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kilopascal

Moving on to the next trip report before I lose momentum.  This was a mostly Ndutu trip from March 13-28, 2017 with the following itinerary:

Arusha 1 night, Lake Duluti Serena Hotel

Ndutu 9 nights, Lake Masek Tented Camp

Karatu/Ngorongoro Crater 2 nights, Ngorongoro Farmhouse

West Kilimanjaro 3 nights, Kambi Ya Tembo

 

This was just me this time as I couldn't find anyone else that could be gone this long.  No difficulties getting there.  Picked up at Kili airport by the guide I always use, George Mbwambo, and driven to Lake Duluti Serena Hotel.  This was chosen because of its proximity to George's house and the price when purchased in conjunction with my Delta ticket was great.  Nice hotel.  Excellent breakfast and pleasant service.  

 

March 14

     We left later than usual today.  I was recovering from some gastric virus and still a little down and out and George had an I-Pad issue he wanted to get taken care of that morning.  So we left around 10 am.  Nothing unusual with the drive.  Only one stop by police this time for 'speeding' which George pleasantly but firmly denied and no ticket was issued or bribe paid.  I exchanged money in Mto Wa Mbu (2235 Tz shilling per USD), then on to Karatu where we stopped for pizza at the Mambo Cafe.  It had rained very heavily the day before and rained on and off as we traveled.  There had also been heavy rain in eastern Ndutu which was pretty much a swamp.  We came across a stranded truck from one of the camps that was moving out.  Some engine problem and they wanted George to tow them to a dryer section.  He laughed and said no way.  Too big and heavy.  

     George said to be on the look out for a honey badger as their holes would be flooded.  Not too long after that I see what I think is a badger running and say (a little too excitedly) "there's one".   George looks and says "thats a white-tailed mongoose".  Okay,  Not a honey badger but still something new for me._MG_4414.JPG.9bc158800ce84fe94385771887e2d875.JPG_MG_4419.JPG.c0ee2a58e4b17b25c5251400b95e76bc.JPGA bit blurry as I was not quite ready to start taking photos and it was moving fairly fast.  We did not pursue it for fear of getting stuck.  Just a few meters away is a hyena who seems interested but the mongoose puffs up its tail and tries to look tough and the hyena gives it a pass.  It is soon joined by other hyena who have been arguing over carcass parts.fullsizeoutput_71.jpeg.21c3986da1545b295f2a56bf34b5a45d.jpeg_MG_4462.JPG.a572157af8ba2d184b77bb9e98a43cf7.JPG_MG_4471.JPG.fe49380d6183c8d93a6efddb6e74a789.JPGfullsizeoutput_72.jpeg.db22074b1c718222f99e30949e1c3ab7.jpeg Other noteworthy (or not) sightings on the drive include a very wet jackal, plover, and scub hare._MG_4490.JPG.1cdd251845a4c1e0a050668221a786b7.JPG_MG_4494.JPG.c49ade29ef9bf7d74ad212eb45abbceb.JPG_MG_4499.JPG.7ab4c17dac42ab3bfdcca7920078cdd5.JPG More rain and another truck that is very stuck.  We give one of them a lift to the ranger station.  Well, almost.  He had to walk the last bit as it was too flooded.  We arrive at Lake Masek Tented camp around 6:30.  It was still quite light out.  There was a welcome drink, briefing, and hot shower.

 

Lake Masek Tented Camp

This is not where I had originally planned to stay.  It is an extremely nice, stationary camp but a bit too large.  I was going to stay at Ndutu Under Canvas, but George fortunately discovered a couple of months before I came that this year they were positioned on the Serengeti side.  So to go into Ndutu where we could off road drive I would have to stop at the ranger station every day and pay the additional fee.  He went to the office of Tanganyika Wilderness camps in Arusha and got them to agree to the same price even though Lake Masek is a little more expensive.  I was a little disappointed.  I prefer a smaller, more rustic camp, but I have to admit, with all the rain that was about to come, it was a little nice to be here with a raised permanent tent and gravel walk ways.  The rooms are beautiful.  Tub inside.  Outdoor shower.  Lovely views of the lake.  Excellent service.

