Entries in baboon (4)


Tanzania Holiday 17: Serengeti Game Drives Day 1 - Morning

So we arrived finally at the core of the "safari" experience -- two full days of game drives in the Serengeti.  We would depart around 08:00, stop an hour for lunch somewhere, and return to camp around 18:00.

Unfortunately, we didn't ask our guide Prim where exactly we were going and can't give a "map" of our routes like our other posts... we were too busy taking photos.  But we do know that we stayed in the area of the Moru Kopjes:

Source: www.tanzaniawildlifesafaris.com

At the time of morning we departed, it was a bit foggy - the clouds low on the hills: 

The water buffalo had already started grazing, but most animals are pretty quiet and inactive. 

As we drove by kopjes closer to the road, we spotted hyrax (rock hyrax, we think).  It was a little cool in the morning, so they were huddled together on one of the rocks.  Interesting facts:  they are found only in Africa, and they are the elephant's closest living relative in the animal kingdom!  (no, they're not rodents!)

Here is a closer crop to see the hyrax (a bit blurry, unfortunately):

When we got closer, they ran for cover:

Prim next spotted a lion high up on the next kopjes -- making for a nice first hour on the game drive!

Obviously "she" is just relaxing.  They like to be elevated because there are fewer insects up there to bug them:

She was still quite far away, even with the 600mm (full frame equivalent) lens on the camera:

We wanted to drive closer, and get a different angle on the lion.  In this brief break, we shot more buffalo:

The buffalo were standng so still, that we bracketed shots to see what they look like tonemapped:

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

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

We think this is a cattle egret that was perched on one of the buffalo:

Back to the lion... still just hanging out, so a few more photos before driving on:

We spotted some baboons working their way through the taller grass...

... this one was carrying a baby:


We did have one destination this morning, aside from "looking for animals".  On one of the Moru Kopjes, Masai rock paintings can be found.

The Masai used this land for their cattle, but were forced to leave once the Serengeti National Park was created (1951).  We were interested to see remnants of their life here.

This is what the kopje looked like from the jeep:

We first climbed some stairs...

... and then wound our way through a path in the brush.  (Out guide Prim is there on the right side.)

To get a perspective of scale, this is Prim at the rock paintings, the photo taken from the path:

These are not ancient drawings - there appears to be a man on a bicycle (in orange).  The repeated pattern seems to represent their shields.  What makes this special is that it is authentic - not a tourist stop.

Here is the view from the crevice under the rock, looking over the Serengeti plain:

From here you can circle aroung the large boulder, and on to the massive rock foundation (with another boulder perched on top).  Frau A and Prim are walking up here:

If you look carefully at the "small" rock to the right of the boulder, you see more Masai impact:

Off to the right you find the "gong rock", also called Ngong Rock.  This rock has unique properties, for when it is stuck with another stone, it produces sounds (a different pitch in each indentation).

Looking closer, you see that some stones are still there, resting in indentations.  We tried striking the rock, and you get an almost metallic, but dull sound.  We have read different interpretations - that this was used either for communication, or music:

Here's a view from the other side of the kopje's top.  You can see more white "dots" also inscribed by Masai.  Most believe it was the young warriors that did this, before they "settled down" in a village.

Frau A and I asked Prim to take a couple photos of us:

These are panoramas below - they are large files, so beware clicking on them for the full version:

Panorama #2:

Finally, a few HDR shots to try and exaggerate the textures and view:

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

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

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

We finally headed back down the path and steps to the jeep, to continue on the game drive:

The only residents that bade us farewell were the agama lizards:

We drove on for a while, stopping next at a small lake.  Flamingos were the dominant animal here:

There were not-so-subtle reminders of other wildlife - here lies an elephant skull:

Other neighbors of the flamingo included the black-winged stilt:

A duck also called this water home:

Here, an artistic/HDR view of the wetland:

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

From here Prim drive us back to the woods and plains:

Prim has incredible eyes for spotting animals:  he found a bearded woodpecker (female)...

