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SELOUS IMPALA CAMP GAME DIARY pre 2011

Selous    Nile Monitor Lizard
Link back to Selous Impala Game Diary from 2011
 

Heron Rescue Story

Juvenile Goliath Heron, Rufiji River Sept 2010
Juvenile Goliath Heron, Rufiji River

Photo taken by Kate Vince. Her comment:
"We saw the heron on the first day and only on looking closer at the photos when we returned to camp, did we realise it was netting in his mouth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heron rescue Heron rescue

The next time we were out on the boat (I think the next day) we spotted he was attached to a bush.
One of our guides then got out of the boat (into croc infested waters!!) and detached the heron from the bush.
We brought him back to the boat to cut him free.

Heron rescue

We didn't have any knife to use so had to tear a beer can in half and use that! It was quite exciting!!

These photos were taken by Kate Vince while staying at Selous Impala camp in September 2010

For more photos see Guests Photos 2010

For all her photos of this safari see:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/54677272@N05/sets/72157625130723106/

Safari to Selous, Ruaha and Zanzibar by Helena and Brian Taylor


Ruaha Cheetah 

I cannot believe that a chance conversation over dinner, when someone suggested we think of Adventure Camps for a safari, led to the most wonderful holiday.

We honestly did enjoy every minute - landing at the same airstrip in Selous that we had been to before (we had visited a few years ago with the Selous Safari Company) was fun and then meeting Hussain and Ali our guides from Selous Impala Camp. They had a table hidden behind the jeep at the side of the runway (we didn't get that before!) and had a very welcome drink and some cookies. And on the drive to the camp we saw so many animals it was unbelievable, but for me seeing a herd of elephants with their young, was the most brilliant start - I just love them.

read more....

August 2010 Newsletter Selous Impala Camp


Selous Lions

Another amazing month for wildlife in Selous!

About 10 leopards have been spotted in only a couple of days by our guests out on game drives!
Very early in the morning, a couple left the camp for a game drive and met a young leopard female stopped in the middle of the road to Impala camp with a very fresh kill - as is often common with leopards, it was an impala.
Being very shy and skittish, she quickly disappeared in the thickness of the bush leaving her prey on the ground unguarded. The guide requested the driver to leave the sighting, to give the leopard a chance to enjoy her hard-earned meal. A little later another group of our guests, on their way out from the camp, saw her on a nearby jackal berry tree feeding herself.
The leopard, after the first guests left, went back to her prey and dragged it up to safety out of the reach of scavengers such as hyenas or any other threat.
In the afternoon our guides tried to look for her again but in vain, probably because of too many disturbances, she and her kill had disappeared. For sure she was still in the surrounding area, she couldn’t move her heavy kill that far. Being well hidden and camouflaged, she was probably looking at us. What an elusive creature!
Other leopards have been seen this month around this area, a pair of them by nearby Lake Mzizimia mating, mounting more than once, almost totally ignoring our car.

Read more.....

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Selous Drama – The lion, the leopard, baboons and a zebra - by Dominic Oldridge


This all happened 0840-1020, Sunday 20th June and occurred following my previous post: “One hour with painted hunting dogs”.
You can see a collection of images at: www.flickr.com/photos/drjos_photos/sets/72157624500402687

lion guards leopard tree  lion on zebra kill

trapped leopard

We drive away from the dog sighting, excited and chattering away about what we had experienced. I spot and shout “Lion!”
The driver and guide automatically say “No, it's Impala” after my many false calls! However, I am correct!
The sun is warming up. Having had their first feed during the early hours, one lioness drags a zebra kill into the shade of a false umbrella tree. The second lioness looks on from 20 metres away, resting in long grass, and a third older female lies some 50 metres on.
Suddenly we see movement and spots up in the tree that’s immediately above the zebra carcass and the first lioness. She’s dragged the meal directly under where one, no, two leopards must have escaped earlier, during the kill. And none of the lionesses know they are there!
The leopards look down, a large male with a smaller female. The male has had enough and takes his chances. He comes down vertically, lands softly and makes a break for it, leaving his partner to fend for herself. The lioness is too slow and all she can do is look on as he makes good his escape, avoiding all three of his enemies.
The female leopard watches her mate disappear into the distance and towards thicker bush. She’s now stuck up the tree, with two of the lions looking up at her. After a growl and snarl of defiance, she calculates whether she can move, further up into the canopy, the lion below now guarding her every move. The stalemate continues, half an hour passes, lion below, leopard above. Both look up and away to the mid-distance.
Spread out and 100 metres away, coming closer, a troupe of baboon can be seen. Heads down, they are foraging the ground for food. The big male suddenly barks an alarm, and in panic and noisy commotion, the whole troupe leap up the nearest trees. The panic subsides, they’re safe from the three lion below. It’s only then that they spot the leopard, their greatest threat. Loud, intermittent alarm barks from the adult baboon have the youngsters scurrying along the branches. The big male baboon stays watchful on the ground.
The second lion decides to stir herself and strolls up to begin feeding, looked on by the other two lions, the leopard above her and the baboons in the nearby trees. The third older lioness makes her way slowly to the zebra carcass and the two of them rub heads in greeting. The two settle down, the elder taking a turn at feeding, in the shade of the leopard tree.
This has become all too much for the leopard. The young female makes her move, descends to a lower branch, looks down at the lions and surveys her options.
She makes her escape! Plummeting vertically, she’s off and running. But the guard lion is after her, accelerating with great strides and threatening to overtake the leopard, who is sprinting for her life. The lion is huge compared with the fleeing leopard, there’s no way she’ll outrun the bigger predator. With the lion less than 5 metres behind and catching fast, the leopard bolts up another tree, barely 35 feet from the original.
Safe again, the leopard watches on as her chaser retires and the other lions continue to feed and rest by their meal. It’s clear from the scars on her face and the shortened teeth, the senior lion has had a tough life. A lost segment has given her a forked tongue. But she continues to feed on the zebra with relish.
Two and a half hours have now passed since the lion dragged the kill under the two leopards' tree. A combination of the rising heat, full bellies and maybe two days of meals left on the zebra means the lion are losing interest in the young female leopard. At last she has enough space and time to descend safely and make good her escape. She trots confidently off, following the same path as her mate towards the thicker bush.
A short while later, some distance away, can be heard the soft throaty coughing as one of the leopard calls for the other….

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One hour with Painted Hunting Dogs - by Dominic Oldridge

The successful hunt
photo by Dominic Oldridge

This all happened 07.00-08.00 on Sunday 20th June. North of the Rufiji, in the Selous Game Reserve. Driving from our Selous Impala fly-camp.

We see nine dogs just waking up around the den they whelped at last year. From the fuss they're making at the den entrance, the tiny squeaks and growls coming up from the den, the Alpha Female must have had her pups that night! The dogs make off slowly, bonding as they wake. Then it's an incredible sight seeing them move off line abreast, a width of 200 metres, as they sweep the bush at a long loping trot seeking game. One shoots off, full speed, close to the ground with head, back and tail all in a perfectly straight line. The dog is after an impala. He hits it hard and before we know it, the kill has been made with another dog from the pack so quickly. A third, then fourth dog comes in for a very rapid, noisy and gorging feed.

Finally, the yearlings get their turn to demolish the impala. In less than 20 minutes there is only the skull and backbone left. It is all very precise, surgeon-like and carried out at an incredibly fast pace: from waking to finishing feeding all in an hour.
Wow, what a start to my best ever safari day!

Click here to see a slideshow of Dominic's fab photos of this Wild Dog kill

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A great start to the 2010 season!

Impala new lodge at night
Impala new lodge in the evening

We have not only a brand new restaurant and swimming pool area in the camp, but also a lot of news about wildlife. So much is happening in Selous and it is going to be a very interesting season indeed!

The new season started on 1st June with thrilling sightings.
The first guests were welcomed on the day of their arrival, with the amazing experience of African Wild Dogs hunting right in front of the camp reception.
The pack of ten dogs that hunted in the Manze area last year, is presently established in the near surroundings of Impala Camp......read more

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Chris and Lucy Harris went on Safari in Tanzania in 2010


Selous Great White Egret  Selous lion cub

They have kindly allowed us to put their excellent diary and photos on our website.
The started in the north, continuing to the south in mid February where they stayed at Mdonya Old River Camp in Ruaha and at Selous Impala Camp

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Newsletter Feb 2010 Flo Montgomery trip to Tanzania


Selous leopard cubs Oct 2009   Lion cubs in January
photos of the two leopard cubs taken in October, before their mother died; on the right, the two new lion cubs in January 2010

I am lucky enough to be designing websites and brochures for Adventure Camps of Tanzania; this means that every year I visit the three camps (two in Selous, one in Ruaha) and the hotel in Zanzibar, to take new pictures, gather updated information and so forth.

This year I was particularly eager to see if I could find the lion cubs born around Christmas which have been seen from Impala camp, and also to find out if its true that one of the guides at Lake Manze camp has seen the two little leopard cubs which were orphaned in November, alive and well.

read more....

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Newsletter February 2010


Lion Mania in Selous

Selous young Lioness

To be out in the bush is always a surprise! And the longer you stay, the more you see and learn. The wild life is very active every day and so interesting to discover and to follow.

