Entries in elephant (6)


Tanzania Holiday 18: Serengeti Game Drives Day 1 - Afternoon

On the first of our two, full-day game drives, we started the morning well with a visit to Masai rock paintings, and spotted a leopard, elephants, and a number of birds.

In Serengeti's early afternoon heat, the animals are not very active.  So we headed out again in late afternoon, continuing through the plains of the central Serengeti and the iconic acacia trees:

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

We caught a herd of elephants walking across the landscape:

At first the angle for photos was too sharp...

... but they continued on and passed right in front of a kopje for some lovely shots:

If that seems like a small number of photos for the elephants, that's because we took video!
It is 3 1/2 minutes long, and you see one baby trying to "jump" on another.   Sooooo cute!


On a kopje not too far away, our guide Prim spotted a lion(ess?).  Definitely on the young side:

That lion alone, and far away, was not overly exciting.  But then thing began to get interesting.  Two other lions emerged from the dense greenery to the right of the first lion:

And then a fourth lion came out of hiding on their left.  It was promising -  they looked active, not sleepy:

In a short time, these four lions made their way down the kopje and started walking right toward us!

They were all relatively young, and seemed to have a destination in mind, at first staying cautious:

When they all left the shelter of the kopje, there were seven of them!

This is a large group of young lions, and must belong to a very strong pride.  The kids seemed to enjoy the cooler air, relaxed, and played with each other as they walked (continuing toward the road):

Just before crossing the road, this one paused for a nice portrait!

They soon passed right in front of our jeep, and now we could see their destination - another kopje:

Zooming as far as we could, we saw two more lions on the destination kopje:

Now that the lions were past us, we drove ahead to where we thought they would stop.  The lions did not climb the other kopje, but rather they all started gathering on a rock outcropping not far away.  These two first:

Soon, all the others started scrambling up the back of the boulder, to sit together:

They were still quite a distance from the road, but we could zoom in effectively:

We loved that photo above, so we experiemented with some Photoshop / Topaz black & white effects:

Another bonus:  we took video of the lions walking too!  It is a little over 3 minutes long, and has three sections:  walking towards us, walking away from us, and hanging out on the boulder.

One of the young lions yawned, but by then it was getting darker, and my camera was at its limit with the zoom lens - so the resulting photo is quite noisy...

... so that's when we experiment with Topaz Simplify (this is "BuzSim" effect).  Still not great, but at least captures the memory:

One last photo:  it was an amazing end to the game drive, on Christmas Eve too!

As we reached camp, the sun had already gone under the horizon, but still lit the clouds dramatically:

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

This was our tent, nestled in to the rocks and foliage of the campsite:

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

Supper was already being prepared, and we looked forward to a cold beer:

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

We stepped outside for a few last photos of the scene, especially since the moon had already risen:

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

Frau A liked the colors, and I got to take a photo of her as part of the scene!

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

This was our last view of the day, a fantastic Christmas Eve:

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

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 9: Drive to Camp for Serengeti Walking Safari

In the first half of our travel day into Serengeti NP, we were incredibly lucky to see lions mating - a great start!
On the map below:  we had entered the park on the southeast main road, but not yet reached Naabi Hill Gate.

In this blog post, we'll complete the travel day into Serengeti NP:  starting at Naabi Hill Gate where we register with the park and pause for lunch.  Then, we continue north along the main road, take the right fork at Banagi, and finally go completely off-road into a "wilderness zone" and our "light mobile camp" on the banks of the Orangi River.

Source: tanzaniawildlifesafaris.com

We pulled off at Naabi hill to register in the park and take a lunch break.  The land cruisers were already lined up:

Naabi Hill has picnic tables and the park office, but the most appealing aspect is the kopje.
From the parking lot there is a walking path to the top (only a few minutes -- it's not exceedingly tall):

It's not that tall, but because the Serengeti is so flat, the Naabi Hill kopje has an impressive view.
We are looking south from here -- on the photo's left is the main road, on which we just drove into the park:

It was nice to stretch our legs, and Frau A was having fun taking photographs.

Here's a better picture of the road, looking back from where we came, disappearing across the "endless plain".

Next shot:  a panorama will open if you click on it, but beware -- it's 14+ MB in size.

