Colin Davis Photography: Blog http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Colin Davis Photography (Colin Davis Photography) Mon, 19 Sep 2016 08:21:00 GMT Mon, 19 Sep 2016 08:21:00 GMT http://www.colindavisphotography.com/img/s4/v66/u611530057-o495153112-50.jpg Colin Davis Photography: Blog http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog 120 120 Lady Elliot Island http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2016/9/Lady-Elliot-Island  

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Lady Elliot Island.  Where do I start? Anyone who knows me or who has looked through my photos knows that I have been here more than a few times… I love exploring new places and meeting new people so to get me to visit the same place more than once means that there is something special there.  Something amazing.

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Lady Elliot Island has something special, something amazing and she has it every time I visit.  Despite its small size, the experience is always unique.  One snorkel you could come across an ancient loggerhead turtle, then the next snorkel swim through a school of trevally.  One dive you could spot 5 or 6 nudibrances then the next dive have 5 or 6 manta rays swimming over your head.  One morning you could experience a sunrise like no other then the next morning you could have a clutch of baby turtles racing down the beach in front of you.  One night you could learn about dolphins and manta rays or have fun playing trivia or bingo, then the next spend lying on the beach looking up to the stars. I could go on, but you get the picture.

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I decided to write this blog as more of an overall review of the island rather than a day to day experience because whilst new, different and exciting things happen every day, me blabbering on about the 6 incredible sunrises and sunsets that I watched and the 3 snorkels/dives I did every single day would be a bit much.

You can only get to the island by plane. Planes leave from the Gold Coast, Redcliffe, Hervey Bay and Bundaberg.  I usually fly out of Hervey Bay which is a 40 minute flight.   It is a lovely flight, flying past the magnificent Fraser Island and gorgeous blue waters of Platypus Bay.  I would love to do that flight during the Whale season one year as you would most definitely see whales jumping from the plane.  Before you know it, in the distance you can see the island and surrounding reef.  As you approach, the pilots always do a fly around so you can get great views (and pictures) of the island below.  Keep your eyes peeled because you can often see from the plane turtles and Manta Rays swimming along the surface.

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A bit of Background. Lady Elliot Island is the southernmost coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef. It is a private island that hosts a small eco-friendly resort.  It is home to thousands of animals including birds, turtles, sharks, fishes and even has its own resident Manta Ray population.  During the months of June to October, migrating whales can also be seen swimming past the island. In addition to its eco campaigning, it is famous for beautiful clear snorkeling and spectacular diving.

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The islands swimming areas can be divided into the eastern and western sides of the island.  On the Eastern side, just off the beach from the resort is the Lagoon.  A safe shallow area protected by the outer reef that is only swimmable during high tide.  This lagoon is host to starfish, hundreds of species of fish (including Nemos), reef sharks, octopuses, rays and the friendliest turtles you will ever meet, who are always happy (despite the apparent frown) for a photo or a selfie.

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The Western side of the island is slightly deeper and heads into open water.  This is where you have a higher chance of spotting Manta Rays feeding or hanging out at one of the many cleaning stations on the Reef. You will also come across larger more mature turtles including Green, Loggerhead and Hawksbill Turtles.

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Diving here is always spectacular. Normally confined on the Western Side due to tide/wind conditions, you can also dive on the Eastern side if weather permits (if you get the opportunity to, take it, you won’t regret the Blowhole).  Whether you are into larger creatures like sharks, turtles, trevally, barracuda and manta rays or prefer the macro creatures like pipefish, mantis shrimp and nudibranches, there is something for everyone with visibility usually between 20-30metres!!  Every so often you may get some special guests including whales, dolphins and hammerhead sharks.

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If you’re not a strong swimmer, don’t worry, the staff will provide assistance and teach you in the pool, the lagoon or on the snorkelling safaris that they run daily.  Additionally, if you would like to experience the underwater world without getting in the water, glassbottom boat tours are also regularly run.

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In addition to swimming, there is a plethora of activities on dry land to get involved with. The resort runs regular education sessions on the creatures of the island as well as island tours, bird watching tours, night tours, reef walks and turtle hatching tours (in season).  There is also a games area, play equipment set, beach volleyball court and table tennis table for the kids.

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I should mention the birds. The island is heavily populated by birds with over 50 different species and over 100,000 birds calling Lady Elliot Island home at some time during the year. With the size of the island, that is a lot of birds!!! Regularly spotted species include black noddies, brown booby, lesser Frigate Birds, Terns and Silver Gull.  During nesting season you will get the opportunity to see baby chicks too.  Given there are thousands of birds on the island, the chance of being hit by a wayward dropping is quite high. I see it as more of an initiation to the island. Lol ;) 

Now Turtles are abundant on Lady Elliot Island. To prove this, this photo below contains 7 turtles in the one photo!!! While I’ll admit this would be a rare occurrence, I maintain that it is extremely rare to go for a swim and not come across a turtle.

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Turtles are heavily part of the Lady Elliot Island experience.  During the months of November to February, one has the opportunity to see a mother turtle under the cover of darkness crawl up the beach and lay 80-120 eggs.  These eggs will mature over the next 8 weeks and during the turtle hatching season (February to April) one can experience the incredible natural spectacle of 100 turtles escaping their nest and scurrying down the beach under the light of the moon to the water.  They will then spend the new few years at sea before magically returning to the same island they were born on to lay their own eggs.

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5d3_2580 While up early one morning to watch the sunrise, I was fortunate enough to experience a late clutch of eggs hatching.  Watching the hatchlings make their way to the water under the glow of the morning sun… Heaven

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I mustn’t forget the staff. From the pilots, to the reception staff to the activities, bar and kitchen staff, they are all extremely friendly and more than happy to have a chat or answer any questions you have. I have nothing but praise of the staff each and every time I visit. They are just wonderful

Before I sign off, I must mention the sunrises & sunsets… Pure Delight… Every. Single. One. Of. Them… And to make the sunsets better you can order drinks and cheese platter which they will deliver to you on the western side of the island.

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Lady Elliot Island is Paradise.  My day was: Sunrise, Wildlife, Snorkeling, Diving, Relaxation, Beaches, Fun Activities, Sunset. Repeat

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You’ll be happy to know that the place is very eco-friendly, with strategies and policies in place to minimize its impact on the environment.  It regularly wins Ecotourism awards including a Gold in the Steve Irwin Award for Ecotourism in 2014.

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Check out my album for more photos of the island.  I have only posted a select few of my favourites, but have many more if you would like to see them.   If you would like any further information on the island check out their website. http://www.ladyelliot.com.au/

 

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(Colin Davis Photography) Amazing Animals Australia Beach Beautiful Clam Coral Crabs Dive Earth Frogs Great Barrier Reef Green Turtle Holiday Lady Elliot Island Nature Ocean Paradise Photography Rays Reef Scenery Sharks Snorkel Stunning Sun Sunrise Sunset Swim Travel Turtles Underwater Water Wildlife http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2016/9/Lady-Elliot-Island Mon, 19 Sep 2016 07:46:41 GMT
Rwanda – Mountain Gorillas http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2016/4/Rwanda-Mountain-Gorillas-1 Crossing the Border from Uganda to Rwanda was surprisingly straight forward. Disclaimer however, this was because we had a guide who knew where to go. If you didn’t know, it would be a disaster, no clear signs or people to help anywhere.  But the big change crossing the border is the driving. In Rwanda they drive on the right hand side of the road. Very confusing after driving on the left for the last 3 countries.

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Our first stop was to visit a local village situated along the edge of the beautiful twin lakes. We stopped at the village bar for a home-made banana beer (Its worth a try, but don’t get too excited) and buying a round (admittedly the bar only would fit another 2-3 people).  We also chatted to some of the local school children who were all excited as they had just finished their exams for the term and were now off school for a few weeks.

