this bull was in musth – which explained why it was on its own and we knew that it might therefore be a bit temperamental. The bull was walking along very close to the track, sometimes on one side of it then changing to the other side. (Actually it was probably walking in a straight line that just happened to cross the bending track).

 

Goodluck knew exactly what to do and drove along very, very slowly until the bull had almost caught up with us, and then kept pace with the bull. In fact at one point it was probably no more than 2 to 3 yards from the rear of the vehicle. At that instant I was standing up with the camera resting on the roof of the landcruiser taking photos and at one point it was looking directly at me and raised the end of its trunk towards me and I thought it might be about to touch me – at the same time I told Goodluck to go just a bit faster. I think the photos give a good impression of just how magnificent a large bull elephant can be. 

 

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After that we decided we wanted to head back as being hot and no signs of anything else interesting happening, and it would take an hour and a half from where we were now to get back to the camp. We had really enjoyed an excellent day in the crater.

 

 

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Just posting a few photos to test I am doing it correctly:  

The landscape changes gradually with the escarpment wall steadily decreasing in height, allowing more of the clear blue sky to come into view, and the width of the park is much narrower now so you are

Northern Tanzania Safari 2017: 20th October – 4th November   Itinerary:   Fri 20 Oct 21.00: London Heathrow to Addis Ababa (06.35) – Ethiopian Airlines: Airbus A350 Sat 21 Oc

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offshorebirder

Just catching up on this thread - marvelous experience y'all had @Julian.

 

The photo of the pool of wading birds and Hippos with the crater rim in the background is very nice!   

 

 

 

 

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Amylovescritters

Just catching up... Been working in desert between SoCal and AZ safeguarding desert tortoise and kit fox... LOVE MY JOB. The bull Ellie’s are breathtaking, especially the last experience. Hoping our 2 crater game drives are as wondrous.

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On 2/9/2018 at 11:59 PM, offshorebirder said:

Just catching up on this thread - marvelous experience y'all had @Julian.

 

The photo of the pool of wading birds and Hippos with the crater rim in the background is very nice!   

 

 

 

 

@offshorebirder

Thanks, I'm enjoying producing this report.

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13 hours ago, Amylovescritters said:

Just catching up... Been working in desert between SoCal and AZ safeguarding desert tortoise and kit fox... LOVE MY JOB. The bull Ellie’s are breathtaking, especially the last experience. Hoping our 2 crater game drives are as wondrous.

@Amylovescritters

Thanks Amy  -  I really, really  like seeing the big bull elephants  - the bigger the better  - but its unlikely we will ever get to see any that reached the size they did in the past, because of the constant poaching.

If it works - here is a short clip of Dionysus - one of the past giant bulls in Amboseli :

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1154022/echo_and_other_elephants/

 

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Amylovescritters

What a magnificent beast! I saw some very large ones in Kenya back in 2004. The plight of wildlife worldwide is heartbreaking and infuriating, particularly so with respect to ellie’s and rhinos. Hell, the plight of all life worldwide , including humans, is heartbreaking and infuriating far too often...

But on a more positive note looking very forward to more of your TR and our safari next year.

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Day 8: Fri 27th Oct – 3rd day at Highlands Camp

 

Yesterday evening there were only five other guests in camp, Yossi the Japanese guy, a nice couple from Canada, and two women who do work for Asilia who had driven here from their home in Arusha. However along with several staff joining us in the bar first and then for dinner, all of us on one table, it was another really nice sociable evening and the food was excellent again. The staff, who were mostly involved in preparing this camp in the period before it opened told us about the difficulty they had in getting all the fittings and furnishings into the camp, as the supply vehicles could not drive up the final steep 200 yards or so of the track, so all the furniture had to be carried manually - including the very heavy large wood burner in the camp lounge. 

 

Although we had booked to go on the walk to Olmoti today we decided to cancel it as Rachel was not feeling good, as the effects from the Tsetse bites received in Manyara were at their worst point and her ankles were swollen and stiff.  However after today the effects wore off quickly and Rachel felt much better by the next day.

