Sunday, November 21, 2010

Maui vacation 2010



Andy arrived and his luggage followed shortly thereafter.

We reunited at our hotel, the Grand Wailea, where Irene was just completing her ACOG conference. On Saturday night, after cocktails in the Grand Wailea lounge we met up with Nichole, JJ, Vanessa, Dan and Megan and walked over to Longhi’s for an Italian dinner.

Sunday

We had a nice “lei”- in and then went for a hearty brunch at the Stella Blues Cafe. Next up, Andy had an overdue haircut while Irene had a pedicure.

2:00pm we went to the Ukulele festival at the Maui Arts and Culture Center. It was a free event and the performers included some of the giants of Ukulele, including Herb Ohta (“Ohta San”). Andy got a CD autographed by him. He said he felt he hadn’t played well, but we really enjoyed his take on jazz and bossa nova standards such as Black Orpheus and All The Things You Are. A surprise performer was the 9 year old Aidan. He

took the performance totally in his stride and did a rendition of the theme from Hawaii 5-0 and his youtube hit, Soul Sister. (The following week he actually appeared on Hawaii Five-O).

The performances inlcuded hula dancing and some Hawaiian choirs. It was a beautiful setting and a bright sunny afternoon.


After the festival we returned to the hotel to freshen up and later had a delicious Japanese meal of inside out veggie sushi and udon noodle soup at Sushi Paradise. The meal was prepared in front of us by the owner and award winning chef, who had operated the restaurant for 20 or so years.


Monday

In the morning we went down to the pool, and swam around the network of channels and pools. Around ten Andy had a great free tennis clinic at the nearby Wailea Tennis Club while Irene went to yoga class. In the afternoon we had cocktails poolside. Dinner was at Matteo’s Pizzeria, within walking distance of he hotel. The pizza was delicious and the atmosphere on the restaurant veranda, lit by torches, was fun and relaxing.


Tuesday

We set off north along the Wailea coast road and stopped at Olowalu, the 14 mile marker, for some snorkelling and beach time. There may have been another four or so people on the entire beach. Tropical fish were abundant all across the reef and the coral formations were spectacular. In the evening, we headed up to the Hawaiian art and crafts style Wailea Hotel for a sunset dinner on the balcony of Capische, overlooking the Wailea-Makena coast. Before dinner, we had the head mixologist’s unique water melon martini. We sat down to dinner just as the sun was setting and had a prime view of the intense orange sunset.





Wednesday

After an early breakfast of coffee and Danish in our room, we headed downstairs where we were met by the Ali’i Nui excursion minibus. With fourteen on board, we headed to pier 59 at Mahalea Harbor and boarded the Ali’i Nui, a 65 foot catamaran with a capacity of about 100. We were about forty passengers and six crew on board. We set sail a short distance outside the harbor and crusied out into the Olowalu bay towards the island of Molokai. En route the skipper spotted the first humpback whale of the season. We tried to get closer but the impressive juvenile always remained about 300 feet away. We reached the “turtle cleaning station” where turtles come to have the algae-eating fish clean them by eating the parasites that grow on their backs. At first we saw only fish, then a solitary turtle on the sea bed about twenty feet below us. We were about to move on when turtles started to appear from all directions. Ultimately there were five turtles swimming around us. We snorkelled for about an hour, and towards the end of our adventure, spotted two more young turtles. We swam alongside and behind one of them for about five minutes as it came up for air and circled around in slow, calm flight.

We took some photos back at the hotel, the chapel stained glass windows, Dale Zarella working on his mermaid sculptures and the reflecting pools.


Thursday

We got up at 3:30am and headed to Haleakala crater, the remains of a group of ancient volcanoes at an altitude of over 9,000 feet. It was a chilly 45 degrees at the summit. When we arrived, the parking lot was empty but within half an hour it was full of tour buses and private cars. At around 5:45 we ventured out towards the visitor center by the eastern rim and joined the scores of other sun worshippers waiting patiently for the sunrise. We were not disappointed. At around 6:10 am the first rays broke through the orange glow along the horizon. The ranger at the visitor began a traditional song, welcoming the sun. We watched the sunrise across the canopy of fluffy white clouds that blanketed the landscape below. As light slowly flooded the crater and surrounding valleys we drove back down the winding Haleakala Crater Road and, a few miles after a turn off on the 377, stopped for breakfast at Kula Lodge, a beautiful hotel overlooking elegant terraced gardens, with tropical blooms. After a few hours sleep back at the hotel, we went snorkelling at the far southern end of Wailea beach. We saw two turtles, and countless fish, and the beautiful white and lime green coral we had seen all over the west coast. In the evening we had our final dinner, this timeat the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a restaurant, a traditional style wooden stilt structure surrounded by coy and carp pools in thehotel grounds. We looked out towards the sea, the beach lit now only by the torches punctuating the beach fence.


Friday

Headed home. Too soon


Monday, July 5, 2010

Fourth of July

We celebrated Independence Day (Andy's first as a citizen) with Normelena, Fabian, Thai, Kim, Brianna, Nichole and our hosts, Mr and Mrs Rios on the good ship Enamorado.













We set out from Oakland's Jack London Square and sailed to Angel Island.
The sea was a little rough half way across and we almost lost the dinghy. Once at Angel Island, Thai rowed off in the dinghy to secure the boat and get our day license.


As darkness was falling, we headed in the direction of the San Francisco Waterfront.
The sights and sounds of the fireworks over the slate black rolling waters made for a unique experience. Certainly the best fireworks experience we have ever had.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nana




Here are some photos I took of our sweet, gentle Nana on 23rd April, 2010, just over a month before she died on 28th May, 2010. She was in great spirits while we were there. Rest in peace, Nan. We love you.





Sunday, May 9, 2010

Safari




AFRICAN SAFARI



28 April 2010: Arusha Mountain Village; Day 1




















We were met at Kilimanjaro airport by our safari company, purchased visas and were driven to the historic Serena Mountain Village Hotel in Arusha. We had a lovely dinner in their 19th century dining room and got some rest.













29 April 2010: Buffalo Camp; Day 2


















We drove to Arusha airport and boarded a small plane with some other safari-goers fom Los Angeles. Our young female pilot did an excellent job landing on the turf runway at Klein’s Camp airstrip about an hour’s flight away. En route we could see circular Maasai cattle enclosures below. When we landed, we were greeted by our driver, Joshua, and a Maasai spotter, Zeketo. After a quick primer, we began a game drive, the highlight of which was a small troop of elephants. We quickly learned that if you hang around long enough and get close enough, the dominant male or mother will eventually let you know it’s time to back off.


We were greeted at our camp by the camp hosts and shown to our luxury tent, a large 4 roomed tent with a shower, a toilet and washing facilities and a bedroom area with a real king-sized hardwood bed and bedside tables. After lunch in the open-sided tented bar and dining hall area, and a short siesta, we were taken on a game walk with Joshua, Zeketo (spear in hand) and Ezekiel (on loan from Tanzanian army, sporting his rifle in case of Buffalo attack). We trecked up a hill, took in the vistas and on the way down we were led to a surprise champagne reception, where we sat by the fire and watched the sun go down, got to know everyone and were treated to our first rendering of the Swahili welcome song, “Jambo”.




We were then driven down back to camp for dinner and had a great night’s sleep.








Other sitings:


Dik Dik (antelope family, weighs about 5kg), Secretary Bird (snake eaters, getting their names from the plumes reminiscent of quills behind their ears),Thompson Gazelle, Impala, Zebra, Giraffe, Hammercop, Crested Franklin and Dark Chanting Goshawk.








30 April 2010, Loliondo- Buffalo Luxury Camp; Day 3




We left camp early in the morning and headed to a Maasai village. We were taken to a circular enclosure of spiny Acacia branches, containing 3 huts made of sticks, mud and manure and the owner’s entire herd of cattle.


Goats were kept in either another circular enclosure or in a separate room in the huts. We watched a woman milk a cow into a long, conical, wooden receptacle. We were invited inside one hut and sat with a family while they prepared tea over an open wood fire.



We later watched as the herd was moved out to pasture. The locals laid out bead-wear and other hand-made items for sale. Irene purchased a white and green bead necklace and 2 porcupine spine bracelets. We then returned to the enclosure where a group of young wives sang and danced for us. The last song had improvised verses recounting the morning’s events and were sung by a young woman with a beautiful, natural voice...and a baby strapped to her back.


We then moved away from the village and sat down for our picnic breakfast consisting of fried egg sandwiches, sweet pancakes, tiny sweet bananas and tea/coffee.







We set off on a game drive. Once again, a large female Elephant warned us when it was time to go. After a lunch and siesta at the camp, we began our evening game drive. We saw Southern Ground Hornbills wandering around. Then, a captivating chase of an African hare by 3 Jackals.





The African hare was able to escape down a hole.




Joshua later spotted a Hyrax (a tiny tree dweller and, amazingly, a distant relative of the Elephant).







We then caught glimpses of a Bush Buck but it was too shy for a proper picture. The large Water Buck on the other hand stood for a portrait among a large herd of Impala. The group was shortly joined by 3 Zebras.



























A less fortunate Zebra was found at the scene of our next siting: 2 Lionesses languishing by a river, having made their kill. We watched until sundown as one of the Lionesses fed on the Zebra while the other lounged in the tall grass and 7 Vultures sat watching from the tree above.









At one stage a Lioness lifted the Zebra with her jaws and dragged it into the bushes. We were amazed with her strength. It was now too dark for photographs but we continued our drive with the aid of a spotlight. We saw Bush Babies (primates), Hyenas, one of which we heard crunching on carrion, a Steenbok and a Duiker.






































We reached camp in time for wine by an open fire and another delicious dinner from Thomas the chef, whom we finally met.






1 May 2010: Serengeti- Buffalo Luxury Camp; Day 4




A slightly later start today with breakfast at the camp followed by a fond farewell to Bonga, Zeketo, Ezekiel, Jonas, William, Thomas the cook and ... the “new guy”.




First stop was back to the site of the Lioness kill. The Vultures were still perched above but no Lions or Zebra were to be seen anywhere. We assumed they were all hidden in the tall grass.




We then set off for the Serengeti. We made a quick stop at the Ranger station to obtain our permit. We discovered that the purple flower seen everywhere is the Hibuscus Cannibinus, which we smelled but did not inhale. The first part of our drive revealed mostly birds and flora. We then began to see more game including several troops of Baboons, the bright blue Agama Lizard and black faced Vervet monkeys.

































The highlight of the day came when we spotted a Leopard in a tree with a recently killed Zebra colt laid out on a branch to its left. Below and around the tree were scores of Zebra and a few Wildebeest.








































Only 1 or 2 of the Zebra appeared aware or troubled by the Leopard’s presence. We continued on our way and discovered a dead Lioness on the side of the road. It was unclear how she had passed, but Joshua believed that she had been speared, perhaps having got too close to the cattle of a nearby village which was only 3km away. She likely escaped but later died within the park.




We drove towards a nearby Ranger station to report the death and take our picnic lunch. At the Ranger station we met two boys, John Steven and Asimi, who asked us to take their photograph. John Steven was very eloquent in English telling us about the layout of his home and his preference for the Giraffe. Asimi asked Andrew to give him chocolate and when Andrew replied that he had none, Asimi asked Andy to give him his wife...that would be me!! Andy pretended to misunderstand and said, “Yes, this is my wife”, showing him our wedding rings.





















While exiting the Ranger station, we came across Klipspringers (deer-like) on the rocks. We then headed towards our next camp and on route saw many more Zebra, Baboons, Warthogs, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Topi, Impala and Dik Diks.









By the side of the road we spotted a Leopard tortoise and further down a Brown Snake Eagle.



































The landscape en route to the new camp was breathtaking with vast expanses of grassland punctuated with Desert Palms and Acacia trees and surrounded by foothills and a seemingly infinite sky with low fluffy clouds.
































We reached the Mbalageti (Wildebeest) Lodge where we were escorted to its open-sided reception area and then shown to our chalet, which consisted of a large living and sleeping area with a 4-poster bed, a balcony with a sunken bathtub, and a bathroom in which many of the fixtures were cleverly fashioned from local wood. The shower resembled a miniature Maasai enclosure with wood spikes protruding from its concrete walls.




We were escorted to the restaurant by a spear-wielding Maasai warrior who later performed a Maasai song and dance with 4 other warriors, one of which was playing a short didgeridoo.




Other sitings:


Bare-Faced Go-Away Bird, Superb Starlings, White Crowned Coucal Birds, Secretary Birds, Hartebeests, Northern Ant-eating Chats, White Bellied Bustard, Diadem Butterfly (orange and black), Lilac-Breasted Rollers and Gray-Backed Fiscal.




