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campsafari2015

Hello All,

 

I’m starting out my trip report while lazing about at our final lodging. We head out in the morning with a flight from Kogatende Airstrip to Arusha, transfer to Rivertrees Country Inn for a day room, and then out on the late flight back home.

 

Since I took all lodging photos with my cell phone, I figured I’d get the itinerary and lodging portions out of the way immediately, as the photos and daily drive reports will have to wait for some post-processing when we get home.

 

Let’s get to it, shall we?!

 

Itinerary and Property Descriptions:

 

29-30 October: travel from USA to Kilimanjaro International (arrive at ~9pm local). Go through COVID and border formalities. Overnight at Lemala Hamerkop House in Kili Golf Community. Our guide was not familiar with it, and it seemed that neither were the property guards, who couldn’t describe directions/location once we arrived at the property gate. We drove around the dark for an hour attempting to locate it. Finally, someone out fixing a motorbike called someone who came to us and directed us to the property. All in all, not a great first impression of our guide’s preparedness. Arrived to the House past 1am, cleaned up and tried to sleep a bit.

 

Hamerkop House was very comfortable and spacious. The food, even though kept warming for an extra hour+, was still delicious and not overly dried out. We’d originally had planned a full down day before starting any safari activities, but KLM canceled our original flight and booked us on the one coming back a day earlier, so we lost that rest day.
 

Given what we know now, if we’d had that extra day we would have remained at the House and enjoyed the pool and grounds. I especially loved walking the golf cart tracks freely looking for birds, as 1/2 our itinerary was staying in locations that needed a guard around camp both day and night, which severely impinged on opportunities to quietly bird alone. We took our time checking out and moving on to Arusha NP.

 

 

 

 

 

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campsafari2015

31 October: From Hamerkop House we moved on to a half-day in Arusha NP. Our guide picked up a tire puncture en route to us, So we stopped for about an hour at the garage for a patch. After the park, we overnighted at Rivertrees Country Inn.

 

The Inn is a busy and large place full of people coming and going either just arriving or wrapping up their trips. The food was good, but the communal dining was noisy and a bit chaotic. It seems like tourism is really gaining steam now and the place was nearing capacity. The rooms were comfortable.
 

Best of all, I’d been tipped off that there were African Wood-owls on the property (thanks, eBirders!). So, at night I was able to track them down by their duet. In the morning, I got up before dawn and went back to their last known location. A young vervet monkey happened to be harassing one of the pair and flushed it, thus giving away their positions. I was able to get decent pictures of them and it felt like a great omen after a rocky start. There was a lot of bird action all around the grounds.
 

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1-2 November: Originally, we’d planned to stay with Tortilis Tarangire for those 2 nights. However, a few weeks before the trip, our tour organizer contacted saying that they could now offer Lemala Mpingo Ridge for only $400 more in total. It seemed like a great option for the price, given the amenities (especially laundry), included beverages, and reviews.

 

On the drive down, the patch done in Arusha blew out, so we stopped for a tire change and another patch job. Given that many Africans consider owls bad luck, it started being a running joke that we were paying for owl sightings in tires. But, we made it to Tarangire and the lodge:

 

Mpingo Ridge did not disappoint in the least. In fact, Tarangire NP was so great that we felt we could “afford” a half-day of rest and enjoy the facility in the afternoon without missing too much in the bush. Pendo, the masseuse, was fantastic. The food and beverages were all well done.


The camp itself is larger in terms of number of tents, but the layout is masterfully executed with privacy maintained. There was no compunction with using the outdoor bathing facilities. Recommend asking for a dawn side tent on the ridge, if you want the expansive view. 
 

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3-4 November: We moved on to Tortilis Manyara, where we were the only guests. 
 

We entered through the Southern gate, and apparently nobody had for days, and the rangers hadn’t patrolled down there either. A tree had fallen in a recent windstorm, right across the road. Unable to go around due to high waters, our guide had to chop off a large limb. My spouse and I hauled it out of the way and we were able to make it to the camp, not too late either.

