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Tarangire, West Kili, Ruaha, Ugalla, Serengeti - Sept 2010


Safaridude
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“Wild”. What does it mean? As I ready myself for my hopefully lucky 13th safari, I contemplate the true meaning of the word. Are Serengeti and Ruaha, having replaced hunter/gatherers with Western tourists in diesel-fueled vehicles, wild? Are Tarangire and West Kilimanjaro, the former bound by and the latter inhabited by pastoralist Maasai and their most un-wild agent, cattle, wild? Is Ugalla Game Reserve, having replaced lithe subsistence hunters, honey poachers and fishermen with rather well-fed Western trophy hunters, wild? I start the journey from Arusha on a fancy new tarred road to Tarangire National Park.

 

 

Tarangire National Park

 

The last time I visited Tarangire National Park was September, 1995. I have fond memories of a truly wild park packed with game: huge herds of elephants, buffalos, impalas, zebras and wildebeests all congregating along the Tarangire River. Several herds of fringe-eared oryxes; three tame leopards; a cheetah; and two prides of lions. Those in the know tell me that ’95 was just about the last year of the glory days. The park itself protects only a small fraction of a much greater ecosystem in which a majority of the animals are migratory. In the late ’90s, a defensive “land grab”, much of which was motivated by uncertain land tenure (so afraid of eviction from their rangeland, the Maasai figured plowing and settling would better secure their continued existence), occurred along the northeastern boundary of the park, resulting in the Maasai setting up marginal agricultural schemes (mostly bean farming) and some unofficially selling land to non-Maasai – who then also took up agriculture. To the northeast, the farms are visible as far as the eye can see. Cut off from the traditional migratory routes to their ancient calving grounds outside the park, wildebeests and zebras have since decreased in number by approximately 80% and 50%, respectively. The oryx, perhaps the most indicative species of the region because of its wide range, is now almost never seen in the northern section of the park.

 

Luckily, there are those dedicated to save the wildness of Tarangire, and I am to visit Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld and husband, Charles “Buddy” Trout of the African People and Wildlife Fund based in Noloholo, near the Loibor Siret Gate just outside the southeastern part of the park. I am to spend the next four nights at Noloholo exploring with Laly and Buddy the park itself as well as its surroundings. (To find out more about their work, visit www.afrpw.org.)

 

Much has been written about the northern section of the park which receives the majority of the visitors. I will simply report that during the dry season, the game viewing is predictably good around the Tarangire River here in the north. Lemyon and Matete areas in the north, with open grasslands dotted with many baobab trees, are not far from the meandering Tarangire River, the only source of water for the animals during the dry season. Despite an epic drought of ’09, I am pleasantly surprised to see plenty of wildebeests and zebras. In the presence of so many of them, it is hard to conceptualize the reported decimation in their numbers. The wildebeests here are of the “eastern white-bearded” race as opposed to the “western white-bearded” race that you find in Serengeti/Mara. These here are bigger in body size, blue/gray as opposed to brown, and their horns diverge wider. The Great Rift Valley that cuts through the Lake Natron/Ngorongoro area split these two populations untold years ago. Near the river, herds of elephants and impalas quench their thirst. A lioness is found hiding in ambush.

 

Away from the busy northern section, Tarangire is defined by its many swamps in the south and the surrounding woodlands. Of all the significant so called swamps (Silale, Laramakau, Ngahari, Gursi, and Ngusero Oloirobi), only Silale and Gursi are true swamps, remaining green throughout the year. Silale, the largest swamp in Tanzania and possibly the greenest thing I’ve ever seen, is a reliable place to see several large breeding herds of elephants as well as water-loving birds. The normally inconspicuous bohor reedbuck is easily spotted there. The rolling Acacia tortilis woodlands in the center of the park feature tall, bleached grass and are seriously gorgeous. A few impalas, zebras and Coke’s hartebeests are found there near the Minyonoyo Pools, the location of the new Oliver’s Camp. Near Ngahari, a very rare treat awaits: three sub-adult striped hyenas in perfect morning light.

