Ndutu region

When we left our heroes, they had just completed their adventures in the Ngorongoro Crater and were on their way to the Ndutu region of the Ngorongoro Conservation area (adjacent to the Serengeti National Park). There they would spend 5 nights with the wonderful people at the Nasikia Mobile Migration Camp. It must seem like a lot of time in one area, but it really isn't. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is just over 3 times the size of Rhode Island. While the Ndutu region in the Northwest corner is just a piece of the entire Conservation Area, it's still a big piece of land with many opportunities for viewing all different kinds of wildlife...

This map shows our approximate path during our entire trip. Our previous page (Part 1) was covering the first 3 circled areas. This page generally covers the fourth circled area. The small red dots indicate locations for phone pictures and this map was generated based upon GPS data from those phone pictures.
On our way to the camp we went through the land of the Masai tribes. A Masai village and the "road" we drove along to get to Ndutu (Hali | Canon 5D IV | 3/11/19 10:21AM | ISO 400 | 1/800s | f/8 | 120mm | Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 LII). We also saw the first of the large herds of Wildebeest. These young calves were able to keep up with their mother very soon after birth. (Hali | Canon 5D 1V | 3/11/19 11:56AM | ISO 200 | 1/640s | f/7.1 | 200mm | Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 LII)

One of the indicators of the prosperity of a Maasai is the number of cattle they have. Their cattle are the most important and valuable thing they own, it is a primary source of food, and they are used as a form of currency. For a Maasai warrior to marry he must give the bride price in cattle. According to our driver, who was a Maasai, the Maasai god gave the Maasai cattle and because of that all cattle (in the world!) belong to the Maasai. In the past it used to mean there was a lot of cattle rustling going on as Maasai would steal cattle from neighboring tribes and ranches, with the reasoning that it belonged to them in the first place! That doesn't happen as much now. Along with cattle Maasai also keep other livestock such as sheep and goats, but neither are as important as their cattle. (Hali | iPhone 10XR)

Then, our first Cheetah sightings! left (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/11/19 1:02PM | ISO 400 | 1/1000s | f/8 | 500mm | Canon EF 500mm f/4L), right (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/11/19 1:12PM | ISO 400 | 1/1250s | f/8 | 500mm | Canon EF 500mm f/4L | -2/3 EV)
This cheetah was looking a bit pregnant, but that didn't stop her from enjoying a nice roll in the dirt during her daily wandering. On left (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/11/2019 1:03 PM | ISO:400 | 1/1000s | f/7 | 500mm), on right (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/11/2019 1:03 PM | ISO:400 | 1/1250s | f/7 | 500mm).
But our day wasn't done yet, not by far. We next encountered a leopard in a tree. To the left is a closeup of the leopard in B&W (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/11/19 2:03PM | ISO 500 | 1/2000s | f/4.0 | Canon EF 500mm f/4L), A wider view of the tree the leopard was resting in. He was pretty high up! Infrared (Hali | Sony A6000 IR Converted to 720nm | 3/11/19 2:08 PM | ISO 400 | 1/640s | f/8.0 | 24mm | Sony E 18-135mm | +1 EV)
This leopard was not in a hurry to leave this comfortable and shady tree. The occasional yawn looks very much like a vicious growl when captured in a still photo. Believe me when I say that yawning was the most effort this cat was willing to spend. Clockwise from left, yawning (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/11/2019 2:05 PM | ISO:1000 | 1/800s | f/6.3 | 500mm), resting (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/11/2019 2:24 PM | ISO:1000 | 1/640s | f/5.6 | 500mm), yawning in B/W (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/11/2019 2:44 PM | ISO:1000 | 1/1250s | f/5.6 | 500mm), in a staring contest with our driver (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/11/2019 2:46 PM | ISO:800 | 1/1250s | f/5.6 | 500mm).

And while waiting for the leopard to come down the tree...

(Left) A small herd of elephants wandered past the area we were waiting and kicked up a lot of dust as they went by (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/11/19 3:19PM | ISO 400 | 1/800s | f/8 | 500mm | Canon EF 500mm f/4L). (Right) A wandering giraffe paused from it's forage -- rendered in B/W to help bring it out from the background (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/11/2019 3:29 PM | ISO:400 | 1/1250s | f/7 | 500mm).
Down time! This is what we were waiting and hoping for, to catch the leopard jumping out of the tree! It only paused on that intermediate branch for a short second but it was just (barely) long enough! Left (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/11/2019 3:44 PM | ISO:800 | 1/1250s | f/6.3 | 500mm), Right (Hali | Canon 5D 1V | 3/11/19 3:42PM | ISO 1250 | 1/6400s | f/7.1 | 200mm | Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II).

If all those wonderful sightings weren't enough, as we got close to the Nasikia mobile camp in Ndutu we were introduced to 2 lionesses and their 8 cubs in the marshy area near the camp. We took literally thousands of pictures of these adorable cubs and their playful, loving and protective mothers. We also took quite a few videos. This first one was right when we got there, the mommas were sleeping and the cubs just waking up and starting to play. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 500mm)

A pride of lions is made up of multiple lionesses and usually 3 males. Often times the males are related. The care and raising of the cubs is a joint effort by the females, they are fed by any of the females. Young male lions stay with the pride until three years of age, after which they are expelled and usually join or form bachelor prides until they grow large enough to try to take over a pride or start one on their own. Adult male lions have a shorter lifespan than females, and they are in their prime usually from ages 5-10. An adult male lion who can no longer father cubs is usually run off from the pride. A pride with an old male at its head can be taken over by a bachelor male which could mean all the cubs being killed. The pride will hunt in a group which allows them to take down large prey. Although these groups are often led by the lionesses, male lions are also skilled hunters, they don't usually go for the large prey animals the lionesses do, but they often hunt and take down the smaller, more swift game.

Cubs and their momma's. Left "this seems like a good place to rest" (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/11/19 5:02PM | ISO 400 | 1/500s | f/5 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) Middle - a tender moment between lioness and cub (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/11/19 5:16PM | ISO 400 | 1/640s | f/5 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L), (on right) mom is ever watchful (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/11/2019 5:17 PM | ISO:1250 | 1/1250s | f/6.3 | 500mm).
They were just so adorable! Clockwise from top left (Hali | 3/11/19 5:31PM | ISO 1600 | 1/640s | f/9 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L | -1/3EV), two of the cubs resting (Hali | 3/11/19 5:36PM | ISO 1600 | 1/640s | f/9 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L | -1/3EV), the little stream is much deeper when you're a little cub (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/11/2019 6:17 PM | ISO:640 | 1/1600s | f/5.6 | 500mm), a lone cub contemplating the virtue of licking his nose (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/11/2019 5:47 PM | ISO:1250 | 1/800s | f/6.3 | 500mm), two cubs taking a break from chewing on each other (Mike | Nikon D810 | 3/11/2019 5:41 PM | ISO:1250 | 1/800s | f/7 | 400mm).

One of the greatest joys of this trip was watching the two lioness mothers and eight cubs interacting. When the cubs were awake, they were constantly attacking each other, their mothers, and any nearby foliage. The moms took it all in stride with an amazing amount of patience and love. The two videos that Mike shot (below) may give you some small insight as to why it was such a joy to watch this family (Mike | Nikon D850 | 500mm).

Clockwise from top left... The lioness moms were affectionate towards each other as well as the cubs (Mike | Nikon D810 | 3/11/2019 6:19 PM | ISO:640 | 1/500s | f/8 | 360mm), top right (Mike | Nikon D810 | 3/11/2019 6:22 PM | ISO:1000 | 1/1600s | f/7 | 360mm), and bottom (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/11/2019 6:27 PM | ISO:1000 | 1/1250s | f/8 | 500mm).
Finally, it was time to head to our new "home" for the next 5 days. Sunset over Ndutu Marsh. On left (Hali | iPhone XR), on right, one of many beautiful sunsets that we would see as we inevitably raced back to camp so that we could get there before dark (Mike | iPhone XR). It was good to be the lead jeep, but we were so covered in dust and dirt by the end of each day that it hardly mattered.
The staff at the Nasikia Mobile Migration Camp was outstanding. They would greet our jeeps with damp cloths to get off the outer layer of the day's grime and then they would carry all of gear to either the dining tent or our sleeping tent as we preferred. They would ask when we wanted to shower and then they would fill the cistern of each room with hot water for showering (don't drink it). (Mike | iPhone XR)

The food was simple but delicious in camp, a wonderful butternut squash soup and lamb for the main course on our first night. We went back to our tent and fell asleep to the sounds of hyenas calling and lions chuffing.

