Friday, August 01, 2008

Day Six: Lake Ndutu then Serengeti

-It's 6:00 AM and pitch black outside. I finished a cup of coffee in the Ndutu Lounge and am waiting for Nixon. The car isn't in the lot where we left it and I don't know why. As I'm sitting in the bar waiting, large bats are flying through it. They are completely silent though they move very swiftly. Had their movement not caught the corner of my eye I wouldn't have known they are here.

I'm excited about this mornings safari as I hear the game viewing is excellent.

-6:45 AM...20 minutes in and we haven't seen any animals. There are bones on the ground and Nixon confirmed we are in Lion territory. He said he heard a lion growl next to the lodge at 5 this morning. I was sawing logs though.

-7:30...1st animal found other than an Impala. A Black Backed Jackal. We are driving through brush next to Lake Masek which is close to Lake Ndutu. I shot a nice photo of a Wildebeest skull with the sunrise that I am excited to play with.

-8:00...A dozen or so hippo's basking in a pool of mud and muck. We were much closer here than in Lake Manyara. I could hear them grunt and splashing. It smelled like a dairy farm and there were several flamingos behind them. Most were white rather than pink.

-8:15...A vulture chomping on the nasty remains of a mud covered zebra carcass.

-We made it back in time for breakfast. While the animal viewing was my least favorite to date I am very glad we came here. There is an undeniable charm and it's no wonder it is such a popular lodge. The weather is much cooler her than it was in Tarangiri and Manyara. In fact, it is cold.

I love using a skeleton key for my room door. Adds to the charm.

There were many Love Birds taking a bath next to the open air restaurant. They are beautiful birds. We are now packing up and getting ready for what I am told is a very long drive to Serengeti.

-On the road from Ndutu we saw and stalked a Cucunta-Cucunta aka Fisi aka Hyena. He was eating the antler of a wildebeest. This is the first hyena I've seen other than the glowing eyes watching me pee at Tarangiri.

-Soon after we found an African Golden Cat. He was pretty far away so even at 800mm f5.6 the shots aren't going to be spectacular. Nixon tells me that they are incredibly rare to be seen however so I am glad we found him.

-I am now at the gate to Serengeti. I've just learned I was ripped off in Arusha. I paid a guy $50 for 3 Banana Leaf works of art. They have them for sale here for $7 each. Grrr. Live and learn, it won't happen again though I can guarantee that.

While Nixon was registering and paying for our entrance into the park I climbed the hill to see the magnificent view. On a large rock up high I set my camera up for a self portrait. In my hurry to beat the timer I quickly sat down but badly misjudged the slope of the rock. My 70-200 was in my pocket and nearly fell out. I was already off balance, then overcompensated grabbing at my lens to prevent it from falling and slipped backward. It was as close to falling as I've ever been and I doubt I would have survived as it was a healthy distance down to more rocks from there. That would have been an abrupt end to the safari :(

-Wow! It is hot at camp!

The drive to Serengeti was awesome! We saw a bunch of vultures circling so drove we drove cross country to see what the excitement was about. We found a Jackal eating a freshly killed Gazelle surrounded by Vultures waiting for a chance to eat. Nixon told me that the Gazelle was more than likely killed by a Cheetah. He said the vultures probably then scared the Cheetah away from it's kill before he could enjoy his meal.

After snapping some photo's, we drove off and were thrilled to find the Cheetah panting rapidly laying down in a small patch of shade under a tree. Awesome Cat! Moments later we look back and see a Lioness walking towards the Vultures and the Jackal. We quickly race back and got there just in time to see the Lion steal the carcass away. She carried it off in her mouth and ate what meat was remaining.

The drive was incredibly dusty and hot. We got to camp and the heat was unbearable. It's hard to imagine that this is the cool season. At camp there were about a dozen or so tents set up. Some of which were very nice. I set up the Oztent and Nixon and I immediately left. I should mention that the toilets are holes in the ground with flushers attached. I'll have to figure that out later. Sure hope my stomach is better!

-The game drive was nice. It is dramatically different in some parts compared to the drive over. Lush, green and tropical. Many ponds filled with hippo's in post card settings. Even a small crocodile. Way out in the distance we spotted a Leopard lazing on a tree branch. Wayyyy out there.

