Archive for the 'Arthropods' Category


Mammals of Africa – Best Photos

Mammals: big and small, furry and nurse their young, our close relatives in the animal kingdom. Unless I miss my guess, mammals are the reason people travel to Africa. Here are the best (IMO) of the previously blogged mammals of Africa taken between October and November of 2009. Hope you enjoy them!

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Lake Manyara National Park – Tanzania

Our last day with Tanzania Travel and John Timothy (pictured below), guide extraordinaire, was spent traveling from the very deluxe digs at Endoro Lodge. Half a day to drive the lakeside not seeing the famous lions that like to climb trees. We did see a nice collection of shorebirds and giraffes plus one type of monkey that we hadn’t seen before. In fact, I think the vervet monkey was the only type of monkey that we’d seen on our trip. Certainly they all looked alike, but this one, possibly a sykes monkey, the only other one in my guide to southern African mammals.

Blue monkey or Sykes? Definitely not your usual vervet

Additionally there’s the ebony craft shop with huge amounts of the black wood that won’t float. We came back with two small pieces (a man who’s awfully good looking and a woman) that sit in our kitchen. The requisite Obama badges were laid upon the eager Tanzanians and we were asked to pay outside so the shopkeeper didn’t get the usual rake-off. John wasn’t there to guide us, so we caved and gave them their $20 (or Tanzanian shilling equivalent).

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Serengeti National Park Day 3/Ngorongoro Crater II – Tanzania

Day 3 in Serengeti and back toward Arusha via the Ngorongoro Crater for the second time with another wonderful night in the Endoro Lodge: great food, wonderful bed, luxurious shower all in a beautiful setting. You can see our accommodations in Serengeti – a little outdoor campsite with tent and cot and real live sheets/blanket/pillow. Bathroom, need you ask, was a 2 minute walk westward. If you looked through the trees you could see animals wandering around, so security is some issue. Mostly things like Zebras (pronounced ZEH-bras) and cape buffalo (one of your “big five” game animals). The last night we had drunken Finns (very young) making noise until the wee hours of the morning. Serengeti – Masai for “endless plain” is a place that  you could stay forever and see new things every day.  There are fancy lodges at $300+ a night and our campsite plus a small village where there is a store, bar (I suspect ladies of the night), housing and such for park workers. John took us there so we could score a cold Kilamanjaro beer before heading back to As we drive off back in the direction of Ngorongoro Crater we pause at a kopje where a female lion is surveying the plains.

Lions in kopje on our way out of Serengeti

Nyani or Baboon "bush camp" - Serengeti

Nyani (baboon) campsite sign - Serengeti

Here is Nyani campsite. Our tent is in the right foreground. Drunken Finns are nowhere to be seen.

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Zanzibar – Tanzania – The Spice Island

Lying off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean just south of the equator, the historic island of Zanzibar lies like jewel in the sun. The spice island: cumin, cinnamon, lemon grass, clove (especially clove!), nutmeg, ylang-ylang, vanila and black pepper. The name conjures up pictures of exotic dhows sailing the Indian ocean to India with spice and back laden with silks and trade goods of old.

The actual picture is a bit more touristed, a bit more jaded and a bit more crowded, especially Stone Town – almost impossible to photograph, yet an interesting warren of narrow cobbled streets, shops and sellers. Somehow the picture I  had of “Stone Town” did not do justice to the reality.

It’s also true that Stone Town is difficult to photograph for whatever reasons: tight quarters, shy people (I don’t jam cameras in people’s faces), bad angles, rain (which we had in plenty in the House of Wonders) or take your pick.

While there on the island, going to the wonderful outdoor barbecue in Forodhani Gardens (park on the water) one of the two nights we were there, a very strange scam was attempted on your blogger. It went like this:

  1. Imagine a nice, warm evening and a park of maybe 5 acres/2 hectares covered with open air barbecue stands, vendors of all sorts of wonderful smelling food.
  2. One goes up to one of the barbecue stands and orders, squid-kebab, chicken in spicy sauce on a skewer and many sorts of goodies on a stick.
  3. You don’t have a drink and the food isn’t quite ready yet and a helpful person standing at the end of the grill says he will “bring your food right over” and would you like a something to drink.
  4. Sure, you’re thirsty and haven’t given any money to anyone yet.
  5. Pick a bench in the warm summer breezes on this island of spice and voila! here comes your food and a drink.
  6. You pay the drink/food bringer guy some Tanzanian Shillings and all is well until…
  7. The food vendor in white chef hat walks over and asks you for the money for the meal! Ooops! Well, you go through the whole explanation and eventually the sneaky drink vendor is identified in the crowd of maybe 1000 people.
  8. The sneaky drink vendor INSISTS ON BEING PAID FOR THE DRINKS.
  9. Well, ok, at least I, er the unwary tourist didn’t pay twice for the kebabs and all is seemingly well except I still don’t understand the scam.

We drove (when I say we, I mean the entire Africa in Focus crowd minus Ebron and Will who stay in Dar es Salam with Benji, the truck). At Nungwi we dive a couple times, hang out on the beach, take a sunset cruise (hokey, okay, but kinda fun) on a dhow, the lateen rigged sail craft with these guys who wind up dancing on the top of the cabin and some slightly inebriated tourists who do the same. Very relaxing place.

We get the “spice tour” with the guy climbing the coconut palm tree while singing the most overplayed tourist song on the island. I think there’s a picture of him waaaay up in the tree just before he bombs us with some loose coconuts. We see all sorts of spices in the raw (there are definitely pictures of them). Back to Stone Town and the attempted scam and back on the ferry to Dar es Salam (capital of Tanzania)  and a really, really, really long day in Benji up to Arusha, Tanzania and the end of the Africa in Focus tour.

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Serengeti National Park Day 2 – Tanzania

Two game drives a day plus three meals is de riguer in Serengeti safari life. The cooking and eating is done in a chicken wire enclosure. No refrigeration, no electricity but a small table and candles for dinner. In between are glorious game drives with our expert guide, John Timothy who is a Masai part-time and father of three: bush pilot, doctor and other college educated professional.

John lives near Arusha and can be requested as a guide from Tanzania Travel Company.

This morning we find a leopard 40 yards off the track (well it was John really who could spot a leopard in the deep grass). Neither Chiyemi nor I saw it and when asked, could not point it out. John was happy to show that he could find game that we couldn’t see with a searchlight and an arrow pointing the way. This one was at the base of a large acacia tree, near a stream (that should have been a clue) and had something.

Leopard by tree - Serengeti

Leopard on the move - Serengeti

Check the full size pic out by clicking!

Leopard in acacia - Serengeti

Keeps looking off to our left - something coming?

The something was a reedbuck kill – reedbuck which are the favorite food of leopards and live next to the small stream running parallel to our “road”. Roads in Serengeti are dirt, unimproved, cross streams where needed and wander aimlessly (to us) here and there.

Set amidst the grass plains and roads are geologic features called kopjes (pron. copies) or head. Small rocky outcrops that often provide a lookout for lions, home to lizards and snakes. Small ranges of mountains run along the horizon providing, as far as I could see, the only landmarks that a reasonable person could use to navigate the nearly endless plain.

Fourth row down in the middle is a tsetse fly. They used to harbor the trypanosomes that cause sleeping sickness. There are deep blue and black flags planted along the roadways to attract them to the poison contained. The tsetse flies are pretty common and stab one with the little nose-piece that you can see in the photograph.

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Olduvai Gorge and Serengeti National Park Day 1 – Tanzania

We spent half a day driving from Endoro lodge after a blissful night in a king size bed with real sheets. Up over and through Ngorogoro crater and a long dusty road to Serengeti.

Olduvai Gorge is a name that is magical to natural scientists and amateurs like me: Mary and Louis Leaky-land. I knew it was near our path to Serengeti but was gobstopped when we pulled into the small museum for lunch. The Laetoli footprints (I won’t explain but they were almost lost by man’s help) or their fiberglass cast along with numerous early flint tools, fossils and bones to make your heart beat quicker. Lunch and then onward past the gorge where humanity may have arisen 1.3 million years ago. Photos below.