This month a new pride of ten lions has been seen crossing the main road going down to Nzelekela lake, nearest to Selous Impala Camp.
Are they trying to take over the territory of the already established pride and to chase away the current three members with their two newly born cubs?
Not at all! They are too young to fight and posses a territory. All ten members of the pride are about 4 years old, very healthy. They are very shy and alert. For sure it is a sign that they are not from the areas around. These young lions have migrated from their original pride on reaching adolescence…. So we think they were on a study tour of a new area, but who knows they might consider the very rich Nzelekela area as their territory in future.
They were seen after two weeks within the same area for the second time…..still showing extreme wariness.
We all would wish to see them coming back to be part of our surroundings.

Selous Lion pride on kill

Above all, the Nzelekela pride of three - two females and a male, with two tiny cubs is perfect, doing great even with all the pressure behind them for the territory, as not only the new pride, but also the Lake Siwandu pride of lions with two 8 months old cubs were seen close by.

Young lion cub, Selous  Selous Lion

In the last months the Siwandu pride has been seen with injured members and all seem very unhealthy. Unfortunately the two cubs from Siwandu were seen on their own, deserted by the pride. One of the cubs was recently seen on the ground dead of starvation being still too young to hunt . The other one was still alive but very skinny. Since that day the live cub has not been seen with the rest of the Siwandu pride….no one knows what happened to her, we all hope she made it, but the lion world is very harsh.

About a month ago, one of the Siwandu females left the pride (and this is one of the reasons that created the unhealthy balance of the pride, as she is the leader). She has given birth to new cubs that are still hidden somewhere in the bush and none of us have seen them yet.

Lioness on kill, Selous  Selous lions

Let’s go out and watch them, join us!
Don’t worry if you can’t, we will be back next month with more news.

Barbara, Matteo and the Selous Impala Staff
February 2010

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Newsletter January 2010


New Year - New Arrivals

Rains raise the water levels everywhere

Green green grass  Selous rainbow

This is what we mean by "The Green Season"

The New Year brought badly needed and long awaited water to the Selous.
Rain has turned the park into a green heaven: grass everywhere and trees loaded with leaves. Flowers are blazing with colour and all the animal are rejoicing with the abundance of food.

a ball of fluff  Selous lion cubs playing

Brand new lion clubs playing

Some very good news: the new year brought with it new fantastic lion cubs and a lots of our guests had the chance to see them taking their first step in the wild. They are so fluffy and sweet that its hard to think that one day they may be Lion Kings!
Newborn animals are everywhere: impala, giraffe, gnu, zebra… all the herbivores have produced a mass of new life after the rain.

Here at the camp the situation is going smoothly. The preparation for the new season has started already and the new Impala Camp is not a pale idea anymore but a real project that will be completed in April and May while the camp is closed for the long rains, so we will be ready for the first of June and the new season.

Selous lions mating  Porcupine

Even if the wet and muddy road gave some problems this month (but also a lot of fun!) our guests had the chance to see lion (a couple of them busy for a week in mating time), buffalo, elephant, crocs, wild dog and all the other animals of the Selous on a daily basis.

BREAKING NEWS - LEOPARD CUB SURVIVES!

Another piece of excellent news: one of the two leopard cubs whose mother died 2 months ago (see pix in October Newsletter below) has survived alone and is still alive and in a very good shape. Even if extremely shy some guests have been lucky enough to see it.
Well, small is small but strong is strong! Surviving the first period without the help of the mother at such a young age, give us the sensation he will mange to thrive in this wild world.

Selous Impala Team
January 2010

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Newsletter October 2009


leopardess with cub, Selous

leopardess with cub, Selous  leopard cub in doum palm
Photos by the Frederick Crawford, October 2009 Selous Game Reserve

The Impala Team is glad to report about another good month spent here in the bush. Considering the Leopard is one of the “most wanted” by tourist and also one of the most difficult to spot, a lot of Impala clients have been recently rewarded not only with some great shots of this fantastic animal, including sightings of the Lake Siwandu female with her beautiful cubs. It seems she has given birth to one female and a male, with the female already comfortable with car and camera while the male a little bit more shy.

Speaking of leopard means speaking also of its favorite prey: the Impala.
And here we show you some lovely pictures taken by Paul Sr, Paul Jr and Melinda (from Oregon USA) who witnessed the birth of an impala foal. What luck!

Impala with newborn foal, Selous

Impala with newborn foal, Selous  Impala with newborn foal, Selous
Impala with newborn foal - photo by Paul Flues

There have also been many sightings both of the 4 member packs of wild dogs frequenting the area of the camp in these last days of September. One pack has cubs (which delighted a lot of guests in June) and they have been seen again and we’re glad to inform everybody that six of the puppies area still alive and kicking!

All seven wild dog puppies

wild dog pups, Selous July 09
photos taken by Michelle Liebst near Lake Nzerakela, Selous - July 2009

Here at the camp everything is going smoothly and the daily visits of elephant, giraffe and hippo in between the tents are always a joy for the eyes.

Ciao ciao
Matteo and the staff at Selous Impala Camp

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Nesletter August 2009


Selous Lion Cub   Selous lion cub
Selous lion cubs playing

August 2009

Here at Impala it has been a very busy month.
Elephants have been almost a constant inside the camp so has the daily visit of our hippo Andrea.
Close to Lake Siwandu a pride of lion consisting of 9 adults and 2 playful cubs entertained our guests royally. What a show - to sit and admire the lazy lionesses lying in the shade of a Tamarind tree with the two new princes playing around them full of energy and joy of life.
The luckiest guests were the ones who had the chance to see the mating between a full grown lion male and a pair of females….here our guests don’t look at a documentary of National Geographic: they are in it!

Mloka school
Teachers and pupils happily receive a kind gift of school equipment from some of our guests

A very important message: the Impala team and the Principal of the Mloka Primary School would like to thank the Joyce family for the school material they have sent to them. We have delivered it in time to be used in the next annual test examination. All the kids were very happy to receive this gift of equipment which is absolutely indispensable for their school life.

At the end of this month we can just say that we are happy. Our guests have enjoyed the wildlife of Selous and some of them have left their mark in the lives of the people who live around the Selous Reserve.

Ciao ciao
Impala Team

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Nesletter July 2009


July 2009

Like the Rufijii waters, the days here at the Impala Camp are passing by rapidly. For most of our guests maybe they are passing too quickly. This “cold” month of July gave us some nice surprises and some bad ones too. The Impala pack of wild dogs (see the previous news letter) has again passed close to our camp but, to our disappointment, the alpha female of the clan didn’t seem to be pregnant anymore and our guides didn’t see any sign of “a clan with puppies”… we hope to see her soon pregnant again and this time to be strong enough to deliver some new puppies in the Selous Game Reserve. The pack is still looking good and fit, a sign that the missed pregnancy didn’t scar the spirit of the group. Mother nature sometimes can be hard.Barbara with Brian the Giraffe


But good news is always at the back door…and so Impala Camp has welcomed again “our” mascots giraffe Brian. Almost two weeks ago, while I was walking towards tent number 3 in the middle of the road suddenly it appear standing right in front of me chewing is food, and taking no fear of my presence; feeling completely comfortable. I have to tell you that has been the first time of my life to find myself at two meters from a very adult giraffe male by foot. I immediately rush back to the office to call Barbara to let her also assist to this fantastic and extremely friendly animal. Since then Brian became a constant presence at the camp, and every day all the guests had enjoyed the sight of this unique and fantastic animal so close to almost be touchable.

We have had good leopard sightings throughout the month, together with almost daily sightings of lions (of which one pride with two small fluffy cubs) has made our game drives extremely enjoyable for all of our guests…

Now give us a reason not to come to us….

photo of Barbara with Brian                                                    

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Newsletter June 2009 - Going to the (wild) dogs


Impla pack of 4 wild dogs june 09
The "Impala" pack of four, including pregnant Alpha female

June 2009

I visited the Adventure Camps properties in early June this year. I do this every year, as I do marketing for Adventure Camps, giving out information and rates. This year was going to turn out to be a particularly eventful trip!
click here to read more....

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March 2009


Quisqualis indica

Rangoon creeper - photo by Tessa Zanacchi

March 2009

The above photo was taken from one of the e boats at Impala - it is creeping on one of the cassia trees and some of the guides have seen it around the park creeping on tamarinds or baobabs. Its name is Quisqualis indica - Rangoon Creeper - and its origin is Malaysia, so one wonders how it came to be in the Selous Game Reserve. Perhaps seeds travelled downriver from the tea estates in Mufindi.

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March 2009


Selous Impala – March 2009

The last month has seen a phenomenal increase in the water levels of the Rufiji river mainly due to the rain water gushing in down from the west - this makes it great for longer river safari explorations. It means we can access the well-known Stiegler’s gorge on a day outing and the usually tucked away and inaccessible Mzizimia Lake. Around this lake we have had two sightings of the majestic Pel’s Fishing Owl in just the last ten days - our last sighting being in June 2007. This is a stunning, large owl whose main food is fish which is why it lives in thick riverine vegetation. This habitat allows the bird to remain elusive and it also provides shade during the hot daylight hours. Like most owl species it is nocturnal and hunts mostly at night time, pairs also work hard to defend a territory. So these were very lucky daytime sightings - we will keep our eyes open in the area for any new fledglings!  click here to read more....

