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My goodness that wound looks horrendous and life threatening.  Hope it is healing.  I know that scene from High Noon!

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Monday April 18th - Morning Drive


We were pretty sure that the two sudadults lions that had killed the wildebeest the day before, being nomads, had left the area and possibly even crossed the border back into Serengeti, so it didn't really seem worth the effort to try and find them again. Instead, we opted to return to the Triangle.






As expected, both the unknown females and the other pair of male subadult males had also disappeared over night. The cheetah family, though was easy to locate again, they had left the Plains into the woodlands, where it they were safer from other predators.




We spent the entire morning with them, but they hardly moved at all - a quite morning, not only for us but apparently in the entire Conservation area, as Hamisi's radio stayed silent.


Monday April 18th - Afternoon Drive


Over lunch there was yet another report of a leopard being sighted close to the lodge and this time we found it. It was Half Tail, our third sighting of this particular female and I am pretty sure she was resting in the very same tree I saw her two years ago. 


As mentioned earlier, leopards rank lowest on my predator list, so I didn't even bother to try and get a closer look.




Back in the Triangle, the cheetah family had again hardly moved at all - and wouldn't for the rest of our drive.




Our day ended with the umptieth sighting of the Masek Pride, once again at the Concourse.

Edited by ice
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Tuesday April 19th - Morning Drive


The day started with a sunrise that I can only describe as brilliant, even for an African Sunrise.





These photos were taken with an old iPhone and not in any way altered or enhanced.


It didn't take us long to re-group with the cheetah family - according to Hamisi's GPS device they had only moved for 300 m - not a whole lot for three cats that surely must have been hungry. 




With no better alternative we spent the entire morning with the cheetahs.


Back at the Lodge for our lunch break it finally started to pour down, welcome water for a Conservation Area that was already changing its color from green to yellow and brown.


Tuesday April 19th - Afternoon Drive


With fresh rain on the ground we didn't want to risk getting stuck in the Plains and instead played it safe by only venturing to Big Marsh, where we met five lions of the Masek Pride: 7 year old Brenda, a sub-adult female and three sub-adult males. 


Big Marsh is another one of those big open areas with wide views. At the moment, though we were alone with the cats.




For once, it was me and not my guide who spotted what might evolve into another interesting encounter between lions and hyenas, although this time the odds were reversed: one single and injured hyena versus five healthy lions.




Use a magnifier, if you need it and then you'll see both the hyena (sitting down) and one of the lions (approaching).


Just like poor old Liangata on Makao Plains, the hyena had lost his right hind leg. Not helpful when two sub-adults have discovered you.




However, the hyena finally started to grasp the danger it had walked in and limped away as fast as possible. 


Big Marsh is close to a lot of other Camps and Lodges, so pretty soon we (and the lions) were surrounded by half a dozen other cars. Cars that were mostly steered by Leopard Tours Guides, a company that has a rather bad reputation even among other guides. Hamisi and I decided to keep our distance, and that was it for the day.


Wednesday April 20th - Morning Drive

  • nothing worth mentioning both on Kusini and Makao Plains
  • three dagga boys in the Big Marsh (in this part of the NCA, buffaloes are quite rare; in my 60+ days in this part of Africa that was only my second sighting of buffaloes)
  • a male adult cheetah near the Treeline



The cat seemed more than willing to hunt but once again some drivers did not care to give the cat its space, the way they had parked their vehicles they actually blocked the cheetah's view towards the plane.


As it turned out, this was the last cheetah we saw on this trip, the twelfth in total.


The morning drive finished with our final sighting of Masikio, today without his companion Kidonda.





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Wednesday April 20th - Afternoon Drive


More rain around the Lodge during our lunch return. When we left for our afternoon drive, the clouds had disappeared, just like the cheetah and the lion from our morning drive, so we started driving around a bit aimlessly. Aimlessly for exactly 92 minutes...I still don't know how Hamisi did it, but he did do it:




Believe it or not, but a few days earlier I had pointed out that in all those years Hamisi and I had not spotted one snake. His reply "Not even a python?"




Outside the NCA I had four different python sightings: two in Botswana and two in Kruger, but this was by far the biggest snake I have ever seen in the wild.




The reptile was raiding nests of waddled starlings. The poor birds, a lot of them with food in their beaks, could do nothing but helplessly watch the attack.






The python took its time and swallowed one chick after the after.




Needless to say these pictures can't do justice to what we were just witnessing, for me certainly one of my top 5 wildlife sightings ever and that means something, with appr. 500 safari days behind me. I  will soon start uploading videos to my YouTube Channel, this one is scheduled for July 22nd.





Edited by ice
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Wow what a sighting, once in a lifetime. 

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4 hours ago, Africalover said:

Wow what a sighting, once in a lifetime. 



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Thursday April 21st - Morning Drive


For the first time not only on this trip but for the first time in years we decided to head to Matiti Plains in the southeastern corner of the NCA - should have done that earlier, this area was still full of plains game, unlike Kusini and Makao Plains. What made it even more special was that Hamisi and I were once again the only people for miles around.


Today was also the first day that I dared to let my drone fly outside the lodge. We had talked to the new head ranger about it who (obviously unofficially, so no, Mr. "Best Practice", you don't have to suggest to write an official inquiry) told us "Go for it but make sure nobody else will see you", and go for it I did.


We finished our drive with two lionesses of the Big Marsh: Cassandra, the eldest lioness in the NCA and Hamisi's favorite. Cassandra was with one of her daughters / nieces.




Despite her (for a lioness) "biblical" age local researcher Ingela Jansson noticed milk stains on Cassandra's belly - seems like the old day had new cubs again.




