Super Moon 10 August 2014. Full of expectation we anticipated this year’s Super Moon on the evening of August 10th only to give up the battle against formidable cloud cover hanging over the Crater Highlands to the east! This full moon was not only the closest and largest full moon of the year, It also presented the moon’s closest encounter with Earth for all of 2014.
Similarly the beautiful match of Venus and Jupiter rising in the east on the morning of August 18th, a very brief glimpse between two heavy cloud layers, was all we could master! Needless to say the next morning sky absolutely clear!!! One can’t win all, even in the normally very accommodating sky-gazing opportunities here in the Serengeti plains!
Normally every July, we team up one of our our twice yearly Staff Medical Health checks with a Ndutu Staff Meeting. We reflect on the past year, we announce ‘Best Worker’, and deal with a string of happenings and issues.Invariably we look for a quiet date in July and this year in March we noticed one day without a booking so after blocking further bookings it enabled us to a proper “get-together! A Meeting mid morning was followed by an afternoon off with drinks and popcorn with all on the ‘meadow’ overlooking Lake Ndutu, then a traditional evening meal in our dining room.
As we had this day to ourselves we decided it was high time again to invite all our retired Wazee and thoroughly enjoyed having them stay again for two nights!
Just imagine that Thomas, John, Josef, Marcelli, Saidi and Sengo spent most of their working life here at Ndutu! It made it possible for them to rejoin with each other and our present staff and those they worked with in the past! They have contributed so much to what Ndutu Safari Lodge now is and so important that we continue to stay in touch! On the last morning after breakfast we all gathered in front of the Lodge for a “state portrait” before they travelled back, some a long way away!
It is time again to mention another very beloved “regular” who has died and we miss muchly around the house: our good friend Ludovic the Von der Decken’s hornbill!
He became such a member of the household, especially over the past three years and daily flew in and out. Pressed against the windows Ludovic announced in no uncertain times that a biscuit was in place… and kept us on our toes often throughout the day… So we lost two of our most enjoyable feathered friends within a period of three months. And I have to say that Ludovic’s son (Nameless) and his wife have yet to make the grade and inner circle of true feathered friends at Ndutu!
I seem to say that every season at Ndutu is my favourite, and I do really like these early dry season months. The excessive dry hasn’t yet got to the desperate for rain stage, the burnt browns and yellows glow saffron in the early morning sun, and even the chilly mornings and evenings with the winds coming down off the Ngorongoro mountains are a welcome change from the heat.
Interesting rainfall figures for the last 3 months : May: 0.7mm, June: 27.1mm and July 5.5mm.
Even with the dry season, guests are enjoying good sightings of so much wildlife. Big and Small marsh have concentrated numbers of different animals as they become the only available sources of water. I recently arrived at the Big Marsh as the herd of buffalo were returning from their visit to Lake Masek. There was a cloud of dust as they moved through the woodland, and out of the dust we saw one lioness, following determinedly behind. We were able to witness the Marsh pride lay a perfect ambush as the buffalo surged over the edge of the escarpment into the marsh.
One young buffalo was brought down and tossed aside into a bush for later and the lionesses and rather large cubs continued to torment the herd as they gathered at the water. It was truly amazing to see how fearless the lionesses were, and how they slowly forced the group of buffalo to head back up the hill … straight to the rest of the pride. A total of two young buffalo were killed, but even that doesn’t go far when there are 16 hungry mouths to feed.
After being here for over two years, I finally made it to the northern Serengeti to follow ‘our’ wildebeest to the other end of their continuous migration. We stayed near Kogatende, and enjoyed days of game viewing and were lucky to witness several crossings of the Mara River by the wildebeest. I was completely unprepared for how confronting and distressing the experience would be as they threw themselves down the cliffs and charged into the river. There is nothing peaceful, gentle or graceful about a crossing. It is mad, hectic, frantic and noisy.
Prior to us arriving at our first crossing, earlier in the morning there had been a mass drowning, and these wildebeest now surged over top of the bodies desperately trying to get out the other side and many more bodies were added to the pile. BUT, this is a truly beautiful part of the Serengeti, and to see the rolling hills dotted with thousands of wildebeest in the golden morning light is a never forgotten experience and I highly recommend adding this to your Serengeti Experience one day.
Just recently, on my usual early morning walk around, I discovered two rooms with an attempted break in. Mosquito wire ripped, louvre windows all skew whiff, curtains dragged out… and the tell tale foot prints of honey badgers!! With all rooms needed, Fabian our room steward who also doubles as a carpenter, was called in to fix them pronto. On your visits to Ndutu, you may have been lucky enough to spot Honey Badgers. It seems everyone has except me!! They have the reputation for being completely fearless and really tough little characters. ‘Honey Badger Houdini’ on YouTube is highly entertaining.
Everybody dreams of seeing Wild Dogs when they come to Africa. Wild dogs used to be widespread across Africa but numbers are now in decline. Often persecuted and very elusive, they range widely and are now one of the most endangered carnivores in Africa. So that makes it really special when the opportunity to see them arises. Several months ago they were spotted near Ndutu, and one female clearly pregnant, so we knew that somewhere there would be a den. Much searching resulted in the discovery of the den and we have been able to see the dogs and their pups on several occasions. Last week I returned and I was thrilled to see the pups thriving, romping, rolling and tumbling and chasing each other.
Early in June clouds of smoke filled the air as a fire, probably lit by Maasai getting honey from trees, swept across the plains towards Lake Masek. It moved fast, and by late evening had pretty much burnt itself out as the roads acted as fire breaks. The next morning, the smoke clung mist like to the trees in the valleys, and smell of smoke reached us here at the lodge and hung round for days. We were amazed to see how long the larger trees smouldered for, and how once all trace of the wood was gone, a perfect ash tree silhouette was left on the ground. We always do an early fire break around the lodge to protect ourselves against just such an occasion.
We recently had visitors for an extended holiday at Ndutu. Dr Rob Barbour and his wife Jackie, and 2 children, James and Sarah, stayed with us for a month. Rob, has a long history with Tanzania, is a camp and lodge owner himself as well as a very experienced guide leading safaris all over Africa. He will be returning to the Lodge over the next few months to help when both Aadje and I go away on our leave. During their month with us, while Rob was learning the many twisted and knotted ropes of Ndutu, Jackie, his wife, a trained paramedic, was conducting first aid lessons for the staff.
The children also made the most of their time at Ndutu with Sarah very quickly recognising and becoming well acquainted with the genets, and James creating endlessly in the workshop, spears, knives, mounting wildebeest horns and even a bike complete with suspension! We kept them on their toes right to the minute they left as the plane they were departing on, had a very close meeting with a buffalo on the runaway resulting in a dead buffalo and the Barbours missing their international flight!
Next news… Christmas!
Warm regards from Ndutu