Late February, March, April and May 2012


We are well overdue for a next Newsletter from Ndutu!

And as the subject dominates everything around here, let me start with the weather! This turned out to be another one of ‘those’ odd rainfall years.

Very good early double-average rains in November were followed by a normal December total. In January we recorded 60 mm less then average, followed by a normal February. March recorded 56 mm less than average and our records kept since 1985 show that we have just clocked the wettest April (156.9 mm)


Picture by Aadje Geertsema

Whereas March, statistically and normally always our average wettest month, can often turn into a sequence of grey, overcast days with daily rains showers, this year the heavy rain fell in more localized thunderstorms.

The guests that decided to travel to Serengeti late this season have been very lucky, as these were beautiful rains, great for photography and as a result a stunning late bloom! Many species of Hibiscus, some of our Aloes, Lycium bushes, Lippia and Justicia, Commelina and Commicarphus are in flower, and right now, the grasses form golden and silver carpets.


Picture by Aadje Geertsema

Ndutu Lake looks replenished and full of flamingoes and will last a little while longer, we hope well into the Dry Season months; Lake Masek never quite filled up and will probably reduce size these coming months, and hopefully it will not affect the local hippo population too much.

As always in the High Season, this area turns into a beehive of activity with everybody looking for the Migration.

This happy-go-lucky weather of course affected the movements of zebra and other animals of the plains as well as the wildebeest migration. In the end most of the wildebeest calving took place in and around the south-western woodlands. Wildebeest came and went and came again, in a rather spread-all-over fashion, but due to the rain showers continuing, all those animals will be able to stay out on the short grass plains a bit longer.

These past months have really been dominated by our “Big Cats”!

In last year’s September-November Newsletter, I commented on the rather confusing situation with our two known resident lion prides. We thought partly due to the heavy Maasai presence toward the end of our Dry Season, the lions were pushed to the extremes of their old ranges, and the reports we collected were conflicting to say the least!

We are very happy that Ingela Jansson who is affiliated with the Serengeti Lion project, is visiting often, so our two resident driver-guides, Hamisi and Marando can exchange their sightings.

Also, Brian Pugh from UK is a total Ndutu Lion Lover! Brian has been coming to the Lodge for a long time, often twice a year, and keeps very accurate data on all individuals, and Hamisi and Brian are in close touch throughout the year.  Of late, with yet another visit here, Brian and Ingela got together and a very interesting picture is evolving right now towards the end of the Wet Season!

In short, we have three resident prides in the overall Ndutu area: the well-known Marsh pride, the Masek pride and now also the Thin Pride.


Picture by Brian Pugh

The Marsh pride consists of two resident males, 4 adult females, 4-5 sub adult females, 4 yearlings (2 males and 2 females, born April 2011), and 3 cubs (2 males and 1 female born November 2011.

The 3-yr old sub adult males have left their natal pride and are roaming as nomads now and we wish them well!!

The Masek pride consists of 2-3 adult females, 1-4 sub-adults, 7 cubs (born March 2012) and 2 resident males.

The Thin pride was first spotted and followed for a year (and filmed) when the BBC team of Owen Newman and Amanda Barrett were still in residence in 2007. Not much is left of the original pride, but right now there are 9 lions, three adult females, and four yearlings, (2 males and 1 female born Aug’ 2010 and 1 male born Nov’ 2011).

An older offspring of this pride, (Young Tom, born early 2009) seems to stay on in the pride and is becoming a coalition partner with the resident male Mr. C (who is either his father or his uncle).

The confusion is where these prides interact and roam! They are seen hither and thither at times, overlapping territories with Mr C reigning the three prides and “Young Tom” trailing along!

Right now the few lucky guests are enjoying the 7 small cubs, with mom and auntie in tow, mostly in residence around Paradise Pond and the Causeway. They are a delight and very entrepreneurial!


Picture by Brian Pugh

We will keep a close watch on these three interesting prides and hope that the wee ones will do well, but cubs born at this time of the year need lots of luck to survive the oncoming Dry Season. And as the Maasai and their cattle move further and further into the area, there will be conflict, no doubt forcing our lions to move further north, west, and south….

Not only for the lions is it cub time. As I write this, our various ‘local’ cheetah ladies have produced a total of 26 cheetah cubs!!! (6, 5, 4, 2, 3, 3, and 3, of which one cub died)…Right now one cheetah female still has not come out of the reeds in the Big Marsh, and we await further sightings of her and more wee ones!


Picture by Roswitha Gantenberg

Needless to say, cheetahs as always were the magnets for tourists visiting Ndutu. Consequently it has not always been easy for the females to hunt, what with so much attention. Now, with peace returning to the area, and without the constant, daily visitations of noisy, smelly tourist vehicles, they must be happy to enjoy some quieter times with their offspring.