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Jan-Feb 2009


Selous Thunder  Giraffe crossing

Thanks to Tessa and Peter Allen for the giraffe photo
We have had fantastic weather over the last month with very sporadic rainfall on a few occasions. We have had a few early evening storms with stunning displays of lightning over the Beho Beho hills in the distance from our camp. This weather really gets the animals going so along with the roar of thunder and flashes of light the hyenas howl even louder in the night.

Around camp we are lucky to have the Acacia mellifera in bloom at the moment with its beautiful fluffy white flowers attracting the sunbirds - renowned nectar feeders coming to enjoy the sweet smell and taste. It gives us a great chance to see a variety of the many species of bees and sunbirds that we can expect here.

We have been hearing of many giraffe crossings in the narrower areas of the river - usually the areas which connect the river to the lakes. This takes the giraffes quite some time as they are timid to cross due to the threat of the hungry crocs lingering under the muddy waters. Recently some guests witnessed an angry hippopotamus snap his mighty jaws together and chase the giraffes onto the river bank; this particular hippo must have been having a bad day. This episode also stopped the remaining tower of giraffes from crossing, unfortunately the sun was setting so we couldn’t see whether they stayed on the side where the grass was greener. One lady wrote home to London after witnessing a giraffe crossing and received the response ‘well I saw a Zebra crossing outside St Pauls station today!”

We have a new addition to the Impala camp mammal list in the form of a banana-loving greater bush baby. Most evenings he plays in the trees in a quiet spot near the restaurant, we haven’t been introduced to the rest of his family or friends yet but maybe he wants to keep the stock of sweet bananas to himself! We also spotted a one week old baby crocodile by Tent 6 (which is close to the boat docking area) all by himself - unless the mother was lurking in the shade in the bushes to rescue him - they usually accompany them until they are around 3 weeks old. We tried to help him by moving him into a puddle closer to the water and when we checked again he was gone so we hope he was rescued!

Many guests who visit us are interested in the many tribes in Tanzania and ask us which tribe our staff belongs to. There are over 120 tribes in Tanzania so learning them all is quite a challenge; they all have their own rituals, rites of passage and language amongst many other individual traits. It is good when people show an interest like this as it keeps the traditions alive and shows how diverse every tribe is. We are trying to compile a booklet on the tribes and all the staff are contributing.

We also received good news that our application for funding for educational safaris has been granted, this means we can start to help children from the local villages to come into the reserve and see all the wonderful wild animals which live just on their doorstep but which they are not often privileged to see.

The Selous Impala Team

4th February 2009

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January 2009

Selous Impala Game Diary, 7th January 2009

Hello Everyone,

We have had the most exciting start to 2009 with the help of one of our boat drivers Hassan Matola. On one of his boat trips into the nearby Nzerakera Lake he spotted an “odd” bird which he had not seen before. We went to investigate and sent photographs to the bird experts of Tanzania Liz and Neil Baker. They immediately replied and exclaimed in utter excitement that the bird was a Malagasy (Humblot’s) Heron Ardea humbloti and this was the first record ever in Africa, let alone Tanzania! It is even rare in Madagascar where it comes from and is listed as an endangered species on the IUCN red list. Very well done Hassan - this is especially good news for all you budding ornithologists out there- another excuse to visit us again in the Selous!

Christmas evening time was greeted with a real African storm - mammoth grey clouds and strong gusts of wind but not too much downpour kept the excitement high. Swifts, swallows and the magnificent Carmines were flying in front of restaurant in their hundreds falling through the sky in the aftermath of the rain like little brightly coloured kites - we could almost catch them. The colour continued into the evening with Masai song and dance after a sumptuous Christmas dinner. Their traditional melodies were a fascinating change to the typical Jingle Bells!

The cool mornings following the rains allowed for some fabulous Leopard sightings- two lucky Californian visitors managed to bag 3 sightings in just 2 days and one of these sightings was on what we usually describe as our “quiet” bush walk as the usual sightings consist of Leopard tracks and signs but not the actual beauty of the beast himself. We also have a Leopard in the area that is lactating so we are constantly on the look out for her adorable little ones to pop out from the undergrowth - maybe not whilst we are on foot though!

We had a visit from Fraser Smith who is the mastermind behind the Selous Rhino trust - an important organisation which focuses on conserving the Black Rhino population of Selous. They once roamed the grasses of Selous in their thousands but they suffered a dramatic downfall in their numbers because of demand for their famous horn in Asia and North Yemen. Luckily for the remaining Rhino here the Selous Rhino trust was formed and has reported on promising sightings of developing calves, youngsters and younger males which makes everyone involved optimistic about their future in the reserve. One day the population may be thriving again like it used to with the help of dedicated people like Fraser and his team of rangers. To see more about what they do and to learn more you can visit their website: www.selousrhinotrust.org.

The last sunset of 2008 was a spectacular one, enjoyed on the glistening shores of Lake Siwandu. As the guests arrived to enjoy the scenery, snacks and cold drinks, a flock of open billed storks graced the blue sky above us while our waiters sang Swahili songs to welcome everyone to the gathering. After sunset it was back to camp to enjoy a gourmet bbq prepared by our wonderful kitchen team. With full Tums all round it was the perfect time to listen to some traditional African music with the help of some local drummers or “ngomas” in Kiswahili. Everyone - young and old - danced away to the drums of the night around the camp fire until it was time to move on to the swimming pool to pop the bubbly and welcome in the New Year with a blast!

Happy 2009, everyone at Impala wishes you every success!

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December 2008

 
Selous Butterfly   Selous Moth

Selous Impala Game Diary, 6th December 2008

Hello Everyone,

Finally at the end of November the short rains arrived and they did so impressively, the extremely hot days previous to the rains were soon forgotten as the soil soaked up the life giving rain and fresh green colours started appearing everywhere. You are soon reminded of the beauty a little rain can bring, we have had a marvelous spectacle of thousands of insects great and small, peculiar and strange but mostly fascinating. My personal favourites are the butterflies. After the rains the flowers start to blossom and produce nectar which is the main food for the butterfly, identifying all these varieties of butterflies is somewhat of a challenge not only because there are so many but they are also so quick! One of the most common in the area is the Citrus Swallowtail.

Red velvet mite
Red velvet mite, Selous

Another interesting little member of the environment in this moist time is the stunning red velvet mite, this guy feeds mostly on winged termites that are emerging from their dry season nests for their nuptial flights and are also abundant in this time. The mites play an important role in the decomposition of plant matter and have this distinctive colouration as a warning “don’t eat me” colour.

Selous Flower, December

This weather also serves as an invitation for flowers and birds en masse to expose themselves and enjoy the treats which come with the rain. For the flowers have a range of pollinators surrounding them and the birds can feast on all the delicious and juicy insects, freshly burst from underground. It is also a time of court-ship in the bird world and a chance for the males to show off their true colours. One particularly interesting behaviour is that of the black-backed puff back (Dryoscopus cubla), it has a distinctive clicking call in its mating display as it fluffs out its back feathers which resembles the bird as a snowball falling through the air, a funny spectacle and he really grabs the attention of the female!

Also we have mainly heard (but not so much seen) the arrival of some bird migrant species, most notably the red chested cuckoo and the diederik cuckoo, both with their ubiquitous calls. These cuckoos are also well known for their parasitic nesting habits which is an interesting element of bird behaviour. When a ‘host’ bird disappears from its nest the female cuckoo dashes in quickly to lay her eggs without the other bird noticing, they can lay around 20 eggs per season in different nests which the host bird then incubates, feeds and rears until it is big enough to fend for itself. The host bird is usually a much smaller species such as a weaver, warbler or a babbler so it looks odd when such a small bird is feeding its much larger chick.

We had an interesting encounter on a recent walking safari in the form of a sounder of around 12 Bush pigs, these animals are usually nocturnal and seldom seen during the day so we were lucky but the afternoon when they were seen was quite cool so it could explain why they were so active. We were alarmed when we saw a Suni (a small antelope) run past us hotly pursued by this sounder consisting of a very large dominant male. They are omnivorous but usually eat carrion but I’m sure they are respectable hunters.

venus and jupite
Venus and Jupiter on 01.12.2008

On 1st December the heavens smiled down on us in Impala camp and across the southern hemisphere as the planets Venus and Jupiter appeared as two shining bright eyes with the crescent moon directly below bearing a happy grin, this was a rare cosmic alignment and is not expected to happen again until 2036, a great treat for the first night of the month.

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and we look forward to sending you more news in the beginning of 2009!

Chloe and Everyone at Impala

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November 2008


Bush breakfast    Lion cub, Selous

Selous Breakfasts

November 2008

It’s summertime and the weather is still fine at Impala camp.

