Our 11th day in Tanzania would be our last day on safari. We started out in the Serengeti, but we had a surprise for our tour attendees on this day. But first we saw these two hyenas having some sort of disagreement.
Like our safari last year, we made the 2 1/2 hour drive from the Serengeti National Park back towards the Ngorongoro Crater. But this year was different. Instead of driving along the rim of the crater, we had time to take everyone back into the crater for a couple hours of additional wildlife spotting. This is a view of the crater from the rim. Pretty amazing, huh?
Yes, we were still enamored with the baby zebra.
As we were crossing a small bridge over some water, I saw these birds and their reflections, so we stopped to get some photos. As it would turn out, this was going to be a big bird photography day.
We were about mid way into the crater when our drivers spotted these wildebeest with babies that had just been born. This was another first for me, as I do not remember seeing any baby wildebeests last year. These babies were so young that their umbilical cords are still visible. Our guides told us some interesting facts about wildebeest. They can stay pregnant for quite some time and hold their babies from being born until there is enough rain to support them. They are told us that the wildebeests are not very smart, at that they forget they had babies. So they travel in packs so that they can watch out for each other. Weird, but true.
We did see a group of hippos in what little water there was in the crater.
If you have been following along on all the blog posts for this trip, you may remember the family of lions that we saw about 5 days before. Well...we saw them again on our return to the crater. You can see 5 of the cubs in the background. At one point, they all peeked up at the same time, but I had a technical issue with my lens, and I missed the shot! I was not very happy, but most others got the shot and I was happy for them. As we were standing in our vehicles, watching these lions, we felt drops of rain for the first time on our trip. And then, out of nowhere, big clouds rolled in and we heard large claps of thunder. The thunder reverberated through the crater, and it was awesome!!!!! It is a scene I will never forget.
The rain came and went within minutes and we headed to a lunch spot for some box lunches.
The nice thing about this lunch spot is that, even though you can see some of our guests standing in the vehicle, you can get out and walk around and take photos. I saw a hawk sitting on a distant rock and wanted to see if I could get a good shot of it. My wife loves hawks, and I knew that she would like a good photo of this bird.
Hand holding the Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 200-400mm lens, I got somewhat close and took a couple of photos. Then I slowly walked forward and shot some more. I kept doing this until I got really close to the hawk without disturbing it.
I also saw some other beautiful birds and grabbed some nice photos of them. (Photographer's note: You will notice that I am framing the photos so that the bird is in a position where the background is far away and very out of focus, therefore drawing the viewer's eye right to the perfectly focused bird. In order to get this look, I would move to a location where I had no distractions in the background, and I would get down on my knees to get at the same level as the bird.)
I was shooting the tight shots of the birds on the rocks when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the hawk take off. I quickly swung the big 200-400mm lens around, got the focus point on the bird and fired away. I was excited to nail this shot perfectly in focus.
Here is a tight crop of the same photo. You can see from this crop that I had tight focus on the hawk's face.
And then a couple more photos of the other birds.
We even got some shots of this bird taking a bath. I took this at 1/640 sec and it still shows lots of motion in the wings.
Here is a photo of Gregg, who was happily shooting at another location far from me.
And the ladies were having fun taking photos of us shooting.
We drove off after lunch, and were in the vehicle for no more than 30 seconds when we saw this one large elephant walking through the high brush. I liked the surroundings, not to mention the white bird on the elephant's back.
Just a short while later, we saw this big boy walking right next to the road and it made for a cool photo.
At this point, it was time for us to leave Ngorongoro crater and head to our next lodge.
We were just about to ascend the crater, when Dennis, one of our guests, saw these large Marabou Storks with their wings open. We stopped for a couple last photos in the crater.
There were also a couple of monkey's in the same location, with their babies.
Once we got to the top of the crater, we made a stop at the outlook point for some portraits.
After taking some portraits of everyone, I turned and saw that Sam was putting the roof back on the vehicle. I thought that this would make a fun portrait of Sam, and be a cool photography lesson for our guests.
