Entries in flamingo (2)


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 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.