Sunday 29 October 2006
We kept waking up during the night wondering what time it was and if it was time to get up – going to bed at 21.00 is very early for us so our body clocks were totally off. We did fall asleep straight away though. The wind howled over the tent but we were nice and warm inside. It went very quiet at about 23.00 when the wind stopped and it was calm the rest of the night. Heiko heard the whoop whoop of Hyena! We were awake at about 5.30 and apparently there were a lot of zebra around the camp at that time. Just before 6.00 we were given hot water for washing and as the sun came up we had tea and coffee. It was beautiful to watch the light change.
IMG: Morning light
Olakira Camp, Northern Serengeti
At 6.30 we met Protty and set off on our morning game drive. Before we even reached Kleins Park Gate we saw two male waterbuck and lots of Thomson’s gazelle. There was a giraffe that ran across the road in front of us and we saw marabou storks as we approached the park gate. Today’s plan was to drive through Kleins Park Gate and head north towards the Kenyan border and have breakfast at Bolgonja Park Gate, and then follow the pipeline back to Kleins Park Gate. It sounded good to us!
Just through Kleins gate we saw another marabou stork on the side of the road, very close. They are such ugly birds! We saw a lot of Thomson’s gazelle, impalas, wildebeest and zebra. We came across a large bachelor herd of impala. Then overhead we saw 18 vultures flying low. They came from our left out of nowhere, crossed over our heads and landed in the distance on our right. They all grouped together on the ground and in a nearby tree. We looked through the binoculars but couldn’t see if they were with a carcass but it was quite amazing to see so many of them appear from nowhere and fly over us!
Further up the track we came across a tawny eagle sat at the top of a tree. It was an adult with dark plumage. After 10 years they are fully mature and they actually live up to 50 years! We passed some helmeted guineafowl and then Protty spotted a male lion not far from the side of the road. He was lay down for a while and then got up and wandered off. I saw another male further ahead and sat closer to the road so we moved further up but he got up as we approached and went to sit in the shade of some trees. They were young male lions, probably brothers, and didn’t yet have a full mane.
We also saw reedbuck (they are solitary but sometimes you see a mating pair). We saw giraffe and a herd of buffalo, more zebra and wildebeest crossing the road in front of us. There were many young wildebeest, perhaps 8 months old. We also saw some hartebeest, topi, warthogs and eland, another large heard of buffalo with young, and in the distance behind the trees we could see elephants. We saw thousands of wildebeest crossing the road in single file. Close to the road Protty saw a warthog with three young; they didn’t move away when we stopped but they’re normally very skittish. We came to the stream where many zebra and wildebeest were gathering to drink. We stopped for a while to watch. A little further along we reached Bologonja Park Gate and stopped to have breakfast.
IMG: Breakfast stop at Bologonja Park Gate
After breakfast we followed the pipeline back to Kleins Park Gate and saw ostrich and eland plus many wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle. We also saw vultures feeding on a zebra carcass.
As we neared Kleins gate Heiko asked Protty to stop – he had seen something! Sheltering in the shade of a tree was a cheetah with four small cubs. We stayed with them for a while and took many photos as the cubs played. We were so lucky to see them.
Soon we were back at the gate and saw some baboons with young. Nearer to camp we saw zebra and Thomson’s gazelle. When we got back to the tent we downloaded our photos and reviewed what we have taken so far. Looks like we got some good ones!
At 13.00 we went to the dining tent for lunch and decided in the afternoon we would go for a walk with Ethan. It started to rain and then it rained hard. We stayed in the dining tent after lunch to stay out of the rain and to read some books and were joined by Julius for a short time. When the rain got lighter we headed back to our tent for a quick snooze before our afternoon walk. The rain has stopped now. I hope it stays away for the rest of this afternoon!