 

So that's day 1.  

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March 18 5th day in Ndutu.  I wake up each morning thinking how glorious it is to have all this time in one place.   Rained all night.  Thunder.  Lightening.  Water everywhere.  The "lo

Onward! March 19th So all visitors to Ndutu are pretty much confined to a fairly small area because of the massive rain.  Even George has had to admit defeat on that front but it is still a

March 21 So it's my next to the last full day in Ndutu and George thinks we may have gone long enough without rain that we should head for Hidden Valley, so that's the plan.  We spot the usual su

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pault
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Moving on to the next trip report before I lose momentum

 

Quite right! And on and on.

 

That is a bit wet. 

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Atravelynn

Your photos show rainy rainy.   It is good to see all this rain because it was dusty dusty from about Feb 5 up until about Feb 18, 2017 when I was there.  White tailed mongoose in the daytime is a rarity! Lucky you!   Good lesson on checking with camp locations that might have changed at the last minute.  Who would think Ndutu under canvas would really be in the Serengeti?  But then some of the best authentic Mexican cuisine I have ever had was in San Antonio at the Manhattan Cafe!

 

You are on a roll!

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kilopascal
1 minute ago, Atravelynn said:

Who would think Ndutu under canvas would really be in the Serengeti? 

My thoughts exactly.  I was very grateful to George for getting this changed.  It would have been a royal pain getting to the Ndutu side given the rain that was to come. Spoiler alert.  

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Atravelynn
1 hour ago, kilopascal said:

My thoughts exactly.  I was very grateful to George for getting this changed.  It would have been a royal pain getting to the Ndutu side given the rain that was to come. Spoiler alert.  

I hope that spoiler alert did not spoil your actual trip.  That is a very fine itinerary, by the way!  Looking forward to the rest.

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kilopascal

March 15

Drove down toward small marsh in hopes of seeing small lion cubs that are reported to be there but do not find them.  Then up to Big Marsh Plains.  It continues to pour with rain which started at 3:30 am.  It is wet, wet, wet everywhere.  The morning gives us a couple of golden jackals, impala, zebras, about a thousand wildebeest, owl, and countless birds which I have given up learning.  We are on the search for cheetah, but no luck yet.  George notices the wildebeest nerd is moving toward Big Marsh and suggests we wander back there to see if any lions will appear. We start heading back, pausing for a late lunch.  Then as we get close to Big Marsh there are two female lions who have just taken down a wildebeest.  It appears dead but one of them still has the death grip on the next and head.  fullsizeoutput_77.jpeg.0d7ed6174289e490f130e23a5eb29b30.jpegfullsizeoutput_7a.jpeg.bc49e3c79e883eab93871431bd7b8648.jpegWe spend a long time here with these two as they open and feed on the wildebeest.  Below is an attempt at a video.  I have previously failed at this but here goes.  

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kilopascal

So I see a video (yay).  Please let me know if it is there for everyone else.