 

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The food was great, with more local influence than Lemala meals. The setting wasn’t breathtaking like Mpingo Ridge, but it had a lot going for it. Mainly, resident African Scops-owls! They sang to each other all night. Two leopards also made their home very close by, so nights were noisy, but in a good way.

 

Unfortunately, we punctured another tire in Manyara and so stopped for another patch outside of the NCA. Owls, man! I’m spoiling a bit of the wildlife discussion, but it was barely a day we went without one or more. Luckily, after 5 punctures and fixes, it seemed like we were past the tire issues.

 

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campsafari2015

5-6 November: Now we went back to Lemala, this time to their oldest camp on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. 
 

The forest setting is really magical, but they aren’t kidding when they say it gets cold. This was the last camp guests could walk around during the daytime unguarded. I guess there were (are?) plans to renovate the camp and bring it in line with the rest of the brand, but I enjoyed it anyway for its rustic feel. Again, good food, but the included alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages were more limited in selection than any of the other Lemala properties.

 

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7-11 November: After a full Crater day, we drove on to the Eastern Serengeti and Lemala Nanyukie. The property is newer and luxurious, but also on the larger side. It also is not spaced out like Mpingo Ridge (or Kuria Hills), so it lacks the feeling of privacy and intimacy. The central gathering areas are lovely, and the private plunge pool for each tent is a welcome option. Once again, our sightings were such caliber that we chose to take a half-day of rest and enjoy the camp. Food was excellent, again. 
 

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12-14 November: we moved on to the northern Serengeti and Lemala Kuria Hills.

 

This property is our absolute favorite. Even with 15 tents, the spacing and planning makes the camp feel private and the tents mostly isolated. The views were amazing and the surrounding area the most beautiful of the trip. We had the place to ourselves mostly, as the migration (and its admirers) are further south by this time. Food was good and the staff welcoming, if a little less organized than the other two high-end Lemala properties.
 

Turns out that I’m no longer built for two weeks of bumping and jostling in the truck, and suffered some pain that meant we stayed a full day in camp, but enjoyed everything immensely. Katie, the masseuse, helped us unwind and relax and we’d recommend her services as well.

 

As I write this on our final night, a lion is roaring quite close to the camp. A great send-off! 
 

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Zubbie15

You stayed at a couple of my favorite camps, notably Mpingo Ridge and Kuria Hills.  And nice to hear about Nanyukie, we’re booked there for February 2023.

 

From your teasers it seems like you had a great trip, so looking forward to when you get the photos processed. Have a good trip home.

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Treepol

Thanks for this very up to date TR, look forward to sharing your sightings when you have time.

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madaboutcheetah

Thanks for starting this report - I'd be curious to know about your experiences at Nanyukie and the circuits they drive around?  is it more towards Seronera game areas? 

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campsafari2015
3 hours ago, madaboutcheetah said:

Thanks for starting this report - I'd be curious to know about your experiences at Nanyukie and the circuits they drive around?  is it more towards Seronera game areas? 


 

We had a single, private guide during the whole tour that I procured via the tour operator, instead of using property guides. However, we only saw Lemala trucks more centrally and in the western Nanyukie area, so I would guess that’s the case. We also operated completely without radio, so it was a bit tough to know where everyone was generally, as we left crowded sightings quickly. 

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campsafari2015

Last non-game drive post, so thank you all for suffering through the “boring” things before the action.

 

This was my third safari, and it turns out that while I love and enjoy the experience, we’re a couple that would do better with about 7-9 days of safari and 5 to rest and recover. My spouse was completely worn out wildlife sighting, and even I felt satisfied by the third day in the Serengeti.

 

Therefore, my itinerary adjustments for next time will be:

1 full rest day on arrival

7-9 days safari 

4-5 full days resting 

 

I feel much like this lion now- very worn out.

 

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wilddog

it s always good to hear about the itinerary and accommodation first. 

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campsafari2015

Safari Day 1 (31 Oct) - Arusha NP half-day

 

After arriving to the Lemala Hamerkop House sometime past 1am, having dinner, getting washed up, and finally getting to bed, we decided to get going in the morning when we happened to get going, but aiming for sometime around 8:30. Naturally, in my state of safari excitement, I woke with the pre-dawn light. This would become my habit for the duration of the trip. While my spouse slept, I puttered around the House grounds and through a bit of the golf course. 