 

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Impala

 

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Ol Doinyo Sambu just outside the park

 

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Mock-charging elephant at Silale Swamp

 

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Striped Hyena near Ngahari Swamp

 

But the real discovery, as I suspected, is the extreme southern portion of the park. There are no tourist facilities there, but access from Noloholo is easy. There are yet no significant agricultural developments bordering the southern part of Tarangire, and it still remains an integral migratory/dispersal area for Tarangire’s animals. Just inside the Kimotorok Gate in the very southeast corner of the park, there are a series of water holes called Mukungunero Pools that retain water throughout the year. The savannah leading to the pools is classic East African. A couple of nervous herds of oryxes are finally found. A few gerenuks, extirpated from most of its former range inside and outside the park, have survived down here. Closer to the pools, the feel is more Southern Africa… Zimbabwe, perhaps? One can conjure a classic walking safari through this area. A group of lesser kudus water by one of the pools. Two magnificent male lions sunbathe by another. Unlike those in the north, these lions do mind vehicles. A 75-yard approach is best we can do without unduly disturbing them.

 

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Lesser Kudu at Mukungunero Pools

 

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Lesser kudus at Mukungunero Pools

 

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Lion at Mukungunero Pools

 

We leave the park through the Kimotorok Gate and head east into the endless Maasai Steppe. The land alternates between huge mbugas and thickets – thickets so dense that one can get lost easily. Some dirt roads exist in the thickets, but they invariably discontinue. You are better off following elephant trails that eventually lead to pools. This is some seriously uncharted land, where even the Maasai and their cattle are reluctant to enter due to the presence of tsetse flies. These thickets harbor elephants, buffalos, lesser kudus, and apparently large packs of wild dogs who subsist almost entirely on dik-diks. As always, time is the limiting factor for a proper exploration.

 

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Zebras near Kimotorok -- outside the park

 

The verdict? Though the Tarangire ecosystem has lost much of its wildness in the north, it still remains interesting enough. In the south, the ecosystem appears largely intact, and the pastoralist Maasai still co-exist in relative harmony with wild game outside the park – for now.

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Thank you.

 

Here is a baby gerenuk at Mukungunero...

 

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Edited by Safaridude
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West Kilimanjaro

 

Back in Arusha, I am met by Craig Doria. This is my third safari with Craig, who is not only an outstanding safari guide, but also a good friend. We are trying out a new camp in a relatively new area for tourism in Tanzania. Our destination, Shu’mata Camp, is located in the rain shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro, just south of Kenya’s Amboseli National Park.

 

The drive to Shu’mata begins from Hatari Lodge at the base of Mt. Meru. The road passes by various streams percolating from the Ngare Nanyuki River, which flows from Mt. Meru onto the extensive Maasai plains to the north. Where once German explorers remarked about the amazing density of game (especially the black rhino), rain-fed agriculture is the order of the day. Most villagers walking this way and that are carrying three or four sacks full of things. I learn later that the sacks are full of tomatoes, the specialty of the area. About halfway into the two-hour drive to Shu’mata, the greenery of the Ngare Nanyuki streams rather abruptly changes over to classic East African savannah. A sprinkling of game appears -- Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles, gerenuks, giraffes, ostriches, and zebras. However, they are the most skittish animals I have ever seen, in general running away from the vehicle with a flight distance of well over 500 yards. And they do not stop! With insatiable demand for bush meat in the region and the tarred Arusha – Namanga – Nairobi road nearby, uncontrolled poaching has decimated the area. The game has definitively associated vehicles with danger. It isn’t until we reach camp that the game settles down.

 

Shu’mata Camp is built into a hill with a panoramic view which includes Mt. Kilimanjaro to the east, Mt. Meru to the south and Mt. Longido to the west. Many lesser hills dot the plains. Shu’mata is part of a fairly new conservation experiment in this part of Tanzania. The original Longido trophy hunting concession, which encompassed the area bound by the three mountains, has been halved, in part into what is now called Enduimet WMA (Wildlife Management Area). A few photographic operators have carved out concessions within Enduimet here. The owners of Shu’mata took lots of risks with the camp design and ultimately succeeded. Horns of Maasai cattle, gourds and spears integrate with Zanzibarian materials and animals made of paper mache and wires, and strangely, somehow, it all works.