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Gorilla Trek #2. Although having experienced the amazement a few days earlier in Uganda, there was no doubt that I was still as excited as ever to be visiting the Gorillas again. In fact, you would have guessed I was doing it for the first time. So excited!!! The Rwandan meeting point at the base of the Volcanoes is much larger with ~8 Gorilla groups allocated here

We were allocated to the Kwitonda family who had moved from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2002 under the leadership of a Mighty Old Silverback.  He sadly passed away (natural causes) in 2013 and his son took up the charge.  This group is unique in that it has 3 Silverbacks.

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So with our guides Bec & Bosco leading the way, we drove for about 30 minutes to the starting point at the base of the hills, then headed off, again crossing farmland for about 30 minutes, before climbing over a stone wall and into the forest.  On the other side of the wall was a big trench. The wall & trench was not to keep the locals out, but to keep the wildlife in, with buffalo and forest elephants not infrequently causing trouble and conflict in the farmlands prior to the wall being built.

To show you that anyone can do this trip, an 82 year old man was allocated to our group. As he was quite senior, instead of walking the steep and rugged trails, he elected to hire 9 porters!!! They carried him on a stretcher in 2 groups of 4 with the other one carrying his bag!!! Needless to say, he saw the gorillas, had a lovely day and wasn’t the least bit puffed😉

After trekking for a further 45 minutes through mostly thick bamboo (which Gorillas apparently love as it is a bit alcoholic to them) forests we reached the rangers.  The rangers know all the gorillas by name as well as their habits and tempers. One of the silverbacks made a half-baked charge at us, but it was apparently because he thought we might steal his bamboo! The guides make certain grunting noises which he responded to and went back to eating his bamboo.

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There were lots of younger gorillas in this group who loved to play games. They would chase each other around the trees, wrestle, piggy back, and pull each other’s hair or even pull each others legs out from under them so they fell over.  Behaving like typical children, it was entertaining & hilarious to watch.

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While watching a group of younglings playing, a large female gorilla appeared and out from behind her came a baby gorilla!!! He was the cutest, littlest, hairiest, funniest baby you’ve ever seen!!!  One only a mother could love.  At only about 2-3 months old, he was a delight. He tried to escape from his mum's clutches, but hadn’t quite mastered crawling yet so his attempts were quite futile. After realising this, he turned his attention to crawling all over his mother while she attempted to rest in the grass.  Again time goes so fast with these creatures and before we knew it, we were heading back to the park station.

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That night we were privileged to stay in Room 12 at the Muhabura Hotel - The exact same room that Dian Fossey used to stay in when she came down from the mountains.  Although it’s a bit decorated with corny souvenirs, it was an amazing thing to be a part of.   For those that don’t know, Dian was an American Zoologist and conservationist who studied and advocated for the care & preservation of Gorillas over an 18 year period.  She is well known as the author of the book “Gorillas in the Mist’.

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In Kigali before our flight we visited the genocide museum.  Such a devastatingly sad and terrible part of Rwanda’s history.  The scale of the genocide is almost unfathomable and to realise that almost everyone in the country either knows or was involved in the killings is heart-breaking.  The place brought me to tears.

The drive in Kigali and the flight home was of mixed emotions. Still on a high from the most amazing holiday I’ve ever been on, but sad that it is now over. I have so many treasured memories and experiences that will be with me forever.  What a phenomenal part of the world

 


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(Colin Davis Photography) Africa Animals Baby Gorilla Holiday Mountain Paradise Rwanda Safari Silverback Travel Trekking Volcano Wildlife http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2016/4/Rwanda-Mountain-Gorillas-1 Sat, 23 Apr 2016 15:01:02 GMT
Uganda – Pearl Of Africa http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2016/4/Uganda-Pearl-Of-Africa For as long as I can remember, visiting the Mountain Gorillas has been a dream for me.  It has been a clear top on my bucket list ever since I learnt what bucket lists were.  I'm so excited to share my experience with you all.

We flew from Nairobi to Entebbe, Uganda over the beautiful Lake Victoria. Uganda had this natural feel to it, it was a much greener, much rawer country.  We arrived into the airport of chaos.  Prepare yourself for anger, frustration, disappointment and finally content that you will be waiting in lines for hours.  Plan plenty of time to get through the airport, and go to the bathroom before lining up!!

We met our new guide Moses, a knowledgeable man full of fun facts about Uganda including the temperature averaging between 26.7°C and 30.1°C, having the 2nd &  4th highest mountains in Africa and that they also have eucalyptus trees here!!!

But hold the fort. I need to take a moment to talk about our transport. It was the coolest thing in the world ever!!! It was big, very big… It was bold, very bold. And did I mention it was Bright FLUORO Green! Amazeballs!!  We spotted the vehicle as soon as we walked out of the airport and were pointing and laughing at it saying ‘I wonder who drives that’ and ‘that is a pimping truck’.  We then got closer and closer and we got our cameras out to take a photo of it as something quite unique… That was until our guide pulled some keys out of his pocket and opened the driver’s door!!! Sooo Cool!

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Just next to the airport is an extensive compound of planes, helicopters, officers, trucks and transport vehicles, all belonging to the United Nations.  Over the next day we made our way to a small lodge just outside Kibale forest, home to Chimpanzees.

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Waking up at 0415, we made our way to Kibale Forest, a home to a troupe of over 120 Chimpanzees.  Although the group often splits into smaller groups during the day, there is always a hierarchy and a dominant male. The lesser chimps make submissive calls if in the presence of greater chimps. If they do the wrong thing, they may get charged or beaten up.  Chimps can also be greedy and if they find some good fruit, they won’t tell anyone else about it till they have filled their belly.

We spent the next few hours observing them eating high in the trees as well as the occasional one scurrying down one tree before bolting up the next one.

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We came across a female who seemed to be lost, just wandering along in the forest. She made a few calls but no one seemed to respond, so she let out a different call which the guides informed us was the emergency call.  Minutes later a large male came charging through the forest breaking trees, snapping branches, making himself well known. When he got to us, he realised the female had sounded a false alarm and there was no emergency and he was furious (according to the guides, if the male had found the female, she was going to be in serious trouble).  He eventually gave up looking for her, climbed a fruit tree, made himself a hammock and dozed off eating fruit.  Such fascinating animals and so human-like in their expressions and actions.

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We came across an old man who although older and weaker, still claimed respect from the tribe. He was such a beautiful soul and as you can see from this photo he had a cataract in his eye…

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Crossing the equator we headed past Lake Edward, Queen Elizabeth National park and on to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home of half the world’s population of Mountain Gorillas

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We were due to be staying at a camp site for the next few days, but due to it currently being upgraded, our tour company changed us to a newly built Lodge and had asked for out thoughts. Just one word. WOW! The place was amazingly beautiful. Situated high up the side of a mountain the view of the valley below was breathtaking.  The view was picture perfect for 'Gorillas in the Mist'…

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The room itself was huge with 2 double beds, plenty of extra space, and a bathtub which also had a view of the valley below😉  The staff were wonderful and friendly and very accommodating with meal times.

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Today is the Day. A Dream come true for me. Something that I have wanted to do for a long as I can remember.  Today is the Day.  I can’t describe the butterflies in my stomach.

 

After watching an introductory video (which looked like it was made in the 80s and on a TV that was probably made earlier than that), we were split up into our hiking groups.  They generally try to group people of a similar fitness together. Normally from that checkpoint there are 3 Gorilla groups you can visit with a maximum of 8 people per group.  Each Gorilla group is generally led by one Silverback gorilla.  Male Gorillas are black-backs (referring to the colour of the fur on their back) until the age of around 10 before the hair matures into a silver colour.