 

I'd set my birding goal for 300 species in 16 days, so that meant birding at nearly every spare moment and in every place possible. I got right down to it the moment I woke. Looking back on the photos I took that morning, I was either shaking excessively from exhaustion, or excitement. But the net result is the same, about the first 200 photos I took on safari are blurry messes. Ah well, lots will still do for ID purposes and I got in 20 species (at current count, ID'ing still to do) before breakfast. The favorite being this African Paradise-Flycatcher. It constantly amazes me the number of bird species in Africa that seem to advertise themselves as meals. "Let me wear bright colors and this long streamer attached to my butt so you can see me, catch me, and eat me!". 

 

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We rolled out of the House sometime around 9:30, but only got so far as the main road when we had to stop to patch a punctured tire. That was an hour of milling about, but we didn't stray far from the truck. 

 

We reached Arusha NP around mid-day and started towards the higher elevations. Unfortunately, the park was in the usual afternoon lull, even the birds partaking. I didn't see any of the higher elevation species that I specifically planned to visit Arusha NP, so that was disappointing. We also were hit with a decent rain storm. However, we enjoyed the Duiker and Dik-dik and what we could see of the park. 

 

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After the elevation drive, we came down for a late lunch at a picnic area and were "joined" by this single Blue Monkey. 

 

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She was alone, and not particularly pushy or aggressive in terms of trying to procure food. I enjoyed taking her portraits while we ate and then we headed on our way down to the lakes. On the way we saw some mating zebra, but overall nothing crazy or unexpected. A nice find birding-wise was this Sooty Falcon. 

 

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We left the park at closing hours and made our way to Rivertrees Country Inn.

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campsafari2015

I forgot to add my daily bird count to the post above. Arusha NP contributed 37 species to my year list. 

 

At Rivertress, we walked around the property after dark to look for nocturnal creatures. The only thing we spotted was a Greater Bushbaby, but that would turn out to be the only Greater of the trip, so a good find. 

 

Safari Day 2 (1 Nov) - Tarangire NP

 

We spent a leisurely morning at Rivertrees. Me birding and my husband exploring the property looking for anything interesting. I refound the African Wood-owls in the morning light, and spent some time showing other guests where they could be observed. I will also add that Rivertrees was the only hotel that served fresh passion fruits as well as their juice at breakfast, and since that is my favorite fruit, I was feeling the whole experience already! Rivertrees has its own families of Vervet, Blue, and Colobus monkeys to enjoy at one's own pace as well. No photos of those, but I did find termites starting a new mound and a dapper insect in a black vest. Rivertrees added 6 additional species of bird.

 

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We left the property nearing 9:00 and started the drive down to Tarangire. Traffic was backed up in Arusha after the Government area, and we detoured a bit around it. I birded on the way down, including an unscheduled 30 min-stop to change the tire that was patched the previous day. My husband and I wandered about in the very hot grazing lands alongside the road while keeping a watchful eye out for snakes and scorpions and the other creatures you'd prefer to meet from the inside of the truck. No luck on either front, though, just more birds and desiccated elephant and cow dung.

 

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We got underway, but only so far as the tire repair at the turnoff to Tarangire NP. There, we stayed in the vehicle as the tire was patched again and by 12pm, we were on the road that enters Tarangire. We ate at the picnic area just inside the gate, and started to get excited for the possibilities of our first large cat sightings. We weren't to be so lucky though, and enjoyed the supporting cast of grazers and birds on our way to Mpingo Ridge. (EDITED: Imagine forgetting about a whole leopard! Actually, we did see a large cat. There was a leopard a fair distance from the road, lazing in a tree.) We arrived around 6:30pm and planned for the next day being a 6:00am start with a 3:30pm return to get in an hour-long massage for both of us before an early dinner as we'd booked the night drive for the second evening at the camp. We went to bed enjoying the sounds of the bush for the first time since 2015. 