 

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Mt. Meru seen from Shu'mata Camp

 

This time of year, there is no standing water anywhere except near the Amboseli swamps a few miles north of camp. Invariably, game drives head that way toward the Kenyan border. The land alternates between Acacia tortilis savannah and thicker bush consisting of Acacia mellifera, Salvadora persica and stunted Balanites. Near the border, we stumble upon an alien, silvery-white landscape. It is an abandoned meerschaum mine. Remarkably, the clay-like mineral is used to make, of all things, smoking pipes. Giraffes offer a unique photo-op juxtaposed against unearthed heaps of this bright mineral. Beyond the mine lies Lake Amboseli. Though dry this time of year, there are several seepages and swamps around it. All of these watering points are essentially fed from underground by the melting snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Here, the water independent animals are joined by sizeable herds of wildebeests and impalas. It is here also that the famous elephant herds of Amboseli abound. Several minivans kick up dust on the Kenyan side of the action. Right on the border near Kenya’s Tortilis Camp, we see lion tracks. Despite continual persecution by the Maasai, a few are eking out a living.

 

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Giraffes at the meerschaum mine

 

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Zebras

 

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Wildebeests near Lake Amboseli

 

To the southwest of Shu’mata, there is a huge, open, short-grass plain called Ngasurai. In the years past, a stream from the Ngare Nanyuki River would extend out to the edge of Ngasurai, serving as another watering point aside from the Amboseli swamps. Craig had seen the stream reach Ngasurai merely five years ago at about the same time of year. Despite 2010 being a very wet year, the stream is nowhere to be found: the culprit most likely being the off-take of water from the tomato farms along the stream. The Maasai, removed from their traditional watering point in Amboseli, are now being pinched on the other side by agriculture. Nowhere to go to water their cattle, they are now digging deep. We visit an area not far from camp with several underground wells. I had seen seasonal wells dug by hand on dry riverbeds by the Samburu in northern Kenya, but these wells betray modern technology. The wells are 40-50 feet deep and are apparently machine dug by an enterprising contractor. A clever short-term solution indeed but at what cost to the environment in the long-run?

 

There is no doubt that the greater-Amboseli ecosystem and also the livelihood of the Maasai here are at a crossroads. They are both being squeezed by habitat loss. The whole of the area may no longer be truly wild, but there is more than enough that can be saved if acted quickly. As we debate these issues over dinner, I enjoy some of the most delicious (locally grown) tomatoes I have ever had. I am part of the problem.

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Some rarities in Tarangire during your 4 night stay! Beautiful Lesser Kudu (which I was in search of myself on my last trip) and the striped hyena is a gorgeous photo.

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Wonderfully descriptive and sensitive to wider conservation issues. Fantastic report.

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Ruaha National Park

 

“…What are you doing here?” “Shooting.” “Not ivory, I hope.” “No. For kudu.” In “Green Hills of Africa”, Hemingway was obsessed with taking a trophy greater kudu in Tanzania. It turns out Hemingway was misguided at first. He was looking to take a greater kudu somewhere near Lake Manyara, where there are very few. It wasn’t until his hunting party traveled well south to Kondoa and beyond that he finally obtained his quest. The book does not specify exactly where, but it is quite possible that Hemingway got his wish in the great Acacia-Combretum belt (Combretum being a favorite browse of kudu) somewhere not far from Ruaha.

 

Ruaha National Park is yet another place in Africa shaped by the Great Rift Valley. To the northwest of this fissure at Ruaha is a vast tract of Miombo woodland; and to the southeast is lower-lying Acacia/Combretum bush. Two main rivers, the Ruaha and Mwagusi, run along the Acacia/Combretum, and several seepages occur at the base of the escarpment of the Rift.

 

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Baobab tree

 

Within minutes of leaving the airstrip, we encounter our first East African greater kudu. Smaller-bodied and smaller-horned then their southern brethrens, they are not abundant in Kenya and Tanzania, but Ruaha is excellent country for them. The horns, precisely curled and perfectly symmetrical, are as absurd as they are beautiful. I wonder how Darwin would explain them, given that the horns don’t really serve any compelling functions.

 

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Greater kudu

 

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Martial Eagle

 

Our home for the next four nights is Mdonya Old River Camp. Mdonya is a throwback: simple tents with open-air bathrooms and showers; and no fancy wooden decks or even canvass floor mats in the central area – just dirt and sand under your feet. The attraction for the game in the area is not only water seeping out of the Mdonya Sand River, but the prevalent Faidherbia albida trees. Impalas, kudus, baboons and elephants are drawn by the falling pods; giraffes by the leaves. Old buffalo bulls seem more comfortable at camp. They are not far from a 200 + herd stirring up dust on its way to water. If one were to take a wide-angle, “where am I?” photo, the first guess for most experienced safari-goers would be Luangwa Valley.

