escapewindow: escape window (Default)
tanzania

On Saturday morning we took a very quick game drive, staying close to camp. It was more of a farewell round than anything, a good close to the week. On the way to the airstrip it seemed like animal after animal came out to say goodbye.

We flew back to Arusha, where we visited a souvenir shop and art gallery. Then to a day room near the airport, where we showered and re-packed our luggage for the international flight home. And I managed to get rid of the rice in the sandbag that I really didn't use that much all trip.

tanzania

tanzania

I managed to steal some pictures of Arusha this time.

tanzania

tanzania

tanzania

Some geeky camera and travel thoughts:

  • I love my new camera.
  • The 100-400mm isn't as sharp, or fast, or as sexy as a super telephoto prime. But it's faster to deploy, easier to carry, and less unwieldy in cramped quarters. Faster at grabbing difficult shots in limited time. At least until I get some practice time in with the big guns.
  • Next time, if I go on another more photo-oriented safari, I'm thinking a super telephoto prime, a mid-range telephoto zoom, and a wide lens like a 35mm f/1.4 for documenting the trip. And give IR another shot.
  • Here's a thought. Since I used vacuum sealed bags filled with air for padding, maybe I could protect my monopod with... water wings?
  • While I didn't use my sandbags much (plural; one stayed in my duffel all trip), I used the heck out of my tiny tabletop Manfrotto tripod. Maybe because I was going with a lighter long lens.
  • I used the heck out of the 2x extender too.
  • I kind of missed my 7D. With its 1.6 crop factor, my effective 800mm f/11 would have become an effective 1280mm f/11, which would have helped with the rhinos, leopards, and serval cat.
  • There wasn't any need for me to change money.
  • Laundry was super cheap at Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge (about a buck an item). And Sayari camp was all-inclusive.
  • I should have tried longer exposures and lower ISOs on the leopard cub.
  • I think I'm close, photography wise. Not yet good enough to be pro, but promising enough to think I can if I dedicate myself. Keep at it. And buy more gear ;-) ;-)

The rest of the photos are here.

Previously:

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Back at camp, a zebra baby and mum were eating grass and nursing just outside our tent. This was a good omen for the evening.

Sayari Camp

Serengeti

We started our evening safari in great spirits, wondering how we could possibly top the cheetah sighting earlier. (I secretly wanted to go back.)

Serengeti

Serengeti

Serengeti

Serengeti

Serengeti

Then we came across the newborn zebra, still wearing its afterbirth. The perfect finale to an amazing trip.

Serengeti

Serengeti





(The bright flashes are me getting worried about depth of field + focus, and stepping down the aperture.)

An ibis posed in the water for us afterwards.

Serengeti



Serengeti

Our final campfire, with drinks, and final dinner, were sentimental, with speeches. Tim, a National Geographic employee, had his photos running in a slideshow -- mine are unabashedly wildlife-centric; his actually told the story of the entire trip quite eloquently, giving me ideas for future trips.

This was the perfect day.


The rest of the photos are here.

Previously:

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We started early the next morning, and caught the leopard mum at their home rock.

Serengeti

Serengeti
(tight crop)

We saw wildebeest on the move.

Serengeti



Our driver got stuck twice: once in deep muddy ruts, and once as we were crossing a stream. That one required a rope, another car, and people leaning on the side of the car to keep it from rolling over into the water.

Serengeti

After a breakfast in the field, we got a lot of pictures of an old male lion lounging in the shade, then an entire pride of lions snoozing: one here, one there, four there, two there.

Then we saw a gathering of cars, and drove over post haste. Cheetahs.

Serengeti

Serengeti

Serengeti

Serengeti





Serengeti

The cubs followed their mom a distance as she stared at some distant gazelle? and I did everything I could to prepare to capture her running. It wasn't to be, however; we left before anything happened.

Still, I'm pretty stoked we saw 4 cheetahs. That's over 1% of the regional population.

We headed back for camp to rest for the afternoon, and planned to head back out in the evening for the second half of our perfect day.

The rest of the photos are here.

Previously:

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On Thursday, we took a quick morning safari before heading to the Seronera airstrip, where we took two Cessnas to northern Serengeti.

Serengeti

Our new vehicles were fully open on the sides but covered on top. I found it a bit more limiting for photography but managed to do pretty ok anyway.

We were greeted by the Mara river, and giraffes, and baby warthogs.

Serengeti

Serengeti

Serengeti

Serengeti

Sayari camp was beautiful, and welcoming, and we needed escorts to walk us to and from our tents at night, since animals regularly walked through camp.

