SAFARI: A Memory of Elephants

A Memory of Elephants Clusters Together On the Serengeti
A Multi-Generational Memory of Elephants Clusters Together On the Serengeti

SAFARI – The SERENGETI
The African elephants are magnificent, majestic animals, remarkably quiet given their size, with only a snort or two here and there most of the time we saw them. How heartbreaking to come back home and find out they face a short and brutally uncertain future with an onslaught of well funded poacher syndicates in their relentless quest for ivory for China, with over 100 elephants a day killed by some estimates. At that rate, they may only last 20 years or less. What a loss that would be to the world, these gentle beautiful creatures with their lifelong memories.

SAFARI: Meet The Cheetah And Her Cub

Cheetah Mom On A Rock
Cheetah Mom On A Rock
Cheetah Mom - Closeup
Cheetah Mom – Closeup
Cheetah Mom and Cub
Cheetah Mom (R) and Her Cub (L)

SAFARI – The SERENGETI
Wildebeests behind us, we drove for a relatively quiet hour on the plains and then all of the sudden-BOOM–cheetah…a beautiful cheetah standing on a rock, looking anxiously around, searching for prey. 15 minutes later, her cub poked his head out from a rock, and we were in love. The Serengeti is a harsh place – cheetah’s give birth to a litter of up to 4-9 cubs, but 90% of the cubs don’t survive (predators). Cheetah’s are built to run down tasty antelope, not handle nasty predators who fight back. YouTube has some amazing video on what they sound like, but among other things, they chirp like birds, and do everything EXCEPT roar. Big kitties, indeed. You never forget your first cheetah. Unfortunately, since cheetah mom never spotted a good mobile meal, we didn’t get to see her stretch her limbs and run 70mph across the plains. We relished the encounter nonetheless. Beautiful creatures.

SAFARI: The Great Migration Is Wildebeest Central

Wildebeests As Far As The Eye Could See In Every Direction.
Wildebeests As Far As The Eye Could See In Every Direction. There are probably 1000 or more in this photo. We estimated at times we could see 100,000…
Wildebeests At The Watering Holes By The Side of The Road
Wildebeests At The Watering Holes By The Side of The Road

SAFARI – THE SERENGETI
We had seen scattered herds of wildebeests, zebras and gazelles on our way onto Naabi Hill, but leaving it was the true great migration spread out before us. Every year starting in January, 1.7 million wildebeests are led by 260,000 zebra from the southern Serengeti to ultimately the Kenyan plains in the summer, with around 470,000 gazelle tagging along, as well as other miscellaneous beasts of the plain, all moving towards the rains and water. Around 500,000 calves are born during a period from January to March, and around 250,000 wildebeests die during the migration (predators, exhaustion, etc) and we drove into the middle of this vast movement for several hours before the herds finally dwindled down to nothing. But…there is never “nothing” in the Serengeti – there are great winged birds flying, hyenas lying in the long grass, far off giraffes, and the occasional group of big cats sheltering under trees–or sleeping up in their branches– from the overhead sun. When the jeep would stop, we heard the bird calls or creature sounds carried on the breezes that swept the plains. It lifted our spirits to see this vast untapped and unspoiled wilderness teeming with such a profound affirmation of life on this beautiful planet of ours.

Wildebeests And Their Young Calves
BIRTHING SEASON: Wildebeests And Their Young Calves
CLICK TO SEE THE HERDS: 180 Degrees Of The Great Migration
CLICK TO SEE THE HERDS: 180 Degrees Of The Great Migration – You Can Click A Second Time To Zoom In On Beasties, Once Picture Expands

 

SAFARI: Serengeti Spiderman Lizard And Naabi Hill Panoramic

Mwanza Flat-headed Rock ("Spiderman") Agama Lizard At Naabi Gate In The Southern Serengeti
Mwanza Flat-headed Rock (“Spiderman”) Agama Lizard At Naabi Hill
CLICK TO EXPAND: Naabi Hill View Of the Southern Serengeti Plains
CLICK TO EXPAND: Naabi Hill View Of the Southern Serengeti Plains

SAFARI – The SERENGETI
OK, cheating a little here – two pictures, but one is to give you context where we were. After driving a couple hours out of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and into the flat southern plains of the Serengeti, we came to the first hill we’d seen for the past hour, which was the Naabi Gate – the official registration and entry point for southern entry in Tanzania. There was a little walk up some rocks to the top of the hill where we had a panoramic view all around us of the infinite green plains to the horizon. While we were up there, we saw these gorgeous rainbow lizards sunning on the rocks and doing their little pushups to show off. Now apparently the Tanzanians have taken to calling these fellows (the males are rainbow…the females a regular old lizard brown) Spiderman lizards, but I think the colors might be a little off, as they look purple and blue to me, but folks think the purple looks red? Sounds like another Internet meme “What color is that dress?” controversy.