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kilopascal

fullsizeoutput_83.jpeg.119cbed0772d57fa77d87790be1a3d37.jpegfullsizeoutput_80.jpeg.888a9f066829f42fdc6ed43dcba4c143.jpegOne of them finally wanders off to take a nap and the other lies next to the beast, protecting it from the vultures that have lined up.  We slowly move down toward the marsh and see several cars and a lion going into the bushes.  George suggests this will be the lion with small cubs.  We can just make them out nursing and playing but they are well-hidden.  As the wildebeest get closer George suggests that we move back and see if she will hunt.  There is only one other car and they do the same.  We wait but no luck and it is getting late.  As we head back to the lodge we see a big lion with a collar in a tree.  George says this is the lion who found and nursed the leopard cub last year.  The outcome of that is unknown but probably didn't end well.  As we head back we find 3 cheetah lounging in the sun, a couple of bat-eared fox, an owl, and lastly a couple of lions on their honeymoon, as George likes to say.fullsizeoutput_87.jpeg.fe5d47ea887229b9a2cc4da674a996d9.jpegfullsizeoutput_88.jpeg.ca80f71666b5178e149fd3b819519b54.jpegfullsizeoutput_89.jpeg.f85c396827ab90c0cb420c0922a8a356.jpegfullsizeoutput_8b.jpeg.784b393dd859fd57654be45c71d8b823.jpegfullsizeoutput_8e.jpeg.533bcc20aaa264e0594676d10157a92b.jpeg

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kilopascal
28 minutes ago, kilopascal said:

wildebeest nerd is moving toward Big Marsh

:DI just noticed this. I wonder if this is the one the lions got

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kilopascal

March 15

Out early as usual.  We grab coffee early and a bit of cake then pack up our breakfast and lunch.  As is the case with all TWC properties they set up tables where you select what you want and they pack it up for you.  Works very well and I like this about their camps.  Our first encounter is with the Masek Pride of lions with 2 of them still actively mating.  We find the bat-eared foxes again this morning.  And a banded mongoose that holds still long enough for photos.  _MG_4781.JPG.69490b93ba2cc35a90e4b3f8d49c5741.JPGfullsizeoutput_90.jpeg.b4859128893f0aa54f5ec709614f538d.jpegWe are headed out to Macao Plains with the goal of finding cheetah.  It was too wet yesterday.  We meet one car that has turned around and the guide says he tried but it's too wet.  So George shifts a little west and says "we just need to get though this swampy area".  So we speed up a bit, George says "hold on" and off we go, mud flying and a bit of sliding around.  I told George there are people at home who go 4-wheeling and do this for fun.  He just shakes his head.  We manage to get through the 'swamp' and shortly after George spots a cheetah.  My first picture of her was taken at 10:11 am.fullsizeoutput_93.jpeg.53d081439195c54aa9880b041784ba78.jpegWe settle in to watch her as she is actively hunting.  We watch 4 unsuccessful attempts over almost 7 hours - coffee - lunch - more coffee.  Her 4th attempt was about 4:30 and George says she looks tired and doesn't think she'll go again.  But then she starts looking.  So then he says lets wait until 5 and see.  Shortly after 5 she makes her 5th attempt and is finally successful.  She lays, exhausted, for a while then finally opens the kill.

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kilopascal

fullsizeoutput_9f.jpeg.08e9c26d37c5334d458eaeba7fa9b34d.jpegfullsizeoutput_a1.jpeg.1487bb83888907d710a55f752c1422b0.jpegfullsizeoutput_a3.jpeg.60fef616c60c550ef25c4e75911fa6b1.jpegWe make our way back and see two of the 3 cheetah we saw yesterday and some sleeping members of the Lake Masek pride of lions.  fullsizeoutput_a6.jpeg.2cc73d9c0aa730ccc2f84bdc60aeca7b.jpegfullsizeoutput_a9.jpeg.e771f8238cfd41f725d1e3070ead54cd.jpeg

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kilopascal

March 17 

     Oops.  The last post was March 16 not 15.  Not that it really matters.  That's the beauty of 9 days in Ndutu.  You lose all track of time and have no idea what day it is.  And you don't care. 

     A very cool morning today but no rain overnight and looks like sun in the forecast.  We see the cheetah and her 2 cubs that are fairly close to our lodge, along with lions.  STILL on their honeymoon.  We are going back out to Macao plains today.  George hopes it will dry out enough today that we can go to Hidden Valley tomorrow.  We pass a  jackal on the way but after that nothing.  It was one of those days on safari that you have where you just have to appreciate being there.  On the way back in we see 3 lions of the Big Marsh pride and spend a bit of time watching some giraffe then watch the sun go down.  Me with a kili and George with a coffee.