Even though it is early November and we have already had a few spells of short rain the level of the river is still quite low. Rainfall in the Selous can affect the level of the water but the real determinant is far upstream, in Kilombero where the river starts. Even if there is rain fall in Kilombero the water has a long way to travel before it reaches our site on the Rufiji. From the basin it flows into Selous where it converges with the great Ruaha river at a point called Stiegler’s gorge- an 8 km narrow canyon, about 100 meters wide. The river then flows down some serious rapids until it finally spreads out to form the main channel of the river in Selous and the 5 lakes which surround us in our local area. The trails and trials of the water in this largest river in Tanzania are very impressive.

We had some real sightings to remember at the beginning of October both involving the King, or should we say Queen of the beasts- the magnificent Lioness. On one occasion Dennis had just finished setting up his bush breakfast on the shores of Lake Siwandu when a young Impala sprinted past hotly pursued by a lioness that seized the prey with one swipe- she was really showing them how a bush breakfast is done in the animal kingdom! A few days later Ezra and Rajabu returned to camp with some happy faces in their vehicle, they had just witnessed a double lion kill also close to their bush breakfast position. They had spotted a couple of Lioness stalking on the road so of course they followed to see what was keeping them so interested, before they knew it the lions brought down a male eland right in front of them. As if this was not enough for the pride they then brought down a second male eland all in the space of a few minutes. This was more than enough food to keep the pride strong. They witnessed this all around 8 o’clock in the morning so the lioness’ have not been reading the guide to mammal behaviour which says the lions usually hunt by night, but according to Ezra it was quite a cool morning. Eland is Africa’s largest antelope which can weigh up to 1 ton and can even jump up to 2 meters despite its large size. Due to their size they can defend themselves pretty well against predators using their weight, horns and hooves as defense but on this occasion maybe the two unfortunate bulls were old and weaker than usual and the lioness took the opportunity when it was there.

In camp we have had a couple of nocturnal friends sighted near to the footpaths - a pair of African Civets, who are usually solitary. Since they have been seen together it can indicate they were mating so we will keep an eye out for the female's burrow! These stunning creatures are cat-like in appearance with a black fur coat covered in yellowish white spots and are quite shy.

At a recent bbq the topic of conversation turned to whether or not elephants really are afraid of mice. It turned out to be undecided, an argument from one of our guides was that elephants are afraid because a mouse could climb into their trunk and suffocate them to death. Let us know what you think but the debate was sparked by the folk tale of the lion and the mouse:

Once a Lion was sleeping and a little mouse began running up and down upon him; this soon wakened the lion, who placed his huge paw upon him and opened his big jaws to swallow him. O Lion cried the mouse, forgive me this time, I shall never forget it, who knows maybe one day I will be able to help you. The lion was so curious at the idea of the mouse being able to help him, that he lifted his paw and let him go. Some time after the lion had got in the way of a large and grumpy bull elephant who was trying to drink from the lake, the elephant had no patience for the lion and was about to trample on him when the little mouse came running around the corner towards the elephant. The elephant trumpeted loudly and ran off in the other direction. “Was I not right?” Said the little mouse. Little friends may prove great friends.

Chloe and the Impala Team
Impala Camp, Selous

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October 2008


Selous Wild Dogs
African Wild Dogs, Selous

Hello Everybody,

September has been another exciting month at Impala camp

We have been making the most of glorious early morning sun-rise cruises along the river and around the lakes. It is a great opportunity for both mammal and bird watching at this time of year, and on the 1st October the first Carmine bee-eater of the season was spotted near to camp on an afternoon boat safari. We recently had 2nd timers to Impala Camp who were brought back by the attraction of the boat safaris, they saw over 30 bird species on one morning boat trip, we think they came back to get a glimpse of the hunting dogs this time around and after 3 days they managed to see them, which topped the whole experience for them.

One week ago a new pack of 4 hunting dogs were seen, usually we have a pack of 3 in the area but these 4 were completely new to us, one guide said he thought they had come from the Kinyanguru area, which is just north of our area. Lester, one of the first guests to see the pack named them within his ‘big 4½’ of our area- because they are not quite a rhino but as good as, just smaller! If you have any pictures of hunting dogs from your safari you can offer them to the Tanzania carnivore atlas project, which focuses mainly on wild dog and cheetah conservation, their website is www.habari.co.tz/carnivores and they really appreciate any photographs with supporting information for their ongoing project. The website is also very informative so worth a look at even if you don’t have photographs.

On a couple of occasions game drives have combined the usual observing of nature along with ‘animal rescue’ in the form of giving assistance to some unfortunate wildebeests. On both occasions the wildebeests had got stuck in the wet, thick and deep mud around the lake shores, the first time by the time the wildebeest had been moved out of the mud he had no energy to move again, luckily the predators must have been else where as when the car returned the next day the wildebeest had gone and there were no tracks or signs of predators by the scene. The second occasion was much the same but the wildebeest managed a quick get away after being rescued from the mud, maybe he had not been there as long as the last one and still had energy left as he didn’t have to struggle so much. I’m sure it is common this time of year and happens more times than we see it as the water levels continue to drop, the prey just needs to get away before the predators have the chance to strike.

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September 2008


White-fronted Beeaters, Selous
White-fronted Bee-eaters, Selous

As well as sunrise cruises we have also been enjoying sun-set cruises up the river, this is the best time to watch the white-fronted bee-eaters in and around their river bank nests busy eating and socializing with the others. Not much keeps these active birds still when they are on the hunt for insects and guarding their burrows, even the presence of our boats doesn’t put them off and we can get very close, however, 2 pygmy falcons had them still as stones as they hawked around the riverbank nests, the bee-eaters kept a close watch while trying to protect their eggs from these small but attractive birds of prey. The bee-eaters stood their ground well as the falcons eventually gave up and flew off in another pursuit.

One of the trips to the local village, which is close to the boundary of the reserve was taken by the Berben family from Belgium, the father and daughter of this family are both medics so were interested to visit the local medical surgery, they decided to donate some money for building materials to give the building a better roof, some people like to donate money for medical supplies to the villagers as it is a long way from town where they can access good supplies. If anyone visits the village and would like to give a donation for medical supplies the best way is to donate via Coastal who buy a bulk of medical supplies each year with the donations and make sure it is well distributed in the local village.

Last but not least we have been having some fantastic star gazing nights on clear evenings so many stars and constellations can be identified, we are slowly working our way around the night sky from Jupiter, everyday trying to identify a new constellation, now we are just waiting for our telescope to arrive!

Chloe and the Impala Team
Impala Camp, Selous

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Aug-Sept 2008


Cassia flowers, Selous Impala   Cassia flowers
Cassia flowers in Selous

08 September 2008

The season is becoming drier still and we are having fantastic daily game sightings. There is a great contrast between the lush areas around the water systems and the dry bush and scrub landscapes further inland, both areas are abundant with wildlife. In camp the long pod Cassias are in bloom and decorate the footpaths with gorgeous yellow flowers.

This dry time of year is great for our three chief predators to show off their impressive hunting behaviour, of which we can usually see the aftermath on game viewing activities.

Lioness and cubs, Selous   Male lion, Selous
Lions of the Nzerakela pride

Excellent sightings of the Nzerakera lion pride consisting of one male, four females and eight cubs are entertaining us all. They are successful in capturing their prey and have been seen on a number of occasions with more than one carcass to keep them going. The eight cubs are certainly being well fed and looked after ready to fend for themselves and bring up the next generation of Selous lions. There is a lion research project on going in the photographic area of the reserve, with which one of our guides Dennis has been actively involved. He was equipped with a GPS and digital camera and has provided the team with shots of another pride which is not often seen, as their territory is off the beaten track. Their research, which is largely a population study, is due to be published some time next year.

We had a successful month for fly camping, one of our fly camps guided by Makomba was lucky enough to have the Hunting Dogs in their camp to give them an early wake up call instead of the cup of tea they were expecting! Another of our fly camps was woken at 3am with a herd of 50 Buffalo ten meters away on the shores drinking from the lake, easily seen as it was a beautiful moonlit night.

We have had a good month in camp for Birding, especially from the view of the Restaurant, just recently we saw a fish eagle coming into land on a high branch, unusually with a young yellow bellied terrapin in his talons, and he almost lost his lunch as it kept slipping from his control. We have daily sightings of the Bohms bee-eater, as well as a couple of sightings of the Madagascar bee-eater and a recent spot of arrow-marked Bablers has increased the number count on our bird checklist. We are awaiting the arrival of the marvelous array Migrant bee-eaters within the next month or two.

In August we were visited by a group on safari with a twist, travelers who were cooking in the bush whilst on safari. It is a new concept and from our experience in the camp it was an engaging and fun time to spend with one another in the bush. After an early walking safari the group prepared their own brunch using a grill and charcoal. They use locally sourced, only African ingredients to make simple and tasty food. A sample from their menu: beef fillet earth baked in foil served with grilled sweet potato & peanut sauce. For more information you can contact Norbert: info@arumerulodge.com or go to www.kochkurs.com to see some pictures.

