HIppo Haven

Girl Team Africa at the Hippo Pool. Cassie (left) Georgia, Mary and me

HIPPO HAVEN

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Hippo Haven

Hippos are unique creatures; large and cumbersome, while swift and intelligent. Mostly herbivores, the males can weigh as much as 4,000 lbs and females up to 3300.  Called the “river horse” the hippo needs water to keep their skin from overheating in the intense African sun.image_553731522840198

Hippos are never to far from a waterhole.

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A picnic at the Hippo Pool made us a bit nervous. Hippos can be extremely dangerous, they are probably one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. Be aware they can both trot and gallop and can reach speeds up to 19 miles per hour. Chasing humans or boats they can move quickly. Viewing their twide mouths open and their tusks bared for a fight can be a frightening experience, especially if you are close.

But when it comes to finding a mate, the male hippo lets his anger go a bit but not completely.   A YouTube video “8 Funny Animal Mating Rituals” by Wachy Universe showed that to attract the female, the male starts by urinating and deficating, then twitches his tail and flings poop in every direction. Not too romantic I would say but it gets the job done.

I was unable to view this spectacle in person,  but what I did see was magical to watch. Sprawled on the river rocks, yawning big-mouthed at the setting sun were hundreds of pounds of hippo flesh nuzzling and feeding their new calves.  They were a sight to behold.

 

 

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A Natural Wild Life

Mesmerized by the sunset. Mesmerized by the sunset.

When I travel I feel free.  Free to be myself, to witness the wonder of the universe first hand; to be wild if I choose while at the same time calm and centered. Alone or with a group, I travel for the sheer pleasure of it.

Africa gives one that sense of freedom, so vast that you can get lost in thought just looking at it.  The sunrises and sunsets remind me of how small I am in comparison.. The flora and fauna lift my spirits and create in me a sense of wonder at it all.  In Africa I get the sense that I can be and do anything, whether complex or simple. Here I could lead a Natural Wild Life.

The edge of the world. Ngorongoro Crater.
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The Ngorongoro Crater is considered one of the most beautiful of the natural wonders of the world. This extinct volcano is located in northern Tanzania and stretches approximately twelve miles across and two thousand feet deep. The vegetation is as magnificent as the animals and birds.

Colorful plants provide local color.
ttps://safarialongwithme.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/image31.jpeg”> Colorful plants provide local color.

[/caption]Part of my “wild life” is to eat well. A “heart healthy” breakfast buffet prepared by the chefs of the Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge fit the bill. Fruit salad made of pineapple, mango and shredded coconut plus Tanzanian coffee and warm bread and I was ready for the day.

I’m quite the coffee lover and I loved the Tanzanian coffee. It’s served strong, very dark with a terrific aftertaste as well. Upon returning home I found two places to purchase this coffee. A heavenly reminder of Tanzania.

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The lodge itself sits atop the rim of the crater and the views are breathtaking. Accommodations were luxuious, cozy, clean and comfortable.  Ours was decorated with African art and wall size murals of animals. Again the vastness of Africa loomed large from our patio.  We made it our home the second we entered.

Each hut secluded amoung the vegetation.
arialongwithme.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/img_0103.jpg”> Each hut secluded amoung the vegetation.
Mural Art

[/caption]Each morning our biggest decision was whether to have breakfast delivered in or to walk down a stone path to the buffet. We had to keep the doors and windows closed in most of our rooms on this trip due to “monkey shenanigans.” Leaving the room became a bit of a challenge. Cute as they are, the monkeys will gladly enter your room and wreck havoc if you forget.

View of crater from our balcony.
ngwithme.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/img_0105.jpg”> View of crater from our balcony.

[/caption]The desserts are heavenly as well. Here you will see a sample.

Some terrific breads and desserts too.
thme.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/image29.jpeg”> Some terrific breads and desserts too.

[/caption]Since the lodge is located along the rim of the 8,300 sq. kilometer (about 3200 sq miles) Ngorongoro Crater, our morning game drive included a zigzagged route down to the base of the crater.  Separated  from the Serengeti National Park in 1951, this area teams with wildlife.  The short grasses are home to lions, hyenas, zebra, wildebeest, gazelles and at least 500 known species of birds.  This Spotted Hyena  didn’t seem to enjoy our company all that much.

