Month of LoveLoveLove, #14-15

Continuing with things I love for Paula’s February Love challenge, here are my days 14 and 15.

Feb. 14: I love…Dale. Valentine’s Day is a special day for me, because it is my husband’s birthday! I married my valentine 25 years ago, and we’ve been together for almost 30 years total! For our 25th anniversary (last November) we had planned to take a round trip cruise from the Caribbean to the Amazon, but of course it was cancelled due to Covid. We will go in 2022 instead. Years ago, I bit Dale with my travel bug and now he loves it as much as I do!

He can be very sentimental at times, much more so than I. He loves joking with puns, but he has used some of them so many times that other family members have to tell him to stop! Dale is a former high school history teacher in the inner city of Chicago, and retired after 33 years. Since then, he’s had more time for his favorite pursuit – golf! In the winter – especially this pandemic winter – he gets bored!

Imitating a stone statue behind us, in Scharding, Austria, 2019
A bite to eat after touring the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
We had a fantastic suite in our hotel in Amsterdam in 2018. Dale is checking Facebook, as usual!
Being the only Jewish person on a Christian trip to Israel in January 2019, Dale proudly posed in front of the Golden Menorah in Jerusalem.
We took pictures of other couples, and they took photos of us while waiting for the Sound and Light Show to start at the Abu Simbel temples in Egypt, Jan. 2019.

Dale turned 77 yesterday, and a few unexpected health problems have arisen lately. Still, we hope to enjoy as many more years together as we can!

Feb. 15: I love…animals. I have already written about my love for cats, but we took a safari in Tanzania in 2018 that was the most unique and memorable trip of my life so far! During this pandemic, we are homebound, but we are lucky to live on a beautiful campus with two small lakes. Every spring and summer, I enjoy watching the swans, ducks, and other fowl that visit our lakes. I’ve also made friends with a couple of the dogs who I see on my walks (when the weather’s warm enough!).

Life Captured: Animal Support

Basil Rene has introduced a new photo challenge called Life Captured Photo Prompt, which debuted last Saturday. Each week there will be a new prompt and the challenge runs from Saturday to Friday of the next week.  This week’s challenge is Giving Support.

Like humans, many animals are social animals. The first one that comes to mind is the elephant. Elephants are highly intelligent and live in extended family groups consisting of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and their offspring. Male elephants stay with the group until old enough to find a mate.

There are many ways elephants give support to each other. Living in groups is one way – they care for one another and mourn when one of their members dies.

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Living in family groups gives elephants the security of supporting each other.

Often there are several generations living together.
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A mother or aunt helps a calf trying to get up as it lies on the bank of a river.
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Other animals stay in groups of siblings until they establish a family unit. This is particularly true with big cats.

A cheetah cub feels secure with its mother. He imitates his mother’s hunting techniques and they engage in play.
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Lions hang out with their same sex siblings until they go off to mate. Meanwhile, brothers or sisters help each other hunt and defend their territory, and often show affection to each other.

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Two young males, probably brothers, hang out together.

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Sisters nuzzle and groom each other.

A female baboon carries her baby on her back.
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Zebras accompany wildebeests on their annual great migration, because the zebras know the way and the wildebeests can smell water. They mutually support each other.
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All photos taken in Tanzania in February 2018.

April Squares 26: Hippos

The countdown continues for wrapping up Becky’s April Squares with the subject top.

When hippos are submerged in the water, which is much of the day, only the tops of their heads and noses stick out of the water – they have to breathe, after all! Sometimes, though, you just see the top of their backs making them look like rocks! At hippo pools there are generally a great number congregated and submerged in this way.
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Mama hippo and baby!
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Which are rocks and which are hippos??
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Len-Artists: Reflections of…

Guest host Shower of Blessings has given us the theme for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #87: Reflections.

