On our safari in Tanzania, I kept a list of the thirty different animals we saw as we made our way through the Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We were very lucky to spot all of the big five which people traditionally have on their bucket list when going on safari…..
On our safari, we drove through the Olduvai Gorge a paleoanthropological site within the boundaries of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Deposits exposed in the side of the gorge date back to as far as 2.1 million years ago. These deposits have yielded the fossil remains of more than 60 hominins (members of the human lineage), providing the most continuous known record of human evolution.
Meet Nutcracker Man. When we were driving through the Olduvai Gorge our safari guide stopped at the spot where the skull of Paranthropus boisei our close evolutionary cousin was discovered by Dr Mary Leakey in 1959.
Her husband, Louis Leakey, nicknamed this early human fossil “Nutcracker Man” because of its large teeth and robust jaw.The brain of Nutcracker Man was thought to be about a third the size of the human brain today. The fossil Mary found was 1.75 million years old.
And this is Handy Man. His bones were discovered by Mary and Louis Leaky’s son Jonathan in 1960. Its scientific name was Homo habilis but it was nicknamed Handy Man because it was thought to be the first of our human ancestors to use tools. Thousands of ancient stone tools have been found in the Olduvai Gorge.Scientists think Handy Man lived about 1.4 million years ago and had a larger brain than Nutcracker Man.
I have read so much about Mary and Louis Leaky and the important work they did.
It was neat to visit the site where the two famous palaeoanthropologists made their groundbreaking discoveries.
Dave carefully read the information at the site of the Leaky discoveries.
You are forced to reconsider your own place in the timeline of history when you learn about the millions of years our human relatives have been around.
My youngest granddaughter LOVES to read biographies with me and one of her favourites features a Canadian woman who was a giraffologist.
The Girl Who Loved Giraffes by Kathy Stinson is about Anne Innis Daag who in the 1950s when she was just a young zoologist went to Africa all on her own and became the first scientist to study giraffes in the wild. Her book about giraffes became the definitive textbook about the animal. She is often called The Jane Goodall of Giraffes.
While reading Kathy Stinson’s book my granddaughter and I have not only learned about Anne Innis Daag but have also discovered many interesting facts about giraffes.
I became enthralled with Anne when I saw a movie about her called The Woman Who Loves Giraffesand so I share my granddaughter’s fascination with the tallest mammal in the world.
That’s why I was absolutely delighted to get a close-up look at so many giraffes during our safari in Tanzania.
Both male and female giraffes have two hair-covered horns called ossicones.
A giraffe’s neck can be seven feet long.
A giraffe’s favourite food is the leaves from the acacia tree. They eat up to 75 pounds of food a day.
A giraffe can run as fast as 60 kilometres an hour.
Each giraffe’s colouration is different, so the pattern of its spotty patches is like a fingerprint because it is unique to each giraffe. The giraffe’s spots also act like a “thermal window” helping to regulate the giraffe’s body temperature.
Even newborn giraffes are taller than most humans.
Giraffes spend most of their life standing. They even sleep and give birth standing.
I can hardly wait to get home and share all these photos of giraffes taken by her Grandpa with my granddaughter.
On one of the first days of our safari, we pulled into a rest stop where there must have been fifty or more safari jeeps parked in the lot.
The rest stops were places where safari adventurers could use the washroom, and have lunch at one of the many picnic tables provided.
That morning I had become fascinated with all the acacia trees we were seeing and wanted to get photos of some with the thought of possibly doing a blog post about them.
After we’d had our lunch, Dave and I were waiting for other people in our group to arrive back at our jeep and I spotted an acacia tree a little distance away from the parking lot.
Handing Dave my camera, I ran over to pose in front of it. Dave took my photo.
But when I returned to the jeep and was in the middle of admiring the way the tree had cast a lovely shadow around me on the ground, the safari guide in the jeep next to ours started giving me a stern lecture.
He said stepping outside the perimeter of the parking lot like that all by myself had been dangerous. “You might have been harvested by a lion,” he said.
Later when I asked our Dashir guide about it he said his colleague had been right. As long as people are together in a group wild animals are most likely to stay away, but a lone person not close to buildings, or vehicles could be in danger.
It was a sobering thought but the truth of its possibility was illustrated to me when we saw the huge solar panels that provided power to the facilities. Resting under the panels were two male lions. They had been closer to me than I might have imagined.
Dave got some amazing photos of thelions.
I felt even worse later about my irresponsible behaviour when I found out that if patrons on a safari are injured or killed by an animal their safari guide can go to jail, even if it was the customer’s recklessness that caused it
Just another reminder that the national parks in Africa are animal territory first and foremost and we are just visitors in THEIR home.
On the second morning of our safari, we came upon a pride of lions resting under a tree.
There was one male and several females
and at least ten children
of various sizes and ages.
We noticed that one of the females was wearing a collar around her neck.
Malaki Samuel our Dashir safari guide had told us that when we saw a lion wearing a collar that meant it was being tracked by researchers.
