We have commented many times in the last fortnight, as we sit at the campfire, how lucky we are. Far removed from the sad events in Nairobi, and other terrorist hotspots around the world, tunashukuru (we are grateful) to have the opportunity to live in such peaceful surrounds.
At this time of year, we watch the satellite map daily and compare it to the build up of thunderous clouds all around, and desperately plead with the weather gods to bring it our way. But they continue to tease us, the clouds circling us, tickling our senses with the smell of rain on thirsty soil and the crashing of thunder in the distance… and then nothing!
There was one very unexpected break in the dry, back in August when suddenly after 88 days without rain, 39mm fell, with spectacular thunder, lightning and hail, overflowing drains, flooding the dining room and washing out the paths! Suddenly no birds at the bird bath! The rain water supplies were topped up and the dust dampened down. Since then the lake has dried up completely leaving layers of white soda dust shimmering in the heat haze each day.
My favourite memories of dry season:
A more serene dry season pleasure is the presence of our resident dikdik. They stay very close by the lodge drinking from the birdbath each morning and waiting patiently at the bar door for their evening share of the popcorn. They are a delight to the guests at the fire as they hover close by, ever hopeful of another handful, and being perfect snack size for a Leopard, we understand why we find them sleeping tucked away in safe corners of the garden, near the rooms or under the water solar panels!
Low season means time to catch up on maintenance. The thatch on the main building needed to be replaced, a three day period of no guests providing the perfect opportunity. It was amazing how fast it all happened with many pairs of hands, stripping off the old mikoche (Palm thatch), sweeping down the corrugated iron roof, repairing the wooden battens and finally laying the new mikoche. The thatch originates from Lake Eyasi, where having been sourced and collected by one of our staff living there it is then brought in by lorry.
Our trusty 130 landrover, with countless supply trips to Karatu clocked up on the odometer received a complete overhaul. Over a two-week period it was stripped back to the bare basics and rebuilt and now on the road again…
One of the many nice things about the dry season is the opportunity to be able to break the routine a little and do some things a little out of the ordinary, especially for the staff. This can include outings to other parts of the park, visits from their families or in this case… hamburgers on the meadow. There was some trepidation on faces as they watched Eva Marie and myself making 70 odd hamburgers, the ‘greens tuff’ (lettuce and gherkins) causing some angst, but having demolished the lot, the verdict was thumbs up all round.
For those who are followers of the Ndutu Lions, you will know that our resident three prides weave complicated and fascinating lives. We continue to be delighted and entertained by the twists and turns of their story lines. We are now following four local prides: Marsh, Masek, Triangle and Matiti Prides, with little visits from the Hidden Valley Pride, and nomads from Simba Sita Pride.
We sadly witnessed the demise of Mr C, long time ‘King’ of Ndutu. You may remember that last year his son, Young Tom, was badly injured in a lion fight, and we now know that Mr C received a dislocated hip in the same fight. We had noticed him deteriorating slowly, and so when two interlopers appeared on the scene for a take over bid on the Masek Pride, Mr C was unable to defend himself and sustained injuries which were impossible to recover from. With Mr C no longer leading the family, and Ramos and Puyol on the rampage, Young Tom and the Masek Mamas led their 7 cubs away. Through Tom’s collar tracking, we followed them to Endulen and Laetoli area, and for some months we have been wondering if we would ever see them return to Ndutu.
So you can imagine my excitement when flicking through the camera trap photos one morning recently there they were – a stealthy visit in the dead of night! They are yet to be spotted during the daylight hours but we have the proof they are around!
Meanwhile Ramos and Puyol (Puyol is also collared) have also presented us with a new family to follow, now called the Matiti Pride. They teamed up with 3 lionesses originally from the Marsh pride, and now have a thriving family of 6 cubs, based between Lake Masek and Twin Hills. They have amazed us all through the dry season by hanging out right in amongst the Maasai bomas, perfectly hidden and camouflaged in the tall Gutenbergia and we suspect feasting regularly on sheep and cow!
The Marsh pride continues to do well with a steady supply of buffalo to get them through the dry season. Anyone who has seen a buffalo kill will appreciate that this is no easy dinner to catch, is highly dangerous for the lions and takes great skill and teamwork to bring one down. Recently they have also feasted on giraffe and elephant.
On one of Ingela’s recent visits she made a call up close by the lodge, in the hopes of attracting lions, using first the sound of hyenas squabbling over a kill, and I have to say that sitting on the roof of the landrover, being circled by 8 salivating hyena as they came running to join in the feeding frenzy was most unnerving. No lions though until she switched to the call of a distressed buffalo calf, and then two young males immediately appeared, looking somewhat confused to see us instead!
On a recent visit to Kusini camp with Helen from Cheetah Project, we came across three young cheetah, practicing their stalking skills on some nearby gazelles. It was quite harrowing to watch as one played with a baby gazelle, but it was also interesting to watch as it practiced those skills learnt by Mum. Later we were delighted to discover that these young Cheetah were Etta’s three, now fully grown and independent!
We are enjoying the camera trap loaned to us by Ingela of the Lion Project. The camera has sustained one or two more injuries (remember in the previous newsletter, the camera became a football for the Masek cubs one evening)! On another day I discovered it completely smeared in thick mud, and photos revealed a series of shots of a wrinkly elephant butt getting closer and closer to the camera and them completely covering it as he had a jolly good scratch. The camera also proves handy to catch the culprits who repeatedly break the wooden lids of the soak pits – again the elephants, and remedial measures have had to be taken to keep them and their long trunks out! Warthogs, giraffes, mongoose, porcupine, buffalo, impala and leopard are just a few of the animals which make use of a free drink during the dry season.
Ndutu Safari Lodge has joined the rest of the world by creating a Facebook page. This is just another way for us to keep you up to date with what is happening at the Lodge. We welcome your comments and photos on our page, but suggest that if you wish to display a large folder of photos, that our webpage gallery is the better place for this. Please spread the Ndutu fame by sharing our Facebook page with your friends.
A reminder too, to send a short review of your holiday at Ndutu, along with some photos to our Webmaster to include on our website. These comments and photos really are looked at by people when planning their holiday.
By the time you receive our next newsletter, I hope that the landscape will be transformed from dry and dormant to lush and green with the vast herds of wildebeest back where they started.