Thursday April 21st - Afternoon Drive


The afternoon drive was even more quite, with only two notable sighting: Bessy of the Masek Pride, observed by a curious giraffe and Lamarsi, leader of the Masek Pride, resting near the shore of Lake Ndutu.






Friday April 22nd - Morning Drive

  • final drive of this safari
  • heading down to the Lake to search for the lions that had been roaring all night, at long last we laid eyes on the resident male leopard, a cat we barely missed when it was mating with Half Tail a week before
  • being it still dark and the leopard disappearing into thick bush, I solely concentrated on filming him
  • back to Matiti Plains for a few more drone shots

Returning home

  • early lunch and then checking out at the Lodge, making sure to finalize my next booking
  • leaving the Park at Lodoare Gate
  • spending the afternoon and night at a local hotel in Karatu.

Flying with KLM I could have obviously tried to drive straight from the Lodge all the way to JRO, thereby saving a few bucks and and a precious vacation day; something I would most likely have done a few years earlier. Getting older, I prefer a smoother transition from the quiteness and rustic conditions in the bush through a small African city like Karatu back into the buzz of Europe.




Saturday April 23rd

  • leaving Karatu at 8:30 and arriving at JRO 12:30

My KLM flight was scheduled to depart at 21:20 and I certainly did not want to spend close to nine hours in a small airport like JRO. Instead I had decided to invest another 70 USD into a day room at KIA Lodge - probably the wisest decision of the entire trip because at around 17:00 I was notified that the departure was postponed for two hours. Well, my bed was comfortable and I was allowed to extend my stay for those two hours with no extra pay, so I did not care that much; in fact, I secretly started wishing that the delay might increase to more than three hours which would under EU Law entitle me to a 600 € compensation.


And so it came, the following day we arrived at Amsterdam slightly later than three hours past the scheduled landing. I was hoping that KLM would pay me out without a big hustle, but that was wishful thinking. I now have to wait for a grace period of two months and will then call in a mediator. If that won't help, I'll engage a lawyer. Done it before (with other airlines) and always got my money.





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Final Thoughts


When I first went to Ndutu in March 2014 and also on my first return trip in February 2016 I was solely concentrating on cheetahs. We would leave the lodge first thing in the morning and not return until after sunset. Every other animal I filmed and photographed was an animal we encountered by chance. Efforts that were will rewarded, both years we saw +/-30 individual cheetahs and witnessed 7 and 8 kills, respectively.









Another two years later, I arrived in November, at the height of the local dry season. Obviously, a lot of cheetahs had left the NCA, following the herds to Serengeti, and our numbers dwindled: only 10 different cheetahs and only one kill, although that was the kill of a lifetime - right next to our car. The corresponding video has now more than 10 million YouTube views and earned me more than 6.000 USD.




Nevertheless, with the lack of cheetahs, 2018 was the first year that we were "forced" to look for alternative sightings and that's when I noticed that lions could be interesting, too. Before, I had usually neglected them. They are not rare at all and not very active either, at least not during daytime. However, the NCA is on two counts very different from the other parks I usually visit: you are allowed to drive off-road and both my guide and the staff at the lodge are in very good standing with the local lion researchers.




2020 was another dry season safari, whereas in 2021 and 2022 I came back at the end of the migration season, and while the number of cheetahs and cheetah kills somewhat rebounded, they never reached the heights of 2014 and 2016. Now there is a lot of speculation about the reasons, but a lot of people (including myself, my guide and the former head ranger of the NCA) are sure that the ever increasing number of hyenas are responsible, just like in the nearby crater where cheetahs were driven out many years ago.






With lions though, it was a whole different story. For reasons explained earlier, in 2014 and 2016 I did not count the number of animals we came across, but since 2018 I do.




2021 stands out for two reasons: that year was the only year I ever saw the Twin Hills Pride, a pride that lives deep in the area where local Masai herd their livestock, so those lions always hide extremely deep in the thickets. You can only find them by absolute chance or if you have the GPS coordinates of the collar of their matriarch, which we in 2021 were graciously provided with by KopeLion Co Founder Ingela Jansson. Also, in 2021 both the Twin Hills and the Big Marsh Pride had a lot of cubs and were thus close to 20 animals strong.




2020 was also the year of my first NCA lion kill, a little streak that began those two years ago and still holds (fingers crossed): 

  • Laura / Thin Pride killing an adult wildebeest in 2020
  • Brenda and the rest of the Masek Pride killing an adult zebra and its foal in 2021
  • two yet to be identified male lions killing the limping wildebeest this year






Edited by ice
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During the last 22 years I have traveled to 8 different East and South African countries and organised or participated in more than 40 safaris, and all of those of 6 Ndutu safaris are in my Top 10, if not in my Top 8, the only other trips that come close are my safaris in Khwai in 2017 and 2018, and that's why I have decided to now go to Ndutu twice a year. The next trip is booked for late December 2022 / early 2023 when, with a little bit of luck, the migration will be in full swing in this part of Tanzania.


That's it for this report...well, almost: I have just finished editing the videos I will upload to my YouTube Channel. They will be published on a weekly basis, the first one is up since Friday. Not all of them will be spectacular, but I also use these uploads to show the sightings we had to the staff at the lodge and the local researchers. Anyway, here is the first one and if I won't forget, the others will follow in due time.



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That python encounter was truly amazing.  Your zooming skills are evident with the intestine meal. I won't forget that one either!  Those top trip stats reinforce what a happening spot Ndutu is.  I'd agree.

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  • 3 weeks later...

here is the lion kill video



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the python attack



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cheetah family with a fresh gazelle kill



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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

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