 

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Safari Day 3 (2 Nov) - Tarangire NP

 

We woke at 5:30 to do morning routines and be on the drive by 6:00. Things went smoothly and it was a good thing we left when we did, because trucks coming 10 min behind us reported missing this leopard. We found him highlighted beautifully in the rising light at the end of Lemala's driveway in a tree on the ridgeline, quite far away. He was lounging in such a carefree and exposed pose, it was still quite an enjoyable sight despite the distance. It was also very different from our other leopard sightings on our last safari, as the leopards were either tucked hidden in trees or patrolling in a tense and business-like manner. 

 

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Feeling good about the way our day had started, we proceeded in a leisurely manner down to Silale Swamp. The recent rains brought out a number of leopard tortoises to the pools roadside, and we enjoyed watching a few amble along. 

 

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On our decent down from the ridge and hills that host Mpingo Ridge, we heard an almighty racket of small birds. Our guide found the cause of the songbird uproar - our first Pearl-spotted Owlet of the trip. Clearly, it'd had either been making trouble for the songbirds, or the songbirds had made trouble for it, as it was very hot and irritable. 

 

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We breakfasted at the airstrip, and enjoyed the company of some of the members of an iconic (for me) and prevalent bird species of safari in East Africa - the Superb Starling.

 

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At breakfast, I was also charmed by the mechanical conversations of the family of Lesser Striped Swallows, very handsome indeed. 

 

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Silale Swamp was full of elephants, but I regret to report I didn't take any photos of them. Instead, we just enjoyed their company and interactions, especially because there are so many generations represented in the populations we saw.

 

At the southernmost point of the swamp as the road turns East, we encountered our first lions of the trip. It was a trio of younger adults, one female and two males. They had recently fed, and showed no signs of any desire to undertake any more activity than rolling from one side to the other. So, after one finally deigned to open its eyes for a decent "proof of life" photo, we moved along. 

 

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We ate lunch at the Silale Swamp picnic site, and continued along in a mostly northern direction with the winding river. We saw a pride of seven lions (not pictured, as they were doing what lions are best at). 

 

Then came the first of what would happen many times on our trip. We were working our way along the road and saw another truck coming in the opposite direction. They had slowed at a lump in the road, and as we drew nearer, we could make out a carcass. The other vehicle, seeing neither other trucks in the vicinity, nor reason for the carcass in the road, moved along fairly quickly with the air of "on to another sighting called on the radio". Indeed, as they moved alongside us, we noted the occupants glassy-eyed, or immersed in their phones.

 

Our guide did not use the radio, which we appreciated and preferred, so we never felt the pull of it enticing us to "something better" than whatever moment we found ourselves in at the time. As we approached what turned out to be a buffalo calf kill in the road, our eyes were peeled and our hopes still high. However, the surrounding area did not seem particularly promising for a cat close at hand. There were no stereotypical leopard trees, no shrubs with hollowed out undergrowth where you often find a lion lounging. In fact, there was only one dense, untidy shrub with a massive termite mound under it.

 

On assessment, there wasn't space underneath for any lounging cats, and the shrub shape itself made one think "no self-respecting leopard would fold itself into that space". Alas, the adolescent leopard crunched in the shrub disagreed with my assumption. Clearly uncomfortable, yet refusing to move to a more optimal spot, we found this beauty 15 feet off the road. Terrible photographic views, but still enjoyable in person as we watched her try and cool down and find a nice branch to rest on. More trucks came whizzing along the popular route, and seemed to make the same assumption I had. For when we'd explain what we were staring at, their faces would become alight with disbelief and shock, having written off the tree-shrub as a possibility.

 

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Now it was getting time to move along back to Mpingo with more purpose, as we had massages set for 4:00pm. No further cat sightings on the way back to the lodge, just more birds and grazers. We got back and rested up before our night game drive, which I'll detail in the next installment. 

 

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Safari Day 3 (2 Nov) - Tarangire NP - Night Drive Report

 

At 7:15, after an enjoyable and relaxing few hours at Mpingo Ridge (cannot recommend Pendo enough), we were ready to head out with their guide Hassan and their spotter(his name escapes me), along with the Park Ranger. We asked if they would mind us using our torches to search as well, and they enthusiastically supported the idea of contributing guests. We popped into the truck and headed into the dark. 

