All’s well that ends well…
My time at Grumeti started off with a few frustrations and disappointments, but it all came right in the end…!
The main problem was that the Great Migration was late, so there were very few animals around. There were some resident zebra and wildebeest, but not enough to provide me with any chance to see a kill. I made things worse for myself by deciding not to go on one of the afternoon game drives. Admittedly, one of the South African guests had told me that there ‘probably’ wouldn’t be one as they needed to be up early in the morning, and I was a bit stressed about getting behind on editing my pictures, but it was laziness, really. By the time I found out they were going out, I’d already changed and was happily working on my laptop. I only realised my mistake when someone showed me his pictures of a pride of lions with a double rainbow in the background! Aaaarrrrgggghhh…!
That wasn’t my only disappointment. I stayed at Grumeti from 8-28 May, and the first few days were very frustrating.
I came back from a couple of game drives early as there was so little to see, and I didn’t take a single picture for two game drives in a row!
When I did have a good day, I had so many pictures that I wasn’t able to edit them all before my next game drive, which stressed me out no end. I just didn’t have enough hours in the day. I was on game drives from 0600-1200 and again from 1600-1900, and for every hour of picture-taking I needed at least an hour of editing time, so I ended up working 18-hour days! I even had to set my alarm for 0330 a couple of times just so that I had a chance to get up-to-date, but that still left me with almost no time to relax and watch a movie or something. The only time I had to read the paper or catch up on some sleep was on game drives! It wasn’t really ‘work’, of course, and I enjoyed processing the pictures, but everyone needs a little time off every now and again…!
I only had one bottle of hand wash, but I needed one for the sink and one for the outdoor shower, and I had to ask for another one three times before it finally arrived…by accident! When I’d told my butler I needed ‘another’ bottle, he’d thought I meant a different bottle rather than a second one. The mind boggles…!
I also lost my USB stick, which drove me absolutely crazy! Where could it have got to? I knew I would’ve put it in the outside pocket of my camera bag, but it just wasn’t there. I looked everywhere for it, but I couldn’t find it.
I managed to rip my toenail off just standing too close to my bed. It started emitting some nasty pus, so I took some antibiotics, and Doctor Vicky came to dress the wound every night. (That’s all she did for me, by the way…!)
We had yet a puncture on one game drive only 100 yards from a lioness, so it was a bit difficult for Shaban to fix!
We saw an elephant in must that threatened to charge us. It was a great sighting, but Shaban got spooked and drove off too quickly, so I missed the money shot.
On a game drive with Yona, we just missed seeing a couple of lionesses fighting off a male that was trying to steal their kill. The guests who were there for the whole show said it was the greatest thing they’d ever seen in their lives. Aaaarrrrgggghhh…again!
I came home from one game drive to find bat droppings on my laptop!
I came home early from a game drive, only to find I was supposed to be having a ‘bush dinner’ with the rest of the guests. It was going to be a surprise - but my driver didn’t even know about it! They managed to rustle up something for me to eat, but I felt very disappointed about missing the guests’ final dinner and guilty about putting the staff to extra trouble. ‘Surprises’ are all very well, but they have to be better planned. It reminded me of a ‘surprise’ lunch at Klein’s when our guide told us that there had been a leopard sighting. He kept telling us that it was just up ahead, and I got very excited…only to find out that it was all a ruse when I saw lunch laid out in a clearing. It was very nicely done, with all the food laid out on a wooden swing and rugs and comfy chairs spread out on the grass, but I was massively disappointed. A leopard sighting beats lunch any day of the week.
My D850 with the 800mm lens fell on the floor of the truck…twice!
Having said that, the problems were only minor, and they were made up for by a few highlights:
My driver Shaban and I had a good leopard sighting. I thought I’d lost the opportunity when my camera malfunctioned, which was incredibly frustrating (!), but we followed him across the savannah until he eventually sat and posed nicely for us by the side of the road.
We got lucky when we went down to the Nyasirori man-made pool to get silhouette shots and immediately saw a lioness on the bank! This was the result:
I was given a cake and a tribal dance on my birthday - although I have a very low threshold of embarrassment, so I had to grit my teeth through it all…!
The food was very good, and one day I was given chilled apple and ginger soup. It was the best soup I’ve ever had in my life - so good that I actually asked for the recipe!
The guests were also great - as they have been throughout this trip. There was a big group of South Africans working for Spar who were good fun, and I got on particularly well with another couple called Jay and Margarita.
All that was very enjoyable, but during the last 10 days of my stay things really started picking up in a big way, and I had some really great sightings.
On the 18th of May, we saw a cheetah with two cubs in the morning and found her again in the evening. The word ‘cute’ doesn’t even describe the cubs. I took hundreds of pictures, and, just before we finally had to drive home, I even had a chance to watch the sunset reflected in the cheetah’s eyes! As Bill Murray said in Groundhog Day, “Now that was a pretty good day…”
On the 22nd, Waziri and I spent nearly two hours following a lioness and her cub that had been cut off from the rest of the pride. Waziri was about to give up, but I persuaded him to carry on, and we eventually saw the reunion. The other lions were very happy to see them! We had breakfast in the truck surrounded by the whole pride of around 20 lions!
On the 23rd, we saw two lionesses and seven cubs up a tree!
On the 24th, we saw 17 lions all line up to drink at the water hole with Holly and Marieke. All credit to Waziri. He saw the lions walking towards the pool, and he worked out that they’d stop to drink there, so he positioned us in the perfect spot to shoot from. He was the head ranger with years of bush experience, but it was still uncanny how his predictions always seemed to come true!
On the 27th, I decided to do an all-day game drive to try and spend some time with one of the cats, and it paid off when we saw a leopard that posed beautifully in a tree and then the cheetah with the two cubs, which proceeded to take up some fantastic positions on one termite mound after another. I took 3,000 shots that day!
On my last day, the 28th, I was thinking about going straight to the airport, but I’d learned my lesson from the last time I missed a game drive, so I asked Waziri to take me down to the Nyasirori pool again. Lo and behold, the lions were there again! I managed to take a few silhouette shots of the female, but the male was too skittish and walked away. However, I did get some good shots of the ‘Flehmen’ response, which is when a male lion bares his teeth to expose a gland that’s sensitive to the scent of females on heat. I was on such a high that I even found myself whistling a song at one point!
Oh, and I found my USB stick…just where it was supposed to be!
All’s well that ends well…
Here are a few of my favourite shots from my stay at Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp:
1 x big toenail
1 x USB memory stick (before I found it later…!)
This is a cumulative list of species I’ve seen at Klein’s Camp, Serengeti Under Canvas and Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp.
African bush elephant
African wild cat
Lesser bush baby
Mwanza flat-headed rock agama/Spider-Man agama
Wild dog/painted wolf
African crowned eagle
African fish eagle
African golden weaver
African grey flycatcher
African grey hornbill
African moustached warbler
African open-billed stork
African paradise flycatcher
African pied wagtail
African wattled lapwing
African white-backed vulture
Black-winged red bishop
Cinnamon-breasted rock bunting
Common sandpiper oooobrm
Eastern grey plantain-eater
Eastern paradise whydah
Great spotted cuckoo
Greater blue-eared starling
Greater striped swallow
Grey-capped social weaver
Grey crowned crane
Lesser masked weaver
Lesser striped swallow
Little green bee-eater
Northern anteater chat
Northern white-crowned shrike
Pale spotted owlet
Ruppell’s griffon vulture
Ruppell’s long-tailed starling
Southern red bishop
Verreaux’s (or black) eagle
Von Der Decken’s hornbill
Western banded snake-eagle