 

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Buffalo, Mdonya Sand River

 

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Zebra

 

The first night, I am awakened by the noise of growling cats and a bellowing buffalo. Sure enough, we find a pride of lions on a buffalo kill in the morning about 200 yards from camp. It’s lions, lions and more lions at Ruaha. In fact, we would end up seeing three different prides of lions during our stay – the Mdonya pride, a pride near Mwagusi Camp to the east, and a pride in between in an area called Mbagi – as well as a few stragglers. A female leopard is spotted on a tree near Mwagusi. For no particular reason, she trundles down to pose on the ground for us. Wild dogs, perhaps fleeing from all the lion activity, are relatively inconspicuous this year, but some lucky people staying at Mdonya catch a glimpse of them. Other guests even see a cheetah.

 

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Lion on buffalo kill near camp

 

During dinner one night, things get seriously wild. With the sound of lion activity in the distance, a perfect convergence of wild creatures takes place around our dinner table, which is just out there in the middle of a sandy stretch near the Mdonya River. Giraffes and impalas browse in the nearby bush. Bull elephants and bull buffalos parade right through camp, causing everyone to pause nervously from chewing. At one point, there is so much animal activity around our dinner table, Craig chuckles and quips “we are not in control”. I think he is joking, but I don’t ask. A couple late for dinner is being escorted to the table by an askari with a flashlight. The bright light spooks an old Dagga Boy, and the mud-caked bundle of nervous energy goes into a full sprint – seemingly toward our dinner table. Surely, it is flight, not a charge out of anger, and surely the buffalo does not intend to crash into the dinner guests? He runs parallel to the long dinner table where I am sitting at the head. At its closest point, the dark blur is perhaps 25 feet away as it races by. I catch his scent, the breeze and dust kicked up by his hooves. I don’t have enough time to panic it happens so quickly. I experience what it’s like to be charged and gored by a buffalo, a 2,000-pound locomotive without brakes, without actually being tossed. In a real buffalo charge, I can tell you that you are certainly not in control.

 

We decide to explore the Miombo section of the park to look for sable and roan one day. There are a few different routes to the Miombo, but they all involve climbing up the escarpment to the northwest. We choose a western route toward Makinde Spring, where sables are known to water. Just prior to arriving at Makinde, some Miombo trees (mostly Brachestygia) begin to appear. Apart from a lone lioness watching a few giraffes drink, game is scant. Past Makinde, the road begins to climb up the escarpment. A couple of Lichtenstein’s hartebeests flee. Aside from a few interesting mbugas, the terrain is dry, monotonous, cathedral woodland. There are elephant trails all leading one way, no doubt toward a watering point, but frustratingly, there are no roads heading that way. On the way back to camp, we check out another waterhole called Mkwawa. It proves to be much more productive. Many impalas, zebras and giraffes are gathered on bare light gray soil near the pools, reminding one of northern Botswana.

 

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Sable sign post

 

In all, Ruaha is a place of stark contrasts. The escarpment divides two very different biomes. Unlike the northern part of Tanzania, here there is only one rainy season; the wet season and the dry couldn’t be more different. It is one of the better-run parks in Tanzania with well-graded, well sign-posted roads (some sign posts are in the shapes of animals and frequently get attacked by lions!), though this tends to detract from a true wilderness feel. On the other hand, one glance toward the river will erase any of the detractions. With the hunter/gatherers of the land long since removed, Ruaha is nicely preserved, if not truly wild.

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Safaridude, you have some outstanding photos. What equipment do you use?

 

Fantastic report continues.

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I will be getting out a map of Tarangire. Thanks for stating where you saw the various species. Your Tarangire verdict is encouraging. I'm up to the tomatoes. And the nearly forgotten leopard in Ruaha--a magnificent photo.

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Interesting trip. I do like all the detail in your report and agree the naming of locations doubles the fun as can be checked to maps. Photos are of more than passing interest too. Mock Charging Ellephant and Striped Hyena are fabulous, and the two impalas just as good.

 

I'm surprised you consider Ruaha merely "preserved". Of course "wild" can mean different things, so we could easily be thinking the same thing but express it quite differently. Only a question if you fell liek answering it.

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Twaffle, I use a Canon EOS 1DS Mark II body and three lenses: 300mm/2.8; 70-200mm/2.8; 17-40mm/4.0. I use a 2x extender as well on the 300mm.

