Wednesday 08 November 2006


The hot water arrived at 6.00 and I was the one to get up first this time – those birds are so noisy, I had been awake half an hour already because of their singing. We had a light breakfast and then headed off on a full day safari with our driver/guide, Nathoo.

For most of the morning we were only seeing birds and my list of names began to get very long… we saw a few sandgrouse to start the day and then the tawny eagle, Nathoo heard the call of a giant eagle owl (Verreaux’s eagle owl) and very soon after he’d spotted it camouflaged high in a tree. And a little later he had found another one – great eyesight!

We also saw the brown snake eagle, lots of male and female ostrich, pallied harrier, yellow-collared parrots, crowned plovers, long-tailed shrike (wagging their tail as if doing a robotic square dance or something!), lots of red-billed quillea (they eat a lot of maize so they are often found at harvest time), yellow-necked francolin (they are very common here – they are also known as yellow-necked spurfowl), black-faced sandgrouse, rufus-tailed weavers, a pair of black-bellied bustards, red-billed buffalo weavers, red-billed hornbills, and more male and female ostriches – the female incubates the eggs during the day and the male does it at night, each are camouflaged for that purpose. Their main predator is the lion who attacks during the night – during the day the ostrich would see the lion and run away at high speed. They generally lay eggs after the rains because they nest on the ground. A nest may hold up to 40 eggs and is a shared nest – the eggs may belong to several females.

We also saw an eastern chanting goshawk (they feed on mice and lizards), kori bustard, superb starlings, African marsh harrier, secretary bird (they feed on mice, lizards, most other rodents and sometimes even snakes, they got their name because their feather was used in court to sign when dismissing a case), immature tawny eagle, grey-crowned crane (national bird of Uganda), white-bellied buffalo weavers, black-chested snake eagle, Eurasian marsh harrier, white-bellied go-away bird (a male one – they have a darker chest), grey heron, Egyptian geese, male and female hammerkops, little egret, immature common squacco heron, fork-tailed drongo, a pair of lilac-breasted rollers, a pair of secretary birds, lesser kestrel, black-bellied bustard, female bateleur eagle, Eurasian chanting goshawk and a steppe eagle. I think that was most of our bird sightings in the morning.

We also saw hartebeest, warthogs, wildebeest, grants gazelle, impalas and slender mongoose. Heiko spotted lots of banded mongoose running about on top of a termite mound – he’s really good at spotting the smaller creatures! Banded mongooses usually move to a new location every few weeks and can have up to 40 members in one group. On average they live up to 10 years.

IMG: Heiko photographing elephants in Tarangire

We came across a family of three elephants eating the fruit of the desert date tree and watched them for quite some time. They were very red from the sandy soil. We both spotted lots of dik dik whilst driving along, mostly Heiko spotted them. Walking along the road in front of us was a large leopard tortoise, he went and hid in his shell as we pulled up along side him but soon came out and wandered over to the side of the road. We saw a giraffe carcass that was untouched, it was a large male, perhaps he died of old age – they live to 25 years. We later saw more giraffe (not dead of course!). They have a really large heart that pumps 16 gallons of blood per minute and their tongue is an amazing 47cm long!

We stopped by a large baobab tree which had a small ‘doorway’ in its trunk. Nathoo told us that the trunk was hollow and in the past it had been used by poachers. There was a large stone outside the doorway that would have been used to seal the entrance. Nahtoo suggested we go inside to have a look. Almost straight away I asked if any animals would be inside! So Nahtoo ended up going inside first – (a) to prove to Heiko that the doorway was large enough to get through and (b) to prove to me that there were no animals inside! Heiko and I followed him inside. I still found the doorway quite small though, but mostly because I have problems with my knees and can’t bend down too much. It was huge inside; in fact it was so large you could have had a dinner party there! There was a hole high up in the trunk (a ‘window’) that let quite a lot of light inside. There were also pegs stuck into the side of the trunk that would perhaps have been used to reach the honey – at the top there was an old bees nest.

IMG: Natalie coming out of a hollow baobab trunk
that was once used by poachers (Tarangire)

Back in the land rover and on the road we saw our third leopard tortoise, only this one was much smaller than the others. Nahtoo got out and picked it up. The little fella was quite shy and didn’t peak his head out for a photo. Nahtoo placed him back on the road but had put him in the opposite direction. The leopard tortoise seemed to know this and turned around before heading off into the long grasses!

IMG: Natalie holding a small leopard tortoise (Tarangire)

Heiko spotted some more mongoose, this time dwarf mongoose – they are very very small! We saw waterbuck with the white ring ‘bullseye’ around their tail, and a bachelor herd of impala. Then we saw a large herd of elephants on our left, there was a large bull elephant walking slightly apart from them. Then we noticed that lots of elephants were also on our right hand side, and further ahead some more on the left but much closer to us.

We were amongst a huge herd all moving in their smaller family groups. Many had very young calves with them. We watched a family of about 20 as we ate our lunch, after they passed us by a family of 30 came wandering over. It was very special to be sat amongst so many of them.

We set off again and saw vervet monkeys, a breeding herd of impala, lots of wildebeest, a lone male waterbuck, lots of zebra… and we very quickly stopped our search for birds. We saw a really large herd of buffalo – they are both a browser and a grazer depending on the season. When it’s dry they eat the grasses and when it’s wet they eat the bush (or maybe the other way round – I don’t remember now!)

We saw lots of vervet monkeys again, one of them hid down a termite mound and when we stopped there he kept poking his head up until he felt safe enough to venture out. We also saw two with very small babies so we stayed there a while watch them. We saw warthogs and more dwarf mongoose, this time we were able to take a photo of them.

As we were driving along, Heiko saw a lion on our left, a young male, and there was a female on our right hand side. We stopped to watch them for quite a while and got very close to them – they were very relaxed. Nearby was a buffalo carcass but these two lions seemed too young to have killed it by themselves so we looked to see if we could see any more as there is apparently a very large pride in that area – close to the Larmakau Camp. We weren’t far from Oliver’s by that time, and only had to cross the swamp – we passed the vehicle for the lion research project ( and stopped to tell them where we had seen the lions.

We made it back to camp just before a beautiful sunset and on the way back to our tent we met some new guests (from Holland) and after quick showers we were sat around the campfire – watching bush TV!

Dinner was served with minimal lights because of the large number of bugs around. I chose the place with the least bugs overhead before anyone else could but they still kept landing on me – some of the ones that fly should have a licence for their wings then maybe they would be able to fly in a straight line and not bump into everything!