A Travellerspoint blog

Tanzania Day 8: Here Kitty Kitty Kitty

Today we met Maningo for breakfast around 7:30a in the dining tent for our last full day in the Serengeti. The previous day, Brenda gave him a cheetah postcard to put under his pillow and Maningo woke up this morning with a plan to find cheetah. I guess it worked. We were going to head east to an area known as Barafu Kopjes.

Right outside of camp we came across some giraffe


and some Fischer's lovebirds. I love these colorful birds.

The drive out to the eastern Serengeti was beautiful. The land was flat, dotted with the occasional trees and groups of rocks (kopjes). We were looking for cheetah all along the rocks.


Suddenly, off to the right, we saw a black and gold tail and I think we all simultaneously yelled, "Cheetah!". There he was. Standing on top of a rock in all of his glory, surveying the land around him.

Maningo stopped the vehicle and we all just stared. I told him NOT to call anyone on the radio! This was our sighting.


After a few minutes, the cheetah climbed down off the rock and started walking towards us.





He walked right in front of us.

Then he continued down the hill and off into the distance until he disappeared on the horizon.


Those few minutes that we spent alone with that cheetah were some of the best minutes of the entire safari. He was so majestic standing on that rock and at that moment, he was all ours to see. It was incredible!

A little while later, we saw a secretary bird sitting in the top of a tree.

This little black-backed jackal was hiding in the tall grass by the side of the road. He was so cute, you just wanted to reach out and snatch him up.


An agama lizard was sunning on a rock.

Some Thomson's gazelles (or cheetah snacks as we nicknamed them) watched us drive by.

In this area of the Serengeti, the land was completely flat with no trees, for as far as the eye could see.


Sadly, we then came upon a dead lion cub lying out in the open. Maningo thought it had probably been killed by a predator like hyena.

Just down the road, a pride was settled underneath a tree overlooking the river. We thought this might have been the dead cub's pride but of course we didn't know for sure.




There was an older cub in this pride.

At their perch just above the river, they were watching for other animals coming down to drink. One lioness spotted a warthog on the other side. We couldn't see the warthog except through binoculars, but she could see him.

She headed off in the direction of the river. The warthog spooked and she followed him. The rest of the pride stayed behind and watched.

We decided to stay for a while and eat our box lunch with the lions. Today we had a pork chop, fried veggie pattie, and a tangerine. It was very good but the lions definitely made it the best lunch of the trip!

The cub was getting restless.



During the time we were there, several opportunities for lunch walked right by the lions but they didn't budge. A couple of warthogs circled around and came down to drink at the river. A lone gazelle was wandering around down by the river. And at one point, a couple of jackals trotted by as well. A couple of the younger lions popped their heads up and looked at lunch walking by but nothing happened. I guess these lions weren't that hungry. The hunting lioness never returned. After a couple of hours with these guys, we went on our way.

There had only been four or five vehicles total at this sighting at any given time. This was a huge improvement over the large numbers of vehicles at cat sightings in the Central Serengeti. Because of that and the beautiful scenery in this area, this day so far was my favorite time in the Serengeti. I would love to return and spend more time exploring areas like this, even if it meant having fewer numbers of sightings.

This lappet-faced vulture was drying his wings on the road.

My usual position in the vehicle.

On the way back to the Central Serengeti, we ran into a herd of elephants.





A black-headed heron was standing by the road.

We came upon a huge traffic jam which only meant one thing - a big cat sighting. We saw the lioness on one side of the road.

And her two cubs on the other side of the road. We told Maningo not to stay here as we didn't feel comfortable with the situation. We felt the numerous vehicles were crowding the lioness. It was too chaotic after where we had just been.

You can barely see the second cub behind this one.


On down the road, a leopard cub was lounging in a tree.

Mom was there, too.


And so was dinner.

The day ended with more elephants.

This "teenager" was very annoyed with the birds making a ruckus in the grass. She kept charging them and flushing them out. It was hilarious.

On the way back to camp that evening, we had a flat tire. We almost made it through the entire safari without one. Luckily, there were no lions or hyenas or other predators around. Poor tired Maningo changed that tire faster than anyone I've ever seen and we were back on our way in just a few minutes. Brenda and I didn't even have to get out of the vehicle.

