Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Tanzania - Part 3

On Day 5 of our tour in Tanzania we made the long drive from Lake Manyara to the Seronera River Valley in the Serengeti, one of the world's most famous wildlife areas where we stayed for four nights at the Serengeti Serena Lodge.

July isn't the time of year to witness the spectacular migration of Wildebeest and Zebras for which the Serengeti is best known but there was still more than enough to see and our stay provided a wonderful experience. Maybe we did see only a few thousand Wildebeest and Zebras rather than the million or two that are present at other times of the year but the variety of mammals and birds was truly impressive.

Zebras at a waterhole

Of course, this was a bird watching tour and on numerous occasions when we were doing just that, watching birds, we attracted looks ranging from pity to scorn from the drivers and occupants of the many other safari vehicles that we encountered. They were interested only in finding the so-called 'Big Five' and mention of a Rattling Cisticola or a Tawny-flanked Prinia left them totally bemused. It wouldn't do for us all to be the same but it was hard not to think that it was they who were missing out. Why wouldn't you, for instance, want to look at colourful Fischer's Lovebirds and Lilac-breasted Rollers, handsome Blacksmith and Crowned Lapwings, the dapper little Capped Wheatear or bizarre Secretary Birds and Southern Ground Hornbills? It's hard to fathom!

Secretary Bird

We did stop from time to time to look at Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Buffalo, Giraffes and all the rest. In fact one day we were lucky enough to see two Cheetahs hunting. One minute they were lying down seemingly asleep, the next they were in pursuit of the one poor individual that they had singled out amongst a herd of a hundred or so Thomson's Gazelles that were fleeing in a cloud of dust. Their speed was amazing and the gazelle had no chance of escape; it was all over very quickly. Actually, it wasn't quite over because another spectator at this kill had been a Lioness and just when the Cheetahs thought they had their meal, this Lioness appeared from nowhere and took it off them! We watched as she struggled to make off with it, presumably to feed her cubs. Meanwhile, the Cheetahs, no doubt a bit put out by this, had little choice other than to start again and plan another strike.

Lioness with stolen Thomson's Gazelle

Cheated Cheetahs

There are many predators here and huge numbers of prey species. It was routine to come across the carcasses of Zebras, Buffalo, Wildebeest and the rest and often it was the presence of vultures that first drew our attention to them from some distance away. White-backed Vultures were easily the most numerous but Lappet-faced were also reasonably common and we also saw Ruppell's Griffons and White-headed Vultures. Also cleaning up after the Lions were Spotted Hyaenas without whom the plains would be littered with bones; their highly acidic digestive system can apparently deal with almost anything!

African Buffalo

Lappet-faced Vulture

Spotted Hyaena

The diversity of wildlife in the Serengeti is the result of diverse habitats: vast grasslands, riverine forests, swamps, kopjes and woodland. Much has been written about it and it has featured in countless television documentaries but it really should be very high on anyone's list of 'must visit' places to see at first hand.

More to follow...

No comments: