Tarangire NP; Saturday, Nov 10 + Sunday, Nov 11, 2012
“Tarangire? I never heard of it. Serengeti yes, but not Tarangire.” It turns out that it is famous for their elephant herds, baobab trees and diverse hilly landscape. We turned off the main from Arusha onto a gravel road at the junction village that supported the Tarangire park entrants. Rain splashed on the road and dimpled the dust. Soon no dust, and then little puddles appeared. A vervet monkey, sitting on the entrance sign to the park, seemed to be pointing to the 50 kmh speed sign.
We lunched in a shelter while it rained. When it stopped, we headed back to the vans. Tarangire is about 1000 square miles; think a rectangle 15 miles by 70 miles. All the roads are dirt and will give you a good African massage while you are riding.
The guides removed the three tops of the van; “I hope it doesn’t begin to rain again.” Immediately on the park road, we began to see animals; Grant’s gazelle. Predator cats frequently dine on them.
Zebras, giraffes, interesting colored birds, and then a lion appeared for our viewing pleasure. The female lion was 75 yards away, up on a ridge of the hill, relaxing and watching the road. There were a couple of small herds of Tarangire elephants browsing the various acacia trees and bushes.
The best view was a Grant’s gazelle draped over a high branch if a tree. “Leopards kill and hang it in a tree. They eat it at leisure.” said the driver guide named Sultan.
Eight vans were parked with everyone popped up through the van top openings looking for the nearby leopard. Finally, it was spotted about 500 meters away in a cave in a dry river wash. With binoculars or a very long camera lens you could just see its head in the cave mouth.
Our OAT group was staying at Lake Burunge Tented Camp, about a 45 minute drive outside of the park. Electricity is produced during the day from an array of solar collectors and stored in batteries for current and evening usage. The camp may have had access to a generator, although I don’t recall hearing one. In your large canvas tent on a raised platform, there were three low power curly fluorescent bulbs powered by your private solar collector. The two single beds were each surrounded with a white mosquito net. The shower, washroom, and toilet were in separate “rooms”at the back of the tent. An outside porch looked out at the lake that was far beyond the bushes and trees. During the height of the rainy season, it would not be far away.
The spacious, open-air dining lodge and kitchen was large enough to serve about three dozen people easily. Disconcertingly, the thatched roof allowed some beetles to drop while you were eating. It was best to wear a hat at dinner. Batteries for cameras had to be left in the lodge at the gang-charging station. After dinner, you had to be escorted back to your tent by the guards. They carried large flashlights and a rifle. In the night we could hear hyenas in the bush toward the lake. The guards remained awake (?) through the night in small towers on the sandy path between the tents and the lodge.
Sunday morning, we went back to Tarangire for a three hour viewing.
The evening rain seemed to have made the grass greener. The warm and moist “aeroir”, aroma of the landscape, first experienced at the airport, reappeared. The gray and white skies, promised more rain episodes. It was the early rainy season with showers of varying intensity and duration. In the park, the rain came again. This time it was heavy and it hung a fog over the Tarangire River and savanna acacias beyond.
Today we saw many large herds of elephants; large females, very young calves, and young males. Occasionally there would be some more or less solitary bulls about. Their grazing is impressively destructive. They tear the acacia leaves from the branches, sometimes destroying a small tree or bush in the process. I recall desert elephants in Namibia daintily plucking the leaves from the branches so as not to harm the trees.
On the way back to camp for lunch, we stopped in the junction village for the Maasai Saturday market; some Learning and Discovery as Godliving described it.
Women tend the fruits, vegetables, and goods that are laid on ground covers in the open area. Men talk and trade animals further away near the trees.
We immediately attracted the attention of the vendors with the typical tourist goods. The young ones often began the interaction in good English with a question like “Hello. Where are you from?” or a comment about Obama. Certainly they didn’t realize that Obama would be a negative interaction line with some Americans! If you made the mistake of even looking at something, you attracted a vendor cloud. If you held it, you had (almost) bought it.
As a tourist you needed Swalahi the phrase “Hapana asanti = No thank you.” Still they paid no attention whether you spoke in English or Swahili. You just had to ignore them. You began to understand how celebrities must feel when they appear in public.