A very wary Spotted Hyena was most interested in us.
.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/image1.jpeg”> A very wary Spotted Hyena was most interested in us.
 now used to us as visitors who do no harm. height=  ladies on the prowl height=

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image                              My quick little sketch of an an African bird.

Grazing Zebras
dpress.com/2016/09/image35.jpeg”> Grazing Zebras, close but not too close.

[/caption]Our next adventure took us to the Hippo Pool.  Look for these huge and interesting creatures in the next post at:

http://www.safarialongwithme.wordpress.com

The Maasai and Me

The tall, handsome African stepped into my line of sight and the first thing I noticed was his height. He was easily 6’4″with deep ebony skin and dark flashing eyes that followed my every move.  He approached me first and introduced himself as Martin. He is dressed in a royal blue tunic with an orange shawl draped lazily over his muscular shoulders,  His feet are strapped in sandals that appeared to made from tire-tread. His ankles, wrists, ears and neck are beaded. He is the epitomey of power and strength.  He is a Maasai warrior.

At this point I can’t remember my name.  He smiles, I melt. The electricity ‘s been turned up and  he appears to find me as interesting as I find him.  I shake it off, it’s just part of the show.

Martin Martin

We are nestled among a circular village of huts made of dung. This is Maasai country situated in the Ngorongoro Crater, a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. The crater provides the Maasai with food, shelter and clothing as it has for centuries.

Below is a chilly  morning, warmed by the greetings of Maasai Warriors.

Maasai Village located at the base of Ngorongoro Crater. Maasai Village located at the base of Ngorongoro Crater.

Martin took Mary and I around the village and into one of the dung houses. Speaking fluent English, we gained insight into how the Maasai live and co-exist with the wildlife and the weather of the crater.

House fashioned out of dung and tree branches. House fashioned out of dung and tree branches.
Entryways Entryways

The Maasai are a proud people, their culture and traditions long-standing.  They inhabit both the southern part of Kenya and the Northern part of Tanzania near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes. In both countries, they continue to share their culture and heritage with visitors from around the globe.

Women dressed in beaded collars, performing a traditional dance. Women dressed in beaded collars, performing a traditional dance.
Cassie joins in the dancing. Cassie joins in the dancing.

From here we circled the village, were shown to the local school, and the areas reserved for cattle and goats.  Since Mary and I are both educators, we discussed important life passages with Martin, how boyhood turns to manhood and the care and education of children.

Next we were taken to the inner circle to see the local artisan “shop”.

Beautifully designed and beaded by the women, we purchased bracelets, purses and small baskets. Beautifully designed and beaded by the women, we purchased bracelets, purses and small baskets.

The March-Past or the “adumu” or “aigus” is sometimes referred to by non-Maasai as the “Jumping Dance,” a right of passage, ceremonial or competitive dance. The Maasai are well known in this area and are often photographed by visitors as they jump upwards to the sounds of song.

The Jumping Dance The Jumping Dance

I photographed this “elder” as he stood watching both us and his younger counterparts. I was fascinated by his demeanor.  Was he bored or wary ? No one knows.

An Elder Maasai An Elder Maasai

We leave Martin and, the elders  and women of the Maasai village to venture further into the crater. As we left, I noticed a young Maasai sitting on a tree stump talking on a cell phone. Alas, no one can escape progress!

Girl Team Africa and New Friends

I love travel. It’s in my blood. I think I inherited the trait from my grandmother on my father’s side. As the story goes, she was engaged to Admiral Byrd. Yes, the man who claimed to have reached the North Pole and the South Pole. Who knows if she ever even met the man, whether she was engaged to him or not for it was more than a 100 years ago now. But even if she wasn’t his girl for awhile, its a great intro into to my travel bug obsession.

So that being said, I love being up and running,  going somewhere exotic or just getting in my car and driving for awhile seeing new sites around my town.  Sometimes I travel alone so that I don’t need to do anything but take care of myself. At other times I travel with my team of great friends and others. Each trip brings different experiences to my life, enhancing my journey, making me a better person, and more appreciative of my good health and good life.

Girl Team Africa at the Hippo Pool. Cassie (left) Georgia, Mary and me
Girl Team Africa at the Hippo Pool. Cassie (left) Georgia, Mary and me

Africa was one such trip, traveling in a small group of close companions.  Hence, Girl Team Africa GTA consists of four trip mates, Cassie, Georgia, Mary and me and four new friends Susan, Anne, Scott and Jan.

