Tanzania July 2009 (redux)

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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 carlp@me.com 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

Joy

Mike and Carole

Silvia

Lorna

Dominic

Lela and Robert

Joan and Rick

Jessica

Melissa

Nicole

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!

Videos

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.