2 May 2010- Central Serengeti Seronera Luxury camp; Day 5




After getting ready, we were escorted by a Maasai warrior to the reception area for our morning coffee. We picked up our boxed breakfast and set off in search of cats. Unfortunately, the only Leopard we encountered was a Leopard tortoise, the second sighting of our trip. But during the morning, we had numerous sightings of Crocodiles, Hippos, Storks (white and saddle back) and other birds including a Fish Eagle, a “Von Der Drechen” bird, Superb Starlings, a juvenile Brown Snake Eagle, Buffalo Weavers and Kingfishers.









As on previous days we also sighted an Elephant, whose tracks Joshua had spotted in the road earlier in the day, Water Bucks, Zebras, Giraffe, Elan, Warthogs, Wildebeest, Buffalo, Jackals, Bat-Eared Foxes, (after whom Seronera is named) and Impala, which are so abundant Joshua calls them "McDonald’s". We also had a lot of fun watching Baboons at play in the trees.



Towards the end of the morning, it started to rain very heavily. Joshua showed amazing skill as we raced, skidded, and hydroplaned our way back to our hotel. We had lunch at the open-sided restaurant overlooking the plains and listened to bird calls from the bush.











3 May 2010: Central Serengeti- Seronera Luxury Camp; Day 6




We were awakened in the early hours by a thunderstorm but when we got up at 5am, the storm had passed. We packed, had coffee and cake in the lounge and were on the road by 6am. We set out again to find cats, but instead found troops of Baboons, Elephants, Zebras, Giraffe on the road and Impala. At around 10 am we had our picnic breakfast at a Hippo pool called Retima, a Wakuria tribe word in Bantu.






En route to the Central Plains, Irene spotted the yellow-barked Acacia, which was becoming her favorite tree. Once in the Central Plains, we soon found ourselves in the midst of the season's first major migration of Wildebeest. Before long we were surrounded by Wildebeest in every direction, near and far.






We saw long processions stretching out for miles, huge groups of herds, Wildebeest charging across roads, plunging into rivers. As we moved through the plains, we also came across a flock of circling Storks in the sky, circling Lappet-Faced Vultures (the largest Vultures in Africa), Marabou Storks atop Acacias, RĂ¼pell’s Griffon Vultures and Tawny Eagles. We continued our search for cats and eventually Joshua spotted a Lioness. He was alerted to her presence by Wildebeest fleeing in several directions. We tracked the Lioness to an Acacia where 30 or more Vultures were perched, indicating the presence of a kill.






We continued through the plains, encountering another huge herd of Wildebeest and Zebra at a watering hole. Here Joshua also spotted a Crocodile with a recent kill (juvenile Wildebeest). There we also spotted Crested Cranes, Hooded Vultures, White-Backed Storks, Sacred Ibis



































and a Marabou Stork catching a Catfish.





















































Further along the road, we came across the famous sausage tree, whose salami shaped fruit is fermented to make a homemade brew which apparently also has laxative effects.
















































Out on the plain, we encountered a Hartebeest standing alone on a rock mound in the middle of the plain.




Flying nearby, we spotted a Black-Bellied Bustard.




We continued driving through the plains and were caught in heavy rainfall which turned the dusty roads into slippery mud. At one point, Joshua decided to stop and reverse hoping to take an alternative course along the road but with the unfortunate result that our vehicle became stuck in the mud. Joshua was furious with himself and said his son would sing him the “shame on you” song. We attempted to dig out the wheels and Andy collected brush to place under the wheels while Joshua jacked up the back of the vehicle. There were no logs or stones anywhere to be found to create traction and the use of brush was ultimately unsuccessful. Eventually Joshua decided we needed to collect stones and pointed to a small Kopje (small granite outcropping) a mile or so down the road where stones could be found. Off we marched, each collecting a few pounds of rocks and returned to the jeep. Again we jacked up the jeep, placed the rocks under the back wheel, removed the jack and this time Joshua was able to pull away. In the meantime Joshua had called for assistance on Irene's phone but we were all very happy not to have to wait for help to arrive.





It was now getting late but Joshua had heard a Lion and was eager to track it down. Eventually we came upon the spectacular sight of a female Lion on a huge boulder, about 30ft tall, calling for her pride while the sun set over the Serengeti plains.









We continued on to our tented camp as night fell. Now in total darkness, we drove across muddy roads, on one occasion spinning out, on others, being thrown around the land cruiser. It was quite a roller-coaster ride. En route to the camp, we encountered Bat-Eared Foxes, African Hares, and 4 Hippos trotting to their pasture: 3 adults and 1 juvenile.




