Sunday, March 01, 2020

Awesome Animals of Aledeghi & Awash

Greetings Everyone,
After our intrepid journey into the Danakil Depression, it was time to return to a less alien world. On our way to Semera, we passed a wrecked car on the side of the road and Kasaye came to a screeching halt. He said he had seen something under the vehicle. He backed up and lying under the car was what could only be an African Golden Wolf!

African Golden Wolf Under Car

We were hoping to get a good sighting of this canine. Although the African Golden Wolf is widespread in the northern and north-eastern parts of Africa, we had yet to come across one on our travels. The species has only recently been recognized as morphologically and genetically distinct from the Eurasian Golden Jackal (Canis aureus). The wolf got up and plodded to the side of the road, giving us an even better view. 


African Golden Wolf

We reached the town of Afrera and visited its great salt lake to look for birds. The best find turned out to be an endangered Egyptian Vulture along the highway. 


Egyptian Vulture

Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to Rufael as he was to return to Axum and we were to continue our drive to Semera. We encountered another roadside surprise, a troop of Hamadryas Baboons! It was another species I was hoping to see, having missed them on our first two trips to Ethiopia. Apparently, motorists feed them creating a dangerous situation as the baboons line the busy highway for a handout.


Hamadryas Baboon

We reached Semera, the new and fast-growing capital of the Afar Region, in the late afternoon and checked into a posh but nearly empty resort.


Our Hotel in Semera

Early the next morning, I was eager to leave the Afar Region and reach Animalia Lodge to resume our search for more wildlife. The drive was unpleasant to say the least. The truck traffic along the main route from Djibouti to Addis was unbelievable. We had to pass tandem trucks while avoiding trucks coming in the other direction. The buses were crazy, traveling at breakneck speed and passing haphazardly. We encountered many wrecks and I had my teeth clenched the whole way. I tried to capture the experience on a video but was only mildly successful.


Finally, we reached the turnoff for Animalia Lodge and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. That afternoon, Yani, the lodge owner, and Mohamed his tracker took us out in an ancient Land Rover on a game drive. 

Ancient Land Rover

We explored Yani’s concession spotting Beisa Oryx, Northern Gerenuk, African Golden Wolf, and Salt’s Dik-dik. The Gerenuk is a long-necked gazelle found in the Horn of Africa and drier parts of East Africa. This was only our third time encountering this near-threatened species.

Northern Gerenuk

Yani took us to a nearby hot spring near sunset. A large flock of Northern Carmine Bee-eaters was coming in to drink and possibly to roost.

Northern Carmine Bee-eaters

That night I lay awake listening for lions. They often frequent the nearby marsh where they hide in the sugar cane but tonight they were silent. The following morning we were off to explore the Aledeghi Plains, part of the 1800-square kilometer Aledeghi Wildlife Reserve. Here large herds of Soemmerring’s Gazelle grazed on the vast grasslands. This vulnerable species is restricted to isolated parts of the Horn of Africa. They were quite wary and it was difficult to get close for good photos.

Soemmerring’s Gazelle

The species I was hoping to see was the endangered Grevy’s Zebra. We had not seen these rare equines since our first trip to Africa in 1990! We searched in vain until spotting a small family group near the woodlands. They, too, were wary and it was impossible to approach closely, so we had to settle for distant views and photos. It was still great to see them again after 30 years!

Grevy’s Zebra

Beisa Oryx, African Golden Wolf, Common Warthog, and Abyssinian Hare rounded out our mammal list before we returned to the lodge for a midday break.

African Golden Wolf

Abyssinian Hare

An afternoon game drive in a different part of the reserve yielded more of the same species of mammals. We stayed out after sunset to look for nocturnal mammals. I hoped that we might find the lions that hang out in a nearby sugar cane plantation. We stopped to chat with some locals who said a lion had been spotted not far away a few nights ago. We weren’t so lucky, depending on how you look at it. We wished to see a cat rarely sighted in Ethiopia, but the locals and their livestock have to contend with them daily. We did spot African Civet, Spotted Hyena, and White-tailed Mongoose, so we didn’t come up empty-handed.

White-tailed Mongoose

The next morning we left Animalia Lodge and drove to the nearby and much more popular Awash National Park. This was our third visit, the first back in 1995 and the second in 2011. I was hoping that things would have improved since 2011, but they continued to deteriorate. More and more locals encroach into the park to graze their livestock. The landscape is being denuded, leaving very little food for wildlife. This doesn’t seem to bother the number of tourists visiting the park. If you hadn’t experienced the park 25 years ago, you might not notice the amount of destruction going on. On the drive in, we did manage to see a few Soemmerring’s Gazelle, Salt’s Dik-Dik, and Beisa Oryx, but it was nearing midday and most animals would be resting.

