Trip Report Safari 2011 - Tanzania -

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Apr 6th, 2011, 11:15 PM
  #41
 
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I find this Serengeti interactive map very interesting , lots of information and photos of specific areas , too bad is not finished yet ;

http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/dest_serengeti.html

Paco
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Apr 7th, 2011, 07:47 AM
  #42
 
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Just took a good look at the map you mentioned, Paco. Wonderful stuff and you're right, once finished, will be a wonderful resource for visitors. I just finished reading many of the books mentioned on that site, and can certainly say that the people creating this map are doing it with a lot of heart.
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Apr 9th, 2011, 07:48 PM
  #43
 
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Hello Tom,

After reading your review, I created and account and felt I should comment. As Tom mentioned my name, we were on the same safari. But I seems I was on a different safari than Tom.

(In case anyone was wondering, this was not a commercial trip.)

One comment mentioned 3 days at Lake Manyara. We were there 2 nights. We had an afternoon game drive, overnight, then morning and afternoon game drives, overnight the second night and a morning game drive before heading to Ndutu.

Lake Manyara was very dry and few animals, unlike other visits. Yet I had more bird in flight opportunities than my other trips combined. So I thought it is was well worth the two nights. I also got some great images of birds I was unable to get in previous trips, and photographed some new birds for me. On my last visit to Lake Manyara, in 2009, I obtained an image of some baby elephants that placed as highly honored in the 2010 Natures Best magazine photo competition. I feel two nights is appropriate to see the variety and contrasts from the Serengeti. Each time I have been, it has been different, although unfortunately, it was slow this time.
I will visit Lake Manyara again.

Tom's review, in my opinion, stresses the negatives of the trip, and I feel the positives outweighed the negatives by 1,000 to one for me. While I agree the huge increase in vehicle traffic around Ndutu is disturbing, the area is still huge and one can be fairly isolated if one wants. What I remember is being around a crowd of other vehicles less than a few percent of the time. In fact, except for our 3 vehicles and a couple of others, the number of times we were in a crowd of vehicles was once in Serengeti (the leopard Tom talked about), twice at Ndutu (one kill of a zebra by a lion, and the mom and baby cheetahs) and numerous times in Ngorongoro (yuk). But the beginning of the leopard in the Serengeti were just our three vehicles and one other. Only later did the vehicle count go up.

In fact the encounters with multiple other vehicles was pretty low, even on this trip. Yes, I did not like the 16 vehicles around the cheetah mom and cubs, so we left after not too long. But in my vehicle, we got on many subjects by ourselves or only a couple of other vehicles. Like Andy mentions, we drove far to the east (as far as we could) and to the south within the NCA and had many opportunities.

The migration density was stunning in contrast to Tom's view! Our guides even remarked that the density was far greater than they usually see and estimated the numbers at 2 to 3 million wildebeest! It was the greatest density I have seen. We drove into the heart of the migration on the edge of the NCA (west of Ndutu) and for 360 degrees, there were animals all the way to the horizon in a stunningly tight density; far higher density than one would see on the densest cattle ranch in the US. We also drove south for many kilometers and still there was a high animal density in every direction. Simply awesome. It is something that can't be photographed; it must be experienced.

Tom, when you observed those kills by the lions, you were in the thick of the migration. There were wildebeest and zebra as far as the eye could see. And driving to the horizon would have shown more to the next horizon. Simply stunning. How many more wildebeest did you expect? On average, there was probably a wildebeest every 20 feet or so. (We did discuss this a dinner once as I recall.)

We (my wife, our guide and I) actually saw the migration approach Ndutu region one day. The horizon turned from bright green to black due to the animal density, then as we drove toward them and they moving toward us, we were engulfed such that the animal density was so great, one couldn't see any grass except close to the vehicle. The horizon in every direction turned dark brown--the color of the wildebeest. WOW!

It is the greatest remaining migration on Earth, and we saw it an all its majesty. WOW! WOW WOW!

And our guides were top. I have been with 2 of the 3 before and they also guide pro photographers. I have only the greatest praise for their skills. They would constantly point out an animal and I would be struggling to find it, yet they did while driving and not only that, while driving through the forest trying to avoid holes dug by animals!

In driving around, we found endless photo opportunities with all kinds of wildlife, from birds to babies animals minutes old (never quite saw a birth) to the end of life, from lions, elephants, and on and on. We had more opportunities to photograph action than on any other trip I have been on. I got zebras, wildebeest, gazelles and other animals running and jumping while they flee prey or imagined prey.