We finally arrived at the camp, tired, wet and muddy. After a refreshing shower, we sat by the campfire and watched as an electric storm lit up the sky behind a huge, beautiful Acacia. The sky was clear and we had never seen one with more stars. Irene spotted the upside-down Big Dipper. We had a delicious supper, rounded off with Mexican style flan, prepared by John the chef. Weary but satisfied, we fell asleep to the sounds of the migrating Wildebeest.









4 May 2010, Central Serengeti- Seronera Luxury Camp; Day 7



We slept very soundly but awoke in the night to hear the roar of Lions just meters from our camp, as well as the Wildebeest, which were now everywhere. We made an early start and left the camp in darkness. As the sun rose we saw Hyenas playing in amongst the Wildebeest and witnessed a golden sunrise with Wildebeest silhouetted on the horizon. We saw endless numbers of Wildebeest migrating and males testing strength.




We saw Jackals, bobbing Thomson Gazelles, a Kori Bustard (the heaviest flying bird in Africa), a flock of Kestrel on a tree and a family of Hyrax. We then encountered our first highlight of the day: a pride of 10 Lionesses lounging in the grass and surrounded by pink lady flowers.






We continued on and found more Lion tracks in the mud and saw Bat-Eared Foxes peering at us from the grass. After a very hearty picnic breakfast, we observed Elan on the plains, a solitary female Lioness sleeping on top of a Kopje (the same Lioness we had seen the previous evening) and a black lizard on the rock beneath. We now started looking for Cheetah, which prefer the open plains, but instead we encountered Topi, Thompson Gazelle, Marabou Storks and Vultures (at the site of the Crocodile kill we had seen the previous day). The thousands of Wildebeest we had seen the day before were now gone. As we continued our drive, we encountered a young male Lion, with a sleeping female, lounging by a pool.







Further on, we found a herd of 20 of more Elephants and a herd of Wildebeest in the distance behind them.


We also encountered a Euphobia tree, which looks like a hybrid of a tree and a cactus. It is said that this plant is poisonous and can cause blindness. However, Joshua recalled using its sap to glue his notebooks as a child.





We had a picnic lunch accompanied by Superb Starlings and Buffalo Weavers atop a hill with a fabulous view of the Serengeti plains. As we continued our drive we had a rare siting of a Black Cuckoo and also saw a White Grout and several Yellow-billed Storks.

































Further down the road we encountered a herd of around 100 Elephants, jostling with each other, spraying dirt on their backs, pushing young ones into and out of a dusty mud ditch and ultimately charging towards our vehicle, at which stage we made a hasty retreat. Our guide assured us that the female in question was not charging us but rather running away from an unwelcome suitor. However the result was the same.














































We then observed an amazing scene of Wildebeest migration as thousands of them streamed past us and into the distance. The highlight came when, after some hesitation, the herd began to charge down a 10 foot bank into a river and out the other side.


































We were on our way back to camp and had abandoned all hope of seeing a Cheetah, when we saw a jeep parked by the side of the road. Joshua ascertained from the driver that his client had sighted a Cheetah on the plain opposite. At first scan of the plain, no Cheetah could be found. With perseverance, Joshua and Irene were able to spot not 1 but 2 Cheetah lying lazily in the grass. They were well camouflaged and we could only make out 2 heads bobbing up and down and a white-tipped tail wagging from side to side. They must not have been that hungry because they did not react when a herd of Thompson Gazelle (their main prey) ran past. We made our way back to camp.





At the camp, we were served a lovely traditional African meal of Ugali (a savory, dense, white accompaniment made of maize), okra, rice, green potato stew, sweet potato, avocado salad, turnip and carrots. For desert we were brought a specially made and iced cake which was accompanied by the “Jambo” song sung by Ndeki (the head of the camp), John the Chef and the rest of the staff. On the cake was written, “Kwaheri diri na karibu diri neta Tanzania” (we think) which means farewell and welcome back to Tanzania. We all expressed our gratitude towards one another and toasted with Champagne.





We sat briefly by the fire and spoke with Ndeki who explained how he likes to help poor children with what little spare money he has. We were both touched by his kindness. Unfortunately our conversation was cut short by intense rain which lasted several hours. We went to bed hoping that we would hear our resident Lion’s roar one last time before leaving in the morning.



