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There she goes - Ndutu / TZ Fall 2020


ice

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The concession   Those who've been there know how busy the concession can be, especially when the migration comes to town (Ndutu is where the wildebeest usually give birth in the millions).

Since it was clear that the lions were still in a hunting mood, we carefully (careful as to not disturb them or alarm their possible food sources) followed them back to the western corner of the Small

Subsequent to the initial kill, I found quite a few things interesting (as in "unusual"): I was expecting the Willow, the second lioness, to rush to the kill and start eating right way, instead

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The Masek Pride currently consists of 4 adult females: Nosikitok, Babs, Brenda and Bessy. The pictures above show Nosikitok and Babs, we never saw the other two.

 

According to the whiteboard at the lodge in March had 12 cubs, now, six months later, we counted 5. Not too bad, considering all the commotion caused by the presence of so many nomad males in the area.

 

The rest of the afternoon we switched between the Thin Pride and the Masek Pride.

 

 

23 Fotos Klaus Tanzania 156.JPG

 

Laura (in the foreground), mother of Willow - Thin Pride

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23 Fotos Klaus Tanzania 158.JPG

 

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23 Fotos Klaus Tanzania 160.JPG

 

23 Fotos Klaus Tanzania 161.JPG

 

The remaining cubs of the Masek Pride - at that time (late in the afternoon) Nosikitok and Babs had left them alone, presumably because they went hunting

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These cubs were, just Like Laura's offspring, born after Covid 19 had reached Africa, so it is not unlikely that Roimen, Hamisi and I were the first humans they had ever seen. They certainly behaved reluctant.

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BRACQUENE

@ice

 

Love your TR and the fact you mention that  you never saw  a coalition of five cheetah before makes my realise how lucky I was in Ruaha NP in an area called Little Serengeti north of Mwagusi Camp in 2017 to see exactly that ( my photos ) even if their hunt was not successful whilst we were around ! 

 

 

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Saturday Sept. 5th

 

was last my full day in the Concession. Needless to say it drew us back to the Macao Plains, after all yesterday had been my very first day ever without finding any cheetah at all in the NCA. However, it was not meant to be, we spent six hours driving all over the Plains all the way up to Twin Hills, but no cheetah. In fact, we did not even find lions.

 

To miss out on cheetah on four drives in a row was one thing. We were flabbergasted, though when, back at the Lodge, Roimen, the lion guardian, told us that he on his drive had come across the Big Marsh Pride - and he had not even been looking for it! He had instead been trying to locate the Twin Hills Pride.

 

Thanks to today's technical magic the Masai provided us with the GPS data and there they were, sixteen animals strong: five adult females and eleven subadults! 

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23 Fotos Klaus Tanzania 185.JPG

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It was raining, so pictures and video clips did not come out too well, but I didn't care. It is a well known fact that lion prides in East Africa tend to be much smaller than lion prides in the southern part of the continent, especially during the dry season. Me, I'm pretty sure I have never seen a pride of this size in Kenya or Tanzania, certainly not with almost fully grown subadults. Among these subadults was the limping male we had found left behind a week before in the Big Marsh - great to see he had made his way back to the pride.

 

The Big Marsh Pride consists of six adults females:  Cassandra, Venus, Vesta, Diana, Juno (all present) and Aphrodite. Aphrodite was still absent, though, we had last seen her a few days ago in the Macao Plains.

 

We were soon joined by Chief Ranger Edward who had also been informed by Roimen about the location of the lions. The Big Marsh Pride is his and Hamisi's favorite pride, solely because it is led by Cassandra:

 

Edward confessed that he had not seen the cats since the outbreak of the pandemy. He was extremely happy that seemingly pretty much all the cubs had survived. "Cassandra did it again", was his fitting comment.

 

 

23 Fotos Klaus Tanzania 191.JPG

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According to the database of Kope Lion Cassandra was born in February 2011, daughter of a female called "No Name" and a male called "Half Tail". Roughly three years later - Cassandra and her sisters had just had their first cubs - Half Tail was chased off by new males who threatened to kill the newborns. Cassandra decided to leave her natal pride with her cubs. But not only that - she took all the cubs of her sisters with her, a total of nine. And she managed to raise all (!) of these cubs to adulthood, completely alone, without the help of any other adult lions. What a feat! Three of these nine lions are still members of her family and were lying in front of us: Juno, Vesta and Diana.

