April-Dec 2002

 

Home
Up
Jan-March 2001
April-June 2001
July-Sep 2001
Oct-Dec 2001
Jan-March 2002
April-Dec 2002
Jan-April 2003
May-Aug 2003
October 2003
Dec 03-Dec 04
Jan-April 2005

December 2002

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Rain 

DETAILS

Ndutu has received 102 mm of rain so far this month. There is already a green flush of grass and tens of thousands of wildebeest on the surrounding plains. Long lines of wildebeest are pouring into the area called two trees and along the Makao road. Guests are getting great views of lion, leopard and cheetah this week, including some very playful cheetah cubs. The transition from dry season to wet has to witnessed to be believed. The change from bare earth to green grass in two days is amazing but within hours of the first deluge we were treated to an almost deafening frog chorus. Large flocks of European white storks circle above the Lodge and harriers cruise the plains. Woodland kingfishers, Didric cuckoos call constantly a sound not heard for many months and the lesser-masked weavers have already started to build their tightly woven nests in the lodge grounds.

Elephant Just before this months rain began to fall we witnessed a wonderful incident recently at one of the last pools of water at Lake Masek. It happened when a small group of elephants approached the pool, which unfortunately had a hippo in residence at the time.
Hippo One of the younger elephants charged the unfortunate hippo on sight. This was enough to drive the hippo out of the pool and trotting off along the Lakeshore.
Serval This was very unlucky for the serval cat hiding in the long grass, which had to take evasive action to avoid a trampling. The spectacle of the Hippo chasing the serval followed by an elephant certainly must have been a terrifying sight to the leopard, which jumped out in front of the serval and took off.
Leopard A leopard being chased by a serval, who in turn, was being followed by a hippo, or that was what it looked like from where we were watching was bizarre. In the meantime the elephants were calmly drinking, oblivious of all the commotion they had caused.

The serval we lost in all the excitement, the leopard shot up the nearest tree; the hippo walked around while waiting for the elephants to finish drinking. Within minutes calm had returned to the hippos little pool and nobody would ever guess that anything had ever happened.

Lions have been very much in evidence this month, especially when ten walked past the evening camp-fire the other day. They seem to be spending their time out on the plains where large herds of wildebeest and zebra are arriving at the moment. This is in complete contrast to last month, when they were trying to eek out a living in the woodlands. Four lionesses were seen stalking a young elephant bull recently at Lake Masek. Although he was a young bull, he is still a large animal and considerably bigger than the largest female elephant. When one of the lionesses rushed at him, he hoofed it so hard with his trunk that he sent her flying down the lakeshore like a bowling ball. He seemed quite unfazed by it all, as he just carried on browsing from the bush he was eating at the time, while the lioness staggered off, seemingly none the worst for the bowling she received, I think?

Ndutu has been a hive of activity the past couple of weeks as we get everything ready for the busy months ahead. 3 new rooms, which have replaced 4 of the older style rooms are now ready for use and the bar and dinning areas have a new lease of life after the installation of the new roof.

Marceli Mosha officially retires at the end of this year after nearly 4 decades. Marceli has been a waiter at the Lodge since the mid sixties when the lodge was originally a tented camp. He is retiring to his home in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania, with probably more than his fair share of stories of bush life and adventure. We will miss Marceli very much and hope he enjoys his well earned rest.

Those people living in the UK will get the chance to see the amazing new film by Owen Newman and Amanda Barrett called “Cats Under Serengeti Stars” which was filmed entirely in the Ndutu area. It will be shown in the evening of the 1st January on BBC2. Owen and Amanda based themselves at the lodge for 16 months while making this film of the smaller Serengeti cats along with more familiar animals and some not so familiar ones. It was filmed entirely at night and done with the use of infra red lighting, so as not to disturb any of the animals. The film will also be shown in America, sometime in the New year.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti). 