 

We noticed very soon that we were traversing roads that were quite overgrown, and inquired as to our path. Hassan stated that the roads we'd be taking were hardly used during the day due to tsetse flies, but that meant they were also preferred by some shy animals that he was hoping we'd see. Not two minutes later, Hassan is excitedly saying from the front "look, look, look!" and making us guess the smaller, fuzzy, foxlike animal trotting down the road in front of us. Both my spouse and I failed, as in all honesty I hadn't even dreamt of getting the luck to see one and thus it was far from the forefront of memory. 

 

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The little Aardwolf decided to pull off the road in a break in the grass and Hassan killed the engine and rolled quietly alongside it. I managed to steady my hands just enough for a decent shot (after only a few excited blurs) and then it trucked off into the darkness and we, with wonder in our voices and hearts carried on along the road. Little did we know, we were right in the middle of a family group! A few minutes later, we caught eyeshine off to our right, and a pair of Aardwolf came out to cross in front of us, and not far away! Our spotter did a quick sweep around and noted a third passing along behind us....four Aardwolf in total! 

 

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Feeling that we could go home happy with the results of the drive already, we let the cute little family melt into the night while their relatives, the Spotted Hyenas, whooped from some distance off. Fortunately for us, Tarangire wasn't done yielding nocturnal creatures. At the outset of the drive, we had told Hassan that no thing they find is too small for us to not be interested in hearing about it, and so when he and the spotter found Flap-necked Chameleons (something we'd not seen before anywhere either), we were quite excited. 

 

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From there, we moved on and found our first African Wildcat. I really do admire the way such a small feline can exist out there amongst its giant and deadly relatives. 

 

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After observing the Wildcat for a bit, we moved along counting Common Genet (8 for the duration) and White-tailed Mongoose (12 for the duration). 

 

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Then, we came on a grove of trees that contained three singing night birds. We couldn't see any, but we all thought they were some type of nightjar. I took a recording, asked the online birding community, and they turned out to be African Scops-owls! I was kicking myself so hard because I didn't even consider the possibility in the moment, and was looking for the shape of a nightjar in the trees, so could have easily overlooked it. Oh well, lesson learned. But, stopping there in that spot to listen gave us perfect timing to catch this serval a few minutes down the road. 

 

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We came into a clearing with tall grasses and the night came alive with leaping and bounding eyeshine. Springhares! They were impossible for me to get a decent photo of, so we just enjoyed their unusual nature. We counted about 20 in one clearing alone, but found several more clearings just like it. 

 

Hassan also was very careful about his night driving, which we really appreciated. We took time to stop and avoid small creatures in the road, like this toad- I haven't looked up the species yet. However, the little fellow was happy to take advantage of our torch beam attracting bugs right too him, and we spent a few moments observing him catch moths in our light. 

 

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We headed back to Mpingo, spotting more genet and mongoose, three adult female lions on the prowl (unpictured), as well as four Bat-eared Foxes (also unpictured, they were quite far away and moving at pace) and got a bonus toad after alighting from our vehicle as it lives next to the reception. 

 

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In case you didn't keep a running tally, that brought our sightings to: 

4 Aardwolf

1 African Wildcat

1 Serval

3 Lions

8 Common Genet

12 White-tailed Mongoose

7 Flap-necked Chameleons

3 African-scops Owls (unfortunately unsighted, but do audible sightings count for birds while on safari?)

4 Bat-eared Foxes

1 + 1 Toads

Springhares

 

All-in-all, a very exciting and diverse night out in the Park. Also, the experience brought up another observation of safari goers generally. When discussing later with other guests at Mpingo Ridge, we noted just how ... unappreciative ... people can be of the wildlife around them. The next night's drive found an Aardvark and the people were not excited about that at all! I guess to each their own, but I found it disheartening the preponderance of people who were only interested in a few species, largely to the detriment of their own experience as they spent hours bored and disappointed when those targets did not cooperate.