... and nearby another bearded woodpeaker (male), probable the second half of a pair:

Not far away we also identified a southern white crowned shrike:

It was getting on towards midday, so this water buck and others were laying low:

We also happened by a giraffe, quite close to the roadside (good photos!):

As with the water buffalo, you really see how many insects pester these animals:

She/he gave us some great poses:

An impala also came into a clearing, so we snapped a couple of pics:

Again, there are insects all over:

On the way to our lunch stop, we saw a lounging leopard:

Like the lions, they like to find elevated perches (trees or rocks) to try and escape the insects:

She/he was not being very active, so we grabbed the photos and moved on through the kopjes:

In the last event before lunch, we saw some elephants in the shade.  The little one on the left was using the tree as a scratching post.  It looked like mom had a baby on her far side:

We zoomed in on the young elephant scratching away:

And zoomed in on mom too:

The adult started getting active...

... which was when we noticed that many others were headed to join them.  With more babies!

The adult continued to throw dirt on her back to fight the insects:

The rest of the herd slowly arrived...

... and took position in the shade:

One final photo:  we found this caterpillar at the lunch site.   From elephants to caterpillars, a good morning:

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:
   -  Ronald M, for the overnights in this great location.  It made a camper out of Frau A!  THANK YOU!
   -  Amie and Kevin H, for the nights in this special camp.  We absolutely loved it.  THANK YOU!
   -  Erin and Kevin O, for the game drive, the resulting photos we treasure.  THANK YOU!
   -  Seery M, for the game drive.  It was such a special experience.  THANK YOU!
   -  Greta M, for the game drive.  We got perfect weather too!  THANK YOU!
   -  Steve A and Claire P, for the game drive.  It was just perfect, as you can see.  THANK YOU! 


Tanzania Holiday 5: Lake Manyara National Park - afternoon drive and Rhotia Valley

The morning in Lake Manyara National Park brought us our first encounter with elephants.  We stopped briefly for lunch at a picnic spot somewhere in the middle of the park (near the central Ranger station on the map, I think).

Source: tanzaniawildlifesafaris.com

About this time, clouds rolled in and when we climbed back in the Land Cruiser, some showers were falling.
Despite the weather, we drove by vervet monkeys gathering food in the grass -- they had babies too!

They weren't bothered by a light rain, but looked less happy when the intensity of the showers increased.

This was the last monkey still in the open -- we got this photos just as he was heading for the trees.

The rain soon stopped.  We drove on, and saw these giraffes as we rounded a bend in the dirt road.

Further down the park, an adult baboon was feeding at the side of the road.  He paused to inspect us.

Nearby, a mother was carrying her baby away from the road in into the protection of the forest.

A slightly older baby baboon took a moment before running to mom, and gave us a nice photo.

Our driver and guide, Prim, was amazing at spotting animals.  His sharp eyes found this golden weaver:

Eventually, we circled around and headed north - back to the park entrance.  From here we drove west, and up to a lookout point on the escarpment that is effectively the western wall of the park.  It's a nice view to the lake below.

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

From Lake Manyara N.P., our guide drove us to where we would spend the next two nights: Rhotia Valley, near the town of Karatu.  It's about 45-60 minutes from the Manyara park entrance, and about the same distance from the entrance gate to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (tomorrow's destination).

When one thinks of "Africa", hot and dry places come to mind by default.  But Rhotia Valley defies this stereotype.  It lies at 1700m elevation, so the climate is cooler (and well above the line for Malaria risk).  The soil is rich, and many terraced farms take advantage of the fertile environment.

We climbed a bit in the Land Cruiser to reach our destination, and could look out over the valley.

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

We arrived at Rhotia Valley Lodge just as the sun was getting low in the sky.  This is what our hut looked like:

We checked in, washed up, and found seats on the deck.  They had a new beer brand, Tusker, for us to try.

The lodge had a few cats around.  Most were still sleeping the day off, like this one:

From the lodge's deck, you can see some of the valley -- lots of green!  The lodge tries to source as much food and material from the local farming community as possible, so ingredients are local and fresh!

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

It was very warm at Lake Manyara today, but we wore fleeces tonight at the higher altitude (it felt great).