December

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Rain in places

DETAILS

The migration is moving from the north to central Serengeti. If the rains continue the migration should move south through the Serengeti this month. If the rains do not continue the wildebeest will most likely move to the central areas.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ultimate Africa Safaris)

October

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Dry

DETAILS

A September/October newsletter is all about Dry Season! At this time of the year, fierce winds fill the sky with dust - the dried soda of Lake Ndutu and Masek is swept to the west, billows up and forms impressive white clouds. The winds have been unrelenting these past weeks and maybe that's why the dead Acacia tortilis in front of the Lodge finally fell over. Since it died, some ten years ago, it has been under constant attack from different armies.  Birds and insects have steadily hammered away at it, gnawing, eating and boring holes through the bark and into the wood. However, still standing upright, it commanded great presence, and served as an ideal perch or look-out for birds of prey. Often at dusk, a flock of guinea- fowl would spread over the bare branches and use it as their overnight lodging. Now that it's lying on its side, it will continue to provide shelter and food for a host of crawlies, snakes, scorpions and centipedes making all of them very happy!

Most of the action now revolves around the few remaining water-holes in the area such as the Big and Small Marsh, as well as some springs along and at the end of Masek. In fact, Heathrow Air Traffic volume is nothing compared to the flight movements of a great variety of birds coming and going, especially doves and sandgrouse. After landing and a good
check around, they fly to the water, followed by a quick drink and then take off again, filling the air with constant clappings and whooshings of wings. In all these flurry of flights it only takes one bird of prey to fly over and the birds scatter in every direction!  Three cheetah seem to have taken over the Big Marsh area and guests have  been lucky to witness quite a few hunts and kills so our  Grant's gazelle population have to be on their toes at all times! Elephants, drinking and bathing in the mud, giraffe coming in late afternoons, an  occasional leopard and serval sighting... it may all be called "Low  Season or Dry Season" but what wonderful spectacles there are! With less  vegetation at this time of the year, animals can be spotted more easily.  The yellow and sepia colours of the grasses, so typical of the end of  dry season in Serengeti, as well as some stunning sunsets, provide a  beautiful backdrop for photographs.

Several guests have commented how nice it was to be able to watch animals undisturbed by  vehicles and noise... one couple stayed here for four nights  watching a female cheetah with three cubs every  day. This particular female has been resident in the area, moving around the marsh and lake Ndutu and as she made several kills, she was very easy to spot. 

I went out for a quick drive to the Big Marsh the other morning and saw Bat-eared foxes, Grant's gazelle, Hartebeests, Giraffe, Zebra, Hyena, Elephants, Cheetah and Lions as well as Ground Hornbills, Ostrich, Secretary birds, Verreaux Eagle Owl, flocks of European Bee eaters and a  great variety of other birds... all in a short one-and- half hour!  Later that same day, it was a special treat to wait for the full moon to rise over the white soda of lake Ndutu, with a brilliant and very bright Venus hanging in the Western sky.

As Newsletters are about all manner of news... I suppose I need to mention our recent and rather drastic building activities. Since the last rains, the main roof of the dining room and bar has been leaking in several places and short of replacing yet again a layer of building plastic between the existing thatch of banana and palm, we decided to redo the whole roof and structure, in order to be able to carry the heavier corrugated iron sheetings. With some professional help on the design and construction side, the wooden rafters from the early days have been replaced by a less old-fashioned design.

Since we're so far from Arusha town, advance planning of materials and transport  was essential.  It took two days to dismantle the 19 rafters and strip the  entire old  roof with its layers of thatch (which created a dustcloud on the  premises to be remembered!).  Then the huge new heavy poles needed to be hoisted up. In Africa this is sheer "manpower", and we have all been in awe of the 6 fundis (experts) from Arusha who managed this job so quickly and effortlessly!  Needless to say throughout all this, there was great concern for the well-being of our famous genets, who after all can rightly claim the Ndutu roofs as theirs!  We were very worried they would flee with their stamping  ground in such disarray but after the first demolition day we left some mouth-watering pieces of chicken on the one upstanding wall and  were very relieved to see 6 Genets nibbling away in the midst all the  chaos...  The work is still in full swing and we hope most of it shall be finished within our schedule of the fortnight we put aside. Having not had a drop of rain since mid May, the first and so far only shower ironically hit Ndutu Lodge in the afternoon of the 29th September, about an hour after the roof came off!!  We hope that the "new look" of the Lodge will be a success and it will  certainly be a  relief not to have to worry about leaks when we are hit by the next tropical rainstorm.

