Category: Travel, travels



I have visited Sydney many times since my sister and her family migrated here but not once have I visited the Floriade in Canberra, the nation’s capital. The visits were always off-timed and I only contented myself with photos of beautiful spring blooms from the Commonwealth Park where it’s annually held. This 2018, it was staged from September 15 to October 14, a full month, and we managed to visit on the 2nd to the last day!

Just 2.5 hours south of Sydney, the Commonwealth Park in Canberra was truly a celebration of spring blooms. Carpeted in many colours of tulips and other blooms, the lake and the Ferris wheel simply added to the park’s charm. We hardly paid attention to the market stalls and playing bands, and just took in all the splendour of Nature’s floral cheer. There was a good crowd beating the deadline (like us) but we were early. Beating the traffic and the crowds, we enjoyed the Park before it drizzled early afternoon.

The place reminded me of Keukenhof Gardens in Dutchland. There must have been a million bulbs for this year’s Floriade. I felt it’d be a waste to end the flower show while the flowers are still in full bloom! But I’ve read in today’s papers that many folks have volunteered to cut the flowers and dig up the bulbs to distribute among the community. About a hundred bucketloads have found their way to hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up the old and sick. Such a happy ending to this flower exhibit, don’t you think?

Back In Sydney (2018)


Back here to be with my OZ family. Annual visits, yes, without pressing the “tourist mode”. It’s the kind of holiday where I pack only 3 sets of clothes and the rest of the baggage space is claimed by food snacks long missed by these folks — born, raised in the Philippines — who now call Sydney their home. The time of year when “bonding with family” translates to babysitting chores, movie dates with the sister, and endless exchange of stories from recent pasts and current interests. They always manage to surprise me with their new projects. Like the newly-refurbished basement that now looks like a hip den where one can spend a whole day Netflix-ing or just listening to good music or reading a good book while the coffee brews. The den is designed for adults. The kids are stuck with their playrooms. 😊

Then there’s the tiny vegetable garden in the backyard. Salad greens freshly-picked here. Found broccoli and basil flowers here and the mango flowers look promising too! Lush and healthy. These greens grow out of pots and tubs but they all look so “full of life” if you’d allow me to use that phrase. The tomatoes are not ready yet, but the lettuce, beetroot, kale, onions, arugula, broccoli and basil are. Oh, this tiny garden gives us so much joy.

I’m not into gardening back home. Condo living does that to you. But I’m now considering a cottage in a vacant lot down south where I can have a backyard veggie patch to grow these salad ingredients. Last night, I threw in watermelon balls into a bowl of freshly-harvested arugula sprinkled with an Italian dressing, some julienned carrots and half a boiled egg. Tonight, I’m harvesting some lettuce for my salad. And some spinach too!

I have this nearly 3 y.o. little boy telling me which plant is which, and even picked some mulberries for me. What joy. Until he said something that sounded like “crocodile”. I paid no attention to it until he drew my attention to something moving by the base of the stairs leading to the garden. Right across the mulberry tree. There’s an outside patio at the back of the house that leads to the vegetable garden. We were going by this same stairs back to the patio when I heard the boy say crocodile. I looked back and had to rein in a muffled scream while still moving away but not before fishing out my iPhone to snap these photos.

This blue-tongued lizard surely gave this panicky grandma a big scare. It isn’t a crocodile, but this reptile nearly sent me screaming. And it’s only my 2nd day of babysitting. Maybe I should spend more time netflix-ing in the den. πŸ™„


It’s a wrap! Done with my blogs on my recent trip to Kenya and Tanzania. And here’s the blog summary. Just click away.

 

Nairobi

Treetops Lodge in Aberdares

Lakes Nakuru and Bogoria

Hippos of Lake Naivasha

Balloon Ride Over the Maasai Mara

The Day My Camera Jammed

Not Exactly Roughing It

A Visit To A Maasai Village

The Great Migration

Safari Woes

Ngorongoro

Lake Manyara

 

Twelve blogs? I was on a roll πŸ˜‰

Here’s more. Mi apologia, but can’t resist waxing poetic πŸ™„

 

I drifted through my Safari dreams

Long-kept, nurtured and cherished

Stayed awake through the long flight

Landing like a Zombie in Nairobi.

