Serengeti NP: Topis, Kopjes and Hippos, Oh My!

Feb. 12, 2018

Our last day at Serengeti National Park, and our last safari day, was spent looking for kopjes and spotting some new animals. We also spend some time observing hippos.

Once again, we were up at dawn.
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Our first animal of the day joined us during our breakfast – a praying mantis!
2-12 praying mantis-Ang'ata Camp in SerengetiThe tall grass in this area of the Serengeti at times made it difficult at times to spot animals or observe their behavior on our first game drive. We came upon a troop of baboons, and saw this male possibly mating with the baboon underneath him, but she was barely visible so we couldn’t be sure.  He could just be grooming his companion, male or female.
1141We also saw mongoose roaming through the grass. I was lucky to get this shot before they were completely hidden in the grass.SONY DSC
We spotted several species of birds that we had not seen before, including the martial eagle,SONY DSC
a barn swallow,
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and a grey-breasted spurfowl.
SONY DSCIn this area of tall grass, we saw many herbivores, including elephants, DSC04670.JPGbuffalo, DSC04553.JPGostriches, DSC04694.JPG
impalas and species of antelope we hadn’t seen before, including the topi. Topis have a very distinctive coloring, with large gray areas on their thighs and black faces.

Their calves are hard to distinguish from the calves of other species, because they are light brown at birth and when they are very young.1202.JPG
Both males and females have ribbed, gently curved horns.
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Another antelope we saw for the first time was the hartebeest.
SONY DSCDavid (our guide) had told us we were going to find kopjes today – a Dutch word referring to outcrops of rocks scattered over a section of the Serengeti. DSC04695.JPGThese rocky piles constitute a different ecosystem and one can spot different species there, as well as leopards and lizards, that bask on the rocks. Most prevalent is the hyrax, a small mammal that looks something like a guinea pig, but with a more pointed face and that is in fact related to the elephant!  They can be hard to see at first, because they hide between the rock layers and their fur camouflages against the rocks.

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There are two hyraxes in this picture. Can you spot them?

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Even if you don’t spot them right away, you can tell the presence of hyraxes by long white streaks on some of the rocks. Their urine is very acidic and causes these white streaks to form on the rock!SONY DSC
We saw no leopards at the kopjes, but did spot interesting birds hidden among the acacia branches.

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Usambiro barbets
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Long-crested eagle

 

Nearby, a giraffe family was grazing.DSC04682.JPGIn addition, there are some adaptable plant species found growing in the kopjes.

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Candelabra cactus
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Fig tree

We then spent quite a long time observing hippos at a pond where they gather. There must have been 40 or more of them submerged in the water there!

 

A sign informs us about the pool and its inhabitants.
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Which are hippos and which are rocks?SONY DSC
A nearby crocodile co-exists with the hippos – they present no danger to each other.
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Hippos spend as much of their time as possible submerged in water. However, they must go ashore to forage. Notice their feet which seem a little webbed.
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On land, they seem unwieldy and clumsy, but they can be formidable opponents.1169
One hippo was hesitant to go back into the pool, because another hippo was giving him the evil eye.
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When he finally ventured in, the aggressor lunged at him.
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Soon things settled down.
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A baby swam contentedly alongside its mother.
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Meanwhile, a black-headed heron stood vigilant at the water’s edge.
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A family of geese played in the water.
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SONY DSCThroughout this safari, I’ve noticed this is a good time to see animals with their young. On our way back to Ang’ata Camp, we spotted a mother baboon with a baby on her back.SONY DSC
Another baboon came up behind and looked as though it was going to grab the baby off her back! I don’t know why, and our baboon expert was in the other vehicle! The consensus in our vehicle was that it was a playful gesture.SONY DSCThat evening, being our last night in Tanzania, we had a little celebration and the staff surprised us with a special cake, which they brought out – including the chef! – singing! We also played charades (strict rule: NO PHOTOS!) and recited haiku poetry about the animals of Tanzania.

Asante sana, Ang’ata Camp staff!

 

2-12 sunset behind our lodgings at Ang'ata Camp Serengeti
Sunset at Ang’ata Serengeti Safari Camp

 

This is what a hippopotamus sounds like!

 

 

 

 

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