 

When we told Goodluck yesterday evening why we would not be going on the walk today he told us that although the Olmoti walk is the easier one of the two offered, as you descend down into Olmoti its fine but then when you come back up it is a steep walk and at this altitude you do need to be fit. Also this afternoon there was a thunderstorm so we were glad we cancelled. Goodluck also told us that the walk to Empakaai is a serious long hike and nearly all steadily rising uphill to the summit, so at this altitude it is a very long and exhausting walk.

 

Therefore today we had a very pleasant peaceful chill-out day, being the only guests in camp until late afternoon, as Yossi had gone to Empakaai and then to a Maasai village, the Canadian couple had gone to the crater, and the other two women were going back to Arusha We started the day by having a wakeup call at 8.00am, followed by breakfast at 9.00am which was served to us on the balcony of the dining room and included whatever we wanted cooked to order.

 

Approaching the central camp area - lounge dome ahead, bar dome to the left, dining dome to the right:

 

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Breakfast on the dining balcony:

 

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The lounge dome:

 

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Later I took some photos of our room and some of the scenic views.

 

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We had lunch in the dining room at 1.00pm and that was also excellent. Rachel spoke with the Asilia medic yesterday evening and he advised her that as we were staying in camp today to wrap her ankles in towels soaked in very hot water, and to keep her feet up and legs bare to aid the healing of the tsetse bites – which definitely speeded up the healing. He suggested we ask the staff to bring a pot of very hot water for this. So early afternoon Godwin (our housekeeper) turned up with a huge washing bowl full of steaming water which he had carried from the kitchens. Godwin is known as Godzilla to all his colleagues because he is so tall and broad shouldered, and he looked after us really well for the four days we were here – nothing was too much trouble.

 

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In the bar this evening as well as chatting with some new guests we discussed with Goodluck about our second day in the crater tomorrow. There would only be us in the vehicle and we wanted to get to the crater as soon as it opened, which is 6.00am, meaning a 5.00am departure from camp and therefore a 4.15am wakeup call for us.

 

 Following that it was another excellent communal dinner with everyone just fitting round one table.

The Canadian couple were going on to Namiri Plains tomorrow – so we would see them for one more day on our first day at Namiri. Yossi had departed for Japan, an American couple had arrived today, and another American woman a Marketing Manager from a specialist safari company ( plus her guide)were in Africa for a couple of weeks touring round the camps that they place their clients in who book safaris with them. She was very nice although I was a bit surprised when she started going on about how wonderful it was in the Maasai Mara because 'you can drive right up to all the wildlife, such as cheetahs and follow them’.

 

After a brief walk in the very cold night air back to our dome it felt very welcoming and homely with the blazing log burner and hot water bottles. We slept soundly although we both remembered hearing a hyena call in the night.

 

 

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Amylovescritters

 Not a fan of off-roading... Too much destruction of habitat and far too many small critters end up crushed. Very cool lodge! 

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35 minutes ago, Amylovescritters said:

 Not a fan of off-roading... Too much destruction of habitat and far too many small critters end up crushed. Very cool lodge! 

@Amylovescritters

Thanks Amy. I thought it strange that someone who is a director for a quality safari company thought that it was great to be able to follow cheetahs closely. Thats one of the problems with the off-road driving in the Mara - its always busy there and the vehicles/guests are stopping the cheetahs from hunting by getting close to them (unlike the other cats who at least have opportunity to hunt at night ).

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Amylovescritters

Yes, harassing wildlife is NEVER acceptable. Unfortunately, too many do not understand the fine line between a reasonable, respectful distance and harassment. Of course we all want to have “close encounters” but never at the expense of wildlife. 