To end on a humorous note... recently great zoologist friends came to  stay for a few weeks.  They have lived in Tanzania for many years and so should know better.  One evening they forgot some things on the verandah in front of their room. The next morning they woke up to find that of three pairs of  shoes, all three left ones were missing..!!!  Who says hyenas don't have a good sense of humour?

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

29 September

LOCATION    Tarangire

WEATHER     Wet

DETAILS

Far from predictable, the rains have caught us unawares with two days of deluge leaving the roads and tracks awash for many parts of Northern Tanzania! This month is normally as dry as Tanzania gets, so the weather patterns have left us all wondering what is in store for the rest of the year?

Prior to the unseasonable weather the season has been in full flood (excuse the pun!) with the weather doing what it should, drying up the grasslands and increasing the visibility for our walking guides.

Osunyai has proved itself to be worth the time and effort coming up trumps with great sightings throughout the season. The camp position with the lounge tent set overlooking the elephant excavations on the riverbed has been a particular success and one that we hope to be able to repeat this next dry season. The quote 'You're so lucky, you have a great job' has never been so appropriate and so apt! I must admit to being on the receiving end of that statement quite a number of times over the years and especially over the past few months. The wildlife viewing experiences I've had with guests at Osunyai this season reflect quite adequately why many consider the job of a walking guide to be about as good as it gets, and quite frankly I have to agree with them! The camp, situated on the Osunyai Sand River, has provided every safari with the opportunity of viewing elephants at close quarters.

As there is no standing water in the area the elephants have to dig down into the sand to find the fresh waters lying beneath the surface. First with their front feet and then with their trunks the elephants create a large crater with a trunk shaped smaller hole at its center sometimes digging to a depth of 3 or 4 feet.

Of course plenty of other animals take advantage of the 'free' water holes, which this season saw warthogs, dik-dik, baboons and a leopard coming to drink as well as the numerous Tarangire bird life all sharing interdependency on the elephants efforts.

Whether its been the African grass owl taking flight from a Baobab tree, army ants in full battle array heading for a nearby termite mound or the black necked cobra crossing the Sand River there have been plenty of memories and new experiences all round!

One couple were woken in the early morning by the crunching of grass roots outside of their tent! Upon sitting up in bed the early morning light illuminated a male giraffe bending down to peer at them through the windows of the tent!

Another group, awoken at 5.00 AM, had breakfast and then set out to a nearby set of Kopjes to watch the African sun rise followed by a walk in the brisk morning air. Two days later we passed the same spot to find that a leopard had deposited the remains of an Impala in the tree above us.

Perhaps it was the same leopard that at the end of a night drive put on a lovely show padding gracefully on the Sand River bed close to camp?

I've certainly enjoyed the past few months at Osunyai and look forward to being back as soon as possible.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ultimate Africa Safaris)

September

LOCATION    Tarangire

WEATHER     Dry

DETAILS

Kikoti Camp Update , September 15 2002

Kikoti Camp is located in Tanzania ’s Tarangire National Park.  Here is a recent update:

We are all very excited about the wild dogs hanging around Kikoti Camp. We have had four good sightings already. We have not seen these dogs in two years! One female looks pregnant - so if she dens in the area  - then we'll  have guaranteed sightings. We hope for the best. 

The other good news is that we have a female leopard in the area that has given birth to two female cubs. We have seen her on two occasions although she is extremely shy. Other wildlife viewing has been good with lot's of eland, oryx, impala's, baboons, grant's gazelle although it's very dry at the moment.

Night drives have been fun and sightings have included servals, honey badgers, genets,   chameleons, hyena's, lions, porcupines, spring hares, duikers, and other antelope species...

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ultimate Africa Safaris)

July/August

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Dry

DETAILS

Ndutu is now well into the dry season. For me this is a favourite time of year because of the clear cool nights and the dry season colours of yellow ochre, brown and gold. Water is a scarce commodity in these months and the animals tend to be seen by the water sources at the Marshes or Lake Masek. The lodge birdbath attracts hundreds of brightly coloured lovebirds each morning as well as myriad of doves and this morning a Gabar goshawk came for a wash which was quite painful to watch as it took him a full ten minutes to actually get in. The small rocky depression in front of the lodge loved by the birds for the small amount of water we put out each morning is also much appreciated by the hyenas who drink whatever remains at night. But for an elephant it’s only one slurp, thankfully for the birds though, they seem to be drinking from the pool at Big Marsh at the moment.

DT on a dawn visit in May

However we did have one elephant visit the lodge recently, a particularly truculent bull (our old favourite DT) stood on the path to the staff quarters early one morning, refusing to let the staff come down to work. I could hear the commotion from the far end of the lodge. I’m not sure who enjoyed it the most, the elephant or the guys, who had to run a rather large circle around him, amongst much trumpeting before arriving to work.

The month of July is when all the staff are here to renew contracts, have meetings, play sports such as football, volleyball, darts and table tennis. It’s also a time when we give prizes for the elected worker of the year. The flying medical service also flies in for one of the twice-yearly health checks, where we all get a check up.

As August comes some staff go off on leave, which means we’ll not be all together again until the high season just before Christmas. While we are all together we have monster pilau evenings when huge quantities of pilau rice (a favourite with the guys and myself) are cooked up, drinks are handed out, speeches are made, and funny stories regaled. Such as the recent experience of our mason and his mate:

While retiling a bathroom in one of the rooms they were followed in by a rather large cobra. Pandemonium broke out as it chased them round the room. I think they were both as frightened as each other. To cut a long story short they locked themselves in the bathroom and wouldn’t come out. The rest of the staff thought this was hilarious, doubling up with laughter and offering no sympathy. The masons left by crawling through the bathroom window a feat I still cannot get over as my ample girth would never go through. As for the snake, we just left the door open all night and it was gone by morning. The next day they worked with the door closed.

Interesting sightings this month have been the large groups of eland seen on the plains, some of which are over 300 strong. 112 buffalo were seen at Lake Masek, which is very special, as we don’t often see buffalo in these numbers. Six lions walked past the lodge while everyone was having breakfast yesterday much to every one’s delight. Three cheetahs also wandered in front of the lodge this week, the second time this month.

An interesting and eerie thing happened recently when a family group of elephants passed by the bones of a bull elephant that had died 4 months previously. They stopped to pick the bones up and then carried them off short distances. I’ve heard of this sort of behaviour but never actually seen it. Well, to be honest, I didn’t actually see it as they had just moved off when I passed the bones. But the fresh elephant tracks, dung, the elephants themselves which were still nearby and the scattered bones bore evidence to something quite strange. The skull had been turned over and some bones had been carried off and laid in the long grass, leaving the imprints of the original resting place in the dust. It seems death has a special meaning for elephants. I’ve never heard of them moving or picking up the bones of other animals. The privilege of seeing these fine animals in the wild is always very moving. Elephants have been persecuted for thousands of years and only studied for decades so I’m sure we still have so much more to learn from these magnificent beasts.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

June

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Dry

DETAILS

Returning from leave last month, we were pleasantly surprised to find so many wildebeest still on the triangle. The plains still had a green tinge after the late rains in May. The wildebeest had started to rut, which only made the spectacle even more memorable. The males ran to and fro, challenging rivals while constantly calling and trying to herd groups of females together. The males would confront each other, clash horns with a surprising amount of force and promptly return to their little group of females, if they had not already moved off onto another males territory. To the outsider it looks like total chaos but to wildebeest it must make some sort of sense. Nevertheless it really is a truly great event in the Serengeti migration and one we don’t generally see at Ndutu as the herds have usually moved off before the rut starts. But thanks to late rains we’ve been treated to yet another of Serengeti’s natural wonders. It proves yet again that every year, every month and every day is different and nothing can be taken for granted, only the knowledge that in this truly great wilderness, something is always going to be special.