Our first full morning in Ndutu, and we were up and ready to go before the sun cleared the horizon. As we waited for the safari vehicles to arrive the sky turned a beautiful purple with the clouds bursting with shades of pink. A lone Marabou Stork sits in a dead tree. (Hali | Canon 5D 1V | 03/12/19 6:22AM | ISO 3200 | f/4 | 1/25s | 70mm | Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II)

Mike's video below shows a scene that may be hard for some people to watch. It was still before sunrise when a stray wildebeest calf was set down as a lesson for the lion cubs. We think that the lionesses were trying the teach to cubs to make a kill. Although the cubs nibbled on this calf for a little while, they really didn't harm it. The calf must have been terrified, but lay there for some time before it mustered the nerve to get up (Mike | Nikon D810 | 270mm).

The circle of life is beautiful and terrible at the same time. The lionesses had already fed well during the night and it was apparent they were trying to teach the cubs the not so tender art of the kill. This little wildebeest did not go into the long night quietly, it bravely faced the lionesses and then even more amazingly charged one of the momma's and took her off her front feet. It was over fairly quickly after that, momma wasn't about to stand for another charge from the brave little wildebeest and ended the lesson. As emotional as it was to watch we were reminded that this was a much quicker and less painful way to go than the sure starvation that would have happened otherwise. The wildebeest herd does not wait around for calves to catch up and momma wildebeests do not go in search of their wayward little ones. Without the milk from their mothers calves soon waste away. Mother nature is not gentle and it truly is the survival of the fittest out on the African plains. All images by Hali. Top Left - the standoff (Canon EOS R | 03/12/19 6:40:21AM | ISO 5000 |1/640s | f/4 | Canon 500mm f/4L) Top right - impact (Canon EOS R | 03/12/19 6:40:23AM | ISO 5000 |1/640s | f/4 | Canon 500mm f/4L) Middle - Up she goes! (Canon EOS R | 03/12/19 6:40:24AM | ISO 5000 |1/640s | f/4 | Canon 500mm f/4L) Bottom left - Now she's mad, and he's ready for another charge (Canon EOS R | 03/12/19 6:40:27 AM | ISO 5000 |1/640s | f/4 | Canon 500mm f/4L) Yes, that all happened within 6 seconds! Bottom right - the end of defiance (Canon EOS R | 03/12/19 6:41:34AM | ISO 5000 |1/800s | f/4 | Canon 500mm f/4L)
And after a good meal its time for a little walk through a puddle Top left (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/12/19 6:45AM | ISO 5000 | 1/2000s | f/4 | Canon 500mm f/4.0L | -1EV). Top right two of the other cubs with one of the lionesses (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/12/19 6:46AM | ISO 5000 | 1/2000s | f/4 | Canon 500mm f/4.0L). Bottom right - watching the others (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/12/19 7:01AM | ISO 1600 | 1/2000s | f/4 | Canon 500mm f/4.0L) Bottom left - a tired, very full cub (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/12/19 7:41AM | ISO 2500 | 1/1000s | f/4.5 | Canon 500mm f/4.0L)
Moms and cubs at rest. On left (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/12/2019 6:50 AM | ISO:3200 | 1/400s | f/5.6 | 500mm). On right (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/12/2019 6:55 AM | ISO:2500 | 1/640s | f/6.3 | 500mm).

One of the cubs having a drink in the marsh with one of the lionesses. Another cub watches on but didn't quite get close enough to the water for a drink. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 500mm)

Some mom/cub tender moments. Clockwise from top left (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/12/2019 7:06 AM | ISO:1600 | 1/1000s | f/7 | 500mm). Drinking river water after some breakfast (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/12/2019 7:52 AM | ISO:500 | 1/1250s | f/8 | 500mm). Bottom (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/12/19 7:07AM | ISO 800 | 1/640s | f/7.1 | Canon 500mm f/4.0L)
This shot (stitched from two phone pictures) shows a typical morning meal, served on the hood of one of the jeeps. The timing of the meal would depend upon what we spotted at sunrise, but there was always a very good amount of tasty food (and even a wee spot of Amarula for your coffee if you like).
Top left is another phone picture of breakfast (Mike | iPhone XR). Then we left the cubs hidden in the marsh for the day and moved on, encountering a cheetah at top right (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/12/19 9:44AM | ISO 160 | 1/2000s | f/4.5 | Canon 500mm f/4.0L). And another beautiful Acacia tree that just begged to be photographed in infrared, on bottom left (Hali | (Hali | Sony A6000 IR Converted to 720nm | 3/12/19 11:45AM | ISO 400 | 1/1000s | f/8.0 | 24mm |E 18-135mm). On the bottom right, this cheetah was resting in the small amount of shade offered by a bush but would occasionally pop up to look around. You never know when there might be something nearby to eat, or to run from (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/12/2019 11:24 AM | ISO:320 | 1/1000s | f/6.3 | 500mm).