If you remember the prior blog post, we drove through the wildebeest herd.  This is just the far edge of it!

Again, to try and show the sheer scale of the herd (at least what we could see from here) we took video.
I twisted as far as I could to do a pan from left to right across the horizon... black dots as far as the eye can see. 

Zooming far into the scene we found vultures perched on top of a tree:

But we didn't need telephoto for everything.  Agama lizards were very active on the rocks at our feet:

It's the males that develop these flashy colors.  (Females and juveniles stay with a brownish color.)

Another eyecatcher here was the superb starling.  There were many of them around the picnic tables... or anywhere that scraps of food could be found.  Signs prohibit feeding animals, and trash can lids are extra solid.
Regardless, humans always create free meals.  These birds won't go hungry unless they overpopulate.  

Their coloring is quite remarkable.  They are not too afraid of people and would come relatively close.

A trucker was eating in his cab to avoid harassment.  This starling was just waiting beneath his window:

Another scavenger was much larger... and as ugly as the superb starling is pretty.  This is a marabou stork.
It is technically a wading bird, but has adapted to live near humans (or, more precisely, near human waste). 

This is a large bird!  Wikipedia says that marabou storks can get up to 150 cm (60 in) tall and 9 kg (20 lb).
This particular one was probably one meter tall (three+ feet).  He wandered around the parking lot all day. 

The marabou stork is sometimes called the "undertaker bird" because of its "deathly" appearance. 

We spent more than an hour at Naabi Hill, then got back on the road, heading north again.
From the wide open plains, the terrain changed a bit - with trees and hills more commonplace. 

At some point, probably around Banagi and the turnoff right going northeast, we stopped at a small village.
Here, we picked up two more people:  our park ranger Daniel, and a guide-in-training Mark.  So Frau A and I had our guide Prim, plus two other Serengeti experts - all with a rifle (the back of the Land Cruiser looked Texas-like)!

In order to camp in a wilderness zone and tour the Serengeti on foot, it is required to have a park ranger with you. That was Daniel.  Mark was a recent graduate of one of Tanzania's wildlife management colleges, and recently joined the same tour company as Prim.  It was a great mix of people - we were happy to have them along!

From left to right: Prim (our guide), Frau A, Mark (guide trainee), and Daniel (Serengeti NP park ranger)

But we're getting ahead our ourselves... that photo is already at the camp site.  We're not there quite yet...
After we took the right turn at Banagi, trees really started to have a stronger impact on the landscape. 

Perhaps an hour after picking up Mark and Daniel, we turned off the main road completely - just tire tracks.
This was leading us into the designated "wilderness area", where walking safaris are permitted
(although only around 3 companies are licensed to do this, of the 150+ that give driving safaris).

The trees are primarily acacia... which unfortunately is the favorite home of the tsetse fly.  Swarms of them.
The tsetse bite -- living off the blood of animals.  They are also the main carriers of African sleeping sickness.
The odds of contracting the disease were very low.  It was mostly trying to avoid getting bitten!
Bug sprays don't have much effect, but we stayed covered up and it wasn't a real problem in the end. 

Prim wound the Land Cruiser through field and trees, arriving at the edge of the Orangi River (see map).
The river only fills it's potential in the high wet season, but did have some water from the December light rains.

Did you notice the animal tracks in the sand?   We'll get to those not far down the page...

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

We'll try to give you a sense of what the camp was like.  This is a "light mobile camp", and not a permanent camp like most places in the Serengeti.  It gets pulled down and, ideally, traces of human habitation disappear.

Here's what happening in the video below:  I'm standing in the field where the camp is centered.  To my left, about 15 meters away, is the Orangi River.  This is the central landmark, and the basis for our daily hikes.
     - The video begins looking upriver, and you'll see the tent where we eat, not far from the river bank.
     - The video pans left-to-right across the field.  At the 20-second mark you see a walking path
       leading to the tents where Prim, Daniel, Mark, and two other guide staff are staying.
     - At the 30-second point, you can see the tent where we sleep, with an open "bathroom" behind it.

Here's a photo of our sleeping tent, underneath a tree with a small rocky mound nearby.  Right on the Serengeti!