It started raining very hard which is unusual for this time of year. We drove to the Serona Lodge to ask about a Hot Air Balloon flight. They are booked up right now but they've got Nixon's cell phone number should an opening become available. The book I brought with me says it's $399 though they quoted me at $499. It's a lot of money but what an opportunity.

When we returned to camp I was shocked to see nearly 100 tents all crammed together. So many people!

I may try to stay at the Lodge tomorrow night if it is like this then. It appears I am the only nerd using a mosquito net. I've only seen one mosquito this entire time and that was in the bathroom at Tarangiri. I promised Lea I would use the net however and a promise is a promise. I think I forgot to take my Malaria Pill (Malarone) yesterday though...oops.

I would like to have a lantern as all I've got for light is a flashlight. It's odd seeing all these other people in their dining tents. Not roughing it at all.

-Just had dinner. Swalehh makes the best soup! Tonight was pumpkin soup, we've also had celery soup and chicken soup in the past. Dinner was a peppercorn steak with zucchini and potatoes. Good meal though I'm craving a piece of that Copper River King Salmon I've got in my freezer at home. He also cooked Tilapia from Lake Victoria. Nixon doesn't eat red meat so I asked him to eat both pieces of fish.

"As Usual" Nixon likes to say...we will be on the road at 6AM. I popped my buddies Tylenol PM and I'm ready to hit the sac! Goodnight.

I have always felt so peaceful and calm during the minutes before the sun rises.
I couldn't resist getting down low for this cool shot.
Black-Backed Jackal
Rays of light shining on the Hippo Pool near Ndutu.
The sun poking through the clouds sending it's rays down over the Hippo Pool would have taken my breath away had the constant hippo farts not already done so.
Hippo's livin large in their own private mud spa.
A Vulture trying to find some meat in the mud covered carcass of a Zebra.
I loved the Lovebirds!
Boy oh Boy was I living dangerously here! :)
A Hyena trying to get some meat from a Wildebeest antler.
Nasty looking bugger isn't he?
The extremely rare Golden Cat.
This was the rock I almost fell from.
Kori Bustard
The vulture's have stolen the Cheetah's kill.
The Jackal takes the Gazelle from the Vultures.
Not much relief from the heat in Serengeti.
I think Cheetah's are my favorite cats of all.
She can just watch the others enjoy her meal.
Watch out Jackal here she comes...
Game Over. Nobody will take this from her now.
A classic Serengeti scene.
The Red billed Oxpecker has a commensual relationship with many large mammals in Africa.

The light was nothing short of stunning on this yellow bark acaccia tree.
Everyone loved the DikDik from before so I thought I'd post another from this day.

A small pool of water with a few hippos soaking under the sunset. A beautiful end to a great day.


Anonymous said...

Okay Matt. You HAVE to promise us that you WILL make a book with all your Photo's. I KNOW I could sell them. You just keep amazing Steve and I. The Photo of the Clouds parting allowing the sun to cast it rays upon the earth is beautiful. Reminds me of how the King of GLORY will come down from Heaven.
That Guy in the sky also saved your hi nee when He kept you from falling that day. THANK YOU God for keeping our Matt alive !!
Steve and Sherrie

Anonymous said...

hi Uncle Mat, Ella, Tricia, & Vinnie here....We loved the giraffe picture and really gasped and loved the hippo closeups...grandma loved the lovebirds and the sunbeams on the hippo pool!! good work, see you soon! love, Ella, Tricia, Vinnie & Grandma (aka mom)

Anonymous said...

Narrow escape on the rocks…. Glad you are home safe. I love the close ups of the Hippos. How many days were you there? Amazing story Mat. Make me feel like I was there. Yes as I said, you need to write a book. And the photos WOW!!!!

Mika said...

I really do love this blog. Really enjoyed looking at all your photos and reading about your experience in Africa. I'd go so far as to say that the blog has inspired me to start my own photo blog/journal as I move around the world. Thanks and keep up the good work.

Randy said...

I'm impressed with your tenacity Matt. You've started this project and you're sticking with it.

The hippo in the water is humorous in a way. Reminds me of a vintage photo of a woman bathing in a pond.

The trees are incredible. I wish I had a few of those in my yard. They are like people. Each one with it's own distinct personality.

Thanks for sharing your personal journey with us. Very awe inspiring. Helps all of us keep our lives in perspective.