The last account saw our arrival at Ndutu Lodge www.ndutu.com where we were to see in 2014 with a five night stay. Not cheap but this was our end of year splurge. We were seeing more promises of rain, and night skies were often backlit by lightening. The Lodge and the whole area was busy with visitors and we do not think we will return at such times again. We were somewhat taken aback by the number of other Camps in the area which made a mockery of the looked for Wilderness experience. So many camps made it look like a Refugee area as little or no attempt seems to have been made to screen them from view. So very sad that people seek wilderness but end up destroying the very thing they sought. There are even Balloon trips now. Enough.
Our routine was an early start, back for Breakfast or lunch, siesta or wandering around, before another drive at 15.00 or so.
This was where we had some problems in communicating with our driver. He was fixated on Lions and sure enough he seemed to end up in a vehicle jam, yes, even in Ndutu now folks! However we did find a Leopard and two cubs snoozing under a bush and two Cheetah boys out on the plains. Not bad for our first day. Shame I did not back up my photos that evening. I even lost my artistic attempts with the many Flamingo and their reflections in the Lake.
Next day started well with some friendly Elephants posing quite politely, a cooperative Hoopoe and splendid sightings of a Melanistic Gabar Goshawk. By now my camera Disc was 'unable to write' so I continued on Mr. G's. We have the same model (Fuji HS30EXR) and I often picked the wrong one up anyway. This was discovered when I muttered about 'my' camera seemingly having defaulted to settings I did not use each time I picked it up. Mr. G said the same thing was happening with his. Then the penny dropped! Duh!
The afternoon was quiet except for some Steenbok, a Reedbuck and Wildebeeste although a very full Ruppells' Vulture co-operated well. And of course we got to see bloody lions enlivened by several cars behaving both badly and stupidly standing on the car roof or bonnet.
New Year's eve started well with a pair of Pygmy Falcons and a lovely family of Bat-Eared Foxes where the cubs were induced to come out and pose for us too. Then we got to the big marsh and lots of waterbirds were added to the list. Painted and African Snipe, Marsh Harriers, Grey Crowned Cranes to name but four. Even a Cheetah was out there for a drink. But by 11.00 we were with some lions. (Again!)
Happily we then moved to the plains and were entertained by a cheetah and her half grown cub for over thirty minutes. Lovely photos of the young one being encouraged to hunt his mother's tail and then joining her on the lookout tree. They even came to the car for a sniff at one point..
The afternoon drive was curtailed a little as rain threatened and very quiet. We heard of one car getting stuck until being rescued at 23.00. Then it was back to camp to wash up ready for the evening Special Banquet with such dishes as Turkey, Roast Beef, BBQd Suckling Pig and Lamb with Mint Sauce. Equally scrumptious desserts but this is a Trip report not a Gastronomic account. An interesting spin was the 'presents' in the Crackers were all maasai trinkets. I got a Keyring.
We still managed an early start next day when we ventured into the Acacia woodlands. We were delighted with Silverbird, Great Spotted Cuckoo, and both Nubian and Grey-headed Woodpeckers before driving out onto the Naibor track where we found a single Cheetah. He was half heartedly looking at some Gazelle but was maybe hung over and grumpy as he lay down and took a nap. We then went off on a tour of Lake Manze. We encountered an adult Martial Eagle calling for her mate as she had a Dik Dik to share which was a nice surprise. We then met and entertained a lone Bull Elephant with only one tusk before leaving him by the Lake. Other birds included Red-throated Tit, Wattled Starlings, White Storks and another Pied Wheatear. A Pallid Harrier was seen devouring what looked like a Pangolin. We also saw our first Ducks in the form of Cape Teal. The proposed afternoon drive was a complete washout with heavy rain making even the Lodge grounds into a lake. Very thrilling Thunder and Lightening though.
Now sadly it was time to move on. We took the more 'usual' route away from Ndutu, spotting more wildlife, such as Jackals and Hyena as well as a lovely male Pallid Harrier, some replete Vultures and our first Cape Rooks. The main road was busy so we detoured to the east via Olduvai Campsite and over the dry river to the plains below Lemagrut. There we met Kori Bustard, some Eland and a Taita Fiscal. Continuing up to the Crater rim it was interesting to see heavy rain had made the Crater very wet indeed. Our next Lodge was Rhino Lodge http://www.ngorongoro.cc/ where we had two nights. We were not going down into the Crater but planned to tour the rim and Endulen track once more. The hoped for Schalow's Turacos failed to appear but we did score Grey-capped Warbler and both Golden-winged and Tacazze Sunbirds within the Lodge gardens. Further afield we saw Olive Pigeon, Senegal Lapwing, Red-winged Larks and a Yellow Wagtail. On the drive to Nainakanoka we had a brief but jaw dropping moment when a Male Leopard crossed the road in front of the car.
Next morning a drive over Endulen track and a climb up the slopes of Oldeani gave great views over the area to Lemagrut and down to Lake Eyasi. A mystery insignificant LBJ was finally nailed down as Brown Parisoma after several incorrect attempts at naming it.
In the wee hours of our last morning I was 'detailed' to investigate strange noises outside the room. A torch revealed many shining eyes and further investigation showed around 100 Buffalo had come to graze the lawn. They were still there at dawn and indeed lingered until folks stirred for Breakfast when, after threatening some guests who climbed the barriers and ventured too close, they meandered off and disappeared into the Bush. This Lodge may not be on the Crater rim but it is surrounded by wildlife and you do need to heed the safety warnings and not walk too far.
Well it looks like Part four is needed as there is more to tell.
So for now here is a link to the Non birding Photos.