The first thing we did was to drop off our backpacks inside the tent, and splash our faces with water:

Looking out from our tent, we could see the eating area by the river.  That's our guide Prim, standing nearby:

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

After dropping off our backpacks, we went to the eating area where we could sit down:

From those seats, we had a nice view of the Orangi River (looking westward, or, downstream):

We walked from the eating area down into the mostly-dry river.  It rained one evening while we were here, and the water rose enough to cover most of the area within the riverbed.  This pic is looking back at the table:

Did you notice the animal tracks in the soft dirt?  Prim came down and explained that he thought of the damp earth as "the daily newspaper".  It could tell you what animals had been here, and how recently they passed through.

We were especially impressed with large, relatively fresh hippo tracks Prim identified for us! (photo below)
The hippos passed by about 30-40 meters away from where our sleeping and eating tents are located! 

Prim explained that most animals will avoid humans as much as possible.  At night, some wander through camp.

We walked over to where the guides' tents were.  In the neighboring field, seen from their tents, was a group of wildebeest!  They were gathering together, because dusk was approaching and night = predators hunting.
In the brief video, you can also hear the clank of pots & pans as the camp staff were starting to make dinner: 

While dinner was in the works, they brought potato chips and beer to snack on.  Just perfect!

At this point, the sun was setting in earnest.  We had a nice view, across the river, of the changing colors.
Two things to notice in the photo:  first, a water buffalo skull at the foot of the tree.  That's "decoration".
Second, there is a small table (look far right in the picture) closer to the edge of the river bank... 

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

...our guides made a small fire, so we moved our chairs, chips, and beer out from the tent to the riverside:

Now we were right on the river bank -- you can see the hippo tracks again in the background behind Frau A!

We were told to listen for animals coming to the water hole to drink during the night:

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

After dinner we returned to our tent, and zipped up for the night (photo: looking back at the eating area):

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

For "just a travel day" we got to see a lot.  And now we were tent camping in the Serengeti wilderness!

We will spend a few days in this camp, taking a 3-4 hour guided walk each morning and afternoon.
The guides all told us to expect fewer close-up encounters on foot - animals accept a jeep, but they will stay hundreds of meters away otherwise.  However, that doesn't mean the next blog posts will be boring... just wait.

Until then, we can say:  that evening, we heard hyenas and lions calling not too far away.  Awesome!


Tanzania Holiday 7: Ngorongoro Crater - afternoon drive and Rhotia Valley

Our morning game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater was absolutely packed with animals.
But around 13:00 we left those grassy & wooded areas where we had just seen elephants and lions.
It's time for lunch. 

Our guide drove us to the common rest & picnic area, on the edge of the crater's Lake Magadi:

The Land Cruisers lined up in the parking area - Prim (our guide) said it is packed end-to-end in high season!

Some people stayed near the cars, while others found shade under the large tree on the lakeshore.

In Arusha National Park's eating areas, we had to be mindful of blue monkeys who had become scavengers.
At this site in the Crater, the yellow-billed kites were the animals to watch out for- and far more aggressive.

The kites kept soaring overhead, and would often swoop down very fast by anyone near their car.
They were looking for any open food, and we saw them dive and snatch unguarded items with incredible speed. 

The one advantage:  we got more practice trying to photograph birds-in-flight!
(We stayed inside the Land Cruiser to eat, disappointing these aerial acrobats I'm sure.) 

In a smaller tree near the parking lot lived a number of rufous-tailed weavers:

A trio of pelicans kept soaring -- much higher than the kites (they weren't looking to scavenge).
They circled the lake perhaps 15 times before heading to the far side, to land and settle down. 

Another frequent (but lovely) scavenger here is the southern-masked weaver.  They don't have the size or athleticism of the kites, but since they're small, they hang around nearby and try to snatch up crumbs.

This one would perch on each car in turn, eyeing the people to weigh the likelihood of getting a meal.

At the far end of the lake were hippos.  As usual, one was closest to the people and keeping watch on us.

After our meal and the bird photography, we started out on the afternoon game drive.  A short time after getting underway again, we saw another lone (and, um... well endowed) elephant walking along the grassy beds.

Also on the plain, small groups of water buffalo were mostly still, trying to keep cool in the afternoon sun.

