Thursday, 22 September 2011

The African Safari (Tarangire)

From the previous post: "...From thrilling vistas, to open expanses of land never seen before teeming with wild and free life, it was majestic Africa that was to open up in front of my eyes..." 

The adventure truly begins

Waking up to a calm and cool morning, it was time to get ready, have a leisurely breakfast. The land cruiser was loaded up, with all the equipments, food and luggage and off we left for our true blue African private safari. This meant that we would be sleeping in tents at public camp sites and have access only to common, basic facilities like cold water showers and toilets. In terms of private, what we would have as we discovered during the trip, was a cook who would whip up a good meal specifically for us and a guide/driver who would be dedicated to showcasing the best of wild Africa to us.

As Achmed, our tour operator, had explained previously, the journey initially would be quite comfortable as the roads were made of tarmac and rather well maintained. Further on, we would be down to dirt tracks and all its associated ups and downs.

We had a rather normal drive. Visible to us were large swathes of dry land with thorny bushes, a few Masai thatched hut villages and their herds. The scale of the land is only understood, though, when you are on the road. It takes ages to reach any destination. Not that you are being driven slowly. And we were only covering a limited portion of the northern safari circuit of Tanzania.

Finally we reached a public camp site, 118 kilometres south west of Arusha. As, Abombe, our guide pointed out, the smart thing to do, is to plan the journey such that, you manage to reach a public camp site before it gets filled up with other travellers like us. It gives us the advantage of scouting and pitching the tent in a better spot, within the place. As everything is on a 'first-come-first-served' rule, even the kitchen spot availability is a matter of concern. If our cook is not able to set up his paraphernalia then our food is likely to be of the very limited variety.

Now, another thing that I had realised during my pre-trip research, was that in Africa you have to be aware of the season in which you go. Whether it is summer/winter or dry/wet. In Tanzania, summer is usually December-March and winter is March-May with rains. So we were travelling at a time, where the onset of summer was imminent. In summer, the sun sucks the moisture out of the landscape, baking it dry and leaving withered grass as brittle as straw as well as trees minus most of their foliage.

The Tarangire National Park about 2,850 square kilometres (1,096 square miles), part of the Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem, is the sixth largest park in Tanzania named after the Tarangire river. In summer, the river reduces in size to a mere shadow of its wet season self, but attracts nomadic herds of wild life in search of life sustaining moisture. Outside of the Serengeti, this location contains one of the largest concentrations of wildlife herds, bringing in predators following them. The lions of Tarangire are also famous for being among the few tree climbing ones in its species. This promised us with some rich sights and being a nature/wildlife enthusiast, I was very keenly looking forward to it.

Having unloaded our luggage, set up the camp and after consuming an early lunch, we set off to have a look at what we could find in Tarangire.

It was a lovely start, indeed. The two main seasons were beautifully showcased in a stained glass artwork set up at the Tarangire park entrance.

Baobab (Adansonia) also known as monkey-bread tree
The first proper visual of the Baobab tree. Local lore was that as God was irritated with the tree, it was planted on Earth - upside down! The baobab, being of the deciduous type, especially in summer, minus the leaves does look upside down with the roots in the sky. Reputedly living for thousands of years, one of the key facts is that the tree stores thousands of litres of water inside the massive trunk to survive during summer and elephants especially love to bore holes into the trunk and suck the moisture to survive.

Tickets procured, we started driving into the park range.

Tarangire park range view 
The first thing, spotted was one of the most colourful birds in Africa. The Lilac breasted roller. Usually found alone and sometimes in pairs, this bird loves to sit on a high vantage position especially tree tops or poles, so it can search out ground based insects, lizards, scorpions, snails and rodents to hunt.

Lilac Breasted Roller (Coracias caudata)
Following this, I spotted a welcoming committee of Zebras, Wildebeests and Elephants. I would be seeing many more of these beautiful and sometimes strange animals over the next few days (more pictures and descriptions coming up later).

Young African female Elephant
It was a rather strange experience in being able to see these amazing creature so up close. My experience with nature has been such that usually, all creatures maintain a 'flight or fight' distance from humans and their natural predators. For most animals and birds, it is flight that they choose when an human intruder gets close. Here, they had gotten used to big black boxes on wheels, smelling of diesel and trundling along without harming them. As a result getting really close was possible and that's one of the charms of being here.

Next sighted was one of the varieties of Kingfishers that exist on this continent. The tree based Grey-headed Kingfisher which, unlike most Kingfishers, is not aquatic.

Grey-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala)
Driving a bit further on, I spotted one of the most striking antelopes, I had ever seen till date. The Roan antelope. Such a handsome fellow. Fearless. And in his prime.

Waterbuck  (Kobus ellipsiprymnus)
By this time, adrenaline had kicked in. Full steam. Absolute salivation. When such magnificent creatures were there to view, enjoy, capture on camera and with the comfort of being driven by, what more can an nature enthusiast ask?

A bit further down and there was this dappled, long legged fellow giving me the look. What could I do? I shot him, too.

It had been a good day so far. It was getting late and as with all parks, after sun-down ideally no humans should be anywhere inside. That being the case, we headed back to the camp. A shower, change of clothes and we were ready for our first safari dinner. Our cook had come up with a selection of assorted dishes that was simply put - tasty and filling. An avocado starter, main course of rice and chicken, followed by a mildly sweet dessert and coffee, left us feeling satiated and ready to hit the sleeping bags in our tents.

Dozing off to sleep was easy, given how tired I was. Plus, the thought that tomorrow will be more magnificent creatures to be spotted was exciting.

The adventure continues in the next post.


  1. Great pics. As a heads up- thats a Waterbuck, not a Roan

    1. Thank you for the correction. I have changed the descriptor.


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