5 May 2010: Southern Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater; Day 8




We made an early start, packed and said a fond farewell to Ndeki, John (the Chef), Mkokoneole and Lyimo, leaving the tented camp before sunrise. It had rained heavily the night before and we had heard the call of Lions, Hyenas and Wildebeest during the night. We were the first jeep on the roads and easily found fresh animal tracks, including Wildebeest, Hyena, Lion, Jackal and Cheetah. The roads were slippery and despite Joshua’s best efforts, we span out again. We resumed our search for cats, particularly Cheetahs. Along the way we spotted a gray-brown African Wildcat, and another huge herd of Wildebeest, extending across the horizon. Our first large cat siting was of a Lioness and her 4 cubs on the road.





We continued our search for Cheetahs at the site from the night before but they were nowhere to be seen. However, we continued to see Cheetah tracks in the mud and continued along until we came across a female Cheetah and her 4 cubs, estimated to be about 12 weeks old. What followed was amazing. In the distance was a Thompson Gazelle and her foal. We watched as the Cheetah, completely undetected by the Gazelles, stalked her prey. Suddenly there was an explosion of speed, the Gazelle were separated and the Cheetah pounced on the baby Gazelle, emerging from the tall grass with her pray hanging from her teeth. She then dropped her prey for her 4 cubs to finish the kill and stood sentry while they devoured the Gazelle, taking almost nothing for herself.







A little further down the road, we came across a pride of Lions on a Kopje. 2 females and 3 cubs on the top of the rocks and 1 male at the foot of the Kopje. The male seemed completely uninterested in our presence and we were able to get very close. He eventually wandered off into the grass while the dominant female stood up and watched him.

















We continued to drive south and reached the Ranger station where Joshua obtained our permit and persuaded the rangers not to charge an extra day as we were only a few hours late on our previous permit. That issue took about an hour to sort out and involved Joshua having to talk to several different officers and make a call to the warden. Bureaucracy at its best. Once resolved, we set off again and found huge herds of Zebra and Wildebeest on both sides of the road.




Up until now we had been on less frequented muddy roads but now we were on the main road, paved with gravel, and moved along much more quickly. We encountered much more traffic on this road too, at least 5 other vehicles. However, we still spotted a “double date” of 2 male and 2 female Lions and a pack of Hyenas. We were now in the dusty and arid area of the southern Serengeti.





We made a brief stop at Olduvai Gorge which we were told should be called Oldupai Gorge, "Oldupai" being the name of a typical succulent plant prevalent in the area, used for making rope and as a source of water for animals. This had been the site of various discoveries of hominids (human ancestors) and the guide pointed out the various strata of rock representing different periods in history. In the center of the gorge a tall structure referred to as the “castle” reminded us somewhat of the Hoodoos of Utah.




We continued on to the Ngorongoro Crater, arriving well before closing time and began our very steep descent down the dusty, rock road onto the crater floor. En route we spotted a Scally Franklin bird, and on Lake Makat ( which means alkaline in Maasai), the large expanse of water in the center of the crater (or caldera as it is more appropriately denominated), we observed large flocks of Flamingo (both greater and lesser), Sacred Ibis birds, and nearby, though too far away to photograph, 2 white Rhinos dozing in the sun. We soon learned of another Rhino closer to the road, a few kilometers away and Joshua took off at high speed to find it. We spotted it as it lay in the tall grass and waited a while for it to emerge. We moved a little further down the track to get a better view. When it stood up it was a large, dark skinned Rhino with 2 huge horns.





































Once we had taken our photographs, we continued toward the exit to the crater and en route saw Ostriches, a sitting herd of Buffalo, and a lone male Elephant in the distance.




























The road out of the crater was through dense forest and unlike the entry road was wet and not at all dusty. We easily exited before the gates closed (6pm) and made our way to Serena Lodge.




Our room was large and comfortable with a balcony overlooking the crater on the sunset side. Before dinner we had drinks in the lounge and observed an Elephant some 30 feet from the lounge balcony. Shortly afterwards, a Maasai song and dance troupe entered and performed for about 15 minutes. We were amazed at how high the warriors could jump and the way the children made the white decorative disk-like necklet ruffs rock in syncopated time with the dance.



After an excellent buffet dinner in the beautiful African arts and crafts style dining hall overlooking the crater, we retired for the night.