In the short video below you can hear the strange sound of the cheetah call. In this case, calling to his brother (Mike | Nikon D850 | 500mm).

On left is a spotted hyena resting in the shade of an acacia tree (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/12/2019 12:09 PM | ISO:320 | 1/400s | f/6.3 | 500mm). On right is a tawny eagle resting on a bush (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/12/19 12:12PM | ISO 800 | 1/5000 | f/7.1 | Canon 500mm f/4.0L).
On left is a steenbok at rest. A steenbok is a small antelope with no need to migrate to follow the water -- they get the water they need from the vegetation they eat. When avoiding prey, they alternate between running and laying low. (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/12/2019 12:09 PM | ISO:320 | 1/400s | f/6.3 | 500mm). On right (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/12/19 1:03PM | ISO 200 | 1/640 | f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L).
We drove quite a bit through the Ndutu area and saw many things. The Secretary Bird (top left) is a bird of prey that doesn't fly often. It can be as much as 4.3 feet tall and is often described as having an eagle-like body on crane-like legs. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/12/19 1:16pm | ISO 200 | 1/1000s | f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) Top right - a giraffe talking a walk (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/12/19 1:46pm | ISO 400 | 1/1000s | f/6.3 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L). We often stopped for lunch in the shade of trees, which gave Hali a chance to shoot some more landscapes in infrared (Hali | Sony a6000 converted to 720nm infrared | 3/12/19 2:25pm | ISO 400 | 1/800s | f/8 | 22mm | Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6)

Below is a phone video that Mike shot while we were waiting for a lioness to come down from a tree...

We spent the rest of the afternoon watching this lioness in a tree. Yes, the lions of Ndutu climb trees. Not all lions climb trees, it seems that only certain prides do. Although they seem very much at home in the tree, they aren't the most graceful coming down. Top left, just hanging around (Hali | Canon 5D 1V | 3/12/19 3:08PM | ISO 400 | 1/640s | f/7.1 | 75mm | EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L II) Middle left - not much happening, so she's taking a nap (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/12/19 3:10PM | ISO 200 | 1/800s | f/4.0 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) Top right - she is watching a herd of wildebeest in the distance (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/12/19 3:12PM | ISO 640 | 1/800s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) Bottom left - it seemed for a little while that we might get some rain as clouds moved in from the east. (Hali | Canon 5D 1V |3/12/19 4:08pm | ISO 200 |1/500s | f/8 | 80mm | Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II) Bottom right - we watched that lioness in the tree for over 3 hours, hoping it would come down, even though the light was against us. At the very last moment when we absolutely had to go it finally made its move to go down and join the rest of the pride for an evening's hunt (Hali | Canon 5D IV | 3/12/19 6:13pm | ISO 1000 | 1/1600s | f/7.1 | 100mm | Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II)
Another beautiful morning in Ndutu with our friend the Marabou stork. (Hali | Canon EOS 5D 1V | 3/13/19 6:29AM | ISO 3200 | 1/125s | f/4.5 | 145mm | Canon EF70-200 f/2.8L II)
This morning, instead of going to visit with the lion cubs we headed off to Lake Ndutu on the border of the Serengeti. Lake Ndutu is a slightly alkaline lake, but its water is still drinkable by animals. The sound of the flamingo's squawking was incredible as the sun cleared the horizon. Clockwise from top left (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/13/19 6:50AM | ISO 400 |1/4000s | f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) upper right (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/13/19 7:01AM | ISO 100 |1/800s | f/6.3 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) bottom right (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/13/2019 7:10 AM | ISO:250 | 1/1250s | f/10 | 500mm) bottom left (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/13/19 7:02AM | ISO 100 |1/4000s | f/6.3 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L).

