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Beyond the Migration - Tanzania Year Round at Singita

- Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Visiting Tanzania is about much more than the annual wildebeest migration that traverses the Serengeti. At any time of year, the region offers travellers diverse game viewing, from big predators to prolific prey, on its vast open plains and along its river banks.

Be captured by the awe of the many seasons this area has to offe



January to March

Warm and fairly dry, this is a great time to visit the region with large herds of topi, zebra, eland, giraffe and Thompson’s gazelle starting to gather on the open plains. It is also the calving season. Read more » 


April to May

Known as the season of the long rains, this period transforms the landscape as lush, longer grasses grow and rivers, lakes and pans start to fill up with water again. Large herds of elephant are common sightings. Read more » 

June to October

The dry season commences in June and continues until the end of October. Considered high season in Tanzania, it is characterised by pleasantly warm, sunny days and easy game viewing. Read more » 

 

November to December

Short rains and brief, spectacular thunderstorms give way to clear skies and amazing colour contrasts for photography. Awesome cheetah and lion sightings are common, there are a large number of babies, and migratory birds return. Read more » 


Be captured by the awe of the many seasons this area has to offer - watch this short video »



Ol Donyo Lodge

- Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Guide James and Lion Tracker Lenka discussing the route through the 
Chyulu Hills to the collared lion Nemasi

April’s word has to be lions! The sightings have been amazing with so much Lion activity……… Nemesi has been consistently seen with her 3 cubs who are growing rapidly and seem to be doing extremely well and absolutely loving their home in the Chyulus. We are able to track the prides movements using our Maasai tracker Lenka and a special tracking antenna which responds to Nemasi’s collar when she is near. The guests get to experience tracking in the vehicle but also on foot and see first-hand what is involved with protecting and observing these magnificent creatures.





A unique look at Nemasi’s collar.  This is how we are able to track this pride and are able to share this incredibly raw and unique experience with our guests.  

Easter was fantastic, and what could be a better way to spend the morning then to spoil our guests with a Bush Breaksfast.  Now a bush breakfast is already an amazing experience under the umbrella of an acacia tree with Kilimanjaro as a back drop but just as one of our guests was riding in after a morning horse ride, Annie, the stables manager spotted 2 cheetahs just lazily lounging under a tree within viewing distance of the breakfast table! They were so relaxed and were seemingly just as interested in the horse riders as the horse riders were in them. It was a great start to Bush Breakfast.



Our waiters Douglas and Isaac waiting patiently to surprise the guests with Mimosa’s ….. little did they know as the picture was being taken there were 2 cheetah just a stone’s throw away wanting to be a part of the celebration, too.

Finally towards the end of April we had some heavy and well needed rains across the plains which is not only a spectacular sight from the lodge but also a huge help to the animals that roam the plains. The rains allow the animals to traverse the area without worry of going thirsty, many of our animals can be seen in large groupings slowly making their way to Tsavo or Amboseli national parks in order to breed or graze in green pastures.



An elephant enjoys one of lush lakes and green pastures of Amboseli over the rainy season.

This for us is an excellent time for our guests to explore a little further afield as well and we can treat our guests to longer game drives into the areas where the animals are enjoying themselves. One of the most beautiful areas this time of year is Amboseli and it is under a 2 hour game drive from the lodge to the main gate.

Although the park covers only 392 sq km, despite its small size and its fragile ecosystem the park supports a wide range of mammals, well over 50 of the larger species and over 400 species of birds.



 A beautiful Grey Crown Crain can be one of the many species of birds found in this area.

Amboseli National Park is one of the best areas near the lodge for photography thanks to the abundant wildlife all under the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro and at this time of year it has a decent dusting of snow, and the mountain is consistently clear making any photo with an animal in the foreground that much more dramatic. Amboseli has a large number of elephants and some of the biggest breeding herds around, it is breath-taking to watch the elephants, water buffalo and hippos just go about their day as if you didn’t exist, wallowing in the mug or lazily wandering through one of the many swamps. These swamps and springs are fed by underground rivers which are fed by the melting snows of Kilimanjaro and they form permanent watering places for the wildlife through times of drought. The park’s best game drives are around these swamps and there is a fantastic lookout on Observation Hill which offers views over the whole of the park and beyond, one of our favourite spots to serve up a delicious picnic lunch consisting of ever changing items, this month we had items such as individual fennel and butternut squash quiche, grilled brie and eggplant chutney sandwiches, Tikka chicken skewers with Harissa yogurt dip and for dessert spiced Jamaican Banana bread with dark rum buttercream!



Imagine, picnicking whilst watching the hippos on the plains! 

Amboseli and the Imbirikani group ranch on which the lodge is situated conjur up images from the words written by Ernest Hemingway and Robert Ruark Manyatta, rolling hills which at this time of year are a lush emerald green, easing out onto golden savannahs of waving grass and wildlife.


Bride Veronica with our ol Donyo staff members (left) Mwangi and (right) Jackson to help celebrate their special day.

Once again we were privileged enough to be invited to a traditional Maasai wedding this past month by one of our staff members, Veronica.  All of us at ol Donyo would like to end our April newsletter by congratulating her and her new husband Dan- who just happens to be a guide at our sister camp, Mara Plains in the Masai Mara.  …..What a perfect match, indeed!


Congratulations Veronica and Dan!


Renovate good times come on!!! Doopy Doopy Doop - It’s a RENOVATION Share

- Tuesday, June 17, 2014
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!




June 2014

- Monday, June 16, 2014
Climate
Magnificent thunder and lightning shows have returned to Odzala with blue skies and misty mornings in tow: the short rainy season is upon us and is making up for lost time with almost 100 mm falling in one day, of which almost half fell one hour. Needless to say we were looking forward to drying out but Mother Nature was having none of it! With a further 60 mm the next day, the rivers are now swollen and Lango Bai resembles a lake; the view from the camp changes dramatically as the stream carries the rainwater into the bai.

The small streams drain quickly, but the Lekoli and Mambili rivers are full to the brim. The rainy season also brings changes to the forest. Whereas trees can survive the dry season by adapting so as not to lose too much moisture, the sudden onset of downpours and strong winds can catch many of them unawares. Leaves, fruit and branches are shaken loose and fall to the forest floor, continuing the circle of life as they add to the leaf litter layer. The force of the wind can also uproot or simply snap entire trees.

Ngaga Camp
The expansive Ndzehi forests are home to a high density of western lowland gorillas, which works in our favour of course – but also sometimes to our detriment. The interaction between the wild groups, solitary males and the habituated groups makes for very interesting behaviour observations but can make gorilla tracking more difficult. It is only with the skills of expert trackers that we are able to locate and view the two habituated groups; gorilla tracking has been both very rewarding and very challenging this month.

Neptuno continues to enjoy utilising the southern tip of his home range, which has meant long walks to enjoy the rewards of seeing this gorilla group. The rainy season is often a time when gorillas dig for roots. Each individual in the group has his or her own personality and it is wonderful to see some of the younger individuals becoming more confident and more curious as they grow older and more used to the presence of our researchers and guests.

Jupiter’s group on the other hand has been monopolising the area behind Ngaga Camp. This is a more open canopy forest meaning that more light reaches the forest floor, allowing an incredibly thick understorey of marantaceae to develop. Time spent with this group in the marantaceae has required patience and trust in the tracker, but in each case we have been rewarded with sightings of many of the gorillas feeding up in the fruiting trees. Jupiter, the silverback, is curiously shy for such a large, powerful creature but we have had better sightings of him recently too.

One very special encounter with Jupiter’s group recently involved a youngster digging for and eating ants. Our tracker, David, managed to get us into just the right position, close enough to observe but not too close that we risked disturbing her; this allowed the young gorilla to continue as if we were not there. Digging for ants is no easy task: this little one would dig for a few minutes, then quickly raise her arm to her mouth and try to lick off all the ants off before they reached more sensitive parts of her body and started to bite. Periodically she would leave her digging site only to return from a different angle so as to catch the ants unawares. Watching this behaviour was very special indeed and a real testament to David’s skill and anticipation.

Besides gorillas, these forests are home to a plethora of other creatures: this month we have been lucky enough to get good sightings of putty-nosed monkeys, a small bush viper and several species of bats, which have been difficult to identify. We have also been finding evidence of the anomalure (“flying squirrel”) in camp, but so far we have not managed to get a good sighting, while night walks in the forest have revealed pottos and two different galagos (bushbabies), namely the Demidorf’s and Thomas’.

Ngaga has also welcomed a new staff member to its kitchen contingent and we all look forward to many more delicious meals from chef Rea.

Lango Camp
We have been very impressed with the elephant activity around Lango this month. The rains seem to bring elephants more often and we are now seeing bulls regularly visit areas along the river or out in the savannah. They are also getting more used to encountering us and are becoming more tolerant of our presence, allowing us to get some great sightings. Forest elephant bulls only rarely form “bachelor groups” and a typical forest elephant matriarchal herd size is just three or four individuals, which can surprise people who might be expecting to see much larger herds. 

The bai areas – and Lango Bai in particular – play a very important role in elephant social interaction; it has been found that elephants will spend 50% longer in bais if other elephants are present. This results in magical nocturnal congregations which can be best appreciated by the silvery light of a full moon. On one special night this month we saw 22 elephants congregating by moonlight. Two of the bulls were testing each other’s strength, and the sound of clashing tusks rang out across the bai and echoed back from the surrounding trees.

Lango Bai was also visited by two sitatunga bulls, one at the far end of the bai and the other right next to the main deck; both these animals provided excellent sightings, being available for viewing for about 20 minutes.

The primate viewing along the Lekoli River has been good too, with four different monkey species being seen in one afternoon. The riverine forests have consistently proven to be the preferred habitat for most species of monkey, from the quick mangabeys to the less agile colobus. Some monkeys are actually competent swimmers, such as de Brazza’s monkey with his red-crested head and white beard, and so will always choose a habitat near water.

With primates, the balance between fear and curiosity worked in our favour, as each species – grey-cheeked mangabey, agile mangabey, guereza colobus and de Brazza’s monkeys – stuck around to get a better look at what was going on in the boat – while we were all having a better look at what was going on in the trees! Even chimps are known to visit the river, but typically we hear them more often than we see them. The combination of elusive animals, a swift-flowing river and tangled vegetation means that it can be very tough to locate the source of the noise.

The rains also seem to have brought out the amphibians and reptiles, with a sighting of the much-sought-after slender-snouted crocodile on a palm tree overhanging the Lekoli River and a dwarf crocodile spotted crossing the road in the middle of the savannah the day after heavy rains. Spotted bush snakes continue to amaze us with their bright green colours and this month we were lucky enough to come across a small female Blanding’s tree snake curled up in the fronds of a palm tree. The chorus of frogs is facing some competition with the noise from the elephants but they continue to do their vocal best to drown out the much larger animals.

We have three new additions to Lango Camp this month. Firstly, we are very happy to welcome Ashley and Tara to the Lango Camp management team and secondly we have been very excited about the presence of a grey-cheeked mangabey that now seems to be calling Lango home. It is unusual for this species to be alone, but it is possible that this young male has left his natal group and is now waiting to form his own family. We hope he continues to visit us regularly, as the guereza colobus do.

Birds
April has been especially productive for birding and there seem to be many fledglings learning the ropes at the moment. The most noticeable of these are the red-necked spurfowl running down the road with three or four little chicks in tow but the tree-nesting birds have also undergone a “baby boom” with eastern-bearded greenbuls and blue-billed malimbes also feeding their young.

Kingfishers are always a colourful highlight and this month we have seen pygmy kingfisher, chocolate-backed kingfisher, woodland kingfisher and shining-blue kingfisher while the blue-breasted kingfisher continues to call from all parts of the forest – but keeps us on our toes when it comes to actually trying to catch a glimpse of him. In the bai this month we managed to see a juvenile African harrier-hawk, which is quite uncommon for the region and a juvenile black-casqued-wattled hornbill, recognisable by his small casque, brown cheeks and lack of colour on his wattle. A collared sunbird was another special sighting on a flowering liana while blue-headed crested flycatcher, blue malkoha and guinea turacos are our (albeit somewhat shy) camp residents.

   


Trekking to see the Golden Monkeys

- Monday, June 16, 2014
We left Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge at 7am and drove to the National Park HQ. At the office we paid our fees (US$ 100.00 for non-residents) and were introduced to the Guide who would be escorting us to the Monkeys.

The Golden Monkey, Cercopithecus mitis kandti is a local subspecies of the better known Blue Monkey and is only found in the high altitude forests in this area. There are two habituated groups of Golden Monkeys both consisting of between 80 and 100 individuals. The group of Golden Monkeys we were due to visit live in the forests at the foot of Mt Sabyinyo, very close to the Lodge. After a briefing from our Guide, we drove back to where our trek would start, which is very close to the Lodge. The trek starts in the potato fields and after a 30 minute up-hill walk we eventually arrived at the National Park boundary. The boundary consists of a stone wall which was built to keep Buffalo and Elephants inside the Park and stop them raiding the potato fields. Just before entering the forest we were lucky with a sighting of a Regal Sunbird, Cinnyris regia. This Sunbird is endemic (only occurs) to the highland forests in the Virunga’s. Crossing the wall we entered the bamboo zone of the forest. Shortly after entering the bamboo we had good sightings of an Archer’s Robin-Chat, Cossypha archeri and a brief sighting of an Abyssinian Ground-Thrush, Zoothera piaggiae. Both of these birds, although common, are difficult to see in the forest undergrowth.



After a 35 minute climb in the bamboo zone we came across a group of Golden Monkeys. Although Golden Monkeys eat a variety of plant species (20–30) they prefer bamboo and this is what they were enjoying. At first, the only Golden Monkeys we could see were high up in the bamboo eating the fresh new leaves but the tracker soon found some which were feeding lower down and we were able to get good views and photographs of them.



Unlike the Mountain Gorillas, the Golden Monkeys are continually jumping from one area to another, which does make photography a little difficult. Luckily, visitors are allowed to use the flash on their cameras (not allowed with Gorillas). Fill-in flash usually works better than full auto flash. As with Gorillas, visitors are only allowed 1 hour with the Monkeys. All too soon our time was up but everyone was excited with the close personal experience with such a rare Monkey. Our trek down the mountain through the forest only took 20 minutes and, after crossing the boundary wall, we all chatted about what we had just experienced. The trek back to our safari vehicle did not take long and we were soon at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge for a well earned welcome drink.

- by: Dave Richards
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. 


AAC Guide Sightings June 2014

- Monday, June 16, 2014
George was with Wilberg Family and reported amazing sightings during their adventures.
Wilberg Party George on arrival at Kilimanjaro Airport where they had short briefing and started drive to Coffee lodge for lunch. After lunch we headed towards Ngorongoro Exploreans Lodge and enjoyed our scenic drive as we climbed the Great Rift Valley escarpment.

After a good night’s rest we headed off to explore the Ngorongoro for our first game drive which we all were really looking forward to.  We spotted lions and this was a great experience. The Wilberg were expressing to me that at home their favorite program on Nat Geo was the big cat diary! Seeing the lions close by was great to see and we spent time watching their behaviour as they interacted with one another. Our crater game drive was very successful as we continued to sight baboons, buffalo, elephants, hyenas, rhinos, male lions, wildebeest, zebras, and hippos. Our highlight was a baby being born and the jackals and Hyenas taking the baby, what a spectacle to see as the drama unfolded in front of us. After our game drive we had visit to the Maasai village then we went to the lodge for dinner and overnight.

The following morning we opted for a morning game drive in Lake Manayara National Park and had a late lunch at Manyara Serena. In the park we saw lots of baboons, blue monkeys, giraffe, monitor lizard, flamingoes. Our highlight in Manyara Park was the lions we saw with cubs and on top of that they were hunting a porcupine, we all watched as the cubs practiced their hunting skills until they disappeared in the bush. After a successful game drive we headed to the lodge for lunch.



The following morning we continued our journey towards Tarangire National Park. On our way we saw the Maasai bomas en route and traditional markets where all would gather. We entered Tarangire National Park and our first sighting was a cheetah followed by banded mongoose, waterbuck, and elephants. We then stopped for lunch at Tarangire safari lodge enjoying the fantastic views. After lunch we continued with our game drive heading to Oliver’s camp and we saw More Elephants, Giraffe, Impalas . We continued to explore an area where we had heard Lions who had hunted earlier but did not manage to spot them.  The highlight of the day was a Leopard perched on a tree.  We were very lucky with the spotting  as we observed the magnificent creature as he posed for us!  We were the only ones there and this made it a very unique moment for us.  We all were extremely happy with the days finds and head back towards camp.

 

The following morning Wilberg had the opportunity to go for a bush walk and Susanne had asked me to check on the lions who we had missed out on our evening game drive yesterday.  After their walk we set out and drove to the site and found seven lions as they were playing with the cubs and the cubs nursing from their mother. That was the highlight of the day!

 

Our last day and we left early in the morning at six as the Wilbergs had to catch a flight from Kilimanjaro airport. We were lucky in the morning as we had good unique sighting of giraffe sitting down, we also saw dik diks but the icing on the cake was a male lion sitting on the side of the road! A Great Farewell!


Elibariki was with the Bornhoeft and reported
We began our safari adventure and departed to Lake Manyara National Park for morning game drive, on our game drive we saw troop of blue monkey, troop of baboons, troop of vervet monkey, harem of impala, superb starling one male hippo outside of the pool trying to enter the little pool where water was too shallow. We saw four giraffes almost together, big family of warthogs, elephants and more troops of baboons. After a successful game drive we head off to Lake Manyara Serena Lodge, which is perched on the escarpment and overlooks the lake . After lunch late afternoon we departed to Gibb’s Farm for dinner and overnight.

  

The following day we had an early morning as we departed at 0530 hrs with picnic breakfast to explore the great Ngorongoro Crater. As we drove thru the morning mist and began to descend to the crater floor.  On our game drive we spotted African hare, big herd of buffalos on the rim crossing the road on our game drive in the crater we saw big bachelor herd of buffalos spotted hyena walking in the middle of the road, zebras, Thompson and grants gazelles.  We spotted plenty of Birds species from the big flock of abdim’s storks, grey crowned cranes, white storks, black bellied bustard, male kori bustard displaying himself with a puffed out chest,  As we continued we spotted lioness with two cubs of about two months old. We also saw big herd of wildebeest, warthogs family. We had a magnificent pink background as the lake was almost full with  greater and lesser Flamingos everywhere. We were very lucky and saw about ten rhinos in different areas, some far away and some near the road, two of them were lying down and stood up for short time and laid down again.

 

We managed to spot plenty of elephants bulls around the plain and a family herd in the Lerai forest.  we saw hippos, one Male lion far away from the road, two rhinos showing fighting behavior but didn’t witness any action. With a successful time game viewing we decided it was time to head back to Gibbs farm for our lunch and spend a relaxing afternoon in the tranquil environment of Gibbs farm enjoying the wonderful views

The next morning after an early breakfast it was time to bid farewell as we drove to lake Manyara airstrip, they had a flight to catch to Serengeti.


Mkenda and Wilfred were with Santora family and reported some exciting game viewing
Mrs. Santora had been on a Tanzania Safari before, and was looking forward to a private safari Experience. Manyara Ranch was a perfect start for them.

  

Overall we had a wonderful safari experience which exceeded their expectation and also managed to spot some great sightings.

We started our safari adventure by driving straight to Manyara Ranch where we had lunch and then went for an afternoon game drive and visited Maasai Open Market. They loved the market experience.  We headed back to camp to relax as they had planned for a night game drive later on. The Night game drive was quite interesting as they managed to spot various nocturnal animals including a very rare striped hyena.

The following morning we had an early start with an early morning walking safari at 0600hrs we saw elephant and zebra,, After breakfast we then drove to Manyara National Park for game drive where we saw another rare animal known as Kudu that was a great sighting. In the afternoon we saw cheetahs and another rare animal, the Gerenuk part of antelope family.

 

The next day we continued our journey and drove to Gibbs farm and on the way we stopped at the town of Mtowabu “ Mosquito creek Town” . Having a magnificent view of the Rift Valley Escarpment I talked about the formation of the Great Rift Valley, which caused the formation of the Ngorongoro highlands and in turn resulted the flat plains of the Southern Serengeti. However the Ngorongoro Highland is in itself a very important area with its biodiversity, as it collects and absorbs rain water like a sponge and percolates under the rocks and released down at the foot of rift Valley wall of the escarpment. The water is very clear as the rocks underneath rich in lime stone. The creeks created from these springs used by local people for irrigation purposes, where they produce lots of vegetables, banana and rice, the town has grown from a village and continues to attract various tribes to have benefits of selling their produce and now we have over 120 different tribes in the area.

We headed to Gibbs Farm for lunch which was great and after lunch we had a walk to the waterfalls and elephants’ cave. At the elephant cave I had an opportunity to talk about the importance of minerals.  Elephants take mineral for two reasons; firstly due to the facts that their tusks contents made out of phosphorous and calcium so they need minerals for such requirements; secondly they need iron supplement as the iron in the body become depleted as it used to get rid of harmful chemicals.  We returned back to Gibbs Farm for dinner and overnight.

 

The next day we left early in the morning at 0600hrs driving towards the Ngorongoro crater, we enjoyed a picnic breakfast in the crater entertained by hippopotamus. Then we saw rhino, hyena and lions and other general game before we went to Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge for lunch, on the way we saw a coalition of male lions on the tree. This was interest sighting as normally female lions tend to be sighted on trees and are the ones that climb trees.

The next day we continued our journey as we drove to the Serengeti via Olduvai Gorge and shifting sand. We talked about the importance of visiting the Gorge as it was the first place to excavate the skull of human kind scientifically known as Australopithecus Boise. In July 17, 1959 and that shifted the origin of human kind from Asia to Africa as it was dated to 1.75 million.

Then we drove to the shifting sand area where I demonstrated by using a magnet that the black sands are small Iron fillings that can be attracted by a magnet. Iron lava pushed out by a powerful volcano nearby in 1966. This volcano is known by Maasai as Oldonyo Lengai ( mountain of God).

The next day we had the opportunity to explore the Serengeti Plains,  we started by an amazing sight of a leopard just close by right in front of our vehicle and a lion on the tree. Then we went to the Moru Kopjes (rock outcrops) where we saw Maasai Paintings and Gong Rock where Maasai used to knock the rock. We also saw migration coming to Moru.

  

The next morning was an early start as they had a Balloon Flight in the early morning. After the balloon and celebratory champagne breakfast we continued with a game drive and then lunch at the camp. In the afternoon we went to Moru Kopjes and saw three rhinoceros.

We continued exploring the Serengeti Plains and went towards Gol Kopjes where we saw cheetah hunting in tall grass and lions on the kopjes, what a brilliant sight, truly magnificent.

 

Then as we were driving back we saw a big male leopard walking along the road that was the finale to our amazing trip.

 

We had a wonderful safari filled with unique and interesting sightings


Elibariki was with the Williams and reported:
Arriving into Kilimanjaro Airport after introductions and short safari briefing, we departed and started our journey towards Tarangire and stopped at Maromboi tented Lodge for lunch. After lunch we headed out on an afternoon game drive.  On our game drive, we saw, several territorial male impalas, Zebras, lilac breasted roller, superb starling, warthogs, ostrich, black backed jackal, different families of elephants, herd of waterbuck, about seven giraffe  in the river some walking along the river and some feeding on the acacia tree bushes, pride  of three lioness  with one cub of about  three months on the river bank. Back to Maramboi tented camp for dinner and overnight.

 

The next day we had an early start after early breakfast at 0600 hrs we departed with picnic lunch at 0630hrs for full day game drive. On our game drive we saw a lot of giraffes, zebras, different troops of baboons, vervet monkey, different bachelor herd of impalas, Pair of black backed jackal caring half of baby impala carcass each, big herd of different elephant families, some wallowing in the river, big several herum of  impalas, buffalos herd different warthogs families, ostrich, lilac breasted roller Tawny eagle, African fish eagle, southern ground hornbill, African grey hornbill. We had Lunch under the tree along the river whilst watching the elephants. What an amazing sight!  After lunch afternoon game drive where we saw two almost grown up leopard juveniles in one tree, red and yellow barbet, more elephants and warthogs almost everywhere common water bucks very big flock of about eighty ostrich chicks Including adults walking towards and eventually crossed the road in front of our car, With a successful day we headed back to Maromboi for dinner and overnight.



After early breakfast we departed with picnic lunch for full day game drive. On our  game drive we saw different warthogs families, ostrich, three brothers of cheetahs on the little termite mound, herd  of zebra, several wildebeest, lonely hartebeest troops of baboons, vervet monkey, pair of black backed jackals etc. picnic lunch. After our picnic lunch we continued exploring the park with an afternoon game drive where we saw a lot of elephant families wallowing in the mud, drinking and crossing the river. After a successful day we headed back the lodge early to spend the evening at leisure admiring the African sunset.

The following day we drove back to Arusha and had to bid farewell. We had a great adventure and were lucky with the incredible sightings we saw.


Mkenda was with Trippie and Baldwin party  and reported
Melinda and Richard had visited before and I was lucky to have the opportunity to be their guide once again on their safari adventure. The expectation would certainly be much more as they brought their friends with them this time around. Having a big challenge ahead of me to promise and deliver we set out on our journey. We set out on the hunt for game looking forward to catching some unique and memorable sightings.

  
  

We started our safari adventure and we drove to Tarangire National Park with picnic lunch. This gave me an ideal opportunity to give a brief of the Tarangire Park, having a river meandering in the Park which is the only source of water during dry season. This means that most of the animals are attracted inside the park during the dry season. Research has shown that over 6000 elephant are congregated in the park and large numbers of wildebeests and zebras. As opposed to wet season where animals are scattered around the park and on the outskirts the park as many water sources are easily accessible.  As we entered the park we were welcomed by giraffe as we continued our game drive we spotted plenty of elephant and giraffe and baobab trees scattered across the horizon.  We continued to our lodge for some rest.

The following day we left early at 0600hrs and enjoyed the morning golden light. We departed with a picnic breakfast and had our breakfast overlooking the view of the swamp, after breakfast we saw a python on the tree, then we saw a leopard from a distance and was a great sighting as it was the first leopard.

We continued our journey the next morning as we drove to Ngorongoro via Mtowambu “Mosquito Creek” Town where we enjoyed a walk, a nice chance to stretch our legs. We then continued our scenic drive climbing the rift valley escarpment and circled the crater rim as we went to Ngorongoro Lemala camp for lunch. After we visited the Maasai village and this was  an awesome experience to see local tribesman and given the chance to interact with them and learning their way of life, we also had the chance to see a few in action as they were taking cattle back to their village.

  

As we woke up early this morning and all very excited as we descended down into the majestic crater floor for a full day game drive with our picnic lunches. We enjoyed sighting rhino with the morning light and having breakfast with hippopotamus at the picnic site. As we continued on game drive we spotted a pride of 9 lions with very young cubs who were feeding from their mother. We watched on as the family interacted with one another. This very unique sight and certainly turned out to be the highlight of the day.

We continued our journey towards the Serengeti plains. We drove to the Ndutu area via Olduvai Gorge and shifting sand.  This was a welcomed experience and they got a chance to learn and gather interesting facts on our early hominids. The shifting sands were an enjoyable and learning experience. I demonstrated what the sand contain by using a magnet as it is formed by Nitro-Carbonic Iron fillings can be attracted by a magnet perhaps the reason of being pulled together and moving in such form.

  

As we headed towards the Ndutu area , we continued exploring and spotted a pride of 13 lions and a cheetah. Also a colorful sight of flamingo in Lake Ndutu.

Our next day turned out very interesting. We spotted a lioness with very tiny cubs during morning light which was awesome. We continued on exploring and spotted Cheetah. We spent time tracking and following the cheetah as she perused to hunt. A very dramatic experience as we saw the cheetah hunt and catch a two months wildebeest!

  

The following day our luck spotting Cheetah continued as we saw a mother cheetah with two very little cubs who had just killed a gazelle, it was a fascinating sight to watch as the little cubs shared the meal with their mother.

  

As we continued to explore the plains we saw a hyena chasing a mother wildebeest with her young calf. We watched on as eventually the Hyena managed to catch the young wildebeest. According to research findings made in Serengeti and Ngorongoro about 30% to 50% of newly born wildebeest under two months are taken by predators.

  

The following day we headed off exploring on game drive and we spotted many lions on trees. A unique sight to see tree climbing lions, perhaps they were climbing as the grasses were very long and needed better visibility. Cats either go up the tree or kopjes. We spotted a beautiful sighting of a leopard on a tree, very close sighting and this allowed us to get some great photos!

  

Our great luck with the Cheetah continued as we saw three coalition male cheetah marking their territory on the kopjes.

  
  

That was an amazing trip! We saw 9 leopards, many cheetahs and so many lions. The clients were very happy and they promised to be back.  We had  big farewell as we drove to the airstrip!

We had a thrilling Experience and surely exceeded their high expectations.  Melinda and Richard had visited before and they said this trip was even better than their first trip, they are planning to be back and will visit during a different part of the year to continue to explore the Northern circuit and perhaps to see the wildebeest river crossings in northern Serengeti. Actually we saw exceptional sightings that including a cheetah kill, lots of rhino, tree climbing lions, cheetah with tiny cubs and lions with their cubs too.


Lion Kids Camp at Samburu – Concern for Mother Nature

- Monday, June 09, 2014
Samburu children in northern Kenya know a lot about wildlife because they live in a wild country amongst wild animals while herding livestock like goats, sheep and cows. They have to learn as much as possible about the reptiles, birds and mammals in order to survive – or keep safe.
 
As they grow older, these children avoid big game and grow up hating – or being wary of lions, leopards, buffalo, elephant and cheetah.
 
Some children are so afraid of wild animals that they have never seen predators up –close and alive. The only ones they have seen are those killed for killing livestock.
 
Now, Lion Kids Camp and Kenyan Kids on Safari are working together to change these children’s perception of wild animals.
 
Lion Kids Camp is another project by Dr Shivani Bhalla, founder and director of Ewaso Lions to engage local communities in conservation. Kenya’s lion population has crashed from 20,000 two decades ago to 2,000 today – mostly due to increasing human populations and a growing demand for space – which brings lions in direct conflict with pastoral communities when their livestock is killed. 

Kenyan Kids on Safari was founded by Todd Cromwell from the UK when he realized that not many local children have the opportunity to visit wildlife parks despite living close to them.
 
Ewaso Lions strongly believes that these children are future wildlife custodians and teaching them the problems of the dwindling wildlife may help change their perception and come up with solutions to save Kenya’s wild heritage.
 
Ewaso Lions Projects
a) Ewaso lion guides
b) Lion Kids Camp
c) Mama Simba
d) Warrior watch
 
Lion Kids Camp
 
In April, Ewaso Lions organized the second Lion Kids Camp at Westgate Conservancy bordering Samburu National Reserve. 35 local children from the area spent four days camping in the conservancy, learning about wildlife conservation and enjoying exciting game drives.
 
This was a life changing experience for the children. ‘Our evaluation shows that the children’s views on wildlife improve significantly after the Camp. At the end of the four-day program, all the children responded that they would be very sad if there were no lions in Samburu.”
 
Shivani Bhalla is inspiration to all Kenyan kids to conserve wildlife.
 
Heritage Hotels Supports Kids Safaris
Lion Kids Camp and Kenya Kids on Safari collaborate with Heritage Hotels, supported by our guests. Ewaso Lions and Samburu Intrepids Camp (Heritage Hotels) have to date taken more than 220 children on game drives in Samburu National Reserve. For many children, it is their first time in Samburu National Reserve.
 
Shivani has announced a marathon for the lions on 3rd May 2014 in Samburu to create awareness on the importance of lions to nomadic people.












- by: Steve Tilas Lekango 
Naturalist at Samburu Intrepids Camp


The Migration 2014 Arrives at Singita Grumeti

- Monday, June 09, 2014
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.


April 2014

- Tuesday, April 08, 2014
Leopard cub – Mara Toto
On the 15th of February, after having been watching, and waiting for two months we had the first ever sighting of the Leopard cub belonging to the leopardess who has been a regular around Mara Plains and Toto for the last 5 months.



On the morning of the 15th, guests out with the morning drives from Mara Toto found the mother and cub on the edge of the plain not more than a kilometer from the camp. As they watched the leopardess picked up her cub and carried a few hundred meters it into the riverine thicket. Here she nursed her little one before getting up and moving back onto the plains in the light of the rising sun. Her cub, not need ing to be told jumped into the bush and disappeared.

On the evening of the 16th they were found again as the two played in the dark on the top of the riverbank.

Finally on the evening of the 17th of February, after a patient wait of over an hour we were finally rewarded with the first sight of the little one’s face as it curiously peered out at us from the safety of the tangled roots of its secret home. For a few seconds the little eyes, still slightly grey watched us before retreating and becoming one of the shadows in its home.

We wish this little one and its mother the best of luck and we hope to be able to send regular updates of the life of this little one as (hopefully) it grows up and follows in the paw marks of its mother.

Mara Plains



This February has been a dry month in which we have watched the red-oat grass drop it’s seeds, thin-out and turn from green to brown. The temperatures have passed 30C on more occasions than not, and the wildebeest have had their calves, the first on the 4th Feb the most recent on the 3rd March. This collective calving (ensuring a maximum survival rate) is considered one of the best times to witness the migratory cycles of these beests. The majority of this happens on the short grass plains of the Serengeti thought we still have our resident populations here who not only have more chance of becoming a statistic, due to the fewer numbers of fawns, but they also have to deal with the reality of being born into one of the highest predator density areas in Africa.

Writing this report now after having had a truly spectacular day here in the conservancy we can really only guess that the 36 hours of rain which the area was lucky enough to get about ten days ago is the reason why we have had a huge influx of plains wildlife moving into the central conservancy from Motorogi to the north. Groupings of over one hundred topi seem to have lead the way, followed by multiple families of zebra and now close to two thousand head of wildebeest with more to come on the plateau above the gorge.



This day started with Amani the cheetah being found above the rocky crossing. Then her three ‘cubs’ were spotted on the boundary of the new grazing area where they proceeded to kill a young topi and stuff themselves to maximum capacity (it is said that cheetah can eat 30% of their own body weight in half an hour!). Then a lioness from the elusive Eseketa pride (a branch of the core Moniko pride) was found with a wildebeest kill on the road onto the Olkuroto plains. A big family of elephant are currently moving through the Motorogi river valley; Fig the Leopard is digesting (again) on the river line behind Olare; and the Enkoyeni pride (never to be outdone) killed a wildebeest last night, and at 2:45pm had a another successful go at the 2000 wildebeest that decided to cross the Ntiakitaik River above deep crossing. It must be said they are looking very healthy.

On the same note of the Enkoyeni pride, some of you may have followed the thread of the Enkoyeni lion who was injured after his attempt to raid a Maasai boma. Well, he is still looking well and not limping despite having removed the stitches from both his wounds in his feet. The lion research, conservancy and guides will keep and eye on him and cross fingers that the wound will heal up. This pride is now up to 13 individuals in the southern part of the OMC (with two cubs) the other females are said to be with the seven young males in the north.



Other characters of the story…. well, high on the scene this month have been Amani’s three ex-cubs from her last litter. These three spent the first past of the month hunting scrub hares. They then began terrorizing the reedbuck along the hammerkop steam, and they also had a go at a very unfortunate serval cat which was chased and very nearly tripped before being left to scamper to safety. These three killed an adult impala on the 1st (this chase ended up in the river bed after 200 meters) and then today a young topi. A very successful trio, well done Amani!

Other cheetahs in the soap opera… Narasha has been around, previous reports that she may have given birth were not true but by now we are sure she must have. The questions are ‘where?’ and ‘are they alive?’ The last time she was seen on the plains above the deep crossing she was reportedly lactating but this is unproven as yet. We do know however that she was in the same area as the Enkoyeni lions.

Another female cheetah came through this month with signs of mange around her eyes. After monitoring and follow ups it seems this mange may not be spreading so we will wait and keep checking on her.

The Moniko pride (the conservancies largest pride of lions) spent the first part of the month on their namesake hill before moving east to take advantage of the herds on the plains south of the Eseketa valley. Towards the end of the month part of this pride moved even further east following the herds onto the shorter grass plains of Naboisho, a few other members of the pride stayed in the area north of Kicheche and were recently seen on Naronyo hill presiding over the grazing area set aside for the land owner’s cattle.



Slightly further afield the double crossing pride have been close up to the boundary of the conservancy for much of this month, although they are nowhere near in as good condition as the pride around the OMC they are making the most of the animals that are moving through the north of the reserve on the shorter grass plains. Interestingly, the two males from this pride have been pushing far north (and east) into the territories of both the Enkoyeni pride and the Moniko pride. These two males have on a number of occasions been found around Moniko hill – maybe this is part of the reason for the Moniko’s move east? Either way the other males around the OMC will have their work cut out for them in the future considering these two’s ‘crazy eye’ look and aggressive pushes.

Onto the leopards of the Olare Motorogi and ‘Fig’ who spent the first week of the month in her usual haunt on the hammerkop stream. She then disappeared again for a few days (possibly just hiding very well), then towards the end of February she appeared on the riverline behind Olare in what we would all have said was her mother (Acacia)’s territory. To all the Fig fans, she is still looking healthy and hopefully might start to develop milk glands soon.

Acacia has been very scarce this month only being found on a few occasions. She is still along her little section of rivarian forest and doing very well as always. She took a couple of days to eat (and more to recover from) a large male Thompson’s gazelle she had killed and hung in a tree. Then she was found with an impala fawn very close to the conservancy’s western boundary.

Namynak, Acacia’s youngest daughter, has also blessed OMC guests with sightings this month. She has only been found in the vicinity of her mother once and is obviously very confident on her own now though still in her mother’s range. We are very much looking forward to the day when we see her with her first kill of a mammal her own size or larger.

Some of the highlights of the month would include:
-Watching the vets treat a young male lion that was slashed by blades while (hopefully) learning that cows are not to be eaten.
-We have seen so many giraffe this month, seemingly more than usual, watching these animals helps one to slow down and feel the mellow motion pace of the African bush.
-Seeing the cheetah chasing (but not harming) the serval cat.
-Seeing the duo of Nguro (‘half tail’) and Jicho (‘one eye’) doing so well in the central conservancy despite not having a pride.
-Seeing the large groups of kongoni (Coke’s hartebeest) around the conservancy when these animals are said to be in fast decline in the region.
-Finding the multiple groups of Eland who we have been following these past months.
-Watching the Enkoyeni pride set up and succeed in their hunt towards the month end after weeks when they were loosing form fast.
 -Seeing the large families of elephant coming through this area.
-Watching the two families of bat-eared foxes (one east of the Ntiakitaik, one on Porini hill) as the pups grow and reach sub-adulthood.
-Watching Amani’s last litter succeed in the majority of their hunts.
-Watching Fig, one of our resident leopards, begin to expand her range. (Acacia has also been found again at the top end of the riverline behind Olare). The birthing of the wildebeest and seeing these little long legged fawns learning to keep up with the herd. We timed one from hitting the ground to walking – 4 minutes!!
-Witnessing the return of the large herds of wildebeest and zebra back into the area, promising a time of action ahead.



Olesere / Ol Donyo Lodge



February has whistled by and what a jam-packed month it has been! It started with a dramatic rise in temperature and in the first week we were absolutely sweltering. Afternoon siestas were an absolute must and our horse riders were mounting up before the sun had risen to escape the heat!



The 7th sticks in our minds not only as the day that the storms broke but also as the tragic day that we lost one of our most renown resident bull elephants – Torn Ear.  He arrived at the waterhole after a long absence and was obviously in great pain with a huge swelling on his side. Big Life Foundation sprung into action and the vet was brought in but sadly the poison arrowheads had punctured his abdominal cavity and peritonitis had set in. It was a deeply moving experience for some of our guests to be able to be part of this process, many of them leaving ol Donyo with a new passion to spread the conservation message. That afternoon the storms set in and we had the most fantastic lightening displays and crashing rolls of thunder – we’d like to think that the Chyulu Hills were grieving for their old friend just as we were.


Torn Ear

It is not uncommon to get a little bit of rain in February, and these are often called the “Grass Rains” as they bring about a short flush of green grass. These are caused by the remnants of cyclones from Madagascar travelling up across East Africa. This year has been different in that the cyclone was much more intense and longer lasting, and so we had a good 10 days of heavy storms. The result is fabulous! Everything is a deep verdant green and most spectacularly all the Acacia tortilis is in flower, so the forest below the lodge is covered with the beautiful white blossom.

A rare sighting of an elephant on the plains – clearly having enjoyed a very good mud bath after the recent rain!

The lions in the area have been very busy and many of our guests have had fantastic sightings. Nemasi, a collared lioness whose home range includes the ol Donyo Sambu and El Mau areas, has been particularly obliging of late. With the help of the local Lion Guardian Lenga, we have been able to see a lot of her, the young male Melio and her cubs. Kasiyo, the big black-maned male lion who resides on the other side of the lodge towards ol Donyo Wuas and Crater, and his girls Nosi Noni, her sister and their cubs have also been very active. A giraffe kill near Stable Hill meant that we had some brilliant viewings. For the first time also we were able to approach the pride in the late afternoon and they were very relaxed with the vehicle and human presence. What a success!


Melio displaying his impressive knashers!

Jeremiah Kasaine, our fantastic guide, is now the first at ol Donyo to achieve his Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association Silver Award. We are incredibly proud of him and his achievement is spurring the other guides to study even harder for theirs!


Our Silver Award guide – Jeremiah

The end of January heralded the Year of the Horse in the Lunar Chinese Calendar, and for the stables at ol Donyo this February has been one of their busiest yet. The horses have enjoyed the flush of green grass and are looking in peak condition and the rains have also served to settle the dust so the riding conditions are perfect. The joy of riding in the bush is that one is able to go completely off-road and many animals, especially giraffe, allow you to get much closer than in a vehicle. It is also such a quiet and unobtrusive way of moving around the bush – just the odd clink off a metal shoe on a rock and the gentle whicker of a horse rather than any sort of engine!


Zulu heading out for a well deserved break in the bush after a long morning ride


Bwindi Community Hospital

- Tuesday, April 08, 2014
Little Jackline’s Life saved!
Surgery for young children is still a challenge in rural Uganda where appropriate facilities and skills maybe inadequate.

Success stories like the one below help demonstrate the importance of our services, and motivate us to continue striving to improve.

Jackline, a seven year old girl from Kihihi, had been unwell for three days with abdominal pains, vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. Her mother, Agnes Niwasiima, first took her to the private health unit in Kihihi about 50km (and a two hour drive) from Bwindi Community Hospital (BCH).

While at the clinic, Jackline was diagnosed with malaria and was started on treatment.

Unfortunately her condition did not improve even a single inch. She was later referred to us. While here, our team of doctors were able to assess her thoroughly and discovered that part of her intestines had slid into another causing blockage of flow of food.

Jackline and her mother arrived at the hospital at about 10pm and were taken to the child health unit. She was later rushed to the operating theatre, and the doctors started the procedure. It took nearly 2 hours to correct the problem. Back on the ward, Jackline was a very sick little girl, and needed a lot of care from our nurses. Soon, however, she began to reward our surgical and child health teams with signs of improvement.

Day after day with the help of our teams and her caring parents, Jackline improved; her intestines started working again, and she was allowed to feed. Ten days later, Jackline was discharged all smiles.

Stories like Jackline’s are not uncommon here. They bring joy to not only the patients and their relatives but also to us as we come face to face with the challenges and rewards of surgery for young children in Bwindi.

We are grateful to Jackline’s mother for allowing us to publish this story and use her picture.


Jackline plays with other children before discharge.

A volunteer’s experience at Bwindi Community Hospital
It is 8am. The sounds of singing in Rukiga (the local language) and the beat of drums and clapping hands ring in your ears. In every direction you look are steep green hills draped with tea and coffee plantations.

A pregnant mother walks past me with a child strapped to her back and a huge bunch of matooke balanced effortlessly on her head. This is Uganda and it is beautiful.

Almost every morning starts like this here at BCH. Monday to Saturday is a normal working week. It can be hard, but more often than not it is deeply rewarding. Between daily ward rounds of the Adult Inpatient’s ward, providing supervision for clinical officers in a busy outpatient department, receiving Rukiga lessons and contributing to weekly teaching for clinical staff, it can be difficult to find time for the quality improvement projects for which we have time 2-3 days a week, not to mention finding time for the weekly football and volleyball leagues. These are wonderfully fierce, and cause controversies that are discussed long into the evening. Clinical work in rural Uganda is fascinating whilst humbling.

Dr. Hamish (right) together with the rest of the team attend to a patient on the ward.

The late presentation of patients’ means you regularly see what normally only exists in textbooks and the experience of the staff here at BCH is often all that keeps you straight. Patients’ stories bring to life the reasons for poor health in rural Africa and forever make you reassess what you take for granted.

A single journey by car on the roads here tells you why travel to the hospital takes so long and costs so much.

A lot of priority is given to making our time here as volunteer doctors sustainable. Being involved in the

confidential enquiries into local maternal and child deaths, setting up chronic care clinics and initiating a service for those dependent on alcohol are among some of the activities that will continue to develop and improve once we have left.

After a long day or week on the wards (or if you are on the losing side in football), there is always hiking high in the hills next to DRC, bumping into gorillas on evening walks, heading to the forest camps for a cold beer or mountain biking. On days off, it is not far to Lake Bunyonyi to do not very much, and it is only 3 hours to Queen Elizabeth National Park and the tree-climbing lions.

All in, it is difficult to consider your time here as ‘volunteering’: BCH and Uganda can enrich your life far more than any cost of coming here. A privileged insight into Ugandan culture, lessons from increased clinical and administrative responsibilities, and time with colleagues and people who will remain friends or mentors for life, are among some of what I will take home.


Dr Hamish Foster
Volunteer Family Physician BCH
GP Trainee - Glasgow, Scotland 



Updates on Uganda Nursing School Bwindi (UNSB)
The school opened last year with the first intake of 13 students.  The second intake will be in May and it will include two international students who already applied. The inauguration ceremony is slated for 23rd of 'May 2014 where His Excellency the president of Uganda , Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is expected to grace the occasion and all our esteemed partners. You can Support the school through scholarships.




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