Tuesday, November 19, 2019

2019 06 Tanzania Day Nine and Ten

Sunday, June 23, 2019

It never ceases to amaze me what art can be found on the ground

We were up at 5:00 a.m. today with tea delivered at 5:30 a.m. 6:20 a.m. was the arranged time for our guide Ernest to take us on one last drive to the Kiba Airstrip in time for the Auric Air flight to Ruaha’s Msembe Airstrip.

Animal patrol at the airport

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 7:00 a.m. but did not arrive until 8:00 a.m. That was ok as we all waiting on the land and watched zebras cross the runway way while we told stories and laughed a lot. When are plane buzzed the air strip it was time for Ernest to chase the zebra away.

Before we are going to take off we have to say goodbye and good luck to Butati as he is taking a later flight on a different airlines to join us at Ikuka.

The flight to our camp is scheduled to be 2 hours and 30 minutes but we have two business men on our plane who have to be dropped off at the Iringa Airport. Our pilot offers us the opportunity to use the restrooms in the airport which we all agree to do. After using the facilities we taken by a military official around to the actual departures gate where we had to remove our shoes, empty our pockets and walk through the metal detector.

After a 20 minute flight to the Suaha – Msembe airstrip in the Ruaha National Park, we landed and met our guide Festo. He walked our passports through entry while we waited outside. We were waiting for Botati’s flight from Sand River.

Sad remnant of the day there was a long line for the loo


Because the flight was going to take awhile, Festo took our group on a short ride around the airport area.

Here is what we saw:

In Ireland it is sheep--
in Tanzania, it is giraffe

We did not really see many elephants in the Selous, so it was a thrill to see elephant near the airport. Festo stopped the Land Rover and we watched them for awhile. Then, we had a magical moment.

The elephant decided we were OK and they could walk right past us. Yeah, that was a bit scary, thrilling and so cool all at the same time. Here are some of the photos from the sequence to give you an idea how it was. 

Evidently elephants, if they decide to approach you, are calm and cool. Later on this trip we would find out what it means to be the approacher.

When we got back from the thrilling pack of elephants, we got to the airport just as Butati arrived on his flight. Our departure from the airport was delayed because the Internet went down in the airport office and they were unable to process anyone into the park. Eventually that was fixed as well and we took off for the Ikuka Safari Camp in Ruaha National Park.

Our lodging at Ikuka

Main room

Open air bathroom

Room with a view

We did finally reach our new home. Here is the description of the camp from their literature: “Ikuka Camp boasts a fabulous location on the lofty Mwagusi escarpment, providing breath-taking views of the wilderness below. It is owned and run by safari experts Mark and Chloe Sheridan Johnson, together with their top-notch team. Mark is a qualified safari guide and leads some seriously impressive game drives and walks in the area. The communal areas are wood-and-thatch structures which house a spacious lounge with comfy sofas and a dining area featuring elegant furniture and a telescope! The camp’s swimming pool is positioned within a lounging deck, so you can chill out both in and out of the water!  There are just six luxurious rooms, each raised above ground level, to maximise views over Ruaha. There is a lovely veranda, complete with a couple of chairs and a coffee table – this space flows through into the bedroom.”

Here is the description of the area we are in: “Ruaha National Park is an off-the-beaten-track destination that is often described as ideal for old safari hands. However, we believe that this park is for everyone who has an interest in true wilderness and big game viewing. There is no reason that this ridiculously good safari park should be ignored by adventurous safari novices! Ruaha has one of the highest concentrations of predators anywhere in Africa, and a wonderfully wild character that is rare to find nowadays. The camps here are adventurous but very high quality – guiding standards are truly exceptional.  We love this park for its lack of visitors and incredible game viewing. Without any doubt this region is one of Africa’s best kept secrets – a truly wild park where Africa’s biggest game is at its most ferocious. Ruaha hosts massive buffalo and elephant herds as well as huge densities of lion. National Geographic spent two years filming the park’s predators – need we say more!”

Denice, Marijeanne, Don, Becky, Butati and Christine

After a light lunch, we went with Festo on our first official game drive.