After we left the area where were shooting the flamingo's in the early light we came upon another orphan wildebeest calf. It hid behind our other safari vehicle for a short time then headed out towards the lake, not seeing the lioness that was lurking nearby. The lioness had obviously fed very well during the night, her belly was huge, but that wasn't going to stop her from trying for a wildebeest snack. As Hali's video shows, the wildebeest calf had other ideas... (Hali | Canon 5D 1V | 200mm)

The king... is oblivious.... left (Hali | Canon 5D 1V | 3/13/19 8:10am | ISO 1000 | 1/3200s | f/5.6 | 200mm | Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L II) right (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/13/2019 8:11 AM | ISO:400 | 1/640s | f/6.3 | 500mm).
We drove around quite a bit on this day. We found a cheetah gorging on a kill and keeping a wary eye out for hyena's or lions that could come to steal it from her. (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/13/2019 12:15 PM | ISO:320 | 1/1250s | f/6.3 | 500mm)) and we found a small herd of Zebra on a dried out mud flat (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/13/19 4:13PM | ISO 200 | 1/320s | f/8 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L).

Mike was able to get his camera up quickly enough to get this short video of impalas playing around a bit (Mike | Nikon D850 | 500mm).

Although not as popular as the "big 5" and cheetahs and wildebeest and zebras we did take some images of the beautiful birds we encountered. From top left Superb Starling (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/13/2019 8:27 AM | ISO:500 | 1/6400s | f/5.6 | 500mm), Tawny Eagle (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/13/19 8:39AM | ISO 250 | 1/1000s | f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L), African three-banded plover (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/13/2019 4:32 PM | ISO:400 | 1/1250s | f/7 | 500mm), Blacksmith Lapwing (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/13/2019 4:32 PM | ISO:400 | 1/1000s | f/7 | 500mm).
These paws are made for walking... and slashing and rending and gently cuffing frisky cubs too. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/13/18 5:44pm | ISO 1000 | 1/1250s | f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L)
Clockwise from top left... One of the lionesses paying attention to me (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/13/2019 5:48 PM | ISO:800 | 1/2500s | f/8 | 500mm), the two lionesses showing amazing affection for each other (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/13/2019 6:21 PM | ISO:640 | 1/1000s | f/7 | 500mm), and (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/13/2019 6:23 PM | ISO:640 | 1/800s | f/7 | 500mm), and the female signaling the male that she is ready (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/13/2019 6:25 PM | ISO:1600 | 1/1250s | f/6.3 | 500mm). A female lion in her season will typically mate about 100 times a day. Impressive, right? But it's only for about 10 to 15 seconds each. Females try to mate with as many male lions as possible - probably an effort to keep the males from killing the cubs.
At the end of the day the wide open sky fills with stars, and we unwind by the fire under the spreading canopy of an Acacia tree. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/13/19 7:34PM | ISO 320 | 10s | f/2.8 | 16mm | Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 II)
The next morning we were headed out to the swamp for an early visit with the lionesses and cubs. On the way we encountered a family of bat-eared fox. The sun wasn't even up yet creating quite the challenge to get a half-way decent image. It was the only time we saw them, so we included 2 images here. Left (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/14/2019 6:35 AM | ISO:4000 | 1/200s | f/4 | 500mm). Right 2 of the kits with their mom (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/14/19 6:37AM | ISO 5000 | 1/640s | f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4L)
When we got to the marsh we were delighted to see a beautiful male lion coming out of the grass, along with the cubs. The sun had just come over the horizon making for some beautiful light. All images here by Hali. From top left clockwise (Canon EOS R | 3/14/19 6:52AM | ISO 2000 | 1/1000s | f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) (Canon EOS R | 3/14/19 6:53AM | ISO 2000 |1/1000s |f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) (Canon EOS R | 3/14/19 6:53AM | ISO 2000 |1/800s |f/5.6 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) (Canon EOS R | 3/14/19 6:53AM | ISO 2000 |1/500s |f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L)
A few more shots of the lion family emerging from the tall grass in the early morning light. Clockwise from top left... One of the lionesses takes a good look around before leaving the grass (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/14/2019 6:53 AM | ISO:3200 | 1/500s | f/5 | 500mm). On top right, the male also checking the area (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/14/2019 6:53 AM | ISO:3200 | 1/640s | f/5 | 500mm). On bottom right (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/14/2019 6:56 AM | ISO:3200 | 1/640s | f/5 | 500mm). On bottom left, the male slowly heading out towards the clearing (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/14/2019 6:57 AM | ISO:3200 | 1/640s | f/5 | 500mm).