We sat in our jeep and watched the pride for quite a while and then the male lion got up to walk a bit and Malaki noticed right away that he was injured and was limping.
Most of the lions were all turned in one direction and someone in our group followed their line of sight through binoculars and reported there was a cape buffalo carcass off in the distance and a baby lion and a male were eating from it.
Malaki was relieved there was another male in the vicinity. He said if the injured male had been alone in the pride and couldn’t have protected the females and babies, males from another pride might have come.
They would have killed the injured lion and then KILLED all the babies so they could mate with the females in the pride who would give birth to their children.
The male off in the distance looked healthy so he could help protect the pride’s youngsters.
After a time some of the females and a few of the children stood up from under the tree and headed off towards the carcass to feed.
It was a fair distance away.
As they walked one of the babies straggled behind. It just couldn’t keep up. We wondered what would happen.
The baby was alone and vulnerable out there on the Serengeti.
But it wasn’t long before one of the females turned around and waited patiently for the little one to catch up to her. Then they walked together to feed on the carcass.
Later as we drove down the road we spotted a couple more male lions nearby.
Malaki said they belonged to the same pride as well since a pride’s territory is an 8 square kilometre range and no other males would have been there resting except ones from the same pride.
That meant there were at least three other males to protect the babies besides the injured one.
Everyone was happy about that, especially my friend Shannon who loves lions and had been waiting to see one in the wild since she was eight years old.
We would go on to see many more lions on our safari but this encounter with a whole pride and their story would remain the most memorable.
Most of the photos in this post were taken by my husband Dave Driedger
A hundred hippos! That’s no exaggeration. At one point on our safari, our Dashir guide Malaki parked our jeep by a watering hole with almost a hundred hippos in it.
My husband Dave counted them.
The hippos were having a marvellous soak, most of them with their heads under the water and just their eyes sticking out
but every once in a while they would stretch and yawn and show off their formidable teeth.
They were all sandwiched together, resting their heads on one another, and their tails looked like little whirling helicopters as they swished back and forth. It almost seemed as if they were waving their tails at us but our guide Malaki said they were actually splashing water onto their backs to keep themselves wet. Hippos can get sunburned and then their skin cracks and bleeds.
Hippos don’t eat in the water, they come out at night when the sun isn’t so hot and spend five or six hours grazing on plants. They eat about forty kilograms of grass, leaves and fruit. They are herbivores.
When we were staying at the Tortilis Lodge the workers told us hippos came into the camp while we were sleeping to graze on the plants near our tents.
The oxpecker bird eats parasites and other insects off of the back of the hippopotamus. The bird gets a meal and the hippopotamus is protected from the diseases it could contract from the parasites the oxpecker eats.
I have to say with our windows on the safari jeep ajar we could certainly SMELL the hippos.
The hippos looked kind of cute but they are the deadliest large land mammal on the planet. They are aggressive wild creatures.
This is evidenced by the fact that even crocodiles will not attack hippos and they co-exist peacefully and stay out of each other’s way.
Because the people on safari with us knew I was writing blog posts about our adventure they suggested several different titles for this hippo story including Hippo Partius and A Hip Place to Be.
I can’t remember who in our group suggested Hip Hippo Ray but I want to thank them for the idea.
And once again I am most grateful to my husband Dave who took all the marvellous photos in this post.
We are on this trip to Tanzania with our friends Les and Shannon. Dave and Les have been buddies for forty years and have played all kinds of sports together- football, hockey, fastball and golf.
Les’ wife Shannon joked asking “How many Mennonites does it take to get a picture of a bird in Tanzania?” when Les got up in our safari jeep to help Dave steady his camera so he could get a photo of the Hildebrandt’s starling of Tanzania.
This is the photo that resulted. We tried to explain to Malaki our Tanzanian guide that Hildebrandt was a traditional Mennonite name so it was humorous that Les and Dave who are also both Mennonites were trying so hard to get a photo of this bird with a Mennonite name.
Dave is an amateur birder, so one of his quests on our safari was to spot and photograph as many unique birds as possible. By the time our safari was over I had written down the names of 37 different birds we had seen.
Malaki our guide from Dashir Lodge initially wasn’t pointing out African birds to us but as soon as he discovered Dave was interested he started looking for them and helping to find them. It is just another example of the personalized service Dashir offered on our safari.
Dave didn’t get photos of all 37 birds but here are what I think are some of his best bird photos.
For those more serious birders who might be interested, here is a list of the birds we saw on our safari……. sun grouse, lappet-faced vulture, superb starling, tawny eagle, two-banded courser, Marabou stork, black-bellied bustard, Kori bustard, oxpecker, Egyptian goose, white-faced whistling duck, purple grenadier, Hildebrandt’s starling, northern white-crowned shrike, silver bird, African jacaranda, spring lapwing, Usambiro barbet, black-headed heron, guinea fowl, lilac-breasted roller, musk weaver, Bateleur eagle, whydah, secretary bird, grey-backed fiscal shrike, yellow-throated long claw, blacksmith lapwing, white stork, grey heron, great crowned crane, Abdim stork, laughing dove, hamerkop, pelican, white African banded vulture, hadeda ibis, kite, egret, ruffled weaver
Wow! Wow! Wow! That’s what our safari guide Malaki Samuel kept saying as we encountered a huge migration of wildebeests and zebras.
