Monday, December 12, 2016

Selous National Park to Ruaha National Park

On our last morning in Selous we had time for breakfast in the camp before saying our goodbyes and driving to the airstrip.

On the way we saw hundreds of these little red velvet beetles:

As well as Bohm's Bee-eater:

Black-backed Puffback:

Brown-hooded Kingfisher:

And a real treat, a young Leopard:

I'd been hoping to see one, so was chuffed we did get to see one.  

We also saw another of the large lizards, this one out in the open, briefly:

We waited for our plane to land, hoping it would be bigger than the previous aircraft, which it proved to be.  More passengers too.  On boarding we were told we'd be doing three flights, (1) 20 minutes along the river, (2) 40 minutes to Iringa and finally (3) 20 more minutes to Ruaha.

Our airfcraft had a group of young German ladies on board which no doubt the pilot was keen to impress, so we flew just above treetop height, banking at approaching 90 degree angles to follow the river before landing.  Take-off was started from the disembarkation position too not the runway.

The next flight there were just three of us on board, a Tanzanian gentleman, Helen and I.   We kept hearing an alarm at various points on the flight, at least that's what we assumed it was.   The pilot was nonchalant, checking his phone, taking pictures, and didn't attempt in anyway to check on us or indeed alter his course as we experienced a roller-coaster ride through rain storms, clouds, etc., i left my seat twice in sudden drops, meanwhile our fellow passenger was praying hard.  I decided there and then we weren't going to do this again, by the time we'd landed Helen agreed we'd try and get a car back from Ruaha.   Our last flight was non-stop clear-air turbulence and concluded with flying directly at a mountain while descending and then at seemingly the last minute turning 160 degrees to approach the landing strip.

We hated the flight and on arrival our driver wasn't there to meet us either, though it did give us time to unwind a bit before being collected.

We'd arrived in Ruaha National park:

We were collected and driven to the lodge for a lovely lunch and chance to unpack into our tent before the afternoon drive.

At this point we realised we didn't have our own team but rather were booked onto shared drives.   We were immediately concerned about this as we tend to be very bird centric and most other guests tend to be very 'big animal or cat' centric, 

Our drive was with a German couple who turned out to be lovely people who in fact we hope to meet again.  

At one point we stopped for a random common bird when I spotted another one fly across the path, drawing the guides attention to it he in turn spotted this, a Common Genet.  It used to be called a Genet Cat but it's not in fact a cat, being closer to a Mongoose:

We saw a Shikra eating a lizard:

And a huge herd of Buffalo:

One buffalo had a wound on its back, probably from a lion attack.   The Oxpeckers eat any infection, any insects, etc., and help the animal to heal, however their assistance must be painful and irritating judging by the vain attempts of the Buffalo to remove them form time to time:

We also saw the local variant of the Red-billed Hornbill which is also known as the Ruaha Hornbill:

The park hosts good numbers of Elephants, which is a good sign given their dramatic decline globally:

Back at camp Yellow-collared Lovebirds were bathing and drinking in a waterhole in the river bed:

That night we dined on the riverbank being escorted there and back again as Elephants were in the camp.   Indeed after we'd gone to bed and as i was dozing off, three walked right outside our tent, one of them was growling, a sign it knew we were there, and as a warning to us.  The following morning all you could smell was elephant and the local baboons were picking through their dung looking for tasty morsels (eww!).


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