Oxpecker on the look-out – Wildlife Wednesday

Black Rhinoceros

I got your back my friend!

Rhinos and oxpeckers are fast friends. They work together – a symbiotic relationship.

How? The Rhino needs the oxpecker to scratch it’s itch. The oxpecker feeds on the insects and ticks that are crawling on the rhino. The rhino is an oxpecker’s meal ‘tick’et. The oxpeckers have been seen to even crawl into the ears. The rhino does its best to keep the creepy crawlies away by rolling in the mud and forming a thick layer but there is always a missing spot. And that’s when the oxpecker comes to the rescue and helps. Though the oxpecker may be helping, it does also pick on scabs and may not get the smaller ticks on the skin.

And the oxpecker is his look-out buddy. When it senses danger, it will alert the rhino. Don’t be fooled by the size of the rhino. They can run.

Now if only they can run fast enough from all the poachers and the hungry end consumer. They have been around for 50 million years. We can not let them be gone in our lifetime. Be part of conservation. See them in their full glory in the wild and roaming free from the threatening man.

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Safari Client Post – Carlos M

Journey To Africa client Carlos M wrote this lovely blog post. He loves cats! When he and I first started planning his first Safari with his son Jeff to Tanzania in 2011, he told me he has watched every NatGeo show and going on Safari is a dream. As soon as he came back, he told me he is hooked. He took 3 of his friends for his second Safari in 2013 and this time we added Kenya’s Masai Mara.  Asante Carlos for this post.

Carlo M at Oliver's Camp in Tarangire with his cuban cigar.

Carlo M at Oliver’s Camp in Tarangire with his cuban cigar.

Here goes // Carlos’s top 10 //

… Mefi, it’s been less than a year since I returned from my second safari, and I have to admit, I can’t wait to go back. You going brings back so many memories. For some reason, other trips I take leave me with memories, but not great memories as safaris do. It is such a different experience from other things I have done.

I don’t know what people expect to see when they go on a safari. All safaris are different. Below I have captured my favorite memories to give others an idea of what they might experience in a safari to Tanzania and Kenya.

My top 10 Journey to Africa safari wildlife memories (in no specific order) are:

  1. While on the walking safari at Tarangire, about ½ a mile from camp, and about 15 yards in front of us, a young male lion raises his head out of the tall grass, looks at us and runs away. It was so unexpected!!!

    Young male lion.

    Young male lion.


  2. Rhinoceros are getting increasingly hard to find. Beside a dwindling number, they are very shy animals. My son and I were very fortunate to see a mother and calf within about 40 yards. We had seen rhinos in the distance, but watching them this close was special. A few weeks before, one had been poached.
  3. While staying at Olakira in the northern Serengeti, we saw 4 or 5 wildebeest Mara River crossings. There were wildebeest everywhere, running in a single file in every direction. We saved the best crossing for last. On the last game drive before heading for the air strip, we saw a great crossing. Our vehicle was right in the middle of the herd as we inched our way along. They were grunting (I can still hear them) and kicking up dust. They got to the river and stopped. They left and returned several times. By this time we had left the herd and positioned ourselves at a high point to see the crossing. All of a sudden, a lone zebra starts across. When it got to the other side, it was pandemonium. The crossing started in masses. We watched for about 40 minutes and headed for the airstrip. WOW!! What a way to end the trip.

    Wildebeest in Northern Serengeti.

    Wildebeest in Northern Serengeti.

  4. The Central Serengeti is loaded with cats. We saw more cats here than any place else. While on a game drive, we saw a very well fed lioness on a tree. We watched for a while and also noticed several lionesses beginning to congregate to our left about 50-75 yards away. They showed up one by one until there were 6. All of a sudden, the lioness in the tree climbs down, runs right in front of our vehicle, grabs one of the lioness, and they run to the left. In the meantime, we see a lone zebra coming to a nearby stream. The remaining 5 lioness get in crouch attack mode and start crawling forward. By this time, the 2 lioness circled behind the zebra. We see the zebra’s ears perk up, she starts to run, and in seconds all we see are 7 lions and 4 zebra legs sticking up in the air. It was perfectly orchestrated. It was spell binding and breathtaking. (By the way, this is my top memory)

    A young lion couple.

    A young lion couple.

  5. Late one afternoon, while in the Central Serengeti, a female leopard went on her evening hunt. We were able to watch her for about 15-20 minutes. She came within 10 feet of our vehicle. We found out that night in camp from a fellow guest that she had 2 cubs. They actually stayed near her den for 6 hours earlier that day hoping to see and photograph the cubs, and they did.
  6. Tarangire National Park is loaded with elephants. One of my favorite memories has to be watching 3 young elephants playing in the swamp. You could tell they were having a great time. The herd, consisting of several cows and babies was nearby. It was a beautiful sight. That same day, a lone bull in musk started chasing our vehicle. The guide said he probably wanted to mate with the Land Rover.

    Elephants playing at Silale Swamp near Oliver's Camp in Tarangire National Park

    Elephants playing at Silale Swamp near Oliver’s Camp in Tarangire National Park

  7. Shortly after landing at the Masai Mara on the way to Sekenani Camp, in the span of 1 hour we saw 4 of the Big Five. WOW!! We saw a large male leopard on a tree, several lions enjoying a Cape buffalo they had killed the night before, a herd of elephants, and a herd of Cape buffalo. Does not get any better than that.
  8. While on a game drive in the Masai Mara, we came across a large pride of lions which included several cubs. After a waiting for a while, all 4 cubs finally lined up, looked at the camera, and gave me the opportunity to take one of my favorite safari pictures.
  9. On nature shows, I have seen many cheetahs climb on a vehicle to get a better observation point for prey. Actually got to see it in person. We found 2 cheetah brothers lying under a tree. There were about 10-15 vehicles nearby. All of a sudden one of the cats jumped on the hood and onto the roof of one of the vehicles. Those of us in the other vehicles had the show of a lifetime. The occupants of the vehicle could not see a thing. We all thanked them for providing us a great show. The cheetah stayed on the roof for about 15 minutes then left. He did not even look at the occupants.

    Leopard on top of a Safari vehicle in Masai Mara.

    Leopard on top of a Safari vehicle in Masai Mara.

  10. On the afternoon of the last day, our Masai guide in the Masai Mara asked us if there was anything else we wanted to see. I told him I wanted to see a male lion, a friend wanted to see a large herd of giraffe, and another friend wanted to see one last cheetah. Within 15 minutes, we were parked near a large male lion, 10 minutes after that a herd of 17 giraffe was in front of us, and on the way back to camp we had our cheetah. I don’t know if he could smell them, but he found them rather quickly!!
  11. While these are my top ten memories, the list would not be complete without #11. While parked on a low hill, whether at the Serengeti or the Masai Mara, I found myself looking at the expanse of savannah below, and seeing wildlife in every possible direction as far as the eye could see. This was absolutely breathtaking and indescribable. This scene was repeated over and over.

    Lion looking at the open savannah. What a view!

    Lion looking at the open savannah. What a view!

May God bless the Serengeti, the Masai Mara, and all its inhabitants. This is a treasure to be preserved and enjoyed