Another xmas and new year’s eve in Tanzania
We love spending the xmas period where we live. And with two long weekends this year without the need to take any leave, it created a perfect opportunity to spend some more time on safari. Regine arrived in time (all the way from Perth) for our first long weekend, and after a day of souvenir shopping and exploring Dar together we flew up to the north of the Serengeti.
We had been there during the migration a few months’ ago and were keen to see what it was like when the hordes of people have disappeared. During the migration, nearly 50 camps are set up in the north of the Serengeti, but from November until the end of May the savannah is left once again to the resident animals and the visitors of the 6 permanent camps. And if you are wondering if there are any animals left after the thousands of wildebeest have moved on, we can assure you there are! Apart from the usual game animals we managed to find all of the big 5, as well as quite a few new birds.
Our first full day of safari was the most incredible. We had left at 6am, light was just emerging. Said, our excellent guide, stopped to show us some tracks. But after a minute or so he stopped talking and said he could hear leopards growling. Not much later we spotted the first female in the grass, but her behaviour indicated a second leopard must be nearby. At first we thought it might be a male, but then discovered the second leopard was also a female. We had encountered them both at the edge of their territories and they were making sure the other would not dare entering. It was interesting to watch and when the first female left we followed her a little while until she disappeared, heading towards some big trees.
We went back in the hope of finding the other female again. Said had recognised the female and knew she has a 5 month old cub. We were hoping she would lead us to him. After a few minutes we spotted her, she was on a rock with the sun rising directly behind her.
We followed her on her morning walk across her territory, spraying the occasional tree, and making use of several high points to check her surroundings. She was looking for something to eat. A duiker got wind of her before she could get close and after a while she settled on a rock. The slender mongoose on the rock next to her didn’t know what to think of this intruder. He certainly wasn’t happy with her, but didn’t run away. He kept checking where she was and half running away each time she moved. Eventually she moved on and the mongoose came to her rock to check she had definitely disappeared. We left her on a termite mound where she had found some shade.
Later the same day we were driving amongst the kopjes when a bohor reedbuck called the alarm and hightailed it, a clear sign of a predator around. Not much later Jude spotted not one, but two leopards jumping out of a dry creek! It was the same leopard, now reunited with her cub and she was still trying to catch the next meal.
Again she allowed us to spend some time with her, and we enjoyed watching the cub stalk his mum, pounce her, but also spend some time together grooming. She eventually left him behind and went hunting alone. This is when we also left her, we were hungry too and were keen to find our next meal. Luckily we didn’t have to go out hunting for it though.
We had spent some time searching for rhino, but had not been lucky to find any. There are not many around in the Serengeti and as the black rhino is a browser it is not easy to find them, they spend much of their time in the bush and only occasionally come out in the open. Late afternoon on the second full day Said received a call on the radio. She had been spotted in the open, close to the location where we had seen wildebeest cross the mighty Mara River several months ago. It was a 20-minute drive, but we decided to head down in the hope they would still be visible.
We were lucky. Both of them were still browsing a small scrub that grows on the wide-open savannah and we were able to enjoy watching them for quite a while. We didn’t know it, but because it was xmas, the camp had set up sundowners at the hippo pool. We arrived a bit late due to our time spent with the black rhinos, but still managed to have a drink watching the hippos snort, poo and fight in the dying light.
After the xmas weekend Jon had to return to work, and Jude and Regine explored Stone Town and spent some time in Dar. But soon it was time again to pack our bags for our next safari, this time to Ruaha NP.
We have been to Ruaha NP before, but not to the area where we were heading this time. The new lodge reminded us of Ithumba, one of our favourite places in Kenya, it was simply stunning. The fact a resident leopard often comes to drink from the pool at night makes this an even more incredible place to stay.
The additional bonus at Jabali Ridge were the night drives they offer. There aren’t many places in Tanzania where you can go on a night drive, and we were keen to make the most of the fact you can do them here. It did make for long and busy days, but we thought it was absolutely worth it.
We were lucky enough to spot not one, but two African grass owls. Apparently they are quite rare to spot. Even our expert guide had never seen one. Regine also increased her list of different types of animals spotted so we were all happy.
Sundowners for New Year’s Eve were at the edge of a dry riverbed. As we were sipping our gin and tonics, two families of elephants came to dig holes in the sandy riverbed for their drinks. Five minutes before we were supposed to pack up, one family decided it wanted to walk through our bar area so everybody hopped into the cars and soon we were off on our night drive again.
Somehow time always flies when you are on safari, and before we knew it, it was time to go home. We did manage one swim in the leopard’s drinking bowl and wished we could stay forever…