We were allocated the R-Group. R standing for Rushegura.  It is a group led by a new but powerful Silverback. Until last year he was a Black-back but after his father died (natural causes) he had to fight for the leadership against a more mature Silverback. He was only a Black-back when he took control of the group, something rarely seen. Since last year he has matured into a Silverback.   The group also contains a Black-back as well as several adult females and several juveniles.

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Although doing the gorilla trek is expensive, the money goes to good causes. In addition to paying the salaries for the trekkers, park wardens and trackers, it also goes to the park rangers and trackers who keep the gorillas safe day & night…  Furthermore, it also pays to purchase land and pay the local farmers compensation money for not being able to expand their farm as well as for when the gorillas wander onto their land and eat/destroy their crops. There is a ‘buffer zone’ of land that is owned by conservation groups between the farmland and the forest. Initially the farmers use to receive money, however due to issues with alcohol, they now instead provide livestock (cows, goats, sheep).  Then if that cow has a calf for example, it goes to that farmers neighbour, if it has another one it goes to another neighbour, then they can keep the rest. It creates a good sense of community and teamwork.

Getting a porter also provides an income for the local people and so we happily got one each (~USD$15).  They were so proud of their porters that they said if you get hurt or too tired you can ‘call’ 991 (Uganda’s version of 911) and they will come and carry you firstly all the way in to see the gorillas and then back home again. Hahaha

We started our hike just next to a local church, passing through farmland, villages and playing children before starting up an impressively steep hill.  Fortunately for us, although the Gorilla group were located up a steep mountain, in terms of distance, they were really quite close.  So after 45 minutes of trekking up fairly steep terrain we reached the guards/trackers.  Leaving our bags and walking sticks, we prepared our cameras and headed in search of Gorillas!

20m later, we saw a rustle of the bushes and then out came a Gorilla!!! Just Incredible!!! Frantic snapping of everyone’s cameras followed. For me, I was just blown away by the moment and stood in awe.  He walked in between the group, brushing passed one of the group before heading off into the bushes. We continued on a bit further and found 3 more gorillas relaxing in the bushes grazing on some food.  As the trackers cleared some of the dense grass, the group got soo excited for there was a mother breast feeding an infant, probably about 2 years old.  We were surrounded by a Gorilla family. I was in love with this moment!!!

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Most of our group focused on the little one as he was the most active and playful.  The others happily sat around filling their bellies. We even got to see the little one beat his chest (if done by the silverback, this wound have been powerful and a little scary, but the little guy made it look so adorable). At one stage the little fella lunged at me. As I moved back out of his way the ranger informed he was trying to steal my camera. You know what, I really wouldn’t have minded, he had captured my heart, I would have let him do whatever he wanted to.  His name was Kabunga (meaning someone who moves from here to there, or someone that likes moving). Perfect name for him

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Sitting back monitoring everything going on was a big beautiful silverback. The size and clear raw power that they exude is just remarkable

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Their hands were so much like ours!!!

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The hour you get to spend with the Gorillas goes by in a flash and before I knew it we were heading back to the meeting point, passing the church which was now full for Sunday mass with children running all around the place.

What an amazing day! There is nothing in the world that I would recommend doing more than seeing these beautiful creatures in the wild

We spent the rest of the day talking all about it. It took a while to come down from the massive high.

The next day after stopping by one of the local schools to donate some pencils, pens and notebooks that we had brought from home, we headed to Lake Buyonyi.  This drive was probably one of my favourites of the trip so far. Rolling hills, twisting roads, luscious green landscapes a mixture of beautiful dense jungle and farmland of banana trees, coffee and tea plants.

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We passed two armed rangers on the drive. They were apparently watching a gorilla group that had come close to farmland to make sure they didn’t cross into the farmland and cause conflict.  We then descended down the mountains into the thick mist - visibility became poor, it was like we had entered another world.

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Lake Buyonyi reminded me of a ‘club med type place’.  I would say that if this place existed in the USA or a Western country it would be packed with families, people water skiing, boating, canoeing, picnicking, etc.  There would be summer camps, loud music and spring breakers. But it is Uganda. As such the place was quiet and fairly run down but still tried to maintain that tourist vibe by charging for everything (eg $30 to hike up a hill). The only other people staying there were intrepid and budget tour groups camping. While there was some beauty in the place, it wasn’t really ‘Uganda’.  We initially didn’t have it on our itinerary, but it was suggested to us to break up the long drive to Rwanda.   You can apparently swim in the lake and there is no Schistosomiasis, however I wasn’t game.  We took the opportunity to go for a hike up the hill (via our own free route) and walk through the markets before having a relaxing afternoon and resting.

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Next: Rwanda

 


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(Colin Davis Photography) Africa Animals Bwindi Chimpanzee Entebbe Forest Gorilla Holiday Kabale Mountain Paradise Safari Travel Uganda Wildlife http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2016/4/Uganda-Pearl-Of-Africa Sat, 23 Apr 2016 08:44:18 GMT
Masai Mara – Spotting The Big Five http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2016/2/Masai-Mara-The-Big-5  

We left Nairobi early that morning heading for the infamous Masai Mara, hoping also to see some of the great migration that was now crossing from the Serengeti in Tanzania into the Masai Mara.

The road from Nairobi is worth mentioning as at times it is not for the faint hearted.  Initially it is a one lane highway along the side of a mountain with the Great Rift Valley below. There are hordes of busses, semi-trailers and trucks all taking over each other vying to get to their destination as fast as possible, often around blind corners and at extremely narrow aspects of the road.  As a result the smell of burnt rubber from screeching brakes dominated the air.  Out of interest, this road was built by Italian POWs in 1942, with a memorial built in their honour.  Despite this intenseness, there are some beautiful views of the Rift Valley below.

After leaving the paved road we hit dirt/gravel road.  Now I’m not one to complain about long drives or bumpy rides and have been on many an off road journey in my travels, but this was probably the most uncomfortable drive I’ve ever done.  I have no doubt being in a 4WD (as opposed to the minibus we were in) would have resulted in better suspension and a less like being in a maraca for hours. Just to make things more interesting, we then blew a tyre and even more exciting – the spare tyre was too big!!! Hahaha, how fun. The break in the shaking was quite good though.  Fortunately for us another van turned up and stopped, then another, then a man on his motorbike, then a truck.  All of them stopped to help change the tyre. We had people changing the tyre, people supervising the changing of the tyre and people supervising the supervisors.  Go Africa!!! After our brief pit stop, we got going again, but not 30 minutes later we came across another van with a flat. Returning the favour we stopped and helped out.

After several hours of driving we reached our lodge just on the edge of the Masai Mara game park and had a bite to eat. The lodge was beautiful, well-space out with cute little cabins. However like Amboseli, there were more than a few cheeky monkeys hanging around waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting tourist’s sandwich.

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The Masai Mara of Kenya and the Serengeti of Tanzania are one large continuous area, named differently probably only due to country borders.  The Masai Mara however was a bit greener and much more hilly (relatively anyway) than the very flat and vast Serengeti. But like the Serengeti it was rich with wildlife and sure it enough it didn’t take long to come across a pair of lionesses on the rocks, one of which looked to be heavily pregnant. The lionesses were also joined on the rocks by the most unlikely company… A Leopard Tortoise.  Hartebeest, Zebras, wildebeest, gazelle, warthogs and jackals also roamed the plains.

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After feeling a bit under the weather overnight, we change our full day safari to two half days just so we could have a break.  While this meant not getting right into the middle of the park, there was still more than oodles to see.