We saw some lions near a cluster of trees.  One had just emerged from the undergrowth coming towards us:

More accurately, the lion was walking towards two others lying in front of us.  They watched his approach:

As the lion drew near to the others, his head dropped and tail swished - initiating a friendly reunion perhaps?

The newcomer nuzzled the other lions for a second before plopping right down to rest beside them.

A fourth lion (looks like a male), kept to himself - his spot was farther away along the same cluster of trees.

Further along the road, we found a pair of ostriches in a mating dance -- circling and bobbing heads up & down.

Almost on the other side of the road from the ostriches was another female warthog with young:

They didn't run away as fast as the others we'd seen, so we took the chance to shoot a brief video:

These two are obviously old enough to feed themselves, rather than relying solely on milk.

As the sun began slowly to drop, we headed back across the plains of the crater's floor.

We were going back to the road that would take us up the crater rim, and back around to the park gate.

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

While waiting to pass another jeep, we pointed cameras out the window to capture the high crater wall.

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

We headed back up the road, ascending to the top of the crater...

...and once at the top, followed the road as it curved around the rim, back towards the entrance gate.

It wasn't long before we were back in Rhotia Valley, driving past the farms and scattered homes.

Before dinner on the second evening, our hosts at the lodge walked us across to the children's home.
This is an orphanage for children from the surrounding area, founded by a Dutch couple around 2008.
As we arrived, the kids were just wrapping up an all-ages soccer game (one of their favorite activities). 

We were shown around the grounds and buildings of the home.  There are three houses (for different age groups, plus two "mothers" in each house ) around a courtyard.  This is one of the houses and the playground:

Our host also showed us their classroom.  Notice that the writing on the blackboard says "Learning English"!

One thing we loved:  each child is asked to say what they want to do when they grow up and leave the home.
The "List of Life Dreams" stays posted on the bulletin board as inspiration and encouragement to the kids.
We were told some have recently, successfully, landed jobs in tourism trades like cook, clerk, or guide/driver.

The hosts are trying to make this home as self-sufficient as possible.  Part of the childrens' chores are to tend a patch in the garden, where they grow food to eat, or sell/trade in the village.  There is one challenge:  the lodge and children's home are right on the edge of the Ngorongoro forest!  Every once in a while, elephants come out and raid the garden.  The kids know to stay indoors when this happens, but the fence suffers damage and must be repaired.
Not much is going to keep an African elephant from getting a fresh meal!

For further self-sufficiency, the home raises chickens also - using the eggs or selling them to the community.

In addition, a German man donated a new, simple, inexpensive system for collecting methane from manure decomposition - it was installed recently.  The children contribute to gathering and depositing animal waste into the "well".  A gas line runs directly to a stove, meeting some of their cooking needs (remember, 24 growing kids!)

Speaking of manure... as we walked back to the lodge, we observed this dung beetle, rolling, rolling...

Before dinner, we tried to capture the last moments of daylight:

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

I'm not sure if I like the "regular" photo (above) better, or the bracketed/HDR-processed version (below).

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

From the "lobby" we looked back on the children's home, and relaxed with some drinks on our last night here.

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

We ate at one of the tables behind the sofa.  They had a fire going too (barely see the fireplace, right):

Once last chance to stand on the deck, overlooking the valley, before turning in for the night.

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

The Ngorongoro Crater was incredible.  We had high hopes, but still couldn't believe the density of animals!
From here, we will head into Serengeti National Park for both a walking safari, and multiple days of game drives. 

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:

   -  Mrs J (Herr J's mom), for the game drive.  Ngorongoro was truly one of the highlights of the trip.  THANK YOU!
   -  Karen J, for the picnic lunch today.  We didn't let the birds get any of it!  THANK YOU!
   -  Landrea R, for the overnight at Rhotia Valley Lodge.  It was lovely and inspiring.  THANK YOU! 

In addition, the following guests from our wedding made a donation to the Children's Home:

   -  Martha M
   -  Brett A
   -  Mrs J (Herr J's mom)
   -  Ronald M
   -  Jaclyn F
   -  Karen J
   -  Mr. A (Frau A's dad)
   -  Teri K

Thank you all. 

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


Tanzania Holiday 6: Ngorongoro Crater - morning drive

After our day in Lake Manyara N.P., and the first night in Rhotia Valley, our next stop was the Ngorongoro Crater. The Crater is just one part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which sits right on the Serengeti National Park's southeast border.  Lake Manyara National Park (much smaller!) is nearby, just east & south of the "NCA".