 

Pault, I am just referring to the fact that Ruaha and other national parks in Africa have no human habitation inside anymore. It's just a personal thing, really. For me, a place like Central Kalahari, when the bushmen were there living, is "wild", and other places are "preserved".

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Ugalla Game Reserve

 

Exclusivity alone can induce hyperbole, and, as such, I admit that my opinion might be tainted by the fact that I am one of very few non-hunters to have even seen Ugalla Game Reserve, a trophy hunting concession. That said, Ugalla just might be my favorite place in Africa. Ugalla is embarrassingly expensive to get to and the game density not high, but for me it is the wildest place with the wildest animals – a place where one can unleash the 2 million year-old, latent stalking instinct, and in my case without actually killing the animal. It is here back in September 2006 that I encountered sable, wild dog and shoebill in a single morning drive with Craig guiding. Surely, that is an impossible feat anywhere else. I distinctly recall one afternoon Craig staring into the distance and uttering to no one in particular, “this place is wild…Whhild!”.

 

Ugalla is one of a handful of very well-managed hunting concessions in Tanzania. Everything is done by the book, or so I am told anyway. In any case, it is one hunting concession that has not seen its game decline. At Ugalla, most animals flee from vehicles as they do in West Kili, but I suspect for different reasons. In West Kili, it must be uncontrolled meat poaching (shooting from vehicles) that led the animals to associate vehicles with danger. At Ugalla, where poaching is relatively under control, I suspect the animals flee because they are simply not used to human or vehicle presence – all of which makes the task at hand – stalking – all the more challenging, yet more genuine. Our objective is to stalk spectacular antelopes such as sable and roan, as well as search for lion, wild dog, leopard, and perhaps even shoebill.

 

Along the Ugalla River, broad floodplains dominate. Stands of mature Borassus palms along with hundreds of small Borassus saplings dot the rich grassland. Away from the floodplains, belts of Combretum fragrans and Terminalia sericea eventually give way to cathedral miombo. Topi, reedbuck, oribi, warthog, waterbuck, impala, buffalo and zebra inhabit the open areas. Elephant, sable, roan, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and greater kudu inhabit the woodlands. On the river itself, hippos and crocodiles laze amongst a dizzying array of birds. There are times when the distinct cry of the fish eagle possesses the entire river valley. There are times when the buzzing of tsetse flies possesses the vehicle – and ultimately your mind.

 

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Zebras

 

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Topi

 

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Elephant

 

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Roan herd

 

A successful stalk is a matter of luck as much as it is skill. Shifting winds will blow a stalk, guaranteed. Often, you wish there were just one more strategically placed termite mind or tree to hide behind. Even a successful stalk can be ruined photographically if a branch or a twig is in the way. It turns out at Ugalla we are fairly unlucky: shifting winds here and a misplaced branch there, a freak rain shower on our second day dispersing the animals away from the river, etc. A visit to the papyrus swamp on the western edge of the concession reveals no shoebills this time. A pack of wild dogs seen by the game scouts all year eludes us. Still, what a privilege it is to have such a wild place to ourselves.

 

Of all the stalks, one stands out as the essence of the place. A young roan bull is spotted about 600 yards away in fairly open country. We carefully maneuver amongst the palm trees and enormous termite mounds to inch closer. Now in a completely exposed area behind a mound, we have nowhere to go. We must wait until something happens. Perhaps he will turn his head to graze. It’s noon, and it’s hot. The tsetses are buzzing. Suddenly, the wind shifts. The roan detects us, but for some unknown reason, this youngster is brave and does not take flight. Now, it’s serious cat and mouse. Just when we close the gap to 250 yards, he trots away – just enough to tempt us to close the gap again. It’s back and forth for a good 20 minutes. Finally, hunger wins the day, and we pack it in for lunch. Here, in a truly wild place, the animals dictate the terms. This is the essence of Ugalla: it lets you in reticently and never completely.

 

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Young roan bull

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madaboutcheetah

Safaridude,

 

THANK YOU!!! Another fabulous report!

 

Hari

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Pault, I am just referring to the fact that Ruaha and other national parks in Africa have no human habitation inside anymore. It's just a personal thing, really. For me, a place like Central Kalahari, when the bushmen were there living, is "wild", and other places are "preserved".

 

Got you... Thanks.