There was so much to see and photograph, one had to choose and make the best of each situation, and in my experience, that is not hard. But I will photograph everything, from birds to scenics, to the big predators. For example, one morning we positioned ourselves so that a male lion was moving straight toward us before sunrise. I was photographing the lion and we noticed a tawny eagle perched close by. I broke from the lion and we positioned the vehicle for the eagle and sunrise. That is is now on my home page. After the eagle, we went back to the lion. I then got many straight-on images of the lion approaching at 1.7 meters per second. A couple of those images are on the page referenced below. So in my experience on this and other trips, the problem wasn't in trying to find something to photograph, it was choosing among many possibilities what to photograph!

The wildlife around Ndutu on this 2011 trip was the best of any of my trips, though each trip is different (e.g. fewer leopards, more elephants this trip).

I personally would have skipped going to Serengeti Serena but others wanted to experience it. It is a good location for leopards, and if there is some moisture, beautiful foggy early mornings for great scenics. (See my images from 2009 for some foggy mornings.)

I took about 8,000 images this trip, with about 1,000 what I consider spectacular and unique images. I've reduced that to about 200 I hope to get up on my web site, but it will be a while; I'm building a new computer as my old one is dying, and I'm biting the bullet and upgrading many things, including 64-bit processing and moving most operations to linux, with windows 7 in virtualbox for photoshop.

I do have a few images at:
http://www.clarkvision.com/galleries...y.africa_2011/


But like I said, every trip is different, so see images from my 2007 and 2009 trips for comparisons of what one
can encounter.

http://www.clarkvision.com/galleries...y.africa_2009/

http://www.clarkvision.com/galleries...y.africa_2007/


Every trip has been spectacular. I will return again and again, and use the same outfitter and guides, as I have the utmost confidence in them.

All I can conclude is WOW! WOW! WOW!
--just my opinion.

Roger Clark
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Apr 9th, 2011, 08:36 PM
  #44
 
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Well, it seems the intro paragraph got pretty mangled. It should have read:

After reading your review, I created an account and felt I should comment. As Tom mentioned my name, we were on the same safari. But it seems I was on a different safari than Tom.
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Apr 9th, 2011, 09:28 PM
  #45
 
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Hi RNClark,

Thanks very much for your point of view and many thanks to the link to your website - some stunning images!!!

Sounds a great trip!!!

Regards
Hari
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Apr 9th, 2011, 10:42 PM
  #46
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Hi Roger - Many thanks for coming on with your comments and perspective on our safari. This is the first time that I can recall where two safari participants reported here on the same safari !! Wish it would happen more often. And I thank you again for organizing the safari with Roy Safaris. And as you have, I’ll mention again that this was not a commercial pro led photo safari, the six of us equally shared the basic cost.

In some sense we were indeed on different safaris . Since we were in different vehicles with different guides and most of our game drives were not together. Especially in the Ndutu area. I think my complaint with the Ndutu area was my expectations for seeing the migration. I was hoping to see the migration/herds about half of the game drives. Maybe that’s expecting too much??? Looking over my notes it seems I was “in herds” twice, maybe three times, in the seven days (total of five plus two), 12 game drives, I was there. I think you were in the herds probably two more times than I was. Those being, the drive you mention to the edge of the NCA, and the other one with herds on the horizon. I was not there. I remember saying to you that evening that I wished we had followed your vehicle. (In fact, said that more than once ). We (Per and I) were probably at the marsh area. Although I’m not that familiar with Ndutu area, it seems as if we spent a lot of our game drive time around the marsh (Big Marsh?) area. (Which is where the lion pride with cubs were). Our last day in Ndutu we did see nice large spreads of zebra and wildebeest around the marsh area. My two photos of the zebras drinking and from the hill looking down on zebra and wildebeest are from that day.

Going back to that morning in the herd you mention, when we both (in fact all six of us) saw the two lion kills, wildebeest and zebra. That was indeed WOW WOW WOW !!! And it was that, or that type of herd viewing (I don’t have to see lion kills every hour ), I wished for more of. Again, maybe being with the herds about half the time is not realistic?? I assumed then that the reason we were not with the herds was because they were not reasonably close in the area. Somewhere in the Serengeti???

