Kenya and Tanzania - and Dubai - Fall 2015 travel blog



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dung beetles

The Serengeti is so large, you could stay here a month and not see it all. In the short time we are here, we are doing our best to see as much as possible. We spend the whole day on game drives. Fred heads off in promising directions and tries to show us things we haven't seen before. Sometimes he hears things from other drivers, but generally he focuses on areas with water. Everything needs to drink and that's usually where the action is. It can be a waiting game. The lions, leopards and cheetahs patrol the vicinity or lay in the tall grass waiting for an unwitting meal to walk by. The grazing animals come to drink in large numbers and constantly glance around looking for danger. The lions here have learned an abnormal behavior and like to climb trees. It is believed that they happened upon this in an effort to get away from biting insects and found that they liked the view, the shade, and the element of surprise. Leopards normally climb trees, bringing up their prey so no one can steal it from them. Cheetahs do not have retractable claws, so they are stuck on the ground. Sometimes we see trees shaking as if in a quake, before we notice the elephants that are destroying them. The damage they cause is tolerable when they have enough habitat. By eating so much vegetation, they open up the savannah for new growth. When confined to a small area, they can turn it into a desert.

By now we have seen examples of most animals one would expect to encounter in East Africa. Since recovering from the the frenzied taking of photographs, we are spending more time observing behaviors and learning how to spot animals ourselves. A new behavior closely observed and documented has been lions mating. The male looked battered and exhausted after the fighting he had to go through to claim his prize. His ribs showed through his fur, because he doesn't have time to hunt and eat. He has to mate every ten to twenty minutes for over a week to insure that the deed is done. Apparently, lions are not very fertile and it takes many attempts to make sure progeny ensue. Being the king of beasts isn't all it's cracked up to be. But most of the other lions we have seen looked fat and content. With all the wildebeest here, it's like living in a buffet. After the wildebeest babies are born and the herd moves on, they will have to work a lot harder for their meals. The lions like to hang out on kopjes, named by the first Dutch visitors to these parts , because they look like heads poking up from the plains. Usually a few trees grow on them, providing shade and the view from the top is terrific.

The dung beetle was a great hit with our group. These creatures are partial to a particular variety of dung, depending on the variety of the beetle. They secrete a liquid that enables them to roll a piece of dung into a ball about ten times bigger than they are. Then they huff and they puff and they roll the ball to soft soil, lay their eggs in it and the babies have something delicious to eat when they hatch.

The land rovers we spend the day in take a terrible beating day after day on these so called roads. Amos, our driver, had to stop to replace a low tire. He has two ninety liter gas tanks, which is a good thing since we haven't seen a gas station in days. We often end up eating picnic lunch in the rovers as well, since we are in areas where it is not safe to be outside. Toilets are few and far between, so every so often we dash out for a quick pit stop in the altogether. We are covered with dust and wind blown most of the time. Best not to look in the mirror.

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