Beisa Oryx

We had lunch at the lodge where the Grivet Monkeys have become quite a pest. You have to watch them constantly or they will jump on your table and steal your bread!

Grivet Monkey

The lodge is situated on the bank of the Awash River. The nearby Awash Falls tumble a 100-feet over the rocks into a pool with lurking Nile Crocodiles. It’s hard to believe we made a raft trip down the Awash in 1995 before the lodge had been built. I must admit it was more relaxing watching the crocs from an observation platform high above the river rather than clinging to a raft in the hopes we wouldn’t get tossed into the river! Such great memories!

Awash Falls

We went out for a game drive in the late afternoon hoping to see more animals, but other than Salt’s Dik-dik, a few Beisa Oryx and Common Warthog, we saw very little. We stayed out after the sunset hoping that once the locals left with their livestock, the nocturnal animals would emerge. Abyssinian Hares were by far the most abundant and we spotted around a dozen Bat-eared Foxes. They were quite skittish, though, and it was difficult to get a good photo.

Bat-eared Foxes

The following morning it was time to leave Awash National Park and return to Addis Ababa. Our third trip to Ethiopia was coming to an end. We want to extend a big thank you to our guides Mangay and Rufael for sharing their fascinating country with us. We are grateful to our driver Kasaye for his long hours on the road getting us safely from one destination to the next. Finally, I’d like to thank friend and guide Yigo for coming up with this itinerary and to Yared of Dreamland Ethiopia for making it happen. Stay tuned for our next destination, a visit to Zakouma National Park in Chad.

We hope all is well with everyone.
Peggy and Marc

       Ethiopia Mammal List: February 17 to March 1, 2020
    
 No Species Scientific Name  Comments
 1 Klipspringer  Oreotragus oreotragus  Simien Mts. 
 2Gelada  Theropithecus gelada Simien Mts.
 3 Kaffa Side-striped Jackal  Canis adustus kaffensis Simien Mts.
 4 Walia Ibex Capra walie Simien Mts.
 5Abyssinian Grass Rat  Arvicanthis abyssinicus Simien Mts.
 6 Oribi Ourebia ourebiKafta Sheraro  
 7 Eritrean Gazelle Eudorcas tilonuraKafta Sheraro 
 8 Greater KuduTragelaphus strepsicerosKafta Sheraro 
 9 Defassa Waterbuck Kobus ellipsiprymnus defassa  Kafta Sheraro
 10 Striped Ground Squirrel  Xerus erythropus Kafta Sheraro 
 11 Common Warthog Phacochoerus africanusKS, Aledeghi, Awash  
 12 Olive Baboon Papio anubis Kafta Sheraro, Awash
 13 Eastern Black-backed Jackal Canis mesomelas schmidti  Kafta Sheraro 
 14 African Wildcat Felis lybica Kafta Sheraro
 15 Spotted Hyena Crocuta crocutaKafta Sheraro, Awash  
 16 Cairo Spiny Mouse Acomys cahirinus KS, Animalia
 17Rock Hyrax  Procavia capensis Gheralta
 18 Abyssinian Hare Lepus habessinicusGheralta, Aledeghi, Awash 
 19 Dorcas Gazelle Gazella dorcas Danakil 
 20 African Golden Wolf Canis lupasterDanakil, Alideghi 
 21 Hamadryas Baboon Papio hamadryasAfar Region 
 22 Salt’s Dik-dik  Madoqua saltiana Aledeghi, Awash
 23 Beisa Oryx Oryx beisa beisa Aledeghi, Awash
 24 Northern Gerenuk Litocranius walleri sclateri  Aledeghi 
 25 Grevy’s Zebra Equus grevyi Aledeghi 
 26 Soemmerring’s Gazelle  Nanger soemmerringii Aledeghi, Awash
 27 Lesser Kudu Tragelaphus imberbis Aledeghi, Awash
 28 White-tailed Mongoose Ichneumia albicauda Aledeghi, Awash
 29 Bat-eared Fox Otocyon megalotis Awash
 30 Unstriped Ground Squirrel Xerus rutilus Animalia, Awash
 31  African Civet Civettictis civetta Aledeghi, Awash
 32 Abyssinian Genet? Genetta abyssinica Animalia
 33 Egyptian Mongoose? Herpestes ichneumon Awash
 34 Grivet Chlorocebus aethiops Awash
 35  Mantled Guereza Colobus guereza Awash


For the 137 bird species seen and photographed by Marc during our last two trips to Ethiopia go to his list on iNaturalist:


Our route map:


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Most Inhospitable Place on Earth!