The main groups are moving fast towards the Seronera area although some wildebeest are still entering the Marsh for water. The young calves have now turned grey and have grown considerably over the past two months in preparation for the trek ahead in the search for water and fresh pasture. The resident lions are fat and well. They kindly paid us a visit the other evening, coming so close we had to abandon our drinks by the campfire. As they investigated the chairs in which we sat, I thought they might have taken the odd gin and tonic or beer before they went. But alas they just sat there for 20 minutes preventing us from reclaiming them, even though some of the guests looked as though they needed a gin!

The Karatu Secondary School left this morning after another Ndutu visit. We invite the school to stay for two nights every year and they have been coming to Ndutu for well over ten years now. The school is about three and a half hours drive from the lodge in the small town of Karatu. It was the first time many of the children had seen wild animals which is sad when they live so close to one of the greatest wildlife parks in the world (Ngorongoro). We’re pleased to be able to help the school and hope the arrangement will continue for many more years to come.

DT outside the lodgeThe elephant known as DT, has been very much in evidence this month. For some reason he’s taken to hanging around the lodge, which is great for the guests and wonderful to see, but – there’s a problem with his eating habits. We like having trees for aesthetic reasons and also for shade, he likes to eat them, so a conflict of interests has arisen. The time of clapping one’s hands or banging saucepans is long over, as he’s become accustomed to the noise. Even my guitar playing fails to persuade him to leave. Quite a bit of the surrounding foliage is now supported by bits of string. I haven’t seen DT for over a week, so we’re hoping it’s just a passing phase and hopefully he’ll do what elephants do best in the bush and not between the guest rooms.

Some other interesting sightings this past week have been a pair of striped hyenas seen several times at Lake Masek. Caracals are still being seen regularly and of special note has been plum coloured starlings and violet tipped courser which were seen at the lodge.

On Friday the 7th of June, the funeral of Baron Hugo Van Lawick, took place in his old campsite at Ndutu. Hugo Van Lawick was a filmmaker and photographer, who lived at Ndutu for over twenty five years, first at the lodge and then in his camp a few kilometres away.

Hugo was one of the first filmmakers to work in Serengeti/Ngorongoro and through his films the world was introduced to the delights of these wonderful places. Hugo trained many of the young filmmakers of today and was an inspiration to many more and his presence will live on in wildlife films for many more years to come. His last film ‘The Serengeti Symphony’ which was filmed in 35mm for the big screen is possibly the finest wildlife film ever made in the Serengeti and sets the standard for todays filmmakers.

Hugo did so much to promote Serengeti/Ngorongoro and Tanzania that he was given a state funeral and the honour of being laid to rest in the place he had loved and lived in for much of his life. Government ministers, the Dutch ambassador, officials for Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, National Parks and friends from around the world came to pay their last respects. The name Hugo Van Lawick has become synonymous with Ndutu. Hugo was a great storyteller and raconteur, it was a great pleasure to have met him and he will be sadly missed, few can have achieved as much in life or be remembered so fondly as Hugo Van Lawick.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

June 16

LOCATION    Tarangire

WEATHER     Light showers

DETAILS

Pratik and Sonia Patel who run Tanzania Photographic Safaris in Arusha, Tanzania recently visited Tarangire National Park and noted the following:

"On my recent trip to Tarangire National park, I experienced amazing sights as all the wildlife from the Simanjiro Plain's are making their way back into the park. We saw over 300 elephants in approximately 2 hours of driving, around Silale swamp. We drove further 10 kilometers south of Larmakau and ran into a herd of approximately 1,500 buffalo - one of the best sightings we've had in the last 2 years.

We've had good rain this year, fortunately it has been light showers over the last 2 to 3 months, so there are no major road or bridge washouts. The vegetation is green, lush and healthy. Unfortunately the river is looking very low for this time of the year and surveying all the major waterholes, it looks like the waterholes are all going to dry out earlier than expected inside and outside the park, hence forcing the wildlife to concentrate around the river.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ultimate Africa Safaris)

June

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Dry

DETAILS

Hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra are finally on their way across the Serengeti, migrating towards greener grasses via the Grumeti River and Ndabaka Plains. The vast majority of migratory wildebeest and zebra were in and around the Seronera River Valley with movement west towards Kirawira.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ultimate Africa Safaris)

3 May

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Mainly dry with some scattered showers

DETAILS

April is undoubtedly one of the best and most beautiful months of the year at Ndutu! Officially it is now “Low Season”, but insiders know better. The buzz of tourists has slowed down, the plains surrounding Ndutu are full of animals, there are flowers everywhere, the light is beautiful offering great opportunities for photography… and there is peace and quiet..