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Serengeti National Park

 

The last time I visited this very northern part of Serengeti three years ago in August, 2007, the wildebeest migration was humming. To see so much game in an area that was once dubbed by scientists as “the removal area” due to having been poached out was extraordinary. Since then, the area has gone from strength to strength. Several more safari operators have moved into the area, though it still doesn’t feel crowded. A triangular piece of wilderness to the north of the Mara River called the Lamai Wedge, which abuts Masai Mara, is essentially the Mara without the crowds. Not that I had ever seen it. Due to the Mara River’s overflowing three years ago, we were never able to cross the Mara River Bridge into the Lamai Wedge.

 

As our Caravan banks sharply toward the airstrip, I am able to make out the bridge – white with foam on top. It turns out that a tornado-like storm ripped through the area a couple of days ago, and the Mara River Bridge is once again under water. All we can do is hope for no rain upstream for the next three days. Perturbed at the park authorities for not upgrading the bridge, I shake my head. Craig, who has obviously crossed the bridge many times without a problem, is trying to hide his incredulous laughter at my bad luck. “The curse of the Lamai Wedge”, he declares.

 

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Mara River Bridge

 

There is plenty to see aside from Lamai, of course. The afternoon is spent at Wogakuria, surely one of the most scenic places in all of Serengeti. A mass of wildebeests happens to be concentrated here this afternoon. Because of the recent burns, the grass is short and the visibility unlimited. The area is perhaps the best place for oribi and klipspringer. Wogakuria supposedly has the densest population of the former in all of Africa. The latter takes a bit more work to find, but they are seen showing their gravity-defying maneuvers on the numerous kopjes at Wogakuria. With disproportionally large hooves, klipspringers negotiate the hilly, stony terrain as if they possess suction cups on their feet. It is no wonder the klipspringer inspires such descriptive names: “klipspringer” is “rock jumper” in Dutch; Mbuzi Mawe, its Swahili name, stands for “rock goat”; and its scientific name, Oreotragus Oreotragus is derived from “Oread” (a mountain-dwelling maiden in Greek mythology) and “tragus” (Latin for goat).

 

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Klipspringer

 

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Agama

 

To the east of Sayari Camp, there is an area called Bologonja, which is near the border post and the Sand River Gate of Masai Mara. This wide open area is currently known for cheetahs and rhinos. We spend a whole morning scouring the area and instead find many groups of elands along with, of course, wildebeests and zebras. Grant’s gazelles and Coke’s hartebeests round out the check list. Only a single vehicle is spotted all morning.

 

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Eland

 

On our second afternoon, the staff at Sayari Camp declares it safe to cross the Mara River Bridge. The curse of the Lamai Wedge is finally broken at 4:12 pm on September 15. Lamai is open grassland dotted with picturesque Balanites aegyptiaca trees just like many parts of the Mara. Lamai has several drainage lines that divide it into sections. It is along these drainage lines where the lions are typically found. And true to its reputation, the Lamai pride is found lazing around the eastern drainage line within minutes of our entering the Wedge. Currently 15 strong, the pride is obviously well-fed with the influx of the migration into the area. Apparently, it is an unusually strong coalition of five males that lead the pride. About 45 minutes into our drive in Lamai, we detect ominous storm clouds forming upstream. We quickly cross back over the bridge while we can in order not to get stuck in the Wedge. The curse appears to be not quite over.

 

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Zebra

 

The following morning, we re-enter the Lamai Wedge. This time, we see some different members of the Lamai pride of lions including a heavily pregnant old female laboring to come down for a drink at a drainage line. We then head toward the Myles Turner Hill which defines the border of Kenya and Tanzania, and see a wildebeest herd all staring in one direction. It’s a big male cheetah. Belly full, the cheetah has no intention of hunting this morning, but nevertheless walks straight toward the phalanx of wildebeests. The wildebeests grunt incessantly while retreating, keeping the phalanx more or less intact. This goes on for minutes until the cat finally veers off: all sound and fury leading to nothing. Currently, there are several other cheetahs known to roam Lamai, including two cheetah brothers and a female with three cubs. We head west across the plain and pick up another drainage line. Along the way, we see elephants, giraffes, topis, Thomson’s gazelles, and of course wildebeests and zebras, but no other vehicles – on this side of the border, that is. A couple of vehicles on the Kenyan side are picking up hot air balloon guests for a Champagne breakfast. I think I see Mara Serena Lodge in the distance.