I met Cassie (left) in the early 80’s in a novel writing class. We are both avid readers, writers, and travel loving gals so from the very beginning we were off and running to London, New York, and Italy with authors and friends. It’s been that way ever since, whenever there’s a chance we head out together for another adventure. Georgia is the newbie to this group;  but a true travel mate of the first order. Mary is from our Beach Ladies Investment Club days. She is always up for a trip, willing to try new experiences and is a great “roomie” for “double occupancy.”  She also writes children’s books and articles and loves photography; a girl after my own heart. Sometimes travel mates can be “high-maintenance” but not Cass, Georgia or Mary. Filled with fun and laughter, they care about the group’s health and safety, and are all very easy to be around.

Below are our newest friends.  Susan is a botanist, living in Colorado. Her Mom Anne gave her this trip and then decided to go along with her.  Anne (left, next photo is a retired gallery teacher currently living in the Los Angeles area.image  We loved her calm, classy demeanor, gentle and a “trooper” on this trip. She and Susan, our mother/daughter team were such fun, always smiling, always on time and never showing any discontent with anything. Susan loves photography and is also a “birder” and a musician. She could name all of the birds we came across and whenever I had skipped writing down a bird name that I was interested in, she was right there willing to share information. Such a pleasure to get to know her and her Anne. We are on FB together and through that we communicate regularly.

Jan (right) is from Michigan.  Another new imagefriend and travel mate. Jan is a K-5 substitute teacher who studied English at Saginaw State University.  As a fellow educator she and I had lots to discuss. Filled with great questions for our guides and drivers, she was interested in all things Africa. Her first trip traveling alone, she was never afraid to share her opinions which made our lively dinner conversations much more lively.

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And here is Scott from Florida. What can I say, great to be around, easy on the eyes, and charming to boot. All of us had such a terrific time with Scott.  As one of the men on this trip, all of us girls really enjoyed spending time at meals and on the game drives getting to know all three of the men Scott, Guide Humphrey and Driver Clement.  Scott is a Portfolio Manager, loves traveling, good wine and making friends along the way. This past year has been quite a challenge for both Scott and I so we had that in common. So instead of belaboring, we joined in with the 5 other girls and the two other men and talked Africa, travel to far away places, and having fun on family vacations. Then after a hearty meal, we toasted to living a great life for as long as we can.

Below are some pics taken along the way.

imageCandid shot of Anne, think she suspected?

Could Mary look any happier or more relaxed ? Here she is at our “picnic on the plains”

Could Mary look any more happy or relaxed? Here she is at our "picnic on the plains"

Below is a Picnic on the Plains….good food and great friends.

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Picnic in the Park. Such adverturers we are….

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Below are pics taken by Mary N. and shared with us on this blog.  We all had cameras that we think took great photos but these were some of the best.

Where's Mary? Taking the picture.
image      Cass, Georgia and Candy…..smiling every day !!

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OM GOSH,  WHERE ARE ALL THE ANIMALS?  ………DID I SCARE THEM AWAY???

 

Guides, Drivers, Lake Manyara and the Great Rift Valley

After a hearty breakfast we said goodbye to our guide, Humphrey and the snow-capped Kilimanjaro and were off to Namanga at the Kenya/Tanzania border.  It took us a bit to clear customs due to a large amount of local and vistor traffic, but we made it across and into Tanzania to change vehicles and meet our new guide Phillip and driver, Clement. On route, Clement,  a wonderfully chatty fellow, filled us in about his country, the land, its people and of course, the local animals and birds.

Driver Clement
Driver Clement
Guide Phillip
Guide Phillip

Phillip was born to lead and guide. Not only personable and articulate,  Phillip has a Master’s Degree in Animal Behavior. As our guide and leader for the next few days, Phillip really understood how animals “tick.”  He also was well versed in the local flora and fauna of the area. Alive with stories and facts, we were lucky to have him with us.  Here Phillip is taking one of several evenings to join us for dinner and lively conversation.

Below is a view of Lake Manyara, part of the National Park system of Tanzania which stretches along the Great Rift Valley. According to the park’s website, Ernest Hemingway loved this area and called it the “loveliest seen in Africa.”  Here lush jungle meets a vast expanse of veridian green plains.

Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara
Lake Manyara

As we peacefully meandered along we were suddenly “stuck.” Behind and in front of us were hundreds of baboons literally “stampeding” down the hillside.  Huge male baboons led the troupe followed by the females carrying the very young, the “teens and “tweens” and finally the “old king.” Surrounded by baboons of all shapes and sizes, we took the “photo opportunity” of a lifetime.  Each of my tripmates were at once enthralled and stunned at this display of coordinated movement and intention.

Baboon stopping to watch the
Baboon stopping to watch the “stampede”

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I put the camera on “sport mode” to try and capture a feeling of hundreds of animals racing down the hillside.  It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

The day was not complete without spotting a jackal. Native to Eastern Africa. as well as Asia, central Europe and the Middle East this small, carnivorous animal is both beautiful as well as lethal.  Living in areas of least conern of extinction where there is plenty of food and shelter, the jackal is a hearty soul scavenging after the “kills” of others.

Below find a golden jackal, distinquished by the lighter, golden colored fur, a much shorter tail, and a more pointed, sharper muzzle than the similar grey wolf. According to Phillip and Clement, this one was out looking for his mate.  (Aren”t we all at some point in our lives 🙂 Their basic social unit is in pairs defending their territory together with aggression mostly against intruders of their own sex. We were facinated by the stealth way this one moved and the piercing call he made to find his mate.

Golden Jackal or Reed Wolf
Golden Jackal or Reed Wolf

As evening approached it was time to relax at the Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge Bar for a “meet and greet” then on to dinner for another scrumptious meal. Here are a few of our trip mates having a great time sharing a laugh.  Speaking of trip-mates, they will be introduced properly in the next segment by some candid shots of each.

The next day’s adventure brings us to the Ngorongoro Crater, the 2,000 foot deep extinct volcano with spectacular views from the rim as well as more wildlife.

Cass, Anne and Susan
Cass, Anne and Susan

Bird Study

I never  thought I would  want to to be a “birder;” to race around with field glasses, a decent camera and a guide of local birds. Then one afternoon with nothing to do I sat down and watched “The Big Year” with Steve Martin and Jack Black. These two “birders” quickly become friends and competitors, spanning the  globe looking for as many species of birds as possible to win a contest entitled “The Big Year.”  This moved me to the point that when thinking about traveling to Africa, I decided to of shoot an array of photos of the many bird species local to Kenya and Tanzania.  Both these countries have a huge assortment with a spectacular array of colors, shapes, and sizes that await you around every corner and in almost every tree. Nearly every day we would wake to the sound of their “songs.” One can easily see over 100 different kind of birds in a day. They are everywhere; along the rivers and plains, hidden in the flat-topped trees, wooded areas and grassland.  Bird diversity is great. There are eagles and vultures, bustards and hornbills, pelicans, storks, flamingos, guineafowl, secretary birds and ostriches just to name a few. 

Below is one of my favorites. This Lilac-breasted Roller was not too sure about me as you can see. Of course I am not sure which tree I found him in or which country, Kenya or Tanzania, but I thought he was spectacular. 

   

Male Ostrich
  
African White Pelican
    

 

African Fish Eagle
  
Hanging Nests
  
Silvery Cheeked Hornbill
  All of these birds were a delight to watch and learn about from our guides. I was facinated by their habits, flight and nesting patterns as well as the intensity of color. As I am home now, I am planning at least a bird feeder off my patio and a contact to the Audubon Society for a field trip. More bird and animal photos to come as we head to Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge in the Great Rift Valley.

Safari Along With Me

May 3, 2015, Detroit Airport Lounge 

Introducing Girl Team Africa:  (Top) Mary and Candace, (Below) Cassie and Georgia. 

 

Sunday and Monday, May 3rr and 4th…….Complete Plane Blur
Slept, ate, slept and ate again. There is only so much one can do on airplanes for twenty four hours. Our first picture says it all, our troop (Mary, Cassie, Geogia and me) look relatively fresh at the airport in Detroit, the first leg of our trip complete. From that point on we looked a bit haggard from the three flights.  But we survived the journey and after an easy passage through customs we were met by Patricia from Abercrombie and Kent who took charge of our tired souls and wisked us off to the Nairobi Serena Hotel, a four/five star beauty with lush vegetation surrounding the pool, bar, registration area and restaurant.  We were greeted by the the sound of birds and frogs as we entered the lobby area. Totally exhausted we hit the bar, discussed plans for the next morning then spent our first night in Kenya worn out but happy, knowing this trip to Africa would be talked about for years to come.