Below is another video showing the cubs playing around (and on) the moms (Mike | Nikon D850 | 500mm).

Don't let this orderly walking fool you, these cubs were full of mischief and energy. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/14/19 6:59AM | ISO 2000 | 1/500s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4L)

In the video below, more lion cub play time! (Mike | Nikon D850 | 500mm)

Two more shots of the male lion at the edge of the tall grass. On left (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/14/2019 7:00 AM | ISO:3200 | 1/1600s | f/5 | 500mm). On right (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/14/2019 7:17 AM | ISO:1000 | 1/2000s | f/7 | 500mm).

Below is yet one more video of the lion cubs playing around. As you can tell, we were loving these moments (Mike | Nikon D850 | 500mm).

Another series of shots by Hali early in the morning at the marsh. Clockwise from upper left "Excuse me dear but you have a fly on your nose" (Canon EOS R | 3/14/19 6:59AM | ISO 2000 | 1/400s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) "Hey Mom, Guess who?" (Canon EOS R | 3/14/19 7:05AM | ISO 3200 | 1/1000s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) "Are these claws sharp yet?" (Canon EOS R | 3/14/19 7:06AM | ISO 3200 | 1/1250s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) "I may be wet but I'm still cute" (Canon EOS R | 3/14/19 7:24AM | ISO 1000 | 1/8000s | f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) "Hey, wait, you can't have fun without me!" (Canon EOS R | 3/14/19 7:25AM | ISO 1000 | 1/8000s | f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L)

I promise -- the video below is the last video of the cubs playing with mom (Mike | Nikon D850 | 500mm).

Cheetah brothers (Lenny and Bruce) that we watched for a VERY long time. On the left (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/14/2019 8:17 AM | ISO:500 | 1/1000s | f/6.3 | 500mm). On the right (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/14/2019 8:25 AM | ISO:400 | 1/1000s | f/7 | 500mm).
After leaving the marsh we encountered the two cheetah brothers Mike nicknamed Lenny and Bruce (yes we had just finished watching season 2 of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. What else do you do but name them when you are sitting in a safari vehicle for hours, hoping they will do something other than sleep). Left - One of the Cheetah brothers on the move., they led us on a merry chase for about 20 minutes...until they found a tree and taunted us for the next 7 hours. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/14/19 8:23 AM | ISO 640 | 1/6400s | f/4.5 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) Right - It must have been nice and cool underneath that tree, a great place to sleep the morning and the afternoon away (Sony A6000 converted to 720nm infrared | ISO 200 | 1/500s | f/9 | 43mm | Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6)

Below is an iPhone video from Mike showing our fearless adventurers in frenzied activity, as we wait for the cheetah brothers to... do something. Anything. (Mike | iPhone XR)

Our long wait was not rewarded with a kill on this day, but it was rewarded with this amazing pose as the two brothers use the downed tree to have a look around. This was after MANY hours of waiting (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/14/2019 5:27 PM | ISO:640 | 1/2000s | f/8 | 500mm).
On left, wildebeest skulls are not exactly rare in this area, so we snapped a shot (Mike | Nikon D810 | 3/14/2019 6:49 PM | ISO:1600 | 1/125s | f/9 | 210mm). At right is a critically endangered hooded vulture (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/14/2019 6:28 PM | ISO:320 | 1/2000s | f/6.3 | 500mm).
Early morning in Ndutu. Left - One of the things Hali hoped to do was to get some pictures of the Milky Way but one night there were hyenas and lions battling it out near the camp and the next night and morning she was too tired to go out. Finally on our next to last morning there she made the effort and got up at 5 to take a few pictures. The men who worked at the camp must have thought she was crazy, but they stood around as she took 4 shots. It's a good thing she has taken some great classes in astrophotography because she was able to use them to make this one photo. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/15/19 5:26AM | ISO 2000 | 20s | f/2.8 | 19mm | Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II)
Early the next morning we happened upon a small pack of hyenas on a kill. We named the one on the left Willie and the one on the right Nibbles (Evander was a close second). The middle shot shows them both with a friend. On left (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/15/2019 7:19 AM | ISO:800 | 1/2000s | f/6.3 | 500mm). In middle (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/15/2019 7:20 AM | ISO:640 | 1/800s | f/7 | 500mm). On right (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/15/2019 7:20 AM | ISO:640 | 1/800s | f/7 | 500mm).
Remember our two cheetah friends from the day before - they must have gotten their beauty rest in because they were on the move stalking a large herd of wildebeest. Left (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/15/19 7:43AM | ISO 1000 | 1/3200s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) Right (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/15/19 7:44AM | ISO 1000 | 1/4000s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L)
We watched as Lenny and Bruce sat near a large herd of wildebeest streaming past their location. There were at least 8 jeeps waiting for the event with more apparent anticipation than the cheetahs. We watched as they passed up one opportunity for a kill after another. But these are clever hunters and they had noticed a baby wildebeest laying down to rest (something we did not notice). Once the herd was mostly past their location, the cats struck with amazing speed. One made the kill while the other distracted the wildebeest parent. Then the cheetahs amiably shared spoils. They had it down to bones in minutes. (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/15/2019 11:07 AM | ISO:400 | 1/1600s | f/6.3 | 500mm).
Lilac-breasted roller (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/15/2019 12:39 AM | ISO:400 | 1/1250s | f/6.3 | 500mm).

