New-Year in the Bush

Zebras and Wilderbeest in the Serengeti

As for keeping our finger on the pulse with current information, do not fear, we are still alive and kicking although this update is slightly dated due to New Year’s coming into play and the whole team at B2B being extremely busy with the season. However without further ado this shout out will still give all that are perhaps coming through to Tanzania in the later months an insight as to the Great Migration’s movements and what is happening out there in the parks and wilderness areas.

A rare occurrence for both Ingrid and myself was the fact that we actually headed out on safari with the intent of viewing game and adding to our bird list – there was a slight work related mission as well but this did not affect our safari and would like to personally thank all managers, staff of Asilia tented camps for the warm welcome and hospitality throughout our stay.

Though short, the safari was perfect;  packed with great game viewing and with each new destination we uncovered more and more findings. First stop was out into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, as we were a bit tight for time we headed swiftly through to the wooded area of Ndutu where upon pockets of wildebeest and zebra where loitering and lazily grazing undisturbed by our presence.

The usual frisky adolescent males would come galloping through kicking and bucking as if their GPS nav gear had gone ballistic but on the whole the soft mooing and golden light that accompanied that time of the day let us take in our surroundings and breath in that we were actually on safari and not behind the screen talking about it.

As we did not know fully the location of Olakira tented camp we moved off at a leisurely pace taking in the sights, smells and wildlife, big bull elephants standing motionless only flapping of ears to tell that they were not wax models, a good number of birds species were concentrated in the wooded areas to which I will list in the next update for any birders out there.

Little Bee-eater in the Serengeti

The following day in and around Ndutu produced similar wildlife and again pockets of the migration down in the marsh area, there was a bonus sleeping lion hiding (not so well) in the shade of a low acacia and more elephant encounters before heading out across the flat plains to Serengeti. Migration for sure is on the Ndutu side and later to be viewed in Piyaya area east of the NCCA border.

Our trip through Serengeti was excellent I must say – the leisurely drive out of the NCCA and across the plains towards Lake Migardi turned up hyena with x 3 cubs suckling, as we crossed a bridge late afternoon we caught a glimpse of that golden rusty colour of a lion, upon closer inspection another female was well hidden panting away in a nearby bush. The ambience of the camp perfect with our tent being last in the line so we could sit back without disturbance and enjoy the rolling hills that fell before us taking in the bush sounds.

Central Serengeti bound, the plains were largely empty with the migration as already mentioned being in the Ndutu and Eastern areas of the Serengeti and NCAA, this did not phase us as upon arrival to an area close to Simba picnic site, our morning was to become very exciting!! A group of safari vehicles parked nose to nose were looking with binoculars at some distant acacia around 400 meters away – as I did the same a tweaked my focus – “wham “ a lazy leopard who had obviously been partying the News Years in was flaked out with all fours pointing vertically to the ground, this guy was not moving for life or money.

We moved off after 10 minutes of viewing as I time was short on time with much ground to cover and headed to an area known as white rocks or ‘mawe neupe’ in Swahili which was a 2-3 km drive away, what better morning could you ask for – on the horizon bobbing at a leisurely methodical plod directly towards us came a herd of 40 x strong elephant with young, on the opposite side to us already was a group of over 60 x plus enjoying New years day mud baths and abundance of fresh water.

Family of Elephants

This was not the end of the sightings for the morning as we drove in a clockwise direction of ‘Mawe nupe’ once again we met with no less than 8 safari cars all looking up into the rocks!! Immediately we saw a large female leopard changing position as it slipped effortlessly from one rock to another, as my binoculars honed in on her location seconds later a leopard cub did the same with a little more effort due to it being a miniature version of mum, and then came another!!

Nice I thought; mum and x 2 cubs, the mother had disappeared from sight completely but was heading as I tracked her to the opposite side of the kopje – there was nothing to see anymore from where we were watching so myself and one other safari car change location and what a bonus it turned out to be the mother had relocated already and was sitting pretty much in the open on a flat rock with cubs coming in for a quick face rub before they were lost in the heavy undergrowth as they explored this massive adventure playground. We stayed a further 20 minutes with mum and her cubs and left once the other safari vehicles got wind as to the show we were experiencing, we then headed off at a leisurely pace as we now knew we had approximately 4 hrs of driving ahead of us to the next camp location of Asilia.

Destination was Piaya which is about as far East as one can drive and actually leave the NCCA area through a desert, treeless expanse, hemmed in by rolling mountains, truly wonderful wilderness and a completely different scene from the main tourist trials throughout NCCA and Serengeti this was like driving on Mars!! X 1 main tire track to follow with another 20 either side to me, Thompson and Grants Gazelle throughout the drive seeing if they could out race the TDI Land Rover we were in, they kept up for 15 – 20 seconds before changing course with some finishing off the explosive sprints with awesome 6 foot jumps right in front of us. Not a lot of other species of wildlife out there, apart from a couple of lonesome Eland, a mud covered hyena and a family of banded mongoose numbering at least 20!!

These guys are amongst my favourite wildlife to date, excellent predators and fascinating to watch their social behaviour as they stand to attention to work out who and what you are?? Our scratch map drawn by Julie, Asilia’s camps operation manager lead us without falter directly to the camp, time to relax and soak it all in now and enjoy a hot bucket shower to remove the customary chocolate dust covered faces we had all acquired en-route. As I sat outside my tent I noticed a cloud of dust around 800metres away in a soft contouring acacia clad valley, upon focusing in the bino’s – I was met with the scene that you may have all viewed on Planet Earth or National Geographic channel!!

Powering through at full speed spitting up the red earth in plums of dust was a moving mass of wildebeest that I had time to call Ingrid and her 6 year old son Mwene who each had a turn to witness the migration in full swing until the wildebeest where no more and the golden dust cloud slowly settled back to where it had come from.

My morning was even better rewarded, as I sat with my black coffee at 06.20 waiting for the sun to gather warmth!! The wind was strong again and fairly chilly but I was happy to have some time to soak in my surrounding before having to head back to Arusha, in between hugging my coffee and taking warming sips my binoculars were scoring the horizon for movement, I could see a whole variety of plains game wildlife, zebra, varying gazelle and clusters of wildebeest all ideally hanging around the cover of the low acacia. Then it seemed someone chimed the gong and like sand pouring through an hour glass the migration started to peal out of the wildlife corridor to head over a soft rolling hill in the distance, truly magnificent site as from nowhere thousands of wildebeest joined ranks in a massive connecting line over the horizon for the next 30minutes until nothing was left apart from some Maasai cows and their herders who were also heading out for the day.

The sun had climbed high enough now to warm us as we sheltered in front of the mess tent protecting us form the bighting wind, we boarded the Landy and off we went back through the moonscape wilderness to encounter the sand traps and 8 inch dust filled tracks directly back to Olduvai Gorge – it was heaven to take a shower hours later back in Arusha and watch the chocolate colour water disappear down the plug hole.

Happy New Year to all

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