Latest news from Paul Oliver's Safaris - late December 2010- June 2011

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After a busy dry season with increasing numbers of visitors to Tanzania, it is always a pleasure to welcome the rains and changing habitats each November and December. Goodbye dust and hello mud. Paint it all green please! Over the end of December and into the New Year I joined some friends on a birding trip to the Meto Hills and the North Eastern shore of Lake Natron. These landscapes are dramatic and wild; they are full of interest and empty of other vehicles. We traversed off road using a GPS and detailed 1:50,000 scale maps but still got lost a few times.” Are we in Kenya or Tanzania?” That question was asked a number of times.  Increasingly today ‘hunting’ companies are inviting photographic operators like me to survey the potential for wilderness safaris in their blocks. And this is a positive development. There are many regulations to contend with but I hope that during 2012 I will be looking into such places to see how these fascinating areas can be visited by photographic safari goers, more on that as I explore. We had obtained permission from the hunting company to travel into their block here and survey the birdlife.

Driving along wide sand rivers East of Lake Natron and along the shores of this important habitat on New Year’s Day was a wonderful way to bring in 2011. Semi petrified birds that had died in the mud or by flying into this mirror like lake, dotted the shoreline. They were a stark reminder of how hostile this alkaline environment is. But also how much life it supports. Tens of thousands of juvenile lesser flamingos along with countless waders were enjoyed in landscapes so otherworldly that they must be encountered to be believed. Wildebeest, eland, impala, kongoni and zebra were everywhere near the countless springs, some so warm that a hot bath for us just had to be enjoyed! From huge termite mounds to fossil beds and lava rock fields, we were all entranced by the many things we encountered.

duck? giant termite mounds courser?

fossil hunting Dove?

Improving roads from the volcanoes east of the shore to the escarpment near Monduli meant that our journey back to Arusha was a pleasure, the ongoing threat of a soda ash extraction plant in this area the only perceived blot on these beautifully arid Rift Valley landscapes.

In February and March I was very busy with annual trips and welcomed regular visitors firstly to Northern Tanzania’s spectacle of the wildebeest caving and then to the Southern highlands to witness the flowers and birdlife of Kitulo Plateau and our Eastern Arc Mountain ranges. A more fascinating period I cannot imagine. It was a spectacular mix of Tanzania’s finest destinations and each safari section is written up separately.

On March 19th I flew to the UK to join my mother in celebrating her 80th birthday and I stayed to enjoy the English spring until my return to Arusha on May 31st. It was a great pleasure to wander England again and from Norwich to Morecambe Bay, from The Yorkshire Dales to Dorset I travelled with friends, taking in the countryside along the way but also as many football games as I could afford in Manchester and London, (including the new Wembley). Many thanks are due to everyone that shared with me the diverse pleasures that England has to offer in April and May. My mother flew back to Tanzania with me and in early June 2011 we visited The Manyara Ranch and stayed in the new safari camp there. We also stayed 3 nights at the all new Oliver’s Camp in Tarangire. Both of these camps are special and I will try to stay in them both on a regular basis.

See my previous account of the ‘New Oliver’s’

elephants barbets

Manyara Ranch camp mess tent

As part of the critical wildlife migration route from Tarangire to Lake Natron, Manyara Ranch is an important habitat to preserve. The efforts made here are to be celebrated and the camp itself reminded me of an earlier version of Oliver’s Camp, just more modern. The freedom to move around here either on foot or with naturalists on horseback safaris and the levels of comfort in the camp make the experience special. I am particularly interested in the small size of the camp as it makes for an intimate experience either at the beginning or end of a safari in Northern Tanzania. I wish all involved great success.

With the threats to all our ‘out of Parks‘ migration routes on the increase more camps like this, that can help to secure such areas, are needed.
Check out more details

2011 and 2012 are shaping up to be quite adventurous with a two week Mahale visit in July, Serengeti and Tarangire walking safaris being planned and a return to Tanzania’s Southern highlands in February 2012 in the pipeline, it’s good to be home and planning wonderful safaris.
Best wishes, Paul Oliver.