Chloe and the Impala Team

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August 2008


Selous leopard

7th August 2008

So far this has been the season of the Leopard - we have had prolific sightings of these elusive creatures throughout July with our M&M (Mussa 1 and Mussa 2) driver/guide team having nine different sightings between the 3rd and 30th of July. Not only is the number exciting but also the diversity of behaviour observed at these sightings has been great. A few days ago four Leopards were seen together filling themselves up on the same Zebra carcass. Later on that day a couple of these Leopards were seen rubbing each other on the bough of a tree then climbing down to mate in the privacy of the tall grass below the tree. They were consequently heard but not seen - loud screeches and coughs coming from the grass - loud enough to keep any intruders away!

Our walking safaris are still full of exciting and unpredictable surprises, Mr and Mrs Bagg were lucky enough to walk into the frequently seen pack of 3 Hunting Dogs not long after leaving the camp, the Dogs had spent the night close by after having killed an Impala the night before on the driveway into camp. Around thirty elephants then joined them for their bush breakfast by the lake - every boating or walking safari guarantees a good elephant sighting at this dry time of year, they are either crossing the water, eating or bathing in the refreshing river.

Rewarding end-of-walk sightings of Black and White Colobus have been brilliant near the thick forest area on the shores of lake Siwandu - these forest dwelling, most arboreal of monkeys are a treat to find and spot as they leap around the highest points of the trees - as they are usually heard roaring croaks and not seen because of their preference for staying high in the canopies of the forest. Their beautiful black and white fur contrasts perfectly with the myriad green shades of the forest.

Brian   Python

Again we are not without our own sightings from the comfort of camp, as well as our elephant and hippopotamus we have daily visits from an old bull Giraffe, also known as Brian. He spends hours grazing in camp from our reception to the restaurant and he even delights guests with a friendly afternoon wake up call service to the tents - much better than an alarm clock!

On a recent return from a river safari a three meter Python (mchatu in Kiswahili) was spotted on the river bank resting on a branch. The speed and strength of these amazing creatures should not be underestimated! Pythons are excellent swimmers, after a little disturbance caused by the presence of the boat he slid down into the safety of the water; before we had even turned around to follow his direction he had already covered a quarter of the width of the river, which was around 150 meters. The Python managed to cover the distance within a minute, we managed to follow his path as his head popped up and down out of the water. From the picture you can see they are beautiful creatures and also difficult to spot, but coastal thickets are one of their favourite dwellings.

Mloka football  Mloka school
Mloka village - nearby to Mtemere Gate

We delivered the football for fun, mentioned previously to the local village school - the pictures show the happy faces of the receivers! Thank you to Jon and Chris!

Chloe and Raffaella
Selous Impala

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July 2008


Elephant at Selous Impala camp   One-eared hippoHippo below Impala Lodge
Elephant wandering through the camp (lhs); one-eared hippo below the lodge (photo by Janet & Chris Wood, centre); hippo and boat near camp (rhs)

We have had a great start to the season bot outside the camp on safaris and at the camp.

Our one-Tusker elephant regularly turns up at lunch time one o’clock prompt in front of the restaurant, splashing through the water and feeding from the shrubs on the river banks. We also have our one-eared hippopotamus keeping us company daily- he doesn’t return back to the water until after 7am so he can often be seen grazing in camp on his pathway back to his water bed for the day time- this is a chance to really appreciate his enormous size!

Aromas from our weekly Swahili BBQ night attracts the attention of one particular bold spotted Genet - he gives us a dance around the glowing lanterns chasing the insects, although he is really after the sizzling beef steaks from the grill. A great chance to observe his beautiful markings and delicate kitten-like facial features - impossible to dislike.

Fishing trips have been popular and really successful so far - early morning is the best time to go for the catch of the day and is really enjoyed by everyone with a flask of coffee and the river scenery - as long as the crocs don’t get too close! The Smith Family from Scotland and Grant from LA are our winners so far in terms of catching the largest - a 20 kilo cat fish! African Skimmers also flock to their dry season nesting sights on the river banks at this time of year, we have been lucky enough to see how they lay they eggs in the sand. The same Smith family were also amongst our most successful Leopard watchers so far this season. A mating pair of Leopards, followed by a male Leopard with an Impala kill were seen on a transfer from the airstrip to camp which was certainly a great introduction!!

Mr and Mrs Issacs kindly donated a ‘Fair Pay - Fair Play’ football to the local village school which we will take as soon as the new term begins in a few weeks. It is a scheme called ‘Footballs for Fun’ with the profits from the sale of the footballs going to African Children’s charities. It is even better if you can buy one and transport it to a local community yourself like Jon and Chris have done - the ball also comes with a mini pump which is excellent for these conditions of large acacia thorns everywhere! Await pictures in the next update!

Chloe
Selous Impala Camp

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June 2008


Selous Wild Dogs    Crocodile on bank below Selous Impala camp

18th June 2008

The local pack of three Wild Dogs was most recently seen yesterday afternoon laying up in the shade by Lake Mzizimia under a dense canopy of Combretum trees. Previously they had been sighted within the vicinity of our old airstrip earlier in the week. Thus far into the season our Impala guides have been experiencing excellent sightings with their guests despite the fact that we have had only three of our six vehicles out at any one time. Of course we do not have to be reminded of the practical knowledge the bush can teach us and we Impala guides do take heed from our surrounding environment; as the Impala too well know – the more eyes and ears the better off one is - safety in numbers …

This month walks have been blessed with freshly crisp Rufiji mornings and breezy evenings. As we pass through a tropical Tanzanian autumn and approach our period of dry, the trees too progress and take note from the external factors. Many deciduous species are dropping their leaves in order to conserve their energy stores. Baobabs are leafless and bare, resembling giant skeletons and Tamarinds are heaving with fruit pods swaying in wait for Mohammed and our Fly-camp staff to get the experiment books off the shelf and conjure some fresh drink potions. The Mahogany’s too have all at once burst their pods throwing the attractive black- and red-coloured seeds over the autumn tan roads and animal tracks attracting Trumpeter Hornbills from far and wide to feed on the nutritious outer layers. The candy cane coloured Desert Roses alongside the vibrant yellows of the Cassia being the only splurge of vibrant colour this week.

After the full flow of the rainy season in April the river is now subsiding to expose newly formed sand banks which are proving to be a hit with the crocs sunbathing below our restaurant deck making for good viewing from the lunch table. However personally I reckon it is the aroma of the Zanzibar Spice Island Seafood soup that lures the scaled croc to within peering distance of the bread roll basket.


Kieran S Barnard
Selous Impala Camp

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Let the Games Begin - early June 2008


Wild Dogs playing   Male lion with cub

5th June 2008

Even prior to the arrival of our first clients this season, excitement is surrounding Impala Camp. A local pack of three Wild Dogs had been camped in the vicinity for a handful of days.

On one occasion recently a harem of impala had been split up, seen springing and speeding through the camp followed by three grinning dogs. We can only assume their efforts were rewarded – a whirlwind of vultures were seen descending three km’s away later in the morning. I can never keep accurate track of days of the week when in the bush. It must have been about three sunsets later, whilst out doing some pre-season birding, that our vehicle was halted in the middle of the road by the two males and single female not even 200m from our office. It is a privilege to see the dogs regularly and at such close proximity to our camp – great sightings and a good decision on the part of the canines to stick so close to Impala camp.

During the off season from April – June our immediate area of Selous was literally a flood plain with rain falling heavily, but concentrated only over a brief space of time. The Rufiji River had been flowing steadily for many a day with water levels increasing by the hour. However it seems the rain came all unusually heavily and suddenly this year, according to locals residing in the Rufiji district. Within a fortnight the water levels are receding. Unfortunately an accurate measurement of rainfall was not recorded. By my recollection we were driving through mud and tall green grass this time last year, in comparison to khaki coloured grass and grainy sand of today.

In terms of game viewing this is in fact a blessing for everyone. Due to the vastness of the Selous animals do have the freedom of movement which is mostly dictated by the availability of food source. The larger browsing and grazing mammals prefer to migrate inland in search of greenery and terrestrial rain water. A few months later once the rains have ceased the temperature will start to rise once again and once their food source depletes the vegetarians will start the trek from the interior back towards the plentiful Rufiji.

So although it is comparatively dry for this time of the season the animals are predicted to be flocking towards the river system from the vast surrounding plains. Some may unfortunately experience hard times further down the dusty track with this early onset of dry – however as in all scenarios someone will be there to reap the benefits. The local pride of one male lion, three females and sevewn newly born cubs now estimated at three months old will eagerly be anticipating a chance to sink their teeth into the advantages that an early dry season brings with it.

Kieran Barnard
Selous Impala Camp

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Diary of Safari Trip to Tanzania in November 2007 - by John and Marie Slater

Plane landing in the Selous
plane landing in the Selous
Selous Lionesses
photo by John & Marie Slater


Thursday 1st November

Up 6am, shower, European style breakfast. Taxi to airport. We walk to small plane; there are seven of us. 2500 feet, cloudy, some minor bumps, buzzed the airstrip in the Selous, by the Ruffiji river, then circled once more over lake with hippos and crocodiles and landed. We are met by Ezra our guide with a driver.
......click here for more

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The Last of 2007


Selous New Year 2008
  Selous New Year 2008

New Year 2007-2008

The final sunrise of 2007 peeped at us from above through a cool clouded 31 st Dec morning sky; ‘Ideal walking weather.’

Well into the walk our ears had picked up an alarmed squirrel chirping quite a distance away. We had expected possibly to see a tree snake or maybe even a bird of prey perched up in the canopy. What we saw was a Genet. The normally nocturnal animal was walking along the branches ten feet above the ground.

As we approached a clearing & rounded some obstructing trees, the sleek animal crouched on the supporting branches shielding itself behind a cluster of leaves. There she waited us out, moving only slightly as the incessant squirrel maintained his alarming from the neighbouring treetop.

For all of us there was a real sense of achievement in picking up on the signs & locating the usually unseen Genet.

All the guests staying at Selous Impala joined us later on in the day for the final sunset of 2007 with surprise sundowners organized on an island in Lake Siwandu. A boat met up with the Land Rovers direct from their game drives & promptly shuttled guests unaware of the plans to our sundowner spot.

Mafta, Khatibu & David had expertly set up a lavish spread with sangria & tasty snacks. The three of them proved to be talented improvisers entertaining all with song & dance on the lake shore as the guests arrived in the boat with Abdallah.

A gourmet barbeque had been organized by the kitchen staff & supervised by Sepa & Mohammed under the stars with after-dinner entertainment by the dancing Masaai watchmen.
We all rang in the new yer by the candle-lit swimming pool with bubbly & a special Panetone cake direct from Italy.

Happy 2008
Kieran Barnard
Selous Impala Camp

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November 2007 - Barred Owlets


This morning on our walk we ceased at a low and soft movement that was coming from in between the shed leaves on the ground. A 2.5m long Python was slithering no more than 3m from us. Well within reach.
Barred Owlet, Selous A kink midway along the body revealed prey larger than a squirrel yet smaller than an Impala calf. Deduction concluded that the snake must have caught a mongoose in the early morning whilst it was still cool enough to be mobile; and possibly the casualty of a mongoose hunt gone pear-shaped. Success on behalf of the constrictor saw the snake slowly slink into the undergrowth, curling up for digestion of the early morning meal.

Other interesting sightings on walk recently include a sighting of two Barred Owletts.
We were moving through the dense undergrowth of a Combretum forest fringing the lake-shore.
We were straining our necks in search of the Pied Colobus colony residing in the canopy of the forest.
We were distracted by the chirping of birds and curiosity found us following the avian alarm calls.
After all – you never know what you may come across in the bush. No two outings are the same.

The mobbing led us to a pair of African Barred Owlets roosting in the shade of a parasitic strangler fig.
They were being harassed by Bul Buls, thrushes and Cordon Bleus.
We stood gazing at the two owls. A real sense of achievement was shared by all in working and using
a bit of intuition to locate these unseen birds this morning.

 

Kieran Barnard – Impala Camp

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Early November - the rains are coming


Selous flower  Selous flower
Selous wild flowers in the rains

November 2007: Migratory Birds & Rainfall

The recent rainfall has opened up the door to several annual visiting bird species with 64.5mm having fallen from 22nd Oct – 28th Oct. Birds such as Diedrieks Cuckoo & the Red Chested Cuckoo whose easily recognizable call is ever present.

Since the 28th Oct we have had a warm dry spell which has seen the greenery around the reserve flourish at an amazing rate. Within the space of a week the sorrounding terrain has transformed into an Eden with wild flowers & lilies bursting out of the ground. Fireball lilies in particular.

The white throated bee eaters are trilling outstretched wings, displaying in celebration of their arrival from Europe recently. The breeding season has commenced. Migratory Bee-eaters have rapidly become more of a regular sighting in & around our local Termanalia Woodland.
The European Bee Eaters arrived mid October. My first sighting was on the 16th October - & that day four further sightings confirmed that the migratory birds had officially arrived collectively overnight.

Kieran Barnard – Impala Camp

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October 2007 - Python defeated by Business of Mongoose


10.10.2007

Chit Chit Chit Chit as we approached the undergrowth….

A loud scurrying through the undergrowth of bushes. Disturbance. Rattling of dead leaves. Beneath a massive Tamarind tree near to Lake Mzizimia our senses came together to indicate leaves flying like burning rubber behind a supercar. It was a ‘business of banded mongoose’ (true – the official collective noun of Mongoose is a business of mongoose).

Scampering away from our footsteps one or two would stop and turn, elevated on hind legs to snatch a clear view of the uninvited intruders. Whistles and squeaks followed after a moments silence on our part as if the animals had relaxed and were discussing their next move.

A large Python was the cause of all the commotion. An already partially Mongoose-mutilated Python.

At 7:30am we had unintentionally discovered the scene. Only a few hours before the little carnivores must have mobbed and attacked this large snake. Measuring 1.5m this particular individual was young and small compared to his optimun of 3 – 4metres in length.

We stayed to watch in anticipation of the mongooses returning to feed on the snake. Hidden far enough from the serpent so as not to disturb we patiently waited still with binoculars in hand. One by one the investigative group hesitatingly returned. Step by step – with every second followed by a peer in our direction to make sure the coast was clear for an advance.

Our patience paid off and this morning we were rewarded by a truly memorable sighting. It was a unique experience to witness this animal, Africa’s most social carnivore feeding.
But what made this occasion stand out for me was the feeling of proximity. There was no vehicle involved, nothing to contrive the experience. We all felt as though we were sharing the moment with the ecstatic creatures. Nothing in between us. Just our observant selves and their frenzied celebration of the hunt.

Kieran Barnard – Impala Camp

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October 2007 - Camping Month


Manze Lion
Male Lion in the Lake Manze area, Selous

Chirpy afternoons spent listening to the birdsong under shady palm trees beside Manze lake. Overlooking the Water hyacinth on which the long-legged African Jacanas were flirting with one another. Away from the floating vegetation the shores were brimming with Black Winged stilts. A raft of Plovers and always overlooking our scene a friendly Yellow-billed Stork would be trekking back and forth in search of small fry.

There was more often than not a great lion sighting to be had across the lake during the early morning drives. We had our fair share of lion sightings on foot too having witnessed lions both hunting and on kills too.
The heartland of this particular pride lies in an open section of Lake Manze. An area of the reserve where the terrain is quite open, more of a savannah than the thick wooded areas surrounding the remaining four lakes which branch off the Rufiji. This makes the water of Manze that little bit sweeter and safer to drink.

Over the month we witnessed great sightings of the Manze pride. Each night we were within earshot of the vocal males – regular choruses carrying across the moonlit water.
I remember one early morning in July, we had only just walked about 500m from our morning tea by the lakeside in camp, when we saw the two dominant brothers of the pride lying side by side across the glade from where we were standing.
The eleven strong pride had secured a double jackpot: a healthy female wildebeest and her calf. The fallen victims had trooped along in a single file column with several hundred other wildebeest and zebra – as the animals do every night during the dry season, going to drink.

The Selous Game Reserve is a historically rich area too, and for those interested we paid visits to Selous’ grave and the Beho Beho hills; the site at which the battle between the Brits and the Germans culminated in the death of Selous in 1917.
Therein we spent many a morning roaming the battlegrounds and trying to appreciate just how tough a situation it must have been for the young soldiers back in those days.

Occasional restful afternoons were spent in camp and an early morning ‘rejuvenation’ trip to the hot springs was always a popular way to refresh mid way through our drives.

November has arrived - and now we are expecting the short rains to commence. However, we have since been fly-camping upon special request.

Kieran Barnard – Impala Camp

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October 2007 - the short rains approach


Impala with young
Impala with young

Each day I am discovering unexplored areas and traversing terrain touched only by the spoor of animals. Scenic territory that is undoubtedly unknown to vehicles and boats. Hidden and tucked away from all but those who venture by foot.

Subtleties of change within the Selous eco-system are noticeable everywhere. Walking in the bush daily one is aware of the slightest changes; the receding levels of the lakes, the seeding of the grasses and of course the fluorescent flowering on the trees. Not to mention the sweet scents that they carry.

Breakfast at Lake Manze
breakfast at Lake Manze

As the Selous approaches the short rains, increasingly more and more offspring are appearing with the anticipation of an abundance of fresh green grazing. Impala lambs are seen bounding behind their mothers through the bush everywhere. These days there is the ever present scent of the massive flowering Mahogany in the air. It is a curious mix between Jasmine and Honeysuckle and is a favourite of the Impalas the moment it reaches the ground. Eagerly watchful of the lambs are the eyes of many predators. Both from the skies above and on the ground below: they are old foes and seasonal allies.

This morning on foot we came across an Impala that could not have been more than a couple of hours old. Mother and young were shaded beneath the safety of an Acacia; however not far off beyond the protective canopy was a large male Baboon thinking only of his stomach and this tender snack before him…

Sadly a significant percentage of these lambs will succumb to the greedy paws and jaws of those higher ranked animals in the food chain. However, as with all aspects in nature each process and relationship has a knock on effect and a role to play elsewhere within the web. It is the role of some animals to be fed and for other to do the feeding…

At the end of the day mother nature will always maintain her ceteris parabus.

Kieran S Barnard
Selous Game Reserve

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September 2007 - Bush Walk from Selous Impala Camp


White-throated bee-eater     Selous Fish Eagle

I set out on walk this morning at 6:30am to beat the tropical bush heat with two guests and a game scout of the wildlife division. We headed for Lake Siwandu upstream along the course of the Rufiji where the riverine areas are alive with all sorts of birdlife. Several Hammerkop nests are dotted along the river bank route snug in between branches and forks of the larger trees. The cries of fish eagles are audible no matter where one is along the Rufiji River. Fish eagles can be seen daily on foot, as well as several species of Bee-Eaters, Sunbirds and many aquatic species. Today I saw my first Broadbilled Roller in the Selous, an intra-African migrant admiring the view from the top of what must have been a 2500 year old Baobab tree.
"If only this tree could tell stories" We would no doubt be in awe of his wisdom. How many hunter gatherers have slept in the shade of the tree over the hundreds of years? What types of animals and birds would have taken refuge here like the roller today – some possibly even unknown to us.

A realization of what a privlege it is to be able to freely roam territory such as this. An area that has been unscathed and unaltered by processes other than those of mother nature herself.

 

Later on, whilst taking a shaded water break in a Combretum forest we spotted two Suni – tiny secretive antelope seldom seen by visitors' eyes. Keeping deadly still we observed them from a short distance ecstatically flickering their tails whilst feeding on greenery on the forest deck. Suddenly all of our eyes shot upwards to the canopy of the trees in response to a nerve-racking shaking of the branches. It was a group of Pied Colobus monkeys. They were sitting observing our habits in their habitat. It was a great sighting of two completely unrelated and shy species working collectively for breakfast.

 

Time for us to go and graze some bacon and eggs on the lake shore at our bush breakfast meeting point at Lake Siwandu…

Kieran Barnard
Selous Impala Camp

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September 2007


Lioness on kill    Cornered Leopard

Humid and hot Selous morning drive towards Sonongo area. The open patches of grassland surrounded by the sweet scent of the Terminalias framed a lazy morning filled with Zebras, Impalas and colourful Birdlife. Although in this harmony we heard an odd noise, a Baboon barking his alarm. A barking baboon means predators and normally one of the two, a Lion or a Leopard. We started to look around for something but no signs except the persistent alarm call of the monkey. Then on a lone Jackal Berry tree we noticed the carcass of a female Impala. We knew that the Leopard was around, we knew it was close, in the thicket around a small pool of water, but we could not see it. We gave up but decided to come back in the afternoon.

And there we were again in the afternoon, same car, same place, same tree but to our astonishment in the shade of the Jackal Berry there was a Lioness eating the remains of an Impala. Golden evening light underlining the beauty of the Lioness, our ears listening to the crunching sound of the meal and our eyes looking somewhere else. Looking to the handsome male Leopard on the top of the tree. The Leopard had obviously lost the Impala to the hungry Lioness and found himself cornered in the branches. We remained there for more than one hour until it was almost dark. We were watching the Lioness eating, watching the several attempts of the Leopard to climb down the tree, watching another amazing interaction between two of the super-powers of the bush.

Impala Camp, Pietro Luraschi

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August 2006  - Wild Dogs in Selous and Ruaha


Wild Dog  Wild Dogs greeting

Earlier this year I visited two of the great African conservation areas in Southern Tanzania – Selous Game Reserve, and the Ruaha National Park. I was desperately hoping to see the elusive African Hunting Dog – Lycaon pictus – which are commonly known in the area as Wild Dogs. Lycaon is from the Greek and means “wolf” and pictus means “painted” – they are “painted dogs”. The Selous and The Ruaha are two of the very few places in Africa where they can still be seen, though in twenty years of game trips in Tanzania, I had only seen these rare and endangered creatures once.

I flew from Dar es Salaam to Mtemere airstrip in Selous with Coastal Aviation whose fleet of light aircraft boast a distinctive logo in black, red and gold. The smiling pilot handed us out and pointed out the waiting vehicle which had come to take us to Selous Impala camp, which is managed and run by Adventure Camps. The thirty minute drive took us an hour as we stopped frequently to admire animals and birds along the way. But soon we rolled in to the spacious camp with its 8 green tents on stilts, hidden in the thorny bush. Beyond we could see the shining Rufiji river.I love the décor of this camp, distinctly “Out of Africa” style, professional, possibly a little on the masculine side, with the emphasis on sturdy canvas tents furnished with kikoys, polished wood, brass and comfortable sofas and tables spread out in the attractive lodge area, with its open verandah for dining under the stars with the mighty river rolling by just below just a few metres away.

After a friendly welcome by the camp managers and a cool drink, I was ready to go. I climbed into a sturdy landrover with a guide, Vincent Horry, and a driver. We started out in a northerly direction, heading for Lake Siwandu. The sky to the east was thunderous and black, but still no rain. Many of the trees and bushes were putting out startlingly green shoots and leaves, so we knew it was on the way. Suddenly a dog-like creature flitted in amongst the roadside vegetation. Could it be an African hunting dog?

This was a false alarm – it turned out to be a hyaena. There were several of them, some of them young. We suddenly heard a keening cry in a gully to the right, off the road; a hyaenaHyaena feeding young mother was being pestered by her offspring, who yipped and yelped until she gave in and lay down so that it could suckle. They almost made a pretty picture in the evening light.

We drove on further as the evening drew in and the light darkened. All at once I turned my head and there they were – the distinctive black and fawn patterned heads with large rounded ears – two scouts sitting on a little hillock. For sure there were more of them, as Wild Dogs always live and hunt as a pack. Vincent and I grinned at each other in delight as he eased the vehicle towards them gently, keeping a fair distance to give them space. We counted 10 wild dogs in all, peacefully resting, waiting for the cool of evening when it would be time to hunt. In spite of the lack of rain and the dryness of the bush, they seemed to be in really good condition, their pelts thick and shiny. Some of the group had beautiful colouring, bright tan, pitch black, fawn and splashes of white. A few of the younger ones were restless and hungry, we watched for a long time and every so often some of them would jump up, start chivvying the others, touching noses and generally meeting and greeting. Then they would all sit down again and appear to go to sleep.

We decided to leave them in peace. We moved on to watch the sunset at the nearby lake, and then went back in time for candlelit dinner at the camp. ‘Watch out for elephants’ said the manager, as a Maasai askari guided me to my tent, carrying a good strong torch in one hand and a spear in the other.

All night, crickets buzzed, the volume growing and falling in a gentle cadence. One African belief is that the crickets’ hum is the stars calling to their hunting dogs. I imagined our Wild Dog pack streaking through the dark bush, calling to each other as they hunted a fleeing prey. In the morning I woke to the birds’ morning chorus, and then to the sound of a tea tray being put down on the veranda table. A hippo was snorting and wallowing in the river below, and a flock of open-billed storks were combing the waters for fish and other edibles. I started towards the lodge for breakfast, but drew back to wait as a herd of six elephant – including two babies – majestically ambled their way past on their way to the river.

After breakfast, I said goodbye to Selous Impala and headed for the airstrip to wait for the Coastal plane to Ruaha. This duly came and we flew off over the Rufiji, a network of sandbanks and watercourses, soon to be swollen to a brown torrent when the expected rains came.

The flight took about 2 hours and we landed at the main Airstrip at Msembe, the Ruaha National Park headquarters. Malcolm Ryen, the overall manager of Adventure Camps was there to meet me and told me that we were not going to the camp but to Jongomero first, to lunch with some friends, who turned out to be Sue Stolberger and Rob Glen, two artists who live in the Ruaha, each with their own camp close by on the Great Ruaha river.

It turned out that they were making a film using some of the Adventure Camps’ guides, Richard Mhlowo and Naiti Masonda, to help educate people in the Ruaha ecosystem about African Wild Dogs, in order to try to stop them being hunted and killed by the villagers in the area, who fear them. Sue’s mother was visiting her and Rob Glen turned up too for lunch. We were all roped in immediately as “extras” for the film, enacting the part of tourists gazing at a pack of (nonexistent) Wild Dogs.

Our reward was a delicious curry lunch on Sue’s shady veranda just above the river bed. Her camp is very simple and attractive, quite small but efficient, and very ecologically run. She has solar batteries to charge her laptop – essential for someone who connects all over the world by email regularly, especially for her conservations work. She has one tent for sleeping and beside it another with her artist’s studio and the veranda on which we sat to relax and eat lunch. Her easel held a beautiful oil painting of a elephant sheltering under a Baobab. Sue has been painting the wildlife in Ruaha for many years and she and Rob, who is a sculptor, exhibit their work all over the world.

Looking out over the river, I was horrified to see how little water there was in what was once a mighty all-year-round river. This is because of rice-schemes upriver in the cachment area – over the past 10 years this beautiful river has slowly shrunk, and it seems that so far nothing is being done about it. Sue is helping the Ruaha Conservation Fund who are seriously concerned about these problems. You can see her website at: www.suestolberger.com/rcf.htm

Here, as in the Selous, they were waiting for rain – the Ruaha was even drier though, and would have to wait longer until the winds from the monsoon in the east reached the area and catalysed the rainy season.

