© 2012 Dave DuniaCheetah1

New Year’s Eve…On to the Serengeti

Early New Year’s Eve day, we left Borana Lodge and started the long trip to the Serengeti in Tanzania. We started with a 30 minute drive to the airstrip, then a 45 minute flight to Wilson Airport in Nairobi. Here everything was unloaded from the plan and we had to clear customs to leave Kenya. The computer system wasn’t working very well and they had to keep rebooting so it took forever. We then loaded on to a different airplane. This was owned by a company based in Tanzania and owned by a Texan. It was the first charter that had both a pilot and a co-pilot. The pilot took great pains in telling us that the planes were maintained in Kenya, not Tanzania to make sure it was done right. Next leg was an hour flight to Mt. Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. They took a few bags off of the plane to clear customs, but not all of them. We got our passports stamped and they didn’t even look at the bags. Once the plan was refueled, it was back on for the 70 minute flight to the Serengeti and then the 60 minute drive to camp. We started by seeing a pond full of Hippos within a few miles of the airport. We also saw a warthog with 3 babies chasing a herd of Impalas. By the time we got settled into camp it was about 4 PM and everyone was too tired to go on a game drive. We needed to be back in camp by dark anyway so it didn’t really matter. After dinner, everyone was in bed by 10 and no one saw the New Year come in.

 

New Year’s Day started early as we were going for a long ride south to find the migration of the herds on the Serengeti. The area has had early rains so everything is green and the herds have moved much further south than was anticipated. We left camp at 8AM. The drive was great with regard to animals, but bumpy! We passed multiple herds of Impala, Coke’s Hartebeest, Cape Water Buffalos, Hippos, Maasai Giraffe, Ostrich, Common Zebra, Bat-Eared Foxes, and Common Waterbuck. We also saw our first mature male lion with his kill. He was allowing 2 Jackals to get very close to it but they were small and probably wouldn’t eat much. He was the first of 5 groups of lions we would see today including 2 more solo males and 2 prides of females with cubs. Both prides and one solo male were sleeping under trees to rest in the heat of the day. After 4 hours of off-road driving, we stopped for lunch under a tree. We still hadn’t found the migration in the 10,600 square mile Serengeti. Just as we finished lunch, it found us. A herd of thousands of Wildebeest ran out of the trees in front of us and into a flat open area. After watching them for a while, we moved on to look for the rest of the herds. We passed large herds of Elephants and Giraffe and soon found ourselves in the midst of the migration of Wildebeest and Zebra. The herds stretched for miles in every direction and as we drove through the midst of the herd, they galloped out of our way. We came upon a Spotted Hyena with a baby Zebra freshly killed. As we moved on, we found 3 Cheetahs resting in the tall grass. Just like the lions, they paid no attention to us and our vehicles. We headed back to camp which was a long ride off-road and on very bumpy dirt roads. We had to stop at the main gate to Serengeti National Park so the guides could do the proper paper work (pay the fees) and of course Nancy went shopping. More Maasai bracelets were acquired (I got chocolate chip cookies and a Mars bar) and then back to camp at 7, too tired to download pictures again so it waited until early the next morning. We did have a big problem with ants on the trail to our tent, but we will not get into detail on Nancy’s ants-in-the-pants episode.

