Home

Tanzania with African Environments: Seven Remarkable Things

5 Comments

We’ve been talking about making a trip to Africa for twenty years, and we finally did it. We visited Tanzania for a private safari with the African Environments company from August 31st to September 14th. Our very high expectations were exceeded on every front. If you are thinking about going to Africa, do what we did!

On the first day off the plane, we were blown away by the wildlife that we saw during a first short game drive on the way to camp. Seriously. During our trip, we took thousands of pictures and saw every animal you might imagine seeing, up close and personal.

So how do you even begin to share an experience like that without boring someone to death? Chop the trip up into bite size chunks? Divide by animal groupings? Cross cut through the trip?? OK, we can do that.

This is posting one. In this posting, we’ll focus on seven remarkable things.

Yeah, everything was remarkable. But we set the bar way high for this posting. If we had an experience that even the guides who do this every day found special, then it made its way onto this list of remarkable things.  Honestly.  Remarkable.

In a nutshell here’s what we’ll cover. In addition to seeing four world class Tanzanian national parks with all of the associated animals and scenery, we got to see these remarkable things:

  1. Albino baboons (2) in Arusha
  2. Elephants fighting in Lake Manyara
  3. Black rhinos mating in Ngorongoro
  4. Daily visits with a pair of mating lions less than 1km from our camp in the Serengeti
  5. A cheetah climb a tree (twice)
  6. Bushmen eat a big male vervet monkey during a hunt we participated in
  7. Lions hunting in Tarangire

Even one of these things would have been a highlight. Together, they simply blew our socks off.

We’ll post another couple of contextual pictures and videos with each remarkable thing so you get a feel for the places we were. All in all, there are 68 pieces of media in this posting.

Off we go.

 

1. Albino baboons

Our first camp was in Arusha national park.  On our drive in from the airport on the first day, we saw lots of animals, including two albino baboons.

Albino baboon in Arusha national park

 

Albino baboon in Arusha national park

 

A second albino baboon in Arusha national park

 

Albino baboon with a baby

Arusha is a rain forest up high and shrouded in fog in places, verdant and wet with strangler figs and other interesting flora.

 

Incidentally, this lunch setup is indicative of the kind of hospitality that the African Environments people provide by default.

 

Amy in a fig tree way up high

We hiked 15km in Arusha, sometimes bushwhacking through the forest.

 

2. Elephants fighting

The second national park we visited was Lake Manyara. This park as a much different feel than Arusha and is definitely more crowded. We visited for lunch and an afternoon game drive. We saw our first elephants here.

We even saw an elephant fight.

We can’t say for sure, but it looks like one of these elephants broke a tusk. All of this happened within 40 feet of our vehicle.

This old man seemed un-phased when we drove within a foot of him

 

3. Black rhinos mating in Ngorongoro

When we arrived in Ngorongoro, we were running late. But a stop by the overlook at the top of the entrance road was in order. Remarkably we spotted a rare black rhino from the overlook. That was only a taste of things to come.

We were greeted at our camp by the Massai.

 

Hovering in the air is a thing the Massai do

 

Sunsets and sunrises in Africa are not to be missed

The next day, we spotted a group of three black rhinos. Two of them were mating. One of our guides later told us that he had only seen something like this once in twenty years.

That is three black rhinos across the body of water. Two of them are mating.

 

More rhino mating.

We also saw some lions in Ngorongoro. They did not seem to mind the humans (as long as the humans were in trucks). One of them was so close that we could reach out the window and touch it. Doing so was not advised.

 

This lion likes trucks more than the other lions

 

Another fantastic lunch by the hippos

 

Our friend Kambatai

 

3. A pair of mating lions

On our way in to the Serengeti base camp we were running behind (because pole pole!). About 1km outside of camp was a pair of lions who were off from the pride mating. This ritual can last up to 21 days. We saw this same pair 3 more times on the way in and out of camp. The most memorable time was the first.

The sun set while we watched the lions 50 feet from our car.

African sunset. Look carefully to see the lions.

 

This lion pair stayed very close to base camp for days

 

This picture gives you some idea of where the lions were in relation to our vehicle

Of course the Serengeti was full of animals.

And the animals were this close

We set out from base camp for three days of walking in the bush. Amy and I were accompanied by our guide James and a hilarious ranger named Safe. Both Safe and James were armed. All together, we walked 36km in the Serengeti.

On foot in the serengeti (being armed is not an option)

 

Temporary home on the African plains

 

Sunset by campfire

 

Amy climbs a Kopfe

 

 

4. A cheetah climb a tree

Even driving around between parks is a treat. On our way to see the bushmen, we drove through one of the most remarkable areas and were lucky enough to spot a cheetah climbing a tree. Our intrepid guide Denis, who is known for palling around with cheetahs, said this is remarkable. Cheetahs do not climb trees.

BTW, this is Denis Mollel, the best guide in Africa.

Denis Mollel, our intrepid guide for 15 days

On the way to that impossible sight, we watched this huge male lion on his way to water.

 

Meh, humans.

