Fellow Travellers

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lake Ndutu Tanzania 2009

Dec 20 –Olakira – Massai for “star”

Our “four” hour drive to the Olakira Tented Camp at Lake Ndutu was truly eight on mainly gravel roads leaving me car sick and exhausted.  My only highlight was the purchase of a tinga tinga painting of 3 cheetahs (which I ended up leaving at our hotel in Ngorongoro Crater so when you visit ask me why it’s on our wall!).  A wise word to those of you considering a similar trip, take the 45 min flight which is a much better use of time.  Olakira is a temporary camp and follows the migration of the animals to ensure the guests will be close to the action on game drives. 

On our arrival we were met by the manager, Pascal, and welcomed by the friendly staff with cold clothes and a delicious fruit drink.  We were whisked to the lounge tent to chat and check in.  The camp had only complete set up two nights before so and were encouraged to alert them to any problems we experienced.   Snake in your room, no problem, elephant wandering near your front door, just give us a call on the walkie talkie!

They fed us a very late lunch and then we went to our “tent” which was complete with sitting room, king size bed, flushing toilet, sink with running water and bucket shower – I suspect I could tent it more often if G could set me up with these standards at Mount Kidd campgrounds in Kananaskis! 

Each night the guests gather around a bon fire before dinner to enjoy a cocktail and share stories from the days game drives.  The staff then serves surprisingly sophisticated 3 course meals in a dining tent.  On returning to your tent, escorted by one of the gents on staff, the linens are turned down, chocolates on the pillows and hot water bottles are warming up the bed.  Delightful!  Made me wonder why I don’t own a hot water bottle for the cold winter months at home. 

Dec 21 – Game Drive at Lake Ndutu

As the best game viewing is generally early in the morning we were up at the crack of dawn to do a drive before breakfast.  Lake Ndutu has both open plains and treed land areas which supports a widely diverse population of animals.  We were so fortunate in our holiday timing as the wildebeest migration had reached the region early this year. 
The park was very quiet in the early morning with few vehicles and many animals enjoying the cooler temperatures or finding water in nearby streams that run towards the lake. 
Many of the predators hunt at night and often we would see the remains of their meals being fed upon by the scavengers.  There is a pecking order amongst the scavengers, hyenas then jackals before vultures, buzzards and marabou cranes.  Often we arrived when the birds were finishing the last of the food with much fighting and squawking as they claimed their share. 

We returned to camp for some breakfast and relax a little bit before grabbing a box lunch and heading out for the remainder of the day.

Wildebeest by the thousands could be seen on the plains grazing or galloping one after another towards an unknown destination.  As our truck would cross the path of the migration train individual wildebeest would prance in a zig zag manner as if we were a predator.  Such strange and beautiful creatures!  The migration includes 1.7 million wildebeest who are also joined by 500 thousand zebra and as many antelopes.   

We got to take a real close look that afternoon when our truck got a flat tire on after much cheetah chasing and John took to the task of changing the tire.  It was our one and only time out of the vehicle during a game drive although the animals were quite far away it was a little unnerving.  Cliff helped out and we soon returned to roaming the plains.

We returned to camp for a rest and then had dinner with the other guests in the mess tent.  The food was great and the staff were very attentive servers.  We were escorted back to our tent by “Future” our assigned team member at the camp.  Looking up at the sky from our front “porch” it seemed as though there were a million stars!  It was so incredibly beautiful and we felt very grateful to be in that spot that night.

Dec 22 – Serengeti

We arose early in the morning and began our drive to the Serengeti National Park.  It was a couple of hours from the Lake Ndutu area on gravel roads once again.  The geography was so different as we moved into the desert.  The only vegetation seemed to be a sort of scrubby grass that has sprouted up after the rains and would now act as the food source for the millions of animals migrating to Tanzania

As we made our way across the flat plains we were surrounded on either side by thousands of gazelle and other antelope.  Ostrich were also among the herds usually solo but on occasion males and females together.

There is no off roading allowed in the park therefore we spent a lot more time in convoys of game vehicles moving along generally to see the same animals.  The guides need to inform each other about their sightings to ensure all the tourists see as much as possible.  We you see the beautiful picture Cliff took of a leopard in a tree what you don’t see is the 15 vehicles lined up in a row gawking at the stately cat!

The sightings included some extremely large herds of zebra which allowed us to witness the animals standing very close together head to tail side by side.   John told us this is a sign of affection or respect between the animals.  Gezelling! 

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