This week we welcomed our very first guests to Namiri Plains; Mr. John Mills and Ms. Jacqueline Field — our new pioneer camp in the remote eastern corner of the Serengeti.
While on a walking safari at Namiri Plains they came across one of our continent’s shiest and most rare creatures—the pangolin. Since pangolins are nocturnal, few have ever been seen during the day and almost never at such close quarters. This is by far one of Asilia’s most unusual sightings in 2014
Pangolins are mammals and are found in both Africa and Asia. They are also known as scaly anteaters and are unique in the sense that their skin is covered in large keratin scales; no other known mammal has this adaptation.
In both Africa and the Far East pangolin scales are prized for their powerful healing and restorative properties and sadly this has led to these harmless creatures also sharing a place on the endangered species list.
Pangolins feed on insects late at night and spend their days in deep burrows underground. The name, ‘pangolin’, is derived from the Malay word “pengguling”, which loosely translates to “something that rolls up”. The hard scales of the pangolin contribute to about 20% of its total body weight and when threatened, it will protect its soft underbelly by curling up into a tight, almost impenetrable ball. This posture is only released when the animal is 100% sure that the danger is well and truly over.
What a truly memorable sighting this must have been and what a wonderful way for our Namiri team to kick off their very first season! We hope to have many more increadible sightings such as this one with our future guests!
The Lions of the Serengeti
The Serengeti is a vast ecosystem, encompassing thousands of miles of harsh wilderness. Perhaps the wildest part surrounds Namiri Plains; here is where the big cats truly roam.
They say that cats have nine lives, but they don’t say that about the Serengeti lion. Life is hard and precarious on this unforgiving landscape. Not far from camp are majestic kopjes; outcrops of rock that are hundreds of millions of years old. These are home to some of the large lion prides that dominate the area.
The Lions of Ruaha
In the latest Ruaha Blog article, Akil Halai, Field Operations Coordinator for Asilia Tanzania shares with us information on the lions of Ruaha. He introduces us to the many different prides of Ruaha and shares special images of many of the lions who form these prides.
Lions (Panthera leo – local name: Simba) are the only felines that form social groups called prides. All other cats are solitary hunters.Prides are often described as matriarchal because more females belong to a pride, they remain long-term members, and they live longer than male lions. The life of a male lion is socially more precarious than that of a female lion. Males must win their way into a pride of females and once they do, they must fend off challenges from males outside the pride who try to take their place.
The great photo for this weeks Wildebeest Migration update is from Sayari Camp, guide Leonard Kivuyo shows us a big crossing that was seen yesterday morning between crossing point number 7 and 8.
Most of the big herds and crossings have been seen more in the Eastern area of Kogatende, towards Bologonja and the Sand River where there is a very big number of them scattered across the short green grass plains found there.
Most of the big crossings seen so far are going from South to North, and we suspect there are big numbers of Wildebeest also in Kenya and the Maasai Mara.
What a treat, on the way to the airstrip!!
On the main road to Kogatende airstrip a flick of a tail caught one of Mr. Jairo's exceptional eyes!!
Can you spot what he's staring at?
This beautiful female leopard had decided to make use of a ranger platform in this Sausage Tree - a perfect place to rest.
We've had little time to leave the lodge this last month - so imagine our delight that on this morning`s mad dash for supply (some sort of yogurt emergancy!) we were rewarded us with these fantastic pictures.
The grimace above signifies a behaviour called flehmen - drawing the air over the vomero-nasal organ allowing these animals to test hormone signals in the air. Males tend to do this as a method of testing the reproductive status of potential partners. A female up in a tree like this is likely using it to get a better understanding of the scents around her. Perhaps the car was making her nervous and she was checking the air before deciding whether or not to move from the safety of her perch.
Our Migration Monday update comes to us this week from our two camps Sayari Camp and Olakira Camp both situated in the Northern Serengeti, Kogatende.
There has been a lot of action this past week as the camps, guests and guides witnessed the first big Mara river crossings for the season. Thanks so much to Sayari Camp guest Richard Hobbs for the lovely close up action photo as well as the guides from Sayari.
Big herds have been moving between the two camps, and the area is dotted with thousands of Wildebeest, the following months will see many big crossings happening in the area as the Wildebeest move between Tanzania and Kenya.
If ever you wished to see this great spectacle, the Northern Serengeti is the place to be!
There are times when that long awaited sighting of the tour comes in the fading light of sunset.
On our way home after a glass of wine at the Mara River (it's a dog's life - I know!) my eye was caught by the outline of a leopard.
This female is familiar, quite dark in her paterning and favouring a small kopjie close to the river as her vantage point.
She turned her head, somewhat nonchalantly, to face our aproaching car.
Then, conveniently, she chose an even better posing spot, the result is really striking.
Sand Rivers Selous
Birding couldn't get much better than it is right now. After a very rainy period the Selous is a lush green...grasses are full of seeds, flowers are blooming and insects are numerous. This has given the birds a boom and there are some very interesting species around. Here are our favourites so far of the season.
The African Skimmer is always a special sight, they have recently returned to the Rufiji River in order to nest on the sandbanks. They are truly their own species, they have a lower mandible that is extended which it skims along the surface of the water and picks up small fish as it goes along, hence its name.