After lunch we drove to Mdonya Old River camp, in the south west of the Park, opposite its own dry sandriver, a corridor for game. While I was in camp I saw elephant, giraffe, buffalo, zebra, impala, kudu, hyaena, jackals, baboons and lots of other wildlife wander through, in perfect viewing distance from the tents.

I was happy to reach the cool green shade of the camp – one of the prettiest areas in Ruaha, with high Acacia albida and other spreading trees dotted generously about.

My tent was airy and spacious and quite a bit cooler than the Selous had been. I took a shower under the stars – here the bathroom is open-roofed, a wondrous experience. Then I dressed for dinner and went over to the lounge tent for a drink and to browse the library there, chatting with other guests. Dinner was delicious, beautifully served by smiling waiters. Malcolm took me to see two genet cats who regularly come to visit the office banda in the evening, one courageous, the other very shy.

Next morning, after tea in my tent and more bird choruses, I breakfasted and went to look at the camp, which is spread out over a large area. There are 11 tents in all, 3 of which are family tents, which have an extra tent room with twin beds, zipped on the front of the double tent, while the normal tents have a large veranda instead. At the back there is a dressing room and the "skylight" shower and loo. None of the tents are close together and privacy and peace are the rule.

After this we took off on a game drive – Malcolm had heard that wild dogs had been seen not far away. I could not believe my luck when I saw my second pack in two days, in two different reserves – something I have never heard of before, in the case of an ordinary visitor.

This group was larger than the Selous dogs – about 29 were counted altogether, resting in the shade of a tree in the Mwagusi sand riverbed. It was magical. We watched them for hours and I felt I got to know them quite well. It was very hot and they lay panting, a mass of speckled furry bodies, half in and half out of a pool of water. Every so often they would nuzzle each other, uttering occasional yips. A giraffe came to drink nearby but kept an extremely wary eye on them. One youngster got up and attempted to hunt it, but got no cooperation from its brothers and sisters, and withdrew into the shade again and went to sleep. Malcolm knew the pack well, he has seen them often and followed their progress whilst working at the Mdonya Old River camp. He and Pietro Luraschi, who is now manager of the camp, have given all their pictures and photos to TANAPA. Malcolm and Sue Stolberger have made a beautiful map of the Ruaha, which is for sale and the proceeds go to conservation in Ruaha.

The area you can see in Ruaha is large and very spread out, with many different types of terrain, from riverine, to forest, to escarpment scrub, to thick bush, to open plains. So many different species of animals and birds are there – over 529 species of birds, over 400 in Selous. One often sees the shy Greater Kudu there, and sometimes even Sable and Roan Antelope too. Ruaha National Park is part of a much larger ecosystem which includes two further protected areas, the Rungwa and Kizigo Game Reserves. This wonderful and little-known protected area is a haven for many unusual and rare animals, including the African Hunting Dog.

I stayed two nights at Mdonya and was sad to leave – the only way I could bring myself to go was by telling myself that I will be back there often. Maybe I will be lucky to see the Painted Dogs again!

by Flo Montgomery

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October 2005


At the moment we feel we are shortly before the rainy-season. Every morning there is the evidence of a night-patter and every afternoon there is the threat of the skies. But still it holds. Humidity makes us tired and slow. Up to now the river and its lakes were the only waterbodies and therefor game around it abundant and fairly easy to keep track of. The signs that the rains are nearing are there. The Impala have given birth in abundance, the warrior ants are on the road and the coucal calls more often. Even the Wild dogs are "denning" and sightings have been regular. The young still have to be spotted but that can be any time. In the short period I've been here I never heard any sounds of concern about the Wild Dogs so they must be doing well.

 Allthough the overcast wil provide us with cool days and the freshness of the green bush gives a welcome change to the dry, and yellow pallet it will also mean that the skills of our guides and drivers will be tested. Waterholes will form away from the river and the need for the animals to come to the river will be smaller. It is hard to say what we can expect in terms of rainfall as for the last two years the "small" rainy-season was bigger then the "big" rainy-season. El Nino??

Venturing away from the river entails another problem. Poaching will be more difficult to control. Now the camps, together with the park officials, are alert on sightings and tracks but if the wild life ventures out of our field of vision and more towards the park boundaries the casualties of this on-going war will increase. Already in the last weeks we found Elephants dying on one occasion because the trunk got caught in a wire trap. On another occasion we saw an elephant with a shotwound in the leg which had to be shot by park officials. Still the amount of incidents do not seem alarming and the park with its outside benifciaries seems to be succesful.   

To illustrate that the lodges and camps profide safety for the animals: we found traces of hair and Impala droppings in our bar! This means that the animal actually ventured up the steps and slept in the bar!

Onno de Rover
Camp Manager, Selous Impala

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March 2005


Beautiful Enemies

Thursday 24 March 2005 Selous Impala

In the morning after watching the two beautiful male lions of Sonongo pride for an hour, we were driving towards Nzerakera lake, when something focused our attention.... impalas, a big group running fast, too fast not to be followed by predators.... and here they were, wild dogs.

It was the Siwandu pack, 11 dogs. They failed to catch the impala so they started to sleep.... then suddenly they ran and after ten metres a hyena jumped out of the bush: the dogs surrounded it and chased it away.

After half an hour we decided to leave but returned to the same spot in the afternoon at 16.30. The same dogs were there. Just before 18.00 the dogs started greeting each other and moving on to hunt. We followed them, losing them several times in bushy areas, but luckily we always found them again. After following for more than 5 km, we were near to losing them again when a young and small dog passed in front of the car and it saw a male impala. The dog started running fast now and the impala was doing the same: it was a competition to survive.

Wild Dogs and Impala

The dog was faster and managed to bite the impala at the neck.

We were on the road 10 meters from them ... they were still, both standing, the dog holding the impala from the neck... and whooping, whooping, whooping. It was calling the others, holding, whooping and waiting. The wait was short, another dog appeared and immobilised the impala, biting the back legs.... soon all the dogs were overpowering the impala, they rolled it down and started biting and eating meat from the soft belly of the herbivore. The Impala was still alive and struggling to stand again.. but it had no chance, in one minute it was dead with all the dogs feasting around it. We were astonished... amazed... the wonder at what we had seen was unbelievable....

We looked at each other in the car... wordless witnesses of the African drama, of the struggle for life between a common herbivore and one of the world's most endagered species.

Impalas and painted hunting dogs, beautiful enemies.

Pietro Luraschi, Denis Mchopa B. Masare, A.Ali
Selous Impala Camp

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July 2004


Selous Impala Lodge from Rufiji

In July this year, I flew from Zanzibar to the Selous on Coastal Travels’ excellent schedule. Everything went like clockwork and soon we were floating over the enormous Rufiji with its many rivulets and sandbanks. We landed on the red dirt airstrip where we were met by a vehicle from the Selous Impala Camp which at that time was run by an extremely friendly young couple from Zimbabwe, Fiona and Sean Torrie, with the help of their little daughter Tiffany.

A pleasant half hour game drive through the bush brought us to the camp, situated right on the banks of the river. The main building is wide and spacious with thatched roof and polished wooden floors. It is furnished with comfortable planter chairs and antiques and there is a welcoming bar. Next to it I caught a flash of blue – an inviting swimming pool lay on the riverbank not far from the lodge. We were whisked to our tent, a long walk along the river side, as there are only six tents and they are spaced far apart for privacy. The tent was set on a wooden platform, to give height for cool breezes and safety from snakes and insects. The verandah looked down on the river and an elephant splashed away from just below us as we arrived. Hippos snorted and honked close by.

We made our way through the netted doorway into the tent, and were pleasantly surprised by the airy interior with its shining teak floors and handwovern kikoys in beautiful warm colours. There was an attractive writing desk and brass lamps – this reminded me more than a little of Karen Blixen’s lifestyle of the last century.

After we had settled in we were taken on the river in a powerful boat and expertly piloted about on the Rufiji, seeing elephants and buffalo on the banks, fish eagles and many varieties of water birds, as well as crocodiles and hippos aplenty. We spent half an hour watching a colony of white throated bee-eaters flitting in and out of their nests on the bank. Their brilliant green, blue and orange colours flashed about and reflected in the water, joining the warm shades of the setting sun.We saw thousands of mighty Borassus ethiopica palms lining the banks and some had lost their heads as the river changed its course and swamped the bases.

We returned to the camp for a leisurely and very civilized dinner with a sickle-shaped African moon looking down on us. Then we were escorted to our tent by four Maasai askaris armed with spears, clubs and a powerful torch, to make sure that we did not run into any prowling animals. We slept very well in our cosy tent – there did not seem to be any mosquitos around and certainly no tsetse flies which is a pleasant experience. These are controlled in the Selous, Fiona told me.

Next morning we were taken in a high four-wheel vehicle to look for game. This we certainly found, surprising a pride of twenty-five lions encamped around a group of Hyphaene compressa palms. There were two or three groups of cubs of different ages. We spent a long time watching the smallest three, spotted balls of fur who were having great difficulty staying awake. All in all, we felt we had seen an enormous amount in one short day and night and when the Coastal aeroplane came to pick us up from the airstrip that afternoon, we were sorry to say goodbye and eager to return again soon.

 

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