Greetings Everyone,
We’re in Ethiopia for the third time exploring some new destinations. Ever since our second visit in 2011 I’ve wanted to return to venture into the Danakil Depression, one of the harshest places on Earth. To get to this remote area along the border with Eritrea, we drove from Axum where we picked up a new guide, Rufael, and on toward Gheralta.  

Along the way, we passed the town of Adwa and the surrounding mountains wherein 1896 there was a great battle between the Ethiopians and Italian armed forces. The Ethiopians were victorious and along with Liberia are the only two African countries never to have been colonized by European powers.

Adwa

Then it was on to the ruins of Yeha, a pre-Axumite settlement and famous for its huge, remarkable, and well preserved 12-meter high stone temple that is thought to be over 2,500 years old!


Yeha

Next door was a small museum with a lot of interesting artifacts including stone tablets with ancient text and books written in Ge’ez, the ancient liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.


Ge’ez Manuscript

We arrived at the Gheralta Lodge in the afternoon and set out to explore the grounds. We weren’t expecting to see any mammals but we found a colony of Rock Hyraxes living in some nearby cliffs. Surprisingly, hyraxes are the species most closely related to the elephant.

Rock Hyrax

The next day we continued our journey to the Danakil Depression stopping to visit a couple rock-hewn churches along the way. The first was Abuna Abraham (also known as Debre Tsion). The climb of 850-feet ended up taking about 50 minutes. There were some steep sections but nothing challenging. As we approached the top some of the local villagers were on their way down having just attended a 2-hour mass!


Abuna Abraham

When we arrived we had to take our boots off to enter. This church is semi-monolithic in that it was carved from the bottom up in the 14th century by cleric Abuna Abraham. The church contained murals, carvings, and impressive stone pillars. A lot of the paintings have been damaged by rain and the village had now put a cement cap on the church to keep the water out. 


Inside Abuna Abraham

A tunnel or ambulatory had been carved around the back of all three chambers of the church. We could peek into the holiest chamber where there is a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. At the end of the tunnel was a small circular room called the Abraham Oratory where Abuna Abraham meditated. 


Abraham Oratory

The second church we visited was Abraham we Atsbeha. This church is easily accessible by vehicle and a short walk up some stone steps. We entered the church through a chanting room with two large drums on the floor and brightly colored murals adorned the walls.


Abraham we Atsbeha


We stepped from the chanting room into the rock-hewn sanctuary. According to local tradition, this church was chiseled out of the mountainside between 335 AD and 340 AD by King Abreha and his twin-brother and co-regent King Atsbeha. It has a massive cruciform interior, perhaps the largest of the region’s rock-cut churches, and an elaborately carved roof supported by thick pillars and decorated arches. 


Inside Abraham we Atsbeha

After a morning of cultural immersion, it was time to continue our journey down into the Danakil Depression. We knew we were getting close when we encountered a camel caravan on the way to the depression to pick up salt. It would take this caravan days to reach the salt lake while we could reach it in air-conditioned comfort in a matter of hours.


Salt Caravan

Along our route were bizarre trees reminiscent of Joshua Trees that grow in the southwestern US. Here they are endangered Dragon Trees (Dracaena ombet). 


Dragon Trees 

We had now entered the Afar Region. The people here were used to live a nomadic lifestyle but are now encouraged to inhabit more permanent settlements.  We stopped at the village of Hamedela to pick up our police escort. It was a grim place with a lot of crudely constructed huts and trash. The Danakil is one of the most inhospitable places on the planet where temperatures soar to 122 degrees Fahrenheit and it rarely rains. If it wasn’t for salt mining and now tourism, it would be nearly impossible to make a living.

Village of Hamedela

Here the paved road ended and we entered an immense salt flat to watch the sunset. By now many jeeps of tourists had congregated and we waded out into the briny water to avoid getting people in our photos. The sun set quickly behind some clouds casting reflections onto the surface of the shallow lake.

Salt Lake

Leaving the salt lake, we encountered another camel caravan ladened with salt. It made for a surreal photo in the glow of the jeep's headlights.


