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Ironically, our last international travel was to Tanzania, just days before Covid shut down international travel. Now, we're back, and the trip was a great one, and we've already booked dates for October of 2022. Join us, the trip we just had was spectacular, and I'm sure the next one will be even better!

The following report is taken from my daily posts on Facebook, where each day, throughout 2021, I've taken at least one new photo a day and posted it, usually with a write-up. This report will give you a great idea of what you can expect on one of our safaris.

mOctober 4, 2021. Today’s shot is simply Mary and Greg, one of our participants, watching over the luggage while we wait for everyone to clear the Covid protocols. Everyone did, and we headed to the hotel … 27 hours or so of travel. Enough said, good night!

Day 276, October 5, 2021. Arusha, Tanzania. Tourism is obviously way down, and after meeting our driver-guides last evening, several of whom hadn’t worked in well over a year, we could see first-hand how this Covid aftermath has affected so many.

This morning, at a late breakfast, I carried my 100-400 (200-800mm equivalent) and photographed the Variable Sunbirds that were sipping nectar from nearby garden flowers. Sunbirds are the Old World equivalent of the New World’s Hummingbirds (hummers are not found outside the Western Hemisphere and Sunbirds are only in the Eastern) and share many of the same characteristics. Males are colorful, females are drab and inconspicuous, but Sunbirds, unlike Hummingbirds, cannot hover or fly backwards. They perch in order to sip nectar, while ‘our’ hummers can hover in place to do the same. The three images show the juvenile male, with ‘paint flecks’ as adult feathers appear, the drab-colored female, and the male.
Palm Swifts, aerial insect feeders, swooped over the grounds and were a true exercise in frustration I tried getting some shots. Acquiring focus was almost impossible, as was finding and following there erratically flying birds that swerved and jinked and darted at incredible speeds, too fast for my reflexes 95% of the time.
Looking at the shots at 100% in the RAW converter I must say I was extremely impressed with the Olympus 100-400mm’s sharpness and IS capabilities. I didn’t feel too steady shooting the Sunbirds, but the images were always sharp. This IS a great alternative to the more expensive 150-400mm.
Two of our participants will arrive today, after a flight delay that had them missing their Amsterdam to Tanzania connection. Their rerouting now took a tortuous journey through Paris (7 hour layover), then Ethiopia, then Tanzania … so many hours in the air and in layovers, we can’t wait to give them hugs!
Tomorrow we fly out to start the safari and everyone can’t wait. We’re all excited.
Just in case the internet dies, I’m posting early … maybe with luck adding something later on today.  

October 6, 2021. A great start to the safari! We had a flight to our camp in the northern Serengeti, met our driver-guides and did a game drive into camp, under the high, harsh, hot light of mid-day.
At 4PM we were back on our game drive, heading to a series of kopjes where a very habituated Leopardess and two cubs is frequently found. We hadn’t driven far when a different Leopardess, and two cubs, crossed the road in front of us and continued along a lugga, a ravine. The cats were shy, and when we attempted to get closer they ran, and seeing that, we stopped and let them go.
kKlipspringers, a cliff-dwelling antelope that is distinctive in standing on its tip-toes, the very tip of its hooves, were posed against a wonderful background of buttes and mesas extending into Kenya’s Masai Mara. At the end of the day we found another pair that posed wonderfully, snuggling together and nuzzling, making a cute but accurate image. Oribi, another fairly uncommon antelope, also cooperated well.
Stopping for a landscape shot of a fig tree framed against a cloud-free blue sky and anchored to a huge, smooth kopje rock, we found the highlight of the day, a pair of Batelur Eagles that were perched upon a limb in full sunlight, beside each other for perfect framing.
Our driver-guides located the afternoon’s objective, the Leopardess with cubs, feeding upon a Gnu kill. A documentary film crew was on-site, using a boom camera and a rock/tortoise remote to get close to the kill. The cats reacted to the intrusion, and although the footage they captured could be edited to create the illusion that the leopard and cubs were stalking or snarling at prey or predator, they were reacting to the fake rock. I really have to wonder if this filming novelty, something that has only been done over the last few years, won’t be viewed as harassment and intrusion, and will in the future be condemned. One can hope!

lOctober 7, 2021. An 8 hour morning game drive and an incredible variety of subjects, from Elephants close enough for facial details to Agama Lizards basking, changing color as they absorbed the sun’s rays and transforming from dull black lizards to brilliant red and blue rainbows of color. Perhaps  our best Martial Eagle ever, tolerantly perched on an open tree; a Nile Monitor Lizard that inexplicitly strode down a shallow stream bed right to our vehicle; tame Warthog families; more Klipspringers; Giraffes; the diversity was incredible.
We started by dead-heading straight to the Leopardess and her cubs, which were still hanging at the Waterbuck kill they’ve now fed on for at least two days. When we arrived the mother was just finishing up another snack, and she went to rest, mostly completely concealed, high in a tree. Her cubs still were playful, climbing her tree to tug on their mother’s tail, and wrestling at the base of several trees, and climbing, in full view, others.
Last night, arriving in camp after 7PM, and finishing dinner after 9PM, and writing and posting after that left little time for sleep. So … whenever possible, the day’s Photo will be from an AM shoot, with additions, perhaps, from the evening shoot added to the next day’s posting. Otherwise, 5 hours of sleep will simply drain me! PM. We crossed the Mara River based on a erroneous report of Gnus building for a river crossing, stopping on the bridge for a front-on view of a medium size Nile Crocodile with its mouth agape, sun pouring down its throat. After checking the crossing points, with wonderful light had there been activity, we continued on, stopping first for a Leopard Tortoise and then, with incredible spotting on the part of our driver/guide, another Leopardess with two 8 week old cubs. Two branches covered part of her face for what otherwise would have been a stellar shot, with one cub investigating mom’s back for a short time. Afterwards, as sunset neared, we headed home, hoping for a good silhouette with a fireball sun. We weren’t successful.

lOctober 8, 2021.We headed back to the Leopardess and cubs and, fortunately, either the kill was finished or Hyenas had claimed it, as the cats were gone. One of our participants, Keith, spotted the family on a slope, and after a long circuitous drive we arrived, with the cats sitting atop a termite mound. In the open, we saw for ourselves how incredibly habituated these cats were, as multiple times, as we strove to keep ahead of the cats they walked right to our vehicles. At one point I had our vehicle head up to a large fig tree, anticipating that the cats would come to the tree, which they did, and where the Leopard had stored, in the brush,, a fresh Oribi, a medium-sized Antelope. The cats climbed the tree, where the cubs played and repeated ascended and descended the tree.   Later, from a hill top, we overlooked thousands of Gnus, the largest herds we have seen in this area on all our trips. gOne of our vehicles was positioned near water, and quite unexpectedly, right before them, a Lioness made a kill! John was there and got some shots as the two were engaged in a struggle that ended badly for the Gnu.

At 11:30AM while having a late morning coffee break, I’m writing this post, since this is an all-day game drive and we’ll be arriving late to camp.
Too late to post any afternoon images, after a 13.5 hour day, but the afternoon was Lions, and Lion cubs! Images tomorrow!


October 9, 2021. Yesterday’s afternoon session of our all-day game drive was devoted to Lions, about 25 in all scattered amongst several different prides. Several prides had cubs, which we spent as much time as we could before heading back for an hour-plus drive back to camp. En route, near camp, we found another pride of 12, with several perched upon eroded mini-mesas, framed against the golden light of evening.
This morning we passed on the Leopardess and cubs and headed for the pride of 12, getting over an hour’s worth of great shooting. Later, we searched for Cheetahs, without success, but had great Gnu herds running by, and a near-river crossing. An almost ethereal Yellow-billed Stork, and an ear-flapping baby Giraffe were a few of this morning’s photo highlights, but with ten minutes to spare before our afternoon game drive, that’s it for a report!
PM. Storms surrounded us, but we escaped the rain. We were hoping for a Gnu river crossing, and had luck, with one of the best we’ve ever had in TZ or anywhere else. When we reached the river, as luck would have it, we were right at the entrance point for the Gnus to storm down into the river, and we had a spectacular view of the other side where Gnus scrambled to climb the muddy banks. Unbelievable.

