Sunday, 28 July 2013

Ambush !!

This female Sparrowhawk made a few abortive attempts to snatch a meal from the pear tree diners over the last few days.

 Until she was successful , not sure what she managed to catch,  and not much evidence under the tree.

These shots were all taken through the kitchen window, so not as sharp as they could have been,
but a good looking bird.

 Have not noticed her lately, I'm sure she will be back though!

Jambo Tanzania !

A brief account of our vacation to Tanzania, 

This was to be a late retirement present to ourselves. A six day safari in North Tanzania taking in Lake Manyara, the Serengeti National park and the Ngorongoro Crater conservation area. finishing with seven days in Zanzibar to chill out.

We arranged to go late March in the school holidays, and as we found out later, the start of the rainy season.

Monsoon rains did not really bother us apart from the start of the safari, as you will see, the countryside looked great, living up to its local name "the Green Season" .

The plan was to fly from London to Nairobi,Kenya. transfer on a internal flight to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.  Where we would stay one night and rest before starting the Safari tour.
 A short drive to Arusha the gateway to the Northern Circuit Safari Route. and on to Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro returning to Kilimanjaro in Seven days time, from there, a short flight to Zanzibar and a beach resort.

 That was the plan.

 Disaster - Two days before we were due to go, Paula my wife, tripped on a plastic carrier bag in the school staff room and careered head first into a wooden arm chair, injuring her jaw and lacerating the inside of her mouth, this required a minor operation and many stitches. 
Should we cancel, we would leave it to the last minute.

The morning of departure was here, I checked with the insurance company, we were covered if necessary, 
 Paula's face was heavily bruised, she could speak,she could eat,
but she was not happy.
Two hours before we needed to leave she made the decision to go!!

After a uneventful flight to Nairobi,  we were soon on a flight to Kilimanjaro, where as we approached the airport we could see the snow capped mountain Kilimanjaro, things were looking good.

We rested in a lovely Boutique hotel called the Bay Leaf ,very quiet, surrounded by tropical gardens, away from the maddening crowds, excellent food.

Early next morning our driver and guide arrived promptly to start the safari, and we were off, heading towards Arusha and lake Manyara.

Disaster - There is only one road going through Arusha known as the gateway to the Northern safari circuit.
 Kirurumo River Bridge  that crossed the river had been washed away that night by heavy monsoon rains, heavy boulders, debris, mud, blocked the way, traffic built up and we were in the mother of all traffic jams, not only that, we were now a captive audience for all the local traders selling there wares.

Most of the day was spent here waiting for the road to be cleared.

Eventually, after purchasing many useful trinkets, a pathway was made, which allowed single line of traffic to pass, if you can imagine, on our side of the river there was now three lanes of traffic filtering down to single line to get through a small barrier, traffic was trying to get through from the other side, much stick waving and shouting, complete chaos. 

One driver tried to jump the queue by taking a shortcut through a storm drain, bad idea! deeper than he thought.

On a more serious note we learnt later that up to six people had lost there lives, when there vehicles had been washed away by the flood waters, and many homes had been damaged by the flood waters.

Lake Manyara was cut off, the access road covered in the large boulders brought down by the flood waters.

We moved on to the Serena Lodge where we were staying, the countryside was opening up, very beautiful, lots of birds and luckily for me our guide was a keen birdwatcher as well.

         Serena Lodge Manyara

                                           Yellow collared Lovebird
A new day,the sun was shinning, and we headed for the Serengeti National park. Here are some of the high-lights .

As we moved into the Serengeti we could see a number of vultures circling high in the sky, and as we drove closer the vultures were coming down to the remains of a previous kill looked like a wildebeest.
Ruppell's Griffon Vulture & African White Backed Vulture
Marabou Storks & Juvenile Tawny Eagle compete for scraps
First of the big five to be seen Cape Buffalo, complete with
 Red billed Ox-pecker .

Masai giraffe

Many good sightings of these Masai Giraffe, this one looks a little vulnerable,  how long would it take to stand if a predator surprised it.
Common Zebra

We were lucky enough to witness the great Wildebeest migration .

King of the Beasts and the second of the " big 5"

Leopards, these were not so easy to find, but again we were lucky enough to see this fine leopard and two cubs resting up in a Sausage tree.  We were told that this was quite a rare sight.
Three out of the  "  big 5", 

Two leopard cubs, one in bottom left hand corner,one in center.
Sausage tree with Leopards
Spotted Hyena

Some wishful thinking by this Black Backed Jackal !

Heavily cropped photo of two cheetahs in the distant Serengeti grasslands, only ones seen on this trip.

Serengeti Serena Lodge

The view from our balcony looking out on to the Serengeti.
  We had a Leopard prowling around the lodge grounds in the early evening, as my wife found out to her horror, as she stood by the entrance door asking a security guard what all the commotion was about.

We were now leaving the Serengeti after two days and heading for  Ngorongoro Crater.

The views from our balcony overlooking the crater at Ngorongoro Serena lodge.

Some of the highlights of exploring the Crater

The Hippo pool. 

   We stopped here for a picnic,and settled down in the shade of this tree to eat our packed lunch, our guide assuring us that it was safe as the hippo's rarely left the water during the day.
after several minutes the guide said, " maybe we should move as there was a nest of killer bees above us !!

      Believe it or not she picked up a signal and phoned home?

Some very large bull elephants here in the crater with massive tusks
we were told that these bull elephants head for this crater in there latter years as the living is easier,and it was a traditional place to end there days , many elephant skulls and remains were seen.

Four out of the " big 5" now seen.

Black Rhinoceros 

Distant shot of two Black Rhinoceros and that completes
                                    our " big 5 "

Good numbers of Flamingo's on view although very distant.

Every one is keeping an eye on this majestic male lion.

And the not so majestic!

 Ngorongoro Crater, lives up to its title of one of the
 Natural wonders of the world. 


Black-Shouldered Kite
African Fish Eagle
Tawny or Steppe Eagle ?
Greater Kestrel
Bearded Wood-Pecker
Kori Bustard

 Our Safari came to an end , a very memorable experience.
The safari was organised by a local company called "Leopard Tours"  highly recommendable, we had exclusive use of the vehicle , very spacious.
Our Driver/guide  " Lothi " was very pleasant, knowledgeable and extremely reliable.

 We returned to Kilimanjaro Airport for the short flight to Zanzibar & some serious chill out time.

Our Holiday coincided with the start of the Rainy Season
early April.  the rains at Zanzibar were heavy, but did not last for long, mainly  in the afternoon.
 One of the advantages of going at this time was that the Hotel we stayed at the Gemma Dell ' Est was only fifty per cent full which meant that we could pick and choose our sun beds, the dining areas were very relaxed, plenty of tables to choose where you wanted to dine, inside the air conditioned dining room or outside,the swimming pools were very spacious, plenty of security guards around the beach area.  plenty of very attentive waiters and bar staff. just perfect.

Garden walkway overlooking the swimming pool.
Our terrace and garden overlooking the sea.

No problems with mosquito's 
The views from our room looking out to sea.

Bar area for those evening cocktails!

Not much wild life, but these were noted around the hotel grounds

 Red - Rumped swallows and Lesser striped swallows nesting around the swimming pool,

Dimorphic Egrets fishing under the bar areas over the beach.
Common terns along beach.

Hunters Sunbird in garden areas,
 House Crows everywhere
Beach raft with Common tern and Dimorphic Egret
Fruit Bat species ? - outside dining room
Striped Skink
Dimorphic Egret

Fantastic Stay in a lovely hotel with beautiful gardens !!!

Back to cold wet England.