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Day 9: Sat 28th Oct – 4th day at Highlands Camp, 2nd day in the Ngorongoro Crater

 

Jambo! – our wakeup drinks and biscuits have arrived. I had woken a few minutes earlier and immediately turned the gas heater on – its really cold at 9000 feet at 4.15am!  Forty minutes later we were wrapped up in layers and woolly hats and getting into the Landcruiser. Goodluck drove as speedily as he could and by the time dawn was breaking we were close to the ‘office’ at the top of the descent road.

 

6.15 am and we are descending – just one other vehicle a couple of minutes in front of us. It was rather overcast to begin with, so just as well I took the scenic photos on the descent road on our previous day here.  First opportunity for a photograph on the descent was a secretary bird followed by an ostrich and then a pair of augur buzzards (I think?).

 

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As we reached the floor of the crater we passed by a group of Grants and Thomsons gazelles.

 

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The skies were just beginning to clear when we spotted a couple of adult male lions and over the next few minutes more came into view.  These were from the same large pride we encountered two days ago but this morning they were not feeding.  They were very spread out but the four adult males (we only saw three of the adult males last time) all gradually appeared walking purposefully in the same direction – which turned out to be where some of the other pride members were resting.

 

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Seven lionesses and one cub had settled down, some on each of a stream, but with the longish grass, banks and bushes partly obscuring our view, I think more of the pride than we could see were probably present.

 

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We stayed here a while but the lions showed no signs of any activity so we moved on. Next we passed a few buffalo and then some zebra followed by a herd of buffalo.   

 

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In the far distance Goodluck spotted a Rhino but it was a very long way from any of the tracks and the closest we could get to it must have been more than half a mile away (only  just visible with binoculars). We were not really expecting to see rhino as at this time of the year they spend their time in the swamp areas, on the slopes and also in the conservation area.

 

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A little further on, by a crossroads on the tracks, two female lions (from a different pride) were lying down in a tiny patch of shade that was created by the signpost. It was beginning to get very warm and after we stopped one of the lions walked over and lied down so close that its legs were underneath our vehicle. It clearly appreciated the larger patch of shade created by the vehicle and seemed rather disappointed when we drove off.

 

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Next we found a golden jackal digging in the ground attempting to catch the unseen prey that it could hear. Unfortunately it gave up after a few minutes so we did not see if it was a mouse, rat or something else. That sighting completed the set of all three species of jackal in the crater black-backed, side-striped and golden.

 

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We headed into the Lerai forest area next and stopped to eat our packed breakfast. Goodluck talked with us about the family difficulties that have been created by him becoming a ‘modern Maasai’. He has a wife and child, enjoys his lifestyle and is very happy, but his father has five wives and expected Goodluck to have a similar number of wives!  

 

While we were here I spotted some mice which were very active and eventually managed to get one, not very good, photo.

 

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 We found lots of hyenas today – mostly too far off for decent photos – but a couple of them getting out of a small pool, having taken a dip to cool off, created a few photo opportunities, and another golden jackal appeared and passed by closely.

 

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We continued on to the hippo pool and stream, where the grazing is much better. As we approached the area we were amazed at how many animals were here. There was one large herd of buffalo moving in that probably contained 400-500 individuals, plus hundreds of zebra, and certainly more than 1000 wildebeest. It was as if the migration had arrived. We stayed here for quite a while as there was wildlife in every direction we looked.

 

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The hippos were lazing quietly in the pool and among the birds I found a couple of new ones to photo – a black crowned night heron and a great egret.  

 

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We decided to head towards the large swamp area to see if any bull elephants were in view, and as we approached the area we could see a group of three, but they never came close so we only took a couple of photos each.  Also a very long way off on the edge of the swamp there were two more bull elephants, one of which was much larger than any we had seen in the crater so far, but it was not showing any signs of moving any nearer. There was also another herd of buffalo in this area.

 

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A few minutes later we watched a solitary lion pass by, heading towards a group of five lions resting in the distance, and even further away another three, a total of 7 lionesses and two sub-adult males which make up another different pride. Therefore we had now seen most of the lions from all three prides that are currently in the crater.

