Entries in ostrich (4)


Tanzania Holiday 13: Serengeti Walking Safari Day 2 - Morning

For our "walking safari", we had only 2 days scheduled.  So walking up this morning, we knew it was our last.
(links to the first day's walks are here:  morning and afternoon)  At least we had more game drives to come...

For the morning walk on Day 2, we again started early-ish (breakfast at 07:30, leave around 08:00).
This time we would be heading north, which was supposed to have more hills and forest than Day 1:


Mark took the lead this time, rather than Prim who usually had the front position:

Right away, we saw some zebras near the riverbed.  They had already seen us and were retreating:

Daniel, the park ranger, spotted the small klipspringer on top of a kopje too!  He disappeared quickly though:

This next photo intends to give a better perspective of exactly how far away the animals stayed from us.
Remember the zebras from the first photo?  Two are running up the bank, and a third behind.  Way out there!

Most of the wildlife photos were taken with a 100mm-300mm zoom lens, with a crop factor 2x camera.
This means that in 35mm/full frame angle of view, it is a 200mm-600mm lens.  Pics are cropped too!

The zebras and klipspringer were gone, so we again turned our attention to the rocky Orangi riverbed: 

The landscape was lovely too, not just the animals... so the normal lenses weren't completely ignored:

Walking along the riverbank, we continued to look into the hills for more animals.
We spotted a bohor reedbuck -- like the others, very cautious and keeping far away:

Mark wanted to try our cameras, so I handed him mine & he lined us up in the riverbed for some photos:

That's Prim (main guide) in front, then Herr J, Frau A, and Daniel (Serengeti National Park ranger) in the back:

This was the view as we walked along the sandy bottom of the Orangi River.  The trees here have yellowish bark. Natives used to think they caused Yellow Fever... but it's really the mosquitos who transmit the virus:

We finally turned out of the riverbed, and headed up one of the nearby hills.  When we reached the hilltop,
we could look back and see the winding river, and behind it a vast plain with scattered acacia trees:

Here's a zoomed-out view of the acacia forest, with the Orangi River in the foreground:

We continued to the other side of the hill, with more scrubby/brushy terrain.  Two ostriches near the tree:

A few times we walked by poachers' old wire traps (no photo).  Our guides made sure they were harmless.
This area also has had its share of gold hunters (also outlawed now), and there are old mine entrances too. 

We spotted this giraffe the next hill over...

... but he wasn't interested in sticking around and posing for photos:

But, he did lead us to his friend (also, notice the antelope on the upper right of the picture)...

... and then we found the whole herd.  All of them using their height to spy on us from afar:

All other animals in this area watch the giraffes for signs.  These water buffalo already were jogging away:

After the animals had cleared out, we went back to traversing the plain:

Frau A always asks me to take a photo with the Olympus "Dramatic Tone" art filter, just for fun:

We stopped for a minute as the guides explained a little more about this tree to us (below).  It's called
acacia drepanolobium, or, the whistling thorn.  As usual, it is easier to let Wikipedia give the interesting details:

"The base of its thorns is bulbous...  These swollen thorns are naturally hollow and occupied by any one of several symbiotic ant species. The common name of the plant is derived from the observation that when wind blows over bulbous thorns in which ants have made entry/exit holes, they create a whistling noise.

Like other acacias, Whistling Thorns have leaves that contain tannins, which are thought to serve a deterrents to herbivory.  In addition, Whistling thorn acacias are myrmecophytes that have formed a mutualistic relationship with some species of ants. In exchange for shelter in the bulbous thorns (domatia) and nectar secretions, these ants appear to defend the tree against herbivores, such as elephants and giraffes, as well as herbivorous insects."


Our guides even demonstrated this behaviour:  they agitated some branches, and the ants came right out.
The ants were looking for the source of the disturbance, and to attack it.  A very interesting live demo!

Interestingly, a while later, we saw a group of park rangers drive by on some dirt tracks some ways away.
Daniel explained that they will look for poachers or illegal activities, help safari groups, etc: 

As usual, we would stop for some water and a snack at intervals.  Frau A found a natural bench for a rest:

Even on breaks, she was alert to her surroundings and found things to photograph...

... in this case it was a large dragonfly that stayed perched on a nearby branch for a while:

Our guides then pointed out a few more insects - here, a locust:

And here, another dung beetle, but one who has stopped rolling and started digging to bury it's dung ball:

But it wasn't yet the end of the big game for today!  A topi observes us from the taller grass:

Here are Daniel, Frau A, and Prim.  Frau A with one of her cameras in action:

At this point, we had turned back and started heading back in the direction of camp:

There was a lof of clay in the earth here -- with an unusual reddish hue that we had not seen before:

At one point across the fields, we saw the entire topi herd watching us from the far hillside:

They didn't like the looks of us, and started moving quickly up the hill and away from the humans:

One more look at the Serengeti landscape...