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Edward's comment "Cassandra did it again" referred to the fact that the adults had once again succeeded to raise a huge number of lions. During my research I found this NatGeo Article with the fitting title

 

The Short Happy Life of a Serengeti lion.

 

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2013/08/serengeti-lions/

 

According to the author, cub mortality among Serengeti lions is about 50 %, but I'm sure I've read somewhere else (Schaller maybe) of even lesser numbers. So again "Kudos" to Cassandra and the other adults, especially if you take the turmoil created by the overly large number of males into consideration that currently roam through the Concession.

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We had started to identify the sexes of of the subadults: 9 males and 2 females! Extremely untypical, especially for East African lions. Usually the sex ration in the overall lion population should be 2 females for each male, see here

 

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/aje.12728

 

When that article was published five years ago, I had (free) access to the entire paper. The conclusion of the researchers was (in short) that female lions that continuously lose their male protectors (in the case of KTP because a lot of males are killed by farmers who live near the park's boundaries), tend to give birth to more male than female cubs, simply because a male lion that survives may share his mother's genes with much more other females than a female daughter might.

 

Not sure if that theory has since been confirmed by other researchers or not. However, if you take into consideration what I've mentioned before in my trip report, that the NCA for the last two years has seen way too many male nomads and male coalitions, then that might be an explanation why the male subadults in the Big Marsh Pride currently outnumber their sisters and cousins by 4,5 to 1.

 

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At 6:15 pm, close to sunset, the lions finally started their grooming and greeting ceremony and then walked off, one after the other, like a mini migration. It was indeed a sight for sore eyes - and my last memorable sighting for this trip. We did another 4 1/2 hour morning drive the following day, albeit spotting no predators at all. 

 

After an early lunch we drove back to Kilimanjaro Airport, from where I flew back to Amsterdam...conclusion and (later) video clips will follow. 

 

 

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excellent trip report, @ice! very interesting information! hopefully, Cassandra will do it again ;-) and again 

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wilddog

Absolutely loving this TR @ice Thank you.

 

Interesting about the male to female ratios. I wonder if any ST members can provide links to later evidence supporting this?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Conclusion

 

I hope I am not stepping on anybody's toes with my next comment but whenever I take the time to read a trip report, be it here at ST or at similar sites like TA, I am surprised that almost everybody claims to have had the best time ever, meaning (to me, at least) that this particular safari oder holiday was better than all the ones before. Half a year later his or her next trip report arrives, and again, all better than ever. But hey, who knows, maybe that's how him or her indeed do feel at that moment.

 

Anyway, I have no problem admitting to myself (and to others) that some of my trips do make into my personal top ten and others do not. Also, I have a soft spot for statistics, I love to count predator sightings and compare the numbers with those from previous visits, provided I am not comparing apples to oranges (for example, it doesn't make a lot of sense to collate lion sightings in Kruger with lion sightings in Kgalagadi, etc.) 

 

And with Ndutu? Those who've been there more than once will most likely know that there is a huge difference between the wet and the dry season: between December and April you will encounter hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles. In the dry season pretty much all of them are gone - like I mentioned before, I came across one single wildebeest and that was the unlucky one Laura from the Thin Pride killed.

 

However, this was my second dry season safari to Ndutu, slighty shorter and a little bit earlier than two years before (9 nights in September 2020 versus 10 nights November 2018). So yes, I did compare these two trips and I will share my (subjective and objective) conclusions over the next few posts.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Number of Sightings

 

If you look solely at the number of sightings I had, 2020 comes off way better than 2018, especially if you consider that we had one night less in the Conservation Area and also that pretty much each and every sighting we had to discover ourselves - with one exception: we received the location of the Marsh Pride with its 16 lions from the Lion Guiardian.

 

 

Unbenannt-1.jpg.15aa651130b8b1f3b855d47c0611e72a.jpg

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In fact, 2018 stands out only in one category. Two years ago we managed to find all of the cats the NCA has to offer:

  • lions
  • one leopard
  • cheetahs
  • three caracals
  • one serval
  • half a dozen wild cats

This year "only" yielded one caracal and a few wild cats but no leopard and no serval. However, I couldn't care less. If I see those cats, fine, if not, no problem. I would certainly never plan a trip in the hope of spending quality time with leopards, caracals or servals. In fact, for me leopards are the least interesting of the bigger African cats: unlike cheetahs, they are mostly active at night and unlike lions they don't live in prides. 

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The quantity of sightings is one factor, their quality is another and more important one. I have been travelling to Africa for 20 years now, with appr. 40 different safaris on my back - merely seeing lions, leopards or even cheetahs is certainly not as exciting any more as it used to be at the start of the millennium. But my 2020 Ndutu Safari had its fair share of highlights:

  • another caracal sighting (my seventh or eighth overall)
  • my second lion kill ever, five years after I filmed three male lions in Kruger eating a warthog alive, but that kill happened at night and this one in Ndutu in broad daylight
  • three cheetah kills
  • a coalition of five male cheetahs
  • said coalition of five male cheetahs making two kills within 17 minutes
  • a pride of lions 16 cats strong

The only thing I could complain about is the "distribution" of these highlights - the first five of these six highlight sightings took place during the first half of my safari. At the end of my trip we had six consecutive drives without any cheetah sighting at all. But yes, that would be "high level moaning"

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To have not only the lodge but basically the entire concession for ourselves was almost surreal. Yes, we had to work harder for our sightings, without any help form other guides, but that made them in the end all the more special. 

 

Being the only tourist far and wide also makes it easier to connect with staff and rangers. It was great to chat with guys like Roimen, a Lion Guardian and Edward, the Chief Ranger of the NCA, to see how they really care about the animals they are employed to protect. 

 

This was my fourth trip to Ndutu and the second one during the dry season. Almost exactly two months from today my fifth NCA safari will (hopefully) be well on its way , I have booked 12 nights, starting on Feb. 21st. As of today, the migration has already arrived in the area. By the end of February the wildebeest will hopefully drop their young ones, something I have last seen and filmed in 2016.

 

Speaking about filming: as mentioned earlier on, I finally found the time to edit YouTube Uploads for four of my favorite sightings:

  • hyenas on a baby eland kill
  • the lion kill
  • the first cheetah kill
  • the second and third cheetah kill

The first has already been published, the others will follow every other two weeks. Once they are online, I will add the links to this thread

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@iceThank you for a great trip report. I really like that you spent time with the statistic. Like you I also like numbers. Especially when they go in the right direction. So many cheetah sightings and 3 kills.. Wow...

I been to Serengeti and NCA(but that was way back in 2003) and saw a handfull of cheetahs on that occasion. The only place I been to, that can come close to challenging Ndutu for cheetah is Kgalagadi. We had 12 sightings of cheetahs on our last trip (around 20 different individuals), but we also spent 19 days in the park. And we never saw a kill :( I can see that you been to both places ,and I am curious how do you compare these?  I seems that both places are mainly about cheetahs and lions, but also smaller carnivores (like caracal). 

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@JayRon

 

It is interesting that you ask me to compare KTP and Ndutu with regard to cheetahs...interesting because I did just that in my latest video diary narration. After my 9 nights in Ndutu in August and September I went to ZA in October, spending six nights at Twee Rivieren, Nossob and KTC respectively. 

 

We first went to KTP in 2006, back when the park was a little known gem, reachable only by unpaved roads. This fall was my 10th visit there. Over the years I must spent close to 80 nights or so in KTP, roughly twice as much as in Ndutu (4 trips / 39 nights). 

 

Personally, for us / me KTP was and still is hit and miss when it came / comes to cheetah. I've had years like you, sightings and number of individuals in double figures but there were also years with hardly any cheetah at all. In comparison Ndutu is more reliable, even in the dry season, but especially in the wet season (in March 2014 and Feb. 2016 we spotted 30+ different cheetahs, a lot of more than once). Kills can be tricky, more so in the dry season (2018: 1, 2020: 3) than in the wet season (2014: 7, 2016: 8). In KTP I've filmed cheetah on kills but never actually making a kill.

 

 

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Those difference shouldn't surprise, though:

  • Ndutu does allow off road driving
  • in KTP game viewing is restricted to the two riverbed roads and a few dune roads
  • in Ndutu I use the help of a guide who has been working there for 20+ years

Regarding the other carnivores: I have actually seen more leopards in KTP than in Ndutu but that is probably because in Ndutu we never go looking for them (like I said, they are my least favorite of the big predators). KTP also gave me my best caracal and aardwolf sightings ever, aardwolf even better that at Marrick Farm. 

 

 

2013 03-18.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...
ice

Second YouTube Upload from this trip: our first cheetah kill, on Aug. 31st

 

 

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ice

I am a bit ashamed about the title I gave this, but using martial expressions like "destroy" is the only way to get the attention of today's generation ;-)

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