 

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It was now becoming hot and much of the wildlife was either settling down for a siesta or had vanished into some distant shade. However the Ngorongoro crater had one final special gift to show us, and that alone justified this second day spent in the crater. We noticed a vehicle ahead had stopped and the two guests were pointing their cameras at something close by. As we approached it came into view – a caracal – our first ever sighting!

 

We stopped and hastily started to take photos – which was not easy as the caracal was moving about quite quickly. Clearly it was looking for something to eat, occasionally making small sounds. It came close to the side of our vehicle, walking round the back and then away from us on the other side of our vehicle, quickly disappearing into the background as its colour blended very well with the landscape. Between the two of us we took about 30 photos but most were spoilt to some degree by camera-shake.

 

 

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 From the first view of the caracal to the last was only two minutes but it really rounded off the morning well. Goodluck had also taken a photo with his phone as he said his colleagues would not believe we saw a caracal that close. 

 

Now it was time for our packed lunch and to stretch our legs. After lunch we drove slowly around for quite a while but there was nothing really worth stopping for so by about 3.00pm we had decided it was time to head back to camp, as we had another early start in the morning as we have to depart for the Serengeti.

 

Our final evening in the camp was as sociable as the previous three and the food equally as good. Our wakeup call was booked for 5.15am as we had a long day ahead of us tomorrow. Goodluck would be driving us back to Lake Manyara airport where we would board a flight to Seronera in central Serengeti, and there we would meet one or more Asilia staff to drive us to Namiri Plains camp.

 

 

 

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A brilliant sighting of the Caracal. Beautiful!

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michael-ibk

Oh wow, what an excellent Caracal sighting! Really enjoying your report, Julian, what a fantastic safari you had. Especially taken with the Manyara part, like so many others I only spent little time there and do not have the fondest memories of the park but your experience clearly shows that there's so much there to find if you invest the time it deserves. And very cool you saw the Lions in trees, Manyara's marketing shtick. That camp on the crater looks pretty cool, very unique design. About the birds you asked: agree about D'Arnaud's Barbet, Long-Tailed Cormorant and Augur Buzzard. Those yellow Weavers are always tricky, I'd say non-breeding Lesser Masked and female Village Weaver.

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On 15/02/2018 at 9:11 PM, TonyQ said:

A brilliant sighting of the Caracal. Beautiful!

@TonyQ

Thanks. It’s always really good on a safari if you see any species that you have not seen before.

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On 16/02/2018 at 1:46 AM, Zubbie15 said:

Very nice to see the caracal so well, I’m jealous!

@Zubbie15

Thanks Zubbie, no need to be jealous, every safari has it s high points.

 

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3 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

Oh wow, what an excellent Caracal sighting! Really enjoying your report, Julian, what a fantastic safari you had. Especially taken with the Manyara part, like so many others I only spent little time there and do not have the fondest memories of the park but your experience clearly shows that there's so much there to find if you invest the time it deserves. And very cool you saw the Lions in trees, Manyara's marketing shtick. That camp on the crater looks pretty cool, very unique design. About the birds you asked: agree about D'Arnaud's Barbet, Long-Tailed Cormorant and Augur Buzzard. Those yellow Weavers are always tricky, I'd say non-breeding Lesser Masked and female Village Weaver.

@michael-ibk

Thank you. Great to know that I’m successfully identifying birds from my copy of  ‘birds of East Africa’ that I bought just before we went on this trip. 

 

The Highlands camp is really nice and unusual but I wouldn’t go back - it’s a fantastic place to go once, but unless you are really keen to do the exhausting walks to Olmoti and  Empakaai it is a long way to go, meaning such a long drive to get to the Ngorongoro Crater. We do hope to go back to the Crater in a couple of years time as part of our trip when we go to see the mountain gorillas, and we will then probably stay at the Nomad camp on the Crater rim, as they are also on the north-east side and obviously use the eastern descent road which has very few vehicles.

 

With regard to the caracal sighting - it was just before midday - probably the least likely time to see one - and amazingly at that time only two other visitors who saw it.

 

 

 

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