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We witnessed a standoff between a buffalo and a lion.  The buffalo, clearly very confident with his size and abilities, waltzed right passed 3 lionesses. 2 stayed asleep, likely full from an early morning feed, but one lioness felt the opportunity was there and proceeded to follow the buffalo. Slowly, slowly she got closer and closer. Then, in a funny turn of events the buffalo turned around, faced the lion and after realising it was a one on one situation actually ran at the lioness who was clearly surprised at this and after realising she was on her own without her friends, ran away like a little scaredy cat. 5D3_3211

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We headed towards the plains and the endless long grass in search of a cheetah. Our guide got a call from a friend who had spotted something and we sped off towards a big lone tree amongst endless long grass. Wow! Two cheetahs, apparently brothers. A story overheard from the van next to us was that their used to be 3 brothers, but one got cocky and challenged a lion… now there are two.  Our guide said he doesn’t believe that story as cheetahs and lions tend to always stay away from each other.

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Once again I thought after seeing those two beautiful cheetahs, my day couldn’t get any better but once again Africa blew my mind.   We spotted a lioness in the grass, then another, then saw some movement in the grass surrounding the lionesses.  Could it be? Are we that lucky!?! Yes!!! Baby lions!!! 3 of them!!! Prancing and pouncing around in the grass. Sooo Cute!!! We watched them for a brief period of time before they disappeared into the trees.  On our way back to the hotel, we inadvertently stumbled across (and interrupted) a lion couple mating.  I tell you what, they looked absolutely knackered. Plum exhausted.  When a lioness is in heat the male will stay with her constantly and they will mate every 15-30 minutes for 4-5 days!!!! That’s exhaustingly insane!!!

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The Masai Mara continued to produce some entertaining and hilarious animal interactions. We were watching 3 lionesses resting under some trees in the grassland, quite well hidden but clearly well fed and had settled in for a morning nap.  Then from over the hill like a scene out of sound of music, a solo wildebeest came frolicking along, looking like he was having the happiest day of his life, not a care in the world. Frolic frolic frolic he went, not noticing anything at all going on around him heading straight for the lions resting place. All of a sudden he spotted the lions, froze for a second then bolted the other direction for about 200metres before resuming his frolicking again. Its good to see happy-go-lucky animals on safari.

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It was lion heaven today. In addition to those 3 lioness under the trees, we spotted the three baby cubs again today, with mother, 2 lionesses and an adolescent male in tow. We spotted the even more exhausted mating coupling, still giving it a good crack as well as 3 lions eating a newly acquired meal. Just when we thought we couldn’t see anymore, we spotted 2 young males in the long grass watching intensely a zebra herd passing by. That is 17 lions!!! Woooooo!!!

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We headed deep into the Masai Mara today on the search for cheetahs and the elusive Rhinoceros. We heard there were two cheetah brothers up ahead and sped to their location.  We saw about a dozen cars up ahead parked along the side of the road, but before we got there we saw movement and it was quick. Real quick!! Out from behind the vehicles a gazelle at full speed came bolting, zig-zagging everywhere moving at incredible pace.  Right behind this gazelle were two cheetahs giving chase.  How Exciting!!! Although we were quite far away, it was still something amazing to witness in the wild!

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After lunch we drove along one of the lesser used tracks in search of adventure. Adventure came in the form of a leopard sleeping in the tree next to half a zebra that had been dragged up a tree.  It is extraordinary how strong a leopard is. Despite only weighing around 60kg, he has managed to kill and then drag up a tree the majority of a 200kg+ animal. Wow.  Interesting to note, leopards drag their prey up the trees to protect them from scavengers including wild dogs, hyenas and lions. Yes lions may often steal leopards prey.

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Nearing the end of our Masai Mara experience we were treated to an elephant herd of 30 + beautiful creatures. We also, like earlier in the Ngorongoro crater spotted a black rhino in the far far distance, only just able to make out his shape. Although so far away, we felt privileged as I understand there are only around 30 in the entire park

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(Colin Davis Photography) Africa Animals Baby Buffalo Cheetah Cubs Elephant Elephants Hippo Holiday Kenya Leopard Lion Masai Masai Mara Ostrich Paradise Safari Travel Wildlife Zebra http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2016/2/Masai-Mara-The-Big-5 Fri, 26 Feb 2016 22:17:27 GMT
My Little Orphans http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2016/1/My-Little-Orphans  

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was one of the main reasons we decided to travel to Africa.  A few years ago I had been given the perfect gift of sponsoring a gorgeous little orphan elephant by the name of Ashaka.  She was a beautiful elephant, kind and friendly but also had a mischievous side which I really enjoyed.  I loved hearing about her growth and development as well as her escapades including her extremely strong friendship with Kamok another orphan and her stable neighbour.  I was therefore devastated to find out a couple of months before our trip to visit her that she died unexpectedly.  My heart cried for her as well as for all the keepers, staff, sponsors and little Kamok who were no doubt heavily affected by the loss.

In an effort to help we sponsored little Kamok and brought on board to our sponsor family Mbegu and Ndotto as well.  Kamok who was Ashaka’s best friend, Mbegu who was moved into Ashaka’s old home and became Kamok’s new best friend and Ndotto because well just look at the pictures… Ndotto is just the most adorable elephant you will ever meet.  In addition to visiting these gorgeous baby elephants, we were also planning to visit two other orphans, Kauro, an orphan we had given to friends as a wedding gift and Roi, an orphan who was sponsored by a friend after hearing about Ashaka and wanting to help.

So with 5 baby elephants to visit we excitedly headed off to the DWST, located on the outskirts of Nairobi.  Between 11am-12pm every day for a small donation you can visit the centre, see the little ones get fed and learn about what they do.  Everyone congregated around a large roped enclosure and waited with anticipation.  Small neatly dressed school children lined the rope (DSWT provides free entry for school children in an effort to promote elephant conservation).  There was the occasional trumpeting noise heard in the distance that only got everyone more excited. Then they came... The first group was the littlest ones. Some powered into the enclosure, trunks waving in the air as if it was the greatest day of their life. Others were less confident at first, some still nursing injuries from when they were rescued.  The keepers all however helped them in and made them feel safe.  As they entered the enclosure, they quickly gravitated towards the keepers holding bottles of milks.  While they guzzled down the milk, a keeper goes through what is done at the centre, how everything works and answers most of the questions you could think of before you even thought of them. He then went through each elephant in the enclosure and talked a bit about them their past, their personality and their habits.  After about 20 minutes, these little ones headed back into the forest and the next group came in.  These elephants were still very small, but slightly older than the previous group.  This group contained Mgebu, Roi, Kamok and Ndotto in it. Mbegu and Roi were clearly having the time of their lives running straight for the big mud puddle in the corner and not stopping till they were completely camouflaged in mud! Such a beautiful thing to watch and a moment I will treasure forever.

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Mbegu playing in the mud. Roi to his side rolling in the mud
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Roi having the time of his life in the mud

Kamok was fixated that day on getting as much milk into her in the least time possible.  Ndotto was a crowd pleaser, first walking the fence letting everyone pet him, before falling over the bucket of water, stealing food from the other elephant’s mouths and finally chasing the two twin ostrich orphans, named Pea & Pod around the enclosure.

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Cute Little Ndotto

Kauro, came out in the next group and I had the wonderful opportunity to pet him. He was such a gentle soul. However when it came time to leave the enclosure, his preferred method was not to follow the rest through the exit, but to be cheeky and take a shortcut through the rope fence before joining the others as they headed into the jungle. Hahaha

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Now the extra special thing about being a sponsor to these orphans is you have the opportunity to come back after hours around 4pm to see them again and watch them as they come out of the forest and head to their enclosures to sleep.  There is nothing more amazing than being able to interact with baby elephants.  This made my day and to make it even better we also got to meet the stunningly handsome Maxwell the rhino.  Maxwell will be a life long resident of the DSWT for unfortunately he is blind and therefore will never be able to safely live in the wild.  He was more than happy to say hello to all of us.