... and then following Mark back "home":

But wait!  There's more!  We got a surprise on the way back to camp - one of the coolest on the trip.

Here's the story:  Mark was in the lead, and he knew we were excited to photograph any wildlife we could.
At one point he yelled "Come here!" so I quickly jogged forward.  Sliding through the grass was a black snake, maybe 1m long.  He said "it's a cobra - get your camera ready".  And then he stomped his foot on the ground...

What does a cobra do when feeling threatened?  It faces you, rears up and flares its neck of course.

This is where it gets funny.  I was a little shocked, and didn't get a photo in the split second we had.
So what does Mark do?  He has us follow it in the grass, asks if I'm ready, and stomps his foot again.

I got a few photos that time!  Now that is what I call customer service - thank you Mark!!!

Now I would not normally be one to encourage provoking a cobra, but we're so glad Mark did just that.
We also learned:  it pays to have a young, recent-graduate, fearless guide-in-training on the tour with you! 

The other interesting thing:  when we got home, we had to look up exactly the kind of snake it was.  It was not really large (neither long, at 1m, nor that wide around) - so presumably it was a juvenile we had "asked to pose for us".

Based on the photo, we think it was a naja nigricollis -- commonly known as a black-necked spitting cobra.
I guess I was fortunate to stick my camera so close, when its venom can cause permanent blindness.  

Now THAT was a real Serengeti walking safari experience!  It was one of the really unique events of the trip.

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.  This day had the best big game viewing so far.  THANK YOU!
   -  Amie and Kevin H, for the guided walk.  How about that black-necked cobra!  THANK YOU!
   -  Judy and Ron H, for the camping overnight.  Isn't the landscape fantastic?  THANK YOU!
   -  Ronnie and Jan M, for the camping overnight.  After this experience, we didn't want it to end.  THANK YOU!

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


Tanzania Holiday 8: Entering Serengeti National Park

So far on our safari, we had spent a day each in Arusha NP, Lake Manyara NP, and Ngorongoro Crater.  We returned from the crater and spent the night in Rhotia Valley, on the edge of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

We woke up the following morning, climbed in the Land Cruiser, and again started west.  On this travel day, our guide would drive us through the NCA, into Serengeti National Park, and on to our walking safari camp site.

Source: expertafrica.com

As reference:  in the map below, the inset (upper left) shows how the NCA borders on the Serengeti N.P..
For this blog post, we are entering the park on the main road (in red, coming from the map's southeast/lower right), take a quick detour west onto the Serengeti Plain, return to the main road and head for the Naabi Hill Gate.

(In the next post, we'll complete the travel day into Serengeti NP:  continuing north from Naabi Hill Gate along the main road, take the right fork at Banagi, and eventually go off-road to our wilderness camp on the Orangi River.) 

Source: tanzaniawildlifesafaris.com

The Ngorongoro Conservation area has some hills... so it was clear when we reached the "endless plain".
Yes, there are some hills far off, and we'd see kopjes later on, but it left no doubt how the Serengeti was named:

Our guide maneuvered us around a bateleur (type of eagle) that was finishing a meal in the middle of the road.
It was hard to tell if it had made the kill itself, or had scavenged a piece of a larger carcass further afield. 

Within 20 minutes of crossing the border from the NCA into the Serengeti, we saw lions!  There were three.
One young male was relaxing soooo close to the road, just behind a small pile of rocks, 25m from the other two: 

The sun was already very warm, so he made it easy to take photos.  And so close by!

The other two, 25m away, stayed closer together.  In fact, the male walked over to the female...

...and they they mated.  We'd seen the circle of life already (eagle feeding, future lion cubs in progress)!

We were even able to get a short video.  We didn't think that we would be shooting lion porn, but there it is.
We're glad we did -- you can see and hear the final snarls and fake bites at the end.  What a great experience:

Here is a still frame from the above video.  They both give a big snarl at the end:

Our guide, Prim, speculated that the two males are brothersthat grew up together, and still relatively young.  Normally an alpha would not tolerate another so close by, but perhaps he doesn't feel as threatened by his sibling.  Of course, only the dominant brother gets to mate, with the other forced to keep his distance at this time.

After mating, the dominant lion laid down (photos above, below), panting a bit to get cool:

The female, as you saw in the video, immediately rolled on to her side and presumably fell asleep.
Also, did you notice that she is wearing a leather collar?  It's part of the park program tracking lions. 

And the other brother?  He didn't move a muscle:

After stopping to watch the lions, we continued north.  Far from the road, our guide spotted a tawny eagle.

We think it had just made a kill and was checking that the area was secure... but it was hard to tell.

Not long thereafter, we reached the edge of the wildebeest herd.

It's late December, and the short wet season; water & food are available.  At this time, the wildebeest are not in an active part of their annual migration.  Rather, this is the lead-up to the massive birthing in January and February.

At this point in the drive, there are not too many wildebeest nearby, but the horizon is completely covered.

