Looking Up in 2021!

Becky has a new Square challenge – square photos of something that contains the word UP!

With the turnover of midnight on January 1, a new year – and hopefully a better one – begins and I like to think that things are looking up! So here are my first contributions for this monthlong challenge, with the theme looking up!

Kwaheri*, Tanzania!

Feb. 13, 2018

Our last day in Tanzania was spent in transit. We had a nice breakfast at Ang’ata Camp and bid farewell to the staff. A group photo was taken, while the drivers packed the vehicles with our luggage.

2-13 group photo at Ang'ata Camp, Serengeti

Group photo including some of the staff at Ang’ata Camp, Serengeti NP

2-13 Toyota Land Cruiser loaded with luggage

Our drivers were very efficient packers – both vehicles were loaded to the hilt!

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Our expert drivers from High Peaks Expeditions, Livingstone and Elias!

We were headed toward the Serengeti NP Visitors’ Center and the airport, where we would catch a flight back to Arusha (one hour flight vs 9 hours by car!).

Along the way, once again on the dirt roads in the park, we saw more animals:
Lovebirds in an acacia tree
SONY DSCMale cheetah – he’s filled his belly so he’s not hunting now!SONY DSCLots of impalas, including this beautiful maleSONY DSCTopi and zebraSONY DSCVervet monkey in an acacia tree
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The tree the monkey was in was full of puffy white seeds or blooms.

Time allowed for us to observe another hippo pond. There were two males either fighting, or play fighting.

We arrived at the Visitors’ Center with a little time to look around. The Visitors’ Center is built around a kopje (rocky outcrop), so that we saw hyraxes very close up (not only in the rocks – they ran along all the paths and sunned themselves on a deck). From there, we also had a view of the Serengeti Plain beyond.
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SONY DSCI spotted this colorful lizard basking on a sunny patch of rock.
2-13 lizard at Serengeti NP Visitors CenterThere was a collection of animal bones, which David (our guide) identified for us.2-13 David with animal bones at Serengeti NP Visitors CenterThere were also metal sculptures of a lion and a dung beetle.


The airport was practically next door to the Visitors’ Center and this is where we parted company with some members of our group who were staying in Africa and visiting other places. We saw the plane the rest of us would be returning to Arusha on – an 18-seater!
20180213_121249The pilot greeted David warmly – old acquaintances, apparently. When she boarded after we were all strapped in, she warned us to expect a bumpy ride, as it was very windy that day. I had been nervous about this flight, so this news didn’t calm me down!

In fact, though, the ride was unexpectedly smooth and we were able to look down at the places we had traversed – the landscapes were beautiful!

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Serengeti Plain

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Serengeti – wooded areas with rivers

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Maasai villages

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Maasai compounds

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Mountain that was once a volcano (not Kilimanjaro)

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Lush green – looks like the rim of Ngorongoro Crater, although that was off to the right.

Arriving in Arusha, we were taken to the Kibo Palace Hotel, where we were assigned day

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Arusha clock tower

rooms – this was a luxurious hotel, unlike the accommodations we had been used to! Our safari lodgings had better views though! Even so, we were greeted the same way as we had at each accommodation: People saying, Karibu! (welcome) to us, giving us hot towels to refresh ourselves and small glasses of fruit juice.
We had a three course luncheon on the patio of the hotel’s restaurant. Service was not fast – which was not expected, but I was getting antsy: I was anxious to take a shower and have time to spend at the craft market as we had been promised.

 

Dale and I, along with two others from our group, walked to the market, about six blocks away.  We had a very successful shopping trip! I bought a skirt, a “dashiki” shirt, pants with an elephant print, and another pair of shorter pants. We also bought Tanzanian coffee and souvenirs for our kids.

The market was large, with a labyrinth of alleys lined with shops. At each one, whether we went in – or even showed interest – or not, the vendors called out to us, “Lady, please come in! We have just what you are looking for!”  Some of them were more aggressive than others, and I felt bad having to say no to any of them! But actually, many of the shops had similar merchandise, so once I’d bought something, I didn’t want to buy more of the same thing. The vendors would observe what we’d bought at the shop next door and immediately hold up a similar item from their shop, waving it at us and imploring us to come in and buy something at their shop, too!  We were always polite and smiled, as David had reminded us to be; sometimes we’d stop and chat with this or that vendor. I noticed sewing machines at several of the shops that sold women’s clothing. When I was looking at a pair of pants that was gathered at the ankles, I expressed that I didn’t really want that style. Immediately, the vendor would offer to take out the elastic and before I could refuse, she was hard at work removing stitches!