We made it back to camp to our nightly ritual of a bucket shower before dinner which was cream of butternut soup, fish fingers, potatoes, cabbage, and cashew nut cake. It was our last night with Maningo and we wanted to give him something special with his tip. Brenda came up with the Let's Rock and Roll idea. Since he always said that each morning before we left out, she found a rock from the campgrounds and a roll from dinner and put them both in a giant Ziploc. We gave that to him with his tip along with a bottle of wine. I don't think his grin could have gotten any bigger!

After dinner, we sat around the campfire with our favorite guests, an Irish family consisting of a father, mother, young tween daughter, and grandma BB. The Irish family was great fun, very outgoing and willing to laugh at themselves. The father was made to sleep in the same tent as grandma because he snored so loud. Grandma BB apparently didn't know she was coming on safari or else she wouldn't have come. So she was there each night in her little dresses with her wine and cigarette. She didn't say much but every once in a while she'd pull out a one liner. Also there was a young, Dutch guy and some of the guides and camp staff. We went through a couple of bottles of wine that night since it was our last night in the Serengeti and no one wanted to leave the next day.

Posted by zihuatcat 22:24 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania serengeti brenda Comments (0)

Tanzania Day 7 Part 2: Lion Lifestyles

After meeting Maningo at the Serengeti Welcome Center, we set off on a game drive in the Seronera or Central region of the Serengeti. We were returning to camp for lunch so we wanted to remain in the same vicinity.

We passed an Egyptian goose.

And a warthog finally posed nicely for me.

We came upon a pride of lions that had some interesting family dynamics going on. This lioness was lying peacefully under a tree with what was left of a gazelle kill.

This young male was interested in getting a part of her kill but she was definitely not interested in sharing. He sauntered over to see if he could make any headway.

But lost his nerve and turned around.

He went back to get reinforcements.



Which still did not work. The lioness wasn't sharing.

One of the lionesses, who happened to be collared, walked across the road in front of us and walked towards the river. She seemed to have a purpose.


The others watched from across the grass.

She came back from the river with a couple of cubs in tow.



Everyone converged on the lioness with her kill at once. She got up and moved it.

They all followed.


Then suddenly, amidst a lot of snarling, the young male jumped on the lioness. We didn't think he got any of the kill but later when I reviewed the pictures, I saw that he did indeed get a piece of the kill.

As always occurred with any big cat sighting in the Serengeti, the guides radioed each other which led to huge amounts of vehicles showing up at the sighting. Brenda and I both found this very disturbing for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it seemed to distress the wildlife. Some vehicles got too close to the wildlife or blocked their passage. And secondarily, it certainly takes the feeling of being in the wild away when you have to listen to the constant starting and stopping of vehicles and this is what you see.

While all of this was going on with the lions, just across the road a small group of elephants were getting a drink of water.



Once the kill had been split up, the lions settled down so we started back to camp for lunch. On the way, we found a hippo grazing by the side of the road. This seemed odd to me as I thought they mostly grazed at night.

The other hippos were hanging out in the water.

And another pride of lions were keeping watch over them on shore.

We arrived back at camp around 1:30p for lunch. We were the only ones in camp for lunch on this day. We were served gazpacho to start which was cool and refreshing. The main course was spaghetti with a creamy chicken sauce and pasta salad with olives and vegetables. After lunch, I called Mike and we spent some time catching up while Brenda rested in the tent.

Around 4p, we went back out for an afternoon game drive.

We passed a lone cape buffalo


and an impala family.



Some Egyptian geese were hanging out with a Blacksmith Lapwing.

Then we came upon another pride of lions.

Some were gathered under a tree, others were lying around in the surrounding tall grass.

As usual, there were a ton of vehicles there.

Suddenly, the lead lioness got up and walked across the road.

The others rose, watching her carefully to see where she went and what she was doing.


One by one, they began to follow her across the road.


When each one reached the other side, there was a bit of a greeting ceremony.

There was only one lion remaining on the other side of the road. Brenda and I were worried about her because it seemed like she was boxed in by all the vehicles and unable to cross. It was very disturbing, as the vehicles kept jockeying for position and coming and going. Maningo stayed at a respectful distance with the vehicle off. Finally, she was able to find a spot to cross the road and join the pride.

Once all together, it was obvious there was a plan already in the works. The females started walking out in a line towards some zebras in the far distance.

The younger lions stayed back and watched.

The three females separated and fanned out in three different directions.

By now, most of the other vehicles had left. We were glad because we didn't want anything to disturb the hunt. Maningo set us up in as good a position as possible so we could watch without spooking the zebras or the lions.