This is considered early in the year for the annual migration which begins in the southern Serengeti as the animals set off looking for greener grass to feed on.
We must have seen over a million zebra and wildebeests migrating together. It was just unbelievable.
Malaki estimated we drove some 8 kilometres with wildebeests and zebras in masses all around us for the entire distance.
Malaki our guide who has worked in the Serengeti for 15 years said he had never witnessed wildebeests and zebras migrating together and as we kept seeing more and more he repeated over and over again Wow! Wow! Wow!
This is also the time of year the wildebeests give birth to babies and we were fortunate enough to witness that happening as well.
Malaki spotted a mother wildebeest giving birth near a whole bunch of other mothers who’d just had babies and seemed to be grouping together to protect their newborns on the migration.
We watched for about 30 minutes as the wildebeest in labour walked around- the baby emerging from her rear end, first the legs and then the rest of the body.
The little thing had just plopped to the ground when we noticed a hyena nearby eyeing the newborn. Malaki told us he had seen a baby wildebeest harvested by a hyena before.
We waited with bated breath hoping that wouldn’t happen this time. And it didn’t! The hyena ran right by the newborn and its mother.
Did you know wildebeests are pregnant for eight and a half months almost the same length of time as humans?
Malaki our guide taught us lots about both zebras and wildebeests.
Something I thought was amazing about zebras was that the stripes on each one are absolutely unique.
A zebra’s stripe pattern is really like a fingerprint!
Something I didn’t know about wildebeests is that they are also called gnus. I thought those were two different animals.
Perhaps the zebra-patterned china at our safari lodge should have been a sign that we were going to see something phenomenal in the zebra world. The joint migration of zebras and wildebeests was certainly a spectacle we won’t ever forget!
Every day on our safari we keep having these amazing once-in-a-lifetime experiences that make us so glad we decided to embark on our African adventure.
According to the website Absolute Africa the leopard is arguably the most beautiful of Africa’s large cats.
But it is also the master of stealth so……… being able to capture one of these powerful yet graceful creatures on film is a rare and momentous occasion.
Thanks to the keen eyes of our safari guide Malaki Samuel and my husband Dave’s photography skills we were able to experience such a rare and momentous occasion as Malaki spotted leopards in two different locationsand……….
Dave got some amazing shots of them with his camera.
During the day, the leopard usually hides in trees where its beige coat and rosette markings are the perfect camouflage against the leaves and branches. Rosettes are the distinctive dark spots which create a beautiful pattern on the leopard’s light-coloured fur.
You have to be extremely lucky to catch a photo of a leopard during the daybecause the leopard is a nocturnal animal thatonly comes out of the trees to search for food at night.
Another reason leopards are challenging to photograph is that they are solitary animals and so you will usually just see one at a time.
They also travel across a very large territoryso it is hard to predict where they will be.
But……….thanks to the experience and expertise of our guide Malaki and my husband Dave’s photography abilities the people in our safari group will have some amazing memories of the elusive leopard.
Our safari guide Malaki told us there were some 4000 elephants in the Serengeti Park.
Near the end of our first day on safari we pulled up to a watering hole that must have had 30 or more elephants in it.
They were having a great time. They rolled around in the water, dove under- their huge rumps sticking up into the air. They were making all kinds of noises and sucking up huge trunks full of water and spraying it at each other.
Malaki told us elephants drink up to 150 gallons of water a day.
There were elephants of all sizes- huge adult elephants and newborn ones. Malaki told us elephants are very good mothers.
Later the elephants came up out of the water and began a parade down the road.
A mother and her baby started coming up to the jeep on my side of the vehicle.
They walked right by the jeep.The mother seemed to staring at me and my friend Les who was sitting just behind me.
We were literally eye to eye with an elephant with only the window glass between us.
The little baby followed behind its mother and raised its trunk as it neared me.
I thought it might stick its trunk right into my window which was open just a bit.
Some of the elephants on the other side of the jeep were having fun tussling in a friendly way with each other. We saw one elephant wrap its trunk around the leg of another one, trying to playfully trip it.
Our guide Malaki who has been taking people on safaris for nearly a decade and a half said he had never seen that kind of behaviour before.
That night in our tent at the beautiful Tarangire Safari Lodge Dave and I talked about how remarkable our elephant encounter had been.
The porters at the lodge came later to trim the huge baobab tree right near our tent. Apparently the day before we arrived an elephant had come by our tent during the night and had ripped off some branches.
When we planned our trip to Tanzania I was hoping to see elephants, but I never dreamed I’d have an eye to eye encounter with oneor see so many. During our entire safari we would see more than a hundred elephants.