Back in the hotel room, we both took showers and charged our phones and tablets. We logged into the hotel’s WiFi to update our friends back home on our travels, posting photos on Facebook.

Although I took several pictures in Arusha, I lost them all when I lost my phone!  Late in the afternoon, a driver was hired to take us to Kilimanjaro Airport, an hour’s drive away. One other couple from our group was with us, because they were taking the same flight to Amsterdam, where we would part company. We had a quick dinner/snack with them in the airport, and they rushed off to the waiting area, even though they had more than two hours before the flight was due to board! Dale wanted to follow them, so I grabbed the food I had just been served “to go”, gathered up my camera bag, mini purse, and backpack and followed him.

It was an overnight flight and I didn’t notice until we were about to arrive in Amsterdam that my phone was missing. We searched the whole area around our seats and the flight attendants did an additional search as they were cleaning up, but it was not found!

in Amsterdam we had a long layover, so I went online on my tablet. There was an email from Sprint to confirm that I had changed my password on Feb. 13 in Tanzania, which of course I had not done! I called Sprint and had the phone blocked so that whoever picked it up would not be able to access my data. Theft of cellphones is rampant in Tanzania, but I don’t think it was stolen – I think in my rush to leave the restaurant at the airport, I left it behind or it fell out of my purse and someone picked it up.

Usually Google uploads my photos automatically so they can be accessed anywhere, but for some reason, it had not done that the entire time I was in Tanzania. So I lost a lot of photos. Fortunately, my best photos were on my camera and I was also able to retrieve the ones I had posted on Facebook.

I bear no ill will toward Tanzania or the Tanzanian people due to the loss of my cellphone (and my Fitbit, as I noticed later also). I LOVED my time there and would gladly go back. In fact, I’ve already done research on other safaris in Tanzania and other countries in southern Africa!

Safaris get into your soul. Seeing all those animals in the wild and getting close up photographs of them was amazing. Taking the time to observe animal behaviors in their natural environment. Admiring the beauty of the land. Appreciating the welcoming friendliness of the Tanzanian people.

I don’t think I can go to a zoo again for a long, long time.

*kwaheri – good-bye in Swahili

ASANTE SANA, TANZANIA! I hope to return someday…

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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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!

 

 

 

 

Tanzania Safari Journal: Arusha to Tarangire

We had about a 3-hour drive to our next destination, Tarangire National Park.
I took a few shots of the noisy colobus monkey that resides at Rivertrees Country Inn, but there were other monkeys too – blue monkeys and grey vervet monkeys.  I was sad to leave – it seemed our stay here was so short. In my Mindful Travel Journal, I wrote about or drew each place we stayed. My observations about Rivertrees:
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At 8:00 a.m., we were on our way. We drove through the city of Arusha, which has a population of about 1,000,000, stretched out along miles of road so that it looks more like a series of small towns, which perhaps it is – this population figure includes the metropolitan area.

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Waiting for a bus

This drive was a good chance for taking  quick shots of people along the road. As it was Sunday, there were a lot of people dressed up in their best clothes for church. The women wore colorful wraps and the men wore Western style suits and ties. I also saw Muslim women, some covered head to toe, others wearing simple hijabs. About 40% of Tanzanians are Muslims; an equal percentage are Christians.SONY DSC

 

There were also a lot of markets being held, causing crowds and commotions in that section of the town.
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Most of the dwellings we saw were quite poor – simple structures or shacks. There were also Maasai-type dwellings, which are round with thatched roofs. SONY DSC
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I took a picture of a group of boys all dressed in black with white designs painted on their faces, who were standing along the side of the road. Before long, I saw more of these groups of boys.
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David, our guide, said this is something very unusual to see. These boys are undergoing the Maasai coming-of-age ritual which includes isolation from the rest of the village and circumcision. They paint their faces so that they will not be recognized (supposedly) by others in the village and they live for about three months in huts isolated from the rest of the community. This ritual only takes place once every three years, so these boys range in age from 12 to 15.

Girls apparently do not undergo a similar ritual, and female circumcision is now officially illegal, although some traditional people still practice it.

