Day 16: Mwagusi Safari Camp

Kaleidoscope of Tanzania, East Africa (October/November 2006) : a safari holiday through the Serengeti, Ngorongoro highlands, Tarangire and Ruaha

Day 16: Mwagusi Safari Camp (Saturday 11 November 2006)

 

Heiko heard the hyena and lions around the camp last night. Apparently the lions were really loud. He woke me up so I could hear them too but I was in such a deep sleep that it took quite some effort to wake me from my (strange) dream and then I was only half awake so I don’t remember hearing anything. The lions were roaring in a low tone, one near and one further away and then doing short grunts. A few of the other guests had also heard them, I wish I had.

We were awake with the sun this morning (again) and it was a good thing too – our 5.45 wake up call with tea and coffee only came at 6.20! We were wondering what had happened – especially with this lion story Heiko had told me about! We went straight to our vehicle and met Haeibu (our guide) and Bahati (our driver). We were meant to have Geoffrey take us but he was feeling very ill last night and his eyes were swollen so he was resting today, hope he will be ok soon.

Soon after we headed out we saw a group of impala, one of the males had only one horn – he must have lost the other during a fight. Heiko asked about the helmeted guineafowl that we keep seeing to find out if their silly looking helmets are for fighting – they are! They really look like little soldiers especially when they all run off together; all they need is a spear or something!

We saw some baboons resting at the very top of a tree – they sleep in the top branches during the night and are mostly on the ground during the day. Their main predator is the leopard. Baboons live in very large groups of up to 150 together! We also saw some vervet monkeys eating the seeds of an acacia tree; they live in much smaller groups of up to 15.

We seemed to be driving through a baobab forest. There were so many of them for a long time. We saw a couple of dik dik and some eland – with eland the male stays with the family group, both males and females have horns. We saw a family of elephants moving quickly through the bush. They were almost walking single file and had young calves with them. One of the larger ones, a male, was in musth – you could see the dark patch on the sides of his head, only males have this. Elephants can communicate with ultra sound; they must have done so while we were watching them because all of them suddenly moved off at the same time!

We also saw a young giraffe, warthogs, a magpie shrike and two dwarf mongooses running about the bush floor. We saw zebras and bush hyraxes warming themselves in the sun and we saw a white-backed vulture sat high up in a tree.

We stopped for breakfast by Ruaha River which is dry at the moment so we watched the baboons play in the sandbed and the impalas nearby. We asked Haeibu and Bahati what their favourite animals are – cheetah and leopard (respectively). We of course also like the big cats – I’d love to see a cheetah chase its prey! It was getting warm (a little over 30°C in the shade) by the time we moved on and could tell the animals were feeling the scorching heat too – all the zebra were huddled around trees in the shade and a male waterbuck was also resting in the shade of a tree.

We saw a young zebra foal that was probably only two months old. When they are born they have brown fur on their backs which they lose after six months. We also saw giraffe with a very young one. We saw loads of giraffe today! We saw slender mongooses running amongst the scrub and had our first sighting of buffalo in Ruaha, a herd of about 100 – which, according to our guide, is only a small group.

We saw a fish eagle in flight and another later sat in a tree. We found some water that was occupied by hippo, and a saddle-billed stork and a grey heron were nearby. We saw a second group of buffalo and then a third group. Some zebra were close to the road so we took some close-up photos of their faces. We saw grants gazelle, black-backed jackal and more zebra and giraffe. A young giraffe that we saw was only about two weeks old, very cute!

We saw a family of elephants cleverly camouflaged behind some bushes and in a dry riverbed we saw zebra digging deep for water. There was also waterbuck, impala and giraffe – giraffe have markings like a leopard and walk like a camel so their Latin name is Giraffa cameleopardalis (camel leopard). We had a fourth sighting of buffalo, a large herd, and on the other side of the riverbed we could see five lions – the giraffe were all giving them away by staring in their direction – there were 12 giraffe all looking in the same direction!

It was very hot, about 35°C in the shade! We travelled around the buffalo and found a nomadic pride of four male lions; all but one was watching the buffalo. We were baking in the sizzling heat as we watched them for a long time. We could also make out more lions across the other side of the sandbed in the distance. It was quiet so eventually we moved on and later found four young lions lazing underneath a tree (male & female), more giraffe, and we saw lots of elephant damage to the trees in one area we drove through – broken branches and the bark stripped away.