SAFARI: Serengeti Secretary Bird Struts His Stuff

The Unmistakeable Secretary Bird Struts The Serengeti
The Unmistakeable Secretary Bird Struts The Serengeti

SAFARI – The SERENGETI
The Serengeti is 12,000 square miles spanning Tanzania and Kenya, and more or less the size of Maryland, which is a horrible comparison, since virtually no one–in the US at least–has any idea how big Maryland is, only its little state-within-a-state District of Columbia (containing Washington DC – the US capital). Anyhow, Serengeti  comes from the rather straightforward Maasai word that means “plains that go on forever” – a very observant tribe, that one, sprinting in their rubber tire sandals and herding all their cattle on foot, including Serengeti National Park, where they are not actually allowed. Bandits!  🙂

Anyhow, the secretary bird is today’s photo, and we saw his distinct strut from really far away just as we entered the Serengeti. He’s a tall dude, maybe 3+ feet high…a combo stork and eagle head, and in fact, the secretary bird is a bird of prey that interestingly, while it can fly, is actually a terrestrial attacker, clawing, stomping, and eating small rodents and mongooses that are abundant on the great plain. So why secretary bird? He’s an incredible fast typer. Jus’ kidding. I have no idea. It’s one of those names you certainly associate with this bird once you’ve seen them. I’m not even a bird guy, but I thought the birds of Africa were a super interesting mix of color, swagger, and beauty.

SAFARI: Maasai Village Pastorale

Maasai Village In The Valley With The Serengeti Plain On The Horizon
CLICK FOR FULL SIZE: Maasai Village In The Valley With The Serengeti Plain On The Horizon

SAFARI – NGORONGORO CONSERVATION AREA
I’m easing down to one picture a day, and a little blurb. We climbed out of the Ngorongoro Crater amazed by what we’d seen there, and passed through a smaller valley, dotted with Maasai thatch roof huts, Maasai driving their cattle, and up in the foothills, the now ubiquitous wildebeests and zebras with their spinning tails. Although pastorale is a musical reference, it seems apres pro for the serene pastoral setting we saw here (and everywhere, honestly). On the horizon, we could see the great Serengeti plain stretching for miles, and couldn’t imagine what we’d end up seeing there would top the Crater…but then again, we were headed straight to the Great Migration. Africa the amazing!

SAFARI: Crater Cloudscapes and All Creatures, Great And Small

Out Of The Crater On The Way To The Serengeti - This Guy
Out Of The Crater On The Way To The Serengeti – This Hungry Guy

SAFARI – NGORONGORO CRATER – PART 2

  • Yeah, I know you can get burned out on too many animal pictures. One of the things I’m mixing up here to try and keep it interesting is closeups–or as I call them “The National Geographic shots”–and some wider views of the plains with the animals dotting the landscape, to give you perspective on what we saw, and reassure you this is not some open air zoo, but their homes. There is an unmistakeable vibe of peacefulness and contentment with the animals here, and though the law of the wild/circle of life still applies, the tranquility of the crater and these magnificent beasts is unmistakeable. That’s part of what makes a trip to Africa a spiritual journey of sorts. Which says a lot, since in my regular life, I’m an earthbound, pragmatic fellow in general. Moreover, if the zoos back home were hard to visit before the trip, we all agreed wed have a very tough time seeing these guys in small enclosures ever again. their spirits soared on these wide open plains, and ours with them.
Believe It Or Not, This Is A Little Antelope.
Believe It Or Not, This Is A Little Antelope.
And This Guy Is the Giant Eland...a Huge Antelope.
And This Guy Is the Giant Eland…a Huge Antelope With An Equally Huge Chin Thingamabob
BW Elephants Look Small In The Ngorongoro Crater
Even Elephants Look Small In The Plains Of The Ngorongoro Crater
Mama Simba Watching For Food
Mama Simba Watching For Food
Then She Stood Up And Wandered Over On The Road Near Our Landcruiser To Scope Out Some NEarby Zebra
Then She Stood Up And Wandered Over On The Road Near Our Landcruiser To Scope Out Some Nearby Zebra
Thomson's Gazelle Kids Playing
Thomson’s Gazelles – Clash Of The Not So Titans
Warthog Kneels To Eat
Warthog Kneels To Eat
Female Ostrich Is The Family Breadwinner
Female Ostrich Is The Family Breadwinner
While Papa Ostrich Waits For The Food From Mama
While Lazy Papa Ostrich Waits Nearby For The Food From Mama
Landcruiser Migration For Black Rhino Sighting
Landcruiser Migration For Black Rhino Sighting, But Ended Up Blocking Rhinos From Crossing The Road
Young Black Rhino
Critically Endangered, But Populations Slowly On the Rise: Young Black Rhino
Mom and Baby Zebra - Note The Coloring Difference
Mom and Baby Zebra – Note The Coloring Difference
Ngorongoro Crater Diversity Is Everywhere
Ngorongoro Crater Diversity Is Everywhere
Rainclouds and Sunbeams With Zebra and Wildbeest
Their Own Slice Of Heaven: Crater Rains and Cloudscape With Zebra and Wildbeest