vrijdag 16 december 2011

12-15 december 2011- Massai Mara

We are just back in Nairobi after our safari in the Massai Mara, one of the highlights of my life! I assumed our chances of seeing Leopard were slim, and after a 30 second encounter on the first safari i was feeling pretty smug....only to see 3 more sat under a bush the next day. We saw 8 Cheetahs, incl 2 on a kill....lots of Lions and also Spotted Hyaena, Bat-eared Fox, Black-backed Jackdal, Hippos, Nile Crocs, Giraffes, Zebras, Thomsons and Grants Gazelles, etc..Bird wise it was also excellent and i have now seen 151 species, 63 lifers and the best for me were Kori Bustard, Secretary Bird, Verreaux's Eagle, male Pallid Harriers flying behind Elephants, Grey-backed Fiscal, lots of Red-throated Pipits, White-rumped Swifts etc.
We were well looked after by Gametrackers safari company, and our travelling companions were really great. Yesterday we couldn't return through the park as 2 massai had been killed by a Lion and there was a bit of animosity between locals and the government (apparently they want financial compensation for the deaths). As we are nature/lion loving tourists it was decided to take us the long way home to avoid any conflict. This morning we heard that Massai Mara was closed to tourists so it seems that we left just in time.
There was something very special about laying in your cabin hearing lions, hipos and hyaenas calling outside.....hopefully more of that to come when we get to the Serengeti and Ngorogoro.
Tomorrow we meet the overland group for the first time and spend the night in a new hostel. After a bad night last night wishing that every mosquito in the world died a painful death we have now bought mosquito nets....
Not sure when we will next have internet but will tweet, blog or facebook as and when.

zaterdag 10 december 2011

10 december 2011 - Nairobi

Arrived safely last night and transferred to our hostel. Already put the field guide to good use, with war waged on mosquitoes in our room! Few new birds around the camp, Bronze Sunbird and Speckled Mousebird nice in their own ways!
So today its just about relaxing in the sun, in the shade and preparing for iur safari on monday. Tomorrow we hope to go to the equator, although our taxi driver told us yesterday that there are two : ) and which one did we want to go to? Remke has already started ticking stuff off her bird list.....and if anyone tells me our yellow bags are horrible then imagine how easy they were to find yday at the airport among 400 black bags!

donderdag 8 december 2011

8 december 2011 - Last minute madness

All a bit hectic now, those last minute things....My luggage was weighing in at 15kg, then i added a couple more items and it's all of a sudden 25kg! Checking with KLM we can take 2 x 23kg, but then that's not allowed in the overland truck, so a few things have been left behind. Jar of marmite has found it's way back in though!
Yesterday we received an email from Oasis to say it's very wet in Kenya at the minute, so the umbrella has gone back in the bag.
Since i was laid up last week i have been rushing around this week. Last saturday night we celebrated Sinterklaas with friends, and somehow came home with a 'glowing rabbit'....just what we alway wanted?
Remke had shirts made up for us, so now people will at least know how her name is spelt, even if they can't say it
Tuesday night Frank and i headed around to Hermans, where we were treated to chicken sushi and got to learn about 'tough love' ; )
Yesterday i packed and repacked my bags, managed one last meal of 'patat met' and then went on to see Joost. It seems really strange wishing everyone a happy christmas, new year etc and saying see you in 3 months!
This morning we are all checked in, another bomb appears to have hit Remkes 'packing space' and it's time to clean the house, inform the neighbours that we are going away (i know Remkes looking forward to that) and generally wonder what on earth we are doing!
This time tomorrow we will be about to board the plane....and 24 hours later i will be looking at something odd like my first Giraffe!!
Have a great Christmas and NewYear everyone, hope to be in touch.....

maandag 5 december 2011

5 december 2011 - Tarzan dream comes true

I don’t remember too much about the first 4 years of my life, but do know that I had various obsessions, from cows, hippos, elephants

 to ‘foot’balls and birds. I used to love watching Tarzan movies, thought Indian Elephants were positively dull in comparison with African Elephants (likewise male Lions do nothing for me, but Lionesses look brilliant!) Anyway, I have always, always wanted to go on safari, and after Antarctica it has always been my biggest dream.
In September 2007 I saw my first ever African Elephants, and managed to get close enough for it to be slightly nervous, although my elephant ensure there was a shallow ditch between me and them.

The same year I went to Antarctica where I had many ‘best days’ ever from sitting on Prion Island, South Georgia with Wandering Albatross chicks just days away from their first flights

to a force 9 gale in the Drake Passage with amazing light and lots of Black-browed Albatrosses following the boat (I only took 2000 photos that day!)