 

This female cheetah was nursing cubs and very hungry

 

She climbed a tree to look around for a meal

 

Cheetah in a tree

 

Cheetahs do not climb trees

 

 

Amy has way better pictures of all of these remarkable things

 

5. Bushmen eat a monkey

One of our most memorable and treasured experiences in Africa involved visiting the Bushmen. We spent time hanging out with the men from the (temporary) village in our camp, around the fire and under a huge baobab tree. We also went hunting. All told we walked/ran/chased 20km with the bushmen.

Our hunt was a big success from the Bushman perspective. We came home with a mongoose, 4 small monkeys, and the remaining haunch of a big male vervet monkey. The bushmen live the same way they did 10,000 years ago, venerating the sun, and waking up every day to see what they can find to eat.

We came home with the arrowhead from the hunt.

Walking to camp with the Bushmen

 

Arrowheads

 

Amy by the fire.

 

Hunting

 

How to carry home a monkey

 

Drinking directly from a stream

 

Shooting (mostly up). The bushmen are fantastic shots

 

After the big male

Once the vervet was cornered high up in a coconut palm, getting him down was a thing. The hunt paused for an hour while the monkey was finally targeted. Julian, the chief, shot him directly through the heart about 60 feet up. The bushmen were psyched and decided to eat the monkey directly on the spot.

Lunch

 

The monkey “cooks.” Every single bit was consumed.

Everyone always asks us if we ate the monkey. Of course we didn’t! Bush meat is riddled with parasites and things that we Americans (even if we’re from Tennessee) can’t eat. They did offer us the liver, though, just for the record.

Later that evening after returning to camp, we went to the lake to see the sun go down. Sharing our pictures with the Bushmen was really fun.

Talking about the hunt

 

Humans bonding

The next morning, before we departed, the bushmen danced and sang for us.

 

Friends

 

7. Lions hunting in Tarangire

Our final national park was Tarangire. This park was arid (we visited during the dry season), though there were waterholes and a river. As always, we saw lots and lots of animals: wildebeast, giraffe, zebra, elephants, lions, jackals, dik dik, water buffalo, cheetah, and more. We stayed at a tent resort with a lodge and running water.

Our guide Denis once again showed his remarkable understanding of the creatures we were observing. We found this female lion and her three cubs.

Lioness

 

Three cubs

 

Lots of other trucks gathered around us. Another female (with a radio collar) walked right by us. Denis said, “Now we will be patient and have some coffee. Pole pole.” He knew the lions were going to hunt. We watched and waited for 45 minutes. All of the others left, off to see zebras or something.

Then it was time to zoom off to another location to catch the hunt itself just around the bend of the river. “Let’s go there,” said Denis. And we were off.

Instead of taking pictures or video of the resulting hunt, I watched it happen in real time. Amy has some fantastic video that she will share later (I know, this is like an Uncle Wiggly story).

After we got to our observation post, we watched the lions emerge from the bush and slink down the riverbed. A large herd of wildebeest and zebras was completely unaware of their approach. Finally, the lead lion took off running and spooked the herd just as she arrived in their midsts. Dust! Chaos! Confusion! Sadly for the lion, nobody was taken down and the hunt ended as 80% do, with no prey.

Incredible to watch.

Later that evening we returned to find the same lions. They climbed a tree beside us and together we watched the sun go down.

What we look like on safari (binoculars and cameras)

The trusty Landcruiser

Those were the seven most remarkable things we saw on our trip to Africa. Of course we saw many other sights. An awesome experience to be sure.  Our planet is an incredible place.

Sunset with baobabs

 

Fin

Green Turtle Cay: Turtles, Sharks and Pristine Beaches

Leave a comment

Our previous visit to Green Turtle Cay in Abaco, Bahamas was 28 years ago as honeymoon phase 2. Arriving in Green Turtle Cay after spending two weeks in the Ecuadorian rain forest with the Cofan Indians was interesting to say the least.

The island looks and feels pretty much the same as it did in 1990 with the exception of more fancy houses (one of which we rented) and a paved main road. Before 2016, the main road was still a packed sand and concrete filled holes one laner. Now it is a wide, freshly-paved expanse.  Also, the New Plymouth Inn is no longer. Ah progress.

Our house was called Bannanaquit, which everyone on the island has a slightly different opinion about how to pronounce. The consensus seems to average out around “quit” versus “keet.” Great house with a beautiful pool situated smack dab in the middle of the two island nexuses.

Here are some pictures and videos from our trip.

Amy’s socks, specially designed for flying

Some unsolicited travel advice: avoid Silver Airways if you can. Their ops and maintenance needs serious work. We flew into Marsh Harbor and got an (expensive) cab up to the ferry. The ferry is super quick.

The ferry

Arrival means beach. Bita bay is great. Clear water, good snorkeling, and its own small coral barrier.

 

We built a bar. It was good.

The Bananquit home bar

When on Green Turtle, the best place for breakfast (bar none) is the liquor store. Really. We went twice.

Liquor store for breakfast?

