Kaleidoscope of Tanzania, East Africa (October/November 2006) : a safari holiday through the Serengeti, Ngorongoro highlands, Tarangire and Ruaha
Day 11: Oliver’s Camp (Monday 06 November 2006)
We were up early for breakfast at 7.30. It was raining while we walked up to the dining area and there were lots of rain clouds – no sign of the sun!
At 8.45 we met our driver (Deo) who drove us to Tarangire Gate. On the way we passed Lake Manyara and stopped to take a photo. We also saw our first baobab tree. Legend says that baobab once angered god. It was thrown to the earth and planted upside down. They grow very slowly and can live for thousands of years.
We reached the gate at about 10.15 (earlier than planned) and had to wait for our new driver. Oliver’s Camp had phoned the office in Arusha to collect us with a closed vehicle because of the rains so our new driver, Martin, reached us at 11.45 and then we set off for Oliver’s.
On the way we saw elephants with a very small calf (the smallest calf we have seen so far). There were large groups of ostrich, a giraffe, some zebra (not many) and a few wildebeest. We saw a secretary bird, grey-crowned cranes, some waterbuck, a group of cattle egrets, yellow-billed storks, and red-billed hornbills.
I spotted a small cat in the road ahead but not one I have seen before so I didn’t know what it was – it was a serval!! They are mostly nocturnal so we were very lucky to see one! We also saw some eagles, impala (again only a few), warthogs and a jackal.
Not far from Oliver’s Camp we got well and truly stuck in the mud. The staff came out in a land rover to tow us. Tim, the camp manager, introduced himself and apologised for the ‘adventure’ we were having. There was also a guest that had come along to watch – he was trying his best to keep his shoes clean which was practically impossible! And the whole muddy episode was photographed too (not by us, by another photographer who was also a safari guide)!
The tow rope came untied on a couple of attempts but eventually they were successful. We were in a heavy land cruiser which is no good in the mud, it’s too heavy, and our front driver’s side wheel was wedged in a deep track. There was no way we could have got out without help! It has been raining here quite heavily for three days – on Saturday they had 28mm of rain!
We arrived at the camp at 2.30 and were shown to our tent before having a delicious lunch – we have bucket showers again and a dry loo, back to bush life :-)
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At 16.00 we headed out on a game drive and John joined us (John is here for training, Peter is training him). Because of the heavy rain most of the game has moved out of the park so we were mostly bird spotting! We saw superb starlings, woodpecker, crowned plover (also known as crowned lapwing), white-headed buffalo weaver, long-tailed shrike, magpie shrike, red-billed hornbill, yellow-necked francolin, crested francolin, tawny/snake eagle (couldn’t decide which one it was!), bateleur eagle (they have a short tail and control flight using their wings, so you can see it waiver as it flies), lilac breasted roller (they got their name because they roll when they fly), white-browed cuckoo, helmeted guineafowl, LBJs (little brown jobs), pigmy falcon, marsh harriers, flapping lark (they get their name because of the flapping noise they make when they flap their wings), ground hornbills in flight (they are normally in groups of four to six and don’t normally fly, they eat bugs and snakes), wattle starlings, pallid harrier and two African hoopoes (one of which Heiko saw eat a flying termite mid-flight).
Termites, now they are interesting things! The fertile males and females (Kings & Queens) fly out of the termite mound to look for a mate and they normally come out after the rain which is why we are seeing so many. They appear to be very poor fliers, not really knowing what direction to go and bumping into things etc. Anyway, when they meet a mate they lose their wings and start a new colony. All the birds seemed to be going crazy eating them from the air. They are very high in protein and apparently there are some people that eat them by plucking them out of the air, some others pick off their wings and fry them – really not my kind of thing, no thanks!
So apart, from the birds there wasn’t much else to see. A lot of the ground is black cotton soil which gets very sticky when it’s wet (and that’s what we’d got stuck in earlier!) so all the animals move out of the park (and certainly out of the swamp areas) when the rains come.
We did see a herd of elephants; they were a dusty red colour because of the soil. There were some young elephants with them too. If a calf can fit underneath its mother then it is under one year old. They are very interesting to watch. They wrap their trunk around the grass and then kick it in order to break it, then they shake the grass to get rid of the soil, ticks and other insects before eating it. They have a very poor digestion system so are known as gardeners of the bush since they spread seeds in their dung.
We later saw a huge lone bull elephant, and we also saw giraffe, hartebeest, and when we stopped in an area where we could see the other edge of the park (Tarangire is a very narrow but long park) we saw orynx far in the distance (but not very clearly as it was beginning to get dark).
Closer to camp Heiko spotted a bullfrog, it was huge, we saw a second one too – they were the ones making the loud noises all through the night at the Serengeti Serena Lodge. We were back at camp just before 18.30 and it started to rain, we had quick showers and then headed for the dining area (because it was dark we had to be escorted).
Over dinner we exchanged bush stories – Peter had some good ones! He has a friend that owned a cat and one day a python ate it. Since his friend had no photos of his cat he took a photo of the python with a big lump in it and framed the photo! Peter also told us about a lion that was hunting a hippo and had jumped on the hippo’s back, then the hippo ran into the water – the expression on the lions face, priceless!
Peter once had a guest that was afraid of lions and he assured her it was unusual to see them when on foot. It turned out that on that particular walk they heard a male roaring in the distance – the roar, you can hear for about 10-15km and it was getting louder. At first Peter thought it was on the other side of the river but it got louder and louder so it must have been on the same side as them. Then they saw the lion with its head bowed towards the ground and still roaring, obviously tired from roaring all night. The guest’s husband was holding her so she wouldn’t run. The lion got to about 20 metres away from them and was then getting too close but the lion still didn’t look up. Peter raised his hand and shouted and the lion finally noticed them but continued roaring and walked around them looking for his females!