 

I'm again forgetting to report the bird count: 

Birds en route to Tarangire: 15

Birds in Tarangire over course of stay: 99

 

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Superb sightings on the night drive. Seeing one aardwolf is really good, but to see four must be very rare. 

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campsafari2015

Safari Day 4 (Nov 3) - Tarangire NP to Manyara NP

 

We woke, packed, and breakfasted at a leisurely pace after the previous night's long exertions. Finally loading up and moving on sometime around 8:30am, we headed down to the river for our last game drive in Tarangire NP. We managed a family of lions comprising of two adult females and their three older cubs. One of the females seemed tense and irritated at the attention, especially once a third vehicle showed up and they were mostly encircled due to their location in the middle of a roundabout. The cubs were in a dense bush and not up for a photoshoot. 

 

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We carried on and saw a usual suspect at the riverside. 

 

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And finally, we were awarded our fourth owl species- the Verreaux's Eagle-Owl!

 

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With no more sightings to be had in Tarangire, we moved along to the southern entrance to Manyara NP. Upon entry at the gate, we stopped for lunch and poked around the facilities. I found these bats in the bathroom facility roof, did some birding, and then we moved on in a mighty windstorm.

 

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You read above about our downed tree experience along the way to camp above, which was exhilarating thanks in part to the elephant audience we had. However, it did set us up to hit one of our "dream sheet" sightings after dealing with the tree delay. We managed a Rock Python even though we'd been told our best chance for one would be Tarangire, our luck continued to produce. Just a little guy and a bad photo, but we were ecstatic. Our first experience with Manyara NP was a great introduction.

 

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Edited by campsafari2015
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OMG Aardwolf! And four of them!  What I'd give to see that! I didn't even know you could do night drives in Tarangire. Fantastic!

 

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campsafari2015

Safari Day 5 (4 Nov) - Manyara NP

 

To be fully honest and transparent, Lake Manyara was a bit of a letdown given the advertising around it as a birding paradise. I knew that seeing flamingos was unlikely these days, as their decline in the area has been well documented. However, I wasn't prepared for the endless shores nearly barren of all shorebirds. The forests of the park are still filled with interesting species, but I had counted on racking up a few more species at the lakeside. Additionally, spotting is difficult generally in Manyara as the underbrush is very dense and high, with elephants and giraffe being the only animals whose stature overcomes the cover. We made ourselves busy with the birds though, as our guide focused on finding the famed "tree climbing lions". 

 

Slightly bizarre for a plover. Three-banded Plover. 

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The first bird I remember seeing on safari, ever. Hadada Ibis.

 

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Fresh after the rain. Little Bee-eaters. 

 

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Not sure yet about this eagle, please feel free to chime in with an ID. 

 

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A happy and unexpected find right next to the road. Palm-nut Vulture.

 

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Handsome fisherman. Squacco Heron. 

 

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I wish I had caught it on film, but we did have a really enjoyable and unique experience in Manyara. Right after the the rainstorm, termites began pouring from the chimneys around us. Almost immediately, Vervet Monkeys started leaping acrobatically to catch the tasty morsels. One smart fellow found the source and sat plucking them from the ground before they could take off. It wasn't long before message of danger at the gates was relayed through the hive and termites stopped emitting from that chimney and diverted to another exit. 

 

The rain seemed to stir up other winged insects, and we presently found ourselves in the middle of a bee swarm. Predictably no pictures from that experience. But here seems a good time to mention something that took me aback. I was surprised to find that bees build their combs just out in the open. I guess they don't need the weather protection, and have become much more aggressive to compensate for the lack of physical defenses in the form of a hive. 

 

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We didn't find a single cat, not even the two leopards that live around the camp. We came back to camp to have dinner early and a little break before our night drive. 

Edited by campsafari2015
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Safari Day 5 (4 Nov) - Manyara NP - Night Drive Report

 

Our night drive in Manyara was vastly different from our experience in Tarangire, and it started right off the bat when the spotter asked us to stow our lights as they confused him in his search. This lack of participation, just waiting for him to find us something, combined with the comparative scarcity of wildlife, made for quite a dull experience indeed. However, we did end up picking up a few things during that drive that eluded us in Tarangire - nightjars! But they were almost the only thing out and about during our two hour search.