Liquor store for breakfast

Go diving with Brendal. The diving off Green Turtle is pretty good, but the fish that Brendal has trained are remarkable. Ever seen a pet grouper? How about a school of fish waiting patiently for you to turn over rocks exposing worms. Brendal is a fun guy and an expert diver. (Thanks to Bebe Jacque for sharing bits from her gopro.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charter a boat

We chartered a boat one day, did some fishing then had one of the best wildlife experiences in our lives swimming with the turtles, nurse sharks, and sting rays. About 15 years ago, an enterprising boat captain started conditioning the wildlife inhabiting one of the bays to like humans. The result makes a great experience.

Amy meets the turtle

 

 

Do some nothing.

Amy

Sunset up north

We’ll be back in another 28 years!

Eagles and Econolines: The Shenandoah River in July

1 Comment

Back in May we paid a visit to the eagles lining the Shenandoah just north of our house. They’ve all grown up and are now flying around. On our latest trip down the river (it flows north, so just how to put that is kinda tricky), we saw 7 eagles. A few of them were captured on film.

The day itself was majestic and crystal clear.

The Shenandoah River

All of the eagles’ nests we know how to find along the route (three) were empty this trip, but there were lots of eagles flying around up and down the river.

spot the eagle

the view

spot the eagle

Oh and we ran across an Econoline 360 too. No doubt left by the big 2018 flood. This is perfect for our friend TC Boyle.

Econoline in the river

Amy paddled over to check it out

But really, the eagles.

turns out there were two in this tree

fly away

Mountain Cabin: The Fuck All Ya’ll House

1 Comment

Lil cabin in the woods

Just bought a cabin on the Blue Ridge for the Bitter Liberals. It’s a little thing with a hilarious story available only in person. Suffice it to say that we’ll be calling it the “fuck all ya’ll” house. That’s meant only in the kindest way, of course.

Once the stuff is gone, the band will go here

fireplace side, and yoga too no doubt

kitchenette

Here are some more views of the outside. All of the decks need to be replaced, and we’ll put in two skylights for the upstairs rooms.

Back deck

front deck

The house sits on just over 6 acres of woodland with a creek as one of the borders.

Shenandoah Flood of 2018

5 Comments

Puck senses danger. Tail up!

We started flood preparation in earnest the day before the flood crested (assuming that it crests today, that is). Fortunately, the great people at NOAA have a hydrograph that is extremely helpful for flood preparation. Here is the sensor nearest us at Millville.

The Millville hydrograph was wrong this time

Predictions said that the river would crest at 7am on June 4th at 15.6 feet. The prediction was off by 2 feet so far, but as far as we can tell from observation, the crest will happen soon.

We moved the boats up and rescued the submerged tables.

prep time minor flooding

the garden still above water

river peninsula already under water

truck full of table

Amy took out her kayak. The dogs followed.

Then it was time for a cocktail. The Last Word…hmm.

Last Word, hopefully not appropriately named

mogli got a workout in the flood

The flood in earnest started overnight. First major indication of prediction error was that the car bridge submerged around 10pm. Jack and Eli arrived from DC (Jack came down from NY) around 11. We ignored the road closed signs, drove in the back way to our car bridge and forded the now lake-like creek in the dark.

In the morning, we woke up to discover that the crest had not yet happened. Time to move the cars!

getting close to the cars

The river is getting very close to the house now. About 2-3 feet of vertical elevation left before the basement floods. This calls for some kayaking.

the new lake house

garden down

solstice fire spared

driveway or boat ramp?

road sign

visiting the neighbors by kayak

solstice fire, from the new lake

checking the fence line

garden swampland

the house

the new driveway

Cerro de los Siete Colores (Seven-Color Hill): Purmamarca, Argentina

1 Comment

A cycle around town in Purmamarca, Argentina provides really good views of Cerro de los Siete Colores (Seven-Color Hill) in an 8 kilometer very easy walk that starts in town. The Andes are incredibly interesting from a geological perspective. Seven different layers come from a remarkable range of dates stretching over 400 million years. Each color of rock is a different age.

 

If you are too lazy to walk the loop, there is a small hill in town that provides a good view.

 

Purmamarca itself is a small town situated around a market square. Crafts from all over Central and South America are available.

Purmamarca well

The Devil Took the Water: Tilcara, Argentina

1 Comment

One of the small towns of note in Jujuy is named Tilcara. A hike outside of town up to the waterfall “Garganta del Diabolo” is about 6 kilometers, hot, and dry. So hot and dry at the end of summer in South America that the waterfall was a mere trickle.

The hike did provide great views of the Andes. And it helped us to acclimatize to the elevation. There were much higher peaks to attain.

About the only water we observed was the Tilcara sluice which must provide water for the whole town.

 

Well, there was also a small brook along the trail which provided most of the green.

 

The trickle itself was unremarkable.

View of Garganta del Diabolo—dry and windy.

 
 

But the ever shifting clouds and the high mountain vistas more than made up for the lack of water.

 

The devil took the water.

 

Older Entries