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Maxwell

We spent so long with them speaking to the keepers, seeing where they slept and watching them go to sleep. We would have stayed the night had the staff not told us we had to leave and subtly kicked us out.

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Mbegu’s enclosure. The Keepers sleep with the elephants in their enclosure

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Little Ndotto fast asleep

It was so wonderful to see how well the elephants are looked after and how happy they are considering the traumatic start they have had to their lives.  They all continue to get stronger every day and will hopefully one day be released back into the wild.  Until then I thank with all my heart the rangers, keepers, volunteers, DSWT staff, sponsors and everyone else that has helped raise the little orphan elephants and kept them safe.

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Roi

 

How this Centre began.

In 1948, David Sheldrick, aged 28 became the warden of Tsavo, Kenya's largest National park.  He had the difficult job of looking after the wildlife who were under constant threat of armed poachers.  David and his wife Daphne studied elephants extensively, collecting crucial information on their lifestyle, food preferences and migration.  Additionally they rescued and hand-reared vulnerable elephants, rhinos, antelopes and other animals.  Following his untimely death from a heart attack aged 57, Dame Daphne Sheldrick established this centre. If you would like to know more or to sponsor an elephant, please visit http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/

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Between the two visits to the DSWT, we visited a giraffe sanctuary, which was home to several beautiful Rothschild giraffes. Rothschild giraffes are one of the most endangered giraffe subspecies with only a few hundred members left in the wild.  As well as loss of habitation, another main threat to these giraffes is hybridisation.  This centre runs a breeding programme to try replenish this population.  They have several distinguishable features including no markings below their knees giving them the impression of wearing white stockings.  At this centre you get the opportunity to feed the giraffes as well as get a kiss from one!!!

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Giraffe Smooches

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(Colin Davis Photography) Africa Animals Baby DSWT David Sheldrick Elephant Elephants Holiday Kenya Narobi Orphans Rhino Rhinoceros Safari Save the elephants Sponsor Travel Wildlife http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2016/1/My-Little-Orphans Sat, 23 Jan 2016 00:06:19 GMT
Amboseli – Land Of Elephants http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2016/1/Amboseli-Land-Of-Elephants 5D3_2751

After an incredible trip to Tanzania, we crossed the border into Kenya and met our new guide for Kenya John, a former school teacher and passionate ornithologist. Although the road from the border to Amboseli National Park was all dirt and it was common to drive miles before seeing another vehicle, it was enjoyable, with a gazelle at one stage racing our van (before easily racing off into the distance).

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To reach our lodge for the next few days, we had to drive through the park which was fantastic of sneaking in a cheeky mini extra safari for the day.  The roads in Amboseli were of much better quality than the previous safaris we had been in and thus it was the norm to safari via a minibus with a roof top (compared with 4wd in Tanzania).  Wide open spaces with giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, elephants and gazelle scattered across the plains. After a quick settle in at the lodge, we headed back to the park for a first proper Amboseli Safari

 

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Three Little Pigs

One of the most famous things about Amboseli is the incredible Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest free standing mountain in the world as the backdrop. That afternoon there was some cloud covering it so over the next few days we were hoping for it to clear up.

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Around the water areas was large areas of luscious green grass filled with dozens of elephants.  The herds were just enormous, as were the elephants themselves. Beautiful tusks and happy faces. One elephant had just gone for a swim and wandered right over near us before grabbing lots of dust and covering himself, a practice aimed to both dry and protect from the sun, ie natural sunscreen.

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While watching these beautiful majestically beautiful creatures, we noticed something moving in the grass on the other side of the van. We would see a glimpse of orange/yellow amongst the green grass before it would vanish again just as quickly only to suddenly reappear a few minutes later. There was something out there. A cat of some sort. Ooooo the excitement was running high in the van.  10 minutes went by and we thought we had lost it, before suddenly out of the grassed walked a cat.  A Serval cat!!! Woooo I have never seen one before in my life, not even in zoos, so this was just incredible. What an amazing creature.  The cat looked like it was hunting something in the grass, mice and rats is what our driver John told us.

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The sun began to set and so we had to head back. What a drive back it was though, our driver was admiring the sunset so much that he didn’t notice the large speed bump on the road resulting in the van hitting it at speed and getting some air.  We ended up in all sorts of positions in the back of the van, fortunately no one was injured. But back to the distraction – the sunset.  The colours it produced were just incredible – 0ranges, yellows, and purples.  On the road home, we had to briefly stop for a couple of giraffes lazily crossing the road.

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A new day another exciting safari and to make things even better, the clouds had cleared and we had what could only be described as the perfect view of the glorious Mt Kilimanjaro!!!

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Hyena cackles, zebra dazzles and elephant herds were the animals of the day as well as a very entertaining hippo. Two hippos were lying on the bank of the water when a bird flew in and tried to land on one of them to rest and eat.  This hippo however must have a grudge against birds for he wasn’t having a bar of it. He even made the effort (which for a hippo is a lot) to get up and run back and forth waving his head around and opening his mouth trying to get rid of the bird, much to our entertainment as the bird continued to try land on him as if it was taunting him. After much frustration from the hippo, the bird eventually flew over to the more relaxed hippo who was unphased by the bird landing on him and not the least bit bothered by the new hitch-hiker.

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We managed to score ourselves a punctured tire, so put on the spare then headed to one of the hotels in the park itself which also had a mechanic/gas station.  While waiting in the van for everything to get sorted, we got the shock of our lives as a monkey jumped in through the open roof, stuck his paw into a pringles can sitting on the chair, then bolted out through the open door, all within the blink of an eye.  This was further compounded at lunch back at the hotel where a monkey ran into the dining room, grabbed as many bread rolls as he could (two in his mouth, one in each hand), then bolted out.  All though entertaining to us, it is quite a problem, to the point where the hotels have a Masai monkey security team… Which unfortunately this time had been outsmarted by the monkeys who had distracted him in one direction while others run in from the other. Hahaha

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That afternoon we went and visited a Masai village and were shown around by a lovely guy named Buffalo. He speaks fluent English as well as Swahili and his native Masai Tongue. He was the nicest guy spending hours with us explaining their culture, traditions and lifestyle including views on marriage, children, medicine, education and family.  We met a few Masai warriors.  Masai become warriors when they are around the age of 25-30, they train, grow their hair long, get circumcised and will become the protectors of the village.  Masai men can have many wives, but they have to pay their wife’s family in cattle, etc.   They also have to have separate houses for each wife.  The weddings are big ceremonies and may go for days. There is no honeymoon afterwards and the wife moves to where the husband is. Marriage is for life.

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The Doctor

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Buffalo & his Mother

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The next morning was our last drive in Amboseli before heading to Nairobi.  On the way to the park we spotted a very baby giraffe, not more than a couple of days old. How did we know?  The little fella still had an umbilical cord attached to his belly button. So adorable.

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Amboseli is a beautiful place, full of large herds of beautiful elephants and a magnificent Mt Kilimanjaro as a back drop.

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(Colin Davis Photography) Africa Amboseli Animals Elephant Giraffe Hippo Holiday Kenya Kilimanjaro Masai Monkey National Park Paradise Safari Serval Serval Cat Travel Wildlife Zebra http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2016/1/Amboseli-Land-Of-Elephants Sun, 10 Jan 2016 02:37:00 GMT
Serengeti - The Lion's Lair http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2015/12/Serengeti To reach the Serengeti by road, you pass the Ngorongoro Crater.  That day it was extremely cloudy and if it wasn’t for the amazing day we had the day prior (see previous post) we would never have known the paradise that exists below those clouds

The long flat drive to the Serengeti was broken up by spotting a family of giraffes and then visiting a Masai Village.  Visiting the village was an amazing experience providing knowledge and a first-hand look into their culture. They are a nomadic people who move their camp roughly every 3 months, primarily herding sheep, goats and cows.

