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A Double-Double in the NCA - Ndutu in February 2021


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Friday, March 5th

 

half past six in the morning. Obviously the first thing I want to do is check out the Masek Pride and its kill. For once, this morning Hamisi and I were not the the first to leave the lodge. News like that of a double lion kill right near the lake spreads - radios and messenger services make it possible - among guides and tourists alike like wildfire, and all those who saw little or nothing of the action yesterday got up all the earlier twelve hours later .

 

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Not surprisingly, the males dominating the Masek Pride have now also found their way to the remains of the zebras. While Loseyay is still near the carcasses, Lamarsi has already walked down to the lake shore to clean himself and then quench his thirst by the little pools of rainwater pools.

 

 

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And these they are, the final game drive pictures of my Ndutu 2021 safari. Hamisi and I need to be back at Lodoare Gate before 14:00, otherwise we'd have to pay another set of entrance fees. 

 

Unlike previous trips to the NCA, this year I have decided to take it easy on our final way back to JRO, not rushed but relaxed, with an overnight stop in Karatu, where Hamisi currently lives. However, us humans make plans and God laughs. Although everything goes according to plan - I have checked into my hotel around 14:15 - I am nevertheless more stressed than relaxed. Thursday came and went, and I still have not received my Covid 19 Test Result.

 

Not knowing whether the result is positive or negative doesn't bother me so much; after all, I show and feel no symptoms. No, what I worry about are the procedures tomorrow at the airport. Sure, on paper I don't need a negative test report for my trip home to Frankfurt, neither the airline nor my government required it at the time. However, can I really be sure that the employees of the Tanzanian health authority or of the airline are familiar with the subtleties of the "North Rhine-Westphalian Regulations for Protection against New Infections with the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus with Regard to Incoming and Return Travelers from High-Risk Areas", as they are called in the most beautiful German officialese? Perhaps, regardless of their origin, those employees will play it safe and demand that simply everyone who wants to leave the country has to submit a negative confirmation?

 

Back at the Seronera Test Site I was smart enough to ask for the number of Doctor who took my sample and Hamisi provides me with contact details of another doctor who works at the hospital here in Karatu. As Friday fades, it becomes clear that a mistake was made when typing my passport details into their database. Both doctors promise to do their best to make sure my certificate will be ready next morning.

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from Wikipedia:   In basketball, a double-double is a single-game performance in which a player accumulates ten or more in two of the following five statistical categories: points, rebounds,

okay, back to my drives:   February 22nd   On your way back from Makao Plains to the Lodge you usually pass the shores of Lake Ndutu. There we spot our first lions of the trip: Thr

February 23rd   Last night Dennis, one of the official Serengeti Cheetah Researchers of TANAPA, has checked into the lodge. After a brief chat with him we head back to the Lake, much to my d

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Saturday March 6th

 

Dull is the weather outside my hotel room and dull is my mood. It is a quarter past nine, Hamisi will me pick me up at 10 and the test result has still not come through.

 

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Well then, I guess I'll just have to take my chances and hope for the best. However, at 10:30, while already en route to Arusha and JRO, my phone beeps one more time:

 

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Back in March there were a lot of people saying that at JRO they would only accept printed certificates, so I made sure we'd make a lunch stop at a restaurant in Arusha, not so much because I was hungry but more so to ask the waiter to print out my result which he did. Rushing off after having paid the bill, I left it on the table...

 

Well, at JRO they did ask for the certificate (and I did not start a discussion that in theory I didn't need one). However, being able to provide only a digital version was no problem, they just typed in my passport number into their computer and could then tell that my particular certificate was not faked but genuine. To quote William S.

 

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My flights between JRO, ZNZ, ADD and FRA went smooth and well, had it not been for these Covidiots who entered the plane at ZNZ not wearing any masks, which brings me back to Forrest Gump:

 

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@iceJust been through this whole thread - what incredible photos and what a great experience. I've also checked out your videos on YouTube - absolutely stunning (if a bit gory some of the videos especially with the bone crunches :lol:).   Thank you for sharing!

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28 minutes ago, Toxic said:

I've also checked out your videos on YouTube - absolutely stunning (if a bit gory some of the videos especially with the bone crunches :lol:).  

 

Well, that's what my fans demand :D The youth of today...

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wilddog
On 6/27/2021 at 12:31 PM, ice said:

 

Well, that's what my fans demand :D The youth of today...

 and of course they show the truth of wild nature :)

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LarsS

Always check out what your gut tells you. It might be nothing, it might be a second kill. Can imagine the zebra foal was an easy kill and then all lions made sure the main course wouldn't find a way to escape.

 

Amazing photo and videos! But what was the most tensive? The sightings or getting the negative test result? ;) 

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23 minutes ago, LarsS said:

Amazing photo and videos! But what was the most tensive? The sightings or getting the negative test result? ;) 

 

The sightings, no doubt about it. Like I said, in theory I din't even need that test result. Also, this is Africa, so I was sure in case of trouble we would have been able to work something out.

