Entries in kopjes (3)


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 14: Serengeti Walking Safari Day 2 - afternoon

With mixed emotions, we departed this afternoon on our final "game walk" of the 2-day Serengeti walking safari.
We really enjoyed the camp on the Orangi River and seeing the Serengeti on foot, but were also eager to see some big game up close -- which doesn't really happen while hiking.

We would make this walk with only two of our three guides.  Prim (our leader) had a bit of a headache, so Park Ranger Daniel and Guide-in-Training Mark led the way.  Mark suggested that we head into an area of denser kopjes, because leopards live there and might start to become active this time of day.

It would be a longshot to see a leopard on foot, because they don't want to be seen and sense us from far away.
But were were rewarded right away with some spectacular storm clouds and kopjes:

This had some of the most up & down walking we experienced, over rolling rocky hills with scattered trees:

That's Mark and Frau A in the above photo.  Below, Daniel forges his own way across the landscape:

On occasion, one of the guides would go ahead to check an area, then we would follow behind:

We strode up a long slope...

... and came to a great viewpoint looking over a broad plain dense with acacia trees:

Just down the hill was a river of stones.  The storm clouds would darken and lighten as winds changed:

Mark, ever the budding photographer, offered to take our photo with the "endless plain" in the background:

From here we started circling back towards camp.  We should be there just before sundown.

We hadn't seen a leopard, but we were still all smiles as the countryside is lovely and (ironically) peaceful:

We stayed quiet on the way back, giving us the best chance to spot a leopard...

...but did interrupt the silence with shutter clicks once in a while:

We left the hilly area and said goodbye to the kopjes here (and their unfortunately hidden inhabitants).
So no leopard or any big cat spotted on our walks, but that was expected.   The walking safari was GREAT.

As we arrived back at camp, the sun was sinking lower in the sky - a beautiful scene...

...that ended with a beautiful sunset:


After dinner we crashed in our tent, and started looking forward to the drive to our next camp tomorrow,
where we would have three days (!) of game drives with Prim... and celebrate Christmas Eve & Christmas too.

After the sun had slipped under the horizon, the rains came and put us to sleep:

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 all our family and friends who generously helped us realize our dream of walking in the Serengeti!


Tanzania Holiday 11: Serengeti Walking Safari Day 1 - Afternoon

At this point on our safari, we had driven in to Serengeti National Park to a camp off-road.  In this designated "wilderness area", our guides would take us on walks through plain and brush, to see the Serengeti on foot:

Source: tanzaniawildlifesafaris.com

This was the first of two days for walking.  We already had our morning hike, with hippo tracks, hyena tracks, a water buffalo (both live and a skull on the ground), and a termite mound.  This post is about the afternoon on Day 1:

After lunch and a rest, we met again on the banks of the Orangi River.  This is Daniel, our Park Ranger:

Our main guide Prim took the lead.  He always likes to look at recent animal tracks in the damp riverbed:

Frau A followed Prim, and I was behind her.  It was becoming a bit cloudier with a risk of rain.
December is the short rainy season in Tanzania, and it often rained a bit in the evenings when we were there. 

We came to another place in the riverbed where tracks showed that hippos recently passed by (last 24 hrs):

The river was not full enough to flow, but rain could change that at any moment.  The guides were alert.

Prim made sure we got to see an antlion up close.  It's one of the "little five" !

Here is a more technical photo of an antlion, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Source: Wikipedia (Jonathan Numer)

Prim showed us an antlion's trap.  He tried putting bugs in there to see an antlion attack, but no luck:

However, there are plenty of videos on the web that show an antlion attack better than we ever could:

Now late in the afternoon, the weather appeared somewhat inconsistent across the horizon.
In the west (looking into the sun), there were threatening clouds...

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

...off in the distance, an acacia forest glowed green with hazy clouds overhead...

...but to the east (sun at our backs) skies were pretty clear with the brush a little drier & more brown.  Interesting.