Salt Caravan

We drove past Hamedela to the main road and headed back the way we had come. Just before a bridge we left the main road and followed a dirt track to a palm oasis where amazingly water was flowing! At one time an Afar village was here but now it had been converted to a tourist camp. By now it was dark but our dinner table was set and charpoy beds were available to sleep under the stars.


Our Beds for the Night

Early the next morning we set off to discover why travelers would come to such a harsh place.  One of the main reasons was to see the otherworldly Dallol Hot Springs. The springs are located inside the crater of Dallol Volcano, at 48 meters it's the lowest land volcano on Earth. Dipping a finger in the scalding hot pools more acidic than battery acid isn’t advised!



The magma below heats up groundwater forcing it to the surface where it dissolves salt, sulfur, potash, and other minerals. As the water evaporates, it leaves a crust that covers Dallol's crater in a mind-blowing array of neon colors!

Dallol Hot Springs

A short distance away were “salt mountains” with formations resembling pillars, skyscrapers, and a skeleton’s hand.

Salt Mountains

After lunch, we drove to Abella, a fast-growing Afar town. I was expecting to camp but we were pleasantly surprised by staying in a nice guesthouse with a friendly family. We sat on the back veranda watching the eldest daughter perform an Ethiopian coffee ceremony in the late afternoon.


Coffee Ceremony

The following day was a big one. We were finally going to climb Erta Ale Volcano, the other main draw to the Danakil Depression. Ever since our last visit in 2011, I’ve been wanting to return to Ethiopia to climb Erta Ale to see its impressive lava lake but it wasn’t until this year we were able to make the trip. Rufael explained that even though Erta Ale wasn’t that far from Dallol, there was no direct way to get there so we had to drive around. All of this is changing with a new road being built by the Chinese. We left the main road and followed a dirt track toward the volcano. Rufael saw a gazelle lying under a bush to escape the midday heat. Sure enough, when I looked in my bins, it was a gazelle but which one? We settled on Soemmerring’s but we later identified it as Dorcas Gazelle, a new species for us!

Dorcas Gazelle

The track led to what seemed to be an abandoned village, then men and boys came pouring out of the concrete buildings.  It was here that we would pick up our police escort for the volcano hike.  Rufael suggested we stay in the vehicle while he and Kasaye negotiated some last-minute details with the locals.  It took some time as there seemed to be some issues to resolve.  Kasaye drove us on a dirt track parallel to the new road being built by the Chinese and we stopped at one more checkpoint for another round of difficult negotiations with the locals. We arrived at the car park at Dodom in the late afternoon around 4:00 and set off for the volcano rim after a late lunch.

Pack Camels in Front of Erta Ale

We hiked the newly constructed road toward the rim of Erta Ale. We were moving at a steady pace but Rufael who had stayed behind to supervise the loading of our pack camel managed to catch up to us. We followed the road veering off onto a trail to the rim. Here there were many stone huts with straw and plastic roofs constructed for the tourists.

Stone Huts on the Rim

We reached the rim and peered over. Bummer! The lava lake was gone! Just a dead lake of black hardened lava remained.

Erta Ale.

Rufael said we would have to climb down and cross this “ dead lava lake” to reach a lower rim. When we reached the edge we peered into a crater full of smoke and noxious gas. This was far worse than I expected. One of the most amazing natural phenomena on the planet was now gone. Why had we waited so long to visit? There were 3-4 small spots of lava visible but no more. The wind was whipping and I didn’t want to get too close to the unstable rim.

Rim of Volcano

Another couple was returning and said the view was better a bit further along the rim. We found the largest spot of visible lava but it was a far cry from the classic view. We knew that an eruption in 2017 had created a crack causing the lava lake to drain but we had heard that the lake was starting to refill and that Erta Ale was still worth visiting. The gas was bad here so we retreated back along the rim and sat on a flat piece of lava hoping things would change, maybe the smoke would clear or maybe there would be a small eruption but nothing happened. 

Volcano Hot Spot

We decided to return to the upper rim where we would spend the night in one of the stone huts. Our two mattresses just fit in one of the tiny structures and we settled in for the night.  I slept off and on to the sound of the blowing wind. Our quest to see Erta Ale ended with bitter disappointment.

Overnight Accommodation

The next morning we returned to the car park and left the Danakil Depression for Semera. Although we were disappointed in not seeing the lava lake, we were happy to have finally made it to this alien realm, one of the most remote, hottest, lowest, and inhospitable places on Earth!