Source: expertafrica.com

The geography here is part of the Serengeti ecosystem, but was separated and designated as a "Conservation Area" (vs a "National Park") specifically to allow human habitation for the Maasai and other tribes that have traditionally used the land.  No humans inhabit the Crater portion, but the tribes may bring cattle in to graze during the day.

The Ngorongoro Crater is the "world's largest, inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera" (Wikipedia).  It is effectively a natural enclosure that supports an unusually high number and density of wildlife.  The crater wall is 600m (2,000ft) deep, with an area of 260 sq km (100 sq mi).  Its Lake Magadi is, like Manyara & Momela, alkaline.

Because food is so plentiful, the Crater has the highest density of lions in Africa (over 60 total); they are also some of the largest and can keep new lions from entering the territory... ironically, this has led to inbreeding issues.
No giraffes, crocodiles, or impalas are present -- the first two have not been able to make it up and over the rim. 

Here's a map of the NCA, with a blowup of the Crater in the lower left.

Source: tanzaniawildlifesafaris.com

We decided to focus on wildlife viewing, and skipped Olduvai Gorge, which is almost in the center of the NCA.
The annual wildebeest migration passes through the northwest corner of the NCA, but this wasn't the peak time.

Arriving at the entrance gate, we waited a while while our guide Prim paid the fees and got the day pass.

The road ascends from the entrance to almost the top of the crater wall.  From here, there is a "T" - the road circles along the crater rim both clockwise and counter-clockwise.  You can't see over the edge though - trees are too dense.

At one point our guide Prim pulled over to where a lookout is being constructed:

You can see the clouds hovering over the crater rim, and Laka Magadi on the floor of the basin.
Although it's a soda lake, all rivers and other smaller bodies of water in the crater are fresh water.

The black dots on the crater floor?  Almost all are animals!  You can see roads winding across the crater bottom too:

We're not so great at assembling a panorama... but here you can see the landscape, Frau A, and guide Prim:

For a different perspective, here is a video where we panned from left to fight across the lookout point:

We went right when the road spilt at the crater rim.  After about 50 minutes of driving, at the "2 o'clock" point along the rim, the road starts heading down towards the floor of the basin.  That's where the action is.
It is still strongly montane forest, but starting to clear up -- with some animal tracks becoming visible:

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

When we finally reached the bottom, the landscape had opened up completely - plains with clusters of trees:

At this point, it was almost non-stop animal viewing.  We'd recommend 2 days here if possible.  First - zebras:

The video is a bit longer than usual, but in the second half you'll see the young zebras really playing around:

Here is a still frame from the video.  The "fighting" was trying to bite the other (and trying not to get bitten):

We also saw a few babies, and noticed many females pregnant (some looking like it could be any day now):

We saw a lone hyena running across the plain -- couldn't spot any others, although they usually live in groups:

Most of the water buffalo were lethargic -- it was still morning, and they hadn't roused themselves yet:

At least at this point in time, there were more zebra and water buffalo than wildebeest, but we did see them:

We saw some lions lounging too (what else do they do during the day?):

We were seeing a lot of warthogs and (relative) newborns:

Also out in the open, we next came across an ostrich, quite close to the car:

He seemed to stike a ballerina pose for us!

And yet another instance of a warthog mother with young.  We found this pair nursing from a skittish mom:

Far away from the road we saw our first black rhinos.  Like the buffalo, not very active at this time of day:

They think there are perhaps two dozen black rhinos in the crater.  This one was closer, but just sleeping: 

Driving further, we passed a lone elephant with a crowned crane in the forground:

We came across another hyena, very close to the road.  He was relaxing, to say the least (and staying cool):

In this picture, it almost looks like he has a punk mohawk:

He did a double-check that nothing was amiss, and then went back to doing nothing:

December is the short wet season, so there were some small water holes and streams that aren't there in the dry season.  This made a nice place for this sacred ibis to hang out (like the other animals, not very active):

There wasn't a mass of wildebeest... they seemed to be dispersed all around with the other animals:

The zebra standing here with the others is getting wide -- another baby will probably be arriving soon:

Not far away, a couple Abdim's storks were foraging for food:

The bird we saw most frequently that day was the kori bustard:

Further on we spotted the largest antelope in africa, the eland.  (That's a wildebeest in front.)