We stopped at a modern shopping mall, most of which was closed because it was Sunday. Some people wanted to exchange money, so the rest of us either headed for the bathroom, or the supermarket (the only store open), or both. The only people we saw outside the supermarket were workers cleaning the hallways – mopping the floors of the corridors and in the bathrooms.
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This is where only 15% of Tanzanians can afford to shop, I thought. Dale and I went into the supermarket and I casually perused the aisles full of neatly stacked merchandise. One aisle had school supplies and I decided to buy colored pencils to draw in my Mindful Travel Journal.

On our way again, we passed more villages, more colorfully dressed Maasai women fetching water, more groups of boys dressed in black, before finally reaching the national park. I thought I would spend at least part of this ride sleeping, but instead was wide awake conversing with the others in the group.SONY DSC

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When we got to Tarangire Safari Lodge, we were given our tent assignments. Yes, literally tents! They are thatched structures with canvas walls and zipped screens at the front and back of the tent. There is a vertical zipper and two horizontal zippers.

Travel Journal p46-Tarangire Safari LodgeThere are no keys to lock the tent, just a “monkey lock” to keep the monkeys from coming in while guests are out! The monkeys have figured out how to use the zippers, but the lock is slightly too complicated for them: The lock consists of a small block of wood with three drilled holes, two of them connected, with a thick wire attached. The wire has a plug on the end. To lock it, first you loop the wire through the horizontal and vertical zipper tabs; then you insert the wire end into the big hole in the middle and slide it into the smaller hole so it doesn’t come out. Behind the tent itself is an add-on structure containing a bathroom and shower area. Electricity is only on in the morning from 6-10 am and in the evening from 6-11 pm. We have to charge our electronics during those hours in the main building by the bar.

 

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Camels near the road! They must be part of somebody’s herd, although I didn’t see any people around. However, this was the only time we ever saw camels on this safari trip.

We had only a short time before a drive through the park, after which we had dinner (about 8:45 pm!). We first stopped at the entrance to Tarangire National Park, where there were restroom facilities, a gift shop, artwork, informational signs, a large baobob tree, and a bold hornbill bird!
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In Tarangire National Park, there were fewer giraffes, but lots of elephants and impalas. Here are several of the different animals we saw.

 

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This giraffe has to splay its legs to eat grass from the ground!

 

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Giraffe butts – tails swinging in tandem!

 

 

 

 

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Hornbill

 

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Hyraxes

 

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A monitor lizard lies in the sun on a rocky bank of a river.

 

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Heron

 

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A group of young male impalas

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Sometimes young males will practice sparring with each other.

 

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A colorful bird on thorny acacia branches. Unlike the giraffes, the thorns apparently don’t bother the birds!

Then we saw OUR FIRST LION!! It was a young male lying in tall grass so we could only see the top of his head and his eyes.
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Fowl or quail

 

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Buzzard

 

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A group of female impalas (there’s a warthog passing through on the left!)

 

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Mongooses poke their heads out of a termite mound where they’ve made their home.

 

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Lilac breasted roller

 

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Guinea fowl

 

 

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Turtle

 

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Egyptian geese

 

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Old (abandoned) weavers’ nests

 

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A starling, perhaps

 

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Hornbill

 

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Dik diks are shy, reclusive animals. They are normally seen in pairs, usually in tall grass. I got a good shot of this one after it urinated in the road in front of us!

 

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Vervet monkey

This day was more awesome than yesterday – and each day would increase in awesomeness!!
Next: Elephant stories of Tarangire! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CFFC: Safari Haiku

Note: I wrote most of these haiku myself and took all the photographs. The haiku “Photography” was written by Dale Berman (my husband); “On Safari” (with slight modification) and “Origins” were written by other members of our Tanzanian Safari group.  Posted for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Wildlife.

Wildebeest
Is it possible
that the gnu knew? Or was he just
a bewildered beast?

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Wildebeest is the Afrikaans name for gnu.

Zebra
Zebras’ stripes, black, white
Black and white and black and white
But no two alike.

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Baby zebras have brown stripes which gradually turn black.

 

Migration
Zebras know the route.
Wildebeest can smell water.
They move in tandem.

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Zebras and wildebeest are often seen together. They have a similar goal: to find the best grass for the season.

 

Lions
Are lions lazy?
They’re always lyin’ around.
First: hunt, eat; then rest.

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Female lions live in a pride with their cubs. Both male and female adult lions often hang around with their litter mates of the same gender.

 

Thomson’s Gazelle
Constantly swishing
black tail of Thomson’s gazelle
back and forth and back.

 

Genet
Whiskers and black spots
Curious big eyes, ringed tail
It is not a cat!

2-8 genet at Ndutu Safari Lodge3

This captivating animal is a carnivore which eats small prey, such as mice and lizards. Although cat-like, it is not related to cats. 

 

Impala
Graceful impala
Big ears constantly alert:
Predators nearby.

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Impalas are the most common gazelle seen on the African plains.  They are often seen in all-male and all-female groups. Only the males have horns.

 

Leopard
The elusive leopard
High in the acacia tree
Descends for a meal.

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Leopards can be hard to spot – they usually spend the day high in a tree.

 

Hyena
Ugly hyena
He feasts on young wildebeest
Bloodied and cackling.

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Hyenas are not dogs, but often work together to hunt their prey. They also feed on carrion.

 

 

Hyraxes
Small, furry creatures
Living in rocky kopjes
Elephant cousins?!

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Believe it or not, this guinea pig-sized animal is a distant relative of the elephant!

 

Ostrich
Ostrich on the plain
Long neck craning, pink legs run
Flurry of feathers!

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Male ostriches have black feathers and pink legs. Female ostriches have grey feathers and their legs are slightly lighter in color.

 

Giraffe
High above the ground
Ungainly shape yet graceful
Nibbling tops of trees.

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Giraffes grow to 17-18 feet. Their young at birth are 6 feet tall! 

 

 

Elephants
With mud-caked skin, they
Lumber on African plains
Their youngsters close by.
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Weaver
Pert yellow weaver
Weaving a nest to impress
He hopes she approves.

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Male weavers (see his head sticking down just under the nest?) make nests out of grass, twigs and other things they find. The female weaver will move in with the male that makes the best nest!

A watery life
Just their snouts protrude
out of the water to breathe.
Hippos in a pond.

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Hippos prefer to spend much of their day in the water. However, they can be seen on land looking for grass. 

 

On Safari
Dust swirls ‘round the truck
As more jeeps gather nearby
Big cats wish us away.
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Origins
We all started here
Herds migrate; hunters follow.
The bright continent.

2-8 Oldupai-map of sites where fossils of early man were found

The top two photos show an ancient buffalo skull and that of an ancestor of humans: homo habilis. The dots on the map show archaeological sites where hominin remains have been found.

Photography
Pictures were taken
Memories are kept alive
Trip not forgotten

2-13 group photo at Ang'ata Camp, Serengeti

Group photo taken the morning of our departure, including the staff at Ang’ata Safari Camp at Serengeti National Park.

 

 

 

 

Tanzanian Pairs

Paula at Lost In Translation has a weekly challenge “Thursday Special.” This week’s topic is pairs.

Elephants (mother and offspring) in Arusha National Park after a mud bath!SONY DSC

A pair of Bare-Faced Go Away Birds up in a tree
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Curious mongooses check out what’s going on from the safety of their hole in a termite mound in Tarangire National Park.
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The smallest antelope, the dik dik, is very elusive. They always travel in pairs.
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Another animal that you always find in pairs is the jackal. The pair works together to hunt or claim their prey. This pair lives in Ngorongoro Crater.
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Impalas are a common and beautiful antelope. Here are a mother and her fawn.DSC03719.JPG

Shy boys at a Maasai Village near Ngorongoro.
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This is a mating pair of lions that live in Ngorongoro Crater. The male and female will stay together for about four days, then go their separate ways.
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Hippos in a pond at Serengeti National Park
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These are weavers’ nests! Weavers are small, bright yellow birds. The male makes the nest using grass and other materials, then awaits approval from the female.
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Another large and ubiquitous animal is the long and lanky giraffe. One way to tell the male and female apart is by noticing the stubs on their heads. The female giraffe’s have tufts of hair, while the male’s are flat.
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A furry little resident of the Serengeti lives in the rocky kopjes (an Afrikaans word pronounced like “copies”). These are hyraxes, which, strangely, are related to the largest animal of the Serengeti, the elephant! Can you see the resemblance??
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And finally, one of my favorites – a pair (actually mother and cub) of cheetahs in the Serengeti.  We watched these two for a long time.
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