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After finally getting through the front gate (ticketing is still paper and pen and so is a little slow & inefficient) we headed into the National park. Serengeti in the Masai language means ‘Endless plain’ and that is exactly what it is.  The place is never-ending plains with the occasional rock formation, bunch of trees or small river appearing.

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However, despite the lack of flora, there is no lacking of fauna.  10 minutes into the drive we had already come across 2 male lions relaxing under a tree, several elephants, multiple species of deer, ostriches, giraffes, dazzles of zebras and wildebeest.

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After a successful afternoon safari, we arrived at our accommodation for the night just before sunset.  Camping in tents in the middle of the world famous Serengeti. Woooo Now that is exciting!!!  Our tent was a bit glam having features including solar powered lights, a chemical toilet and a shower where the water was warmed up each morning and then poured into a large container placed above the shower.  But the best thing was there were no gates, fences or barriers so if Mr Elephant or Mistress Lion chose to, they could happily wander through the campsite.

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Dinner was served in a separate tent.  Beautifully prepared semi-traditional Tanzanian food.  A mixture of corn maize, fried potato chips and minced vegetable mix.

We were warned at dinner time that at night time, do not wander more than 10-15m away from our tent for we were in lion territory and a pride of lions had been seen that afternoon several hundred metres from the campsite.  Eeeeek!!!!

I was pretty keen to do some star shots at night, but after hearing that talk, I was a little on edge.  I therefore took my star shots never wandering more than 10m from the tent and hyper vigilant at all times. Hahaha.  Fortunately I think they worked out quite well which was nice.

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That night we heard many animal noises. Grunts, shrieks, groans.  Which animals did we actually hear and which sound belonged to which animal??? No idea.  We were told the next morning that we had heard hyenas, hippos and lions.  The grunts were the lions, you apparently don’t hear the traditional roar at night.

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Our first all day game drive in the Serengeti. Woooooo. The best thing about staying in the middle of the park is that it isn’t long to you reach the action.  We came across dazzles of zebras, herds of impala, towers of giraffes, flocks of ostriches and memories of elephants.  The vastness of the Serengeti is difficult to describe.  You could drive for kilometres without seeing a single tree or rock, before coming across a group of rocks and trees, then going several kilometres again without anything.  As the morning began to heat up, we started to head to a spot shaded by some large rocks to have lunch.  This was however pleasantly interrupted by a pride of lions who had the same idea. This pride included a very impressive alpha male who was following a lioness around eagerly clearly in full swing of the mating season.  He had a very dark mane which means he is a very mature and strong male.

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The evening safari was amazing.  We spotted our first cheetah, resting under the tree snacking on a recent kill, several lions relaxing in a tree with a carcass hanging off the tree as if it were a trophy, and a beautiful leopard high up in a tree that despite our patience, didn’t come down and play.  We also spotted a large pride of at least 7 lions all relaxing in the one tree which was exciting in itself, until our guide pointed out that our campsite was only several hundred metres away.  Wowza! They were not kidding on our campsite being in lion territory.   Needless to say the star shots I took that night were well within 5 metres of our tent ;)

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Surely nothing could top that day.  I was wrong.  We got up early for a safari drive and came across a pride of 17 lions!!! Yes 17!!! They were having a drink from a stream before heading off in search of prey. We followed them for about 1km, they didn’t seem the least bit phased by our presence, often walking within 2-3metres of the trucks… We decided it was best to shut our windows at that stage and enjoy them from behind the glass.  The pride then wandered off the road into the long grass then as if by magic they all lay down and pooof they all disappeared.

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The migration of zebras and wildebeest are prime targets not only for the big cat predators who loiter around the waterholes, but also for the crocodiles that live in the water.  They are very timid and extremely on edge, but at the same time their thirst for water drives them into the waterhole. We witness the process of dozens of them wandering into the waterhole to drink and bathe. One of them would then get spooked (by absolutely nothing at all) and would start bolting out of the waterhole and full speed, the others would then blindly follow and all of a sudden chaos in the waterhole.  Once everyone is out, and it is established there was no danger, they all slowly wander back into the waterhole, just for the same thing to happen again 2-3 minutes later. This went on on constant repeat and we enjoyed it for a good hour before going in search of the infamous hippo pool.

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I had already seen more hippos than I ever expected but the hippo pool at the Serengeti was just something else.  There was more hippos in that pool than I could count!! Hundreds!!! Insane. All competing for the best spots in the water to stay cool, often tensions boiled over and there were exciting hippo fights.  Now you can visualise from the picture the number of hippos that were there, but you can only imagine the smell that came along with a hundred gaseous mammals who eat 40kg of grass a day with minimal hygienic skills haha.

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The next morning we found a hippo wandering back from his all night feeding session.  We learnt that you don’t get in the way of a hippo heading back to water. He won’t wander around you, he will charge straight for you.  Fortunately our driver was on to it and swiftly moved out of the way.

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We came across part of the pride of lions we found yesterday.  After climbing a tree for a better view of surrounding food, a Thompson’s gazelle started strolling in their direction. Without as much as a noise, three lions headed in different directions creating essentially a triangle of danger, with the gazelle heading directly into the centre. Alas lucky for the gazelle who spotted one of lionesses and veered off in the other direction with quite a reasonable pace. The lions did not give chase and retreated back to the tree to search for another unsuspecting victim.

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Another lone leopard was spotted in a tree far away. How did we spot it?  A poor monkey had managed to trap himself higher up in the tree than the leopard and was screaming his lungs out with a distress call.  The leopard was fast asleep and not the least bit interested, but that monkey was hell bent on everyone in the Serengeti hearing him scream and knowing not to come near that tree.

What a brilliant 3 days of Safari.

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(Colin Davis Photography) Africa Animals Camping Deer Elephant Giraffe Hippo Holiday Leopard Lion Masai Migration Paradise Safari Serengeti Tanzania Travel Wild Wildlife Zebra http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2015/12/Serengeti Sun, 13 Dec 2015 23:44:51 GMT
Ngorongoro Crater: The Garden Of Eden http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2015/11/Ngorongoro-Crater-The-Garden-Of-Eden As we eagerly made our way to the entrance of the Ngorongoro Crater National Park, we had no idea what beauty we were about to witness.

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The drive to the crater’s entrance is an absolute tease… You drive through beautiful dense jungle along and above the crater’s edge.  However in the early hours of the morning, due to being at 2200 metres above sea level, your view of the Promised Land below is hampered by dense white mist and cloud.  Fraction of a second glimpses from minuscule breaks in the cloud show blue sky shining down onto a beautiful landscape, but before you can realise what you are seeing, the cloud has covered it up again.  The crater slopes are for the most part covered in dense green jungle with the occasional clearing.  These clearings are home to grazing zebras, wildebeest and buffalo, with the odd elephant spotted wandering through the jungle

As we reached the descent point, the clouds began to clear.  The view that lay before us was just breathtaking.  Its beauty I found was impossible to capture with a camera and I am yet to see a photo of the landscape that does it justice… Vast pastel coloured plains, interrupted with the occasional green patch and intersecting blue lines of the rivers.

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Ngorongoro Crater

As we descended 600 metres into the vast plains that are the Ngorongoro crater, there were animals everywhere… Dazzles of Zebras, Warthogs, Gazelles, Ostriches, Wildebeest, Buffalo, impala.

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Off in the distance there was a large blue lake with a hazy neon pink line in the middle of it, which on further inspection turned out to be hundreds of feeding flamingos.