I went right up to the vehicle and positioned myself so that the sun was directly behind Sam. I set the camera to manual mode. exposing for the background, and then added my flash (on camera) to light my subject.
And since we liked the results, I kept taking photos of the guys.
Then we arrived at our last lodge, which was amazing! Gibbs Farm was voted the second nicest hotel in Africa, and we could see why.
My wife and I were escorted to our room, and it was luxurious. Here is a photo of our deck, and the nice view that we had.
We got cleaned up and then walked up to the main building, where we were treated to a local choir. (When you watch the video at the end of this blog, you will hear this choir as the background music.)
As you can see, everyone was enjoying the entertainment.
The next morning, we woke up and the hotel staff brought us fresh brewed Gibbs Farm coffee. We enjoyed the coffee on the deck. While sitting there, we saw some more pretty birds in the trees only feet from us. I grabbed the Canon 5D Mark IV with the smaller and lighter Canon 100-400mm lens and took more photos.
Our room was so beautiful that I even took photos to show you. This was our bathroom area. You will notice the shower to the right, but I never used that...
...because just outside, in our own personal little backyard area, there was an outdoor shower. I absolutely LOVED showering out here. I know it is a bad visual for all of you, but it was truly awesome. I think I took 3 showers a day. :)
The next day was our day in town, to take a tour and do some shopping.
This is what a typical roadside business looks like in Tanzania.
Here is my wife, who is the real artist in the family, looking through paintings and buying African art for our house.
They also had tons of hand carved masks and other goodies to buy.
After doing some shopping, we met up with a local guide to show us how they live in their town.
Many of the home owners have their own small fields. This man was cutting back his banana trees.
Here is a woman transporting some of her crops to the local market.
This is our group getting the tour. Did you know that there are more than 30 types of bananas?
We were invited into one of the banana ripening huts to see how they ripen the crop. You will notice the avocados on the ground, right by the bananas. The avocados actually help the bananas ripen faster.
Here is a photo of most of our group in the banana field.
As we walked around the village, we came across this school. It was great to see all the kids in their school uniforms, playing outside.
Some of the buildings in town were made with stucco, and others, like this one, are made of mud.
We eventually ended up in a small outdoor market, where locals were selling their produce and wares.
What a great smile!
I saw this young girl hanging out by her family's store. I got down low and took this photo of her.
If you read last year's Tanzania blog, I talked about the fact that many people in the region wear shoes made of old car tires. But last year, I did not take a photo of these shoes. I made sure to do so this time around.
After shopping, we made our way back to Gibbs farm for our last night.
We packed our luggage, now full of clothing and gifts, and made our way towards our last stop of the trip.
Just like last year, we visited our friends at the orphanage.
As soon as we pulled up to the orphanage and my wife got out of the vehicle, this young girl ran up to her to say hello. From that point on, my wife had a new best friend!
...and, of course, we loved photographing the kids.
Here is Patsy getting some love from the same little girl.
I really enjoy taking portraits of these kids. I made sure to print photos of the kids from the previous year and bring them with me for this year's visit.
We are all so used to seeing ourselves in photos, but that is not the case for these people.
Here is my wife showing her iPhone photo of the two sisters. Look at those smiles!
Gail made a new friend too.
Just like last year, this visit to the orphanage was a highlight for all the guests. Not only does it give us a chance to donate to these less fortunate kids, but it is enlightening to meet them all and learn their stories.
After this visit, we were sad to be done with the trip, and made our way to the airport to depart Africa. We all hung out at the airport and, like we had done at dinner each night, shared our favorite moments of the day, over some food and drinks.
And as the final post from this trip, I would like to present you with a slideshow of my favorite photos. This was created using Photodex ProShow with the background music from the choir you saw earlier. I hope you enjoy the slideshow and I hope you enjoyed the blog posts as much as I did writing them.
You can click on the image above to launch the video. I recommend watching it in 1080p high definition mode!
If you want to create your own slideshows, you can use Photodex ProShow for yourself. You can also use the code "Jeff20" to get 20% off.
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