Cat House

Nancy Vandermey, Author
Tanzania Trip July 2015

Friday is a half-half day, while we are having breakfast the baboons across the riverbed start making their loud "Leopard!" alarm call, we hear a leopard roar (sawing) 3 times but too far off to locate. No cats on the morning drive. In the afternoon we go to a new area "small serengeti" which had many hundreds of hornbills congregating in the open area. At another concrete bridge we watch dwarf mongoose and lizards. J4 gets intel from a friend (the guides communicate via cell phone) and we go to 3 large-bellied flat lionesses. They are perfectly positioned for some abstract shots. Back to camp at 7, no leopard tonight. Civet again, and I'll include a few daytime shots from the trail cam. Saturday we have a walk scheduled, but we are late because the vehicle has an electrical problem. The rangers are still waiting for us so at 8 am we are off, along the Ruaha River with Jackson. They also have a second ranger along because in the past few years a visitor has been killed by an elephant, and a ranger by a hippo, while on a walk. We hear about the local plants and animals, see some elephant cross the river, see lots of hippo & crocs & waterbirds, then climb into the hills and come close to 4 elephant on our left with more farther away to the right. We quietly walk between the groups and continue, ending up at the bridge over the Ruaha River. Jackson dug out an ant lion for us, neat thing. We stopped by the viewpoint area of the zebra kill, 7 lionesses are relaxing in the shade. We go back to camp to do the same. Kudu and impala visit across the river. That evening we head to the open areas along the river where a female cheetah was seen that morning. We can't find her, but I do spot a sickly thin male lion with an inflamed rear leg. Hope he gets better. Heading home we of course do "leopard alley" again along the hills, and there is a male walking along the road. Two vehicles in attendance, but they have to get back to camp as it's getting late. We are alone with him until he leaves the road. Back at camp we enjoy the fire and a great beef dinner, and then as usual check the waterhole - Eric spots a leopard coming in to drink! It moves back across the riverbed and up the bank, as we watch on foot. That night we had both hyena and lions calling in the dark. We are woken by baboons alarm calling. On the road at 7:30, nearby we find a male leopard lying on the road. He moves into the bush but we manage to keep track of him for a while. We lose him, head to the riverbed, and find him again. He marks a bush, drinks from the river, then disappears into some rocks. From other vehicles we knew of mating lions nearby so we go there and spend time with the honeymoon couple. A jackal nearby was hopeful for scraps, no luck. After 3 mating sessions we go back on cheetah hunt, unsuccessful again. The milkweed flowers (I think Calotropis procera) were heavy in some areas. We had lunch at Mbuni again, some kids on another vehicle were cute when they asked if we had seen Zebra! or Crocodile! After lunch we ended up at the Mwagasu river, J4 reversed to check if something he spotted was a dikdik or??? It was a lioness with small cubs, we saw 5 cubs (two 10 weeks old three 14ish weeks old). We watched for a while as they played, very comfortable with the vehicle close by. An impala and fawn came close by but the lions didn't care. Momma lion then headed down the riverbank, we drove to the bridge nearby and could see the whole pride far off in the shade - 1 big male, 3 adult lionesses 5 cubs. Next we stopped at the breakfast picnic spot where J4 could see a stationary vehicle across the riverbed, we went down to a crossing and went across with another vehicle. The lions in Ruaha are known for being giraffe hunting specialists, and here we found a large pride on a dead giraffe. There were at least 11 lions around, mostly adult females and older male cubs 4-5 years. We spotlight a civet in the riverbed that night, they show up on the trail camera often. We also attempt star trail photos and painting the baobab with light, should have practiced at home first! Monday morning we find 2 hyena at the productive river area, they are shy in this park. Driving through the hills Eric spots a lioness, which turns into 7 lions - 3 youngish adult males and 4 females, with some mating observed at a distance. Back to searching for cheetah. Along the river another vehicle alerts us to a momma lion deep in a bush with 3 tiny cubs, maybe 10 days old. A herd of buffalo is seen in the river. Further along the river we find more lion, 11 or 12, 3 males one young cub, lying on the sand and in the reeds. A male with a huge belly drinks from the river. 4 of them take off upriver and a fight is heard in the reeds, then lions run across the river far off. We follow, noticing one male buffalo in the reeds. Back on the road farther from the river we see 2 lionesses run across into a forested area, and we wait there as the buffalo herd approaches cautiously. Obviously we chose wrong, as in the meantime the single buffalo in the river got killed by the lions we had ben watching! One thinner adult male, 8-9 lionesses and the cub were feeding. It was about 4 when we left there, too hot to go to leopard alley yet, J4 took us to the dysfunctional rope bridge and then we returned to the giraffe carcass and watched more action there. On our way home it was Eric who spotted a male leopard posing beautifully on a rock. Back at camp we heard a pair of mating leopards nearby, then they split up as one roared on each side of camp. Overnight we heard lions & hyena. Tuesday we had to pack up to leave. For our morning drive we spent time at the Ruaha River bridge and then went to the airstrip for our flight to the Northern Serengeti.

Page 1 - Mkumi and Ruaha part 1
Page 2 - Ruaha part 2
Page 3 - Serengeti
Page 4 - Ngorongoro