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Atravelynn

"the lion who found and nursed the leopard cub last year"  -truly astounding.

I am sure you can lose track of everything with 9 days in Ndutu, especially in green season!

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kilopascal

March 18

5th day in Ndutu.  I wake up each morning thinking how glorious it is to have all this time in one place.

 

Rained all night.  Thunder.  Lightening.  Water everywhere.  The "low crossing" to get from the Serengeti side to Ngorongoro side is treacherous and I'm grateful that George had our accommodations reset.  We do see a car using this route and the water is up to the windows.  George shakes his head and says "if any of that road is washed out you lose your clients and your car".  

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We find the mother cheetah and her two clubs right away.  They attempt to go after a young wildebeest but there is just too much car activity interrupting things.  They settle down to watch the action of a mini wildebeest crossing.fullsizeoutput_121.jpeg.d90d3af7ebf76690b3a98bd43e32ab38.jpeg_MG_6448.JPG.d874877c9dc64bd5a0a4d40d42b608b0.JPG

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It's too wet to make a planned trip to Hidden Valley so we head up to Big Marsh plains to look for the lions we saw the previous evening.  No luck, but we did come across a large number of hyena feasting on a wildebeest.  We counted up to 15.  At one point there is a horrible ruckus when one urinates someplace that clearly belonged to someone else.  There are vultures everywhere.  

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It looks like the sun might prevail today so back we go on the cheetah hunt at Macao plains, passing more bat-eared fox, jackal, sand grouse, and a single lion eating wildebeest.

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It is very very wet and navigating around the swampy areas takes a lot of attention but George prevails.  Very quickly George spots a cheetah and cub feeding.  We arrive and must have just missed the kill as the wildebeest is not yet opened and they are panting hard.  The the young cub gets to work.  

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We spend about an hour and a half here then continue our search for more cheetah.  George stops the car late morning for our coffee break and at one point he glances up and says "there's a cheetah, she just missed a gazelle".  WHAT?  I have no hope of seeing it but finally find her with binoculars.  We make our way there and after taking a picture and making some comparisons we confirm it is the same cheetah we spent 7 hours watching two days ago.  

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She rests for about 45 minutes then George says "there's a baby wildebeest that is away from the herd, she will go for it".   And she does.

fullsizeoutput_d7.jpeg.29bd48c5b6808a0d4c2caae9b32832c9.jpeg 

_MG_5575.JPG.1060e2b59c19595d4674af74d1b2dd5c.JPGfullsizeoutput_df.jpeg.3d2bc11fdf0a939c321876b3e7cead89.jpegfullsizeoutput_e7.jpeg.e3e5502cb13865553be07c673a5edd81.jpeg

 

We wait, and after she gets it down George gives 2 commands:  "Hold on and take pictures as soon as we get there. " Okay George!

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We watch her for about 20-30 minutes and George comments it's raining back where we came from.  We linger a bit longer than we should have.  About 10 minutes into our drive back it is raining so hard that you can't see anything but we can't stop for fear of getting stuck.  We are flying and water and mud are slinging up onto the windshield.  Nothing is really visible and  at one point George asks me to look at our track on the GPS that we made on the way out so we don't miss the turn back to Big Marsh Plains.  We finally get to an area with a bit drier ground and George stops the car and lets go of the wheel and we just start laughing.  "That was fun George".  I get a look.  "You wouldn't think it was so fun if we were stuck out there.  Next time I see rain we go" .  But he's still laughing. I have to give him credit for his adventuresome spirit.  We were the only car out on Macao Plains today.  And it's still early.  Lots more yet to see today.

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Atravelynn

Hold on and take pictures.  Great advice.  I can hear George saying the various quotes you mention. That 1st photo in post #14 is frightening.

 

Exciting cheetah activity.  Encouraging there are quite a few cubs.