This is the male Eastern Paradise Whydah, he grows this special long tail when it comes to breeding season in order to impress his lady counterparts. Those ladies are naughty as they do not build their own nests nor look after the egg and chicks. They are a brood parasite of the below bird the Green-winged Pytilia, so the Pytilia will do all the hard work of rearing one not of their own.
Something that we share a common interest in with our friends Nic and Jana up at Lamai Serengeti is this beauty the Scarlet-chested Sunbird, they love their nectar and have been making the most of all the beautiful flowers around, here on the flower of an aloe. Interestly with these birds when they move out of direct sunight these iridescent colours turn back to black. This is only seen in males so it must be of use to attracting a female.
The Violet-tipped Courser is the largest of its species. Its name is given to it by the violet tips on its primaries that are seldom seen. It is also predominantly nocturnal so you will have to keep your eyes peeled when the sun sets.
Conservation, Experience, Safari, Singita Grumeti-Tanzania
Say Hello to the Butamtam Lion Cubs!
These pictures hardly need a caption – we would be surprised if you could tear your eyes away from their little furry faces long enough to read it! If you are interested however, you may like to know that these gorgeous young lions are offspring of the Butamtam pride at Singita Grumeti in Tanzania. These lions are healthy breeders; over the past two years one of the major prides got so big that it split into two, and two of the other prides seem to be heading in the same direction. In addition, all of their cubs have higher than usual survival rates which is wonderful to hear.
Creatures Great & Small: The Flap-Necked Chameleon!
Chameleons really are funny little creatures! Did you know that, besides being masterful at camouflage and having tongues roughly 1½ times their body length, chameleons can rotate each eye in a different direction and go through life without the benefit of ears? There are 156 different species concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and many of them can be found at Singita’s lodges and camps throughout the region.
In this gorgeous photo, Singita Grumeti Guide Manager, Ryan Schmitt, carries this female flap-necked chameleon from the middle of the road to the safety of the grass. This particular reptile is a real crowd pleaser with guests and staff alike, and can often be found stalking their favourite snacks of grasshoppers and butterflies.
Renovate good times come on!!! Doopy Doopy Doop - It’s a RENOVATION Share
Hello Lamai friends!!
Don't panic but we're back in the bush and we're frantically knocking stuff down and building stuff up again.
There is gratuitous use of tractors and I've taken the opportunity to finally squeeze some tractor photographs into the blog - who doesn't love tractors?
Exactly - nobody!!
We are planning on removing this before you all arrive this season.
Check below for the resulting shiny new pool deck, whooop!
Mzee Apaeli - sweeping said pool deck with a big smile.
Doing his best Dick Van Dyke impression - What can I say... he just digs Mary Poppins!
The star of the off season show below - introducing Mr Kennedy HEAD OF MAINTENANCE (red T-shirt)!
He's currently extending the dining deck at the front of our "mess" (that is more an accurate description than a military expression at the moment!).
The extension will allow the waiter team to spend the season dancing around the tables with out falling off the edge.... and here they all are below, just look at how happy they are about it.
****Note to the upper management types, you'll notice they are NOT sloshing wood finish all over their shiny new uniforms, we have this thing overalled and covered, taped up and corked!****
Here I am below, playing hang man with myself so as not to get under the six very busy feet of Jana, Yahaya and Kennedy.
Ha Ha, only Joking....... I'm playing Naughts and Crosses.
*****Note to my boss - I promise to be once again clean shaven with a tucked in shirt when our guests arrive****
Roof repairs - in terms of the view this is the best job in the Serengeti.
****Note to those involved, you know who you are, please don't tell Jo (beloved interiors lady and the creative mind behind Lamai) that we climbed on the roof like this - she said it was a bad idea.****
****Note to Jo, if your reading this firstly, wow thanks for reading the blog that's really cool, and secondly we're sorry we climbed on the roof like this - but it turned out great and nobody fell through or destroyed anything!!****
......and finally for those of you about to un - subscribe due to the outragous beginning of season maintenance blog with it's lack of fuzzzy, furry, wet noseyness ......Drum Roll Please....
Our mongooses had babies!!! Again!!!
I found them scurrying around underneath the office this morning - Ahhhhhh sweeeeeeet!
The Migration 2014 Arrives at Singita Grumeti
It’s that time of year again! The wildebeest have started arriving on the Sasakwa Plains of the Serengeti and the herds seem to be multiplying at an astonishing rate with each passing day. Overnight, the grassland below Singita Sasakwa Lodge has been flooded by tens of thousands of wildebeest, making for some very exciting horseback game-spotting for our lucky guests.
Singita Grumeti, situated adjacent to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, is an integral part of the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem, the home of the Great Migration. Singita manages 350,000 acres of this land, and generates the funds necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the reserve via low impact tourism.
Mara River Tented Camp - Wildlife Trip Report
February in Lamai was characterised by breath-taking landscapes and open spaces teeming with wildlife. The amount of general game in the area was thriving, to be rivalled only by those months when the great migration is moving through.
A post with a view (Photos by Saitoti Ole Kuwai)
Two cheetahs set against a backdrop of seemingly never-ending plains, dotted with a few squiggly balanites trees: one of the many things about Lamai that is so quintessentially Africa.
Plains are the perfect habitat for cheetahs, which need large expanses of flat ground to build up their speed. The one problem with the flat plains is the difficulty to get a good view of what’s going on, so cheetahs are often seen on top of termite mounds or fallen trees, getting a better look at things.
