Entries in Arusha National Park (3)


A Schnitzelbahn History: the Tanzania honeymoon safari

We've received some feedback from readers that we should add "index" pages for specific content.
An index page is better than the Categories ("Navigation" on the right side of this page) because
you don't have to scroll through blog entries you've already seen -- intead, just go to the entry you want.


So, here is a brief index of our blog entries about parks on the northern circuit in Tanzania (plus Mafia Island):

Arusha National Park  (Day 1,  Day 2)

- Arrival and overnight at Karama Lodge

- Morning in the Park:  baboon babies, walk across the plain, a small waterfall, and lots of giraffes

- Afternoon in the Park:  canoeing on an alkaline lake, flamingos, and black & white colobus monkeys


Lake Manyara National Park  (Day 3)

- Morning in the Park:  more baboon babies, impala, dik dik, zebra, and lots of elephants

- Afternoon in the Park:  vervet monkeys with babies, baboons, golden weaver, plus the Rhotia Valley


Ngorongoro Crater the Ngorongoro Conservation Area  (Day 4)

- Morning in the Crater:  zebras, hyena, wildebeast, warthogs and babies, ostrich, black rhino, eland,
  bush buck, Thompson's gazelle, birds (ibis, stork, and kori bustard), elephants, and lounging lions!  

- Afternoon in the Crater:  yellow-billed kites, weavers and pelicans, elephant, water buffalo,
  ostriches in a mating dance, warthog babies, lions, and the Rhotia Valley Children's Home! 


Serengeti National Park - Walking Safari  (Day 5,  Day 6,  Day 7)

- Drive into Serengeti N.P.:   saw lions mating (!), and an uncountable number of wildebeast in the herd

- Drive to the Walking Safari Camp:  agama lizards, superb starlings, marabou stork, and our campsite
  on the banks of the Orangi River in the central Serengeti (with recent hippo tracks near our tent!) 

- Info about the designated "wilderness area" for walking safari:  the camp, the surrounding landscape, etc.

- First day (morning walk):  lots of animal tracks, water buffalo (one alive, one just a skull), and an impala

- First day (afternoon walk):  an antlion, two jackals, and a mongoose family in an abandoned termite mound

- Second day (morning walk):  a klipspringer, reedbuck, giraffes, topi... and a black-necked spitting cobra!

- Second day (afternoon walk):  a short trek through the larger kopjes and rainy goodbye to the mobile camp


Serengeti National Parl - Game Drives  (Day 8,  Day 9,  Day 10)

- Drive from walking camp to the game-drive camp:  leopard tortise, herd (or pod) of hippos, impala, giraffes,
a silverbird and some weavers, a leopard (finally!), vultures, mongooses, water buffalo, and a lion near camp

- Info about our "special campsite":  lodging options in Serengeti National Park, our tent camp in the shadows of one of the Moru Kopjes, baboons and giraffes at breakfast, light painting at night, and a landscape view with rainbows.

- First Day (morning game drive):  hyrax, lion perched on a kopje, bearded woodpeckers, and lots of elephants

- First Day (afternoon game drive):  a sensational view, with video, of a pride of lions gathering at dusk.

- Second Day (morning game drive):  leopard in a tree, lion in a tree, many animals feeding (giraffe, vervet monkeys, warthog), many birds (secretary bird, pearl spotted owlet, gray hornbill, lilac breasted roller, lovebirds). 

- Second Day (afternoon game drive):  coming soon


Mafia Island (Chloe Island)

- First Day:  coming soon

- Second Day:  coming soon

- Third Day:  coming soon

- Fourth Day:  coming soon

- Fifth Day:  coming soon


It was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure -- thanks to friends and family that gave wedding gifts to make it possible.




Tanzania Holiday 3: Arusha National Park - afternoon canoeing

We spent the morning in Tanzania's Arusha National Park driving through forest to the Momela Gate (saw baboons and their babies), then got a guided walk across the plains and brush (with a group of ~20 giraffes walking by).

After this, we climbed back in to the Land Cruiser and our guide drove northeast to the alkaline Momela Lakes.

Source: tanzaniawildlifesafaris.com

Alkaline lakes, also called soda lakes, have water with a pH typically between 9 and 12 (7 is pH-neutral).
This is due to carbonite salts in the soil that dissolve in the water.  Few fish habitate them... but there is wildlife.

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

Microorganisms can grow and thrive in the salty water - in fact, since each lake has a slightly different mineral content, they have different types of algae that grow in them (and have therefore a slightly different color).

Different waterbirds call the lakes home, but they are dominated by the lesser flamingo, that feed on the algae.

