Panthera Leo – King of the Beasts

24 07 2009

Lion (Panthera leo)
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Lions usually hunt in prides. The females hunt and the males show up for food when they are good and ready. Once the kill has been taken down and the females have had a chance to tear up the carcase, the cubs feed and then the male comes for food. There is one male to a pride of females, but sometimes young males will roam together for a while and hunt in a coordinated unit, not having a pride of their own. We saw many lions on our trip… it almost became commonplace. The lioness in these pictures has been collared (for studies probably). We saw 4 collared lions during our time in the Serengeti. The two males were estimated at around 10 yrs old and the big standing guy was probably about the same. His pride was all sleeping in the tall grass – about 8 lionesses and 10 cubs. The lion in the tall grass that looks like he just showered is probably a young male at 2-3 years old. It’s quite unusual to see such old males hanging together – likely brothers. Wow – these cats are HUGE!

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What a fantastic trip!!!

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Leopard – the Elusive African Hunter

21 07 2009

Leopard (Panthera pardus)
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The leopard is a strong solitary hunter.  Due to their steath and camouflage they are very hard to see when on safari. Many tourists complete their trip never seeing one or only seeing one from a far distance.

We were lucky… up in the North of the Serengeti (Lobo area) we came across a solo leopard resting only 50 ft from the road.  He sat and let us shoot for quite some time as his belly was full from the recent kill he had dragged up into a nearby tree.  It was early morning, so some shots were taken at ISO6400.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get much better – his brother came by and the two hung out and played a bit before moving on to their next adventure for the day.  Wow!

The solo leopard before his brother showed up:

The two together:

This is the more common view of a leopard – far away and in a tree… 

What an amazing adventure!

 





Topi – The antelope with odd tanlines

21 07 2009

Topi (Damaliscus korrigum)
Seregeti National Park – Tanzania

 
Among the most socially advanced of the ungulates, the topi (also called the sassaby) occurs in the largest numbers in southern Sudan and in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. Its distribution is scattered, and populations isolated, probably because of habitat loss and hunting.

The topi is a medium-sized antelope with a striking reddish-brown to purplish-red coat. Distinct black patches appear on the face, the upper forelegs and on the hips and thighs. To complete its singular appearance, the topi’s yellowish-tan legs look like they are encased in stockings.

Although not quite as large as its relative the hartebeest (kongoni), the topi has a similar body shape. But it does not have such a long narrow head nor is it as high at the shoulder. The female is usually lighter in color than the male. Both sexes have thick, heavily ringed, lyre-shaped horns about 21 inches long. Topis have good sight and hearing and can run quite fast with a bounding gait.

They don’t really hang out in large herds but they are definitely a striking animal when you see them.  Quite the furry ears too!  Here are a few shots we took while on safari in Tanzania:

 

 





For the Chemistry geeks out there – Oxygen

15 07 2009

Sucks to be an oxidizer some days.





Self Portrait?

8 07 2009

There are days that I think this could definitely apply 🙂

Here’s a big, unhappy, hippo in Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania:

 





Changu Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania

8 07 2009

Changu Island, aka Prison Island, is a lovely little coral island off the western coast of the main island in the Zanzibar Archipelago, Zanzibar or locally as Zenji or UngujaChanguu Island was originally built to be a detention centre for disobedient slaves.  Later, in 1893, a prison was built here but instead it was used as a quarantine station for the whole of East Africa.  There is a large population of giant tortoises, a gift from the Seychelles in the 18th century.  The island has a restaurant and small beach for snorkelling and is popular with daytrippers from Stone Town.

In the peak of tourist season there can be 30 or more boats moored just off the beach by the restaurant.  Thankfully during our off-peak visit there was just us and another boat.   A small quiet group.

We had some amazing snorkelling just off the shore of Changuu, and the coral was varied and diverse.  There were beautiful sea stars and urchins as well as various little fish.  Quite pretty.

The main reason for visiting was the tortoises- Giant Aldabra Tortoises.  We got to feed these monsters by hand.  I had never seen a tortoise “run” until then.  They come storming like “a herd of turtles” :)  When I say giant, I mean GIANT.  These guys and gals can weigh up to 250kg and when you’re weighing sandals there’s a definite fear for your toes.  Fingers are also something to worry about with the powerful crushing beaks these guys have.

The Aldabra tortoise is one of the longest-lived animals on earth, if not the longest. No one knows exactly how long these animals are capable of living, but they are believed to easily surpass 100 years. So far, the tortoises studied have outlived the scientists studying them, and proper records have not been maintained.

Here’s a shot of Mrs D and one the bigger guys in the bunch:
 

 





Ngorongoro Crater from the Rim

8 07 2009

Our Lodge at the crater was perched RIGHT on the rim.  It was as if you were floating above the incredible caldera below.  As the evening sun began to colour the crater we arrived in time to get this stunning panorama before darkness fell on the big flat bowl below us.

Shot from the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge on the rim of the crater (from the window of our room!), this is a composite of 15 frames. Click for larger version.


Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania








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