Tanzania August 2005 Trip Report - Safari portion

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Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:20 PM
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Tanzania August 2005 Trip Report - Safari portion

General Comments:
DH worked two jobs and actually planned this trip as a surprise for me after graduating law school and taking the Bar exam. I am so lucky! So that’s the real planner but I joined in later so I refer to “we” because it’s easier. We used Fodor’s for a lot of planning and appreciate all the help we received.

Tour Company:
Our trip was with Roy Safaris, based in Tanzania. I cannot sing their praises loud enough. They treated us like we were their only customers. It was unbelievable service and the whole trip went so smoothly. The owner personally met with us twice and carefully went through a briefing session with us. He was excellent.

We chose Roy’s because after emailing five operators in January about getting an itinerary planned, they were the ONLY ones to email us back (and some of the other outfitters are regularly recommended on these boards). I think eventually (as in 3 months later) Predators safaris emailed us a generic group itinerary which was not at all what we wanted. We did the planning through Roy’s U.S. contact and she was unbelievably responsive via email, which was so convenient.

Our guide (I will refer to as N) was excellent. He was totally knowledgeable and spouted off tons of facts about each animal we saw. He was also a really excellent spotter and we felt like because of him, we saw just about everything there is to see!

We loved our trip from start to finish. We were astounded at how easy it is to see and photograph wildlife. We live in Virginia and thought it might be like seeing wildlife here—a fairly rare treat that requires a lot of looking. But instead wildlife was so abundant that every day was amazing!

Airline:
Ethiopian from Washington, D.C. to Kilimanjaro. More on them later (I want to see how they resolve some serious complaints before I post about them). However, all their flights stop in the Addis Ababa airport, where smoking is allowed everywhere—there is no escape and it’s bad for a nonsmoker.

Parks Visited: Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater, Central Serengeti, Northern Serengeti

Food:
I am a vegetarian, which proved to be no problem throughout the trip. I was always accommodated. Actually, DH had more problems with food choices because there were a lot of meats he doesn’t usually eat like lamb and pork. But there was usually beef or chicken so no problems. We ate lettuce/salad everywhere (risky, we know) with no problems. Bottled water was always readily available or provided.

Photos:
We took our photos with an Olympus C-765 Ultra Zoom (10x) zoom and an Olympus C-8080 with a Raynox Lens attachment. We’re novices so this was sufficient for us. We brought 3 batteries for each camera so we never had a dead one. We could charge them at every place we went with just a converter.

We took about 1500 photos. We had three 1GB cards. This allowed me (on the 765) 2000 photos per card and DH (on the 8080) about 800. He filled one card, I didn’t. We also brought a 40GB Woverine portable photo storage device as a backup. It worked great when I practiced with it but I bought a new 1 GB xD card before we left and it didn’t work when I tried to use it in the Wolverine. It worked fine with the CompactFlash cards and the smaller capacity xD cards, though.

Binocs:
We brought 2 pairs of binocs but only used one. Usually one of us wanted a break from them and offered them to the other. Plus, DH has exceedingly good eyesight so rarely used them. The pair we used were some Meade’s I got free from a promotion and they worked fine—I never had problems finding animals in them. They don’t say what their specs are but they aren’t anything that would have cost over $50.

Clothing:
We packed very light and were glad. We each brought 3 T-shirts, 2 pairs pants, 2 button down cotton shirts, 4 pairs socks, and 4 pairs underwear, a fleece jacket, a pair long underwear (used as PJs), a Tilley had (so worth it!), and six bandanas. All were in neutral colors (it looked like we never changed!). We did laundry as needed (usually spending about $7) as it was available everywhere, though I sometimes washed in the sink with my travel bottle of Tide for the smaller items. We never wore anything fancy to dinner and never felt uncomfortable—very very few people were not wearing safari gear at meals.

Meds/Vaccinations:
We had typhoid, Diphtheria/Tetanus, Yellow Fever, and Hep A vaccinations (we already had Hep B from before). There were no side effects from these vaccinations. We brought Malarone on the trip and have been taking it with no side effects. Also had a just-in-case prescription of Cipro filled; luckily we didn’t need it but it was nice insurance. We also joined Flying Doctors for the duration of the safari so we would have that to reassure us as well.

Travel Insurance:
We used STA because it was incredibly cheap. Non-students can use it and I have heard good things about them from people who have made claims. Luckily, we didn’t need to.