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Flamingos

First spot on our crater tour – The Hippo Pools.  I had never seen a wild hippo before so I was quite excited.  When planning our trip, we had hoped to spot a few over the time we were in Africa, but we were not prepared for what we saw.  Less than 20 metres from the road, over 20 hippos were lounging and rolling around in the water.  They were entertaining to watch, grunting, sleeping, pushing and shoving and making bubbles in the water, the origin of these bubbles of which could have been from either end ;)  As we followed the pond around, we were entertained by a large male hippo who was proudly in the process of making baby hippos.

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After leaving the hippos to continue in peace, we spotted a family of hyenas fighting over the remains of a large carcass.  Clearly not the original attackers we scanned the plains and sure enough behind us was 3 lions basking in the morning sun after a hearty morning meal.

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Although not seeing huge numbers of elephants, we did see some and the ones we did see had absolutely beautifully impressive tusks. We spotted a rhino, but it was so far off in the distance that you could only just appreciate the outline. Praying we see some more later on our trip

We approached a tourist of trucks (made up collective noun) on the side of the road to find a pride of lions relaxing in the long grass – two lionesses, two adolescents, two juveniles and one large male who was lying on his back feet in the air like a cute little kitty cat playing dead.

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As we observed these beautiful creatures, a group of 4 quite hearty buffalo began to wander in the direction of the pride… Things started to get tense. Lion’s heads slowly emerged from the camouflage of the long grass, alert and attentive… They started to spread out forming a trap for the buffalo to walk into.  The buffalo were oblivious to the impending danger that lay ahead.  Slowly closer and closer… You could feel the anticipation in the young lions, still excited about a hunt. Then just before the situation got messy, the buffalo realised their position and quickly changed direction… The lions made the call not to pursue and the whole situation fizzled out.  Still exciting to witness the plays and tactics of the pride…

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Tension

We ventured over to the lunching grounds passing an exciting ‘Hippo Pool Party’ along the way.

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Hippo Pool Party!!!

The lunch area is situated along the shores of a beautiful waterhole, which just 10metres of shore is inhabited by a bloat of hippos bobbing up and down in the water. What a great place to have lunch!!!

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After lunch we continued to drive around this extraordinary large caldera spotting hundreds of beautiful animals living in this aptly nicknamed ‘Garden of Eden’. Spanning almost 18km in diameter Ngorongoro crater is actually quite enormous.  Despite the abundance of wildlife we came across – jackals being chased by impala, hyenas stalking a warhog, and ostriches getting frisky, we didn’t spot any more big cats or rhinos today.  There are reportedly less than 20 rhinos in the crater and 65 left in all of Tanzania, I guess we were lucky to see one even if he was extremely far away.

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As we ascended the crater walls, a beautiful rainbow came out to wish us good luck with our ongoing journey…

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Ngorongoro Crater… You were absolutely breathtaking, I am already planning my return trip.

A little bit of background

  • Ngorongoro means ‘big hole’
  • Ngorongoro crater is home to an estimated 30,000 wild animals including the big 5 where it is possible to see all 5 in the one day (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo).
  • The crater is lying on a fault line and once used to be an impressive volcano, believed to be higher than Mt Kilimanjaro before erupting 2.5 million years ago with all the molten rock exploding out resulting in the cone sinking into the hole the molten rock had left behind.
  • A volcanic crater created in this fashion is known as a caldera and Ngorongoro crater is the sixth largest caldera in the world with a diameter of around 18km
  • The majority of animals in the crater are permanent residents and don’t migrate like the surrounding Serengeti animals
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(Colin Davis Photography) Africa Animals Crater Eden Hippo Holiday Hyena Lion Ngorongoro Paradise Pelican Safari Tanzania Travel Wildlife Zebra http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2015/11/Ngorongoro-Crater-The-Garden-Of-Eden Sat, 21 Nov 2015 05:04:19 GMT
My First Africa Safari: Tarangire National Park http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2015/8/My-First-Africa-Safari-Tarangire-National-Park Despite being in transit for over 30 hours, I was unbelievably excited to be finally reaching Africa. Exploring Africa, especially the wildlife has been a life long dream for me and it is finally coming to fruition. Just before we descended into Kilimanjaro Airport, an announcement came over the loud speaker. ‘This is your captain speaking, if you look out the windows on your left you will see Mt Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa rising above the clouds at 5985m above sea level.’  Although climbing it had to be cut from this trip’s itinerary due to time restraints, I would one day like to attempt to reach the summit. Congrats to my brother Todd for reaching the top!!!

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We were warmly greeted by the Safari company with ‘Karibu’ (meaning welcome in Swahili) and transferred to our hotel just outside the main town of Arusha.  After resting up that evening we headed off the next morning for Tarangire National Park.  After having lunch at the gate, we headed on for our first Safari!!!

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Tarangire National Park (named after the Tarangire river) is famous for its elephants, baobab trees and tree climbing lions.  It is also home to may other animals including zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, baboons, impala, waterbuck and hundreds of bird species.  Wow!!! Within the first few minutes of entering the park, our cameras were already out with a Vervet Monkey posing happily in a tree a couple of metres from our 4WD.

Impala

As we drove on, we saw several Zebras and of Impala in the distance, but as we approached a local waterhole, all hell broke loose. There were animals everywhere!! To our right there were dazzles of Zebras (be prepared for out of control use of collective nouns) frolicking around in the water as well as a congress of baboons relaxing under the trees along the far shore.  To our left there was a parade of elephants and a herd of impala grazing in the long grass. In the distance we could see a kaleidoscope of giraffes plucking the tastiest leaves from the tallest trees.  During the frantic mess I was in, trying to take in all the beauty while capturing the stunning scenes we were seeing, a trouble of Dwarf mongeese scurried across the road behind us from their abandoned termite mound home to disappear into the long grass. Then as if this wasn’t enough to deal with a implausibility of wildebeest made a straight line for the waterhole in search of a drink and a little bath.

Animal Mania

Zebras

At one stage, I could see elephants, impala, zebra, wildebeest, giraffes and warthogs in the one frame!  Naturally we stayed here for quite a while and just enjoyed the unbelievable experience (I’ve only been on African Safari for 30 minutes and I love it!!!).  The zebras continued to run in and out of the water while a trio of elephants cross the road 5 metres in front of the car.  A sounder of warthogs (which will now lovingly be referred to as Pumbas) and a few Red-billed hornbill (which will affectionately be called Zazu) appeared for a drink before disappearing into the scrub.
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After settling myself down, we moved on to explore some of the remaining 2,849km² of the park.  Dazzles of Zebras greeted us everywhere as did memories of elephants (yep, google it!) and herds of impala.  We were treated to several other beautiful creatures that afternoon including ostriches, and waterbuck. I feel sorry for the waterbuck whose pattern on their rear end resembled that of a target…

Waterbuck 5D3_9740-2

Ostriches & Zebra

We had to slow down (& eventually stop) to allow a troop of over 50 baboons pass by. There did not appear interested in moving to the side of the road to let us pass.  As with most of the animals, it is the youngsters that are the most entertaining and the baby baboons were no different, running around, pulling tails, climbing trees and then when they get exhausted, jumping the back of mum for a free ride… Adorably cheeky little monkeys.

Baby Baboon Hitchin A Ride

As we drove along, we saw up ahead a gathering of trucks (I’m going to give them my own collective noun – a Tourist of Trucks).  Our driver comments to us it usually means one thing… Wild Cats!!!