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We met with Ethan in the dining tent just after 16.00 and had tea and coffee. The rain started just as we were about to leave so we waited a short while for it to pass. Alex (a maasai) joined us on the walk; we saw many things. There were a lot of impala droppings, they are very small. We saw a huge mound of them, the dominant males (in a breeding herd) go to the same places in order to mark their territory. We also saw wildebeest droppings – they are larger than impala droppings and are well digested since they have four stomachs. All split-hoofed mammals have four stomachs. We also saw zebra dung which is much larger and not very well digested as they have only one stomach. Baboon droppings are similar to human faeces and you can see seeds that they have eaten. We saw giraffe droppings too; they are slightly larger than wildebeest droppings and spread apart on the ground because they fall from a height. They have a ‘dimple and a pimple’ where they join like a string of beads as they are excreted. We also saw hyena dung which was white because of the calcium and keratin in the bones and hair that they eat – they really eat everything!
We saw the skull of a male buffalo. You can tell the male and female apart by the way that their horns meet. In males they meet close together, in females they are slightly separated. The male’s horns are also much larger than the female’s. We also saw the skull of a zebra and a collar bone of a baboon.
In the distance moving away from us we saw impala, zebra and vervet monkeys. We also saw a falcon in flight, and at the top of a tree we saw a grey hornbill and watched it fly away. We saw a praying mantis which moved very quickly; on the ground it is very well camouflaged and looks just like a blade of dry grass. Heiko noticed a black and white striped insect which we couldn’t identify and didn’t know if it was dead or just playing dead and waiting for the rains. It had black and white striped wings and its antenna was flat against the folded wings.
We came across a baboon spider hole and tried to coax out the spider by poking a blade of grass into the hole but we weren’t successful. Baboon spiders are quite large and are in the same family as the tarantula so look quite similar.
Ethan pointed out a number of plants but it is hard to remember their names now. There was a torchwood tree with large thorns that could easily puncture a car tyre. The fruit produces an oil which burns bright and so gives it the name torchwood; the roots when mixed with water make soap. A plant (I’ve forgotten its name!) with white flowers and large leaves is used as an insect repellent for the maasai animals; the maasai rub the leaves on their cattle and goats to protect them. We saw a red thorn acacia where the tips of the thorns were red. We picked some wild basil which smelt very nice (but apparently tastes horrible!), we also saw wild asparagus and a plant whose leaves are used to make bush tea. A plant that we have seen a lot of in the vehicle as well is the maiyana. When the ground is burnt (in a controlled fire) this is the first plant to grow and is very green making it very noticeable; the roots can be used to purify water.
We saw evidence of the elephants too; many trees were broken and the bark stripped. There was an acacia tree with large thorns and black swellings covered in ants. The ants have a raised purple-coloured tail and when agitated release folic acid. The tree provides the ants a home in these swellings and produces food for them to eat. In return the ants protect the tree from browsers by releasing acid; I think it was called an ant globe acacia or something like that.
Alex showed us how he used his spear (a bit like throwing a javelin) and told Heiko that he had killed lion and leopard this way.
We neared a rocky area and in a cave there were some bones that had been taken there and eaten by hyena and porcupine. We saw a porcupine quill just outside the cave, plus some impala horns. We climbed to the top of the rocks for sundowners and were met by the Olakira team! I tried some Amarulla cream and Heiko had a beer as we watched the sun go down. It was very cloudy but there was some nice colour at the horizon. Ethan tried to explain where some elephants were in the distance but we couldn’t find them ourselves, even looking through the binoculars!
When it got dark we were driven back to camp; there was an ostrich feather in Ethan’s car which prompted him to tell us he had seen ostrich eggs about two months ago and they went back every day to see when they hatched. Apparently the female lays one egg every 48 hours and in this nest there were 20 eggs. They all hatch at the same time and the female has to control the temperature for this to happen – by moving eggs to the outside where it’s colder and keeping the more recent eggs in the centre where it’s warm. Ten days after Ethan found them, nine of them hatched.
Back at camp we went to sit by the fire and chatted with Protty. His tent had leaked during the afternoon rain and he’d had to move his bed into the middle. Dinner was soon ready and was delicious, especially the pumpkin soup (which is Protty’s favourite). After dinner we went back to the tent for bucket showers and sleep. Tomorrow we are up at 5.30 and will leave camp at 6.00. Let’s hope our good luck continues…