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

Across the way from the lodge is a children's home -- a group of ~24 kids, all orphaned from towns in the area.
Proceeds from the lodge help support the home.  Our hosts will bring us over tomorrow to meet them! 

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

So we settled down for dinner, and another beer, and watched the sun go down.  Tomorrow is Ngorongoro crater!

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:
   -  Jaclyn F, for the lunch in Manyara.  We were soooo hungry after snapping all these photos.  THANK YOU!
   -  Landrea R, for the overnight at Rhotia.  The beer... the view... see how happy Frau A looks?  THANK YOU!

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


Tanzania Holiday 4: Lake Manyara National Park - morning drive

Our first active day in Tanzania was spent in Arusha National Park, in the fields and on the lakes.
Early the next morning we continued west along the "northern circuit" to Lake Manyara National Park.  

Source: Official Site of Tanzania National Parks

Unfortunately we didn't have time to schedule a day at Tarangire -- we continue west tomorrow towards Serengeti.

This National Park is a narrow strip of land running between Lake Manyara on the east and the Gregory Rift Wall (escarpment) on the west.  Like the Momela Lakes in Arusha N.P., Lake Manyara is alkaline.  Birds are plentiful, but large game (like their famous tree-climbing lions) are hard to see in the wet season -- the greenery is dense. Guide books say to expect baboons, zebra and buffalo, various antelope, and hippos in the Hippo Pond (obviously).

It was about a 2.5 drive from Arusha to the northern gate entrance of the park.
From there we would drive south with the lake on our left, and the tall escarpment on our right. 

Source: tanzaniawildlifesafaris.com

Along the road from Arusha tp Manyara we saw many termite mounds mixed in with highway markers.

Just like Arusha, as soon as we entered Lake Manyara Park we saw baboons and their babys.

This little one had a very relaxed pose!

On the park map, you'll see a few road loops just south of the entrance gate.  We went there to the Hippo Pool.

As usual, we had to keep our distance from the hippos and use the full reach our our longest zoom lenses.

From the Hippo Pool we continued south, spotting impala under the protection of trees as it approached midday.

We saw some roadside vervet monkeys, who appeared to be doing... well, not much of anything:

We were fortunate to see a tiny Dik Dik in the tall grass and leaves - one of the smallest antelope (30cm tall).

It's a male, because of the horns.  Frau A though he was cute, and asked if we could bring him home!

Further south, the land opened up - dry plains between the dirt road and the lake.  Here we found zebra.

Many of the zebra were juveniles, and quite active.  (We will see zebra babies in future posts...)

There was quite a bit of "roughhousing" from the guys, kicking up dust as they play-fight with each other.

As the road continued on, it returned into forested areas, where baboons stayed in the shade to keep cool.

A female elephant and her young one emerged briefly from the brush and then disappeared again.

In African Elephants, females have tusks too.  The males are more often solitary (no little tag-alongs).

The road through the forest and brush looked like this, with thick greenery and interspersed tall trees:

A few minutes later, some other elephants emerged on our left.  This lady had two children in tow:

Our guide stopped the Land Cruiser, and the elephants crossed the road right in front of us!

A trailing member of the party stopped to scratch himself (or herself, I think) against a tree before crossing.

Frau A took this next photo from the back seat of the Land Cruiser, looking forward.  We could either point our cameras out the side windows, or as in this case, stand on the seats and through the openings in the roof.
I had extra sun protection (neck cover, long sleeves) after the intense exposure the prior day in Arusha.

They're very relaxed near the cars.  They see us as part of the car, and don't get spooked or aggressive.

We mostly took photographs, but did capture about 25 seconds of video as they emerged from the trees and then (after crossing the road) re-entered the woods.  That's one of the difficulties - encounters like this happen so fast.

Some elephants turned back onto the road, walked ahead a bit, and then back into the forest on our left.

We were excited to see our first elephants, and so closely!  The afternoon in Manyara is still to come (next post)!

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:
   -  Nia H, for the morning game drive in Manyara.  The elephants were just amazing to see.  THANK YOU!
   -  Don, Karen, & Joshua D, also for the game drive with our first impala sighting & the cute dik dik.  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.