Tanzania 2013

09th September 2013
In March 2013 I returned to northern Tanzania with a small group of Photographers. I had never been in Africa in the "green" season and it was so very different. Naturally it rained alot and was much warmer than in the dry cold winter months. The rain and warmth produced lush grasses and dense forests and very contented wildlife - a time of plenty for all! Tarangire National Park was spectacular - a green carpet filled with stunning baobab trees and elephants! We travelled onto the Manyara Conservancy and then to the Ngorongoro rim. Our journey to the rim was certainly an adventure - we spent the morning with a Maasai tribe, and climbed a steep hill behind their village with views down into the famous Rift Valley. After lunch we were heading into the high country when our road was blocked by an overnight bridge wash-out at Mosquito Creek. It is evidently a common occurrance in the wet season but posed little to stop the locals and tourists alike from going about their daily routines. We had to leave our safari vehicles at Mosquito Creek and walk across a raging flooded river via a rather haphazard collection of planks. As we crossed we were accompanied by everything including a kitchen sink. There was a full sized dining table with six chairs carried across via head-top, livestock and just about anything you can imagine! Fashionable ladies in high heals crossed along side us in good sturdy runners and safari cloths! Once across we were met by another team of guides who drove us safely to the Ngorongoro rim. We overnighted at the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge which was divine! An eary start saw us drop down into the world famous Ngorongoro Crater, one of the world's natural wonders. This was my second visit to the crater but this time it was lush and green instead of brown and dry as per the winter high season. It is a magical feeling as you slowly descend down the rim onto the 260 square kilometer crater floor. The grass was thick and full of spring flowers. Magadi Lake (a soda Lake)was full of flamingos and surrounded by zebra and wildebeeste. All the animals appeared relaxed (including a pride of lions that were lying on their backs paws in the air in the lush grass - with very full bellies!). We crossed the crater floor and through a series of rain storms headed north onto the Ndutu Plains. The rain storms made driving tricky but made for very fascinating photo opportunities!

The Ndutu Plains were probably the highlight of the trip. The vast herds of Wildebeeste and zebra were gathering in preparation for the great migration. Their young were 6 to 8 weeks old and needed to grow a little more before the trek started. With the plains full of wildlife the predators were in heaven! We came across a family of five cheetahs out on the plains and spent hours watching them feed and play. we came across them again on the following day as well - as they rested under a large acacia tree. One young male got a bit curious and gave Jo, Ian and Max a bit of a start when he climbed up onto their vehicle and poked his head in through the open top - excellent photo opportunity - nose to nose with a wild cheetah! The most spectacular cheetah experience was again out on the plains when we spotted a lone cheetah obviously hunting gazelle. We waited with baited breathe as a hapless rabbit chose that moment to dart out from the lush grass - the chase was on and it was fantastic to watch that beautiful cat swerve back and forth at full speed after her quarry - she sure could move! She caught, killed and ate the rabbit all very quickly and then moved off. We were all speechless!

Rain storms came across the plains every day - they would dump a huge amount of rain in a very short time and then quickly clear away to bright sunshine. We travelled from Ndutu to the famous Serengeti National Park and arrived at our tented camp in a rather wet and bedraggeled state after one of our vehicles got well and truly bogged to the dif in the thick mud and pouring rain. A few wines and a hot shower does wonders and we were off and ready for our next adventure. It is here that we saw our first tree climbing lions - early on the first day in the Serengeti we spotted a single lioness high up a tree searching the surrounds for food I guess - with the grass so tall it would have been hard to hunt on the ground. The second day we saw another lioness doing just the same thing - we followed her for a few hours and she would climb a tree - check out where the prey was and then head in that direction. On our last day we spotted a giant sausage tree that was literally full of lions - we counted 24 many fully grown lionesses sleeping happily in the branches, legs spread and hanging down just like a leopard does. Their tails were hanging down as well and we could see they had full bellies. There were some well grown younsters fooling around in the lower branches but no sign of any males at all - though we were told that they would be close by in the long grass - well hidden!
The elusive leopard did put in a couple of brief appearances - the best was when one eventually climbed up onto a dead tree and posed for us against the backdrop of an oncoming storm.
We also did a sunrise balloon flight over the Serengeti - which was stunning! We saw giraffe and hippos and lots of gazelle - well worth doing!

This was my second visit to the Serengeti but again this time in the green season - it was a totally different experience. There were less vehicles which was nice and the rain was not really a problem (Our drivers may disagree!) - it certainly is one of the world's magical places! I will just have to return especially to see some more leopard and you can never see enough cheetah!

The entire African trip was organised and coordinated by Julia, Darran and Pierce Leal of World Photo Adventures, an Australian Photographic Tour Company. It was a fabulous tour and everything went like clock work!(Link to their web site is included under "Links"). I made new friends, rekindled old aquaintances, learnt alot more about photography and saw some of the most amazing wildlife in the world in their natural environment - life's good!