 

From Treetops Lodge to the famous lakes

Nakuru, Bogoria and Naivasha

We finally reached the savanna

Stretching from Maasai Mara to Tanzania.

 

Stopped by to huddle with Maasai Villagers

Just as well to jump with the lion slayers

Then off the next morn for a balloon ride

Over the plains, before another safari drive.

 

Lions feasting on a wildebeest

And another with a zebra foot

Circle of Life may seem harsh

But such is the nature of life.

 

Ngorongoro is so refreshing

Animals too happy to be migrating

Exactly how I felt in our luxury camp

It’s just too good, I wish not to move.

 

But alas, there is one last game drive

Not just off to the plains nor the lakes

Manyara has a little bit of all, around

Plus a swamp where hippos abound.

 

Maasai Mara and Serengeti

Jambo, Jambo can’t forget thee

Dusted and wasted we felt

Asan Masante, these memories won’t melt.

 

 

Kwaheri, Africa! πŸ’•


No big deal, really. But if I were to do this again, I’d likely do this just a little differently. Like I’d concentrate on just Maasai Mara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara to save on those lonnnng, bumpy rides. In my book, the first 2 are what Safari dreams are made of. Bite the dust and enjoy the game drives! The last 2 is like “safari the easier way” because Ngorongoro area is such a vast expanse the animals are in plain view! Hide and seek kept to a minimum. The animals happily co-exist here. Well, for sure, there are predators but there are nearly no tall grasses where they can hide. Manyara on the other hand “completes” the deal, in a lush vegetation way. It’s good for tired nerves and limbs. No regrets waking up early for these animal sightings. Except that the tree-climbing lions went into hiding. Such a glorious experience. But a safari holiday can surely benefit from more time spent in the camp and lodges we’ve stayed in in the last 3 places. These are my woes. Would have relished more time spent here.

Ole Serai Luxury Camp

(Turner Springs, Tanzania)

This is clearly our favorite. Newly-opened actually, part of the Wellworth Collection, a chain of luxury camps and hotels. It is a luxury camp with all amenities except a bath tub. Acacia trees all around, an impressive bar lounge and perfectly-designed semi-permanent luxury tents with both sunrise and sunset views. Beautiful during the day, even more beautiful when the African sky bursts into starry nights and the walkways to the lounge are dimly lit. I only wish they had steak or veal or venison for dinner πŸ₯© to go with my cab sav on those cool nights. For more details and photos, check out this link to my earlier blog.

Ngorongoro Oldeani Lodge

Tented cabins, is that what it’s called? Not really roughing it, considering the opulently-designed main hall where breakfasts and dinners were served. Plus the bar lounge and pool area overlooking the crater rim. Fabulous view. If you’re lucky, you’d even enjoy a cultural performance by young Maasai adults — get ready to be floored by a la Cirque du Soleil acrobatics! Not to be outdone, our cabin has a huge balcony with magnificent views too. The sunsets viewed from here are particularly enchanting and relaxing. There’s a tub, again with a view, and an outdoor shower for those brave enough.

Lake Manyara Kilimamoja Lodge (Tanzania)

Another Wellworth Collection Hotel. Another tented cabin. The room’s layout can be a bit confusing but just like the previous hotel, there’s the tub, an outside shower and a huge balcony to enjoy. On a clear day, you can spot Mt. Kilimanjaro beyond the gorge. If not, you won’t feel cheated enjoying a stunning view of Lake Manyara or Mt. Meru, nestled right on the rim of the Great Rift Valley. The best balcony views we found here. Such a pretty sight to wake up to. I can get used to this 😊

So there. Three great hotels/camp but not much time to enjoy them. The itinerary can be tweaked to skip the lesser attractions, save on long road trips and spend more time in luxurious environs after a game drive. Or, if you’re a smaller group and you’ve got money to burn, take the small planes to shuttle you from camp to camp! And yeah, spend more time in those balconies. Front seats to stunning views. Have a flute of champagne, enjoy late breakfasts, go use the outside shower or just soak in the tub. The dinners in this part of the world can be improved but they’re not bad. Maybe I was looking forward to more African dishes, or better carvings, but they’d do. If only for the view πŸ˜‰ Make time to do NOTHING!


We’re on the last leg of our trip. And I thought that somehow, I’d miss the “aroma” of Africa, the iconic red-garbed, jumping Maasai men, the distinct chirps, groans, snorts and roars of wild animals, and the savannah dust! Ernest Hemingway once said Manyara is the loveliest lake in Africa. Perhaps because Manyara is more intimate compared to the vast expanse of the Serengeti Plains, and more green, more lush as compared to the open spaces in Ngorongoro Crater. Consider this: Laka Manyara is 127 square miles vs Ngorongoro’s 3,205 square miles and Serengeti’s 5,700 square miles. In fact, it feels more like a jungle. Also, it is home to the tree-climbing lions of Tanzania. Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky to spot even a single tree-climbing lion. Instead, we saw more or less the same game from the previous safari drives plus an abundance of baboons and monkeys swinging from tree branch to branch, or feeding on the abundant grass.

The bird lovers will love Lake Manyara. The “jungle” adventure here guarantees many bird sightings including pelicans, cranes and other waders in the very shallow lake which easily dries up certain times of the year. But hardly any flamingos. At least not as much as we saw in Lake Bogoria. Or even in Lake Nakuru. But this is Africa. Each park is unique. I’d venture to say this one is for the birders and tree lovers. There is a “treetop walk” where you can walk on hanging bridges between trees. And if you’re lucky, you may find the tree-climbing lions. Now that would really be one for the books.

(Bird photos from my friend Ernie Albano)

The baboons were everywhere. I’ve never seen so many in one morning. Unli-grass buffet for these baboons. The small ones looked so cute busily feeding themselves. And there were velvet monkeys too, busy swinging in the trees. Since this was our last outing, we weren’t too keen anymore to see more wildlife. You can say we’ve had our fill especially with the last 3 parks — Maasai Mara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro. And since the tree-climbing lions were a no-show, we were underwhelmed. No Matata! The Lake Manyara Kilimamoja Lodge with its balconies overlooking the lake and gorge were enough to give us a restful night on the eve of our departure from Africa. Asante Sana, Tanzania!


We came to Africa for the Great Migration of wildebeests, zebras and other wildlife from Serengeti Plains of Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. The Migration is an annual spectacle following a cycle where animals search for greener grass, risk lives and limbs crossing the Mara River where their predators lurk to spot the weakest among them. It’s a “food trip” for all of them migrants and predators. So Ngorongoro is a breath of fresh air as we spotted happy, fatter wildlife who seem like they found their “happy place”. A Paradise. No one is moving from here. No migration. The animals co-exist, seem playful and no kidding, they’re fatter!

The ancient name of Africa is Alkebulan which translates to “mother of mankind” or “garden of Eden”. The Egyptian word “Afru-ika” literally means “motherland”. There is a conservation area in this important prehistoric site where the discovered fossils are claimed to be earliest known evidence of the human species. After the discovery of human footprints here, it’s plausible that humanity was born here! I leave it to you to debate in your mind if this is likely the Garden of Eden. But there are more interesting facts to consider. Ngorongoro Crater is in Northern Tanzania where lies the Eastern Great Rift Valley. The area is actually an extinct volcanic caldera — the largest in the world — resulting from a volcanic eruption πŸŒ‹ where the cone collapsed some 2.5 million years ago. It is believed that the former volcano was as big as Mt. Kilimanjaro – the highest in Africa — before the implosion. Today, it is a mosaic of grassy plains, swamplands, forest, and lakes which act as one big playground for an assortment of wildebeests, rhinos, hippos, lions, cheetahs, leopards, flamingos, Egyptian geese, gazelles, hyenas, warthogs, waterbucks, elands, zebras, elephants, vultures and many species of migratory birds. Birders would love it here. Maybe they can name the countless birds we found. There are no giraffes as they can’t enter from the steep sides down to the crater lake, but they litter the volcanic rim.