January 2 we slept in, wake up call was 6:30 instead of 6:00 and didn’t leave the camp until 9. After the ants-in-the-pants experience, Nancy started wearing tall rubber boots from our tent to the dining tent and then change to her own shoes. We headed north looking for Hippos. We past herds of Impala, a Dick-dick or two, Maasai Giraffe and then found a leopard sleeping in a tree. The area was quickly surrounded by vehicles from other safaris, but we still got some shots. When we moved on, there was another large group of vehicles watching another leopard sleeping in a very low branch of a sausage tree. After watching for a while, we moved on and passed elephants, olive baboons and a couple of solitary hippos. We crossed over a creek, to the side of the bridge and found a large group of baboons in the bushes and on the bridge abutments. We finally got to the hippo pool and found over a hundred hippos in the water as well as a couple of crocodiles. There were elephants and a giraffe in the distance, but as we watched, the herd of elephants came down to the water to drink. Some of the hippos didn’t seem to like this and opened there mouths and showed there teeth. Several of the closest elephants backed away. After awhile we headed back south and came across a group of baboons in a tree sounding an alarm because there was a lion in the grass across the river. We found a couple of more crocodiles and Egyptian geese in a smaller pond as we moved south. As we passed the first tree with a leopard in it, it was gone. The second tree still had a leopard on the same branch. Tom tried his predator call to get it to come out of the tree, but he wasn’t fooled and remained in the same spot. We got back to camp about 2:30 for lunch and Nancy took a nap while I went out on a game drive and to see the sunset. We came back to the area where we saw that first male lion with his kill the morning before and drove off-road. We found three male lions and one female sleeping under a tree. We then moved on to see the flamingos in the pond. When we got there, there were hundreds close to the shore and 2 Cape Buffalo crossing the lake behind them. It was a great photo set up. After we had drinks and I photographed the sunset, we were getting ready to leave when 5 jackal came around. They started to run, but Tom broke out the predator call again and they came back to investigate. They decided it was nothing and never really got close. We made it back for supper at 8 after chasing a spotted hyena through the bush and then to bed to the sounds of hyenas in the distance.

 

January 3 was our last day in the bush with a flight out at 9 on the 4th. Everyone is pretty tired so we decided to make it a short drive. Leaving the camp at 8:30, we came across a troop of baboons on the bridge out of camp, as well as Impala, Cokes Hartebeest, Dick-dick, Vervet Monkeys and Common Zebra. We headed back in the direction of the lions and when we got there, they had pulled the kill under the tree with them so the didn’t have to keep chasing away the vultures. There were only 2 males and 1 female lion. When we passed the pond, the flamingos were gone, but there was a herd of Impala and about 8 Cape Buffalo. We passed a group of Mongoose on a mound in the field and then found a rare Caracal, which is a small cat that feeds on birds.

We went further down to an area characterized by large granite outcroppings. We passed Warthogs and an Ostrich before stopped at a Rhino center located in the Moru Kopjes (name for the area with the rock outcroppings) No Rhinos were found but the outcroppings were beautiful. We climbed one with old paintings from the Maasi and Tom climbed another to play the natural xylophone for use. We also saw an Elephant that had climbed onto one of the rocks to eat the leaves off of a tree. Then the adventure really started as first one vehicle got stuck, Derek got stuck and kept loosing his shoes in the mud and then after pulling out the first vehicle, ours got stuck further down the road. Lunch was later than expected due to the mud bath the trucks and Derek took. After tea, Nancy, Craig and I went out with Tom and Derek for one last game drive before we left the Serengeti this morning. We found the lions still with there kill, two of the males were eating away while the third napped. The female was nowhere in sight. We also went back to the lake to see the flamingos that numbered in the hundreds. there were also Egyptian geese on the lake, four Cape Buffalo and the jackals from the night before. Once the sun set (Nancy got a great picture of it that I will post in the upcoming days) we headed back to camp for dinner and to pack.

 

This morning was an long day with an early start. We were at breakfast at 7 and were supposed to be on the road to the airport by 8. We got out 20 minutes late and the driver drove as fast as he could to get us to Seronara Airport and our charter. We flew into Mt. Kilimanjaro International Airport to clear customs to leave Tanzania. For a $10 tip, the let the bags stay on the plane and didn’t do anything but stamp the exit stamp on our passports. It was on to Wilson Airport where clearing customs and immigration was even easier, and then into the cars for a 4 hour drive to Mt. Kenya Safari Club. We arrived at around 4, in time for tea (I really hate tea, but they had little sandwiches and eclairs and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast). Then all the women hit the gift shop, picking up MKSC shirts and buying more jewelry. Nancy didn’t buy any jewelry because she wants to look at the other shops first. Dinner was at 8:30 and it was back to the room about 10:30 to finish this post.

It’s 11:30 PM and that’s it for now. I will add more pictures tomorrow (and try and get them in the right location) but now I am too tired.

3 Comments


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