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

As seen on the park map (above), there is a road going around/through the lakes.  There are a number of viewpoints here and there along the way.  Since it was the middle of the day, we stopped and took these stairs to a picnic area:

Here we ate lunch overlooking Small Momela Lake:

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

After the midday pause, we drove to a dock on one of the smaller lakes (we need to ask which one - we forgot!)
and boarded a canoe.  Two guides led the way, and an Italian couple had the third canoe in our little party. 

We paddled along the shore a bit.  About 50m into the water sat a small rock - we think these are reed cormorants. 

The two cormorants took flight as we approached -- it was rather difficult taking photos from the rocking canoe!

Just beyond that rock were hippos.  We came within about 60m of them, and the guides warned us not to get any closer.  We were being eyed warily.  The guides got a bit nervous when the hippos disappeared underwater.

One hippo started moving towards us, and the guides had us back away even further.  Hippos move surprisingly well on land and in water, and get very aggressive when they feel their area is threatened.  That would be bad.

As we backed away from the hippos, we turned our cameras upwards and scanned the hills above the lake.
At the top of one crest we saw some more giraffes, slowly walking and grazing their way through the thick brush.

After maybe 45 minutes in the canoe, we returned to shore and again got into the Land Cruiser for the drive home.
We continued slowly along the dirt road around/through the Momela Lakes, stopping for photos along the way.

In the next three photos, we start with a wide view, showing a rock outcropping in one of the smaller lakes...

...then zoom further to see the density of lesser flamingos along the shoreline...

... and finally zoom as far as we can (600mm equivalent in 35mm) to see the lesser flamingos feeding:

And here is a short video where you can see them dragging their beaks through the algae to feed:

We drove from the dirt road down to the shore of one of the lakes.  Here we could walk right to the water's edge.  There were many flamingos flying by, so we attempted to photograph "BIF" (birds in flight) as they passed.

The black beak is one of the characteristics that distinguishes the lesser flamingo from its larger cousin.

This was tough photography for us amateurs.  Optical viewfinders on DSLRs are always "open", but electronic viewfinders on our Olympus E-M5 mirrorless cameras "black out" between shots - hard to keep the frame.

Our recommendation:  practice panning with the birds at first; keep that panning speed when shooting blind.

Also, the "continuous" or "tracking" autofocus with mirrorless cameras like the E-M5 is based on contrast detection, rather than phase detection on DSLRs.  This is simply not as fast, and slows frame rates considerably.  Not worth it.

Our recommendation:  use single autofocus (locks focus once and holds it).  Reduce the aperture as needed to get a larger depth of field (deeper focus area) so that shots stay in focus as you pan and shoot (at least for a while...). 

FYI:  we were using the Panasonic 100mm-300mm lens with the E-M5 and the Panasonic G5 cameras.

As the dirt road around the lakes descended again into the forested area, we found female waterbucks:

A bushbuck at the edge of the road, just outside the trees, paused enough so we got a photo of her too:

Further on we spotted a male waterbuck, walking along a hillside.

He crossed the road maybe 30m in front of the car.

He continued on for a minute before disappearing into the brush.

We caught a glimpse of another blue monkey in the trees, and stopped for a photo.

At least this one finds his own food, as opposed to the scavengers near the Momela Gate parking lot.

If you look on the map of the park, you will see Rhino Crest in the southeast, beneath Ngurdoto Crater.
Here we got out of the car again, and walked towards the lookout point above the crater.
The highlight was not the view, but the black and white colobus monkeys in the trees along the path. 

They appeared to be relaxing, socializing, and grooming.

It was challenging to get a good look through the thick trees, but managed a few good shots.

We also switched to video and have a short clip of one b&w colobus monkey grooming another:


We continued observing the monkeys until the moved back further into the trees and out of sight.

This was a great start to the honeymoon safari.  We saw a lot of the park in one full day, including canoeing!
We returned to Karama Lodge near Arusha this evening... on to Lake Manyara National Park tomorrow!

And finally... this was our honeymoon.  For the wedding, instead of registering for physical gifts (e.g., china, silverware, etc.), we registered different parts of this Tanzanian safari.  For this blog post, we wish to heartfully thank:
   -  Seery M, for the canoeing on the lake.  It was a really unique way to see the animals.  THANK YOU!
   -  Mrs J (Herr J's mom), also for the canoeing.  You can stop worrying - the hippos didn't get us.  THANK YOU!
   - Aunt Annie and Uncle Jack, for the overnights at Karama Lodge.  The views were lovely.  THANK YOU! 

