Friday, 8 September 2017

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Safaris in the Selous Game Reserve

The Selous Game Reserve is approximately 55,000 sq km in size or putting this another way, it is bigger than Denmark. It is however one of the lesser visited Game Reserves which to us is one of its attractions.

Unesco classify the site as a World Heritage Site:

Large numbers of elephants, black rhinoceroses, cheetahs, giraffes, hippopotamuses and crocodiles live in this immense sanctuary, which measures 50,000 km2 and is relatively undisturbed by human impact. The park has a variety of vegetation zones, ranging from dense thickets to open wooded grasslands.

but here as elsewhere, poaching is a major problem. Because of this, Unesco have added it to their list of World Heritage sites in danger.

The way the safaris were organised for us was that we met our guide at the camp, then boarded the safari jeep which was a long wheel base 

Safari Jeep

4WD with tiered seating so that everyone got a good view over the heads of the rows in front. Not that this was a problem for us - on the first day there were 3 of us and on the second day just the 2 of us (plus the driver / guide). We were later told that we were travelling in between the summer peak and the autumn peak and hence everywhere was relatively quiet. 

Selous Entry Sign

The road into the Selous is a dust track. The Reserve is unfenced and hence animals cross the reserve boundary at will. 

Selous Entrance

The actual formal entrance for visitors such as us was adjacent to the Mtembre airstrip. The entrance also provided the last chance to go to a conventional toilet before going into the park (once in you just find an appropriate bush……….)

The total fee to get into the Selous Game Reserve was around $77 per person per day and was made up of a $50 entry fee, a $15 conservation fee plus VAT. On top of this you have to add the costs for your guide, transport, food etc. Going on a Safari is not cheap! There are park rangers who amongst other things stop vehicles to check that the passengers have paid their entrance fee.

Lunch Day 2

For us, lunch was far more of a luxurious experience than we had expected with a table,

Lunch in the Bush

chairs, table cloth, cold drinks and more than enough food to feed us all.

Lunch View 1

Our guide chose a spot with a view and this was one of the scenes which entertained us during lunch, a herd of Impala running along the lake shore in front of us.

Hippo Jaw

On the first day, our lunch was adjacent to a Hippo’s Jaw 

Hippo at Lunch Time

and on the second, a Hippo was enjoying its lunch in front of us.

I am sure a long minute by minute account of a safari with lots and lots of similar looking pictures would be rather boring to any readers. Therefore I have combined the couple of hundred pictures I took into on the two safaris into a few "groups by animal”.

The way our safaris worked was that or guide drove along one of the “roads” leading into the reserve and whenever he saw something of interest, he would stop and point it out. His eyes were far sharper than ours and invariably he saw everything first. He would also drive slowly losing over the side of the van into the dust looking for animal tracks or droppings. Sometimes he would just turn off and head into the bush towards some animals / trees / water or something we knew not what.

Impala

The first animal we saw was an Impala and these were to be a few of the many hundreds we would see during the day. They are extremely numerous, they are very pretty and graceful and make a nice snack for any hungry lions.

Impala First

Impala 2

They are at their most vulnerable when drinking and hence are very nervous at this time.

Lions

Lions 1

Lions are on everyone’s “want to see” list. Our guide saw some vultures circling in the air and decided that lions must be somewhere in the area - they were. We approached a shelter built for visitors to sit in and look over the bush from a nice shady vantage point. Someone else however had got their first and taken it over for their post lunch snooze in the early hot afternoon.

Lions 2

We stayed in the jeep - we were however feet from them and could count their every breath. There were two male lions (we were told they were brothers) and seven females.

Lions 3

Lions 4

Lions 5

I am sure that had one of us gotten out of the jeep, they would soon have been the next snack. 

Lions and Jeeps

This photograph shows the problem which exists in game reserves when a prize animal is found - lots of jeeps turn up to see it at the same time. These lions were ringed by seven jeeps, all trying to get into the best position for a photograph. This was the only time we had to share some animals with others, however if we had gone to one of the northern parks, it would have been a constant feature. 

Lion King of the Pride

The leader of this pride however ignored all those taking photographs and just relaxed. 

The same pride was involved in the death of a young hippo the following day and these pictures were taken by some friends of ours who did the same whole day safari.

