Friday, December 23, 2011

Hunting Dogs

Carrying the head of a young Impala

It has been an exciting last few days here at Sand Rivers, large storms have been passing though during the nights and mornings, this rest bite from the heat increases the chances of seeing the predators moving during the day. One of the most exciting times you can have on a game drive is watching the Wild Dogs hunting, they are one of the most efficient predators on the planet, the young Impalas don't stand a chance against this formidable opponent. They dispatch and eat their prey with brutal efficiency, due the fear of having their kill stolen by Lions or Hyenas. High speed and organized hunts can only lead to one conclusion for their main source of food the Impala. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Territorial quarrels

My money is on the one on the right. 

Territorial disputes between Hippos can be settled quickly by the smaller bull showing signs of submission, or they can be settled by a full on fight if they are equal in size. In this incident which happened just in front of the lodge, the young bull who had taken a liking to the site was caught in a tight spot, behind him only rocks, so no escape possible. Forced to stand its ground, the fight continued for 20 minutes, the tusks can cause major wounds and even possibly death. At the end the larger bull gave the younger one a chance to escape, which he took, running on to the bank into the bushes.   

Monday, December 5, 2011

Catch of the day

An impressive catch!
 This young crocodile thought so too!
What to do? He is gaining on me!
Ahh yes I can fly!
Goliath Heron -1

This all unfolded just in front of the dinning room at Sand Rivers, the fish the Goliath Heron caught was larger than usual, when it hesitated in eating the large fish, this young crocodile took the opportunity to get a free meal. The Heron was in no mood in giving up his lunch and made a dash for it, only remembering it could fly right at the last minute! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Pinkypotamus

Anyone got any Sunscreen?
This poor fellow has got it tough, he is not a true albino as he has dark eyes and dark spots on his body, what he suffers from is called Leucism (lack of pigment producing cells)

The tropical climate of the Selous can very unforgiving, the sun belts down daily with our top temperatures reaching over 40c.

Lucky for the this Hippo he can avoid getting burnt by his special sweat that protects him from the sun. Leucism effects many different types of animals, but it probably effects predators the most, as they will never be able to sneak up on anything!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Lions tongue

Spotting some vultures circling in the distance, we jumped on the opportunity to find what they had seen. The vultures were heading towards the Miombo up near our airstrip, after fiifteen minutes we reached the them. Our resident pride had mangaded to bring down a female Eland ( the largest antelope). The kill was a few hours old, the two males had already had their fill and it was the turn of one of the females. It gave a chance to get some up close photos of the scene.

Interestingly in the second photo you can clearly see the hairs (papillae) on the Lionesses tongue, these hairs are used for grooming and eating,  and possibly to help the lions drink. It has been said that a lion can lick the skin off a human.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Red-Billed Quelea

Recently, dark fast moving clouds have been starting to appear on the horizon in the Selous, these dark clouds dodge and weave around trees, appear upwards out of the ground as if from nowhere, they are of course large flocks of Red-Billed Quelea.

Some estimate the total population of this small passerine to be over 10 billion. They occur in Sub Saharan Africa, traveling in large flocks that can take up to 5 hours to pass you by. Feeding in the morning and evenings they can have a devastating effect on farmer crops, clear fields in minutes. Control action has been taken to protect the farmers and up to 180 billion have apparently been killed over the years, this has had little or no effect to their population, sometimes effecting other innocent bird populations in the process. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Can Pangolins Swim?

 Every once in a while an extremely exciting and unusual sighting comes about. On one of our morning boat trips up to Stieglers Gorge, our guests Mark and Amanda spotted a rather strange animal that looks like a pine cone. It was in fact a Ground Pangolin the Holy Grail of animal sightings, these creatures are as hard to find as water is in the Atacama Dessert. They walk on two legs using their tail to balance and wander round in search of termites or ants, which they dig for. The Pangolin is covered in extremely hard scales, when it feels threatened in curls up into a ball to protect its vulnerable belly. What made this sighting even more unusual and special was that the Pangolin was swimming!!!!!!!

 Is it a pine cone?
 Nope its a Pangolin!
Practicing its doggy paddle

When the Pangolin Finally reached the shore of the Rufiji river it walked up through the rocks and into the leaf litter, eventually putting its head into the ground and rolling into a ball. Many thanks to Mark O'Sullivan who kindly let us use his fantastic photos for our Blog.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Martial Eagle Sunset

The Martial Eagle is a very large bird of prey, 83cm tall with a wingspan that can reach up to 2.4m. It usually hunts on the wing, potential prey can be spotted up to 6km away. It kills small prey by impact, larger prey it can not carry into a tree will be returned to regularly to feed on. The Martial Eagle is not threatened globally, but is vulnerable in South Africa, due to persecution from farmers.

Friday, September 16, 2011

African Civet

This small nocturnal carnivore is common, but difficult to see, especially during the day, coming back from the Kiba airstrip one evening, I noticed this civet fast asleep out in the open, after a while he turned to look at me, yawned then went back to sleep!

The African Civet is an omnivorous  generalist, taking small vertebrates, invertebrates, eggs, carrion, and vegetable matter. It is capable of taking on poisonous invertebrates (such as the millipedes most other species avoid) and snakes. Prey is primarily detected by smell and sound rather than by sight.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wild Dogs

One of the most exciting mammals to view in the bush, the Wild Dogs are difficult to keep up with when they are on the move. The young dogs start to hunt when they are about 12 months old, but only become expert hunters when they are 18 months old. A single dog can kill up to an Impala, but for larger prey they (e.g. Wildebeest, Zebra and Giraffe) they need to hunt co-operatively. Wild Dogs can Chase at speeds of up 60km per hour.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Battle at Selous

Hearing Lions roar early we made our way over to one of the lakes that is fed by the Rufiji river called Lake Segese, The lake is part of the huge Rufiji water system, all the water that flows in the Rufiji falls within the country, a truly Tanzanian river. As we approached Lake Segese the roars of the lions became more frantic, we picked up speed to see if we could catch a glimpse of what was happening.

 Bounding along the shores, a Lioness jumped straight into lake Segese fully submerged she reappeared bursting out of the water, she carried on this way making her way to the other side of the lake, behind her on the lake shore was another five lions in hot pursuit. 

 Oblivious to our presence, the Lions carried on charging round the lakes edge, eyes fixed on the Lioness ahead. At the helm was a fully grown female, followed by four of her offspring, the adult female also jumped into the lake to cut a corner and catch up with the female ahead. We kept up as they ran through a small Doum palm thicket, passing that the female who jumped into the lake was now cornered. Her only option was a fallen tree that was half in the water, out of desperation she took the chance and made her way hastily along the branches to the end and turned around, teeth showing and snarling.

We pulled up and switched the engine off, the noise was incredible all five lions were roaring, the matriarch and a young male decided  to follow her up the fallen tree which was over hanging the water, the female at the end was visibly wounded, deep puncture marks were streaming blood. Taking care the lions edged their way toward the end of the tree, the noise was deafening snarls, roaring. The attackers were unable to get a good enough grip on the log. They retreated back onto the lakes edge, marking their territory and roaring, finding a shady spot the attacking pride lay down keeping their eyes fixed on the lioness in the tree. Sometime passed, the sun was gradually rising and the lioness was in direct sunlight, her wound was still bleeding and she was in an uncomfortable position over water with five lions trying to get her. 

Over the next couple of hours the pride of five tried several times to reach her at the end of the tree, each time they failed retreating back to the shade to watch her patiently. We all decided it was time for breakfast now, so we made our way over to lake Tagalala for a lovely bush breakfast.

An hour later we returned to find them all in the same positions.

As we approached the lioness took the opportunity to make a run for it, she nimbly made her way to the shore, then as fast as lightening dashed off towards lake Tagalala, turning around we found the five lions were in hot pursuit again, we tried to keep up! Finally reaching the pride, where they had stopped, we thought she must have escaped, looking up into a large Wing bean tree, there she was, right up near the top. Five lions at the bottom, another standoff! 
After watching for a while we decided to head back to the camp for lunch, what an exciting morning!
The female must have been caught wandering or hunting in this prides territory, the prides which are controlled by a matriarch often fight each other over territorial boundaries. In the afternoon there was no sign of any of the lions, we believe she eventually escaped her attackers.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Its the time of year when fires can be seen all over Tanzania, the Selous is no exception, controlled burns are used as a land management tool. With lots of smoke in the air we get beautiful sunrises and sunsets, the smoke can act as a filter enabling one to look directly into the sun without damaging your eyes. This photo I took recently early one morning clearly shows some Sunspots. The two close together at the bottom of the image are called 1263, the one in the middle is called 1261 and the one at the top is 1260. Sunspots are a temporary phenomenon on the photosphere of the Sun, they are caused by intense magnetic activity and can be 800,000km in length!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