Places Stayed:
Generally, we were in Serena lodges, which we liked very much.

Mt. Village, Arusha – Nice place to stop for a night. We liked the garden and the hut style rooms. Even for a lodge, there isn’t really any privacy from your roommate when using the bathroom so be warned!

Kikoti Camp, Tarangire – Tented camp with tents on platforms. Food was delicious. First night was a barbecue outdoors in a fenced area. Maasai teens performed some songs for us (and there was some audience participation). I liked this Maasai experience more than the performance we later saw at Ngorongoro Serena. The second dinner was in the dining room and quite tasty. The room was nice with flush toilet and running water. You have to ask 20 minutes in advance if you want hot water but if you requested it the night before it was ready when they came and gave your wake-up call. I never quite figured out the shower though—it had a removable nozzle that I couldn’t get to stay upright and the water was scalding or freezing, no middle.

Ngorongoro Serena – A really pretty layout and style of hotel. Nice cozy room with a heater and extra blankets to keep warm with. We liked the lodge very much except that buffet dinner felt like a cattle call (and seemed understaffed) and even though there was no smoking in the dining room, the smell wafted up from the bar and permeated the area. Lunches were nice and quiet, though. I celebrated my birthday here and they sang and brought a cake with my name on it the morning after because I had left dinner too quickly the night before (trying to escape smoke). They had a Maasai dance and singing that included many more boys and some children. It was different from Kikoti and I enjoyed it a lot.

Ngorongoro Serengeti – This was a more intimate experience than at Ngorongoro. The staff here was so friendly and eager to chat, which was fun. We were only here one night and wouldn’t have minded a second night. They have a nice pool (though it was too cook for us to venture in). The food here was good and dinner time was relaxing. They had an acrobatic performance while we were there that was really amazingly good. We also had a friendly gecko on our room ceiling when we returned from dinner. It’s so fun to be so close to nature.

Migration Camp – Paradise. Absolutely. Here our drinks and laundry were included. We spent evenings on one of the huge leather sofas in their lobby tent, enjoying drinks and snacks before dinner. The room could hardly be called a tent—it was luxurious, with a huge bed, nice wood floors, a desk, permanent walls up to head level and a nice separate bathroom area with his and hers sinks. There’s 24 hour electricity and running water. Welcome sherry was always waiting for us in the room after our game drives. There is a resident hippo pod that lives in the river and noisily lets you know of their presence—it’s so fun to sit an listen to them! The dining room has a beautiful view and most mornings we saw game in the distance (baboons, elephants, hippos, antelope). Dinners were better than I could get in our hometown—elegant and delicious. The vegetarian meals were outstanding and varied. The best thing about dinner was that a bat flies in each night to collect all the bugs off the tent ceiling. It flies around, eats, and leaves. DH and I cheered for it to get the really visible insects.
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:21 PM
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The Safari:

August 13 – We drove to Tarangire Park and see our first wildlife. It was so exciting to see animals close for the first time. I was unsure whether it would feel different from a zoo and boy does it!!!! We see so many animals, including dik dik which I really loved—they look like Disney created them.

The highlights were seeing a large family of elephants that crossed the road very close to our car and had a small calf with them and seeing a leopard walking in the grass. I was astounded that we saw a leopard at all, and on our first day! It was truly exciting and this became my favorite park. The day was so amazing I cried a little with happiness as we left the park for the day.

We overnighted in Kikoti camp, It was a nice camp and we got a kick (and some security) out of being escorted after dark by an armed guard. We later saw why as we woke up to hyena, snake, a few other types of tracks in the paths near our tent. We also liked that our “wake up call” was a person coming to our tent and calling out to us.

August 14 – We did a full day game drive with a nice picnic lunch. The morning started pretty slowly but today we got our first close look at lions. They were in the brush near the road. I loved the candelabra trees and DH was thrilled to see the baobobs. He talked about them quite a bit. We also learned about whistling acacia and ants crawled out of the little whistling part when N tapped it to explain that they like that part.

We saw a lot of birds in the park and at lunch we saw an owl nesting with her baby. We watched a male impala direct his group of females and young ones to cross the road, which they proceeded to do in a line. He came back and called to the stragglers to get them in line. A big group of mongooses (mongoose? I know it isn’t mongeese) crossed the road, and I snapped one photo as they scurried by. We also saw our first baboons—and there were a lot of them. We loved observing how human-like they acted; it’s a bit eerie. We especially liked seeing the babies get up onto their mothers’ backs. We ended the day by looking up in a tree and seeing a python and, nearby a tree squirrel—not your typical game drive animals but exciting to us because they are different than our own squirrels and snakes!

I was so sad to leave Tarangire the next day. It stole my heart since it was the first place I had ever seen so many of these animals.

August 15 – Still on the good road, we drove to Ngorongoro. The crater rim was foggy but it was nice and sunny for our afternoon in the crater. We saw our first jackals here as well as flamingos, Thompson’s and Grants’ gazelle. DH kept laughing at the warthogs kneeling on their front legs to dig at the ground. We both laughed whenever we saw the cape buffalo. We were very excited to see a rhino far off in the distance. We never saw it closer but we got decent views with the binocs and took some rather fuzzy photos—after all, who knows how long rhinos will be around. While we watched the rhino, we could also see some bat earned fox in the distance. I loved seeing the smaller mammals—they are just as exciting as the big 5 to me.

We saw two male lions near a watering hole. One was just flopped on his back, lounging in the sun. The other was curled up in the grass such that we couldn’t distinguish head nor tail.

The hippo pool was just gorgeous. Even though the hippos were just hanging out in the water, the surrounding area is so green and vibrant that it inspired plenty of photo taking. As we were ending our day we saw two cheetahs—our first ones—lying some distance away. It was such a highlight since we didn’t think we would see any cheetah on the trip.
I cannot believe how many different animals there are to see.

August 16 – I celebrated my 25th birthday in Ngorongoro crater and it was outstanding. We had so many highlights! We saw a male lion lounging right next to the road and a young male and female nearby—a jackal later came over to check if the lions had food (they didn’t). Then later we saw two lions mating. We saw our only eland in the trip—too hidden for photos but fun to spot. We saw a huge group of wildebeests running down into the crater and across the road in a big line. They were so fast that some tripped and stumbled. It was a massive group when they all stopped and gathered together.

We also got our first close look at hyenas. I know I am in the minority but I think they have cute faces like teddy bears.

The absolute highlight of the day was that we saw a Thompson’s gazelle give birth on my birthday. It was so special. We saw the newborn from birth, to attempts to stand, to wobbly first steps, and finally to nursing. I loved it. I have way too many pictures of it and I will treasure them all.
After our morning game drive we did the “Circle Hike” with a guide from Ngorongoro Serena. We learned about the fauna and birds in the area as we walked on the road on the crater rim. We were accompanied by a Maasai elder to ensure that we would be welcome near their homes. In fact, we were permitted to go inside a Maasai home where we sat on the hard cowhide bed in the dark room with only a tiny window. The children we met in the Maasai village were adorable; especially a little one holding a newborn goat. They got a kick out of my showing them their photos on my digital camera (all kids do!).

August 17 – We departed for the Serengeti with a stop at Olduvai Gorge. On the way we saw a cheetah close to the road, trotting along. The gorge is really interesting. You basically just look at the gorge and then get information from a short talk and the museum. We particularly liked the cast of footprints in the museum.

The road to the park was bad—just a bumpy dirt road. We are used to farm roads, though so it was fine. In the Serengeti we saw plenty of game, including another leopard! Also, we finally got some close photos of a cheetah with two cubs who went and stood on a termite mound. We were surprised at the landscape—it wasn’t nearly as flat as we thought.

We saw some jackals kill a baby Thompson’s gazelle. It was really heartbreaking. We saw it pick out the baby in a chase. Then it caught it but the baby wasn’t dead. My heart just broke as it gave out little cries while the jackal suffocated it by biting its throat. No pictures of this—it just didn’t seem right. It was exciting to see, but made me really sad.

Our overnight here was in the Serengeti Serena.

August 18 – We had a morning game drive that was really excellent. We saw a hippo standing near the road. It was the first one we saw out of the water! We watched him a long time. Nearby, most vehicles were watching lions eat a buffalo kill so far in the distance it was hard to see with binocs. We were glad we spent a lot of time at the hippo rather than rushing over to the kill—the hippo was more rewarding to watch. In fact, I took pictures of birds rather than watch the lions much.

