Our former Managers, Laura and Colin, have left Ndutu for new challenges, planning to live in Karatu from now on, and are busy with new ventures there!
Right now however, one of Colin’s life-dreams is coming true, as he is just over halfway into the London to Cape Town car rally! Having reached Nairobi on January 18th, the rally will take them into Tanzania and onwards to Dodoma, Mbeya and out to Zambia. They left under the shadow of Big Ben on January 1st and aim to arrive Cape Town on January 31st! What an achievement it will be to have covered the length of this vast continent, travelling through so many habitats and countries!
We wish him luck and we are grateful to both Laura and Colin for their dedication and work here in Ndutu over the past years.
Our so called “low season” stretching from July through to end of November is normally the time for maintenance and renovations. Living near the famous rift wall ensures regular ‘earth-tremors’ which in turn guarantee cracked floors!
These are repaired as often as we can; we have replaced all fixed mosquito gauzing on the louvre window system in the bungalows. The smell of paint and the sound of hammering very much in evidence, we have had to redo the banana thatch in the main building twice already! Our resident Genets are in party mode, or so it seems!
Although all rooms are now fitted with water heating solar panels, we still need to top up the system with small wood fires in the boilers. We buy dead firewood at the village of Makao, some 45 km away on the boundary of the Serengeti Park. This serves two sides of the coin! We enjoy the small campfire in front of the Lodge and in the evenings it gathers guests from all over the world to enjoy stars, planets, satellites and the moon at its many stages!
The above-average rains started in November and created havoc in many places in Tanzania. It resulted in roads and bridges swept away, houses and fields destroyed and sadly there was loss of life too.
Here around Ndutu it inevitably meant tracks were under water and many supply lorries and vehicles starting the camps for High Season were deeply stuck as there is no all-weather road leading into the Ndutu area. So trucks in ‘permanent angles’ became a common sight for 2-3 weeks!
But the rains gave life to the soil and the grass turned green and juicy within one week. On November 23rd the first wildebeest were at the Lodge and the entire migration moved in fast. Early guests were very lucky from mid November through to mid December, as with all those animals and very few tourists and other vehicles, they could enjoy this annual spectacle all by themselves!
Once our dam was full it did not take long for the first elephants to visit. Groups of up to 30-50 individuals passed in front of the Lodge often just at lunchtime. It is such a treat to watch these huge animals playing around in the water and afterwards take a dust shower near the rooms…
In typical fashion, DT, our famous male elephant is back and needless to say went about his normal business checking the outermost receiving rain watertanks! He looks big and his tusks have grown. We are happy to see him looking so well.
At night the combination of the frog concerts in the pond, and the cicadas all around made it difficult sometimes to communicate at the fireplace!
Now well into January, the weavers are frantic, flying back and forth with grass stems and all manner of nest material. The Didric’s cuckoos are constantly chased off as they are trying to sneak into a nest to lay their eggs!
Right now lions with cubs and cheetahs with youngsters are seen every day.
The three cheetah brothers are successful and are seen hunting every day. Leopards are frequently sighted, mostly at the end of Long Gulley and around the Marshes, and we were shown some wonderful photos by guests of serval cats. A few days ago, exciting news was of a striped hyena with a cub seen near the Causeway!
Not long ago as Aadje was walking back to her house late evening, she was lucky to see the Zorilla close-by, going about its business… she managed to watch it for more than 5 minutes grooming, then off and sniffing and eventually marking. We know it is around by the levels of “intense gardening” we find in the mornings!!
At the moment flamingos and some larger groups of pelicans have made way to thousands of marabou, Abdim’s and European storks.
Roosting in the trees around the lake, many prefer the safety of the water and one corner of the lake towards dusk is covered by birds. An impressive sight when they take off early morning for the green pastures and all those worms and insects that need eating! Some slopes of the ‘meadow’, by the way, are covered in places by at least two different species of flowering orchids!
And I saw something very special when I was parked at the gravel pond watching the many birds come to drink there. Similar to the tactics used by leopard seals which catch penguins I have observed in the Antartic, suddenly a tortoise grabbed a dove that had come to drink on the edge of the pond and managed to drown it right there!
On the 21st of December a guest commented that now she had not only seen the “Big Five” that most tourists aim for, but also the Big Six! She was overwhelmed after a hug from His Excellency Tanzania’s President J. Kikwete, who honoured us for the third time with a lunch visit. He kindly posed for photos with both enthusiastic guests and our staff!
Some days later we were visited by the Vice President of Tanzania and his family, who were also touring the Parks during the holiday season.
Everything to do with a successful safari is a bit of hard work, not just for the staff but also for the guests, that is what “bushlife” is all about! Early mornings and late evenings is the norm…. follow the light, the sun and rain falls and rest when you retire!
Eva Marie Widmark
Ndutu Safari Lodge