Helen O’Neill of the Cheetah Project, who keeps track of the cheetah movements all over the Serengeti, has been on leave and is returning soon and we hope we can then establish more names and individuals with this explosive baby boom!!


Picture by Roswitha Gantenberg

The three territorial males, Latte, Mocha and Espresso, although “of age” are still seen moving around Two Trees and Big Marsh, their old hunting ground!

An exciting and lucky event in the same area was the regular sightings of a female and young striped hyena. The mother was quite relaxed and the cub quickly habituated to presence of visiting cars. These interesting, beautiful creatures were photographed and filmed by many and were still seen only two weeks ago and we hopefully the two will remain near Two trees a bit longer!


Picture by Ainslie Wilson

Closer to home, the 6 male buffaloes are back with a vengeance, making life difficult for our four night watchmen. Aloes get upturned and mashed, young new acacia trees near the cabins are debarked with their big bosses, branches ripped off, in short a rather nightmarish scenario for me as the gardener on station!

It is quite obvious – possibly more so with the lions around – that these old males feel safe and comfortable near the Lodge. Several times recently whilst we were sitting around the campfire a sudden snort warned us of their presence, and when the torches are flashing, there they are quite close and staring at us strangers in the fire light!

As the true local ‘residents’ you occasionally can follow a happening from beginning to end. This time our beautiful but now dead acacia tree in front of the dining room, provided entertainment. Not only is it interesting to see the state of the tree changing – right now the bark is starting to break off after a year and half – but the invasion of all manner of bugs and wood boring insects has started!

Simultaneously, woodpeckers and lovebirds show much interest in the state of the tree, and a Grey Woodpecker couple decided the trunk was a suitable spot for a house.
Once the floor height of the nest was determined, both woodpeckers banged away with gusto and soon the familiar round hole was ready…. Much interior work and banging followed, birds flying in and out, one could hear the loud pecking and then the debris would be chucked out over the side!

All this could be observed from inside the dining room veranda, so a grandstand view! Meanwhile Fischer’s lovebirds followed and inspected the daily activities regularly, as did the sparrows.

It was obvious ulterior motives abounded and came the day when the young woodpecker chick first stuck it’s beak out of the hole for the world to see. Immediately the curious residents gathered! Some close encounters and “stand-offs” were witnessed!


Picture by Aadje Geertsema

Mum and Dad were constantly flying back and forth feeding this fast growing
wee woodpecker, which as time moved on, would balance precariously on the edge of the hole! Once young one flew out, it did not take half an hour and the lovebirds moved in!


Picture by Aadje Geertsema

A happy incident was the lifesaving exercise of “Hop-Along” a superb starling that one day was found hanging upside down on an acacia tree branch next to my house. It was obvious it had been there in that state for quite awhile, as it valiantly tried to raise itself but tired quickly. Its foot had been caught in some fuzzy material and nothing would save it from dying hanging upside down pretty soon… so rescue services at hand was the answer, which actually turned out to be equally precarious and involved extended ladders…

However, with some luck and determination, we finally managed to bring it down and it was then obvious we could not save it’s foot. I had to cut it with my nail scissors, and we put it down in the shade not far from the house…. I kept an eye on it and left some water in the hollow of a rock under the nearby water tank. Cleverly it skipped to the rock and drank the water which I then filled up several times.

Since, and initially understandably hesitant, it frequents my veranda and always enjoys the special bird cookies and manages very well…. hopping along!


Picture by Aadje Geertsema

And to end on a hilarious note: Eva Marie Widmark, who is here as Relief Manager enjoyed an unusual and certainly unexpected encounter with a very dear, small animal of the bush!

The other morning, we were both up before six to meet with guests in the bar veranda. We had our cup of tea, chatted away with guests. Eva Marie then mentioned having been kept awake off and on all night with sounds of rustles in the house and even felt something on her bed… She tried all night to find out with help of her torch and finally managed to see this intruder! Once she described the culprit I could tell her that her new bedfellow was a dormouse!

Delightful little creatures, holy terrors in one’s house as just about anything will be taken for nesting material! We discussed strategies as to how we could try and remove it from the house before the evening.

About mid morning I saw Eva Marie running towards my house and was wondering what could have happened…. She was roaring with laughter as apparently whilst sitting in her Reception office and working on her computer, she suddenly felt something bulgy near her shoulder and took off her fleece and to her utter astonishment out came a sleepy dormouse!!!


Picture by Albert Min

It had been there all along since six, warmly cuddled in her jacket. Needless to say it jumped off and away and then Stephen, Paul, Emmanuel and Samuel were trying to find it to take it out of the Reception …


Picture by Eva Marie Widmark

It eventually found the open doorway and went off into the big acacia tree, amidst much merriment and laughs…

We will of course check for more dormice in her house so this Ndutu Dormice family can be happily reunited!

Would it not be safer to have a bird in the hand rather than a dormouse in a fleece?

End of May 2012
Ndutu Safari Lodge