6 May 2010: Ngorongoro Crater Day 2; Day 9




We made an early start as usual and left the lodge in darkness after taking a few sunrise photographs from the balcony. We made our way into the crater and spotted a Serval cat, Hyenas and Warthogs by a cave.



























































Further on we saw Buffalo, nesting Secretary Birds


and a very proud male Kori Bustard in breeding mode with all his plumes on display (more on him later).












































We then spotted a Hippo grazing, our first daytime sighting out of water.







Shortly afterwards we saw a Rhino, followed by Elephants browsing in the yellow flowers (Bidens schemperi, of the daisy family). Further down the road we sighted another Rhino with her 3 year old cub. The Rhino became intimidated by our presence, especially given that she had a cub, glared in our direction, snorted and charged towards the vehicle. At that moment, Joshua abruptly started the land cruiser and took off, throwing Andy (who had been standing up in the vehicle, repositioning the camera and oblivious to what had just happened) off his feet. Ouch...




























































We stopped for breakfast at one of the picnic sites and photographed a ficus tree by a Hippo pond.




After our picnic breakfast, we ventured into the yellow meadows of Bidens Schimperi and sighted Zebras everywhere.





Further on, a male Lion waited atop a hillock and we watched as a Lioness moved through the herd of Zebras to join him. Then the road took us through a herd of Wildebeest and we observed nursing Wildebeests and later nursing Zebras.






At a small pond by the side of the road, Jackals were drinking.
















































As we continued, we came across a herd of 9 Elephants and hundreds more Zebra. We were heading towards the forest when the road turned very muddy. We decided to drive through a pool about 15 feet long and quickly got stuck in the mud.




We were surrounded by Zebra and Elephants, and Crested Cranes were flying in the distance. Within 30 minutes another Land Cruiser from Ranger Safaris had arrived to pull us out while its clients video-taped the whole experience.




Needing a break, we stopped at another picnic site for lunch, took some photos of Acacias and then headed through the woods in search of Leopards.





We emerged on the other side to find 2 male Cheetah brothers, one of whom had suffered an injury to the top of its head and kept pawing at it and rolling in the grass to relieve the irritation and scare off the flies.









We scanned around for their potential prey: a Thompson Gazelle, a Warthog piglet, and further on, Wildebeest calves. 4 or 5 other Land Cruisers arrived and parked on the road, effectively cutting the Cheetahs off from all 3 prey. When the Cheetahs finally ventured through the vehicles and across the road, the only remaining prey were Wildebeest calves further along the plain. We drove on and took a left turn, slightly ahead of the Wildebeest herd, in anticipation of the hunt. We were not disappointed. The Cheetahs arrived shortly thereafter and began stalking. In an explosion of speed and dust, one Cheetah downed a Wildebeest calf and what happened next amazed us.











The mother of the calf returned at full speed and chased the Cheetah away from the calf and into the grassland while the calf lay motionless on the ground. The Cheetah fled without a fight. According to Joshua, the Cheetahs had made a tactical error of pursuing separate Wildebeest calves.
























As the mother headed back, the calf came to, rose to its feet and trotted off.






A few minutes further down the road, 2 Lionesses were lounging near a pool, one of them scratching its belly.























We gave another pass through the woods, still searching for the elusive Leopard, but found only the “flying Leopard”, i.e. the spotted Guinea fowl. We set off for the lodge and en route passed the Kori Bustard, plumage now scraggled and dusty, still looking for a mate. Further on, we drove up to a troop of Baboons in the road and saw Vervet monkeys and more Guinea fowl and their chicks.



















We retreated to the lodge lounge for a welcome cup of tea and the Cadbury’s chocolate left over from lunch. All in all a great final game drive.





7 May 2010: Arusha; Day 9




After having slept in until 6am, we had a large breakfast while we looked out across the misty crater. We drove to Arusha, had a nice lunch at the cultural center and did some shopping at the Arusha Fancy Goods store, where we purchased printed frabric from a 4th generation Indian trader. Then on to our day room at the Serena Mountain Lodge where we rested and had tea and snacks. We set off for the airport and en route donated medical supplies to a nearby hospital.




We said our goodbyes to Joshua and wished him and his family much happiness.




Looking back on the last 10 days, it had been an amazing experience and one that we hope to enjoy again.




Now, for one last chorus of Jambo!































Jambo, Jambo Bwana,Hello, Hello Sir,
Habari gani,How are you,
Mzuri sana.Very well.
Wageni, mwakaribishwa,Welcome, strangers,
Tanzania, Hakuna Matata.In Tanzania, you have no worries