Serengeti Skies  - photo by Aadje GeertsemaThe weather, though, has been unpredictable and different from most other areas in Tanzania, where there are reports of flooding and bridges collapsing, main roads blocked or closed and some nasty accidents… whereas here in Ndutu the rains have mostly circumvented the area… with showers on the other side of lake Ndutu but not at the Lodge! We hope that the rains will continue a while into May, so we can fill our drinkwater tanks to the brim, before the Dry Season starts.

The April skies can be majestic – with towering thunderheads and violent lightening storms – only to be followed by bright sunshine….and a very special ‘treat’, if one ventures out on an early morning drive. These are the mornings of misty dawns when thick fog, or even better, ground mist covers the plains and woodlands, shrouding the trees and vegetation. Once the sun breaks through, delicate works of art – intricate and beautifully woven spiderwebs of all shapes and sizes- become visible. They adorn the Serengeti grasses and bushes with silver strings of pearls, a wondrous sight!

Spidersweb - photo by Aadje GeertsemaOn the animal front, most noticeable absentees have been the elephants. They seem to have scattered in all directions and only sporadically does a lone male visit the Lodge. The giraffes, on the other hand, have been around in numbers, and a delightful group of youngsters continue to roam around near the Airstrip, looked after by a few females. They are quite ‘approachable’ and calm and guests have been able to get good close-ups of these beautiful and elegant creatures!

I suppose the highlight of this month occurred during three days of controlled chaos, when the wildebeest gathered in and around the Big Marsh. Because of the rather unusual and locally dry weather conditions, the animals massed in the woodlands and the Marsh provided The Watering Place! Wildebeest - photo by Aadje GeertsemaAn unforgettable wildlife spectacle unfolded with vast herds trekking to and fro and in long lines, often passing each other in different directions to drink in the Marsh. And, while calves searched for their mothers, and mothers looked for their calves, males were sparring and showing off! It was pandemonium! On the fourth day in the morning there was only a flattened, muddy swamp left with the sudden silence broken by the bleating of a few calves, lost and alone, and as it turned out, an easy and welcome prey for the resident leopard, cheetah and some hyenas.

Finally, having lost Horatio the Hippo (who had to give up the Ndutu waterhole to daily visiting herds of elephants in February/March) and, rumour has it, returned to Lake Masek, we can now introduce our two new temporary residents: Mu and Hanga! Well-known Kenya artist Kioko creates all kinds of animals from scrap metal and nuts, bolts and left-over bits and pieces. 

“Muhanga” is the kiswahili word for “Aardvark” and these are two of a kind. It turned out to be quite a struggle to get Hanga out here. Firstly, she had the opportunity to fly in by Cessna Caravan, but despite the 10-seater plane being almost empty her considerable girth prevented her from travelling in style. In the end she had to contend with a lift in a 10 ton lorry whilst Mu travelled in state by landrover….and they now are happy amidst the aloes in front of the Lodge, their coats turning a beautiful rusty red after the recent rains! Full of zest, they face the dining room and their cheerful presence brings a smile to our visitors’ faces.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

 

4 April

LOCATION    Serengeti

WEATHER     Scattered showers

DETAILS

March has been the most amazing month! Visitors have been guaranteed the chance to see the wildebeest migration in its entire, magnificent splendour. The calves are still in their tan coloured coats and will be for the next month before they gain the normal dark grey of the adults. And it was wildebeest that gave us a great treat the other night. We were sitting by the camp-fire, enjoying a great lightning display far off to the north, which lit up the entire sky at intermittent intervals. Suddenly we heard a rumble, which grew louder, as hundreds of wildebeest thundered towards us. At first we didn’t know whether to retreat into the lodge or stay and risk being trampled. We stayed and were treated with a fantastic spectacle, as they cantered past, just a few feet away leaving the smell of trampled grass and dust as they disappeared into the darkness. If the isolated showers continue, and they look as though they will, the wildebeest will continue to stay around Ndutu, and we are bound to have many more special encounters.