We hope all is well with everyone.
Peggy and Marc

Our route map:


Friday, February 21, 2020

Rediscovering Ethiopia’s Endemics

Greetings Everyone,
It had been a long 25 years when we last visited Simien Mountains National Park in northern Ethiopia. A lot has changed in the intervening years, most notably the completion of a road through the park. This road has made the Simien Mountains much more accessible to locals and tourists alike. Back in 1995, construction of the road was just starting and very few people ventured into this remote domain of baboons with bleeding hearts, wolves that were once thought to be foxes and bizarre-looking plants. We saw all these wonderful things back then but our focus was more on trekking rather than wildlife viewing. It was the opportunity to view and photograph the endemic creatures of Simien Mountains National Park that drew us back.

Simien Mountains National Park

We met our driver, Kasaye, in Gondar and our local guide, Mangay, in Debarek before proceeding to the park. This time we spent 2 nights at the comfortable Simien Lodge, presumably the highest in Africa at nearly 11,000 feet. In 1995 there were no lodges and we had no choice but to camp. Today, our first quarry, the Gelada Baboon is easily seen within walking distance from the lodge. We encountered our first troop that afternoon where they were feeding in an open meadow. Their unique vocalizations not unlike human children came flooding back to me. In fact, Geladas are the only non-human primate to be able to change pitch while vocalizing.
We observed males, females, and infants feeding, playing, and grooming. Geladas are unique in another way, they are the only graminivorous primate, meaning that they exclusively eat grasses and their seeds. They use their strong hands for ripping grass and climbing cliffs to escape predators.

Male Gelada

The next day we set off in our 4x4 in search of our next endemic target, the Walia Ibex. We saw them in 1995 but at a great distance. Not far from the lodge we spotted a canine in the road. Marc was able to get a good photo but I was stumped as to what it was. Mangay thought it was a jackal but it didn’t look like a Black-backed or Side-striped Jackal. That left only African Golden Wolf but it looked too small. 

Mystery Canid

We resumed our search for the Walia Ibex. They tend to hang out at Chenek Camp but today they were nowhere to be found so we ventured deeper into the park. I was surprised to see so many people living in the park, growing crops, and grazing livestock. A lot of the native vegetation has been cleared but some groves of Giant Lobelia survive.

Giant Lobelia

We continued toward Bwahit. Twenty-five years ago it took 5 days to trek here, now you can drive in a matter of hours to a pass at the base of the peak. Near the top, the guys spotted Walia Ibex! Marc, Mangay, our scout, and I followed four magnificent males on foot to within 300 feet before they disappeared over the ridge.

Walia Ibex

Mangay and our scout spotted two more and we followed on foot but not getting as close as before. We climbed back down to our vehicle and continued down the road spotting four more male Ibex, a particularly large fellow was lying next to a rock. That made ten male Walia Ibex, a far better showing than back in 1995!

Walia Ibex

Our next objective was to find an Ethiopian Wolf. Back in 1995, they were thought to be foxes and were refereed to as Simien Foxes. DNA studies have shown them to be more closely related to wolves, hence the new name Ethiopian Wolf. We saw one back in 1995 but it was a brief encounter and Marc wasn’t able to get a photo. We continued to the park boundary not finding a wolf so had to be content with the many Abyssinian Grass Rats we were seeing on the way back.

Abyssinian Grass Rat

Near where we had seen the male ibex, Marc spotted a herd of thirteen female Walia Ibex including a calf.

Female Walia Ibex Herd

We headed back to the lodge passing a group of 100 Gelada Baboons. The guys dropped us off and we decided to walk to see the baboons. We found the group and sat about 10m away to watch a male being groomed by his harem. The male got up and proceeded to mate with one of his females causing her youngster to screen in disapproval.

Gelada Mating Pair

Back at the lodge, a bachelor group of nine Gelada Baboons was grazing by the parking lot. They made their way to the front of the lodge where one individual became extremely agitated, baring his large canines and standing on his hind legs. At first, I thought he was objecting to our presence but it was his reflection in the lodge window! He did his best to scare the imaginary rival troop away, too funny!

Male Gelada

Still baffled by the canid we had seen in the morning, I sent the photo to friend and author of “Canids of the World”, Dr. José R. CastellóHe responded almost immediately. It was a subspecies of the Side-striped Jackal called the Kaffa Side-striped Jackal. In Uganda and Ethiopia, they lack the distinctive white-tipped tail and white side stripe so that’s why I was stumped. According to Jose’s book, they are a rarely recorded subspecies in Ethiopia and have not been detected in Simien Mountains National Park. Could we have the first documented sighting?


