Boat to Moremi Game Reserve

On our Botswana safari, we departed the Okavango Delta by boat to the Moremi Game Reserve.

In the morning we watched a team of swallows build a nest under the thatched roof of our cabin.

mud nest with lesser striped swallow
mud nest with lesser striped swallow

A swallow with mud in its mouth would land on the railing.

lesser striped swallow with mud for nest
lesser striped swallow with mud for nest

When the nest was free, the waiting bird would fly into the nest, turn around, stick its head out, deposit the mud onto the edge of the nest, and fly out to make room for the next swallow.

swallow putting mud on nest
swallow putting mud on nest

On the boat ride we saw these hadeda ibises.

hadeda ibis
hadeda ibis

Our guide explained how elephants eat tree bark, using their tusks to scrape bark off trees. Elephant tusks are powerful and sharp.

tree with bark stripped by elephants
tree with bark stripped by elephants

After landing at Moremi, we did a game drive to camp. These two elephants wrapped their trunks around each other.

elephants wrapping tusks
elephants wrapping trunks

In this swampy area, a yellow-billed stork is hunting for frogs and other small animals.

yellow-billed stork and egret
yellow-billed stork and egret

The stork spreads its wing to cast a shadow and make it easier to spot animals in the water.

stork hunting
stork hunting

We stopped for a herd of impalas, a kind of antelope, on the road. Two hundred meters later we arrived in camp.

impalas on the road
impalas on the road

In the camp our tents fronted on a lake, and in the distance ears were sticking out of the water. Our camp was next to a lake with hippos! The photo below was taken from near our tent — we had to stay within the camp. A hippo is exhaling, sending a puff of water vapor into the air like a whale. I’ve since read that explosive exhaling is a threat display, but we didn’t know this at the time. So we enjoyed the lake and hippos.

hippos at the Moremi camp
hippos at the Moremi camp

We did look around camp for grass. At night hippos graze on grass lawns at our lodge in the Okavango Delta. We were told to stay in our cabins until after sunrise. We heard hippos grunting from the grass area behind our cabin, and people saw hippo footprints on the sandy path by our cabin. On that day’s boat ride, we stopped at a remote island with a grassy interior that was mown down. Our guide confirmed that hippos keep the grass short.

Day 3 at Serengeti camp – wildebeests and cheetahs

Near our camp in the Maswa Game Reserve, this group of wildebeests walked along the alkaline lake in the early morning. Our guides had told us that with the recent rain, the grass would grow quickly and the herds would return. On our drive the day before, we had seen columns of wildebeests migrating toward camp.

wildebeests returning after the rains
wildebeests returning after the rains

This group has six adults and one baby. I expected more babies — by late February, the calving was complete. Our guide said that about 80% of the newborn wildebeests don’t survive the first year: approximately a quarter die in the first few months, a quarter die crossing the rivers west of the Serengeti, and a quarter die in the Masai Mara. The west and Masai Mara both have rivers with crocodiles. The western Serengeti rivers have the first crocodiles encountered by the young wildebeests, and wildebeests aren’t prepared for the river crossing. The crocodiles get much of their annual food from the migration, so they gather and wait.

We noticed there were a lot more flies than before. Had a thousand flies hitched a ride with every new wildebeest that migrated here? Our guide explained that flies lay eggs in the dung. When the eggs are moistened by rain, baby flies emerge. So the wildebeests migrating into the area didn’t cause more flies.  The recent rain triggered both the new grass (causing wildebeests to migrate into the area) and newborn flies hatching.

Driving on the savanna, we saw three cheetahs: a mother and two 1-year-old cheetahs.

cheetah mother of two
cheetah mother of two
two one-year-old cheetahs
two one-year-old cheetahs

We waited to see if they would hunt the nearby wildebeests and gazelles.  But they only hid in the tall grass, so we drove on. In the photo below, there’s a cheetah head sticking up on each side of the photo.

two cheetahs hiding in the tall grass
two cheetahs hiding in the tall grass

At noon we found a cheetah mother and four cubs with a gazelle kill. It was the same cheetah family we had seen two days earlier. Our guide compared the two cheetah families.  One family has four month-old cubs ; the second family has the two year-old cheetahs.  The family with the older children has fewer children. Is this normal? Some cubs will not survive their first year, despite the best care of the mother. Yes, half the cheetah cubs surviving their first year is normal. 😦

Back at camp we saw this marabou stork.  They’re large (up to 1.5 m tall) and not pretty.

marabou stork at camp
marabou stork at camp

On the evening game drive we saw a mother and baby striped hyena.