If you’ve watched the epic film “Out of Africa”, you’d recall the scene where Denys (Robert Redford) flies over the Maasai Mara and Ngorongoro Crater. That breathtaking scene from the air while the soundtrack of Out of Africa was playing — remember? Unlike the Maasai Mara and Serengeti Plains, wild animals here are in plain view. As we drove from the rim down to the crater lake, we found so many things going on it’s almost insane. Wildebeests at play, mommy and baby ellies out for a leisurely stroll, hippos grunting and snorting, some zebras playing “dead” on the sun-kissed ground, the cape buffaloes don’t seem as threatening, ostriches a-strutting, impalas, gazelles and other antelopes looking like they’re just waiting to be photographed by strangers. The area sure looks like some Membership Club or playground. If you’re only visiting one park and limited to one safari drive in as little time as possible, try Ngorongoro. The Big 5 is here. There are rare black rhinos here. And the densest population of lions in the world is here. It may not even require as much effort to find these cats. Besides, it’s cooler and less dusty here!

A permit is required to enter the crater and gorge. Mercifully, responsible tourism is observed here. Is it the Eight Wonder of the World? Frankly, I still couldn’t grasp the idea that a mighty volcano the size of Kilimanjaro once stood here. Even mind boggling is the fact that the volcano erupted and collapsed inward! Do volcanoes do that? And what were the animals that may have gone extinct with that volcanic eruption 2.5 million years ago? Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yeah, we’re both thinking dinosaurs. They did find some Dino bones here, along with stone tools used by humans. Now, I’m thinking Fred and Wilma. You guessed it. The Flintstones. On a more serious note, the beauty of Ngorongoro is truly remarkable. But even more intriguing is the mystery it held. For now though, I’m content with what I’ve seen and experienced. I’m happy the animals are happy. I’m hopeful the Tanzanian government maintain the “sanctity” of this site and not compromise for the sake of tourism bucks. God bless Africa!

The Great Migration


Just. Keep. Moving.

This annual spectacle involves up to 2 million wildebeests moving between the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. You may call it a “food trip”. After all, them wildebeests and zebras traveling, migrating together are seriously in need of greener grass such that they move from one side to the other, and then back. The herd crosses the Mara River where predator beasts lurk, searching for the weakest amongst the migrants, ready to pounce on its prey. We didn’t see any of such NatGeo drama where a lion 🦁 actually chases and kills and feasts on one poor wildebeest or zebra, but we had close encounters with some lions guarding its prized kill, calling on the rest of its pride to join the feast, and a junior simba dragging a zebra foot.

Animal tracks visible from a hot air balloon.

The Grand Migration follows a cycle. And those who wish to view this magical wildlife in its annual journey must heed certain rituals. Like waking up early. At sunrise, you stand a good chance of seeing a “kill” involving these nocturnal hunters. At the very least, you can catch them eating their prey with a vulture or two waiting for the leftover carcass. It’s not easy especially for the late risers, but the sacrifice adequately rewards. We spotted quite an assortment of these lionesses with her cubs but only a few of the alpha males with their glorious mane.

πŸ“Έ by Ernie Albano
πŸ“Έ by Ernie Albano

From the hot air balloon, we shrieked in delight watching the wildebeests and zebras running or just hanging around. So many of them, that it looked like colonies of ants from a distance. The animal tracks were so visible too from the air. The Maasai Mara has acacia trees looking like giant bonsai plants where we spotted elephants, lions, cheetahs and even a lone sleeping leopard hidden up on its branches. I’m sure you’ve seen many photos of these Safari animals. My iPhone cam shots are not bad but I didn’t pass up the chance to borrow some photos taken by a friend who is a hobby photographer. But what I want to share here are photos of how we went about these game drives. Like how about waking up at 3 am, leaving your hotel at 4am to arrive before 5am where your hot air balloon is being prepped for flight? Or eating tons of dust following land cruiser safari vehicles who responded maybe just a few minutes earlier to radioed alerts on animal sightings in the vast expanse of the savannah. And mind you, radioed animal sightings don’t mean you can get there in a jiffy. Some drives can be a half hour to an hour of bumpy rides along dusty paths.