It was amazing to watch them stalk and carry out their plan with no real means of communication. Unfortunately, something did spook the zebras, they ran off, and the hunt was not a success for the lions. We left them in peace to try again later and headed back to camp.

We stopped for a couple of sunset pics on the way back.


We arrived at camp around 6p and took our extremely warm bucket showers. Dinner tonight was some tasty pumpkin soup, beef stew with rice, green beans, and cream caramel for dessert. After dinner, we sat around the campfire with some of the guides and staff finishing our wine.

Posted by zihuatcat 13:01 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania serengeti brenda Comments (0)

Tanzania Day 7 Part 1: Skies Over the Serengeti

Our Monday began very, very early. We were awakened at 4:30a to get ready for our hot air balloon flight. Just after waking, we heard lions roaring near our tent. I looked out the back window of the tent but couldn't see anything clearly. I thought I saw a shadow pass by but am not certain. Sounds of impala snorting (alarm calls) were coming from the front of our tent. It is incredible to be able to hear these sounds in the darkness. About that time, one of the camp staff came to our tent to walk us to our ride. The balloon company driver had arrived to pick us up. We had a few more stops to make at other camps/lodges to pick up others and then were on our way to the launch site. A few miles before the site, a pride of lions crossed the dark road right in front of us. We wouldn't have seen them at all if not for our headlights on the road.

We arrived at the launch site where they were busy readying the balloons for flight. There were three flying today. Each balloon basket was divided into five compartments--one in the middle for the pilot and four surrounding compartments that held three passengers each. We were instructed to put on harnesses that we would hook into the balloon basket.


Brenda had been ballooning several times before but this was my first time and I was a little nervous. She said I was breathing heavily! The basket was turned on its side and we each had to climb in and hook up our harness. Brenda and I shared our compartment with a pilot-in-training from England. Our other balloon passengers were a couple of gay French guys, some guy traveling by himself, and a family from Canada. We took off around 6:45a, just as the sun was coming up.




We passed over the top of a tree where some olive baboons were hanging out.


Once we were in the air, I relaxed and was no longer nervous.

Most of the animals we saw were scared of the balloon, unfortunately, and would take off running when they heard it or saw it.

At one point, we got fairly low over a burned area of the Serengeti. We saw a gazelle frantically running for its life, making a horrendous snorting noise. We thought it was just scared to death of the balloon but then realized it was being chased by both a hyena and a jackal. Our balloon interrupted the hunt and the gazelle got away.

After that, we went a little higher.




The shadow of our balloon.



A herd of cape buffalo.



A small herd of zebra.


We landed a little over an hour later - HARD! It was not an easy set down. We landed on our side, just as we had started, except there were some unseen rocks at the landing site and it was a rough, bouncy landing. Luckily, Brenda and I were on the top side and not the side that was dragging across the ground. I don't know how those people didn't get injured.

After we landed, we had a champagne toast to a safe balloon trip. Our pilot related the story of champagne toasts after a successful balloon flight.

The toasts date back to 18th century France. Balloonists carried champagne to share with the farmers whose fields they would land in to convince them they were actually human and not some kind of alien or demon falling from the sky.

The snooty French gay guys (who were wearing matching scarves) refused to partake in the champagne because it was not good enough quality for them. They also spent most of the day making fun of everyone and everything in French and stinking up the place with their cologne. We felt sorry for their safari guide.

Our balloon pilot had been a pilot for 17 years and he was the first Tanzanian-born balloon pilot. He received his training in Northern California and came to work for this balloon company on the condition that they hire and train a certain percentage of Tanzanian balloon pilots. His tie had little cheetahs all over it!

After our toast, we were driven to another location in the Serengeti for a full English breakfast (and more champagne). We sat next to the family from Canada. They were a widowed father with his two grown children (older teens or younger twenties) and his deceased wife's sister. The father and mother had previously been to Tanzania and done the balloon flight. This was her favorite place in the Serengeti (although I'm sure the breakfast site changes from time to time). The father and mother had planned to travel back to Tanzania to renew their wedding vows but before that could happen she died of cancer. The family was taking this trip to honor her memory and show her children her favorite place. But the kids were acting like spoiled brats. There were a few bees buzzing around because of the orange juice, champagne, etc. They were freaking out and causing a major scene about it. One went so far as to skip breakfast and sit in the truck.

Despite all of that, the breakfast set up was lovely. The full English breakfast consisted of eggs, sausage, bacon, tomato, and mushrooms.