We heard the squeak of a black-chested bustard and saw more giraffe – on two occasions we saw one lying down in the shade of a tree. We saw greater kudu well camouflaged in the bushes and more giraffe. We saw a large bachelor herd of impala, lots of baobabs with their leaves, a female herd of impala and even more giraffe.

We found out that giraffe will close their eyes and sleep for 20 minutes at a time; they can be standing or lying down. When they lie down they are vulnerable to an attack by lions – lions can jump on their back.

At 13.00 we went over to the dining banda for lunch to find out another vehicle that had stayed just ten minutes longer with the nomadic pride of lions and buffalo witnessed the buffaloes charge the lions, lots of dust, and a cat and mouse chase – DAMNIT! Well we are definitely going back there this afternoon! Maybe they will have a late afternoon kill!!

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At 16.00 we were at the dining banda for afternoon tea and coffee and then soon after we headed out on our afternoon safari and saw impala on our way out of camp. We also saw giraffe in the same sandbed and small baboons swinging down a curvy tree trunk. A very shy bushbuck scarped off as we got nearer. We saw a pair of white-breasted bustards – you can tell the male from the female because the female has a yellow beak and the male has a red beak.

We drove through a very open area with fantastic views of the surrounding hills and fields of trees, perfect acacias and so many baobabs. Driving through an area of dry bush we could pick out some zebra walking amongst the bush. We saw a fish eagle far away but this time facing in our direction, and not far away we saw another one.

Then we came across the nomadic pride of four lions that we saw this morning, they were very close to the track and we drove between them – they barely acknowledged us! There were three together snoozing under a tree and one at the other side of the track lazing under a bush. We stopped to watch them for some time. Another vehicle joined us and their two guests climbed onto the roof of their vehicle to sit and watch them.

A third vehicle came but only briefly, their guide explained that they had seen some other lions with a buffalo kill. So we decided to go and see if we could find them. On the way to the spot they’d described to us we saw a family of warthogs cross the road, lots of helmeted guineafowl, impala, zebra and giraffe.

We felt a couple of drops of rain on us and behind us could see a very menacing looking rain cloud. Thankfully the wind was blowing it away from us so we weren’t treated to a drenching! We also saw a very faint rainbow.

We paused by a riverbed that still had some pools of water and saw a large crocodile walking towards the water in which there were numerous hippo – the ones we had seen earlier today, and the storks were still there too. There were some baboons playing near the road further ahead and at the other side of the riverbed we saw elephants. Then we heard thunder and saw fork lighting in the distance.

Still looking for the buffalo kill, which was apparently near the road, we saw vultures across the riverbed through the binoculars and headed over in that direction to see if that was where the buffalo kill was. The raindrops stopped and as we neared the riverbed we saw a hippo wandering down river (which sounds an odd thing to say since I have no idea which direction “down” is since there’s no water flowing!).

We eventually found two male lions (one with a thick black mane) down in a ditch in the riverbed with a small buffalo. On higher ground we could see another small buffalo and a male lion close by but the grasses were too tall to see any more. We stayed a while to watch one of the lions greedily tucking into the rump of a buffalo. We were joined by two more vehicles and then we headed off and tucked into bread and humus as we drove along! Across the riverbed we could see a family of elephants right on the edge of the bank.

We stopped to photograph the sunset glow around the silhouettes of palm trees, and then crossed many small riverbeds and passed by many baobab trees whilst picking out semi-silhouetted giraffes and Haeibu spotted the dark shapes of elephants not so far away as it began to get darker. It is really nice to see all the trees in silhouette, acacias, palm trees, the baobab, all very special. I also like the fig trees and the sausage trees and of course so do the leopards!

Back in camp we quickly got ready for dinner and met the other guests by the campfire before heading over to the table for our meal.

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Back in the tent after dinner, we can hear that the male elephant is nearby but we also just heard hyena whoop whooping quite near, and the sound echoed around the riverbed! Quite a spooky sound really! I wonder if the lions will be here again tonight?! Lala salama…

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