Day 9 The SERONERA AREA of SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK

Sawa Sawa  (Let’s go!) A tiny bit of Swahili….we begin with another ho-hum African sunrise.

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Leaving Lobo at daybreak, we pass more kopjes.  The wind and rain has weathered this one leaving a hanging rock perched on top.  An African Hoodoo—of sorts.

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And the wildlife just keeps on coming.  We see a regal Egyptian Goose in a tree.  Not birders, we are learning more about our feathered friends.  At least this one we’ve met before…we saw it soaring over the Taj Mahal this spring.

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We stop again at the hippo pool by the Seronera River on the way back.  

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Ugh! That water is filthy!  As I mentioned before, they stay in the water most of the day, usually coming out only in the evening. 

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We hear an unusual bird as we drive.  Our guide explains this is the African Hoopoe bird.  And in a few minutes we hear another answer back from a nearby acacia tree.  A monogamous bird, the pair treat us to a delightful serenade.

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Under a clear blue sky, a lone elephant wakes up by using an isolated acacia tree to scratch its backside.  This is so Africa.

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A pack of banded mongoose pose for us in the brush.  These are carnivores, eating mostly birds, snakes and rats.  They will eat the deadly mambas and spitting cobras.  Working together to protect the group, they develop a close relationship.  The troop eventually decided all the attention—and camera clicking– was too much and they moved away.

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Into the Seronera Valley we stopped at a way station and had a chance for hands-on with Cape Buffalo skulls.  Big respect for how massive those animals are.  The horns are really heavy.  There is also a collection of Hippo and giraffe skulls.

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Back on the savanna we find another herd of elephants, with a nursing calf. 

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This is older than the ones we saw at Ndutu.  Our guides tell us the baby is usually over a year old if they are too big to walk under the mother.

Elephants have such strong relationships.  Groups of mothers often have several years of children with them.  Only older adolescent males head off on their own. Majestic creatures. 

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Lunch at another kopje gives us a few surprises.  First we find ant lion larvae traps in the sand.  Adults are sometimes called “doodlebugs” because they leave winding trails in the sand when looking for a place to build its trap—it looks like someone doodled on the ground.

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The larvae have strong jaws and dig traps, like this one.  Larvae attack its prey when it falls into the funnel-shaped hollow culminating at the trap.  We can’t get this one to pop its head out.

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Right after we leave our lunch we spot lions in the tall grass. There are so many of us and we’re not quiet, but sheesh.  They were right there!

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Moving on we are still in an area with water.  We find another herd of hippo in wetlands.  One is crying—well, maybe just shedding salt.

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And some are covered with yellow-billed oxpeckers.  The little birds eat ticks on the hippo’s skin.  The hippo is a moving buffet.

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A bit farther we find an interesting slice of life—an gazelle carcass in a tree about 30 feet above ground.  How did our guide ever find this?  Proof there are active leopards in this area. 

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These cats are incredibly strong and carry their kill high up in a tree so they are not bothered by others trying to poach.  No hyenas, other cats or even vultures can drop in to claim a share.   Here’s a close-up.  

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These big trees with wide horizontal branches are prime leopard territory.  Wish we could find one watching us!

An African Marsh Harrier takes off from a nearby tree.  You can see the talons and beautiful wing feathers that make this a top bird of prey.  It lives in wetlands  and mostly feeds on mice, frogs, etc.  Mature adults have yellow eyes.  The brown eyes mark this one as a juvenile.

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As we leave the area a family of elephants wander through the wetlands.

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Then we take a break—a flat tire.  A rare occurrence, but it does happen.  Our guides would do Indy proud.  They change tires and fix all manner of problems on the fly.  Traveling in a group, we often have another car nearby, and another person to lend a hand.  This stop was only about 15 minutes.

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We’re passing through maasai territory and we come upon more adolescents in the middle of their coming-of-age ceremony.  Since they must live on their own for several months, they agree to pose with us for a small fee.  Good will all around.

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We arrive at Saroi Serengeti Lodge just in time to clean up before dinner—this is a “tented” camp but not like one you might expect.  The walls are canvas, but we have a fantastic indoor bath.

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Never the less, we take advantage of the outdoor shower, overlooking the Serengeti.

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Although we use them, I think the mosquito nets on the bed are mostly for the charming effect.

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Tomorrow we’ll have breakfast overlooking the Serengeti before we head to Ngorongoro Crater!

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