African Skimmer

The total African population of the Skimmer is estimated to be 10,000. The adults can tolerate very high ambient temperatures without seeking shade. Their eggs are laid in a depression on the sand banks, as you can see from the photo above the eggs and chicks are very well camouflaged, their chicks are what we call precocial, which means that when they hatch they already have feathers, very soon they will be able to see, walk and feed themselves, if your born on the ground you need a head start in life!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The lions mane

The Lions in the Selous have small manes in comparison to the rest of Tanzania's Lions. This could be due to a couple of reasons. The first is inbreeding and the second is due to the climate in the Selous, we are only 70m above sea level and 100km from the coast, so it can get quite warm here! A big mane would hinder the lions when the temperatures rise later in the year. The Lions mane aids in making it seem bigger, useful in confrontations with other males or Hyenas!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Masaai Giraffe

The Giraffe has an incredible circulatory system, its heart can weight up to 10kg and measure 60cm as it must generate double the blood pressure of average large mammals to maintain the blood flow to the head!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Love is in the air

Snapped this pair of mating Pied Kingfishers early in the morning along the banks of the Rufiji river. They mainly feed on fish, but will take crustaceans and large aquatic insects. The males has two complete breast bands and the female has a single broken band. They are capable of hovering over the water to locate fish.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

Agile and Stealthy predators, they are very successful due to their opportunistic hunting behavior. Common compared to the lions but difficult to see, you can find them in a wide range of habitats, but being solitary and well camouflaged you may pass many on a game drive and never know about it. We believe this female to be the one we saw with two cubs, she is very relaxed, hopefully this will rub off on the cubs and provide us with some great sightings in the future.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Pictured here with a very guilty look on his face! Shorty the Vervet Monkey is a regular visitor to Sand Rivers Selous, he recommends the breakfasts, lunches, tea time snacks and is a big fan of our fresh fruit!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Kite spiders

Don't worry they are only 1.5cm at the widest and are not dangerous to man. The males are much smaller and have to be very careful not to eaten by the female! They must have to tread carefully while dating!

Monday, June 13, 2011


The mighty African Fish Eagle, an expert at catching fish, but they will even take small crocodiles! Here one can be seen with a fish called a Nkupe.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Feeding time

We had the pleasure of seeing the Collared Sunbird feeding its chicks in the camp this morning, the adults frantically searched for small caterpillars under leaves and hidden in gaps in the bark of the trees.While the two fledglings constantly begged by calling and flapping their wings. As with humans I am sure they hope the fledglings grow up quick so they can get a bit of peace and quiet!

The brilliant optical phenomenon of iridescence seen on the Collared Sunbird's feathers makes them change colour as they zip in and out of the bushes.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Did you get bitten by a snake"

Taking a boat safari from Sandrivers will get you up close and personal with many of the birds that nest in the banks. The birds seem to be very tolerant of the boats, one day we had a Beautiful Malachite Kingfisher land on the boat a few feet from us! Above is a photo of a Giant Kingfishers just out side its nest and some Eland on the plains..

Today we were doing a bit of exploring on foot, near Lake Tagalala we came across a heard of Zebras, as usual they ran off. From where we were it looked like one of the Zebras was lying down and not moving. We decided to go over and have a look. As we came with 10m of the Zebra we saw an ear twitch. It seemed like it was very weak or maybe it had sustained an injury. We came to within a few feet of the young Zebra and decided to nudge it with our feet, but no reaction, then once more, but still nothing. Rem who I was with bent down and said to it, "did you get bitten by a snake" at that moment the Zebra woke up and bolted away giving us a major increase in heart rate! Then we had to laugh, poor thing was only fast asleep! He trotted off and joined his rather concerned mum.

One of our other walks out had the great luck of seeing 3 leopards in one morning, a mother with two tiny cubs, great news, hopefully we will be seeing more of them!