Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wild Boars, Hippos, Crocs & Pelicans!


The Great White Pelican quintet on Lake Chamo.

Pretty plumeria blooming - this tree's got some age on it!
S-t-r-e-t-c-h and y-a-w-n and stretch some more and then rollover a few times and repeat. It was a lazy wake up for me this morning. Last night, Netsanet had told us that breakfast at the restaurant would end at 8a. I pushed it and only made it to the dining table at 7:45a. The Mongol horde must have arrived before me because there was barely any food, and I mean barely, left on the table. Not even a scoop of scrambled egg, just some really hard croissant like things. It was bad. So, I had restaurant cut up the pineapple we bought in Addis. That and one of the croissant things and a cup of coffee was all I had for breakfast.

As we were at the breakfast table, Gale brought up a great idea to get 125 birr from each of us for local guide tip money. She had done some reading the night before and based on our itinerary, calculated how many villages we would be visiting and therefore, how much we need to have in the tip kitty which was 1000 birr which divided by 8 comes to the 125 birr per person.  If we end up short, then we'll have to each pony up more money and she would let us know if that happens.  Such a practical idea and saves each of us from having to figure out the tip on a daily basis!  Thanks Gale!



Breakfast was an non-event. I left the table as soon as I had taken my few bites of food and a few sips of coffee.   I was ready to get started on the day!

As I walked out of the dining room, a few warthogs were making their way towards me.   The next set of diners?

The restaurant chef came out to feed the warthogs some leftover bread.  This is obviously a daily ritual as the warthogs knew exactly when to arrive.  Amazing considering they have no clocks to tell time with!

They know the hand that feeds them!

They are wild animals but were much too busy stuffing their faces than to bother with us!

They are so ugly, they're actually adorable....especially when they grunt while munching down the bread.

The first thing on our itinerary today was a boat ride on Lake Chamo.  Yesterday, Netsanet had told us that to avoid crowds, we would do the boat ride either in the morning on in the afternoon but that morning was preferable as it would give us a better chance of seeing animals - hopefully the crocodiles and hippos that call the lake home. I was thrilled when I found out that we got the morning slot. 

Today, Netsanyet handed out new car seating assignments.  Damn.  The happy threesome was split up.  Jean moved to Car 2 and Pat and I were in Car 1 with Netsanyet and our driver was Masai.  Netsantet always looks a bit grumpy and is more quiet in the morning.  He's definitely not a morning person. As for Masai, I really liked him from the start - he has a very friendly demeanor and his English is quite good.

It was my day to sit in the front seat so I eagerly got in next to Masai.

Away we went!

As with many of the towns we've been through, Arba Minch is in a constant state of repair/disrepair.

On our way to the lake, we had to make a quick stop in town to pick up boat captain at the offices of the boat rental company.  He brought along the fuel.

It didn't take long for us to get out of town.  I knew we didn't have far to go.

We didn't have far to go.  After all, we could see the lake from the hotel terrace.

The partially paved roads of Arba Minch gave way to the dirt roads of the Ethiopian countryside.   It was a beautiful, albeit warm, day.  It should be a good day to be out on the water.

Watch Masai expertly navigate his way around the cows AND a van!


Sometimes, we ended in the middle of the pack!  I used to tease Masai, telling him that he was splitting the herd like Moses parting the Red Sea.

There definitely is an advantage to being in the front seat of the lead car.   Spotted the baboons in the road.

We saw one troop of baboons after another.

Offroading always brings out the giggles in me.  A few good laughs and we were all soon relaxed - even Netsanet started to loosen up.
Here's a few seconds of what got eventually got nicknamed the "Ethiopian Massage".

It was early morning and the herds were heading out to graze for the day. 

High up in the acacia trees hung these odd shaped looking baskets, each at least several feet long.

  They are beehives!   Now I know how they get acacia honey but what a task it must be retrieving the hives!

It was quite a long ride before we arrived at the area where the boats were docked.

Judy couldn't wait to get going!

We each had to don life jackets.  Here, there is nothing about matching jacket size to body size.  Find one that fits you as best it can, strap up and off you go!

That's our boat on the left.

We boarded the boat.  I decided I wanted to sit up front for the view. Everyone else opted for shade.  Pat eventually took the seat next to me. Sam and Judy in the row behind.

Pat, the adventurous travel.  She and I were like two peas in a pod.

Two guys the boat to get us going and we drifted for a few minutes before the captain started up the engine.
A push off and we were on our way.

Took us a while to get out of the weeds....literally.

Open water ahead.

It was a beautiful, though hazy day, to be out on the water.

