Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Endless plains - the African Safari (continued)

From the previous post: "After sighting some more enthralling wildlife, we headed back for our lunch at the camp site. A relaxed lunch and then we were off again, to see what more the Serengeti would reveal to us."

Nature's creativity

The rest of the remaining day and the first half of the next day were spent scouring the vast Serengeti plains. I think, considering the short time, we managed to just about glimpse the creativity that Nature had achieved and showcased in this wonderful reserve.

In any travel, there are multiple moments which may have affected us very positively or negatively, so much so that we like to talk dime a dozen about it.

I have put down below selected pictures that I managed to get, which stood out to me as good compositions, or maybe it was just plumb luck. Either way, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius)
The Secretary bird with eagle like body on crane like legs, is also interestingly referred to as the Devil's horse by the locals. Being largely terrestrial, it prefers to walk rather than fly. Likely to be seen in air, mostly during the mating season. Favourite food: snakes, lizards, small mammals.

Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta)
The Spotted Hyena, also known as laughing hyena are often mislabelled as cowardly scavengers. Hardly! These are matriarchal in nature and tend to hunt larger prey in teams using various strategies. While I had seen many of these guys earlier, only now was I able to get close enough to take the picture above. Later, I was lucky enough to observe a whole family near their den. One young chap decided to come really close and have a look at the gawking strange looking creatures in the box on wheels. Had to shoot him, for his predator's cuteness quotient.

Spotted Hyena cub
Moving a little bit further down the trail, we came across the Black-backed Jackal. They are also known as silver-backed or red jackal.

Black-backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas)

Further on, came across an acacia tree containing a nest. Zoomed closer and was delighted to see a chick. A magnificent Lappet-faced Vulture in the making.

Lappet-faced Vulture or Nubian Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos)
Still on the trail, we reached a sort of water hole where the pachyderms were arriving with entire families.

African Savanna Elephant (Loxodonta africana)
The African elephant is, currently, the largest living terrestrial animal. Even females have small 'tusks'. Ranging from 20-24 feet in length and between 11-13 feet in height, they weight around 6,000-9,000 kilos. Highly intelligent, very social with their own kind, they are herbivorous. Similar to their Asian cousins, are a pleasure to watch from a distance. Though normally, they avoid humans, get too close and chances are, you are in danger of being attacked. However with 7 billion humans on this earth, conflict with elephants is increasingly the norm. And both species, lose their loved ones.

Still further on, we had a bit of a rattle. As we drove on, we came across this magnificent male specimen, who did not quite like us invading his space. Rather than engage in a losing battle with the moody guy, Abombe actually reversed the vehicle some distance.

African buffalo or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)
Though not related, the African buffalo is slightly smaller and lighter than the Asian wild water buffalo. Nonetheless can be a fearsome attacker should it feel in danger.

A bit later, came across this beauty. Probably one of the best known gazelles - Thomson's gazelle. Skittish. Nimble. Runs at the slightest of dangers.

Thomson's gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii)
With the plethora of animals on display, by now it was rather difficult to stop the oohs and ahas. Until this moment. I was a bit taken aback looking at this strange looking animal - sort of looked like a cow bred wrong! It was none other than Coke's Hartebeest.

Coke's Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus cokii)
While a bit ungainly in appearance, these are antelopes. Quite nimble too. Can reach up to 70 kilometres per hour speed.

Where the prey is, so would be the predators. Sadly, populations across wild species have been declining in Africa. But when you look into the eyes of a queen, you do realise that such beauty should not be allowed to perish.

She was part of a pride that was gambolling around with the young ones. Not yet fully mature, I fervently hope that soon, she would find her mate and produce more of her kind.


As the previous day came to a close, it was back to the camp, dinner, sleep and off again the next day for some more touring of the endless plains. However, half day later, by the time we got back to the camp, tragedy struck. No, not of the life threatening variety. But severe enough. Diarrhoea. A cramped stomach and loose bowels are not good partners in a trip. Luckily the medicine kit came handy. However, even medicine needs time to sort out the mess that is your stomach.

Though my companions were fine, I had to just grit my teeth and bear it on the journey back the same route, we had traversed earlier. Now, along with the external bone-rattling and teetch-chattering bumps, combined with the internal attempts of my stomach to have an urgent group meeting with my intestines, it was a ride though hell.

To make matters that much more exciting, as well as to ensure that some African soil could forever reside inside us, right in front was another land cruiser dishing out constant red dust. So much so that by the time, we reached the rim of the Ngorongoro crater, where the public campsite was located, all of us humans, vehicle, bags, gear - everything, looked pinkish red with the fine dust that had settled into every nook and cranny possible.  

The Ngorongoro

The crater is actually a large unbroken, unflooded, volcanic caldera, about 260 kilometres squared at its floor level. We were to camp on the rim and go down the next day.

Ngorongoro Crater
On reaching, usual process. Off load gear. Put up the tent. Freshen up. Two differences though. A stomach that had still not quietened. And cold water. Now you may think, after all that heat and dust, a cold shower would be great. Well, you may like to keep in mind that when you are standing approximately 15,000 feet above mean sea level, the temperature becomes a rather chilly 15 degrees and drops further as the sun retreats. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, my thought of how cold can Africa be? came to be a rather sticky thorn in my conscience.

By the time, we got into the meal area, thanks to the generosity of my companions, I was covered in a shawl that mildly retained the heat in me. Multiple cups of coffee did not make any difference. Then, inspiration! Abombe was going to a nearby town to pick up some necessities. I requested him to fetch us half a bottle of local brandy. That saved the night, literally! There were two of us, who consumed the brandy. It kept us warm enough to handle the ultra cold night. Next day morning, was gloriously misty and chilly. Best part, the stomach had decided to stop rebelling and behave.

Today, we were going to explore the Ngorongoro reservation which unlike the Serengeti, had a large set of herds and predators, about 25,000 animals, who never migrate and thus live their entire lives within the crater.

Also to unfold in front of my eyes, was a spectacle that was so rare that even Abombe had never seen in his 12 year career as a wildlife guide. Coming up, in the next post.


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  1. secretary bird?? haha! is that because of the color on the bird? white & black formal attire?

    lovely narration & snaps of some animals

  2. Thank you Sujatha :)

    The Secretary bird's name has several explanations. The most popular is that it is named because of the crest of long feathers at the back of its head that resemble quill pens that 19th century clerks stuck in their wigs. Another explanation is that the name comes from the Arabic "saqu ettair", meaning hunter-bird, which translates into French as "secretaire".

  3. nice post...this took me to the place! :)

  4. Thank you Sowmya. You have said exactly what I hoped for.

  5. Excellent shots and awesome photography!!!
    Educational Resources

  6. Thank you, Dhiraj/Team G Square :)

  7. Enjoyed reading this post and the pictures. An entire ecosystem living inside the crater-that's something!

  8. Thank you Archana :)

    Indeed, I think, this ever present ecosystem, would be a place worth living and documenting. My first time, experiencing something so wondrous like this.

  9. Growing up in Tanzania and living in Arusha for a while, I was lucky to be on quite a few safaris there. Still, I would do anything to go on one more. The post and the nice shots bring back memories. Waiting for your next post.

  10. Wow, Kirk. Indeed it must have been so exciting to grow up in Tanzania with its diversity of wildlife and culture. Thank you for the lovely feedback. The next post is up. I hope you enjoy it.


Your comments are welcome. I am all ears.

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