hOctober 10, 2021. Our last morning in the northern Serengeti and it did not disappoint. We were headed to the Leopardess with the two cubs but a mother Hyena, and cub, was our first distraction, followed by another mother Leopard with a 18 month old cub that was unafraid and posed wonderfully on a rock, the two head-butting before walking off. Hours later we found them again, with the mother lying in a Fig tree and the cub, in full view, lying on a rock in full view beneath a small bush.
In the kopjes we looked for more Klipspringers, and at a family of Hyraxes we had incredible shots. This marmot (groundhog)-like mammals is a distant relative of the hElephant, although you’d never guess it. With its short, rounded toes and soft pads, the Hyrax can climb rocks or trees, and we photographed them on both.  
Now, at lunch, with a black jacket covering my head and laptop screen, I’m writing the report, anticipating that this all-day game drive will get us to our next camp too late to do anything but eat, unpack, and sleep!
Of course, in trying to convert images at our lunchtime stop Photoshop said once again it couldn’t confirm my license. Capture One here I come I think! PM. We arrived at an incredibly luxurious new camp, an upgrade that was quite unexpected, with internet in the tent, giving me time to add to today’s post. Besides another Leopard – our 13th for the trip and our 19th sighting, we came upon four extremely thin Lions who walked towards some road workers, charging down the road at one point and being quite intent. My driver/guide drove down to warn them and the group headed to their tin shack where they are staying while doing the roadwork. Our guide suggested, strongly, they post a lookout … hungry lions are not picky!

lOctober 11, 2021. Clear but dusty skies made for a great sunrise, although finding a suitable foreground was a challenge. We did find Lions on a kill in the early light, with a nice male Lion posing cooperatively upon a termite mound. Later, herds of Elephants and a large herd of African Buffalo paralleled us on the track, with the Buffalo hosting red-billed oxpeckers and wattled starlings on their heads and backs. One Elephant herd had us excited, as we thought the herd had bunched together around one of the large females and we thought they were forming a protective ring for an imminent birth. We were wrong, but the wait was rewarded with three Bull Elephants marching straight to us and joining the herd.
PM. We searched the area where a very unusual, and rare, black morph (color phase) of a Serval, a small spotted cat, and although unsuccessful, we had a very good encounter with a Cheetah. We had two Cheetahs earlier, in the AM, but too far for any shots, so this cooperative one was truly appreciated.

