Thursday, 28 July 2016

Tanzania - January 2016

Northern Tanzania is a classic safari location where Lions, Leopards and Cheetahs hunt huge herds of Wildebeest, Zebra and Gazelle. I have made two trips to Ethiopia, which is an amazing country with a wealth of wildlife. However, it does not have large herds of game and big cats are very hard to find. So when I was asked to fill in as leader on the Naturetrek Tanzania Highlights tour, I didn't hesitate!

Lioness - Serengeti

We flew into Kilimanjaro and met up with our driver/guides, Yusef and Leakey. They were very experienced and it was real pleasure working with them throughout the tour. We spent our first full day in Arusha National Park before three nights in Tarangire. After a short visit to Manyara, we travelled farther west, left the tarmac road behind  and continued on to the vast plains of the Serengeti. Our tour finished with three nights in a lodge overlooking the incredible Ngorongoro Crater.

Tarangire is famous for its Elephants and we were able to approach very close in our landcruisers. We saw mainly females with young of varying sizes. We had great views of Banded and Dwarf Mongoose as well as many Rock Hyrax. One of the highlights was a majestic Martial Eagle, perched in a roadside tree.

Manyara is famous for its tree-climbing Lions but we saw only a frustrating silhouette in a tangle of branches - we were to get much better views at Serengeti. However, the wetland birds were superb, including a frenzied feeding flock of Black Herons.

Serengeti means "endless plains" in the Maasai language and it is a genuinely awe-inspiring sight. As we drove through Naabi Hill Gate, a vast panorama was revealed, where herds of game number in the thousands. Lions and Hyenas can be seen loping along or resting near the roadside. We saw a total of three Leopards, all in the same afternoon. However, the highlight of the whole trip was when we were able to photograph a pride of Lions, resting in a large acacia tree.

We visited at the end of the short rains and many of the Zebras and Gazelles had small young. Near Lake Ndutu, we watched a Cheetah stalk down a baby Grant's Gazelle, as its helpless parent looked on. At the lake shore, we came across a herd of Wildebeest trying to cross; we followed them for some time as they repeatedly charged into the shallows, only to give up and return again to the shore. More relaxed were the Maasai Giraffes, who fed in the woodland around our tented camp; they are so impressive when seen close up!

Ngorongoro Crater was a fitting finale and here we saw our  only Black Rhino of the trip. We drove down each morning into the huge caldera and spent hours driving around the crater floor. We were lucky to witness the birth of a Wildebeest, which was on its feet and following its mother within five minutes of being born!

Ngorongoro Crater - view from rim