LBAH Informational Articles

Tanzania July 2009 (redux)

This 5th trip to Africa was a repeat of my first trip to Africa taken 23 years ago. I have learned a lot about traveling and photographing in Africa since then and put this experience to use.  All the work and attention to detail paid off because this trip was the best one so far. Everyone enjoyed themselves and felt the trip exceeded expectations, which was my primary goal. We tentatively plan on going back in February of 2011 to watch 30,000 wildebeests have their calves in a 2 week period of time.

There is nothing more entertaining than watching a baby elephant at a water hole. This video shows a few seconds of elephant behavior we encountered often on our trip. 

Yup, this is me 23 years ago at the entrance to the Serengeti at the Naabi Hill gate. While planning out the details  of the 2009 trip I was hoping to go back to this exact same spot and take another picture.

From what I can tell this is the same spot in July of 2009. This is based on comparing a rock that is present in the lower right of both photos. Look at the markings at the top front of the rocks in the closeup photos that follow.

1986 Rock
2009 Rock

This trip was a whirlwind of sites and activity. We started in Arusha (at the base of Kilimanjaro), and went through Tarangire National Park, then Lake Manyara National Park, to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, ending up in the Serengeti. It was similar to the trip that many people take in Tanzania and was a perfect trip for the first-timers in my group.

Along the way we went to Oldupai (its Oldupai not Olduvai for you purists) Gorge where the Leakey’s found evidence of our hominid ancestors. We were literally at the historical site 50 years and 1 day after the discovery. This is in the Great Rift Valley, the area that our earliest ancestors originated from as they colonized the world. It is fascinating to be in this area, imagining them coming down from the trees millions of years ago and adapting to this environment as they evolved into homo sapiens.

This section of northern Tanzania, along with the Masai Mara in Kenya, is called the Greater Serengeti Ecosystem. It is a timeless place where the wildebeest and other ungulates migrate for water and optimum grazing. It is the grasses in this ecosystem that makes this all happen. As they migrate they go through territories held by predators and interact with them in many ways.

It is these funny-looking guys, called the Blue Wildebeest (the Swahili name is Gnu), migrating in the millions, that are a big part of making this extravaganza of wildlife happen

I did not take many photos on this trip by design. I set up it so my guests would do almost all of the photography using my professional equipment and guidance. Of course they drove me crazy with all their questions, but once you see their photos it will be apparent they learned rapidly and are good wildlife and nature photographers. Besides, even if the pictures did not come out we had a blast taking them and sharing them.

Just because I said I did not take many photos does not mean I did not take any photos. The lioness above on the log was taken by me the last day of Group 2’s stay at the mobile camps in the Serengeti. The lioness was quite obliging in that afternoon sun. I also have a sequence of pictures of a lioness stalking and killing a wildebeest. The link to these pictures are further down the page.

As you will learn from this page my trips are substantially more personal and customized than a typical safari. A pre-trip meeting at my place covers all questions and gives everyone a chance to meet. This icebreaker gets the group dynamics off to the right start when everyone meets in Africa and starts their actual travels together.

Before the trip anyone is welcome to spend the day with me practicing with their own camera and lens. After the trip I make a web page, which you are reading right now,  for everyone so they can share their experience online. Finally, everyone gets to invite their friends to a slide show at my place so they can show off their trip to others and feel really cool when their picture appears on the screen and they get to tell the story about it.

To add to the personal and custom touch during the trip I have 3 people maximum per car (most groups have 5-7), plan out the next day only once we have the best idea where the wildlife are, let each car go where it wants based on what its occupants decide, and constantly rotate with me in the photography car to use the professional equipment. And the price is the same.

A vehicle filled with people that is typical of the other tours we encountered on this trip. Those tours were TAUK, Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) and National Geographic

Our vehicles with plenty of room to move and take photos, and 3 persons maximum

Everyone, even if they have no interest in photography, is welcome to join (although most people tend to develop a keen interest in photography once they see how much fun everyone is having). These trips book up very fast because I keep them small and personal.

In a foreign land with such a large area to cover the guides make the trip. The one’s we had from Ranger Safari were excellent, especially at taking our group photos.

This is Firoz, the best guide in the Serengeti!

They got to wear some cool Oakley sunglasses courtesy of Silvia

Both sets of guides were awesome! They learned lots of American slang and I even taught them how to find hidden wildlife.

This is me the last day of the last group, packed up and set to go. I am a little tired from answering  way too many photography questions and lugging camera equipment around for 21 days, but at least I am still smiling!