We stopped at a Park station for a little walk. There were hyrax (hyraxes?) everywhere. DH absolutely loved them. I did also. They reminded us of our 3 pet rabbits (one in particular) with their fat bodies and furry faces. We took plenty of photos of them and the nearby vervet mokeys.

We crossed a bridge on our way to the Northern Serengeti and saw a huge group of hippos. DH caught a shot of one blowing water into the air. There was also a croc hiding in the water nearby.

We drove to our final destination—migration camp. It was outstanding, although the road to get there is terrible. Really really muddy and messy.

August 19 – We had a bit of rain today. The rain was light, though so it was no problem. We saw a lilac breasted roller very close and I admired its beautiful colors. We also saw our first (and only) klipspringer in the distance on a rock. Also, there were topi that finally let us get a photo. The highlight was seeing about two dozen giraffe all in one area. Everywhere we looked—giraffes. Some were eating, some were walking, and some were keeping an eye on the two lionesses that were slinking around nearby.

We had a nice picnic lunch, talking with N about the Tanzanaian and U.S. governments and history. It was fun to talk about each place. We also learned a bit more about his personal life and family, which was nice.

August 20 – We awakened to see the biggest spider I have ever seen in our bathroom. DH killed it with a Kleenex and my hairbrush. Its legs were like crab legs. It was horrible. This was our last day of safari and the morning was magnificent. The weather was great. We got a nice close look at a hornbill and saw all the other usual animals. We had two big highlights—first, we saw some lions stalk a group of warthogs. The warthogs walked very close to a small pride resting in the shade and we watched in a hush, our hearts pounding as they got closer and closer and the lioness on watch put her face to the ground. She sprang at one of the babies but gave little chase and the warthogs quickly escaped. I was glad—I really didn’t like the jackal kill we saw so I doubt this would have been better to watch.

Our second highlight came when DH spotted a newborn Impala in the brush. Mom was standing nearby, though she kept her distance. We watched as the little one broke the placenta and took his first steps. He had so much difficulty walking at first that DH said it looked like he was tap dancing on ice! The movie Bambi is entirely accurate in portraying the struggles of a newborn at standing and walking—it is so funny to watch. The baby finally stood and hopped around a bit looking for Mom. We left them alone so she could come get her young one, as she seemed hesitant with us around.

Right after leaving the Impala we saw a big group of elephants. We loved watching elephants. They just do so many things—sniff, eat, walk around, communicate with each other…We commented numerous times about how elephants in particular make us sad that animals are kept in zoos.

August 21 – Final day was mostly travel and we are so sad. Unfortunately we got badly stuck in the muddy road from the camp not once but twice. We were so nervous about making our regional flight. Luckily, fellow guides were nearby to pull us out. We absolutely raced to Klein’s airstrip. Yet we saw so much wildlife on the way! We saw a hyena with a piece of food run by and a pride of lions on rocks right next to the road. Tanzania is just amazing—it is absolutely full of beautiful creatures everywhere you look!

The trip was just too amazing to even convey. We loved every minute of it and are currently trying to encourage everyone we know to go to Africa!
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 06:30 PM
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I picked some of the best shots (150 of them at least) from Kili and safari and posted them at Snapfish:

http://www.snapfish.com/share/p=3222...=SYE/otsi=SALB

We took photos of anything and everything we don't have in the U.S. so it includes birds, etc.
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:41 PM
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Great report and pictures! Thanks for sharing!
Dennis
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Aug 23rd, 2005, 07:53 PM
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In my broken Maasai: ashi naling!

Great report and pics - but where's the Kili summit pic

There's nothing like a great Tanzania trip report.

Where are you in VA? I'm in Falls Church.

Eben

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Aug 24th, 2005, 01:21 AM
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Wonderful report! Thanks for sharing all the info about booking, about accommodation and meals and about the safari experiences themselves!

I loved seeing the smaller mammals—they are just as exciting as the big 5 to me.

I totally agree - I feel the same way and bat eared foxes, jackals, porcupines etc are some of my favourite sightings!

I will save the photos for my next break from work!

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Aug 24th, 2005, 07:21 AM
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Thanks all! I wanted to add that we had Tilley "hats" not "hads" and that the pool was too cool, not "cook." Oh what I would give to be able to edit posts after posting them!

Also, if anyone has any corrections they notice for my photo labels, please let me know. i want to be accurate when I label them for my album.
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Aug 24th, 2005, 08:00 AM
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Wow. Thanks for the report and the fabulous photos. Were you able to get most of these shots from Roys' vehicle? I've always wondered how this works with the closed vehicles. Thanks again!
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Aug 24th, 2005, 08:52 AM
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Wow! The gazelle birth, how exciting!