Lions have also been very much in evidence over the past month. Guests witnessed part of one interesting but tragic encounter. A strange lioness strayed into the Masek Prides territory with three small cubs. Unfortunately she bumped into one of the Masek males. Pride males will never tolerate other male’s cubs and will try to kill them. Things didn’t look good for the lioness but she was bravely defending her cubs from the very large and impressive male, which had cornered them in the Lake Masek. The cubs were in the water on a small sand bar, while the lioness was on the lakeshore in a stand off with the male. The male seemed reluctant to enter the water and all seemed hopeful, when everyone left as darkness approached. But sadly, some time later she was seen on her own with no cubs at all.

Elephants dominated Ndutu Lodge the first week in March, as they came to drink and bathe daily in the lodge water hole. Sadly this was just too much for the hippo that had taken up temporary residence last month. I think that he finally cracked on the day when fifty elephants piled into the pool because he left that evening and hasn’t come back.

On a sad note, one of our biggest and certainly most handsome bull elephants died this month. He was a familiar and very welcome sight every wet season when he appeared from the mystery place in which he spent the dry months. We only ever saw him in his musth period, when he spent most of his time criss-crossing the area looking for estrus females. Two years ago in May, I saw him in consort with a very young female we call Daffodil (names were never my strong point) and after twenty-one months and 8 days she gave birth to a bull calf. I’m sure this calf and many others to come will be his legacy. Since I know he mated with another female two weeks before he died, in approximately twenty-two months time, we shall hopefully see his last calf and testimony of his success as a fine breeding bull. I’ve no idea why he died. He was standing in front of the lodge looking magnificent only 6 days before his body was found. He looked in perfect health and was in full musth, streaming from his temporal gland and dribbling urine. The smell of a musth bull can knock you sideways. To female elephants it must be quite an exciting smell, maybe something like very expensive aftershave, but to me it just smells of old socks. Apparently the word musth is a corruption of the Urdu word for intoxicated, as bulls can act rather aggressively when their testosterone levels rise. But even in musth, this bull was always particularly tolerant and approachable; he’ll be sadly missed.

Three new birds have been added to the Bird List this month. They are Jack snipe, Eurasian stone curlew and short-eared owl. The birding of late has been stunning. Of special note is the huge number of European rollers being seen at the moment, along with red-backed shrikes. Large flocks of common, lesser and white-eyed kestrels are passing over in big numbers, all on their way back to Europe.

Other highlights this month include many cheetahs, especially all the tiny cubs born this year. In addition bat-eared foxes have done really well this year. There are many young pups and one pair close to the lodge has six pups, which I have to say look quite a handful.

Anyone who has ever driven through the African bush will know the hazard of hitting a aardvark hole. The consequences can be disastrous with broken springs and bent steering rods. We have all cursed when we’ve had to spend an uncomfortable hour digging ourselves out of a particularly vicious hole hidden in the long grass. Well, a piece of heart-warming news is that aardvarks fall down their own holes. As was recently witnessed, by some friends who are filming a new BBC documentary about cats, when they spotted an aardvark one night. He shuffled past when he suddenly tipped over and crashed, snout over tail down into his own hole!

So much has happened over the past few weeks here that you could write a book. The large numbers of giraffe which are in the woodlands at the moment, the herds of eland on the plains, flamingoes on the lake, and the vast flocks of guinea fowl which are just about everywhere, all combine to have made March a very special month indeed.

(This update is reproduced with the kind permission of Ndutu Safari Lodge - www.ndutu.com - a lodge set in Acacia woodland overlooking Lake Ndutu just to the south of the Serengeti).

 

Did you like these reports? 

Email Tim at mailto:TimClark@wildlifetravel.net.

       

 

 

In Association with Amazon.co.uk