striped hyena mother and baby
striped hyena mother and baby
striped hyena baby nursing
striped hyena baby nursing

A leopard and its kill

On our safari in February we drove far to the north for the day into Serengeti National Park, to see the great migration.  At 1:00 we saw dozens of vultures and storks congregating at this tree. These African storks eat meat, a far cry from our childhood image of a white stork delivering newborn babies.

dozens of vultures and storks
dozens of vultures and storks

A few minutes later, our guide stopped at the lone tree in the photo below. There’s a leopard nearby, and there might be a kill in the tree. No vehicles were parked here, a common indicator of animals. We all pulled out our binoculars and scanned the tree. This photo was taken at 120 mm focal length on a 40D, about 3 times magnification over the human eye. How our guide knew to stop at this tree is a mystery to me.

acacia tree with leopard kill
acacia tree with leopard kill

We finally saw some thin, brown legs hanging from a limb on the right side, half-way up the tree. The next photo, a tighter shot using a telephoto zoom lens at 380 mm, shows the kill more clearly. From the color of the legs, it looks like an antelope such as a gazelle or impala, probably an impala from the medium brown color.

leopard kill
leopard kill

Then we drove a half mile to a tree with a dozen or more land cruisers parked underneath. The leopard was in this second tree, away from its kill. After waiting for vehicles to leave, we finally had a clear view of the leopard.  This photo shows the leopard from head to tail, shot at 160 mm focal length.

leopard in tree
leopard in tree

Here’s a tighter shot of the leopard, at 380 mm.

tighter shot of leopard
tighter shot of leopard

Our guide explained that the leopard is clever, hiding the kill in one tree and hanging out in another tree. During the day, vehicles like ours will call attention to the leopard. Putting the kill in a tree ensures than hyenas won’t get to the kill. Using a tree with leaf cover hides the kill from dozens of vultures a few minutes away.

You have to be clever to survive in Africa. And our guide is just as clever to see all this as he drives, to show us, and to teach us so we can understand. Asante, Mzee.

To the Serengeti Camp

We drove all day from the Alamana Camp to the Serengeti Camp. In the morning we saw two kinds of antelope: a Coke’s hartebeest and a male impala.

Coke's hartebeest
Coke’s hartebeest
male impala
male impala

A group of giraffes were walking, and then they galloped past our parked trucks. These 3 photos were taken with a zoom lens at 135 mm, a short telephoto length. See the dust being kicked up in the third picture.

walking giraffes
walking giraffes
giraffes running
giraffes running
giraffes running with curved necks
giraffes running with curved necks

As we neared camp, a herd of elephants walked by.  Note that the baby is much smaller than the adult elephants.

elephant herd walking by
elephant herd walking by

Here’s a baby elephant nursing.

baby elephant nursing
baby elephant nursing

Close to sunset, we drove past an alkaline lake with various birds.

flamingos and 2 storks
flamingos and 2 storks
black-headed heron
black-headed heron
yellow-billed stork
yellow-billed stork

Ngorongoro Crater

We spent an entire day in Ngorongoro Crater, rising early to be at the entrance gate before dawn, and staying until 6:00 pm. Here’s an Abdim’s stork on a candelabra tree, colored by the predawn light.

Abdim's stork on candelabra tree
Abdim’s stork on candelabra tree

Here’s the crater from the crater rim. The crater is large and flat, surrounded by steep rim walls. We would drive around the crater.

Ngorongoro Crater from entry gate
Ngorongoro Crater from entry gate

For some people, Ngorongoro Crater was the highlight of their safari.  We saw more kinds of animals that day, than we would see on any other day. Seeing an animal for the first time on safari is special, and the introduction gets you ready to see more.

Two previous posts cover a lion family and grey-crowned crane.

Zebras and more lions.  Zebras are smart and darling. The small brownish zebra is a baby. The brown fades away with age. Lion pictures include a lioness hunting in vain.

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A wildebeest mother and baby.

baby wildebeest nursing

Cape buffalo are part of the big five.

cape buffalo
cape buffalo

Africa has ostriches.  Females are brown.  When an ostrich drinks, it raises its head to drain the water down its throat.  See the drops of water dribbling from its mouth as it raises its head.  Ostriches have powerful kicks.

ostrich drinking
ostrich drinking

The critically endangered black rhino.  Indeed, we didn’t see black rhinos after leaving Ngorongoro Crater.

black rhino
critically endangered black rhino

This spotted hyena drank and then marked territory in the water, so that other animals knew it had been there. Other animals don’t associate closely with hyenas.

spotted hyena drinking
spotted hyena drinking