In 2007 we went to the Masai Mara, located in southwest Kenya, to see the Wildebeest migration  as they crossed the Mara river. You can learn about this trip here. The Masai Mara page will show you the professional photography equipment I bring on all of my Africa trips for everyone to use in case you are interested in what we used to capture these photos. When the next Africa trip gets finalized I will post it on my photography page. Contact me at anytime with questions.

Before we get on to the remainder of this page I leave you with one last photo I took on the last day. It is two Cape Buffalo with a vulture in a tree towards sunset in the Serengeti.

This page is broken down into several sections. Click on the main photo for each section and you will be taken through a succession of pages and pictures within that section. The sections are in this order:

  • The 19 people that went with me
  • The sequence of the lioness hunting the wildebeest
  • A few very short videos of some people in each group enjoying themselves

All the photos on this page have been decreased in size and resolution for faster downloading on the web, so they do not show their true beauty. They are available in very high resolution and suitable for customizing and printing at professional quality at 30 ” x 20″. Let me know if any individual photo interests you and I will print and mail it to you at cost plus postage.

Group 1

Group 2

Bob and Linda


Mike and Carole




Lela and Robert

Joan and Rick




Hunting Lioness

On Group 1’s second day in the Serengeti, while some were ballooning, Joy, Linda, and myself were the morning photography crew. Joy and Linda were doing the usual shooting and asking lots of dumb photography questions when we came across a lioness that was hungry and looking for breakfast. When our guide said “hang on she is stalking” I grabbed the camera from Linda (sorry Linda, its in my rule book) and tried to hang on and shoot as we bounced in reverse to get a better vantage point. All 3 of us were shaking for quite a while after witnessing this up front and personal. And Linda was relieved that she was not responsible for screwing up this once-in-a-lifetime photo chance. Click on the lioness photo below to see the sequence- it is not for the faint of heart!


Some very short and candid videos of our group talking about the trip. I busted them first thing in the AM the last day while they were still waking up so some of them look like deer caught in headlights.

Click on their face once and the Quicktime movie will play automatically. 

Mike Kim describing his overall experience

Bob Tonnacour relating his experience

Mike Gerutto talking about how he liked the trip

The Dinkers saying good bye

The Dinkers inviting some friends on a future trip while watching a leopard. It was a breezy day so the beginning has some excess wind noise that goes away.

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Tanzania 2009 Group 1

This group sure knew how to eat and boy did they love their wine!
Click on the picture above to see them as a group.

Click on the individual pictures below to see Group 1 participants at their best (usually).



Mike and Carol


Bob and Linda

The Gerutto Family

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Scaling and Polishing Teeth

Proper dental care involves more than just scraping tartar off the teeth. Thorough dental care involves scaling, probing and polishing. These can only be accomplished on an anesthetized pet. It is not realistic to think that somebody can scrape tartar off of an awake pet and be as thorough as we can on an anesthetized pet. When these procedures are performed properly we can reverse the gingivitis process and keep the teeth and gums healthier for a longer period of time.

Scaling & Polishing

Scaling teeth is greatly facilitated by a special instrument called an ultrasonic scaler. By vibrating tartar off the teeth with the scaler we cause minimal trauma to the tooth enamel. In addition, the rapid manner in which it removes the tartar minimizes anesthetic time. The gentle nature of the scaler allows us to clean under the gumline and not irritate the gums.

A special dental instrument is used to crack off large pieces of tartar before we use the scaler. This enables us to clean the teeth faster, another method to minimize anesthetic time. It also reduces wear on the ultrasonic scaler tip.


We use a specialized ultrasonic scaler that is made for animal teeth.


The tip vibrates 18,000 times per second, and literally vibrates tartar off the teeth. It does not harm the enamel, and lets us clean the teeth faster than doing it by hand. It continually sprays water to minimize heat buildup which could irritate the gums.


When the tartar is heavy, like this canine tooth, it takes longer to remove. To minimize any trauma to the tooth’s enamel or gum, we drip additional water on the area being scaled. Without the scaler this tooth would need hand scaling, a process that would take substantially longer.


The ultrasonic scaler does a thorough job of removing the visible tartar. It also excels at removing tartar under the gumline where it can not be seen. This is a critical part of the scaling process. Only when this step is performed are the teeth properly cleaned.


After scaling a special dental probe is carefully inserted under the gum to determine the degree of involvement. IF there is a pocket we will pack the opening with doxycycline to restore the gums to normal health.


After the teeth are scaled and probed we spray them with chlorhexidine to further help eliminate the bacteria that are causing gingivitis.