In Ghana in November 2009 Remke joined me for a weeks holiday between the two tours, and one evening after dinner we started discussing the things we wanted to do in life. One of Remkes big wishes was to travel the length of Africa…..the more we talked about this the more excited we got, and once home she started looking at the possibilities. The first option would be to drive ourselves, but although Remke is very practical she doesn’t have much knowledge of engines and mechanics (whereas I know enough to know if it’s a car or a motorbike). The next option was to join an ‘overlanding’ expedition and that soon seemed like the best idea. The only downside to this was that they last 4.5 months and are very expensive. The next option was to do half a trip, now don’t get me wrong Cairo to Nairobi would be great, but given the choice Nairobi to Cape Town would be better.
A year later we made our booking, travelling with Oasis Overland, and we even started putting a few items to one side. I already had the field guides I needed, and so a couple of small piles started building in our spare room. Over the weeks these piles have grown and grown, to the extent where it’s no longer possible to pick a book from the bookcase, and by last night it wasn’t actually possible to get into bed!!

And now it’s just 4 days to go……
We fly on Friday 9th from Schiphol to Nairobi and will be spending the first 3 nights at a hostel on the outskirts of Nairobi. It looks like there will be some birding in the grounds of the hostel, plus we have time to get over the flight and take a day trip somewhere.
From 12th-14th December we are taking a safari to the Masai Mara. We then head back to our hostel before meeting the rest of our travelling companions on 17th, and heading out of Nairobi on 18th.
The itinerary is naturally a little vague to allow for travelling time, but roughly we are doing the following, adapted from the company website (please note I have deleted words such as ‘Pink Flamingos’-aargghhh!)

18th-27th  - We depart Nairobi early morning and head south and cross into Tanzania - where we camp on the outskirts of Arusha town. Here you have the option to use a local African safari travel company to guide us through Ngorongoro Crater and Manyara National Park. After leaving Arusha we pass a number of small towns and villages along the way and, if we are lucky, we may see the towering peak of Kilimanjaro. We will stop off at Marangu where you have the opportunity to climb to Kilimanjaro base camp. A days drive brings us to Dar Es Salaam where our truck is based for around 4 nights in a campsite on an Indian Ocean beach. From here most people take the ferry out to Zanzibar for the full four days and venture into the narrow bustling streets of Stone Town and its famous spice markets, old slave forts and dungeons. There is also time to relax on Zanzibar's famous white beaches, scuba dive or snorkel and swim with dolphins - before returning to Dar Es Salaam.

28th-1st jan - After meeting the Zanzibar ferry we begin the journey through the interesting and mountainous hinterland of Tanzania. In the afternoon, after negotiating some appalling roads, we pass through the peaceful Mikumi National Park. Passing through lush mountainous landscape and plantations - we enter Malawi which is dominated by its huge fresh water lake. Camping in Malawi sums up the spirit of an Africa overland trip with Oasis. We spend 4 to 5 days at friendly laid back campsites where most people choose to relax on the sandy beaches or try their hand at scuba diving, snorkelling or windsurfing as we follow the lakeshore south. If you are more inclined to just relax - then there is no better place than on the shores of Lake Malawi. This really is a warm friendly country - making it easy to wander off and meet up with your local hosts in one of the many villages or schools nearby.

2nd-8th jan - From here we continue on to the capital Lilongwe in the south of the country where we stop for two nights. Here we organise our Mozambique visas as well as giving you the opportunity to explore the city.
From Lilongwe we cross into Mozambique and head for Zimbabwe to continue our African overland trip. We follow the infamous Tete Corridor which was well known in the days of Mozambique's long running civil war as the Gun Run. Thankfully these days things are a lot different! We enter Zimbabwe and travel via the capital, Harare before we make our way to the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, we will either visit Chimanimani National Park or Vumba Gardens, where you have the opportunity to take a hike through the mountain wilderness area, or hiking to the nearby bridal veil falls, or simply enjoying the stunning surroundings from this sleepy village whilst strolling through the village market.  Great Zimbabwe Ruins which was once the greatest medieval city in Sub Saharan Africa and where the name Zimbabwe is derived, literally meaning house of stone is where we stop next to view this ancient city.

9th-18th - We drive across Mashonaland to the Gweru, here we visit a privately run horse and game ranch where you can go game viewing on elephant and horseback or even take a walk with Lion Cubs! It’s our destination for the next few days and always a highlight! Next we enter Matabeleland and the town of Bulawayo.
You have the option of leaving the truck for a day to venture into Matobo National Park with a local safari company. You will have a unique chance to get out on foot to try and spot the elusive Black Rhino - amongst hordes of other game. There is also the opportunity to visit Cecil Rhodes' grave and Ancient Rock Paintings before travelling to one of the greatest adventure playgrounds of the world - Victoria Falls. For some, Mosi oa Tunya - The Smoke That Thunders, is the highlight of their African safari. From the main road, in the bush 20kms away, a cloud of mist and spray can be seen against the blue sky. As you get closer, a low rumble like thunder can be heard. When you arrive it is a surprise to discover the enormity of Victoria Falls. One mile wide and hurling over 5 million cubic metres of water a minute into the Zambezi Gorge this is the setting for the most adrenaline fuelled  grade 5 white water rafting in the world. There is something here for everyone to end off this Kenya to Zimbabwe safari: A day trip over the Victoria Falls bridge to view the falls from Zambia, Flight of Angels - a great way to get a birds eye view of the falls in a light aircraft or helicopter, Sunset Boat Cruises or a more sedate Canoe trip, to the adrenaline packed Gorge Swing, Abseil or a chance to experience one of the highest commercial Bungee Jumps in the world.