Our guides -- and the park ranger -- were always on the lookout for animals (even though they avoid humans).
Just after the halfway point in the walk, they hit the jackpot.   The sun was at our backs, and the wind in our faces.  Therefore, for animals walking towards us, we would be downwind and partially shielded by the sun's glare.

Fortunately, Prim spotted the animals before they detected us.  Two jackals walking right at us, 100m away.
Jackals are very skittish, and Prim explained later that this was a rare occurance, to see them so closely.

The guides motioned us to be as quiet as possible & to squat down - to remain undetected as long as possible.
Frau A and I tried photos and video, but it was tough with a lot of grass and bushes in the way.
I got this photo when the jackals were first spotted, and still walking closer towards our position: 

The video and other pics are not great, but I was able to cherry-pick some still frames from the video file:

This was their closest point, and the moment when the leading jackal discovered us.  Then they were gone:

That was awesome!  It really felt like you were THERE.  Hiding in the bush; no zoo, no jeep, just us & nature.
It doesn't have the WOW factor of the big game, but this is the unique experience we were hoping for. 

(We think these are the smaller black-backed jackal, also called the silver-backed jackal.)

From here we turned across a rocky plain and continued in the direction of camp:

I snapped a couple of nice silhouette-style photos of Prim as we skirted over larger piles of rocks:

As we took a moment to take in water, we had our guides pose for a photo (Prim on left, Mark right):

On our morning walk we saw termite mounds, but they were inactive and the new owners stayed out of sight.
This one was abandoned too, but taken over by a mongoose family who took a second to check us out from afar!

We saw three or four of the family appear, but most were gone in a flash.  This one was more patient.
Of course, I cannot think of "mongoose" without remembering Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.  (do kids still watch that?)

The clouds continued to blossom here and there, but the rain stayed away to the west:

Some parts of the riverbed had no water at all -- still greener than everywhere else, but no pools here:

I captured Frau A once when she turned around.  It's good practice for that quick Serengeti wildlife.  ;)

As soon as we crested the next bank...

...we were on the home stretch.  The dining tent is in the background, just to the right of Prim.
Mark is swatting away tse-tse flies, that were a bit of a bother around the acacia trees (got a few bites). 

From here it's back to the tents to wash up a bit, and start thinking about dinner:

Here's "our" section of the Orangi river, with the sandy "newspaper" that Prim likes to read...  if it rains overnight, then tomorrow we will have a fresh record of the animals that came so close to our tent during the night!

It was a little slow going at the end - the light was really nice, so I stopped a lot to take photos:

The camp staff (two of them) already had a fire going and were starting on dinner:

Across the riverbank, on the other side of the camp, a small herd of wildebeest were gathering.
They would be staying close together during the night, when the predators would be after them: 

Yes, that night while lying in the tent, we heard lion roars, leopard roars, and hyena barks - not too far away.
The "bathroom" tent was a few meters away, and it made the trip there (with just a flashlight) interesting! 

The clouds we saw earlier gave us a nice effect over the mess tent as the sun was setting:

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

Just like the evening before, we had a fire going near the meal tent and headed there to eat & relax:

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

After the sun was gone, and before heading to bed, we tried some photos with a light painting technique: 

Not bad for the first time, and by a couple of hackers!  We were inspired to try by this light painting video:

By then it was time to crash.  We were tired -- a good tired, if you know what I mean.
It did rain again that evening, but just a soft rain.  The lightening stayed in the distance.
We had another full day (two walks) to look forward to tomorrow, and hope they would be just as fun.

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:
   -  Edie C, for the guided walk.  You can see how much we learned with our guides.  THANK YOU!
   -  Amie and Kevin H, for the guided walk.  The jackals were amazing!.  THANK YOU!
   -  Judy and Ron H, for the camping overnight.  What a great view of the Serengeti.  THANK YOU!
   -  Ronnie and Jan M, for the camping overnight.  It was dry, comfortable, (and great beer).  THANK YOU!

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