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mapumbo

You are having quite the adventure with George.

 

OK George, ready for another cheetah hunt.  Thanks.

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kilopascal

We head back toward Big Marsh where the pride have eaten the back half of a wildebeest.  

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Then a baby wildebeest is spotted and despite having just eaten one of the lions sees this as an easy catch._MG_5679.JPG.a383b54227b12525cee440b29d8828e8.JPG_MG_5672.JPG.66c6223943f9a285675c4fd202db4161.JPGfullsizeoutput_12a.jpeg.d304b402919bfaac25fe8cc9d6bdffea.jpeg

She is about to pounce when a car that has been watching along with several others inexplicably starts its motor and the wilde takes off.  A few annoyed safari goer glances are sent.  Maybe someone in the car didn't want to see it happen.  

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We spend the remainder of the afternoon with the lions as it is wet wet wet everywhere.fullsizeoutput_ff.jpeg.3e69afd2f01fdb4dfff57d76ae9879d5.jpeg_MG_5793.JPG.a7967a8b134903f618a8b7cc7cfb79bf.JPG_MG_5795.JPG.a868f5c17bd19ca8ad4e9bb9f0c11f1e.JPG

 

It starts to pour with rain so we head back about 4 pm to the lodge where the staff have started calling George Mr. 9 days.  Apparently no one ever stays this long.  I have a shower then head to the lounge for a beer, or 2, and download pictures.  I'm all alone and it continues through dinner with just George and myself as a group of about 8 people have not arrived as they are stuck someplace.  The lodge has taken their tractor out to pull them out.  

 

I'm not sure this safari can get much better but it does.  

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offshorebirder

George sounds like an excellent safari guide @kilopascal.     Great stuff so far.

 

Ndutu is on my bucket list, so I am glad to read this T.R. like @Atravelynn's from not too long ago.

 

 

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kilopascal

Onward!

March 19th

So all visitors to Ndutu are pretty much confined to a fairly small area because of the massive rain.  Even George has had to admit defeat on that front but it is still a great safari day with relatively few cars.  The benefits of Ndutu in late March (along with lower prices).  We are not out long and see a vehicle with just a guide intent on photographing something.  It is a caracal that just took down a gazelle and the guide was there to see the action.  His clients left yesterday and he was leaving today.  We watch her as she comes forward every now and then to guard her kill against others intent on having breakfast.  _MG_5829.JPG.386485f5adfc347cf246312c3d819247.JPG_MG_5839.JPG.c84b75ac7f1326b534290470d6dbdecc.JPGfullsizeoutput_136.jpeg.c376e19d0b2bcfc9243d29eb1f74031a.jpeg_MG_5881.JPG.5a659db161fd7a0b13163bf9a964d033.JPG_MG_5891.JPG.a34a3f36d3e606d036cf12249d4fb1fe.JPGfullsizeoutput_107.jpeg.cc93b29453fed64feb8a7776e60ffc18.jpegfullsizeoutput_10a.jpeg.49d1366943b1183bd1a615a266e97852.jpeg

 

We stay here for a long time.  Have some breakfast and coffee.  Many cars come and go.  One attempting to get close who is quickly chastised by the rest of the guides.  George starts chatting with a couple of guides whom he frequently works with and tells them we went out to Macao yesterday.  They laugh and tell him "you are crazy".  