The cheetahs at Singita Lamai are very lucky to have an excellent viewing point, given to them by none other than us humans – the Tanzania-Kenya border post.
Senior Guide Saitoti was watching these two males relaxing under a tree when one decided to hop on the post and look for any available prey in the area.
The agile cat jumped up and looked around, checking out the landscape. There was plenty of game and he looked straight at a large herd of topi multiple times. All the signs were pointing in the direction that there would be a hunt happening soon.
Alas, as seem to be the case with all felines, they decided they were not quite ready for the exertion. The male hopped down and they walked back to their tree for a nap.
All a-roan (Photos by Saitoti Ole Kuwai)
Saitoti spotted a single roan antelope on the Lamai plains on his second day with a new group of guests. This was very exciting as roan are extremely rare in the Lamai area.
The roan was very shy and kept a big distance between itself and the vehicle, making it difficult to get a clear photo, but it was such an amazing sighting that it didn’t even matter!
Defensive posturing (Photos by Saitoti Ole Kuwai)
The short rains in Lamai concluded in early January, and by mid-February things were getting rather dry. The Mara River levels are lower and the width narrower, meaning certain water-dwelling animals’ territories are becoming a little too close for comfort.
Dominant bull hippos control tracts of river territories in which they have exclusive breeding rights to the females residing there. When the territories shrink and two dominant males get too close, tensions rise...
Saitoti found two males posturing at each other after the one in the river had manage to drive the hippo pictured in the front out of the water.
Upon Saitoti’s approach in the vehicle, the hippo on land was not sure where to posture, trying to simultaneously find some middle ground between posturing at the new foreign object on the road and his archenemy in the river.
Eventually the hot and tired hippo tried to get back into the water, but the other bull came at him at an alarming speed, forcing him back out.
Saitoti left the scene with the poor hippo still unable to find a spot in the water. We hope this hippo finally swallowed his pride and moved somewhere down river where no hippos were holding territories, so he could at least cool off!
Lion antics: Part 1
The large male lion pictured here was having a mid-meal drink while feeding on a wildebeest kill. Lions gorge themselves when they make a kill. It is an instinctive insurance policy, as they have no way of knowing when and what their next meal will be. All that eating can drive up a thirst and water breaks between eating are not unusual.
This lion’s refreshment was short lived after he looked up at his meal to find the lioness he was with eating out of turn and a hyena skulking nearby! The big male quickly ran back to the carcass and chased his female partner away. He was not finished and she was not to touch his food until he was!
The lioness backed away submissively and sat alongside a jackal who was also waiting for eventual leftovers.
The lioness most likely not only assisted with the killing of this wildebeest, but bore the majority of the work involved. Even so, the stronger and more dominant male gets everything first until he is satisfied and this queen of the bush is reduced to a scavenger, waiting her turn with the hyenas and jackals until he is finished.
Lion antics: Part 2
Saitoti was lucky enough to catch two mating pairs of lions lying not far from one another. This is not unusual as at least two females in a pride typically will come into oestrus at the same time, but what happened next was most unusual.
Saitoti drove past the first mating pair, took a few pictures, and moved onto the second pair. While viewing the two, the lioness from the first pair stood up and started walking in their direction.
She soon approached the male who was lying next to his female and presented herself to him, eager to mate. She left the male she was already mating with to attempt to mate with this male. Why she did this is hard to say.
Lion and leopard females are known to mate with multiple males, and it is presumed this is so that each male thinks he has, or actually has, sired the resulting offspring. This ensures that the males of a coalition are invested in protecting all the cubs because each could be their biological offspring.
The two males involved in this sighting are from the same coalition so it is unlikely that either would be a threat to the cubs in future, if the lionesses conceive from this mating session.
Maybe there was something about the second male lion that she found more advantageous than her current partner and might produce more successful offspring.
We’ll never know the reason for this female’s actions, but the next thing that happened was equally as puzzling: the big male accepted her advances and mated with her. After the quick mating session (it only lasts a few seconds) he left her and went back to his original female partner and stayed with her for the rest of the time.
The second lioness approached him again, but he paid her no attention.
In order to ensure conception, lions mate for several days and anywhere from 20 – 40 times a day. The mating process is painful for both male and female.
For this male to put himself through the uncomfortable pain of mating with this female and only doing it once, meaning that there is little chance that she'll conceive as a result of the encounter, is completely baffling.
In the whole of Saitoti’s extensive guiding career, he has never seen an interaction such as this.
By Lizzie Hamrick Singita Lamai Serengeti
Namiri Plains opens in the Serengeti 1st of July 2014
We are excited to announce that our new Serengeti Camp, Namiri Plains, will open on the 1st July. Set in area of the Serengeti which was closed to outsiders as a cheetah sanctuary for over 20 years, this is one of the Serengeti’s best kept secrets.
Namiri means "big cat" in Swahili and the name could not be more apt for this beautiful region of the Serengeti. Closed to the world for over 20 years to create a safe haven for cheetah breeding and research, today the area has an exceptional population of big cats including the highest density of cheetah in East Africa.
Explore the area on daily game drives; enjoy sunrise breakfast picnics on top of Soit le Motonyi rock or sundowners atop a kopje. Whilst exploring, you will feel like you have the Serengeti to yourself, which you do in this secret corner of the plains. Namiri Plains’ closest neighbour is over 45 minutes away making other vehicles an unusual sighting. Back in camp learn more about the academic research happening in this region from the resident cheetah researcher and the conservation projects Asilia Africa supports.