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1 hour ago, wilddog said:

 and of course they show the truth of wild nature :)

 

yes, although some folks call me off for not helping the poor animals if they die in front of me. Best example here:

 

 

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LarsS
14 minutes ago, ice said:

yes, although some folks call me off for not helping the poor animals if they die in front of me. Best example here:

 

I recognize these kind of youtube comments. I always wonder what they would comment when you show a video of a lion dying of starvation. Feed them prey? Teach them to eat plants? :D

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1 hour ago, LarsS said:

I recognize these kind of youtube comments. I always wonder what they would comment when you show a video of a lion dying of starvation. Feed them prey? Teach them to eat plants? :D

 

To be honest, I have such a video on my channel. And to make it "worse", it is (not surprisingly) a tiny adorable cub that died in front of my camera. In these cases I sometimes ask back if we should also help out if an ant or a fly dies in front of us.

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CONCLUSION - Part 1

 

As mentioned throughout this trip report, this was my fifth safari in the NCA, so it seems natural to try and compare these five experiences, although one would obviously expect differences between rainy and dry season trips:

  • 10 nights rainy season 2014
  • 10 nights rainy season 2016
  • 10 nights dry season 2018
  • 9 nights dry season 2020
  • 12 nights rainy season 2021

Another notable difference: in 2014 and 2016 I was young and "hungry" enough to spend the entire day out in the bush. That changed with the heat of my first dry season safari in 2018.

 

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Ndutu - November 2018

 

 

When I first came to Ndutu almost exactly seven years ago, I had exactly one goal: to finally experience a hunt "from start to finish". And if I on top got the chance of filming the birth of a wildebeest, all the better.  

 

Expectations that were more than exceeded: In 2014 I witnessed seven, two years later even eight cheetah kills. 2016 was also the (so far only) year in which three different wildebeest mares gave birth to offspring in front of my camera.

 

The number of cheetahs I found thanks to the help of Hamisi, who was at the time still an employee of the lodge, was just as high as the number of kills: 27 different animals in 2014, three more (i.e. 30) in 2016. Numbers that naturally fell during the Dry Season Tours: ten cheetahs and one kill in 2018, nineteen cheetahs and three kills last August.

 

Of course, I assumed that the statistics at the end of this 2021 rainy season safari would be as good as during the rainy seasons in 2014 and 2016; an assumption that has unquestionably not come true. Hamisi and I were not entirely sure about one or two cats but the male we spotted on Thursday in Makao Plains was probably the thirteenth or fourteenth cheetah of this trip. 

 

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Thirteen or fourteen cheetahs who managed to make three kills: on Tuesday before last, a single female cheetah caught a gazelle fawn; two days later another female took advantage of the moment and killed a fully-grown gazelle, and last Wednesday it was the mother cheetah with the three cubs who was also able to overpower a fully-grown gazelle. 

 

Statistics that fit much better to a dry than to a rainy season safari. A correlation which Hamisi of course also noticed. My guide is convinced that the steadily growing population of spotted hyenas is responsible for the fact that more and more cheetahs lose their offspring or leave the NCA for good. A belief shared by Edward, the NCA's Chief Ranger whom we met at the airstrip a few days ago.

 

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Edited by ice
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Thanks for this very interesting TripReport @ice, I really feel like going back to the Ndutu area. I am planning to go in October 2021, and to go with a car and a driver/guide this time. No doubt you would recommend Hamisi, could you share the name of his company again?

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20 hours ago, ice said:

 

To be honest, I have such a video on my channel. And to make it "worse", it is (not surprisingly) a tiny adorable cub that died in front of my camera. In these cases I sometimes ask back if we should also help out if an ant or a fly dies in front of us.

 

I understand why people post this stuff. It's hard to watch something die - even more so if it's one of the "cute" animals like cubs. Those people need to realize that it's nature taking course, and it's okay to be sad, but throwing out suggestions like intervening is just dumb.  Especially with a failed birth like the Wildebeast you shared. Or with lions.

 

I watched your lion cub video too. Heartbreaking. The linked video about the Misfit Lion in Zambia autoplayed after and I ended up going into a lunch break filled with safari animals.

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1 hour ago, Biko said:

Thanks for this very interesting TripReport @ice, I really feel like going back to the Ndutu area. I am planning to go in October 2021, and to go with a car and a driver/guide this time. No doubt you would recommend Hamisi, could you share the name of his company again?

 

To be honest, I don't really know the name of the company he was working for, because we always negotiate on a personal level. However, he told me that he was not satisfied with the company and that he was thinking about looking for another employer. Where are you planning on staying? At Ndutu Lodge?

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1 hour ago, Toxic said:

I watched your lion cub video too. Heartbreaking. 

 

Some time later this year I will re-upload an edited version of that video, with a bit more context and a narration.

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 @iceThe last time I stayed at Ndutu Lodge, and it was OK for me, so I guess I would stay there again. I want to go to Tarangire also, especially the southern half of the park. I will invite a friend from Dar to join me, and I guess he wants to go into the crater too.

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@Biko the reason why I am asking: you can ask the lodge that you want to stay there and to be guided by Hamisi. They can help you book him. They can also arrange trips to the Crater - not sure about Tarangire, though. 