hOctober 12, 2021. Our last full day in the Serengeti, and this morning’s game drive yielded 5 Cheetahs, 1 Leopard, 1 Serval, and 6 Lions, in addition to Vervet Monkeys, Little Bee-eaters, Dik-dik antelope, and one of the most impressive pods of Hippopotamuses we’ve ever seen. Hippos aren’t considered one of the Big Five, the Lion, Elephant, Leopard, African Buffalo, and Black Rhino, which big game hunters sought, but Hippos are perhaps the most dangerous of them all, killing more people yearly than any of the others. These water-dwelling monsters graze on grass, and at night leave waterholes and rivers to graze, sometimes traveling 10 miles or more during the night. At dawn, they return to the water, and if a hapless villager heading for water meets up with one, either on land or on a small boat, the outcome may not be pleasant.
I did Focus Stacking on several hippo shots at 1000mm, and provided birds or hippos didn’t move, I achieved great depth of field. We waited nearly a half hour for our last series – of a yawning Hippo showing its huge tushes, its formidable teeth.
sPM. We headed back towards the black Serval area and although we didn’t find that cat we did find and photograph a very relaxed spotted version of this small cat. Afterwards we headed to a new Spotted Hyena den where an extremely tolerant mother allowed her two very young babies, black in color when young, to chew upon her ears and otherwise maul her resting head. Several older, partially spotted babies walked from the den right to our vehicles, unafraid and curious. And, we arrived in camp with a few minutes to actually include two shots and the PM write-up! Tomorrow will be a long day, through the Serengeti and ending up at the Ngorongoro Crater.
October 13, 2021. With some sadness we left one of our favorite camps for the long drive to the Ngorongoro Crater. En route we had an incredible opportunity with two species of Sandgrouse, Yellow-throated and Chestnut-bellied, that flew into a waterhole to drink. Males, if there are chicks at a nest, will soak their breast feathers in the water, collecting droplets there which, when the feathers close over the drops, the birds fly off, transporting the water to their thirsty chicks.
Later, at a large collection of migrating Black-shouldered Kites we had another great shooting opportunity, as birds circled a rocky island, called a kopje, giving us the best photo opportunities I’ve ever had with this bird. I was hand-holding the 150-400mm, sometimes with the 1.25XTC engaged, shooting at the equivalent of 1000mm at times. With AF-Tracking Bird, I was amazed at how many sharp shots I had with birds flying right at me, at 20mph or higher.
Two species of Owls, and a very rare Caracal, the African Lynx, with two kittens were other highlights before we started the grueling drive to the Crater.There, Vervet Monkeys, Buffalo, and cooperative Jackals were some of the afternoon’s highlights.

zOctober 14, 2021. Ngorongoro Crater and our last full day on this photo safari, and after a very late (2PM) lunch break Mary and I and another participant headed back to the lodge, for a relaxing afternoon where we could catch up on paperwork, editing, and assorted tasks. But first, a double gin and tonic on our veranda, overlooking the Crater and a fairyland forest of acacia trees and lichens. Our day in the Crater was a fitting conclusion, with Common Zebra fights, many birds, Golden and Black-backed Jackals, and for the group, the Big Five, with a distant view of a Black Rhino, a good tusker Elephant, 10 Lions, plenty of Buffalo, and, incredibly, a mother Leopard with a cub, something we haven’t seen down on the Crater floor for over ten years! I shot the entire day with the 150-400, sometimes with the converter, and for all of the flying birds I used AF-Tracking Birds and the camera did an incredible job, as you’ll see with the pics.
Tomorrow the group heads for home, and Mary and I and another participant get another Covid test, then head for 3 days in the Serengeti before our flight to Rwanda for Mountain Gorillas. A busy day ahead.

Day 286, October 15, 2021. We had a chance to say a final goodbye to our wonderful group before heading out for a Covid test at the Fame Hospital complex in Karatu, requiring us to drive along the fog-shrouded crater rim, then driving into the lowlands for the test. Fortunately, that test went quickly and painlessly, as opposed to the ones our group had to take earlier, with a double nose jab and a cheek/tongue swab … all of which took over an hour. We were done in minutes.
Heading back to the Serengeti we retraced our route, climbing again into the Ngorongoro highlands and skirting the crater rim before descending, on the western side, into what would lead to the Serengeti.
cForty minutes into our afternoon game drive that would, by sunset, have us back at camp we stopped for a landscape shot of the kopjes against a striking sky. While we were shooting, Mary spotted a Caracal, moving up the rocks then pausing, and giving me time to get some shots before it climbed up and over the kopje and disappeared from view.
Hoping we’d see it on the other side we began to circle the kopje when Mary again spotted a cat – we thought the Caracal, but instead, in the same rock complex, an African Wild Cat! This species sometimes breeds with domestic cats and looks rather similar, although this wild cat looked at us with wide, alert eyes for several minutes until it bolted from cover and raced over the top.

cWe circled the kopje looking for the Caracal, and on our second pass checked out another set of rocks before returning towards the original kopje. Since we had a more distant view that would include more of the top of the kopje we stopped to scan, and Mary thought she saw a den beneath a tree. What looked like bare earth underneath a thatch of grass proved to be the Caracal, lying partially in the shade of the grasses, watching over the grasslands. We approached closer, got some shots before the cat retired inside the shaded den.

