Hello fellow Fodorites,
I have been slaving away processing pictures since we returned home from Africa on July 11, and finally I have them finished. You can find them at http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/gallery/africa09. But if you don't want to wade through the approximately 250 pictures in the gallery, here are my "top dozen" picks:
1) Backlit Gray-headed Kingfisher, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116408830/original
2) Cheetah on termite mound, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116408849/original
3) Great White Shark, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409235/original
4) African Harrier-hawk, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116408824/original
5) Feisty young elephant, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409005/original
6) Baboon play time, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409018/original
7) Nile Crocodile feeding, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116408880/original
8) Hippo disagreement in the Mara River, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409047/original
9) Wildebeest in a hurry, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409143/original
10) Making baby lions, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409172/original
11) Elephant dust storm, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116409208/original
12) Lioness in motion, http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116408920/original
And I guess, to make it a baker's dozen, here is a picture of two Dwarf Mongoose that I really liked: http://www.pbase.com/cwillis/image/116408847/original
As a word of warning, some of the images in my gallery (in particular the ones involving the crocodiles and zebras) are not for the faint-hearted. If you're sensitive to scenes of predation and feeding, you may not want to look at those. Some of the images came from a crocodile that attacked a zebra in the Grumeti River and simply held the zebra without killing it for almost 6 hours. Only at the end of the day did the crocodile finish the job and eat the zebra, but it was a wrenching experience watching that drama unfold, and I think the pictures convey some of that.
I don't really think a full trip report is necessary, since our itinerary was a pretty typical one and all of the elements of our trip have been the subject of many previous trip reports. Here was our itinerary:
-- Cape Town/Simon's Town, including great white shark cage diving with African Shark Eco-Charters; stayed at the Simon's Town Quayside Hotel (6 nights)
-- Tarangire National Park/Oliver's Camp (3 nights)
-- Ngorongoro Crater/Serena (1 night)
-- Northern Serengeti near Kogatende/Sayari Camp (3 nights)
-- Western Corridor/Tanzania Under Canvas (4 nights)
-- Nairobi to visit the Sheldrick Orphanage; Stanley Hotel (1 night)
The trip was arranged with our Africa travel agent, Marie at African Horizons, and the whole itinerary went very smoothly in terms of flights, pickups, and we enjoyed each of the camps we stayed at.
Although I am not going to write a full report, there are a couple of things I wanted to mention. First off, we discovered another excellent guide service in Cape Town, called Far Out Adventures. We did a day tour of the Cape Peninsula with them and the guides (Francois and Justin) were young ,energetic and a lot of fun. If you find yourself in Cape Town and want an active, lively and off-the-beaten path tour experience, look them up: http://www.faroutevents.co.za. Selwyn will always be our original and favorite Cape Town guide, but these guys are also really excellent and have a very different style.
I also wanted to write a quick note about the brand-new Sayari Camp, which had opened just two weeks before our arrival at the beginning of July 2009. This was a wonderful camp and was definitely our favorite of all the excellent places we stayed in Tanzania. The camp is permanently located in the northern Serengeti about 5 miles from the Kogatenda airstrip. It is set in a rocky, high area from which you can see all the way to the Kenya border. There are a variety of habitats close by, including the Lemai Wedge (an open, grassy plain), the Mara River, some forested areas to the south, and of course lots of rocky kopjes. The camp itself it gorgeous, with permanent, rigid-walled "tents" that are incredibly well-appointed an equipped with solar hot water heaters, showers, tubs, outdoor sofas, and the like. The camp has a swimming pool that uses some of the boulders as its floor, and agama lizards run around everywhere. And to top it all off, the camp's management and staff struck just the right balance between excellent service and allowing guests to relax undisturbed and enjoy the camp. Highly recommended!
Anyway, that's about it in terms of what I had planned to write about. The trip as a whole was excellent, and each of the camps in which we stayed was excellent and offered its own unique style, both with regard to habitat and wildlife and the camp experience itself. We were very fortunate to get into the Western Corridor just as the migration was there, and it certainly was a thrilling experience to be among such a large number of animals. The predators were very active too, as you'd expect with millions of food items running around for them to choose from. We saw some animals that were unexpected treats (bat-eared foxes, for example), but we still have never seen a leopard in the wild ... I guess we have a reason to go back to Africa again in a few years!
Hope you enjoy the pictures, and if anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
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Hello fellow Fodorites,