The land cruisers have no air conditioning. With an open sun roof, this is understandable. The early mornings are fine but it gets warmer towards noon. And so you’ve got dusty, bumpy and hot by midday and it’s not a good combination especially if there are no animal sightings. At one point, someone in our group told the guides we’ve seen enough antelopes, wildebeests, zebras and birds. This is so so our guides can skip these searches and instead focus on more lions, cheetahs, elephants, leopards, rhinos, hippos and even hyenas. It was our 3rd day of game drives, and we were tired despite all the excitement. Besides, it made lotsa sense to restrict the game drives to the Big 5. If at all, we’d change the rules only if there’s a kill, a mating or some animal in labor to give birth. Fancy that?

Here’s more. I’m a coffee lover and days don’t start with me without a good cup of coffee. But you need to watch your take of this fine liquid brew if you care not to do your business in the bush. In fact, you can’t actually pee in the bush! There are spots where there are toilets but while on a game drive, you just can’t tell your driver guide to stop so you can pee. No way, JosΓ©. If you think your bladder is not in good condition, skip the morning coffee. 😭 Then of course, there’s the packed lunch. Unless you start very early and wish to get back to your hotel for a decent lunch, you need to make do with a packed lunch. There are designated picnic grounds (with toilets) where you can eat — sometimes with the dust πŸ˜”. Whether you’re in Maasai Mara or Serengeti Plains, enjoy the dust. It’s on your jacket, your shirt, your pants, your HAIR! I hardly touched nor ran my fingers through my hair after that first time that it felt hard and thick with dust. Yay! Finally, do remember that the hotels and lodges know exactly what should go into that lunch box that won’t spoil till noontime. I’m talking boiled egg, a piece of fried chicken, a simple sandwich, a banana, an apple, juice and water. If you’re in luck, there may be a small bag of potato chips in your box. One hotel packed us a really good lunch — a choice of a veggie burger, or noodles with stir-fried veggies or something I had for 2 straight days: mixed rice and stir-fried chicken with veggies. It may be a cold lunch but certainly better than a boiled egg and fried chicken. Only issue is you’d eat it in a picnic area infested with “pets” looking like giant rodents. I don’t know what they are, but here, have a look. I found a couple cavorting right under the table beside my foot.

Soooo, have I managed your expectations well enough? 😊

Going on a safari requires that one keeps an open mind. There are a lot of surprises, hopefully pleasant surprises more than disappointments. The animal sightings are not guaranteed. You may not see what you like to see, and then see what you’re not interested in. Everything is sooo natural, unscripted, spontaneous and even unexpected. There are rules to follow, safety procedures to observe. You may cut short your game drives but such are decided “in the field”. If you’re the type who easily get bored, I suggest you don’t go. Those NatGeo documentaries watched from your Lazy Boy may be good enough for you. Plus you can have your hot meal while watching. As our Safari guide Joshua would say, you need patience to truly enjoy this. Hakuna Matata!


It was a very lonnnng day. We reached the Maasai Village near our hotel (Maasai Mara Sopa Lodge) high on the slopes of Oloolaimutia Hills. It was a good hour before sunset. The Chief’s son welcomed us along with the red-garbed Maasai men who regaled us with the traditional Maasai jump dance. Maasai men are known to be tall and fierce. Their high jumps (on straight legs in a narrow pose) speak of their stamina. But there’s really more to these rituals than meets the eye.

