Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tanzania, Africa - Day 7 - Big Elephants, Big eggs, Little Lions and more

Here we were on the 7th day of our safari, the completion of our first full week in Tanzania. At this point, we were all fully adjusted to the time change and the slower way of life in Africa. And let me tell you, it was really nice to be away from televisions and radios for two weeks. We did have cell coverage in most locations, so we were able to stay reasonably connected with our families, and send limited posts to social media. But other than that, we were living life in the present and not living the over connected world for which we are accustomed. People often ask me to tell them my favorite part of the trip, and, other than seeing all the amazing wildlife, I think this was it for me. Being a "Type A" person, I never seem to slow down, so it was refreshing to experience this for a change.

On this morning, a couple of us thought it would be fun to walk around the Ndutu Lodge grounds before heading off on our safari. After a quick walk around the inner grounds we thought that maybe we would walk outside the grounds. We didn't walk far before seeing the lodge employees eyeing us, and realizing that this may not be the best idea. We headed back. And it is a good thing we did...

Not long after our "walk", we got into the Land Cruisers and started out for our safari. We could not have been more than a couple hundred yards from the lodge when we encountered this Lionesse and her cubs. Good thing we did not walk much farther. :)

Look how cute this little cub is!

We watch the Lionesse and cubs for a while and then continued on our way. We saw his lone Giraffe who was enjoying his Acacia breakfast.

This Marabou Stork was high atop this dead tree just waiting for it's portrait to be taken.

And just like the day before, we saw the massive migration of the Wildebeest. This time, I decided to grab the Canon 5D Mark III with the 24-70 II lens, and shoot a whole bunch of photos to build a panorama at a later time. Well, that time came yesterday. Here is the final image. You can click on it to make it bigger. The original PSD file, which consists of 13 RAW images, is just under 1GB and way too big to post!

We were driving along when Sam (our driver) stopped the car, once again with us wondering why we were stopping. Sam pointed out this incredibly large Ostrich egg, which had been left dormant. I had a chance to pick this up and fell it, and wow is this thing heavy! The shell is so thick that most animal can not open it. Sam was telling us that he watched Eagles pick up large rocks, fly high into the air, and drop the rocks down onto the egg to break it. That can't be an easy task.

We were slowly driving when I saw this dead tree and asked Sam to stop. There was something spooky about this tree, and I wanted to capture a couple of photos of this. After getting this shot, I decided to teach the group how to roll the zoom on their camera to get a different look. I was using my Canon 5D Mark III with the 24-70mm lens attached.

Here is the photo taken at 1/6 second while zooming the lens. Even spookier, right?

And then we came across a family of Elephant. I was back to using the Canon 1DX with the 100-400mm II lens to get in really close to these guys.

This was our first really close encounter with the Elephant, and it was amazing.

After getting a bunch of nice shots of the Elephant, I changed the settings of my Canon 1DX to ISO 100 at f/16. This gave me a shutter speed of 1/10 of a second. I carefully panned the 100-400mm lens along with the smaller Elephant to get this shot. This was not an easy shot, since I was zoomed all the way out to 400mm and trying to handhold the camera at such a slow shutter speed. Normally I teach my students that you want a shutter speed of equivalent to, or faster than, the focal length of the lens. This would have meant that I would have to photograph my subject at 1/400 sec. But that would not have given me the motion blur. I took the risk and it paid off. In case you are wondering, this was not the only photo I took. Many of the other successive shots did not come out this clear. Another reason why people should take a lot of photographs, especially when trying slow shutter shots.

At one point, this Elephant turned and started to walk away. I shot this photo of his back side. At first I debated on whether or not I should edit this one. But(t), the more I looked at it, the more I liked it.

Check out this baby Cheetah. Not only is the Cheetah a beautiful animal, but this little one was just precious.

Even though I had photographed the Impala numerous times over the last week, I was happy to capture this shot from the side of this large male. I really wanted a photo with both antler side by side like this.

Here is another photo of a Hyena. More about these animal in a minute...

During the afternoon, we had a long drive across the Serengeti to get to our next lodge. For those of you who do not know (and I didn't), the word Serengeti means "Endless Plains".  You can see from this photo how the area got this name. We drove for hours across these endless plains. I still remember standing up in the vehicle for much of the ride and loving the fresh air blowing in my face. It was awesome!

After the hours of driving, we came across this large group of Masked Weaver and their nests.

A close up of the Masked Weaver.

It is really fascinating to watch these male birds build their nests. Piece by piece, they gather the leaves and build these cool looking nests. After they are just about complete, the female will fly in and see if it is suitable to her. If not, she is out of there, and moves on to find a better nest and male.

This last photo is of two Topi. I liked the way that they were face-to-face for this shot. I was also drawn to the interesting purple color of their hides.

The day ended with us arriving at Ronjo Camp. This was our most rustic stop, but ended up being one of my favorite. Once again, we were staying in nicely decorated tents, with really comfortable beds, flushing toilets and "talking showers". For those of you, who are not familiar with "talking showers", check out this previous blog post.

Each of the two nights that we stayed in Ronjo, I would go to bed and hear Hyena right by my tent. Oh my goodness, these animal are loud! But it was exciting to hear them and I fell right to sleep.

And, for those of you who missed this amazing opportunity, we are going to do this amazing safari again next year...check out the site HERE to sign up for the 2017 trip! We have a limit of 12 people.


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