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CONCLUSION - Part 2

 

A few hours after meeting Head Ranger Edward at the airstrip, the game changer for this tour transpired; the sighting that catapulted the Ndutu 2021 Safari from one minute to the next to the top of my small internal ranking: the double kill of the Masek Pride, after the simultaneous attack by the cheetah and the jackals on the gazelle mother and its fawn, the second double Kill within just one week - a double-double, but this time not in the NBA, the National Basketball Association, but in the NCA, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

 

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And yeah, what about those lions? Initially totally fixated on cheetahs, I paid little to no attention to the largest African cats during my first two trips to the NCA; I only filmed and photographed the animals, if at all, when we accidentally came across them.

 

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Romulus in 2016

 

But during the 2ß18 and 2020 dry season safaris, when many cheetahs had migrated to the Serengeti, I was almost forced to spend more time with lions. In 2018 we counted twenty-two, in 2020 even thirty-two males, females and cubs, members of three different prides.

 

But anyone who (like me) expected that this tendency would be reversed this year, during another rainy season safari, would have been mistaken: Hamisi and I counted no less than 58 different lions; among them sixteen lions of the  Twin Hills Pride; a pride I'd never seen before. 58 lions, for me more than ever in the NCA.  But quantity is only one side of the coin;  the quality of sightings is obviously at least as important.

 

For me, there are two types of "once in a lifetime sightings" - sightings that I will most likely only have once in my lifetime and sightings that are so unique and rare that nobody else except those who were present at the time will ever witness something similar.

 

 

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Okay, last August Hamisi and I watched Laura from the Thin Pride stalk, wrestle down and ultimately kill a fully-grown wildebeest.

 

 

Now for me that was and most likely will always be a once in a lifetime sighting; after all, I waited close to 20 years to film a scene like this. I am sure though that Hamisi, who was sitting in front of me, has watched quite a few "lions kill wildebeest" moments, and so will thousands of other guides and tourists.

 

However, two years earlier, during my dry season safari to Ndutu, we were present when a cheetah overpowered a gazelle. Nothing unique about that, not even for me alone...until the cheetah dragged its kill right next to our car - a metal box that not only provided shade but also protection against hyenas who never dare come next to vehicles, at least not in the NCA. The cat then had all the time in the world - when she left us two (!) hours later, there was not much more than skin, bones and intestines left.

 

 

 

 

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Thinking in these terms, four of my sightings fall in that "Top Top" category, as Pep Guardiola who perhaps call it:

  • a wild dog chasing an impala, only to run into a pride of lions who then were all over him; the dog nevertheless surviving this ordeal (albeit only for a few months) (2017)
  • the afore mentioned cheetah kill right next to our car (2018)
  • the double kill by the jackals and the cheetah (2021)
  • the double kill by the Masek Pride (2021)

Three of these four Pep Guardiola top-top sightings happened right here in Tanzania - no coincidence, as a small analysis of my YouTube channel shows.

 

Since I started monetization in January 2019, I've published around 50 videos to this day. Almost exactly half of these videos were filmed in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area - astonishing if you consider that I've spent at least as much time in countries like Botswana and South Africa or in protected areas like the Kalahari and Kruger Park as I did with Hamisi here the area around Ndutu.

 

But what's really telling if not blatant: the 25 videos from Ndutu have generated twelve times more views than my 25 uploads from the rest of Africa, thirteen point one million to one point one million, the cheetah kill from 2018 alone is closing in on the 9 million views mark.

 

A total of 22 million views (including those videos that I uploaded before 2014), 16 million of these views between January 2019 and June 2021, that's a pretty good statistical basis. I guess you could say that my "gut feeling" that these five Ndutu safaris were by far the best of all my other Africa safaris is confirmed by 22 million independent jurors. And that's why I decided to from now on visit Ndutu on a yearly basis.

 

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And why not? Especially during my last two stays in the lodge, which was almost empty due to the Corona Crisis, I have become kind of a regular guest: most of the employees greet me by name, every day chief Peter cooks a special lunch and a special dinner just for me and that manager Stephen himself suggested I should bring my soft drinks from Karatu myself instead of buying them at the lodge, that must have been a unique concession in the long history of the lodge. 

 

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Being a regular visitor who returns at shorter intervals has other advantages, too: namely being able to exchange ideas with people like lodge owner Rob, lion researcher Ingela or park ranger Edward. People who help me put my sightings in a bigger context; people who can tell me what happened to the young animals of Marsh Prides or where exactly Lamarsi and Loseyay, the two male lions, actually came from.

 

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  • 3 months later...

as promised, here are the first two YouTube Uploads of this particular safari

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

here is my second to last YouTube upload from this trip, the double of the jackal family and the female cheetah

 

 

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Fantastic videos @ice! I enjoyed in the 'Serengeti Cheetah killing a Baby Gazelle' video one of the gazelles has managed to camouflage himself with leaves over his head :lol:

 

I really liked the narration in the last two videos on the cheetah/jackal kills, particularly around the fawn and how even if it had escaped it would have died anyway.  Have you found that narration in videos stops some of the silly comments from people about interfering? 

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