My car is a source of several types of reflections:

Reflections of holiday lights on its hood
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Light from its headlights reflecting on snowfall
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An image in its driver’s side mirror (Rocky Mountain National Park)
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Bodies of water are also great sources for photographing reflections:

One of the ponds at our senior community – the reflection was clearer on the water side (left) than the ice side (right).20200108_155657
Hippo and its reflection (Serengeti National Park, Tanzania)
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Egrets on the edge of a lake (Tarangire National Park, Tanzania)
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In this close-up of two geese that are part of a sculpture, the reflection of the top of the sculpture, geese in flight, can be seen in the pond. (Chicago Botanic Gardens)
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Polished surfaces, such as glass and mirrors, are good places to look for reflections.

Glass pots on display at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington – the pattern at the bottom of the pot on the left is reflected on the platform.
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Glass bowl
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Glass sculpture on the roof of the museum after a rainfall – the birds are actually reflected in the puddle – it reminded me of the egrets in Tanzania!
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The polished floor in the courtyard of a mosque in Cairo, Egypt
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It took me awhile looking at this photo to realize it was actually a mirror image I was photographing, at a restaurant in Cairo. There was also a mirror at the far end, where the actual scene of our group having dinner was reflected, in the second photo.
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Finally, semi-spherical mirrors were used to enhance flower exhibits at the annual orchid show (Chicago Botanic Gardens). This photo is a bit blurry but I liked the reflection – and you can see my camera in my hand at left!
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And now, a theme-related video of a golden oldie from the 1960s!

 

Landscapes Around the World

Nancy’s A Photo A Week challenge this week features landscapes.

These are some landscapes from my travels, and closer to home.

July in Austria – scene looking down from Melk Abbey, where the Inn and Danube Rivers meet.
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Austria – cruising the Inn River near Schärding
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June at Kinderdijk, Netherlands
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February in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
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Mount Kilimanjaro – on a flight from the Serengeti to Arusha, Tanzania
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Des Plaines, Illinois on a snowy February day
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June at Devil’s Elbow Bridge, Missouri
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June at the Painted Desert, Arizona
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May at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
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June in Arches National Park, Utah
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December along the Nile River near Luxor, Egypt
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CFFC: Point and Click!

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is cameras or photographers.

Usually I take pictures of people taking pictures while traveling – after all, that seems to be when most people take out their cameras, from cellphones to sophisticated SLRs.

I got a new camera and a new haircut right before our Baltic cruise.

Trying out my new camera
Trying out my new camera, Aug. 1, 2015

Dale takes a picture of me taking a picture
One of the first pictures I took with my new Kodak camera! Dale had just gotten this red Nikon basically free due to a mistake by Amazon.

In March-April, 2017, we went on a Panama Canal cruise.

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A woman takes a photo of an interesting fountain in Antigua, Guatemala (I have photos of that same fountain).

In Todos Santos, Mexico (near Cabo San Lucas), we went to a cultural center, which had interesting murals as well as eclectic artifacts.

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A woman on our tour takes a picture of a mural at the cultural center in Todos Santos.

 

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Another room at the cultural center had historical objects on display, including a number of vintage cameras!

Last summer, with our trip to Tanzania several months away, I bought another camera. I was very dissatisfied with the Kodak, which would sometimes overexpose or blur a subject for no reason. So I bought a used Sony SLR with two lenses, including a 300mm telephoto lens, a camera case and other accessories. I didn’t think the Kodak would be reliable enough for photographing wildlife and I was right – the Sony worked much better!

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My Sony camera & extra lens in the bag I bought to go with it, which has lots of pockets and essentially has become my “purse” when we travel!

A safari in Tanzania is, of course, a place to take lots of photos, from the most amateur cellphone photo to close-up shots of far-off animals with 600 mm telephoto lenses, and everything in between!

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On a hike our first day in Arusha National Park, some people took pictures of giraffes and zebras, such as Susan (L) and Cheri (Middle – with her cellphone camera – her 600mm telephoto is slung over her right arm), while some (Doug – R), preferred to rest.

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In the car behind ours, Cay focuses on a nearby animal.

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Me (left), my new Sony camera around my neck, with my cousins Holly and Susan (who are wearing binoculars, not their cameras!).

This song, Desafinado (Out of Tune), sung in Portuguese, is a bossa nova, and one of the lines says: Fotografei você na minha Rolleiflex  (I photographed you with my Rolleiflex).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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!

Map of Africa
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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!