First off, there’s Emuratta. Upon reaching their teens, the Maasai boys are inducted to the first ritual of manhood. Unlike regular circumcisions, these young men aged 14 upwards go through the primitive circumcision ritual without flinching, without showing any pain. They graduate into being young warriors called morani after this ritualised ceremony. These morani then move to a manyatta, another stage of “manhood” where they are divorced from the tribe, and literally live by themselves garbed in black/dark clothing and wearing chalk marks on their faces. This encampment may last up to 10 years, during which time they should have slayed a lion before they finally graduate to full manhood. Tough, huh?

πŸ“Έ by Ernie Albano. (What a shot!)[[[[[[[[

It’s easy to simply visit a Maasai Village, watch these men perform the adumu or jumping dance, have a picture taken with these men garbed mostly in red (they think red scares off the lions), and fail to understand these important manhood rituals of Maasai men. The Maasai culture compels these morani or young warriors to kill a lion before coming home to the tribe and being eligible for marriage. They bring home with them the lion’s mane and perform the “final” manhood ritual of adumu as part of the Eunoto ceremony which can last for more than 10 days. The Eunoto includes the jump dance or adumu (the higher, the better, to impress the watching “would be brides”) and their first sip of alcohol. After the Eunoto, these young men proceed to shave off their heads as a sign that they’ve fully graduated as full-fledged Maasai warriors. They can then return to the tribe, pick their brides and start their families.

Another great photo by Ernie Albano.

Peals of laughter echoed when I tried jumping with these lion-slayers. On weaker knees, I joined a travel buddy visit one of the Maasai houses made of straw, sticks, grass, mud, cow dung and urine. The Maasai women build these loaf-shaped houses which we found dark inside with smoke billowing from a tiny kitchen. Moses, one of the Maasai men, led us inside and briefed us on Maasai life and culture. He tried teaching us some Maasai words by writing with a stick on his dark thigh. Then he proceeded to sell us some trinkets crafted by the Maasai women. πŸ˜‰

We trooped back to our hotel with a few trinkets and other souvenirs. On our way out of the village, I spotted one Maasai lad and imagined how he’d “suffer” through the emuratta and the manyatta. Would he kill another lion just so he can do the jump dance, marry and raise his own family? Days after this visit, we met a young lad – no facial paint – alone with a sad, forlorn face. I wonder too what was in his mind. πŸ˜”


On clear days, the soft, pillowy clouds dot the blue horizon. Grass turn golden on certain hours of the day while the few trees left standing (and uneaten by ellies) in the savannah provide shade to some of the most beautiful animals. Safari drives early morn, packed lunch boxes midday, more game drives, before calling it a day. All these can drain you of whatever energy is left. The thrill of animal sightings in their own habitat pumps your adrenaline, leaving you wasted by day’s end. Mercifully, our accommodations in the Ole Serai Luxury Camp make for glorious evenings. The camp’s only 7 months old but it’s so well-run (thanks, Rashid!) and well-appointed. The tents are more permanent structures, roped down tight and “zipped up” every night by able staff. Nighttime melodies include “scratchings” of cape buffaloes’ backs on the ropes supporting the tents, followed by squeals of delight after a good scratch, the occasional rawrrrrr of a lion, leaves crunching while an unknown beast passes and birds chirping early morns. If you’re lucky, a giraffe may walk by oh so elegantly while you’re seated on the porch.

I’ve heard of and read about luxury camps, yet I was still floored by how luxurious this camp is. The soft pillows, the dresser, the escritoire, the sturdy but comfy granny armchairs, the lookout porch, the modern sinks and bath appointments. It broke my heart to leave this camp after 2 nights! Internet may be weak in the rooms but that’s a good reason to head for the Reception Lounge or the Serengeti Cocktail Lounge. My only complaint is how they price their wine. A bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon costs US$40, but a glass of the same wine costs US$15. If there’s 2 of you, you’re better off getting a bottle and bringing what’s left over (if any!) to your tent. Well, it’s a “young” camp and they can always review their price listings for cocktails. But they sure have a good crew — in the dining lounge, I remember the very efficient Ezekiel who’d happily take our breakfast and dinner orders. There are always choices, and it’s a chore to decide which from among the good stuff.