We went back out, braving the rain.

Serengeti

Serengeti

Serengeti

Serengeti

We drove up to the Kenya border.

Serengeti

At some point, I took this photo, and when I got back I photoshopped it as best as I was able. I'm mixed. I think I'm going to stick with the subtler infrared filters and less photoshop.

Serengeti

At the end of the day, as we were hydroplaning a bit over muddy roads (dusty or muddy, nothing in between!) we caught sight of a leopard cub. Our first. At a great distance, in the dark.

Serengeti

The rest of the photos are here.

Previously:

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In the morning, we left early to get to Olduvai Gorge before the heat, and because Louise Leakey had a plane to catch. We saw the original site and spent some time in the museum. I decided to start using my largely-ignored-til-now full-spectrum/infrared camera at this point, and was pretty happy with the results.

serengeti

serengeti

serengeti

serengeti

We entered Serengeti National Park and saw a pride of lions sleeping in the shade.

serengeti

We stopped in Seronera for lunch, where there were hyrax waiting to eat any scraps we dropped. One of them peed in Marc's coffee as he cut my smuggled leftover birthday cake from the night before. :)

serengeti

serengeti

While photographing dwarf mongoose, I dropped my 5d2 and broke my 715nm infrared filter. I still had a 590nm infrared filter so I tried that for the rest of the trip, but I'm just not as into the results. The colors are gaudier and I don't have the chops to take advantage of the super color in photoshop. I have a new 715nm filter on its way.

serengeti

serengeti

We saw some lion cubs crossing the road with their mother, and watched the pride for a while.

serengeti

serengeti

serengeti

serengeti

When we heard of something exciting in the distance, we took off, full speed, and decided the hotel could wait a while. We sped along for a while until we realized we were heading right into a storm, and headed back to the hotel. (I later found we were trying for a leopard, which would have been our first.)

On the way to the hotel, we found an elephant in the road, drinking rainwater.

We checked into the Serengeti Sopa Lodge, again with the customary wet washcloth and fresh fruit juice welcome. The view outside our balcony was gorgeous, and included some monkeys on the balcony next door.

serengeti

serengeti

serengeti

The rest of the photos are here.

Previously:

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On Tuesday we woke early, to enter the park as soon as it opened. The first animal we saw was a baby jackal, which I took as a good omen.

Ngorongoro Crater

Soon afterwards, we were driving full speed over the dusty road, catching air whenever we hit a particularly big bump. Marc said this was the rarest of mammals we would see all trip: the rhino, which was down to 27? in the region due to poaching.

(I didn't expect to use my 2x extender nearly so much, but it turned out to be very handy. These guys are still small, even at 800mm.)

Ngorongoro Crater

We saw a couple zebras bickering.

Ngorongoro Crater

We ate breakfast by the water. Hippos in the water, zebras and cape buffalo drinking at the watering hole. Little birds stayed close as we ate, knowing someone would drop something tasty.

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater

After breakfast, we saw the wildebeest running, as if from something, and then we saw it -- a large male, awake.

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater



Ngorongoro Crater

Not too far off, we saw a large cluster of vehicles, a sure sign there was something exciting to see. And there was: a cape buffalo / pride of lions standoff.

Ngorongoro Crater Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater

I could have stayed and watched all day.

Further along, we saw 181 grey crowned cranes by the water -- as I understand it, the majority of the regional population, and a larger group than had been sighted together to date this year.

Ngorongoro Crater

To end the safari, we saw a serval cat hunting, and I managed to capture it as it pounced.

Ngorongoro Crater

We had the afternoon off, during which I exhaustedly tried to nap. I ended up skipping dinner to go to bed early, which meant I missed my surprise birthday celebration. I'm fine with that; it was the best birthday ever.


The rest of the photos are here.

Previously:

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On Monday morning, we visited a Maasai chief. He answered questions about his culture: how all cows belong to the Maasai; how they herd the cows away when wildebeest are giving birth, since the afterbirth is poisonous to the cows; polygamy; how they traditionally stained their furs red but now bought red-dyed clothing.

Maasai

After lunch we drove to Ngorongoro Crater, where, because of the protected conservation area, there were lots of animals. Grey crowned cranes; jackals; hyenas.

Ngorongoro Crater

We drove up to a hippo pool and saw them up close. None of this struggling-at-800mm like the day before.

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater

A lion was sleeping in the distance, our first big cat.

Further along, we saw two lions sleeping next to the road, lazy after mating. They rolled over, and I managed to get a picture when the male lifted his head, just for a moment.

Ngorongoro Crater Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater

We arrived at Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge just as the sun was setting.

Ngorongoro Crater

At dinner, the lights went out, then the servers came out with a lit torch, singing in Swahili; I guessed this was their birthday ritual.


The rest of the photos are here.

Previously:

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Our second safari started in the morning, which made for a cooler drive and more active animals. This was back at Lake Manyara, but the difference between this morning and the previous afternoon was stark.

We saw a baboon grooming a blue monkey, which Marc Baker (our guide) hadn't ever seen or heard of before. Turns out someone has seen the reverse, also at Lake Manyara. Perhaps this is an interspecies friendship or romance.

Lake Manyara

We watched a family of baboons in the trees. Ammy, our driver, told us that you can watch baboons and elephants all day; they're always doing something interesting. Lions tend to sleep.

We saw our first hippos way off in the distance, snoozing. Along with wildebeest, zebra, a warthog. We were all excited by this, but had this happened a few days later we wouldn't have even blinked. The trip really did improve day by day.

Lake Manyara

We stopped when we saw an elephant (with both tusks this time) eating seeds by the side of the road. We were so close, and he let us watch and photograph him for a long long time.

Lake Manyara Lake Manyara

Some more photos from the morning, including a baby baboon and a peeing giraffe:

Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara

In the afternoon we walked around the coffee plantation, which was nice, since we didn't get much exercise the rest of the week. The whole "don't leave the vehicle or you'll get eaten" rule kind of put a damper on that. Daniel from the Lion Project, who we met later, jumped rope for exercise.

Plantation Lodge

The rest of the photos are here.

Previously:

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We met our travel companions on the morning of the sixth. As always, I left the people-photographing to others, so I'm hoping we do end up sharing photos. We all got along pretty well.

We headed out for Lake Manyara, which we reached in the afternoon. Our Land Cruisers had pop tops, but without the miniature roofs, which allowed for greater freedom.

I think of that first outing as getting our feet wet; a chance to see what it would be like, without overwhelming us. I definitely had too much gear along with me; by the end of the trip I left my Kiboko at camp and was a lot comfier.

lake manyara lake manyara

lunch termite mound

lake manyara

Our new digs were pretty swank. Evidently we were spoiled -- others had small rooms, but for some reason we had the huge palatial room.

bedroom

bathroom

That one's the bathroom. For the bath. And the shower. The toilet's in the next room. There was also an upstairs with a divan that didn't see any use.

plantation lodge dining room

Our dining room.

The rest of the photos are here.

Previously:

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Months of anticipation and preparation: camera research; safari blogs; a trip to Safari West; vaccinations. Considering each item for its utility and weight, to stay below the 33 pound limit; packing and repacking.

I flew to Tanzania on October 3, meeting my father in a long transfer line at Schiphol as we changed planes. My previous strategy of downloading a season of television on my phone worked well, again: this time it was Firefly. That, and Sid Meier's Pirates.

After some twenty-plus hours of travel, we set foot in Africa for the first time. Albert had been sent to pick me up at Kilimanjaro, but thought there would only be one passenger, which worried us, but it turned out to be fine. He checked his papers in the car and we were off to Arusha.

The roads were strewn with speed bumps: three small, one large, three small. My standing theory: these replaced speed limit signs and laws. The houses by the side of the road were largely dark shapes of rusted corrugated iron, some ready to fall over with a strong huff and puff.

I kind of wish I had documented the actual trip a bit more, rather than focusing so strongly on wildlife, and to a lesser degree, landscapes. The hotels were all beautiful and comfortable and guilt-inducingly luxurious. The food was tasty. But I had my focus, and something had to take a back seat. I recuperated in the evenings rather than pore over photos and write up blog posts; these scribblings are all from memory.

Albert taught us Swahili phrases as we drove, and I dozed off for a bit. We were greeted at the hotel by wet cloths, fresh fruit juice, and iced coffee. The room had a canopy-like mosquito net.

Untitled

We had arrived a day earlier, and spent the next day relaxing. We asked about taking a walk outside the plantation, and were warned that it would be dangerous for us.

Yuki:Danger from animals? Or humans?
Guard:Humans.

We stayed inside.

Untitled

My father wanted to see a big cat of some sort. (Later this turned into a major hankering for a leopard sighting.) I wanted to see, and more importantly, photograph, a cheetah kill.

Untitled

July 2014

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