Kaffa Side-striped Jackal

We set off at 8:00 the next morning for the long drive to Kafta Sheraro National Park, a new destination for us. We were joined by our camp staff in a second vehicle in Gondar and continued our way north. We began to get stopped at more and more police checkpoints. Mangay said it was because we had entered a new region, Tigray. Finally around 4:00 we arrived in the town of Humera where we found a sign pointing to Kafta Sheraro National Park.

Sign for Kafta Sheraro National Park

It led us to a small house in an otherwise empty field where a few guys were hanging out. Apparently, today was a holiday in Tigray and there were no rangers to escort us into the park. Bummer, had we come all this way for nothing! The guys seemed to be arguing or maybe discussing our predicament. Finally, we were told that the ranger was at today’s celebration and when it was over in about an hour, he would escort us into the park. I had my doubts given the late hour. We went to a hotel in town to have a very late lunch or early dinner. Today’s ceremony was being broadcasted on a big TV screen. We tried to figure out what the heck was going on. It appeared to be the 45th anniversary of when Tigray Province had defeated the central Ethiopian government. So was this a celebration or a rally calling for Tigray to join the neighboring country of Eritrea?

We finished our meal and returned to the park headquarters where a new vehicle was parked. More discussions ensued and we were informed that we would be escorted by a woman in a sparkly jumpsuit to the park. We were also joined by a scout who for some reason did not know the way to camp. At long last, we were on our way! As we entered the park, it was very dry and barren. I was hoping to see animals but we saw none. We arrived at camp around 6:30, just after the sun had set. Two wood fires were blazing and there were houses with women and children. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting but at least we were inside Kafta Sheraro National Park.

Setting off around 6:30 the next morning to do our first safari, I was amazed at how dry it was and how many areas had been recently burned. We drove for awhile not seeing one mammal until I spotted a lone gazelle. I couldn’t quite place it and when we checked the field guide later, we settled on Oribi.

Oribi

A little further on a second gazelle was spotted and identified as a Red-fronted Gazelle. Further investigation revealed that it was actually an Eritrean Gazelle, a new species for us! Also known as Heuglin’s Gazelle, this endangered gazelle has a very tiny range mainly in the area where Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia converge so we were very lucky to see it. 

Eritrean Gazelle

Our morning drive also revealed Defassa Waterbuck and a handsome Greater Kudu male.

Greater Kudu Male

We drove to Endameki Tourist Camp under shady trees along the bank of the Tekezé River. On the other side was the tiny country of Eritrea. We had the whole campsite to ourselves. Now, this is what I had in mind!

Our Campsite at Endameki Tourist Camp

The park is home to the northernmost elephant population in Eastern Africa and it was the hope of seeing this herd that drew us to Kafta Sheraro. There was old elephant dung around camp but we were told that the elephants had crossed the river into Eritrea. We set off with our scout to explore the area around camp. We startled a warthog but the big stars of the show were the birds along the river. Marc spotted an Egyptian Plover on the near shore. We were hoping to see them in Ghana later in our trip but were not expecting them here. Sought after by serious birders, the Crocodile Bird, as it is also known is the only species in the genus Pluvianus. According to Greek mythology, the trochilus goes into the open mouth of a crocodile to feed on leeches. The reptile wanting to be rid of the pesky blood-suckers does not harm the bird. Could the Egyptian Plover be the mythical trochilus or crocodile bird?  

Egyptian Plover

Overhead graceful Demoiselle Cranes soared landing downriver where thousands had congregated.

Demoiselle Cranes

We later learned that Kafta Sheraro is an important wintering site for these birds. The cranes share the river with local Eritreans who fetch water with donkey-drawn carts.

Demoiselle Crane Wintering Site

An afternoon game drive produced a Black-Backed Jackal pair, Olive Baboons, more kudu, and a female Oribi but not much else. After dinner, we went for a walk with our scout hoping to see nocturnal mammals but only managed to scare up what were most likely Cairo Spiny Mice. Sadly we had only one night in this idyllic spot and the following morning left for the city of Axum.  On to our next destination, the Danakil Depression, one of the most inhospitable places on Earth!

We hope all is well with everyone.
Peggy and Marc


Our route map: