Tarangire - Ngorongoro - Ndutu

Community Highlights Africa & The Middle East Tarangire - Ngorongoro - Ndutu

It's always so hard to get the balance right on safari between wanting to maximise the time spent in the national parks game viewing, and not missing out on the facilities and delights of the lodges. We always seem to arrive at our accommodation after dark and leave before it gets fully light, so we never actually get to see – or photograph – the camps during daylight hours.

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Maramboi Tented Camp was no exception. It was barely getting light as we were leaving, so I did try to get some pictures of the place during twilight. Not easy.

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It looked like a nice place to spend some time, with facilities such as a swimming pool, and animals including warthogs, zebra and wildebeest in the grounds. In fact, the grunting of the wildebeest continued through the night and kept me awake!

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Today we got to choose what we wanted in our lunch box, with a young chef making up sandwiches to order, and a buffet to choose other items from.

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Jackals versus baby goat
On the way from the lodge to the main road, we spotted a young goat which presumably became separated from the rest of the herd last night when being brought back home. Two black-backed jackals had taken advantage of this, and decided it would make a tasty breakfast!

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After much running around, and a very brave fight put up by the kid, much kicking, and a couple of unsuccessful grabs at the tail; the jackals finally went for the rear legs and brought the goat down.

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For some inexplicable reason, the jackals allowed to goat to get back up, and another stand-off ensued.

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They suddenly seemed to lose interest in the kill, however, as if they were just playing with the poor kid. The jackals went to lie down some distance away, and then slinked off into the trees. The poor goat still seemed petrified and frozen to the spot, or maybe he was just too exhausted from the fight to move. Either way he lived another day.

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I was strangely disappointed to not find the usual mischievous olive baboons at the gate to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The toilets were new though, and a vast improvement on the old ones.

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We travelled up to the crater rim through heavy mist and were really quite surprised to find the crater floor below bathed in sunshine.

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The black dots you can see below are in fact animals.

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More school children on a day trip to the crater

Acacia Trees
These flat-topped trees on the inside slope of the crater perform a very important conservation duty – acting as umbrellas, protecting the soil from erosion during heavy rains.

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Ngorongoro Crater
The Ngorongoro Crater is a UNESCO world heritage site, the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera and is commonly referred to as the 8th wonder of the world. The 610m (2,000 feet) high walls of the approximately 10 mile wide crater create a natural amphitheatre for the densest populations of large animals anywhere.

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Another "Gentlemen's Club" of old male buffalo kicked out of the herd by younger breeding males.

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Kori Bustard

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Tawny Eagle

Buffalo
Cape Buffalo are basically wild cattle, although it is not related to or the ancestor of domestic cattle. Known within Africa as one of the “big five”, “The Black Death” or “widowmaker”, the African buffalo is widely regarded as a very dangerous animal, as it gores and kills over 200 people every year. I find they have a very unnerving stare!

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The Cape buffalo is still a much sought-after trophy, with some hunters apparently paying over $10,000 for the opportunity to hunt one.

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A large breeding herd of buffalo

Hippo
During the day, hippos mostly spend their time in the water (the can stay under water for up to six minutes), coming ashore to the sandbanks grazing, usually at night. It was therefore very unusual to see one walking across the plains, seemingly some distance from any source of water.

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Further along we spot a whole bloat of hippos, so I assume this is where our mate is heading.

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Lions
On the opposite side of the road was a pride of lions – five adults and three cubs.

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The adults were mostly sleeping, whereas the cubs – like children everywhere – were more restless and wanted to play or cuddle with their mummy.

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More lions awaited us around the corner, resting quite happily in the middle of a road junction.

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Somehow Dickson spotted a rhino lying down in the tall grass quite some way in the distance. Well, he assured me it was a rhino... That makes it the big five already!

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Kori Bustard

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Secretary bird

Warthog
One of the (many) unusual aspects of the warthog's appearance is the way it drops onto its padded knuckles when feeding, and frequently shuffles along in this position. Warthogs are the only species of pig to move like that on their knuckles.

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Great White Pelican, Yellow Billed Stork and Sacred Ibis

This grey heron found an unusual landing site – on top of a thunder of hippos.

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Sacred Ibis

Hippos
Their ears, eyes and nostrils are situated high up on their head enabling them to function almost totally submerged Often all you can see of a hippo is the top of their backs as they wallow in the shallows.

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There must have been around 50 hippos in this pool, mostly sleeping, but a few were grunting and wallowing in the mud, doing somersaults to cool themselves down.

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The name hippopotamus comes from the Greek "hippos," meaning horse, these animals were once called "river horses." But the hippo is more closely related to whales and porpoises than horses!

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Maybe having our picnic downwind from 50+ grunting, swatting, rolling and whiffing hippos wasn't such a great idea after all......

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Hippo upside down

Spotted hyena
Although not known to attack fully grown wildebeest, the spotted hyena in their midst made them scatter in all directions.

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One of the braver wildebeest had a go, and managed to successfully scare the hyena off. Hyenas have been known to attack calves.

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The hyena decided it wasn't a battle he wanted to fight, so he made off on a different path, cutting a lonely Billy-No-Mates figure as he made his way across the plains. The wildebeest avoided him and he avoided the wildebeest.

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Wildebeest
Whichever way you look at them, wildebeest are not attractive animals. Many people say they appear like they were assembled from spare parts – the forequarters could have come from an ox, the hindquarters from an antelope and the mane and tail from a horse. The antics of the territorial bulls during breeding season have earned them the name “clowns of the savannah.”

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Ostrich
Adult males have a black body with white wing edges and tail. Their neck, head and thighs are flesh pink with some small feathers. Females are much duller in colour and have a brown body, off white or grey wings and tail, and are more densely feathered than the males.

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Thomson's Gazelle
Affectionately known as Tommies, herds of up to 60 animals are led by an older female. During migration, tommies spread out over the plains in the wake of zebra and wildebeest herds, coming together again in the evening.

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Elephant
When I first saw this elephant I thought he was a statue, he was so still. It turns out he was asleep, standing up! Elephants can live to around 65 years old, and this huge male was somewhere between 40 and 50 years old.

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He's a “left-tusker” - like humans are left or right handed, elephants has a predominant tusk, which is shown as being shorter through constant use.

All the elephants within the crater are old males – there are no breeding herds or females here, as they rely on tree cover for security when giving birth and while the babies are young.

Hartebeest
Popular game and trophy animals due to the highly regarded quality of their meat and the fact that they are easy to hunt due to their visibility. We have tasted hartebeest meat previously in Africa and found it quite a dense meat, quite gamey.

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As one of the fastest antelopes and most enduring runners, the hartebeest got its name, which means "tough ox."

Black Rhino
Black Rhinos are highly endangered and have been poached to near extinction. The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the last places in Tanzania where you can still reliably see wild black rhinos. In 1965 there were 100 rhinos in the Crater. By the mid 1980s, poaching had reduced the population to just a couple remaining animals. The rhinos are now under 24-hour ranger watch and numbers have been increasing, though slowly because of the rhino’s long gestation period. I understand the rhino population in the Crater now stands at 17. I have never got anywhere near any of them, this is usually the sort of distance we have seen them from.

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Making use of the facilities (much improved from the first time we were there), we leave the crater floor – we still have some considerable distance to go before our night stop.

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Great view back into the Ngorongoro Crater from the top, showing just how far down it is to the crater floor. The crater is not a self-contained ecosystem and some animals do migrate in and out of the surrounding Ngorongoro Conservation Area but not in any significant numbers.

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Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Whenever they hear the name Ngorongoro, most people think of the crater. As you can see from this map, the crater is really just a small part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and this afternoon we were crossing it north west to reach Ndutu.

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Giraffe
Giraffes are not found inside the crater as they find the steep slope too much to cope with. There always seem to be a few towers of giraffe in the rest of the conservation area, however, and we saw quite a few on the way to Ndutu.

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For all its great length the giraffe's neck has only seven vertebrae, as in man. Twiga, as the giraffe is known in Swahili, is the national emblem of Tanzania.

I always find watching a giraffe running rather amusing - they use front legs together, then back, alternating between front and back. Hind feet stay outside of the forelegs, so there is no contact. They are surprisingly fast runners, being faster than the average horse. They just look so awkward somehow.

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When they walk, however, giraffes (unlike most other animals) use the two right limbs together, then the two left, alternating right and left. Otherwise, the long front legs would tangle with the hind legs. Camels also walk this way.

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Banded Mongoose
A large band of banded mongooses seem to be playing a game with a black backed jackal. We could not work out who was chasing who, or if it was serious business or just a bit of fun.

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The “short-cut” Dickson took to Ndutu is only accessible during the dry season, and you can see why. The road was not the best I have seen.

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I say “short-cut”, but the black earth track seemed to go on for mile after mile after mile; hour after hour; with almost uninterrupted vistas of flat, parched land, dotted with huge herds of Maasai cattle and the odd giraffe. The whole scene was surreal.

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Lions
Just as I was beginning to find the journey extremely boring, a pride of lions turn up. As they do. And what a pride! 15 animals in total, all one family, mostly females with two young males and a number of cubs of various sizes.

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We parked the car up, switched the engine off, and let the group just walk right by the vehicle.

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We followed them for a while as the light was fading and the lions headed towards the last Maasai cattle herd we'd seen, about a mile away.

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A pride of lions one side of us and a beautiful sunset the other – what a perfect end to a perfect day!

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Ndutu Safari Lodge
It was already dark by the time we got to the lodge – this seems to be a theme on this trip! Originally a tented camp, Ndutu Lodge was constructed in 1967 by a professional hunter who gave up hunting and chose Ndutu as his regular campsite. It is one of the oldest camps in the area and one of the few which remains truly independent.

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The lodge is made up of stone cottages these days rather than tents, and although fairly small and basic, they are more than adequate and very comfortable.

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Ndutu lodge features dik dik in the grounds and genets in the rafters.

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Small Spotted Genet
Also known as the Common Genet, it is a secretive, nocturnal species, inhabiting rocky terrain with caves, dense scrub land, pine forests, and marshland. And the rafters of the lodge. They aid in keeping vermin populations in check as their favourite food is mice and other small mammals, although I did see the waiter feed them in the evening. The genet may look like a cat, but it is really in the mongoose family.

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Dickson ate with the other drivers this evening, in a special open sided dining room within the grounds. As they were enjoying their dinner, a couple of dik diks right outside the room were making lots of nervous, high pitched noises. Fearing a leopard close by, the drivers felt rather vulnerable as there was nowhere for them to hide. Later they heard a lion's roar, very close by, which didn't exactly make them feel any safer. Thankfully we had an armed guard to escort us back to our room after dinner.

Thank you to Calabash Adventures for all our safari arrangements.

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This featured blog entry was written by Grete Howard from the blog Grete's Travels.
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By Grete Howard

Posted Sun, Sep 21, 2014 | Tanzania | Comments