Later, we paused briefly for another Cheetah, and a good male Lion later on, before continuing for a quest of a five cat day, but the Serval eluded us. Nonetheless, Mary and I rarely get a chance to ride together and her ‘African eyes’ really were spot on today!

October 16, 2021. We always tell our safari participants that seeing a snake on safari is very rare, and that you’ll be lucky to see just one on any trip. Our group saw none … well, the group didn’t, but Mary and I had two interesting encounters. The first occurred on our very first day on safari, when I was sitting inside our tent (a huge, house-like thing, so don’t think ‘pup tent’ here), and I heard a weird flapping or tapping. I ignored it at first, then glanced to my right and, just outside the tent, climbing up the zipper of the tent flap (on the outside) a Green Snake was just feet away! I didn’t have a field guide with me, but I’m fairly sure it was a nonvenomous species of Rat Snake. Otherwise, it was a deadly Boomslang. I didn’t have my camera, but with my monopod I lifted the snake off of the tent and carried it to a bush where it would be safe from panicky camp staff.
Today, on our late lunch break, Mary was about to hang out some wash to dry on our stone veranda while I was inside, editing, when I heard a yelping curse! Something got Mary excited and I rushed out, and Mary pointed to a large Puff Adder, one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa and the largest we’ve ever seen, lying on the stones just beside the patio. The snake’s head was facing away from where she had stepped down, only six inches from the snake, too close by any measure of luck, and she was very shaken. Of course, our cameras were at reception, and as I headed out the door to retrieve a camera the snake crawled away, hiding beneath our porch.
pPuff Adders usually only bite in self-defense, if someone tries picking one up or, in Mary’s case, stepping on one by accident. Normally, a non-prey animal can walk right by or over a Puff Adder and the snake won’t move, or strike, but if a mouse or bird or rat happens by, WHAM! The snake strikes, holds on, and the venom takes effect almost immediately. This snake, I had planned to coax out of the way for a better picture with my monopod, but I never had the chance, and no photos, but a very vivid mental picture and a lasting memory. And we do like snakes!
On our AM drive, we had another Serval, another African Wild Cat, 3 Lions, and one of the best Golden Jackals we’ve ever had. But the highlight of the morning was backlighted Baboons, playing on a log. My first shots did make me laugh, because the rim-lighted silhouette of a Baboon – an artsy shot – suddenly had another Baboon in the picture, mounting the other. As a Supreme Court judge once said, he can’t define pornography but he knows it when he sees it. This shot, however, was pure art!
Rock Agama lizards are a common sight on the kopjes, but today, in a very isolated group of kopjes we found an unusual color variation we’ve never seen anywhere else. Instead of the normal blue tail and blue body, in this population only the legs were blue. I’m guessing that the isolation of these kopjes from any others anywhere nearby allowed for this color mutation to be passed on until that odd color became the type found here.
During a late morning coffee break Mary and I took the time to update some PR shots of ourselves that we’d need when advertising upcoming seminars. Ironically, had luck not been with her, the shots may have been for an obit instead!
gPM. Rain shortened our afternoon game drive but we still had a productive shoot, with Giraffes against a stormy sky and a Lioness on a termite mound with a great background. As the storm advanced the light disappeared and we headed home. The rain reached our room before we did, and we were soaked by the time we reached shelter, but that provided a positive …..
Our patio now had rain pools, and the big Puff Adder returned from its shelter to drink. I shot a couple images from above, to show where Mary’s foot was, then got in front of the snake for a low-level image, with flash. I missed the shots at lunch, so I was thrilled! Mary … not so much, as we’re wondering if this big snake is a female about to give LIVE birth, which can be as many as 50 babies! Day 288,

bOctober 17, 2021. “Another one is coming,” my guide announced, while I had my lens aimed at a White-crowned Shrike that I was hoping to catch with ProCapture when it took flight. I fired when what I only saw as a shadow, an instant in time so brief that had I not been concentrating, or blinked, I’d have missed that shadow. As it turned out, that ‘shadow’ was another White-crowned Shrike that made a harassment pass at my bird, and ProCapture caught what I truly never saw.


