Monday, 7 April 2014

Mikumi NP: Mikumi, mud & malaria

Road block
A long weekend, and a quick trip to Mikumi.  We'd started to get cabin fever with the lack of long weekends, not having been to the bush since January.  So we were quite happy that there were a few coming up in April to get our fix of the bush.

Baboon sentry keeping an eye for lions
So with the Monday off, we left early Saturday morning and were soon heading off to Mikumi.  The drive was pretty much as expected (mad busses, crazy trucks) and we pulled into the Mikumi gate around lunch time.  

Wire-tailed swallow building nest
We were able to get our favourite place, the resthouse.  While we enjoy camping, Mikumi and their public campsites are a bit of a hit and miss affair.  You may get the weekend where there's no one else and the water is running, or you can arrive to find a busload of people (yes - literally a bus) with the toilets blocked and no water... 

Giraffe watching us
So we tend to avoid the camps, and go for the resthouse, which is set a bit away from the chalets (also not a bad option) to give us some privacy, and allows us to cook.  It also attracts wildlife and it's not uncommon for us to see a lion walking past the house at night ;)

Spot the jackal
A quick stop to drop off our bags at the resthouse, and we headed to Hippo Pools, the centre of lion activity.  Lions had been sighted the previous day, but there was no one around when we arrived.  A quick tour of the area with no predators, but a new bird for us, and we headed to check the campsite and have lunch.  It was surprisingly empty for a long weekend, but with the threat of rain around, we were happy to have the resthouse instead of setting up camp.

Red-backed shrike
Indeed, the rain threat and evidence of heavy rains recently were all around.  We were shocked to find all the dams full, full, full. Hippo Pools - which had almost been empty a few months ago - was now so full we could see where it had washed over the road.  

Zanzibar red bishop
Mikumi had definitely been hit with very heavy rains, and there were pools of water everywhere.  Even some of the crossings were a bit iffy to do, the mud making things pretty slippery.  When we need to engage in 4WD in Mikumi, you know the rains have come :)

The afternoon was spent checking out the towards Mkata dam.  Another dam which had been empty for months, was now so full that we couldn't get near it.  And there wasn't much around anyway, except for the couple of resident wildebeest.  And we also soon discovered that the bridge that connected Mkata dam to Mwanambogo Dam in the north, had been washed away.  Well, not quite washed away yet, but so damaged that a bushbuck walking across would probably make it collapse.  

Grey kestrel
Back to Hippo Pools but still no sign of lions.  We'd heard there were lionesses with cubs around the area but despite driving around the whole afternoon we couldn't find them.  Turns out that was because they were in the campsite!  Just as the sun was setting, we heard that the lionesses and their cubs had been spotted around the campsite.  Unfortunately we were too late to catch them, and we had to leave to head back to camp without a sighting of lions for the day - always a worry!

But we spoke too soon... 

After hearing a lion roaring pretty close by, we decided to start getting dinner ready (or at least in the house - we'd had previous problems being caught unawares when a lion has walked past at night).  While I was at the car getting some stuff, Dru flashed into the darkness, and there not 10 meters away was a big male lion!  We've learnt not to panic although the heart rate does stop for a moment ;) and so I jumped in the car and watched the lion walk calmly past the front of the car, pretty much ignoring us...  Soon he had disappeared although we did hear a few more roars, just to confirm he wasn't hanging around the house.

With that bit of excitement out of the way, we settled down to organise dinner before heading to bed to hopefully find this wandering lion in the morning...

An early morning start proved unfruitful for both tracing the male lion we'd seen the night before, and the cubs we'd been chasing near Hippo Pools.  But no one else had seen anything either, which made us feel a lot better, especially when we were the first to actually find a lion ;)

Hiding in the bush

We've made a habit of driving between 2 dams - Hippo Pools and one nearby called Millenium - and were just heading to the Millenium dam when we almost missed a lioness on the side of the road.  Turns out we had actually missed a male lion that was lying near to her as well.  It turned out they were a mating couple and after a quick session, she headed down the road away from the cars that had arrived in the meantime.  We spent about half an hour with them, but were still itching to find the cubs, so headed back to Hippo pools.  

Lioness heading off down the road
But there was no luck on that front, although we did meet the couple that had been camping there the night before.  Turns out Dru knew him and he showed us photos of the cubs (about 7!) with their mothers that had wandered through the campsite the night.  Beats our male lion anytime!

Wire-tailed swallows nesting
 We decided on the resthouse for lunch, and it's quite a nice setup to chill out under the shade of a massive tree, and watch the birds.  And this time, we had a nice surprise - the elephants that had been grazing near the resthouse came a lot closer and ended up grazing just where we had been sitting before we vacated the seats to make room for them ;)  A pretty nice way to spend lunch time. 