I love your photos, especially the hyena in the water.

Thanks for the report and so glad you both had an excellent time. Congrats on finishing law school and taking the bar exam.
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Aug 24th, 2005, 01:10 PM
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Great report and amazing photos. Like you Tarangire is my favorite.

Hard to pick a favorite, especially with all the births and 'lil ones... but leopard slinking through the grass probably - blends in so well with its' environment. Would be an unbelievable oil painting.

Thanks for sharing.
 
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Aug 24th, 2005, 01:38 PM
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Sandi - My favorite photo changes almost hourly but the leopard is up there because the other two leopards we saw were in trees. One was far away enough that only DH took photos of it.

Leely - thanks for your support of the hyena. I think that photo shows how cute they are. DH thinks it shows how ugly and dirty.

Cooncat - Every animal photo (except one of vervets without crud on its face and the ones of hyraxes) were taken from the Roy's vehicle. We had the vehicle to ourselves so we would just shift around to the front or back of the pop top or out the window to take a shot. Sometimes we slipped off our shoes and stood on the seats but this was rarely necessary (though we often saw other tourists actually sitting on the roof of their vehicles).

These are all the ones that needed no further "zooming" on the computer to look good so you get an idea just how close some things were!

Finally, I would note that the pop top went up with incredible ease (a mere touch) and down with only a bit of effort in the Roy's vehicle, which is different from some other vehicles I saw that requires quite a bit of effort. That was nice for the cold mornings, drives between parks, and rainy moments.

CHSL - Sorry, I realize I answered your question on the Kili posts--we live in Waynesboro, VA, the Shenandoah Valley.
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Aug 24th, 2005, 03:04 PM
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I've only glanced through your photos and haven't had a chance to read all of your report yet (work has been getting in the way of the really important stuff lately ), but just wanted to say I'm glad you had a good time and thanks for sharing!
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Aug 24th, 2005, 03:49 PM
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Great report - fun to read and lots of information. Great pictures! You certainly got your money's worth - you got to see everything and then some. It would be hard to pick a favorite because you have so many good ones. Love the newborn babies. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.
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Aug 24th, 2005, 08:34 PM
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Simply beautiful...I loved the sunset photos from the Migration Camp. So many great shots.
Thanks for such a detailed report. I assume you had a private guide and vehicle ??
Isn't hard to return ...
Brenda
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Aug 25th, 2005, 10:58 AM
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schlegal1,
Thanks for great report and photos! I would say you did a super job with the pictures! What a nice way to take a mid-afternoon break! Am interested in learning the airfare with Ethiopian. Dick
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Aug 25th, 2005, 01:46 PM
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Wallybrenda - Yes, we had a private guide and vehicle. We were so glad. We saw one vehicle with 8 tourists in it--not the way we wanted to do this once in a lifetime (or so we thought while planning, but I am sure Africa will call us back) trip.

Dick - I will post about Ethiopian probably next week as I frankly don't expect any real response to my problems.
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Aug 25th, 2005, 07:38 PM
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Great report! It's helpful when planning a trip, as we are. Thank you.
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Aug 26th, 2005, 10:05 AM
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great report, i'm off to Tanzania for my honeymoon next June. Did you use Roy's Safaris and would you recommend them. Great pics too.
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Aug 26th, 2005, 01:47 PM
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Puppetdds- Big smile, wink and thanks!

chrisamg - Yes, we used Roy's and I recommend them as highly as possible. The owner was excellent, the guide was excellent, the U.S. contact was excellent. They made our trip great. And congrats on your upcoming wedding--it'll come faster than you think!
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Aug 26th, 2005, 04:37 PM
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Wow, did you see a variety! Two different antelope births, a jackal kill, and a python. Very rare sightings all!

I agree with you about enjoying the smaller animals as much as the big ones and bat eared fox are a favorite.

I got a kick out of your cheering on the bats to eat your tent insects.

You had luck with the cats too, seeing a leopard right off the bat seemed to set the tone for your safari. A cheetah cub is a lucky find and you had good lion activity.

Some great photos. The hyena in water is an unusual setting and you really captured the color of the agamas.

You'll always remember your 25th birthday!
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