Everyone, I mentioned Roger’s web site above and he’s given some links to his safari photos. Besides his safari photos, he has a wealth of photographic information. Lucidly written by him, from photographing stars to sensor pixel size versus lens diffraction.

Regards - tom
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Apr 10th, 2011, 12:20 AM
  #47
 
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Tom,

First rule on safari: be happy with what you see!

And as a photographer, quality is more important than quantity.

Just to remind you, in case you forgot.

After reading the other guy's report, it seems that the trip was fine but you were disappointed as you were mainly interested in a particular type of sightings.

While sitting at the campfire/dinner table people get upset if vehicle "A" saw a leopard/lions/... and vehicle "B" didn't. So that also contributes to traffic jams around predator sightings.
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Apr 10th, 2011, 05:17 AM
  #48
 
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Hi Tom,

The migration came in to the Ndutu region on the afternoon of February 21. Thus, we only had 3 additional game drives to see the migration. So, you got in to the migration on 3 game drives, and I got the one additional. We were lucky for the rains on the 14th and 15th, or we might not have seen much in terms of migration high density.

There were still animals, including wildebeest and zebra before the 21st, just not in the really high density of the main migration. And for predator action, all days had opportunities (to photograph predators).

Personally, I prefer baby interactions (e.g. cubs playing) or baby-adult interactions, or adult interactions than kills. Example, my "scratching behind the ears" image on my Africa 2011 web page.

Regarding vehicle following. We generally started each game drive with the idea if one vehicle encounters something good, they will call the others. There is a higher probability of finding something with 3 vehicles searching. I would say most of the time you guys were ahead of me, as I usually found something to photograph.

There were also a number of times we saw a group of vehicles, and if close, we would drop by and see what they were looking at, but did not stay because of the number of vehicles.

Roger
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Apr 10th, 2011, 06:56 AM
  #49
 
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As much as I love large migratory herds, I prefer a mix between herds, private sightings, predators and 'special moment' types of images. Rarely do I get 2 of the same things at the same time, and I love a well-balanced safari with some big herds and then some sightings where I am way away from other vehicles.
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Apr 10th, 2011, 11:04 AM
  #50
 
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Roger,

Thanks for your feedback.

I was highly surprised that Tom only wanted to return to the Crater (where traffic jams are common) and on the other hand he is complaining about an overcrowded Ndutu.

Very strange if you ask me.
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May 9th, 2011, 07:01 AM
  #51
 
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Hi Tom,

I just read your trip report and loved your wonderful photos - especially the ones of the Big Marsh pride, though all of your photos are beautiful. So glad you made it to Tanzania - we're planning to go there next year and will also visit Ngorongoro Crater - I hear it's so magical! Now when is your next trip!?

Lisey
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May 9th, 2011, 07:47 AM
  #52
 
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Tom,

I was wondering when this report would pop up. Thank you so much for posting. Have not checked out the photos yet but am anticipating the "records."

“Our guides and a Ndutu manager commented that the game vehicle traffic had tripled in the last two years.”

This is unbelievable, especially given that the last two years have been poor economically. Such a drastic change makes any reports on this region that are 3 or more years old far less valuable.

Thanks for the April-May hint. Do you recall any comments on March?

I am intrigued that you’d return to the crater, as opposed to the other places. Would you envision mostly early morning trips there before the other vehicles show up? What about the afternoons, what would you plan be for them in the crater?

“I'm very glad I went, but if a next time, would want to change some things next time.” I believe you’d remove one day from Manyara, but what else would you change?

Thanks RNClark, for your observations as well. The tag team approach gives a good perspective. I remember once that two sisters used this.

Do you have any feedback from guides or staff on the "road through the Serengeti?"

Again, thanks for sharing your experiences.
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May 9th, 2011, 08:12 AM
  #53
 
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Great photo collection. Especially liked the secretary bird on takeoff, the lion cub peeking around a tree, the resting leopard, and serval.
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May 9th, 2011, 02:56 PM
  #54
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Lisey - You will have great time in Tanzania and the Crater is indeed magical. Much less crowded in the morning, try to get in as soon as it opens. My next safari will probably be in May-June of 2012 to South Africa but really would like to get back to Kenya. Which one may depend on the camp rates and the strength of the dollar against which currency. The SA Rand is strong now so many SA camps are costly.