It was a day of full travel, but it was not rushed.  So Prim took us off the main road and down a tire-track path.
In effect, he wanted to drive us right in to the middle (or at least a dense portion) of the wildebeest herd: 

As we drove, there were more and more wildebeest, in every possible direction.  Very cool to see.

Interspersed with the wildebeest were zebra, Thompson's gazelle, and a some ostrich like the one below:

In the next photo, you can see that there are ruts (old tire tracks?) running along the side of the road...

...many of these ruts held water from earlier rains, and the wildebeest drank from them:

They would jump up and run away before the car passed - the one on the left below is about to retreat:

The herd covered the road too -- it was like a wave parting when we drove through.
Most were busy eating, only taking a moment to either get out of the way or check us out. 

Ironically, it was rather difficult to take a photo that shows exactly how many wildebeest there were.
It was then that we realized why balloon trips are poular, because that would give the best perspective. 

During some stops, we took video too.  We tried panning left-to-right, in an attempt to share visually what it was like to be in the middle of that mass.  The video also let's you hear the constant vocalizations of the herd's members:

The next photo is pretty low quality, because it is at 600mm (35mm equivalent), and still heavily cropped.
However, it's especially interesting because of the carrion feeders:  a jackal and at least four vultures together:

We did spot a lone elephant, also far out into the distance, mingling with the wildebeest:

Eventually, we turned around and drove (through the herd again) back to the main road.  We continued north towards the Naabi Hill Gate.  The landscape started slowly changing - and we had our first kopjes sighting!

We made it to the Serengeti... but this was just the morning of our travel day into the park, to Naabi Hill Gate.
In the next post we break for lunch, then ride the rest of the way to camp for three days of walking safari!

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:
   -  Steve (Herr J's brother) for the telephoto lens.  It was on my camera the whole time.  THANK YOU!
   -  Megan A, for Frau A's telephoto lens.  Like mine, it never left the camera (& worked great).  THANK YOU!
   -  Heather M, for the telephoto lens.  It was a "must have" and made a huge difference.  THANK YOU!
   -  William H, for the teleconverter.  Frau A loves her trusty Nikon, and took over 2000 shots.  THANK YOU!
   -  Mr. A (Frau A's dad), for the backpack.  Your daughter used every inch, but no back pain!  THANK YOU!

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. 


Ostrich. It's what's for dinner

I've been trying to stick to eating relatively low carb, low fat foods. (With the occasional pizza and ice cream, of course...both are soooo good in Munich, thanks to a heavy Italian influence).

While I do feel much better eating this way, I do get awfully bored sometimes and am searching for new options.

I was thrilled to discover something new at the store - ostrich filet! You will see it on menus here as strauss, strauß, or straußenfilet.  It's not exactly widespread, but not really unusual either.  Many a German has travelled to South Africa and enjoyed the cuisine there. In fact, the store periodically has Steinbock (antelope) and biltong (South African jerky).

It surprised me that ostrich filets were cheaper per kg than beef, and they're quite tasty and almost nonfat. All good things, but the big question was, what do I do with it??

Luckily we live in the age of Google, and the ostrich producers wisely realized that not knowing what to do with their product is a big obstacle to selling it. Klein Karoo has a long list of recipes available, ranging from a simple filet to ostrich goulash, ostrich sushi, and ostrich shepherd's pie.  For our first foray, we chose the simple steak, with a shallot redwine glaze recipe from The Ostrich Growers' recipe site.

I baked some cumin/chile sweet potato fries and some proscuitto-wrapped baby green beans (blanch beans, let cool, then wrap with proscuitto or bacon and bake in oven).  And we had some nice Austrian red wine from our trip to Vienna.


While it looks like steak and tastes similar (minus, the beefy taste), you cannot cook it like a steak.  Ostrich has almost no fat, thus will dry out very easily. For the same reason, it absorbs marinades quickly and will take on the taste of the marinade more than will a steak. 

The best way to serve ostrich (to be tender) is a bit on the rare side.

How to Cook Ostrich Steaks:

Let the meat warm close to room temperature and baste with olive oil or marinate for 30 minutes in an oil-based marinade (without any salt!!).

Sear filets on both sides in a hot skillet (around 1 minute per side).

Season meat AFTER searing, so that the salt and seasonings do not suck out the moisture.

At this point you can continue to cook in the skillet another 2 minutes per side (to be medium rare). Then wrap in foil to rest before serving.

Or, we wrapped the seared filets in foil and cooked for a few minutes in the oven around 120°C (250°F).


Red Wine Shallot Glaze:
from Ostrich Growers

  •     2 Tbsp butter
  •     2/3 cup finely sliced shallots
  •     1 cup dry red wine
  •     Salt

Heat skillet over high. Add butter and shallots and stir frequently 2-3 minutes (until shallots are limp)
Add wine and boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Add juices from the meat and serve over ostrich filet steaks.