 

Moving on...fullsizeoutput_10b.jpeg.d3ea93a2f5c743e72bf8764bbe600bf3.jpegfullsizeoutput_10c.jpeg.b55164c97326868059345dd4de7c2f39.jpegfullsizeoutput_10d.jpeg.57777dc7fff93af6a57605bba66470ed.jpeg_MG_6107.JPG.bd23f9aea1ac54242d3b7d8f05fb83f3.JPGfullsizeoutput_137.jpeg.4d170ade687359f6fd4d1592ce22d3dd.jpeg

 

As we are watching these lions we can hear that a car is stuck someplace and then these lions become very interested as they see people moving outside of the cars.fullsizeoutput_111.jpeg.fd021e0b26d624ab9c760448fad9f0a3.jpeg_MG_6148.JPG.65858bd141bfc4be278e9ea082749003.JPGfullsizeoutput_113.jpeg.c72794171d48fe98bfc70ef55657e9e4.jpeg

 

The car that is stuck is successfully extracted by another, only to get hopelessly stuck himself.  Which prompts a guide convention and some winch action.  IMG_1153.JPG.84001671bc3a33dacd1014c7bb981ffa.JPGfullsizeoutput_138.jpeg.fe2ee63ec9332b8b0a0180ae23d405a5.jpeg

 

George attaching/watching the tow line_MG_6257.JPG.2991f3f97a59bb6902588d4c575e1e77.JPG

 

...and then back to lions and finishing the day with the local cheetah.  _MG_6178.JPG.d05835a9ea20cb977fe108254e70635c.JPGfullsizeoutput_116.jpeg.4cd4abd0197c46aa3fa3c639f064a857.jpegfullsizeoutput_118.jpeg.166a61b54f621c553ad9e00cf01793a7.jpeg_MG_6218.JPG.e9a776ae2b11bc04b98c0ecc0aa19d59.JPG_MG_6235.JPG.0ca60096dbe2268b6cc66b439429bb17.JPG_MG_6361.JPG.7f07d20ffffb1dc66990fccc39b774e5.JPG_MG_6351.JPG.ea2cde766434fffd5e9a6e868f425cdc.JPG_MG_6416.JPG.58325f8a5f1209f07d270e4ec14fe433.JPG

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kilopascal
1 hour ago, offshorebirder said:

Ndutu is on my bucket list, so I am glad to read this T.R. like @Atravelynn's from not too long ago.

A fabulous place.  Especially if you can spend some extended time there and just see what comes your way each day.  The advantage of off road driving is definitely a plus and leaving it until after the calving was finished up made for low numbers of visitors.  It does limit your camp selection though. 

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kilopascal

March 20th

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A more low key safari day today.  Hanging out near the marsh, watching lions and drinking coffee which then progressed to a Kili or 2 to end the day.fullsizeoutput_13d.jpeg.0efac9e1f0ac6b817f805bd97dec3824.jpegfullsizeoutput_126.jpeg.1c1b77c2ba2d7e87bd1082a08b6a8adc.jpegfullsizeoutput_13a.jpeg.ba2898c9bef487e6150e416bb7dc1f65.jpeg

 

Okay. So maybe it was just George watching lions and me drinking beer.:wacko:

 

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You have convinced me that late March is still a good time to be in the Ndutu area despite the rain. This is one of the more action packed trip reports (both because of the weather and the animals)  I have come across. I really like the cheetah and the caracal segments. Like @offshorebirder, Ndutu is also on my list. Do you go every year? Is it awesome like this every year? :D

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Atravelynn

Wow, caracal!   I bet you were as excited to see the caracal as those stuck in the mud were excited to see that tractor.

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kilopascal
11 hours ago, anocn4 said:

Ndutu is also on my list. Do you go every year? Is it awesome like this every year? 

I have been 3 times I think.  Never this awesome but I think the key is the length of stay.  A lot of people, including myself, just go through for 2 or 3 days on a tour including the Serengeti.  Staying longer allows you to experience what it really has to offer.  9 days might be a bit much for some people but I would certainly recommend at least 5. I will be back again in December but only for 3 days.  We will see what is in store.

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kilopascal
8 hours ago, Atravelynn said:

I bet you were as excited to see the caracal as those stuck in the mud were excited to see that tractor.

It was exciting and I was jealous of the guide who got to see a caracal take down a Grants gazelle.  Yep.  Grants. 

The people who were stranded had quite the story and most of them were excited about the adventure of it all.  One guy not so much.

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