 

Slender-tailed Nightjar.

 

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Square-tailed Nightjar.

 

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Safari Day 6 (Day 5) - Manyara NP to Ngorongoro Conservation Area

 

We again slept in and packed at leisure, getting on with our game drive around 8:30am. We gave the tree climbing lions one more shot, and were rewarded with this gem of a photo. 

 

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That about sums up our time with her, and since it felt like every single truck in the park was racing to see this rumored phenomenon, we took our exit almost immediately having gone from the fourth vehicle present to a jam of twelve and counting within minutes. 

 

We left Manyara around midday and stopped in Karatu for lunch, tire patches, gas. We made our way up to the crater rim at a slow pace, enjoying the change in scenery to rainforest. Elephants met us at Lemala Ngorongoro, and we settled in early knowing that the following day could be reasonably expected to be action packed in nature's fishbowl. 

 

Birds added during our stay in Manyara through our transit to the Crater: 37

 

 

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Safari Day 7 (Nov 6) - Ngorongoro Crater

 

We woke early and were starting our descent by 6:05am. We didn't manage to catch a rhino that may often be found in the early morning in the area, but we were rewarded for our diligence with sighting an adorable serval kitten and its mother. 

 

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We also were treated to a trio of playful Bat-eared Foxes, and then another singleton closer in that didn't stop moving for its glamour shots. 

 

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Once reaching the crater floor, we started around for the usual early morning action. We did find a few other vehicles after a little bit, and so moseyed on over to look at what they were looking at. This brought us into the aftermath of a zebra kill, or perhaps more than one given that there were 8 lions that had distended stomachs and as far as we could see, only one younger zebra that still wasn't fully consumed. Additionally, there was clear evidence that hyenas had either lost their meal to the lions, or attempted to steal the lions' prize. Either way, the hyenas came out the losers. The scuffle brought a host of jackals to the event, and they managed to swipe some scraps from the hyenas.

 

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As more people poured in to see the lions, we moved out and caught up with this impressive bull who turned out to have the largest tusks we'd see on our trip. 

 

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We headed on to breakfast at the picnic area on the western side of the crater. After breakfast, we worked around the woods to the southern part of the crater, and around the lake areas. But we didn't see much going on for much of the rest of the day and by 4pm, the Crater was emptying out of all but those staying in the local area for the night. We were making our way back towards the center when we drove into a mixed herd of gazelle, zebra, and wildebeest.

 

A car up ahead had stopped to capture the attractive view in the lowering light. I noted that the gazelle directly ahead to our right were acting rather strange. They were very agitated, and it did not seem to be the usual status/mating hijinks. Instead, their focus was within the herd, and their movement swirled around a central point devoid of gazelle. The gazelles' body language and noises clearly conveyed a threat was at hand. I scanned for the reason, and in some longer grass I spotted this beautiful nursing mother Caracal. 

 

She was on the prowl for food, and the gazelle knew that their best defense was harassing her and keeping a close eye as she moved through the herd. She ended up making two kills within 10 minutes. The first being a rabbit or rodent, the second clearly being a male agama. She ate them immediately and carried on her way. Our guide was beside himself with wonder, as the last he'd seen was in 2010. And he labeled us his luckiest clients ever. First, we'd had plenty of lions and already had leopards. We'd also had aardwolf, serval, python, and wildcats. He broke his no radio habit and put the word out, knowing the rest of the guides would be as excited as he was.

 

We soon found out exactly just how many vehicles remained in the crater as every single one flew to the sighting before she melted back into the grass. The guides were all taking personal pictures and many were more excited than their clients, as many of them had never seen one before and having done safaris a lot, knew how rare this experience was.

 

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By the time she'd settled back into obscurity, it was really time for us to move with urgency back out of the Crater. 

 

 

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Edited by campsafari2015
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You surely were lucky, aardwolf, caracal, serval just to mention a few I would love to see

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