Getting over to the trucks could not come fast enough. As we approached the Tourist, we were trying to spot what they were all looking at, looking in the distance but couldn’t see anything. Then in a shock to all of us, we noticed right under the tree less than 10m away from us were two beautiful male lions.  We were informed that they must be brothers as mature male lions do not generally tolerate another mature male nearby.  Their manes were still maturing indicating they were still relatively young and thus will need to wait until they become stronger and more powerful before challenging for the right to breed and command a pride

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What an amazing afternoon of Safari! As the sun began to set, we headed to our accommodation.  The place that we had booked to stay at for some reason was not available, so our company had organised an alternative accommodation for us.  Finding this place was an adventure in itself!!!  With no road signs and driving along scarcely used roads we didn’t see another truck, road or in fact any sign of civilisation for the next 45 minutes.  Where were we going?!? We briefly passed a couple of Masai herding their cows before our guide pointed to the hill in the distance saying that is where we were staying.  Our accommodation was built on the edge of a cliff with a magnificent view of the savannah below. Incredible!!!

We entered the lodge through a stone doorway and were taken to our rooms. The rooms were enormous and the toilets were downstairs. Yes the accommodation had 2 levels!!! What made it even more incredible was that the downstairs bathroom also had its own private view.  Loo with a View. My favourite!!! My brother room was even better. In addition to what our room had to offer, he had an enormous balcony with 180 degree views of the savannah and.. Wait for it… A Bathtub on his balcony!!! Insane!  As it was in the middle of nowhere, the hotel is primarily run off solar power so there is only limited electricity/hot water, but that didn’t bother us one bit

Now here comes a bit of entertainment.  As the lodge is quite spaced out, we were asked to stay in our rooms until dinner was ready then we would be escorted to dinner. Why you say? Firstly we would probably get lost finding the place, but mainly because there is no fence around the lodge so wild animals could wander in at anytime. Yikes. Okay we will wait for the escort. Right on time, our escort rocked up. There is just one thing… For protection against the wild cats and wild animals he had… a Bow and Arrow. Similar to the ones you probably handmade as a child. Hahaha!!! Fortunately we survived :)  The beautiful candlelight dinner was made even more spectacular by being outside under a cloudless sky with no light pollution for miles. Perfect for enjoying the constellations before being treated to a Moonrise!!!

Night Sky

Moonrise

With the cliff facing east, it would have been a crime not to get up early and enjoy the sunrise.  Some little Rock Hyraxes came out and settled on the rocks below the balcony to enjoy the morning sun with us.  I had never seen them before.  They look similar to giant guinea pigs, but are in no way related. In fact they are so unique that their closest cousins are the manatee, dugong and elephant!!!

Sunrise

Bathtub Hyrax

We drove along the river in search of wildlife and we were not disappointed. We were casually driving along enjoying the scenery, when suddenly stop the Truck!!! A beautiful leopard leaped out of the tree just in front of us and headed into the long grass, presumably had spotted something tasty from the tree. Unlike the other national parks, Tarangire has a lot more hills and was also a lot greener.

Leopard

You have to be very careful/weary when driving around the parks as animals come out of nowhere and run across the road. Here is an impala on a rush to get somewhere (or get away from something)

Leaping Impala

Known for elephants, Tarangire did not disappoint. We would have seen over 300 wild elephants that day. From teeny tiny baby Ellies to large tusked aggressive bulls to beautifully aged Matriarchs.

Happy Baby Elephant Elephant Wrestle

Zebras. Black with White Stripes or White with Black Stripes?

Zebra

Beautiful Towering Giraffes

Giraffes & Elephants Masai Giraffe

My first African Safari was amazing, I can’t wait to show you the rest of my trip


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(Colin Davis Photography) Africa Animals Elephant Giraffe Holiday Leopard Lion Safari Tanzania Tarangire Travel Wildlife Zebra http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2015/8/My-First-Africa-Safari-Tarangire-National-Park Fri, 28 Aug 2015 22:20:53 GMT
Lady Elliot Island http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2014/3/LEIblog As the pilot circles the island before coming into land, I have already spotted 5 turtles swimming in the surrounding lagoon... I am literally bouncing with excitement

Lady Elliot IslandLady Elliot Island - Aerial ViewA Wonderful view of Lady Elliot Island as you come into land

 

Welcome to Lady Elliot Island.  Located about 40 minutes flight from Hervey Bay, Lady Elliot Island is the southern most coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef.  It plays host to a small eco-friendly resort.  It is also home to thousands of animals including birds, turtles, sharks and even has its own resident manta ray population.  During the months of June to October, it is also boasts migrating whales amongst its visitors.

 

Lady Elliot Island is also famous for beautiful clear snorkelling and spectacular diving. On the Eastern side of the island just off the beach is a lagoon, where one can regularly enjoy snorkelling and swimming with turtles (Green, Hawksbills and Loggerheads).  The Turtles are incredibly friendly, with one green turtle even taking a selfie for me.  The Lagoon also plays home to coral, sharks, starfish, octopuses, rays and even Nemos!

 

The Western side of the island is slightly deeper and this is where you will often find Manta Rays feeding of hanging out at one of the many cleaning stations on the reef.  These numbers tend to increase during the winter months, however they can be seen all year round.  The Western side caters for deeper snorkelling as well as diving.  The experience of having a Manta Ray swimming over your head is simply unforgettable.

Diving is always a treat. Whether you like the larger creatures like leopard sharks, or your prefer the macro creatures like pipefish and nudibranches, there is something for everybody with visibility often at 30 metres.  Every so often, you might get a surprise from Dolphins who have inquisitively come to play.  The resort caters for all levels of experience and has daily guided snorkelling trips and lessons.  Additionally it has glass bottom boat tours and educated reef walks during low tide to learn more about the wonderful life under the sea

 

As well as under the water, there are lots of things above the water to do ranging from exploring the island including the lighthouse, bird watching and turtle hatchling spotting. The island is heavily populated by birds.  In fact the island has the highest seabird diversity of any island on the Great Barrier Reef with over 50 different species and 100,000 birds calling Lady Elliot Island home at some time during the year.  Commonly seen birds include Black Noddies, Brown Booby, Lesser Frigatebirds, Terns, and Silver Gull.  I luckily saw an eagle one morning, but it was too fast to capture.  Although not in peak egg laying season, I was fortunate enough to see a few baby chicks

 

The Life of a Turtle is one of Endurance and a tale of survival.  Normally nesting during high tide and under the cover of darkness, the female turtle lays 80-120 eggs per clutch.  Roughly 8 weeks later, the baby turtles hatch, make their way through the sand out of the nest and scamper down the beach into the ocean.  They use the light of the moon and water to guide their way.  They will then spend the next few years at sea, before magically returning to the same island to lay their eggs.  Roughly 1 in 1000 will survive to adulthood, a true fight against the odds.

 

While up early one morning to watch the sunrise, I was fortunate enough to experience a late clutch of eggs hatching.  Watching the hatchlings make their way to the water under the glow of the morning sun... Heaven

Baby Green TurtleBaby Green TurtleNewly Hatched Baby Turtle Making its way down to the ocean to being their life in the Ocean

 

Before I sign off, I must mention the sunrises & sunsets... Pure Delight... Every. Single. One. Of. Them...

Lady Elliot Island is Paradise.  My day was: Sunrise, Wildlife, Snorkelling, Diving, Relaxation, Beaches, Fun Activities, Sunset. Repeat 

You'll be happy to know that the place is very eco friendly, with strategies and policies in place to minimise its impact on the environment.  It was awarded an Advanced Eco Tourism Award in 2009 by Ecotourism Australia.

Check out my album for more photos of the island.  I have only posted a select few of my favourites, but have many more if you would like to see them.   If you would like any further information on the island check out their website. http://www.ladyelliot.com.au/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Colin Davis Photography) Australia GBR Great Barrier Reef LEI Lady Lady Elliot Island Manta Rays Paradise Queensland Sunset Turtles http://www.colindavisphotography.com/blog/2014/3/LEIblog Sun, 09 Mar 2014 02:00:00 GMT