June, July, August 2012


The dry season has Ndutu in its grip once again, with clear cool nights and colours of yellow ochre, brown and gold; windy warm days with clouds of white soda dust billowing up from the lake. Water is a scarce commodity in these months and the animals can be seen by the water sources at the Marshes or Lake Masek.

The waters of Lake Masek and Lake Ndutu are receding rapidly, and we expect Lake Ndutu to be completely dry by the end of the month. Early August did bring us an unexpected 7 mm of rain, making a slight hiccup in the predictable forecast for this time of year. Records from recent years show that August typically gets only 0-4mm of rain.

Early in June, we made a special early morning jaunt to the meadow, armed with a collection of welding glasses from the garage workshop, to view the transit of Venus. While it was a beautiful morning, our view of the small black pinpoint on the sun was nothing compared with the stunning photos we later found on the internet. But knowing that it won’t happen again in our lifetime, made it a memorable occasion.


Viewing the transit of Venue
Picture by EM Widmark

Karatu Secondary School Visit

A special event in June was the annual Karatu Secondary School visit. 40 students and their teachers arrived in a psychedelic orange bus, and accompanied by our expert guide Marando, bumped their way round all the well known wildlife haunts in the local area. They were rewarded with a vast array of animals including cheetah sheltering from the shade under the bus. Lion researcher Ingela, spent an evening with them, explaining the use of tracking collars, and the work of the Serengeti Lion Project.

The relationship with Karatu Secondary School is one we hope will continue for many years to come, as for many of the students, this is their first time to see wildlife up close, and as this country’s future generation, they are the ones who will be entrusted with the care of them.


Karatu Secondary School boys and the bus


Ingela and boys tracking

Maintenance of lodge in quiet times

As Ndutu has become busier over the years, times of few or no guests are now rare. This was always the time to put the yearly maintenance plan into action, but now these jobs need to be fitted in around the odd night here and there with no guests. Everybody at Ndutu has many skills; the plumber is also our tailor, our driver guide is an expert roof thatcher, a guy in the laundry is a skilled stone mason and a room steward can remove swarms of bees in the dark of night.

So June and July have been busy months for everybody with maintenance; Roofs rethatched, concrete floors smashed and relaid, fences rebuilt, rooms painted, woodwork varnished, firewood collected from 45km away, cut and stored and drains have been cleaned.

Come November, when life is a little quieter, we are planning to re-concrete the remainder of the dining room floor.


Roof rethatching


Floor smashing


Fence rebuilding

English lessons

Earlier this month, Lorraine, an English teacher from The Gambia, came to spend two weeks at Ndutu Lodge, helping many of the staff with their English. The focus of the lessons was on conversation, and so part of each day was taken up with discussing various topics. Lorraine chose topics that were guaranteed to promote heated and lively discussion, providing many hours of entertainment.

She was a big hit with the staff who are now really motivated to keep their English developing and are devouring the English reading literature she left behind.


Mwalimu (teacher) and students

Full bellies all round

The two local lion prides each have full bellies, having just secured themselves significant meals – a giraffe and a buffalo respectively. The Masek pride (still with seven babies) stalked an adult giraffe past the lodge, killing it only 200 metres away and right beside the entrance road to Ndutu. A great ‘welcome to Ndutu’ for guests as they drove in. We laughed to see the babies, with their little short legs and enormously distended bellies, so tight they looked like they might pop, trying to walk and finally, unable to hold themselves up any longer, flopping down under a shady tree to sleep.

At the same time, the Marsh pride, watched by several carloads of guests, spent an agonizing two hours killing a buffalo.  While it was a grissly end for the giraffe and buffalo we are all happy to know that lion bellies, big and small, are full for a few more days, making the dry season just a little bit shorter and easier to survive for them.

Another encounter that has to be retold is an interaction between Cheetah Mum ‘Emily’ and ‘Half tail’ Leopard. I had taken Marando with me as lookout, and spotting Emily and her five cubs from half a mile away, we made our way over to watch. They were finishing off an impala they had killed, when suddenly Emily shot off in one direction and the cubs in another. It became apparent very quickly that Half Tail was nearby, and quite a fight took place between the two before Emily disappeared to locate her cubs.

The leopard very quickly claimed the remains of the kill, dragging it high up into a tree. But the best was yet to come. She descended the tree, picked up some more remains and settled down to munch right beside the car. Every so often she looked up at me with big dark eyes unfazed by an mzungu staring back, hardly able to breath for excitement.


Leopard with kill


Cheetah with cubs

Guests visiting with Cheeseman Safaris, recently, made a very rare sighting of a single Roan Antelope, one of the larger species of antelope. Named for the "roan’ colour (a reddish brown), they have a lighter underbelly, white eyebrows and cheeks and a black face, lighter in females. There is a short erect mane, a very light beard and prominent red nostrils. (Sounds like a clown!) The horns are ringed and can reach a metre long in males. Roan were known to exist in the Serengeti in the past, but in one or two very small groups, so this is a very special sighting.


Roan antelope

Small things

While, the game drives and wildlife sightings are always exciting, for me, there is great pleasure just in being at the lodge and taking time to enjoy the small things

  • the arvicanthis mice that have had a huge population increase and are everywhere. “Runways” extend from their burrow entrances in varying shapes and lengths and coming through a gate or round a corner induces them to seek the nearest runway and flee to the burrow. It is a pleasure to take time out from daily activities to sit and watch as they emerge from their burrows in family groups, gathering to soak up the early morning sun.


Mouse family

  • the genet kittens, that live in the rafters above the bar are starting to explore their surroundings. This comes with many heart-stopping moments as they scramble along, up and down poles and rafters above the bar. The odd fall resulting from being too curious seems to have no adverse effects on the kittens, only on those watching with hearts in mouths.


Genet kittens

  • the birds that come to my own small bird bath, all with their own quirky habits – Eva the proprieta Ruppell’s Long Tailed Starling, who ensures none of the unwanted plebs get a look in, the noisy babblers who announce their arrival for all the world to hear, the African Pied Wagtail flitting energetically, the Cordon Bleu and Black Faced Waxbills who wait patiently for the bigger more aggressive birds to finish and Peter Birch, the bald sparrow (yes, bald)…
  • sitting around the fire every evening and hearing the sounds of the African bush – the night birds, Impala snorting, lions roaring and even the leopard as he cruises along in front of the lodge.
  • the stars so stunning on these cold clear nights and this month so many shooting stars, the ‘perseids’ a prolific meteor shower visible in August entertaining us for several nights. The constellation Cygnus (the Swan) is perfect in the centre of the Milky Way, Scorpio high in the central sky and my own special Southern Cross hardly even putting in an appearance this month.

Until next time

Ainslie Wilson