Polishing the teeth makes them look whiter. It also smoothes off the enamel surface and makes it more difficult for bacteria to adhere. Once bacteria get re-established, the cycle of plaque leading to tartar and eventually gingivitis gets started all over again.

Please return to our Dental Page to learn much more about this important problem.

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Tourists of the Serengeti

We had a great crew on all three of our locations on this trip. Here are a few of their mugs- names are included to add to the indignity. 







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Animals of the Serengeti

Here is a smattering of some of the animals we saw on the trip

Agama lizard

Bat-eared fox

The very rare Caracal. When it comes to this cat I usually get a shot of its south end
while it is heading north. 


Dung beatle

Grant’s gazelle

Spotted hyena

Thomson’s gazelle


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Jackal of the Southern Serengeti

These jackals look just like coyote

The jackals are bonding with each other as they revel over their prey.

As the gazelle mother circled they aggressively defended their meal

When the mother got her courage up she chased one of the jackals

The other jackal continued to feed, now without being harassed by the gazelle

Click on the picture below for a graphic 30 second silent video of them feeding

This video not suitable for all audiences

Jackal eating gazelle silent video

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Cheetah of the Southern Serengeti

Cheetahs tend to be daytime hunters, and with their beautiful markings and haircoats make good photographic subjects. In February of every year they take advantage of the easy pickings of very young Thompson and Grant’s gazelle, along with wildebeest calves and zebra foals. This is an ideal time to teach young cheetah how to hunt.

The end of this page has graphic photos of a cheetah eating a baby gazelle that are not suitable to all viewers

They scan for prey constantly and never seem to notice us

These youngsters came down to Lake Ndutu for an early morning drink of the soda water

Their mother walked right past us

And sat on a small hill to scan for breakfast

These two cheetah were having a little disagreement

They were easily distracted by zebra and chased them to see if there was any easy pickings

A cheetah walking through the plains looking for young gazelle hidden in the grass. Click
on the photo below and watch a video of her scanning for a few seconds.

Cheetah Searching Grass

The Thomson’s gazelle are highly alerted to her presence

Her eyesight is keen and she zeroes in on a 1 day old gazelle

By the time we catch up she has her meal

She started feeding at the back first and moved towards the front

This gazelle is young and tender, so she eats the whole carcass, including the head

She periodically took a break from eating to look for lion and hyena that might take her

Click on the picture below to watch her eating for 40 seconds

Cheetah Eating Gazelle

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Birds of the Southern Serengeti

East Africa is a mecca for birders. In addition to the normal residents there were a significant number of migrators in February. This page has a few of the more interesting and colorful birds. 

European roller

Juvenile Bateleur eagle

Augur buzzard

Augur buzzard melanistic phase

Flamingo heaven at Lake Ndutu

Hildebrant’s starling

Ruppell’s vulture

Click on the picture below to watch short video of how intensely they feed alongside a hyena

Vultures eating

Marsh owl

Nubian vulture

Pygmy falcon 

Secretary bird

Spotted Thick-knee

Speckled pigeon

Lilac-breasted roller

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Tanzania 2011

It is in February of every year in the southern Serengeti that the wildebeests try to overwhelm the predators by calving in the tens of thousands. It is during this time that the predators have a feast, which you will see on this page.

On this same trip we saw the gorillas in Rwanda on the way to the Serengeti, and ended our trip with the Hadzabe in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

We were in the Lake Ndutu region of the Serengeti (black arrow at the bottom). In mid-February, as the rains start to return, the mineral rich grasses sprout and the wildebeest arrive.

This calf with its mother is only one day old. Click on this picture to see a very short video of wildebeest grazing with their young to give you a glimpse of just how many animals graze at this specific spot when the rains return.

Wildebeest Calves

A female cheetah in the southern Serengeti on the hunt in the early morning. Click on her picture to see many pictures of this beautiful cat in action, along with a short video of her eating.

Serengeti Cheetah

These lions were part of a large pride resting in the Seronera area of the Serengeti. Click on the picture to see lots of babies and hunting.

Lions on Rock

This is a lilac-breasted roller. If you click on the photo you will see a sampling of the many birds we encountered.

Tanzania birds

Brown jackals in a standoff with a Grant’s gazelle. This link contains graphic photos of the jackal’s attacking her calf.

Jackal eating gazelle

Miscellaneous animals of the Serengeti. There are way too many to show, so click on the elephant photo below to see a few of the different species we encountered

Srengeti animals

Breakfast in the Serengeti. Click this photo for a glimpse of some of our travelers

Our group

Return to Wildlife Photography page.