We left the cheetah brothers and drove off to place that we think was called Eden Valley on the Serengeti/Ngorongoro border. On the way we encountered a large herd of mostly bachelor wildebeest. Below was Hali's video of a part of the herd running through the dust. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 500mm)

We tried some panning shots of the wildebeest running. Left (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/15/19 12:45PM | ISO 100 | 1/15s | f/29 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L). Middle - some playing around with panning (Mike | Nikon D810 | 3/15/2019 12:50 PM | ISO:100 | 1/10s | f/32 | 260mm). Right - wildebeest running, kicking up huge clouds of dust (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/15/19 12:50PM | Canon EOS R | ISO 200 | 1/1000 sec | f/8 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L)

As you can see from the photos and video above, there was a tremendous amount of dust we had to deal with. Our driver, Boko, gave us Maasai wraps at the beginning of the trip. We used them to cover our cameras when on the move, but our gear got covered in dust anyhow. We spent a good amount of time every night cleaning our lenses and cameras trying to keep the dust down to a minimum.

The spectacle of thousands upon thousands of wildebeest and zebra at the lake, coming towards the lake area and leaving it were just breathtaking, and overwhelming. So much so it was difficult to find a shot that isolated an animal. Hali found only two such opportunities. Left (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/15/19 1:57PM | ISO 400 | 1/1600s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) Right (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/15/19 1:59PM |ISO 400 | 1/2000s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L)
On left (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/15/2019 1:43 PM | ISO:400 | 1/1250s | f/8 | 500mm). In the middle (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/15/2019 1:40 PM | ISO:400 | 1/1000s | f/9 | 500mm). And a little high-key on the right (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/15/2019 2:13 PM | ISO:400 | 1/1600s | f/8 | 500mm).

A video by Hali that shows the immensity of the herd of zebra and wildebeest that were migrating through this area on their way to the Maasai Mara. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 500mm)

Some more of the massive herds passing through the area. Left - a view of the tree we would eventually have a late lunch underneath and the rising hill behind, (sepia toned b&w) (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/15/19 2:03PM | ISO 400 | 1/1250s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) Middle - it was incredibly windy and you can see the dust kicked up not only by the massive herd but a dust devil formed on the right side by the wind, obscuring the shoreline for a while. (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/15/19 2:10PM | ISO 400 | 1/1600s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) Right - we took a break for lunch before heading back to camp. This was the view from the other side with an orderly line of wildebeest and hundreds of egrets in the water. Further to the right, although you can't see them, there was a pack of very full hyenas laying in the mud. (Hali | Canon EOS R | ISO 400 | 1/2000s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L)
On the left - a close-up look at a giraffe (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/15/2019 4:39 PM | ISO:400 | 1/800s | f/8 | 500mm). On the right - a timid dik-dik (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/15/2019 5:47 PM | ISO:1000 | 1/1250s | f/6.3 | 500mm). Dik-diks usually live in pairs and are monogamous. Although there are four species of dik-diks, we could not determine which is shown in this image.
We stopped by an area where there was a small pond and some ducks as the the light was getting low. There were some clouds threatening from the east and the lowering sun was giving us some beautiful side light on the trees. (Hali | Canon 5D 1V | 3/15/19 5:33PM | ISO 200 | 1/800s | f/8.0 | 70mm | Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L II). On right - we were heading back to camp in the late afternoon when we spotted this elephant having a drink (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/15/2019 6:33 PM | ISO:1000 | 1/640s | f/7 | 500mm).
This is an extremely rare shot of a person (species: Hali). We took many pictures on this trip, but rarely of each other. This is the one-off. We had just gotten back to camp and put our batteries up to charge. Then off to the dining tent for dinner. We didn't need escorts before dark. (Mike | Nikon D750 | 3/15/2019 6:53 PM | ISO:500 | 1/60s | f/5 | 24mm)
A picture of the beautiful Nasikia Mobile Camp in the early evening. To the left is the dining tent, on the right is the charging tent. We would come back from the day's drive and put all of our batteries up to charge while we showered and ate dinner.