We hope our friends and family enjoy the pictures and story as much as we did living it. 


Tanzania Holiday 2: Arusha National Park - morning walk

On our first day, we arrived in Kilimanjaro and then spent a relaxing evening at Karama Lodge near Arusha.
So the next morning, refreshed, we were itching to start on the safari and met guide Prim promptly at 08:00. 

Our first destination was Arusha National Park, about 60km south of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the border with Kenya.  Also, it is about halfway between the Serengeti National Park (west) and Tanzania's Indian Ocean coast (east).

Source: Official Site of Tanzania National Parks

The drive from our lodge to the park's southern entrance took just over 30 minutes.  Arusha is known for Mt. Meru, the second highest mountain in Tanzania and fifth highest in all of Africa. Mt Meru and Little Meru are in the far west of the park.  The trails to these volcanic peaks start at Momela gate in the center of the park and head west.

Arusha is mostly montane forest areas, with a group of alkaline lakes in the northeast, and grasslands around the lakes and the crater in the southeast.  Wildlife is not as abundant here as in other Tanzania parks, and no lions live here.  Wooded areas have blue monkeys and black & white colobus monkeys.  Giraffe, water buffalo, and zebra roam through trees and plains.  The lakes are home to hippos and waterfowl.  Elephants are present, but rarely seen.

Source: tanzaniawildlifesafaris.com

We entered the park from the south, with views of the crater and some open space, and saw zebras first:

As we drove through a more forested area on the way north to Momela Gate, we stopped to photograph some baboons and their babies along the side of the road.  The lighting was challenging with the shadow of the trees vs the bright morning sun, but they were right there next to the car. (The sun would get even harsher later...)

At a stopping point, the babies climbed down from their mothers' backs, but never too far from mom's reach.

It was difficult to guess the number of baboons due to the woods.  But these four came right into the sun for us.

Our guide drove on to Momela Gate and we pulled into the parking area.  He immediately warned us about the blue monkeys.  They are now too used to people, and approach every car looking for food.  They climbed right up onto our Land Cruiser and we had to "shoo" them away, or they would have climbed down through the open roof!

Here, we waited while our guide registered with the park and found a ranger, who would be taking us on a walk.  The starting point/sign is the same place where Herr J started on his climb of Mt. Meru a few years ago:

Mt. Meru was clearly visible in the west -- we see the plains, the outlying forest, and Meru's volcanic peaks:

Our guide walked us through the fields and told us about / showed us the flora and fauna in Arusha.
She had a rifle with her, just in case an animal got aggressive and needed to be scared off.

Frau A had a weapon of her own... her Nikon with a big zoom lens!

Far across the field we could see a large family of baboons moving about in the grass:

We ascended a bit into the foothills and had a look back at the path we took across the plain.
The sun was very hot (we both got a little burned this day) so we definitely took a pole-pole pace.

We entered a more wooded area, a stopped for a photo with a large tree and its unusual root system:

Then we arrived at the small waterfall.  It felt nice to be in the shade, and splashed water on our faces.

(Note for photographers:  the above is bracketed/HDR with Photomatix, whereas below is single shot.)

We continued walking downstream with the water from the fall, circling back towards Momela Gate.

Note: above photo was bracketed and HDR/tonemapped using Photomatix

After we made it back to the parking lot, we took off in the other direction, looking for giraffes.
We definitely found them!  A group of almost 20 passed our position, and we took a lot of pics.

We tried to photograph each one as they walked by, or paused with an unobstructed view:

We were incredibly fortunate to see so many, and to have them pass by so closely.  We just stood there!

They were quite cautious -- we were under constant surveillance (even though they could squash us):

We were in place for probably 40 minutes.  More and more just kept coming and walking by, 50-100m away.

I panned a bit too quickly (vid quality is spotty) but here you can see 19 of them:

They finally passed our location and continued heading into the forest, to hide & feed in the trees:


This was a fantastic start to the trip -- to see so many giraffes, so closely.  And this was all before lunch, Day 1.

Post #3 will be our lunch, and canoeing on one of the alkaline lakes in the afternoon!

And finally... this was our honeymoon.  For the wedding, instead of registering for physical gifts (e.g., china, silverware, etc.), we registered different parts of this Tanzanian safari.  For this blog post, we wish to heartfully thank:
   -  Mellie W, for the game drive through Arusha.  We saw zebra, baboons, and monkeys.  THANK YOU!
   -  Edie C, for the guided walk in Arusha.  You made these giraffe photos possible.  THANK YOU!

We hope our friends and family enjoy the pictures and story as much as we did living it.