If there’s a word I’d use to describe the lounges and our rooms, I need to choose between luxurious and opulent. I mean, even many 5 star hotels don’t have escritoire as good looking as what we had in our room. I felt a longing to write down a thank you letter on some fancy stationery and feel those Karen Blixen vibes πŸ˜‚ The bathroom and toilet may not be as luxurious as those found in regular hotels but hey, we’re in the middle of a savannah! No tubs too but I’m impressed with the attention to details — the coffee and tea set in the room, the soft towels and robes, the dresser, chandeliers and night lamps.

I just love how the camp looks at night. From our tent, the pathway leads up to the Serengeti Lounge (for cocktails) and right beside it, the Acacia Lounge where breakfasts and dinners are served. I noticed there’s an area for Boma dinners too but I guess one needs to make prior arrangements to set it up πŸ˜‰ We enjoyed our meals here, and found the selections adequate. It’s just too bad we can’t linger in the porch with our feet up, nursing a drink, enjoying African starry nights. The camp staff will gently nudge you in and remind you to use the radio for help, if need be, before they leave you all “zipped in” inside. Mornings are ok since the roving guards and crew are up and around. But there was one morning they found a loitering lion at the camp’s periphery. Soooo….. early morning jogs may not really be a good idea.

(This is NOT a paid review. Just ramblings from a happy, satisfied guest )


Here you are, way too giddy with excitement in the vastness of the Savannah plains. Then your camera jammed, wasted after all that zooming in for close up shots. Must be dust in the lens. What do you do? You fish out your iPhone and try your best not to lose your calm. These animal sightings have been your Safari dreams and NO ONE, and NOTHING can ruin this holiday for moΓ­. Seriously. Then, I found a solution. It was my good fortune to be traveling with a hobby photographer. And I did push my luck by unashamedly asking if I could grab some of his photos. Master Photographer Ernie Albano, you saved the day for me! Even if my camera didn’t conk out on me, I couldn’t have taken these lovely, stunning closeups of the safari animals we met and experienced. And just so you know, your dear wife takes pretty neat photos too with her tablet! 😊

Simba and his Queen both make good profiles but admittedly, the Lion King looks more impressive with his royal mane. Ernie caught him with his mane blown by the wind in the vastness of the golden savannah. And don’t you agree he snapped a good impression of the lioness with keen hunter’s eyes? Or have a look at the Mommy and Baby Ellie out on a stroll, or this cheetah with spots so clear you’d want to run your fingers on its fur…..until it sticks out its tongue! Those zoom lens are good but obviously, Ernie has mastered these shots. I’d be afraid to have him take my closeup — warts, wrinkles and all. 😱

Some animals really look lovely. Like the swans of the Savannah — the giraffes, looking so demure with soulful eyes generously endowed with thick, long lashes. So with the regal lions, exotic cheetahs, graceful gazelles and impalas, majestic elephants, tough looking rhinos, smart baboons, sexy zebras, serious-looking wildebeests. But I couldn’t find an adjective to describe the hippos. We found more of them in Lake Naivasha and in Ngorongoro, but the stinky ones we encountered in Maasai Mara look just the same. Non-descript smelly mammals who look fearsome and aggressive? I’m trying here. Or maybe I’m just biased against them after the mauling incidents and attacks in Lake Naivasha.

Ernie took very good photos of the birds too. The yellow weavers responsible for those nests we found in many trees grace many of Ernie’s frames. My favourite. And there were others — kingfishers, herons, egrets, vultures, cranes and many more species we couldn’t name. We stopped to let him take these impressive shots every so often until we grew tired and connived to refrain from alerting him of our spottings. My bad! 🀐

Thank you, Manong Ernie, for sharing all these Safari photos with me. So crisp and clear, and such depth. Very generous of you. And ohhhh, the last 2 photos I took. Not as crisp nor clear, but just so the readers see you “in action”. Hakuna Matata!😊

And here’s one for the birders. Photo Credits to Ernie Albano, of course.

https://youtu.be/0hHx6IOJscU