Here is what we saw:


Then we came across this elephant who was a tad agitated by our approach. We did not get the "mock" charge but something was up.

OK, that explains it!

Then we saw the coolest thing ever. With her baby behind her, Mom kept her face to us which meant as she moved away she did the most amazing sideways dance I have ever seen. I hope these photos can give you some idea of what she did to protect her young from us. 

I guess at this point we can safely say there are a lot of elephants in Ruaha. After touring for awhile Festo stopped and unpacked our evening snack with adult beverages. As we were standing around enjoying being in the bush, it came to his attention that some visitors had arrived at our camp site. 

Video from Butati's cell phone

With gestures and a very soft voice, Festo suggested we get in the Land Rover ASAP.  Of course, before I did, I had to snap one quick photo.

After the elephants decided they we were not really all that interesting, they wandered off. We were able to enjoy the sunset with only a few native visitors. 

We were back to camp at 7:00 p.m.  We were greeted with a warm towel and some Bailey’s by the always attentive staff.

After cleaning up, we headed to the lodge for a glorious dinner of apricot salad, green herb chicken and gin and tonic ice cream. Just like the last Nomad camp, the meals are amazing especially considering our location.

After dinner it is right to bed as we have a busy day ahead of us. Here at Ikuka we sleep in an enclosed tent in our cabin that is prepared by the staff.

As Denice and I crawled into our bed my feet touched something so I said, “There is something in the bed.” I have never seen Denice move so fast. No worries: it was the African Waterous Bottlous. The water bottles proved to be nice warmers for our feet as the night was cool and we are sleeping in a open air lodge.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Our group was eager and early risers so once again we are up at 4:45 a.m., drinking tea at 5:15 a.m. and at the jeep to greet Festo at 6:00 a.m. We have a mission today: a group discovered a spot in a river bed where a pride of lions had taken down a cape buffalo. We want to find that spot.

To everyone’s surprise (except maybe Festo) the air is very cool this morning and we are speeding along in an open air Land Rover. Despite being from Wisconsin, I froze and had to cover up with a blanket. The reason why we think Festo knew is that we were all given a hot water bottle before we left the lodge. I will not provide pictures of where I stuck it.

Here is what we saw:

Again, a reminder: the African bush is a killing field. or the circle of life.

Butati on the alert

The Baobab


For breakfast today, we stopped at the Mbuni Picnic site and had a splendid morning repast. 

The is about how far a walk it was to the men's room

 Butati, Festo, Becky, Denice, Marijeanne and Chris
Becky, Chris, Don, Marijeanne with Denice in the foreground 

Where ever we go, we have observers

The Ruaha is the place to go to see elephants. 


When these elephants moved on up the river bed, Festo took the time to remind us what a privilege it is to witness these animals in the wild. He is right. 

A second herd of elephants. 

We were back in camp by 12:00 p.m. and had time to freshen up before lunch.

After lunch the family sat at the lodge’s wading pool but no one ventured in. My reason would have been the rather large and loud bees partying on the far side away from where we were sitting.

We sojourned in our rooms for a bit and then at 4:00 p.m. we set out on a evening game drive with Festo. Tonight we headed across the bush and into the mountains.

Here is what we saw:


We came across another herd of elephants.  When you are this close to these magnificent beasts, you can actually hear them ripping the grasses as they feed. Amazing.



We came across a Toothbrush Tree (Salvadora persica) which interested Butati...

...and then he flossed.

I knew we were going to see animals on our safaris. I just never realized we would be able to see things like this.


So sweet...why not pet her?

A reminder that no matter how remote you are,
man intrudes.

I like to do "out the window" shots on my excursions but in Tanzania, it means a whole different thing. Here are some baobab trees I caught by randomly sticking my camera outside the Land Rover and letting whatever happened happen.

We arrived back at 7:00 p.m. where we were greeted with a warm towel and some Bailey’s. After freshening up we went to the lodge for dinner at 8:00 p.m.

Tonight we sat and talked longer than normal with our fellow guests and staff. We heard some interesting stories from Tonya before heading to bed by 10:00 p.m.

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