Sunday, 1 July 2018

Birding Tanzania - Days 1 - 4

Due to my GCSE exams, I had an especially long summer holiday this year and my family and I decided to take full advantage of this by going to Tanzania for three weeks, Madagascar for 4 weeks, and with a three week school trip to Kenya wedged  between them. 



Day 1 - 27 June 2018

We left Bristol by coach, after my sister Ayesha had given us  a lift into the coach station. We were there early, so had plenty of time for lunch before catching our Kenya Air flight to Kilimanjaro via Nairobi.  Our flight was early evening and overnight, so great for watching films (even one 1980's teen movie with John Cusack, "Say Anything" - do you recognise the image?) and catching up on sleep.




Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Heathrow Airport
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Do you recognise this 1980's John Cusack film?


Day 2 - 28 June 2018

Our entire journey to Tanzania was almost suspiciously easy with no missing bags, delayed fights, or any other typical issue that you could face when flying a long distance. We arrived at Kilimanjaro airport mid morning of the 28th June  2018 after over 24 hours of traveling and was picked up by our hotel car in Arusha in North Tanzania, where we arrived by early afternoon. In a rather strange move for us, had an entire day off, most of which I spent napping. 




Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig and Chris Craig at Nairobi Airport, Kenya
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



Day 3 - 29 June 2018


On the morning of Friday 29th June 2018 we were up bright and early for what was essentially another day of traveling, although this time we were driving. We were met by our bird guide, Anthony and driver Geiton from Tanzania Birding & Beyond in a standard issue huge beige Toyota Landcruiser with a push up opening roof. The difference today was that by midday we had reached the famous Ngorongoro Crater Rim, a reserve where the Tanzanian Masai now live. This is within the Eastern Rift Valley, where we had birded in Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya a few years ago.  



Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with Chris Craig at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with Tanzania Birding & Beyond 
bird guide Anthony at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Warthog Ngorongoro National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



We  birded from the 4x4, to avoid run ins with wild animals. When we stopped for lunch at the reserve entrance, we immediately spotted lots of birds such as Eastern Double Banded Sunbird and Bagglefacht Weaver, which were not new but lovely to see. We were so concentrated on watching the weavers in fact, that we barely noticed the large grey rock in the background until it started ripping down trees and we realised it was not a rock but a huge elephant. 




Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Bagglefacht Weaverl, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Elephant Ngorongoro National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig




Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


After a few more hours of driving, we finally arrived in Serengeti National Park. This is its name in Tanzania whilst a much smaller section in Kenya is the Masai Mara. Whenever someone asks me to use a word to describe  places like this I usually say 'big' - big sun, big sky, big animals, big place. The Serengeti was vast, beautiful and full of huge numbers of wildlife and had amazing birds. We have birded in Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya in the summer of 2016 and so although we would be seeing lots of bird species, only a few targets would be new for our world list. 



Black-throated Sandgrouse, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



Blacksmith's Plover, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Fischer's Lovebird, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


giraffe, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



Hartabeest, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


It was a very lax travel day, but we still managed to see five new bird species, including the endemic Rufous-tailed Weaver, Grey-breasted Spurfowl, Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbill and also Swahili Sparrow. We were running so well on time, that we drove deep into the park and were really lucky to see Karamoja Apalis, as soon as we entered its habitat. This bird was one of two subspecies, one here and the other all the way at the South Sudan border in Uganda with nowhere in between.  This means that a split of the species seems suspiciously likely. 



Endemic Rufous-tailed Weaverl, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



Grey-breasted Spurfowl, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



Endemic Tanzanian Red-billed Hornbilll, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Karamoja Apalis, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig







Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


We arrived at our camp lodge, ThornTree Camp (www.ThornTreeCamp.com) just as it was getting dark. It was a lovely camp with luxurious safari tents, friendly staff and brilliant food. Anthony warned us to keep both inside and outside tent doors carefully zipped closed to avoid anything getting in. I am petrified of spiders and mum is phobic about rodents, so needless to say that we kept our tent zipped shut!

The camp manager warned us to be careful after dark and to not go anywhere alone, as the camp grounds were not fenced in and animals wandered about at night. We were told to use their powerful torch (flashlight) and look for eye shine. Better still, to wait for one of the guards. I was inclined to wait for a guard, as I’d not done that at a camp lodge in Uganda and ended up petrified with hippos a few feet from the path. 



Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at ThornTree Camp, Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig, Chris Craig & Anthony from Tanzania
Birding & Beyond at ThornTree Camp, Serengeti NP, Tanzania

Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Back in our room after dinner, we heard Hyenas calling nearby. My bed was right next to a mesh open window that was my only protection. At about midnight I woke up to a very loud chomping noise and the strong smell of grass, so I slowly turned around to see a Zebra and her baby standing & grazing in-between my window and a small tree only a metre away. They were so close that I could have touched them.  Astonished and relieved, I went back to sleep until I was woken by what sounded like cats fighting close to my room. This time I wasn’t so happy to have hyenas fighting so close by.



My bed at ThornTree Camp with the tree just outside my mesh window
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


ThornTree Camp - the tree just outside my mesh window above my bed
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



Day 4 - 30 June 2018

The next day, Saturday 30th June 2018, we had an entire day in Serengeti NP but it was very relaxed because we had already seen most of our target species for the area and some. 


It was a great morning with two new birds, White-tailed Lark and Grey-headed Silverbill. It was also good to see iconic birds again such as a Secretary Bird, which apparently are closely related to birds of prey. 




Secretary Bird, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



Grey-headed Silverbill, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig at Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

We were driving around very casually just seeing what was around, but were also listening out on the radio for news of cheetah, as we had never seen one before and desperately wanted to. Geiton warned us that if news came over, we had to leave immediately, which of course we agreed to.




The savannah in Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



Lioness, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Lioness twitch, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig



Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig in Serengeti NP, Tanzania
Taken by Helena Craig and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Then, late morning, whilst watching two stunning lionesses, we got the call and raced along the tracks to get to the spot; it was just like a twitch. When we got there, a cheetah was lounging by a pool and casually drinking as the tourists bustled about on the road to get a good spot. It was sitting in the same spot for ages, not caring the slightest about any of the tourists, but eventually slinked away into the grass but only after we had got some amazing views. 




Cheetah, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Cheetah, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Cheetah, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Cheetah twitch, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Photograph taken by and copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig





Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig digiscoping using an iPhone and her Leica telescope
Photograph copyright Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


About the Author

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig in Antarctica
Photograph copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig


Mya-Rose Craig is a 16-year-old young British Bangladeshi birder, naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, activist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She loved seeing Mountain Gorillas in East Africa and Penguins in Antarctica over Christmas 2015, her 7th continent. She is looking forward to visiting Tanzania, Kenya and Madagascar birding in 2018 and hopes to see her 5000th bird species in the world.

Mya-Rose was a Bristol European Green Capital Ambassador along with Kevin McCloud, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tony Juniper, Simon King, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Shaun the Sheep! See the full list of Bristol Ambassadors. She has also been listed with the singer-songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people
She is an Ambassador for World Shorebirds Day, See It Her Way and a Charter Champion for The Charter for Woods, Trees and People. She has given over 50 talks, speaking at conferences such as being on a panel with George Monbiot and Caroline Lucas on Sustainability and the Future of Cities. She has also appeared on TV an dis particularly proud of being in Silent Roars, a short film whihc was part of Listen to Britain 2017 https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-the-silent-roars-2017-onlineShe organised a conference, Race Equality in Nature, in June 2016 aiming to increase the ethnic diversity in nature and plans to run her fifth Camp Avalon camp in 2018. She has also set up Black2Nature with the aim of working with organisations to increase the access to nature of Black Asian Minority Ethnic people. Please connect with her on LinkedIn (Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig) so that she can invite you to join the Race Equality in Nature LinkedIn Group and be part of the change. She has been awarded the Bath and West Show Environmental Youth Award 2017 for Bristol for her Black2Nature work EYA 2017Please also like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter.






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