We spent three days in Serengeti National Park, a huge area that I’m told is the half the area of Albania or the size of Connecticut just in case you’re familiar with those place. 14,700 sq. km or 5700 sq. miles. Suffice it to say it’s large enough to get lost in or in which to be eaten by a pride of lions.

John Timothy of Tanzania Travel is a fantastic guide. Ask for him if you get the chance. John had many chances to prove himself, finding animals where other guides came up empty. One guide we’d come upon was actually lost, asking John’s directions. John was a ranger in Serengeti for many, many years before becoming a guide and was disgusted with the poor guide.

Another example: on day two of our Serengeti mini-safari, we’d been out looking after a lioness and her cub (you can see the pictures on day 2) and were coming back to camp having seen tons and tons of animals, stopping where we wished, having John point out the nearly invisible creatures lurking in the bush. We’d been back to visit the beautiful leopard we’d seen on day 1 – he was hiding nearly invisible up in the tree where we’d left him. We saw herds of animals, unusual birds, all kinds of wildlife: a cheetah hunting, lions, a serval! and more.

Anyway, we came upon a Land Rover of tourists who were transfixed by a lioness sleeping under a tree. One measly lioness. The way you watch is to raise the roof, stand up inside the Rover and peer over the edge of the vehicle, completely safe. As we pulled up to see what was interesting, there’s a guy inside who’s quite excited and silently jabbing his hand frantically toward a shape in the shade: the sleeping lioness. We could hardly keep from laughing that this was the high point of their morning. I nodded serious assent and tried to look interested for 30 seconds before we drove on.

On the first afternoon we got a very nice game drive and watched the nearly full moon rise over our tent facilities. The tent was a bit of a let down, culture shock or readjustment to the reality of a cot. Still, nice dinner served by John and Mr. Anthony (of Tanzania Travel and our cook).

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Tarangire National Park/Endoro Lodge – Tanzania

You can see Tanzania on the map just south of Kenya, nearly on the dashed equator on the east coast of the African continent. We’ve come a long way in six weeks by Africa in Focus bus, starting out in Cape Town, South Africa, winding our way up the west coast of Namibia, going east through Botswana and Zambia, turning north through densely populated Malawi and nearly to the end of our journey in Arusha, Tanzania.

We change tour companies here in Arusha, leaving Africa in Focus and picking up a custom safari with the highly rated Tanzania Travel Company. That private safari is just the cook, John (our driver and guide), Chiyemi and me. Left to see are four of the great game parks of Tanzania: Tarangire, Serengeti, Ngorogoro and Lake Manyara.

First the satellite photo of Tarangire National Park. This makes the park look harsh, forbidding and barren but it is not that as the pictures below will show. We parked for lunch overlooking a river canyon with animals, elephants, antelopes and whatnot far below us, birds in the sky and a very peaceful and beutiful setting.

We spent the night in Endoro Lodge which must have been just opening or had a special relationship with Tanzania Travel because the low season, cheapest room I could find was $349. We had a package and didn’t care what the rate was, but just check those pictures of the room, suite really. All dark wood, iron sculptured accessories (like over those white window covers) shaped to form animals. Yards and yards of white fabric and stunningly beautiful.

I kept expecting someone to come through and say, “there’s been a mistake, you’re in the hovel down the hill.” But they didn’t. Almost no one else was there, maybe one couple in the twenty or so chalets perched on a green hillside overlooking the forest. Certainly one of the two or three fanciest digs we’ve been privileged to stay. Clearly a mistake in our itinerary or the most fortunate of chances because we’d impressed upon Tanzania Travel the need for economy.

They said “Are you sure?” and we said “Yes, yes. Keep the costs down!” Check the bush camp in Serengeti and get an idea of what we’d actually paid for. Tent, cot, sleeping bag. Nice but not the Endoro lodge!

We spend a bare afternoon in the park, not enough but too much to see. John Timothy, our guide was insistent on the schedule. John knew best and Serengeti and Lake Manyara exceeded expectations.

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Dead Vlei - Namib-Naukluft National Park

Copyright 2010 – Terry Doyle