Tuesday, May 5 , Heading Out, Safari Style, from the Nairobi Serena Hotel

 
Adventurous gals that we are, the next morning we decided not to partake of the Maisha Health Club and Spa at the hotel but to venture out from the city of Nairobi with our A & K Driver. Patricia had suggested a trip to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s elephant and rhino rescue and rehabilitation center.  With wildlife being kiilled at an alarming rate, the Orphan’s Project rescues baby elephants and rhinos, rehabilitates them for up to three years, then re-enters them safely with a herd and back into the wild.

At precisely 12:00 to 1:00 each afternoon ten to fifteen of these adorable baby elephants race to a roped-in area to be fed a special milk formula of emulsified vegetable oils with Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin C.  After twenty eight years, Daphne Sheldrick, wife of David, succeeded in hand-rearing both elepants and rhinos with her own special formula.  We left the orphanage and promised our support by adopting an elephant or rrhino when we return home.  See the website if interested. (www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org)

Ostriches also wander the property. Here are two females I especially liked.

  
 

Hopping into our Safari Land Rover, our next visit was to the Giraffe Center. Another feeding frenzy; long snake like tongues attached to the head of several large white-socked Rothschild giraffes.  As you can see, Ed had a bit of a thing for Georgia the moment she stepped into his line of sight.  All of us were thrilled to be so close to these magnificent creatures, to touch and nuzzle them without fear.  But as day tours go, we were on a time schedule. We were soon off to visit the Karen Blixen House, have a wonderful lunch in the garden, (see below) and discuss the movie Out of Africa with our guide.  It was fun to be reminded of the Robert Redford/Meryl Streep movie filmed at this location. An end to a wonderful day.  
  

Wednesday, May 6th….Moving Day, South into Amboseli National Park

Started the day with a hearty breakfast, a briefing of the days ahead, then it was off by Safari vehicle to the Amboseli National Park and the Serena Safari Lodge.  Located to the south of Nairobi, the park is famous for “big game” and its unbelievable vistas of snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro.  There actually was some snow at the top of this 19,341 foot Uhuru Peak which is the highest point in Africa.  See for yourself…….2 Pics from slightly different angles and different times of the day.

  

  

Amboseli National Park is home to many diverse species of animals and birds.  Typical of the area are the Big Five”, coined by big-game hunters to include the African elephant, African lion, African leopard, the Cape buffalo, and the White/Black rhinoceros. All of these are found and protected at Amboseli.  Should we be afraid?  Yes  a bit !! But we were very safe throughout this whole trip. Even when rounding the bend and encountering this fellow who was not happy we were so close to his family.  Driver Clement saw quickly that we could be in danger. “Tis not good for us here,” he exclaimed as he stepped into high gear. We were whisked away but quick.

  

The rest of the day in Amboseli was filled with close encounters with wildebeest, baboons, elephants and the most incredible birds. Humphrey told a great story about the wildebeest which I gladly share. He said that God got tired after creating all of the animals and he came to his last one, the wildebeest.  He was so exhausted that he threw together the best of each of the other animals/insects he had created. The head of the wildebeest really does look like a grasshopper, the tail looks like that of a horse; the horns, a buffalo, the legs, a gazelle and stripes of a zebra. We all laughed and from that point on could not look at this facinating creature who fools them all by migrating over hundreds of miles every year without a thought of being “thrown” together.

 Two Nuzzling Wildebeest

  Family of Crowned Crane 

  Mama and Baby  Baboon

This was only our first few days in Africa. So much to see and do there. We were busy every minute with daily game drives , wonderful food, terrific guides and drivers that were concerned with both our health and our safety. Now that I am home from our adventure and I have fussed with computer issues and photo transfer, I will continue to share my pictures and my thoughts of this unbelievable trip should you be interested.  I have chosen to provide the pictures in large format to give the true feeling of being as close to the animals and birds as we were.  Enjoy !!  Next is Lake Manyara, the Great Rift Valley and tree – climbing  lions. Your thoughts and suggestions are most welcome ….Candace M.