We look forward to welcoming you to Namiri Plains!
Olakira in the New York Times
We are delighted that Olakira Camp featured in a recent New York Times article about ‘safaris that leave a lighter footprint’.
Here are some of writer Alida Becker’s thoughts on Olakira; "Olakira also moves with the migration, pitching its nine canvas guest tents near the Tanzania-Kenya border during the dry season, then following the herds back to the southern Serengeti grasslands when it’s time for the wildebeests to give birth to their calves. Although the camp’s goal, as its literature suggests, is "to leave nothing behind but footprints", that doesn’t involve enormous sacrifices for visitors. Our tent, equipped with the now-familiar bucket shower, was big enough for a double bed, camp chairs and a cot for napping and reading, and a sink and eco-toilet. What amped the accommodations up to five-star status was the view over the river, as striking in the early morning as it was at dusk, when the sound of the rushing water was joined by the roar of a marauding lion.’’
Beho Beho Bushblog – Godlisten – 20th February
Its raining hear in Selous and everything is changing to green, which is a good thing for the wild animals, we still have good sightings of wild dog, lion, elephant and our baby bush buck around the junior staff house. It’s unbelievable around the Beho Beho plains, the number of wildebeest, zebra and eland is going up daily.
January and February is the time for the wildebeest to deliver their babies, on game drives we see a lot of babies, some of them will make it to maturity and few of them will end up being somebodies food.
On one of my trips to Lake Tagalala with a family from Belgium we saw one of our mustekeers limping, we thought maybe it was from a fight or from hunting. The following day I went on a game drive with the managers from Vamizi Island and we saw more than seven Hyenas busy finishing up zebra a carcass, we spent more than 30 minutes with them, it’s amazing how powerful their jaws are, because they can break and chew bones like someone having a chocolate. We also had the closest elephant sighting, almost two to three metres from the car.
Beho Beho Bushblog – Salum – 10th February
What a morning again! When I woke up I heard a lot of Lion and Hyena making noise. It sounded like there was some kind of confrontation. When I picked my guests up for the morning drive we decided to drive towards where the noise was coming from. Just after the battle fields we saw three Hyenas and one of them was “pink nose”. They where coming from Tamlyn’s plains. Just before we reached Tamlyn’s plains we saw six Hyenas and three of them were eating a baby Elephant. I think the Lions where the ones who killed the baby Elephant’s and the Hyena had taken it over. As we were watching them eating, another clan of about nine Hyenas came from the Beho beho forest and chased those six out of the kill and they started eating. It is always very fascinating to watch Hyena eating because it is quick and noisy.
We watched them for some time before we drove towards Little Serengeti. At the roll poppy crossing was a lot to see because there were Baboons and Elephants foraging on the palm nuts. Again we stopped there and watch them for quite some time because it was fantastic to watch the way the animals interacted with each other. In the riverbed we saw seven Lions (Bibi pride) sitting in the shade. They looked like they had full stomachs after eating a little bit of that baby Elephant. As we got to Little Serengeti Saning’o radioed us that they have seen some Wild Dogs. We quickly went there and we found them near the quarry. It was our pack of twenty two calling each other and when they rejoined they went to have a siesta under the Acacia tree. The following day I took two guests to Lake Tagalala for the boating and we had such a fantastic time because we saw a young female Leopard who was so relax. Then we saw Hyena at the same sight eating Impala. It looked like the Leopard killed the Impala and the Hyena took it. So the poor Leopard was sitting in the shade hoping the Hyena would leave something for her. On the lake we saw so many Fish Eagles fishing and twice we saw them fighting. Also we saw Marabou stocks fighting for fish and as usual a lot of crocodiles. My guest had a nice experience of the lake and some nice shots of both birds and crocodiles.
The wildebeest are now truly spread out over much of the Ndutu and greater NCA (Ngorongoro Conservation Area). There has again been some very good rainfall this last week with lots of beautiful green grazing areas.
Both our camps in the area - Olakira Camp as well as Ubuntu Camp are enjoying some great wildlife viewing with good numbers of Wildebeest seen all the way from Naabi, through central Ndutu, the plains above the big and small marsh all the way to Kakesio.
If you have never been to the Ndutu area it is the perfect time to make a trip and witness these animals in big numbers, giving birth to their calves and witnessing first hand the circle of life!
Till next week,
Joe du Plessis - Head Guide
A Point of View
Do not leave your room/office/vehicle/pool,- in fact don’t attempt anything at all, without some binoculars and a camera!
We’re new on the scene in Serengeti and perhaps we will, in time, become blasé about such things but I seriously doubt it.
From a vantage point in this ecosystem, and it would not be idle boasting to say that Lamai puts a very big tick the “room with a view” box. The surrounding landscapes and the skies leave you speechless. How amazing that you have the opportunity to observe countless species interacting on a daily basis.
In the past week we’ve seen lots and lots of Wildebeests, Zebras, Lions, Buffalo, Elephants and even a Long Crested Eagle every day (just to mention a few!) - without even leaving the camp! Fantastic!
Singita Mara River Tented Camp – Mara River Tented Camp
For the month of September, Two Thousand and Thirteen
We can’t stop talking about the migration in this wildlife report, but it’s because the migrants are always here! After strong showings in July and August, the herds of wildebeest continued to impress throughout September.
River crossings were a daily occurrence and there were 35 crossings in the Mara River Tented Camp area, in the 30 days of the month.
What follows is a photo essay of the sights - I think you'll agree the images speak for themselves.
Singita Lamai is home to a high population of cheetahs, relatively speaking for these endangered animals.
The vast grass plains are the perfect habitat for the fastest land mammals, which need large expanses of flat ground to build up their speed.
The most prominent cheetahs we see are a coalition of two males, another coalition of three males, and scattered single females.
The cheetahs of Singita Lamai definitely lead a good life as far as hunting their prey from abundant herds is concerned, as they benefit from the migration during three to four months of the year.
Guide Braya Masunga and guests had front row seats this month as these two brothers successfully brought down a wildebeest.
Cheetahs are much smaller than lions and leopards, so a wildebeest is a big feat. More than one cheetah is usually required to dispatch an adult wildebeest.
We continue to get to know the lions of Mara River Tented Camp and our guides have estimated that there are about two or three prides in the area.
Cubs were also seen often, like the apprehensive ones hiding in the grass in this picture.
Serval south of Chaka Kubwa. Serval close to Black Bridge.
Five wildebeest crossings of +10 000 individuals.
Breeding herd of elephants (50) crossing the river, right in front of the camp. Clan of eight hyenas on the northern side of Mara River.
Two ostriches with 11 chicks, north of the camp.
Lamai’s Little Ones
We have had an exciting week around Lamai Camp where we have met the latest newcomers to our resident Dwarf Mongoose and Rock Hyrax family.
Whilst this Dwarf Mongoose pack has around 15 individuals it is only the dominant male and female mongoose that breed, though the other pack members help feed and care for the offspring.
Four baby Rock Hyraxes were discovered right next to one of the rooms where they are frequently seen playing on a rock formation. The Hyraxes are very entertaining to watch and often give us great amusement with their generally lazy behavior, short bursts of activity and at times peculiar social interactions (as depicted in last weeks blog). Watching these adorable babies play has definitely been a highlight of this week.
Sand Rivers Selous
Let’s face it - if it was easy it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting, and a leopard sighting from the boat at Stiegler’s Gorge is hands down, pant wetting - exciting!
That splash patterning is not only breathtakingly beautiful but it serves as an incredible camouflage just about anywhere (I’m told there are leopards living in Johannesburg – how’s that for adaptable?!).
There is a dappled, morning light coming through the forest canopy that cloaks the steep sided gorge, turning every rock and stump into a possible leopard sighting. It is they who choose whether or not they are seen.
What a privilege that we were on board for this particular sighting and managed to get some snaps of this remarkable cat.
Beho Beho Bushblog – Walter – 17th September
It was a magical month in August, with several leopard sightings, of which I had the opportunity of seeing 3 of them, and then another one within the first week of September, which was seen by Godlisten.
The last leopard sighting for August, we were on our way to the confluence of the Msini and Beho Beho River, to finish the evening off with some sundowners, watching the African sun setting with a gin and tonic in hand is one of those magical experiences. As we were about to reach the crossing, simultaneously Saning’O, Russell and myself said, “Leopard!”, and sprawled across a Tamarind trees horizontal branch, in beautiful late afternoon golden light, was a leopard resting. As relaxed as could be, she casually lifted her head to peer across at us, and then decided a nice change of position was acquired, before resting her weary eyes.
Unlike other parts in Africa where relaxed leopard sightings are a common occurrence, in places like the Selous we have leopard sightings, but usually more glimpses of them as they cross a road or disappear into some brush, however it is special none the less, and almost more magical, because it isn’t something seen all the time.
If we really knew how many leopards we missed, it would be depressing as their skillful camouflage allows them to blend in with their surroundings so well. A typical disruptive pelage made of rosette spots, which break up the contour of its body, making it difficult to see. As our eyes are conditioned to look for familiar outlines, when they are disrupted with stripes or spots, it takes one’s eyes time to readjust and see the animal we are looking at. Similar to looking at those 3D cards, where you need to stare at one point and slowly move it away from you, till you see the image.
This female was very relaxed and allowed for some great viewing, we even went around the corner to pour some much needed sundowners, and returned to still find her resting on the exact same branch. Sipping at our drinks, after some time she decided to slip down the tree and into the brush below, to begin her early evening prowls.
Besides sightings of these spotted cats, we re-sighted the Madagascar or Humblot’s Heron that was seen last season at Lake Tagalala. After disappearing towards the end of last season, we had our first sighting this season again. This for the birding community is a very big discovery as it is the only individual recorded on the African continent, and all sightings have been in the Selous.
This species of heron inhabits Madagascar which is the only place it breeds, but there have been sightings of it in the Comoro Islands and Mayotte. These birds have been described as having tendencies to go on long distance searches for adequate habitat requirements, but there is no evidence of it being a migratory species.
The estimated number of Madagascar Heron is currently at 1,500 individuals, which would mean only 1000 mature individuals, thus making this an endangered species. The major threat is wetland modification and conservation for human use, cultivation of rice systems, and then egg collection and nestling harvesting for food. These birds feed mainly on medium and large fish, and require nesting trees. So a very exciting bird to see.
Camp Zebra, which will be located on a special campsite in the Ndutu area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area during the months of December 2013, January 2014, February 2014 and March 2014, will be ideally located for your clients who wish to view and enjoy the Great Wildebeest migration.
Buffalo Luxury Camp, which is located in the Ololosokwan area bordering the Serengeti National Park, is ideally located for your clients who wish to enjoy off-road game driving, night game drives, game walks, sundowner cocktails & bush dinners, balloon Safaris and cultural exchanges with the local Maasai people.
Combined, Camp Zebra and Buffalo Luxury Camp will be well placed to provide you and your clients with an extraordinary Safari experience on the Northern Safari circuit!
Intimate Places Tanzania are offering a special deal to all tour operators who book their clients to stay in both Camp Zebra and Buffalo Luxury Camp whilst on Safari during this period.
The package is extremely flexible in that you will be able to chose the actual number of nights which your clients spend in each location.
Furthermore, a free of charge upgrade - from a Chalet Tent to a Suite Tent - is offered at Buffalo Luxury Camp as part of this package, subject of course to availability.
Please contact AAC for details as to the accommodation rates which are offered as part of this special deal.
Congratulations to The Manor - No.1 in Ngorongoro
There is no better place to celebrate with a bottle of champagne than at The Manor at Ngorongoro. And corks are indeed a-popping within this famous and most striking of lodges that nestles seamlessly within the coffee plantations that roll down the slopes of the Ngorongoro crater.
The Manor, long thought of as the pre-eminent choice for luxury lodgings in the Ngorongoro area, has now achieved that same public acknowledgement courtesy of the reviews received by its guests on the global website Trip Advisor.
With an average satisfaction rating exceeding 98%, The Manor has become the No.1 choice for visitors seeking luxury specialty lodgings in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Congratulations to all at The Manor for this wonderful achievement.
Arusha Coffee Lodge’s Chefs Winning Our Hearts
The first ever ‘Chefs Challenge’ in the Northern Circuit was held on the 24th November at the VETA Hotel and Tourism Training Institute. The competition, judged by five industry professionals from within the Tourism sector in Tanzania, was won by Dominic Axweso, a chef at Arusha Coffee Lodge. Second place was taken by two more of Arusha Coffee Lodge’s culinary team, Edwin Martin and Joseph Sule. Another of Arusha Coffee Lodge’s chefs also placed fourth, ending a highly successful and enjoyable event.
The top four placed winners will now go to Dar es Salaam for the finals and we look forward to reporting on yet another successful event for the chefs from Arusha Coffee Lodge.
Kilindi & AfroChic – Stay Longer but Pay Less
Elewana’s jewels of the Indian Ocean, Kilindi Zanzibar and AfroChicDianiBeach, are both celebrating the New Year by extending their ‘Stay Longer - Pay Less’ special offers into 2013.
Kilindi Zanzibar is not only offering special 'Stay Longer, Pay Less Offers' for stays of 10 and 7 days, but now, due to popular demand, extending their short stay offer – ‘Stay 4 nights, Pay for only 3’ until December 15th 2013.
AfroChicDianiBeach is also offering a similar series of special rates including:
‘Stay 4 nights, Pay for 3 only’
‘Stay 8 days, Pay for 6 only’
‘Stay 16, pay for 12 only’
Lamai Serengeti – Serengeti
Heron VS Frog
With the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world, it is easy to overlook the smaller goings on in the Serengeti. Whilst crossing a small bridge over one of the many streams here, we noticed that a Striated Heron was poised for the kill.
It's always good to keep an eye on the smaller things, even stopping and waiting for things to unfold in front of you can be a great alternative to zooming round in the game viewers.
The Lamai Wedge
One of the most beautiful areas in the northern Serengeti is an area called the Lamai Wedge, this area is found in between the Masaai Mara over the Kenyan border and the MaraRiver.
The area has beautiful vast open plains, dotted with Desert date trees, good shade during the day for any predators in the area.
Most of the Wildebeest have crossed the MaraRiver into the Wedge, it is impossible to count the numbers that are currently there.
When much of the grass has been eaten, the Wildebeest will return and cross the Mara once again.
Here they can be seen practicing in a small pool in the Wedge, luckily no crocodiles in there.
A small herd crossed back over this side yesterday, we are expecting more today, the guests staying at Lamai Serengeti will be waiting for them cameras at the ready.
Exciting times in the northern Serengeti, we will keep you updated.
Rubondo Island Camp welcomed the first guests on the 15th of December - an exciting day for the camp crew.
Also remember a Special Opening Off er for Rubondo: 50% Discount for the 2nd night onwards Validity:
- All new bookings only - Booking from now - 19 Dec 2014 - Travel from 01st June 2013 – 19 Dec 2014
- 20th Dec 2013 - 5th Jan 2014 - Long stay discount does not apply to nights booked under this offer
1st November - 30th November 2013
Climbing Kopjes in Lamai – Serengeti
Lamai is placed on one of the most commanding Kopjes in the Serengeti overlooking vast plains and the Masaai Mara in the distance. The large granite boulders are great fun to explore, recently we took everyone up to the highest spot on the Lamai Kopje for a fun sundowner with breathtaking views.
This of course was after we had spent a morning with a Cheetah and her cubs, playing in the early morning light, it is truly a photographers paradise.
Cubs Update – Sand Rivers - Selous
It's two weeks on since our last blog on the cubs, we have been seeing them regularly in a long drainage line scattered with Doum plams and Long pod cassias, both providing good shade and hiding places f or the cubs. Yesterday after a big storm we found the adults out in the open enjoying lying in the cool water drenched sand. Under a little bush we spotted the cubs looking very tired but in good condition. It still looks like their mother is doing a good job of looking after them.
Leopard cub (s?)!!!
It is quite difficult to see the clear evidence in these photos and for that we apologise. There were very few of these prints remaining because their path crossed with the path of a supply boat being offloade d early this morning. It was then that we found the leopard tracks with accompanying tracks i.e. a cub!
The gestation period for leopards is 90 -105 days. These prints are pretty small; cubs can walk from two weeks but don't usually come out of the den to learn to hunt until 2 months. We think ther den must be very close!
It was impossible to tell if the tracks were from more than 1 cub (a litter is usually 2 or 3), but we sincerely hope so as fewer than 50% of leopard cubs reach the age of 1 year, therefore it would better the odds significantly!
You can see the cub print on the left above the word 'left', and the mamma cub's print on the right of this photo.We really hope to keep seeing this mamma leopard with accompanying tracks for some time to com e, and of course, not just the tracks - we recently had one guest who had a motion -detecting camera in use overnight. We knew the leopards were around thanks to the askari's nightwatch. Sadly the camera didn't'capture' any leopards, despite setting up the camera in the places where we thought it most likely to spot them. As soon as we have any evidence beyond prints, be sure you will hear about it!
BEHO BEHO - Special Offer
Experience the Selous Game Reserve in 'green season' and enjoy two FREE nights.
Designed for those seasoned safari travellers who appreciate the wildlife and bird life without having the hassle of packing and moving every second or third day. For travellers who appreciate getting to know their guides and hosts and enjoy settling into their safari home with their departure day a dim and distant date in the future.
Following the successful introduction of this offer in our 2011 -12 season we have decided to continue it for the 'Green Season' of 2013 - 14 so it will be valid from 1st November 2013 to 21st March 2014.
Pay for five nights and get two nights FREE.
We have an increasing number of guests who return to Beho Beho for longer stays AND an increasing number of guests who tell us that they would like to stay longer, but in these difficult times this is not always possible. So we have a solution always possible. So we have a solution: come and stay for seven nights and only pay for five!
Too many days in one camp? Obviously we don't think so. Our combination of walks, drives and boat safaris can easily fill in seven days with interesting and adventurous activities. But also we have found that some of our guests are happy to enjoy spending time in their banda or by the pool, enjoying some quality down time. So perhaps knowing that at least two days on this safari are with our compliments will add to the enjoyment and relaxation.
Singita Grumeti Reserves Category
Singita Serengeti House: Cécile & Boyd’s Interiors
Singita Serengeti House, in the vast Grumeti Reserves in Tanzania, was opened earlier this year as an exclusive-use retreat, and in response to a growing demand from discerning travellers for privacy and flexibility. Its unique position in the heart of the Serengeti, offers breathtaking vistas from the slopes of Sasakwa Hill across the endless, open plains of this untouched wilderness. Top South Africa design team, Cécile & Boyd’s, crafted the exquisite interiors and have been involved in the conceptualisation of every one of our lodges and camps since Singita Ebony Lodge opened in 1993.
While what lies outside is rather spectacular, the interiors of Singita Serengeti House are also something to behold. Throughout the house, ample indoor and outdoor lounging and dining areas, all with uninterrupted views, provide relaxing spaces for guests to truly immerse themselves in the beauty of the surrounding landscape while enjoying each other’s company. A cool neutral palette of subtle, sun - bleached colours mimics the Serengeti grass plains, bringing the outside in.
Mirror is used throughout the house to maximise light and space. Humble materials in natural fibres, rattan, grass matting, polished cement floors, bleached, raw timbers and local stones bring an honest, earthy feel to the understatedly glamorous, boldly proportioned, light -saturated rooms curated with a modern African art collection by Kurt Pio and Sarah Pratt, artefacts and objects, and anthropologically relevant tribal sculpture. All the decorative pieces were designed and commissioned or sourced by Cécile & Boyd’s, including witty eye-catching papier-mâché hunting trophies and leather thong chandeliers inspired by Masai skirts.
All the suites have spacious bathrooms designed as luxurious extensions to the bedroom and living areas, with outdoor showers and private terraces. The private kitchen and resident chef caters exclusively to the needs of the party staying in the house, taking into consideration everything from individual food allergies to favourite cooking styles and flavours. Delicious food and an excellent wine cellar always forms an integral part of the Singita experience, and meals are carefully planned and orchestrated from candle-lit gourmet dinners to informal picnics in the bush.
New arrivals – Sand Rivers Selous
One of the Lionesses from the Tagalala pride has had two cubs, they are around 3 months old now, the cubs provide excellent photo opportunities as they are so active compared to their tired mot her, biting her ears while she is trying to sleep.
The odds are stacked against their survival, only 80% of cubs will not make the first two years, Buffalo, Hyenas, Jackel, Martial Eagles, Snakes and Leopards are all enemies. If a new male takes over the pride, he will kill all the cubs.
We will be keeping a watchful eye on these two and keep you updated.
Dog Days of Selous
Even a mud cap will do stay cool in the afternoons!
Great white pelicans in the lake
Keeping hydrated , this fish eagle was enjoying a drink from the lake between fishing
The face looks familiar…wild dogs enjoying their reflections in the water
Slashing around in the local hot springs
With Sirius aka 'The Dog Star' directly above us in our night tim e sky we are well and truly into our 'dog days' of the season, hot days and nights bring the animals nearer to any dwelling of water.