The three small buildings in the background are what is called "loo with a view." When you walk around the backside, there is a toilet and there is no door. As you sit on the toilet, you have an unimpeded view of the Serengeti. Since I'm from the country, I've done my share of going to the bathroom outside but the loo with a view was a new one for even me.


Hand washing station.

After breakfast, around 10:30a, we were driven to the Serengeti Welcome Center to meet up with Maningo and begin our day of safari.

Posted by zihuatcat 21:57 Archived in Tanzania Tagged balloon tanzania serengeti brenda Comments (0)

Tanzania Day 6: Hip Hip Hippo-ray!

The next morning we met Maningo in the dining tent for breakfast around 6:30a. Breakfast at Serengeti Wilderness Camp was usually the same each morning. There was a table of fruits and cereals set out and hot items such as eggs and bacon were cooked to order. They also had some very good homemade peanut butter that I put on toast each day.

It was our plan today to find the migration. Millions of wildebeest, accompanied by large numbers of zebra, follow a circuitous route through the Serengeti each year. The pattern is fairly predictable so depending on the time of year, the guides and trip operators can somewhat predict where the herds will be. In June, they usually congregate somewhere along the western corridor of the Serengeti before crossing the Grumeti River. Since we were in the Central Serengeti, we headed west to see if we could catch up to them.

On the way, we saw a sacred ibis and some giraffe and topi.



We startled a bachelor herd of impala crossing the road. There was one female amongst the herd. Maningo referred to her as a "lucky girl." Brenda and I looked at each other, laughing, and said we sure didn't think so.

Finally, we came upon the migration. In this area, the wildebeest break up into smaller herds before heading north.


Some of the wildebeest milling around were limping. This was very sad to see because we knew the fate that awaited them. They would not last long.

This group of wildies and zebras were drinking and seemed expecially nervous and skittish.

We didn't think much of it. All of the zebras we had seen so far had been skittish. But then suddenly, from nowhere, a single hyena came running into the herd. Everyone scattered. I immediately thought of the limping wildebeest that we had just seen. But the hyena wasn't interested in food apparently. It ran through the herd and continued on its way.

On down the road a warthog family was having a late breakfast. This was the first time the warthogs hadn't bolted the second we stopped the truck. They are so cute when they run as their tails stick straight up in the air but that doesn't make for very good photos. I was glad they stayed put.

Some olive baboons were wandering around with elephants in the background.


We came upon a much larger herd of wildebeest, walking in long lines. Every once in a while, something unidentifiable would spook them and they would start running and jumping. We decided this was how so many of them got injured. They didn't appear to be the smartest animals, poor things.



We watched the wildies for a while then drove to a small pool of water to look for hippos and crocs. A marabou stork was sitting on the banks surrounded by several yellow-billed storks.

A small group of hippos were sunning on the bank as well. The dominant male was clearly visible (the one with poop on his butt) and there were a couple of babies there, too.


By now it was almost noon and we were getting hungry so we drove over to the Grumeti airstrip to eat our lunchboxes. The day's lunch was pretty good and consisted mainly of a beef pattie and a fried vegetable pattie. We had to fend off a few birds to make sure we got our fill.

After lunch, Maningo took us to a swinging bridge used by one of the camps when the roads sometimes flood. Usually there are crocs in the water under the bridge but today none could be found.


We made our way to a larger hippo pool where there were lots of hippos and several crocs hanging around.











We stayed at the hippo pool for quite a while, listening to the grunts and splashes. On our way back to camp, we came across some lions lying in very tall grass. They were hard to photo and in my inexperience, I allowed the camera to auto focus on the grass instead of the lions so the photos I did get are not good. But the gist is clear.



We made it back to camp around 6p and were welcomed by Claudio and the staff. They immediately got some hot water ready for our showers so we could be refreshed before dinner. At this camp, you are allowed one bucket of water per shower which is warmed over a campfire by the staff then poured into the bucket behind your tent. To make it last, you must turn the water on and off throughout the shower when you're not using it (i.e.., during the lather and shampoo phases of the shower). It sounds unpleasant but actually, these were the best showers we had during the whole safari. They were always warm and a bucket of water lasted the whole shower.

