Archive for the 'birds' Category

08
Nov
10

Birds of Africa – Best Photos

From the hoopoe in Namibia to the crested cranes in Tanzania Africa was a place of marvelous birds and birds very different that the ones we are used to seeing in North America. Only the greater and lesser egrets, gulls (though different ones) and the great blue heron come to mind as birds we are used to seeing here that crossed our path somewhere in the nearly 2 months in southern Africa.

From the Okavango delta to the plains of Serengeti to the Chobe river banks Africa was chock-a-block with peeping, flapping, chirping, kindom animalia, phylum chordata, class aves.

In Africa it’s easy to focus on the big, furry, nursing mammalians but when we got back, there were a surprising number of photos of our avian friends: Africa is a great place for birding. Birders (the real honest-to-goodness fanatical types like Harry and Ted) know this, of course but we novitiates thought only of the hairy things like lions and tigers and bears. Here are the feathered creatures that stayed still long enough to clap a lens on during our seven week trip between Oct. and Nov. of 2009. Hope you enjoy them!

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08
Nov
10

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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14
Sep
10

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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14
Sep
10

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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12
Sep
10

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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04
Sep
10

South Luangwa National Park – Zambia

To the east of Victoria Falls, past the 7500 km mark on our trip across Africa we came to the little visited South Luangwa National Park.

One of the unusual features of South Luangwa National Park are the allowed night game drives. Most places, Etosha, Chobe, Serengeti, etc carefully sequester if not seal in tourists after dark: not SLNP. We saw the second of our three leopards plus a civet (sort of but not really a cat), a bush baby (fleetingly is putting is generously),  a genet and a leopard feeding on a antelope. Only annoyed by us, she pulled the carcass back into the bushes after we persisted in shining a very bright light on her.

The camp was beautiful, along the Luangwa river, with its sand bars and oxbows. You would not dare approach it for fear of becoming crocodile food. Blazingly hot during the day, heat waves rising off the long view into the park to the south of Wildlife Camp, herds of impalas and giraffes grazing in the shade, hippos and crocs in the river. The constant grunts of the hippos had become quite usual and familiar to all the travelers.

Wildlife Camp bar - park off to the right-->

The next day we took a fine game drive through the park again coming upon giraffes, elephants, hippos, antelopes of many sorts, and a very fine collection of birds: little and carmine bee eaters…

Oh, here! This is Carol’s list (thanks!): wire tailed swallow, lesser swallow, hadeda ibis, the aforementioned bee eaters, white rumpled swift, palm swift, gray heron, red billed oxpecker, lesser white-backed vulture, golden weaver, long tailed/glossy starling, great white egret, hammerkop, arrow-marked barbet, LBR (?), helmeted guinea fowl, crested cranes, spur fowl, and a white-fronted bee eater.

15 minutes before finding the leopard eating

Sunset - S. Luangwa Park

Carol’s list from the night drive: tawny eagle, double banded grouse, white tailed mongoose (that is not a bird), banded mongoose (nor that), scrub hare (ditto), lions, fruit bat, leopard, civet, large spotted genet, martial eagle, hippo, thick tailed bushbaby and cape buffalo.

More unusual from the daytime: puku, unusual sub-species of Burchell’s zebras, gray squirrel, and kudu.

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04
Sep
10

Victoria Falls – Zambia – Lions and Rhinos and Cobras, oh my

Midpoint of the trip: we stopped for 3 days to allow a dozen AIF travelers off and pick up 4 more. Pity. Wasn’t an even trade. Check the white rhinos we walked with on a tour and the slithering, Mozambique or black necked spitting cobra (Naja mossambica) that came through our campsite along the Zambesi River. A word about spitting cobras: they can bite but much prefer to spit, aiming for the eyes. I didn’t know at the time what sort of snake it was, but was willing to be this was a bad one. This is one of seven African spitting cobras (aren’t you glad there are none in your country?) plus six Asiatic species. Their venom can travel up to two meters (about where I was willing to photograph from but the idiot Dutch guy was half that distance but at least wore glasses).

Speaking of which, the Dutch crew (all decked out in their ever-so-stylish camo clothing) wanted to kill the snake. I said I thought that was unnecessary and Sue was semi-apoplectic even though the snake had almost crawled across her feet.

Six feet distance was my limit for photos

Spitting Cobra - Victoria Falls Camp

We also saw a green snake at the fancy lodge next door where you could get a latte (and snakes). The wait staff assured us this was a green mamba (and plenty bad medicine if true) but it surely was not. Also not about to get close to this bold little fellow. Further research shows this to be the spotted bush snake (Philothammus semivariegatus).

Taken with the small Canon A520

Green Snake Next Door To - Victoria Falls Camp

Yummmm!!!!

Terry enjoys a latte - Victoria Falls

We took a “drunken” cruise in which all you could drink was included. I’m afraid one alcoholic drink was my limit – besides the photo ops from the boat were exceptional. This was our last evening with several new friends to be replaced in the morning by a boorish group of Brits who I hope will never read this post, but if so, ah well.

The statue you see is David Livingstone who apparently was the first westerner to clap eyes on this  wondrous falls, now more Victoria Canyon than falls. I would also be willing to bet that this snake was poisonous (slightly swollen back of the head where poison glands could be) and not a mamba which can chase you up to 4 mph and so take a good run to avoid.

Eventually we packed up and off to one of the hidden gems of Africa: South Luangwa National Park replete with lions and leopards.

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