On our last evening in this camp, the staff sang a song for us as a parting gift (and they actually sang again at our jeeps in the pre-dawn morning, but we have to cut some content somewhere). The video of the evening song was recorded on Mike's iPhone and is shown below.

Our last morning in Ndutu, we left our camp with heavy hearts, having had a wonderful time there, as we drove off for one last visit with the lionesses and cubs we encountered a cheetah just waking up near the marsh. I was surprised that a cheetah would sleep so near where lionesses hid their cubs but it seemed unperturbed. Clockwise from top left, really pushing the limits of camera and lens performance (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/16/2019 6:35 AM | ISO:6400 | 1/250s | f/4 | 500mm). A little yawn and stretch (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/16/19 6:36AM | ISO 4000 | 1/320s | f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) Pondering whether it was time to actually get up (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/16/19 6:37AM | ISO 4000 | 1/320s | f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) Perhaps it was curious as to why we were up so early (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/16/19 6:38AM | ISO 4000 | 1/400s | f/4 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L)
No matter how much you prepare, sometimes you make a mistake. Every once in a while those mistakes can be turned into sometime good. Hali forgot to change her ISO in her second camera and was shooting at a low shutter speed. It worked for her shot here because it helped give a sense of movement to the cheetah as it walked along the water. Oh, and the color in the sky was amazing as it was reflected in the water. Left (Hali | Canon 5D 1V | 3/16/19 6:41AM | ISO 200 | 1/50s | f/3.5 | 190mm | Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II). On right - getting the first morning drink of water (Mike | Nikon D810 | 3/16/2019 6:42 AM | ISO:3200 | 1/200s | f/5.6 | 260mm).
Before we left Ndutu that last morning we visited with the cubs one last time. It was a sad visit, one of the cubs had died during the night, it had been lagging behind its siblings the last time we had seen it. The lionesses had the cubs stay in the marsh area while they went out and investigated the little ones body. The two lionesses stayed close to it and each other for a while then eventually went back into the marsh. Upper left - a young lion plays king of the hill in the marsh (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/16/19 6:59AM | ISO 800 | 1/500s | f/5 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L). One of the most beautiful birds we saw were the lilac breasted rollers. Upper right (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/16/19 9:16AM | ISO 400 | 1/1250s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L) We stopped for a while to watch this cheetah and her cub run around and play on a plateau. They were also very wary, often stopping to survey their surroundings. Lower right (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/16/19 9:46AM | ISO 400 | 1/1000s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L). There were some giraffes in the distance as well. Lower left (Hali | Canon EOS R | 3/16/19 9:41AM | ISO 6400 | 1/500s | f/7.1 | Canon EF 500mm f/4.0L)
On left, a small herd of Grant's gazelle keep a very close eye on the nearby cheetah and cub (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/16/2019 10:08 AM | ISO:400 | 1/1250s | f/9 | 500mm). In the middle, some brief play time for cheetah mom and cub (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/16/2019 10:11 AM | ISO:400 | 1/1000s | f/8 | 500mm). On right, some always-curious giraffe watching from a distance (Mike | Nikon D850 | 3/16/2019 10:14 AM | ISO:400 | 1/1600s | f/9 | 500mm).

And there is even more yet to come. The final installment of the Africa web pages will feature the Serengeti portion of trip. Stay tuned...


Hali Sowle and Jim Sowle