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Fully grown hippos are too large and dangerous even for a pride to attack unless the hippo is very weak. It is likely that this young hippo was isolated from the rest of the pod or was ill and not able to put up a fight.

P1070609

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And as usual, the vultures were waiting for their chance to eat what was left.

Elephants

Elephant Family

Elephants are on everyones "must see” list and after a bit of searching, we found a family of four including a calf.

Elephant Drinking 1

We were given a demonstration of how to drink using a trunk

Elephant Drinking 2

Elephant Drinking 3

with the water eventually being squirted into the mouth.

Elephant Drinking 4

We were told than sometimes frogs get into the trunk and therefore the elephant has to spend some time sucking it out which it what it is doing in this photographs. 

Elephant Calf

This is the calf we saw 

Elephants Mudbath

and her it is with the next in line having a mud bath.

Elephants Does my bottom look big

This photograph has to lead to the question “Does my bottom look big?"

Elephant ears out

Elephants will show aggression and tell you to back off if they feel threatened as is the case here. The mother is protecting her calf and showing that she is becoming displeased by fully showing her ears.

 

Elephant Bull

On another day we met a large bull elephant who was not very pleased at being followed. 

Elephant Bull Crossish

It did the ears routine at us and also charged us for a couple of metres before stopping

Elephant shaking tree

and then proceeded to show us how it shake a tree to bring down fruit. Note one tusk on each side of the trunk - a hard push then either knocks the tree down or dislodges fruit.  

Elephant Skull

Death of course comes to elephants as well us other animals and here is a small elephant’s skull picked clean for us to see.

Giraffe 

Giraffe First

Giraffes are superbly camouflaged when in the bush 

3 Giraffes

and also are very watchful - these three kept a close eye on us and would never let us come too close by galloping off whenever we did. 

Giraffe Drinking

Giraffes of course have some trouble when drinking because the water is a long way down. 

Giraffe Calf Drinking

They are also very vulnerable at this time. 

Giraffe and Impala

Giraffe Neck Bones

These are some of the neck bones of a giraffe which died following a fight. They fight by hitting each other with their necks.

Giraffe Legbones

This shows the relative size of their leg bones.

Hippopotamus

Hippos

Hippos are very dangerous animals although they look quite comical and nice. Much of the day is spent in the water keeping cool - here is a pod of about 12 hippos.

Hippo 1

They eat a prodigious amount of green vegetation every day

Hippo Track

and generally keep to set paths when walking about the bush. 

Vultures

Vultures 1

Vultures are of course scavengers

Vulture 2

and generally get a bit of a bad press.

Vultures feeding

These are fighting over the last fleshy remnants on the skull of an impala. 

Wildebeest

Wildebeest 1

Water Buffalo

Water Buffalo Suspicious

Water Buffalo are one of the big five and are dangerous when they charge. 

Water Buffalo 2

They also are very suspicious and it took some while to get close enough to observe them properly. 

Zebra

Zebra First

The black and white camouflage on a zebra is surprisingly effective

Zebra

Zebra Backsides

We were told that the pattern the stripes make on their rears is unique to each zebra and they use the pattern to recognise each other. How this was proved I do not know.

Crocodile

Crocodile

No one likes the crocodile and there were a lot of them here ranging from small ones to enormous ones. 

Weaver Bird

Weaver Bird Nests

The Weaver Bird weaves a nest in a tree using whatever grasses are around.

Weaver Bird

Weaver Bird Nest

The nest has two entrances / exits so it can escape if a predator (usually a snake) comes in through the front door. The nests are remarkable creations.

Warthogs 

Warthogs

Warthogs are dangerous and will charge and gore you with their tasks.

Warthog

Keeping a safe distance is a good idea.

Hyena 

Hyena

We came across a few Hyena hiding in the bush. They were very well camouflaged.

Hyena 2

Hyena 3

Hyena Poo

The Hyena eats everything including the bones and hence its poo is white because of the bones.

Monkeys - Baboon 

Baboon

Baboon 2

There were numerous monkeys of different breeds throughout the park. This is a baboon and often they are seen in marauding troops.

and Finally - a Boab Tree

Boab Tree

We started to love Boab Trees when we were in Australia and knew that they were said to have originated from Africa and we did see a few here.