Dru photographing elephants from the resthouse

The afternoon was pretty much the same as the morning drive, since we'd decided that this was the best area to look for the cats.  Again, we found the mating lions - they hadn't moved too far away from where we'd seen them previously. But they weren't doing too much, it seemed that the mating was finished since there was no activity in the hour or so that we'd been watching them. 
Black-bellied bustard calling
 Heading back to Hippo Pools, we were out of luck with the cubs, but came across some nice antelope to photograph instead.  Finally, heading back to the lions (yes, we can't keep away from them!) we were stopped at the wooden bridge because the lioness was lying on it!  As amusing as it was, it was a bit inconvenient, as the bridge was the only way through to the other side of the park, since the alternative road was impassable because of the rains.  So basically you were stuck on whichever side you were on, thanks to the lion roadblock :)  

Bridge block

We watched her for quite a while, but eventually someone got fed up with her not moving and had to drive onto the bridge to get to our side to leave the park.  The lioness seemed surprised by this, but moved off the bridge to the side.  

Woodland kingfisher

We took the opportunity to cross the bridge at the same time, to see if we could catch the male, who we knew was on the other side.  But apart from a quick head popping up, he wasn't planning on doing too much, so we decided to head back across the bridge.  

Eastern paradise whydah
Unfortunately, the lioness decided to get back on the bridge again!  What is it with this lioness? Eventually, we got fed up waiting for her as well, so took the plunge and headed across the bridge, chasing her off again.  But we heard later, that not long after that, she got back on the bridge... obsessed with that bridge she was ;)

Impala herd

A quick tour around the Hippo Pools area with no luck, and we headed back to the resthouse.  This time around it was an uneventful evening with no lions walking around, but the mosquitoes were unrelenting and despite having plenty of spray on, we got bitten badly (I counted - 13 bites in a row across my back! and that's besides all the ones on my feet).  Made us happy that we had a bed with air con and a mosquito net for the evening ;)

Collared pratincole
It was up early again in the morning, and the dilemma was Hippo pools to look for the cubs, or the mating couple.  We decided on the cubs (still chasing them!) but again we had no luck, so headed for our backup plan - the mating lions.  And there they were, this time sleeping in the middle of the road!

Lazy lion
While it was a fantastic sighting, it raised 2 problems.  Firstly, we couldn't drive past them because the sides of the roads were too wet, so that meant everyone needed to pile up behind the 2 cars in front.  which meant a bit of traffic jam with the people at the back not being able to see.  

Lazy lioness
Secondly, the road that they were sleeping on was impassable up ahead, so people couldn't drive around and catch them from the other side - making the traffic jam all the morning frustrating to the guys at the back.  We were lucky enough to get into the front row so we had an unobstructed view of the lions, but we were also parked in by the cars behind us. So essentially we were stuck watching lions - not a bad position to be in ;)

Red-necked spurfowls fighting

Eventually, after over an hour though, the lions were showing no signs of moving - they hadn't even got up once.  And we were starting to think about heading back to Dar.  So with a fair amount of reversing and manouvering that we had to do, we finally managed to back out, leaving the rest of the safari vehicles to catch a look at the lazy lions.

Smile for the camera
A quick breakfast back at the resthouse and doing some prepping for lunch as well, and we were off back home after a good weekend.  Although we hadn't caught the cubs, there was always next time and we started planning on the way home when that would be ;)

Impala with red-billed oxpecker
We had started by saying that the upcoming easter weekend would be a bit long for Mikumi, considering that it was already booked out, and some of the roads weren't passable because of the rains, so on our 6 hour drive home, we went from planning for Mikumi to planning a bit trip to Tarangire NP ;)

Resting lioness
In the end, we missed both... thanks to the mosquitoes hammering us over the weekend, we both came down with malaria, a nice Easter gift that kept us at home for the long weekend... probably the first long weekend we've stayed at home in 6 years!  Oh well, time to start planning for the next one!!

Birds seen on the trip
* First time sighting

Superb starling
Marabou stork
Eastern parasite whydah
Zanzibar red bishop
Egyptian goose
Blacksmith lapwing
Water thickknee
Lilac-breasted roller
Long-tailed fiscal
African grey hornbill
Grey kestrel *
Southern ground hornbill
Hadada ibis
Fisher's sparrowlark
Red-necked spurfowl
Black coucal
Red-backed shrike
Northern pied babler
White-browed coucal
Red-billed buffalo-weaver
Black-bellied bustard
Collared pratincole
Speckled mousebird
Yellow-billed oxpecker
Grey heron
Little bee-eater
Knob-billed duck
Red-billed oxpecker
Broad billed roller
African hoopoe
Woodland kingfisher
Wire tailed swallow
Pin tailed whydah
Martial eagle
Grey-headed kingfisher
Collared palm thrush
Ring-necked dove
Dwarf bittern*
Emerald spotted duck
Common scimitarbill
Woolly-necked stork
Malachite kingfisher
Green-winged pytilia

No comments:

Post a Comment