 

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Lioness

 

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Cheetah

 

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Vulture

 

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Elephant

 

Sayari Camp is certain to invoke heated debate due to its hyper-luxurious construction. The camp is not exactly inconspicuous – or “green” for that matter. On the other hand, the owners of the camp, Asilia Lodges, are as responsible as any in restoring this area of Serengeti to its former glory. Asilia took enormous risk in even attempting to operate in this once poached out place. The level of service provided by the majority Kuria staff (the Kuria are natural hunters; almost all staff members are former poachers) is extraordinary, given that they started from scratch just a few years ago. As always, while the wilderness areas in Africa continue to deplete, there are small success stories.

 

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Wildebeests

 

So, that was that for my lucky 13th. From these travels, I begin to appreciate the fine line between “wild” and “preserved”. In my mind, the former, ironically, encompasses man; the latter does not. With the former – occurring largely outside of national parks –becoming ever more elusive, I am damn privileged to still experience it.

 

Edited by Safaridude
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I hesitate to suggest that this is one of the most interesting reports I've read as I wouldn't want to offend any of the rest of us (myself included) but it has grabbed my attention so strongly. Succinct but riveting.

 

I am glad to hear of any small success stories, be they wild or preserved, by hunting or by photographic tourists.

 

That report bar keeps getting higher and higher and I'm daunted by thoughts of keeping an eye on vehicle numbers (thanks Atravelynn) and scientific names and ideas of wild versus preserved and how they can combine to give Africans a chance to contain environmental destruction.

 

Everytime someone posts a report, the rest of us are blessed by their view and experience. I think it changes the way we look at our own travels.

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Yes, thank you for a very interesting report on your travels to some less-travelled places.

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Your wild dinner is an amazing tale. Gives a new meaning to buffalo for dinner. I liked the multi-sensory aspect of even being able to smell the buffalo as it whizzed by.

 

Referring to the Kudu: "The horns, precisely curled and perfectly symmetrical, are as absurd as they are beautiful. I wonder how Darwin would explain them, given that the horns don’t really serve any compelling functions. "

 

Maybe the horns are to attract the ladies.

Edited by Atravelynn
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Lynn, you are absolutely right about the horns...

 

A couple of things I left out:

 

- Ruaha National Park has increased in size. Usangu/Utengule, to the southwest of Ruaha (the headwaters of the Ruaha River) has been annexed to Ruaha. The Usangu/Utengule area had been farmed intensively (for rice), and that had been drawing water from the Ruaha River. Also, there was some pastoralism going on. The government removed people from Usangu/Utengule a couple of years ago (and not without huge controversy regarding appropriate compensation for the displaced). It is interesting that this annexation is being kept very quiet. Even on TANAPA's website, there is one part that has the annexation information and one part that does not. For whatever it is worth, the people on the ground believe the Ruaha River flow is being restored due to the removal of rice farms upstream. They told me that TANAPA intends to have no tourist development in Usangu for now.

 

- I didn't write much about the wildebeest crossings near Sayari Camp. We were busy traversing the area and did not concentrate on the crossings. But those others who did were rewarded with spectacular crossings on the Mara River... the northern Serengeti is a great spot for wildebeest crossings (I witnessed it in 2007).

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I think I see Mara Serena Lodge in the distance.

 

Depending on when you were there and the quality of your optics, maybe you saw me at Serena. I had on a green t-shirt that read Weedout Warriors and a binocular harness and was probably in the vicinity of the bushbucks.

 

Good to know N. Serengeti supports some cheetah and great shots of your cheetah sighting. Nice job with the roan even if many factors conspired against you. The klipspringer has an adorable quality about it. Thanks for explaining the derivation of its name. I was thinking mountain goat along with adorable, even before I read where the name came from. Rather than blame the curse of the Lamai Wedge, you can lay the blame on this being your Safari Treiskaideka, speaking of Latin derivations.

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Lynn, next time we must meet at the border of Kenya/TZ for late morning tea!

 

Klipspringers are fast becoming one of my favorites.

 

I have a feeling you have dealt with Safari Treiskaideka already...

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Lynn, next time we must meet at the border of Kenya/TZ for late morning tea!

Cross border tea sounds lovely.

 

I have a feeling you have dealt with Safari Treiskaideka already...

I have dealt with that issue, very successfully with no bad luck, I must add. But only recently.

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