Full throttle

We puttered along slowly until Netsanyet started to point out all the wildlife....much of which was a bit too far to easily see with the naked eye.  Thank God for my zoom lens!

Gray bird from afar.  Can't tell what it is.

After I cropped the photo.  A Goliath Heron, also known as a Giant Heron.

..... and perched very, very high up, an African Fish Eagle preening itself.

Then came the sighting of the hippo.  The captained maneuvered our boat as close as he could get without scaring the animals. 

First one and all you see is the head.

Then we realized there were actually two hippos.

The hippos would surface to catch a breath of air and we would have to wait several minutes for them to re-emerge.  We never knew where they would pop up so we had to scan the surface and keep close watch as they only come up for a few seconds before they pop back down.

Front view!  Hard to get any good shots.  This is another one of those times when I wish I was a better photographer.

More views of Lake Chamo.  Mountains in the background and papyrus reeds along the shore.  Pinch me.  I'm on a boat puttering on a lake
located in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia.  Never would have seen that happening in my wildest dreams and here I am!  Very lucky woman!

Two Great White Pelicans and a lone Egyptian Goose.  We'd see more pelicans later.

Our first sighting of a crocodile.  More of these to come as well.

Hungry croc talking its prey?  We didn't hang around long enough to find out just in case 11 humans were a more attractive meal.

The Goliath Heron giving us the eye.

Scanning the shoreline for birds.   Quite a variety we saw in a single view!

Birds, crocodiles.....they all seem to be content in each others company.   That croc would be way too close for comfort for me if I was one of those pelicans!

Coming for us!  Start the motor and vamanos!

Favorite moment was when we came upon this group of five Great White Pelicans.  They were so beautiful - white features with long yellow beaks that had a tinge of purple running down the ridge.

We watched them wading into the water.

And swim about.

They would move in unison.

Then as if on cue, they would simultaneously dunk their heads into the water, tails in the air, to feed.

We were all fascinated watching this group of five pelicans feeding. They were like a group of synchronized swimmers. They would glide around for a bit and then as if on cue, all dip their heads into the water and then all raise up at the same time. It was an amazing sight. I also caught one of them swallowing their catch.



A Yellow Billed Stork.  Absolutely gorgeous bird!

Watching a beautiful Yellow Billed Stork feeding but the pelicans had to photobomb my video! :-)

Leaving the pelicans behind to preen themselves.

After we left the beautiful pelicans behind, we turned our attention back to the all the other wildlife that make the lake their home.

Always on the lookout for something moving....our sign of wildlife.

There were some good sized crocodiles just basking in the sun.  Hopefully, they had already eaten for the day....or week.

We didn't see just one crocodile.  It was sometimes hard to spot them among the papyrus reeds but they were there.

We were close enough that we could get a really good look at the crocs and their teeth.  At times I wondered if we weren't too close.

Back out on the open water trying to spot wildlife.  It most certainly wasn't easy and I should know as I was sitting in the very front of the boat.

Pat pointing and shooting.

Our next sighting actually came in the form of two fishermen.

They were quite a distance away.  Once I spotted them, our captain turned the boat to head towards them.

They were standing waist deep in water and appeared to be fishing their net.  Their flat bottomed papyrus boat is typical of the region.

Once we got within yelling range, we found out that they were catching fish.....

.....and they were good size fish at that.

Puttering along, we saw more fishermen, a few boatmen, and the occasional hippo or two. 




Can you spot the hippos?  You blink for one split second and you'll miss them!

We had gone to Lake Chamo in search of  hippos and crocs and we did see them but in the end, the pelicans were the stars of the day....at least for me.  They showed us the way back to shore.

By now, we had all had our fill of wildlife - we weren't seeing anything that we hadn't already seen before so it was time to head back to shore.  Puttered back to boat dock.

I gave my seat to Gale.....no one else seemed interested in coming up front.

Nearing shore and the dock we had left from.

Back on solid ground, we returned our vests and piled back into the cars.

As we offroaded our way back to town, Masai turned on the music.  For the first time, it somehow looked, felt and sounded like I was in Africa. 

We dropped off boat captain somewhere in town and we found out later that he was not happy with the tip we had given him.  He did a good job taking us to places where we could see wildlife and I felt bad that he didn't feel like we had given him a reasonable time.   I made a mental note to make sure we find out from Netsanyet how much we (i.e., Gale) should tip the local guide on our behalf. 

Back in Arba Minch.

The street to our hotel which is just a short distance ahead, on the left. 

We had about a 40 minute break back at the hotel before heading out for lunch and continuing the rest of our sightseeing.  Being on Lake Chamo and seeing all the wildlife was a great way to spend our morning.  I'm ready for a good lunch!