ATLynn - happy you liked some photos, my fav of the lot is the lion with young zebra by the throat. (It's a guy thing!!). For the secretary bird as soon as it started to trot I kept camera snapping at 6 frames per sec and got lucky that bird was in good open position in the tallish grasses. The one leopard shot, only leopard I really had good view of the whole safari. But no biggy, seen lots of them in SA, Sabi Sand.

About Ndutu area popularity explosion, afraid so, heard that several times over the days. All of the extra off-road vehicle tracks/paths are upsetting the park rangers. It would be shame to stop the off-roading, I would not go back if they do. Could be like its neighboring park the Serengeti that has no off-roading - unless you pay extra big $$$ for a special permit.

About March there, we were there Ndutu (again after Ngorongoro) the very first of March and it was same, Lodge busy and still thin herds, few calves. But the last half of March I'd think is getting pretty slow for Ndutu. Roy Safaris had nothing scheduled for Ndutu after we left. I suppose sooner or later the rains finally arrive and the herds stay around more, that being April-May.

Ngorongoro Crater drives. Morning is the best. Our second morning there we did not see any other vehicles for about two hours. Now, of course we were at the Crater floor by 6:30am and even the sun was not fully in it until about 7am. We also stayed at the Sopa Lodge which has the shortest and quickest route down (so I'm told). Sopa Lodge was nice, large facility and worked fine for me. As for afternoon trips in the Crater, I don't know enough about it to say which area, e.g. the Forest, is less crowded. There is no off-roading so that limits your choices. All I can say is if you have to go in the afternoon, go. But with each half-day entry for vehicle with two guests costing $200(?), I'd try to schedule for mornings. Like, drive from Arusha to Sopa Lodge, spend night, and go into Crater next morning for sure.

I was happy Roger Clark added to my report, this was his third time with Roy Safaris and that basically same itinerary. He has been a bit slow putting up his photos on his web site. First thing he had to do getting back was to re-build his computers and server network and that upgrade ran into unforeseen delays. And his work for the USGS makes great demands on his time and expertise. He's always getting assigned special studies like the environmental impact of the last Gulf oil spill.

What would I change next time? Without setting down and working out the details of times, distances, and dollars. I'd skip Lake Manyara and I'd skip the Serengeti. I'd fly into Ndutu to Laker Masek Lodge and meet my vehicle there (that had driven over from Arusha). Maybe also go to nearby Kusini Camp (Andy Biggs likes it, mentions it above). All the while hoping that the migration was nearby. Finally, drive back from Ndutu area to N. Crater for two-three nights, then back to Arusha.

Road in the Serengeti. We talked about on occasion. It is anyone's guess. The President of TZ, Kilwete, says it will be built but it will not be a concrete paved highway. My solution is to build it as long bridge sections overland. It would have to be only about 40 miles long for the major migration route. Cost, sure more than a road, but what could be easier than building a bridge on land over land?

And thank you, I'm happy to share.

regards - tom
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May 9th, 2011, 04:52 PM
  #55
 
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I thought about the bridge too. Thanks for all the answers, Tom.
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May 9th, 2011, 04:54 PM
  #56
 
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I was struck by the glassy looking eye of that zebra in the lion's mouth.
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May 9th, 2011, 09:17 PM
  #57
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Bridge costs per mile vary widely and wildly, but do you think such an easy to build bridge would be $25 million per mile? If so, for the 40 miles over the migration route that's only $1 billion. Pocket change for the UN and many countries.

regards - tom
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Jan 2nd, 2012, 08:04 AM
  #58
 
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Tom - I am just now reading your report and it was great! Can't believe you've made the 32 hour flight each way since 2005! We will be planning a Kenya/Tanzania and your report convinced us to spend more time at Ngorongoro Crater. Thanks again and hope you're doing well! Lisey
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Jan 2nd, 2012, 11:39 AM
  #59
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Well, Happy New Year Lisey!!! Thanks.
N. Crater is sure one place I'd like to go back to, even with its restrictions and cost. If I were in more than once I'd try and make it two mornings. First thing AM when gates open. Much nicer than PM when all vehicles from Arusha and Manyara pull in.

32 hours, uuuggh. I've got another coming in May, LAX to JNB. Not sure of my safari camps, will try and find a deal close to that time. With May being "off/shoulder" season and calling camps in April, maybe I can find some really good $$$$ camp values, I hope.

regards - tom
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