19th-25th - After your adrenaline has been spent we head into Botswana, where we spend the night on the outskirts of the Chobe National Park - famous for its herds of Elephants, as well as an abundance of other wildlife. You will have a chance to spend the afternoon on the Chobe River - a less intrusive way to view game and wildlife - as well as the Namibian frontier across the river. We then head south into the Kalahari Basin - known for its dry, desolate and expansive freedom. You will have an opportunity to leave the truck for a few days to venture into the Okavango Delta. Local poler guides will navigate the extensive waterways using canoes similar to their traditional Mokoro's (dug out canoes). This is a great experience - and the best way to have a chance of seeing the elusive wildlife of this unique desert oasis. You will have a number of opportunities to go on game walks with rangers - giving you the chance to see elephant, crocodile and hippo up close and personal. The Okavango Delta is one of the world's largest inland waterways and its calming serenity will leave those who experience it feeling supremely relaxed. There is also the opportunity to experience the heights of African adventure travel too: see the delta from the air during an hour-long flight.

26th-30th - Travelling west we enter Namibia and continue toward Etosha National Park - recognised as one of the worlds greatest wildlife viewing areas. The semi desert is quite a contrast to the more fertile terrain we have been used to. The night sky ablaze with shooting stars and the warm glow of our campfire makes for unforgettable camping experiences. Besides game drives we can also game watch by night at one of the floodlit water holes where we may well spot Rhino, Elephant and Giraffe among a host of other wildlife. From Etosha we visit a local Cheetah park and get up close to these amazing and endangered creatures, before continuing on to the Brandberg Mountains in Demaraland. We then travel to the stunning Spitzkoppe Rock formations. Known as the Matterhorn of Namibia - the Spitzkoppe is part of the Erongo Mt range and was formed over 100 million years ago after the collapse of a gigantic volcano. The scenery is striking from every angle - even more stunning as the granite massifs turn red at sunset. Next stop is the world famous Cape Cross Seal Colony, where the sight of thousands of these mammals, as well as their accompanying pungent odour is remembered by all! The Cool Atlantic Ocean and the prominent Benguela current provide a perfect location for feeding and breeding for the Cape Fur Seal.

31st-6th feb - For the next three days, our Africa overland trip will be based in Swakopmund - Namibia's adventure gateway. In Swakopmund itself you can walk along miles of deserted beaches, visit the museum or relax in a cafe. A one day drive takes us to the Namib-Naukluft Park, a vast expanse of desert which contains some of the highest sand dunes in the world. At Sossusvlei we stop and explore the area and the dunes. Continuing south we enter the semi-desert, and wide-open countryside of cattle ranching until we arrive at one of Africa's most sensational natural features, Fish River Canyon. We will spend a few hours chilling out beside the massive gorge where you take in the awesome scenery before continuing along the dusty Namibian track.

7th-8th - A couple of hours drive away we enter South Africa and cross the Orange River - a rich source of diamonds. We travel south through the Cederburg Wilderness Area, an area of rugged valleys and peaks - before reaching our final destination on this amazing expedition - Cape Town. Our accommodation here will be in a backpackers lodge. Tour ends.

9th-10thCape Town – relaxing and sight-seeing

11th – James on Cape Town pelagic

12th-22nd Self drive in South Africa

23rd feb –  flight departs from Cape Town at 0020, due in to Amsterdam at 1105

zondag 4 december 2011

4 december - more Ghana photos

Cliff Hensel took the following photos during our recent Ghana tour. Check out some of these butterflies! The last one is apparently a Long-tailed striped Swordtail, amazing looking thing!

 Cliff also captured this photo of me on the canopy, 'taping' something in (ipodding something in?)

donderdag 1 december 2011

1 december 2011 - James Lidster On Tour

After our mammoth trip through Africa (more of that in the coming days)  I will be back leading tours for Sunbird/WINGS in 2012. Due to the long holiday, my stag do and the small matter of getting married it’s a slightly reduced schedule this year:-

The Netherlands 7th-11th March 2012

Morocco 21st-31st March 2012

Morocco 11th-21st April 2012

Bulgaria 12th-21st May 2012

Mongolia 27th May to 10th June 2012

Gambia 19th-26th October 2012

Ghana 3rd-17th November 2012