We had probably spent 1.5 hours in the open plains, until the road led into a wooded area:

We drove down branches of the road, looking for animals, and would turn around and head back again...

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

Far across a clearing, we spied a couple of elephants (but this is a reall zoom & crop photo - we want closer):

And sure enough, we spotted an elephant working its way through the trees nearby:

He was walking parallel to the road, so we got ahead of him and waited for him to emerge into a clearing:

Now we could get some unobstructed, close-up shots:

He paused to eat, so we switched to video mode to capture a part of his meal (fresh grass):


When he changed courses and went for the trees, we could really hear him ripping & chewing the branches:

He stayed there so long, eventually it was we who decided to say goodbye and continue on.

Prim, our guide, was so fast in spotting animals.  He pointed out a bush buck before it disappeared:

We emerged from the trees, and back on the plains we found a lion family near a section of tall grass.
All potential prey knew exactly where they were, and kept a good distance (seen in the background):

Cats are expert relaxers.  Frau A thought they reminded her of her parent's house cats - legs in the air!

At the edge of the tall grass, away from the females, was a male.  Behind him is a water buffalo skull!

He wasn't sprawled out like the ladies, but obviously still half-asleep.

Eventually he got up, and slowly walked over to the others (they are right, outside the frame of the photo):

Not far away from the lions was another skull - this time, the large bones of an elephant:

Further away from the road, near some water and tall grass, some hippos and water buffalo were grazing:

Another animal that we saw a lot of in the Crater was the Thompson's gazelle:

We spotted an elephant a ways out, but he looked nice framed against the crater wall:

We'd seen a lot so far that day... but it was still just before lunch!  We drove on towards the picnic area.

As we stopped for lunch, Frau A posed by the Land Cruiser.  She's all smiles:  we had seem so much already!

The next post is for the afternoon in Ngorongoro Crater, and will be just as large as this!

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:

   -  Mrs J (Herr J's mom), for the game drive.  The number and diversity of animals was amazing.  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. 


Munich Zoo - Elephant Baby

One thing that always drives traffic to a blog... baby animals!

On May 6, the Munich Zoo welcomed a new Asian elephant boy -- 117 kilograms and almost a meter tall at birth!  (No name has been given on the zoo web site yet.) Frau A and I went to see if we could "meet" him.  Even though the Elephant House is closed for renovation, we got lucky:  the weather was nice enough so they let mom "Temi" and son outside for a little while.

Here he is:


The time outside was a mixture of fun and training (training for Temi only, of course).  At the start, Temi marched out carrying a tire (with ease), and the new baby at her side.  She stopped for a pose and we grabbed a photo.


The keepers had a watermelon on the ground for them.  Temi stepped on it right away to open it, but baby was more interested in playing with a pink towel.  They eat the watermelon rind too, by the way.


Sometimes his trunk did not have the full dexterity needed to pick up the towel, so he used his foot to help.  So cute.  He'd thrash the towel around a bit with his trunk, then get bored and turn back to mom.


Temi really liked in the watermelon and chowed down.  (BTW:  notice the towel in the keeper's pocket for playtime, and the stick for training.  Also, he would tell onlookers what is happening with the wireless microphone, but only while interacting with other adult elephants, NOT mom and baby.)

Since Temi did the work to open the melon, baby could grab a snack too.
From a nice safe place underneath mom, of course.


Here's another gratuitous close-up of the baby.  Really adorable, afro & all.


After the snack, the trainer worked with Temi for a few minutes on training and tricks.   Here she is practicing with the keeper's hat, taking it off and putting it back on again.  The trunk is amazing - strong enough to throw a tire around but nimble enough to manage this.


In this shot, the keeper used his training stick to ask Temi to sit.  She then rolled onto her side close to baby and startled him - he shrieked for a second.  Then everything was back to normal.


Yup, this guy is really cute, but Temi is beautiful too.  There are some of the animals that you wish you could get in there and interact with... Frau A would take 'em both home if she could.


We'll head back later this summer to see how baby and Temi are doing...