Already in the water to keep cool this crocodile has even given himself a covering of mud to try and keep cool!
We found this wild dog with 5 other members of his pack around this small puddle of water the other day, as well as bathing in the puddle they were also mesmerized by their own reflections in the puddle.
It's not just the animals who enjoy the water, we like to have a dip ourselves and our local hot springs are a highlight of a safari here in the Selous, even though these are very hot springs they are remarkably refreshing! The swimming pool back at camp is also a great spot to cool off in the afternoons!
Sasakwa & Faru Faru Lodges
Sabora Tented Camp & Explore Mobile Tented Camp
|Temperature and Wind||Rainfall|
||32.8°C (91,0˚F)||Sasakwa||60.6 mm|
|Average minimum||15.8°C (60,4˚F)||Sabora||36.5 mm|
|Average mean||22.1°C (71,7˚F)||Faru Faru||51.0 mm|
|Average wind speed||0.2mps||Samaki||321.5 mm|
|Average high wind speed||7.6mps||Risiriba||183 mm|
|Predominant wind direction||SE||Sami-Sami||234 mm|
|January at Singita Grumeti was a month marked by change: The holiday festivities quieted down, the rains stopped, the sun came out and the short grass grew to extremely long lengths within a matter of days. But, the one thing that continued to be consistent was excellent game viewing.|
Singita Grumeti is cheetah country
28 Cheetah sightings in September, 25 in October, 35 in November and 44 in December.
Our cheetah sightings have been climbing recently and January was the best so far - 60 different cheetah sightings, and most of them consisting of more than one animal!
The usual suspects on the property have become more and more comfortable with the vehicles and are less afraid to be seen. Then there are multiple newcomers who continue to sporadically showup. They include two additional brothers and a few single females. All of the newcomers are still quite skittish.
We can't wait to see what the future has in store for our cheetah population at Singita Grumeti. Currently we are averaging two sightings a day and many guests have been lucky enough to witness a gazelle being hunted. We hope all of these world speed record holders are here to stay!
Over the past seven months we've had regular sightings of the female cheetah and her single cub, in the sequence of photographs that follow. Making it to adulthood is difficult in the bush, especially for cats, so it has been awesome to watch this cub continue to grow and survive.
Giraffes - you just can't get enough of them!
As usual, there were plenty of giraffes about in January, but one Sunday, while driving north on Grumeti West Road, we had the pleasure of meeting a herd that had lots of babies in tow. This group of little ones are a few weeks old.
It wasn't until I was looking at my pictures of them later that I noticed something slightly peculiar about one of these three. Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) are a subspecies of giraffe that live in eastern Africa. One thing that distinguishes them is that their markings are very rigid and cracked whereas southern African giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) have markings that are more rounded and the cracks less defined.
If you look at the above picture, the youngster in the middle has very soft and rounded markings - very interesting and atypical!
Less than 100 metres north from there we came across this little one who was only a few days old, sleeping at its mother's feet. She was an old looking female who was very calm, probably because this baby has come after many others, and she had grown confident with experience.
The tiny giraffe was very sleepy. Every now and then he would lift his long neck and look up, but it was never very long until his eyes would start to close and he would turn his head back around and snooze a little longer.
We couldn't get enough of his droopy ears and the black tufts of hair covering his horns, and were more than happy to sit with him for about 30 minutes until he finally decided it was time to wake up, stand up, and get a move-on.
Even more elephants!
In December we mentioned huge numbers of elephants roaming around Sabora, and the beginning of January continued to impress. After hearing reports of a massive herd, guides Lizzie, Alf, Alan and I went to check it out.
There were over 400 elephants. Combined, Alf, Alan, and I have over 40 years of guiding experience under our belts and we all agreed this was probably the best sighting of elephant we have ever seen.
We first spotted the huge herd on open plains and they were very skittish, stampeding in the other direction the second they saw us approaching. Cautiously we made our way towards them. They moved into a more covered area with trees and bushes and their attitude completely changed, from skittish to extremely calm and relaxed. We even had an elderly cow come right up to the vehicle, no more than three feet away, to investigate us.
Elephants are very social animals, and every now and then many different herds will come together like this to socialize. They will stay together for a period of time and eventually go their separate ways.
The case of the missing lions
The Butamtam Pride went 'off the radar' for January, and we did not see them the entire month. We believe this was due to a lack of plains game in their territory, combined with their continuing to avoid the five big Nyasirorimales.
We hope to see them again come February- AWOL lions are always rather disconcerting!
Sightings report - January 2013
|Lion:||53 sightings||5 up from December|
|Leopard:||9 sightings||10 down from December|
|Cheetah:||60 sightings||16 up from December|
|Elephant:||35 sightings||5 up from December|
|Rhino:||4 sightings||2 up from December|
|Buffalo:||Multiple sightings daily|
By Ryan Schmitt and Lizzie Hamrick
Singita Grumeti • Serengeti • Tanzania
Rubondo Island Camp welcomed the first guests on the 15th of December - an exciting day for the camp crew.
Also remember a Special Opening Offer for Rubondo: 50% Discount for the 2nd night onwards
- All new bookings only
- Booking from now- 31st Mar 2014
- Travel from 01st June 2013 - 31st Mar 2014
- 20th Dec 2013 - 5th Jan 2014
- Long stay discount does not apply to nights booked under this offer