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Rwanda Gorillas 2011

The mountain gorillas in Rwanda are a success story. Their numbers are increasing (720 in the world, 480 are in Rwanda), poaching has diminished, and the local people are reaping the benefits of tourism.

There are 16 groups in Rwanda- eight are for tourists to view, 8 are off limits to tourists and are used to study their behavior.

Franois Gorilla Imitation

Our guide Francois was a porter for Dian Fossey, and as such has extensive gorilla knowledge. Francois acts so much like a gorilla that he looks like one!

In the video below Francois is showing us the noises he makes to calm the silverback in our presence. In the video he describes the sounds the silverback makes to give you an indication of his mood. You will also get a kick out of his making Dominic make the same sounds. It’s quite humorous!

At the end of the video you will see how close a silverback comes to Dr. P as he is taking a video with his camera. He wasn’t paying attention, and Francois had to tell him to move or else the silverback would bump into him.

 Francois instructed us in proper gorilla behavior in the presence of the silverback. We learned you are to stay 21 feet (7 meters) away from them. Looks a little less than 7 meters in the video!

Rwanda Gorilla

When it comes to primates it’s all about the eyes, especially for an animal that is so closely related to us. This is a silverback gorilla on the first day of our trek.

I love their hands also because they are so human-like

The scenery in Rwanda is lush and beautiful. This is the view from our hotel. The gorillas are at the base of those mountains.

Theo was our guide for the trip. His professionalism was a huge part of making this trip successful, especially when he bartered the purchase of fruit for us!

The Rwandans are warm and friendly towards tourists. Our hotel had a 45 minute “welcome” dance for us by some cute kids.

Click on the photo below to see the last 15 seconds of this dance Gorilla Dancers

Almost everywhere you go in Rwanda people come to greet you, especially the children. This gives you a feel of why the wildlife are being pushed out by the burgeoning people needing land to feed themselves.

The kids were always curious about us as we made our trek to see the gorillas

This boy beckoned Dr. P to come over and give him something

They carry everything on their heads. This rock weighs over 70 pounds.

Rwanda is a mountaneous country with a dependence on agriculture

This is the view from the National Park at the beginning of the trek

These are the mountains that contain the gorilla troops

All groups meet at the Volcanoes National Park headquarters for instructions and guide assignments. The maximum number of people in each individual group is 8.

The entrance to the National Park where all groups meet before their trek

The mountain gorillas were identified here in 1902

Our head guide Francois and his assistant are showing us which group we will be visiting. They know each individual gorilla and its social standing in the group. Click on this picture to hear a 5 minute detailed introduction to the gorillas by Francois’ assistant. He has an accent so you have to concentrate on what he is saying.
Gorilla briefing

In the recent past some groups had to walk for the better part of the day to find the gorillas. We had an easy 1-2 hour trek to meet the trackers who  watch over them.

We start the trek through agricultural land at the edge of the mountain.

Francois is in the back, a porter carrying our backpacks is in front of him, and at the very front is a ranger with an AK-47. His primary role is to scare away the occasional cape buffalo that roams the area.

The beginning of the trek is easy

Can you guess what we are hiking through?

They are potato fields

Taking a break during the trek

We enter the thick vegetation at the base of the mountain to find the trackers. The two men on the right are our porters, the two in the center are the trackers that keep continual watch on the gorillas, and Francois is on the left.

Final Gorilla Briefing

Francois giving us final instructions before we meet our distant cousins. Click
on the photo above hear several minutes of it. In the beginning he talks about a wall to help keep the cape buffalo and elephant away from the potato crops.

We leave everything but cameras and follow our guides as they machete through
the thick jungle

The gorillas seem to appear out of nowhere because they are well hidden and you are
concentrating on your footing in the jungle. This was our first encounter.

This little guy came closer and proceeded to feed right in front of us

Guess who was keeping an eye on us as we watched this youngster?

Its easy to see why he is called a silverback

This is the silverback that walked right past me in the video above

Silverback Walk Past

When we were sure the silverback accepted our presence we took this photo

This is the group for our 2nd day with them

This silverback in this group weighs 440 pounds

During our trip we found out that a female gorilla had twins on February 3rd

On our second day we were looking at the mother of these twins as she was hiding from us

We slowly got closer to her to try and get a glimpse of her babies. She stayed behind the leaves most of the time.

As she felt more comfortable with our presence we got to see them

Many females in the troop had babies

They were as curious about us as we were about them

The youngsters spent lots of time frolicking

Sometimes they played with the silverback (this is the 440 pounder from above)

The youngsters seem to have no fear of people and come up so close that Francois has to remind you to back away. Notice how this gorilla’s left eye deviates?

The gorilla-meisters!


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