Today, our last morning in the Serengeti, was a great one, with 4 Servals – a male, and a female with two kittens; a Leopard, and 7 Lions. The Servals were quite tame, and we paralleled one for several minutes in the early gold light of dawn. And, we stopped to ‘smell the roses,’ shooting hawks and other birds, and playing with the various landscape settings with our cameras as we shot several different kopjes.

lPM. Heavy rains almost wiped out our game drive, but we headed to what appeared to be a rain-free area, while our original destination was masked by a gray wall of precipitation. We found two good male Lions, including a magnificent black-maned specimen, before we turned our attention to the pride of Lionesses and half-grown cubs that were extremely playful. The light was low, ISO 3200, and shutter speeds of 1/320 or less, but we managed some nice shots. I blew a great sequence when, by centering the lions, I CUT OFF THEIR HEADS when two jumped off the ground in an embrace as they playfully wrestled. I did have plenty of room underneath them! Duhhhh. Regardless of the misses, however, it was the absolute best Lion activity we had on the entire trip, and part of that was because rains often stimulate the cats to play. We’ve seen this several times. Now, regarding the shots:
The close-up of the Leopard shows what using the RAW converter can do. The Leopard had a lot of contrast, with the shadowed area very, very dark. Using the Brush Tool, I toned down the sunlit half and increased the brightness on the shadowed side.
Perhaps far more important is the fact that the Olympus micro 4/3 system really works! The lens quality is as good or better than any lens I ever owned with Canon or Nikon, and this portfolio, I hope, that I’ve shown from Tanzania illustrates this. I can’t stress enough how I feel that folks not using this system are really missing out, not only in the features, but also in how accessible the gear is. When someone is carrying a 600mm or 800mm Canon or Nikon, they not only are hauling a lot of weight, they’re also truly compromised in the speed that they can get a heavy lens up and ready to go, hand-holding if necessary, which isn’t a problem with these cameras and lenses. I’m not being paid by Olympus to write any of this, but I just wish that everyone on our trips shot Olympus. Then, everybody would be getting these ProCapture shots, and wouldn’t be missing ‘breaking moments’ when grabbing a smaller, lighter lens would have enabled one to do so.

October 18, 2021. At breakfast, in the Serengeti, I dug out my camera from our packed gear, ready for our drive to the Seronera airport for our flight to Rwanda. The sunrise was compelling, and that shot was the only opportunity I had today.
The flight and Covid tests went well, and our outfitter did a great job of VIP-ing our arrival in Rwanda. The flight took us over Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa, and truly an inland sea. The lake, one of many that border or are in the African Rift Valley, was home to a group of fish that radiated out to a variety of shapes and species, an aquatic Galapagos that showcased evolution in action. Unfortunately, Nile Perch were introduced as a food and sport fishing fish, and this predatory fish has devastated the native species. I’m rusty on the facts, but the Perch fishery may be in trouble as the Perch have wiped out their food base. Also distressing was looking down onto the lake and seeing a well defined difference between blue water and green, which I suspect is a algae or vegetation bed that is overwhelming the shore areas. Fishing boats passing through left a jet contrail-like wake that persisted long after the boats have passed, something that clear water would not do.
Tomorrow we head to Akagara, a National Park that is Rwanda’s version of the Serengeti, where we’ll spend two days before heading to the Gorillas. Today, a couple of beers, sleep for me, repacking for Mary … anything wrong there?


Paws Trails-Mary
Kruger 2 Kruger - Joe
Paws Trails - Joe


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