Dinner was vegetable soup, beef lasagna, potatoes, vegetables, and salad. My notes do not include what was for dessert although I'm sure there was one. We washed it down again with a bottle of red South African wine. After dinner, we sat around the campfire with some of the staff, Maningo, and another guide named George who had quite the personality. George was guiding a couple from Colorado but they didn't join in the after dinner activities (and seemed a bit stuffy and unfriendly). When the wine was gone, we called it a night.

Posted by zihuatcat 20:34 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania serengeti brenda Comments (0)

Tanzania Day 5 Part 2: Let's Rock and Roll

A little over an hour later, we arrived at the gate to the Serengeti National Park.

We were met at the gate by two Maasai boys, wearing all black, with white painted faces. Their clothes and face paint meant they were newly circumcised. They must dress like this during the healing process. It seems they hang out at the gate so that tourists can pay them to take pictures of them. I have a personal policy that I refuse to pay people for pictures so I was not interested and wouldn't take their picture. Brenda, however, wanted to give them something anyway so she gave them the leftover fruits from our lunchboxes.

Just inside the gate, we were welcomed by a curious giraffe.

We stopped at the welcome center so that Maningo could pay our entrance fees and get us registered. I don't really know what all is involved in this process but in every park we entered, this process seemed to take forever. It was especially long in the Serengeti. Brenda and I had time to walk up to the gift shop where I purchased some additional phone minutes and she purchased some souvenirs including a leopard bookmark, hippo magnet, various postcards of cheetahs and lions, and a beaded Tanzanian flag bracelet just like the one Maningo wore.

After that, we walked up to the overlook so that we could have an unimpeded view of the Serengeti before us.

Serengeti means "endless plains" in the Maasai language

This is the road we drove into the Serengeti

Finally, our paperwork was in order and when Maningo returned to the truck he said, "Let's rock and roll." This is always what he said when he was ready to go. He had a funny way of rolling his r's but not in the Spanish way. So we set off into the Serengeti. Along this stretch, we were constantly having to dodge the suicidal Thomson's gazelles who would suddenly leap in front of the vehicle with no notice whatsoever.

A couple of shy female reedbucks were grazing on the side of the road

A secretary bird was stomping some prey further down

We saw a car stopped up ahead on the right and we pulled in behind it to see what they might be looking at. A lone lioness was drinking from a large puddle of water by the side of the road. It was so quiet that we could actually hear her tongue lapping at the water.

She got up and walked around some, checking out the surroundings.


She took one more drink then sauntered off into the grass.

Shortly afterwards, someone contacted Maningo on the radio and they had a conversation in Swahili. This was a pretty common occurrence and we had no idea what had transpired. Maningo was being very secretive. Brenda pressed him for additional information so Maningo took the leopard bookmark she had just purchased and placed it across his forehead. We knew then...leopards had been spotted.

A mom in a tree

And her cub climbing up


We watched for a while until both leopards came down the tree and wandered over to a nearby dead tree on the ground.

Mom climbed to the top limb where she was most likely surveying the land to plan for dinner.

Pretty high from our lion and leopard sightings, we headed towards camp for the evening. On the way, we passed an area with some tall grass. Maningo suddenly stopped and yelled "Lions!" Brenda and I were looking around and looking around and we didn't see them. Maningo motioned that they were on the right. So we looked again and sure enough, we could see black ears sticking up out of the grass. There was a pride of lions lying in the grass just off the road to the right. One lioness stood up to take a look at us.



A little while later we finally made it to Serengeti Wilderness Camp. We were greeted by Claudio, the manager, who showed us to our tent for the next four nights and gave us a quick orientation before dinner. The Serengeti Wilderness Camp is a seasonal camp that moves within the park every three to six months. By moving, it can follow the migration and have less of an impact on the environment.

Our tent, powered all by solar panels, bucket shower is in the back

Inside our tent



View from our tent of the bar tent (left) and dining tent (right)

Inside the bar tent

Inside the dining tent. At this camp, each group and their guide dines at a separate table. It was great to have Maningo join us for meals.

After the tour and a wonderfully warm shower, we joined Maningo in the dining tent for dinner (served every night at 7:30p sharp). Dinner was always a three course affair at this camp--soup, main course, and dessert. Our first night began with celery soup. Now this chef knew how to make soup; it was creamy and tasty like soup should be. The main course was lamb with vegetables and dessert was a vanilla mousse. We washed it all down with a bottle of red South African wine. It had been a very long day so right after dinner, Brenda and I went straight to bed.

Posted by zihuatcat 20:38 Archived in Tanzania Tagged tanzania serengeti brenda Comments (0)

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