Sunday, May 18, 2014

Gentle giants of Tarangire

Our first night in Tanzania at the Outpost Lodge in Arusha was punctuated by very familiar sounds of the Indian night, that of a bunch of street dogs barking away. I thought that we should get to hear some sterner nocturnal sounds over the next two weeks or so. Amos our driver-guide and Moses our cook-help showed up right on time in the morning. The morning was cool, and there were a few clouds in the sky. The 4x4 Land Cruiser was already packed with things we would need during our trip - tents, folding table and chairs, stove, pots, pans, crockery, cutlery, cooking oil, vegetables, bread, eggs, coffee, cocoa, drinking chocolate, honey, jam, bread spread, food mixes, spices, ketchup, chilly sauce, many bottles of water, a refrigerator with more water and meats. We added our large and small backpacks to the gear inside, and were all set to leave. It was 07:30 AM in the morning, May 18, 2014.

The ride to Tarangire would take close to 2.5 hours.

The highways were almost, and pleasantly so, traffic free.

On the way we were stopped by police who checked documents and the basic health of the vehicle: high beam, low beam, turn signals, brake lights, windshield wipers, emergency glow triangle, first aid kit, as well as vehicle documents, driving license and wildlife park documents. We stopped at a little store to buy a few more things, and more bottles of water. It was already feeling different from our Kenyan experience a year ago. In Kenya, we had lived in a bubble, travelling from the airport to the rest room in a designated curio store to national park to the rest room in the next designated curio store, and so on. While today, we casually stopped by the highway, and were wandering around little stores saying hello to people walking by.

Most of the drive from Arusha to Tarangire is on well paved roads. Just the last stretch is on dirt tracks. We passed several Maasai villages, grazing cattle or cattle in search of grass, and fields growing a lot of corn. We turned off and headed to Roika Tented Camp near the Tarangire River to drop off our bags, tents, bedding and the rest of the cooking and food stuff.  Though ours was a basic Camping trip, Safari Multiways had slipped in two nights of sleeping on 'hard beds' under sturdy roofs that measured larger than 2 metres x 2 metres. It turned out that Roika was an unfenced camp, like the public campsites we would be pitching our tents in. What fun..!!

At Tarangire Park, we were greeted by a giant Baobab tree, a characteristic of the park. The usual procedures were done in about 15 minutes: fee payment, a few photographs, trip to the restroom and a general wander around.

Tarangire is also home to several relatively tiny Banded Mongoose. They greet visitors near the entrance of the park. 

We rarely needed help in spotting the Gentle Giants for which Tarangire is well known. They were everywhere. We noticed many, many baby elephants, as well.

Ellies large and small crossed the drive path, sampled the foliage and happily pulled out clumps of grass. The pleasant smell of freshly cut leaves was in the air as the Ellies pulled clumps of grass out. Little ellies walked close to or peered out shyly from behind the elders in the group.

The elders kept a watchful eye out for intruders.

Typical sights of Tarangire unfolded, the thick-trunked giants of the tree kind, and slightly tall grass in May, just after the rains. The air felt cool and fresh.

Two elephants were busy with a sparring session. This went on for several hours.

Being Tanzania, we expected rough tracks, so this bumpy experience was all great fun. We got bounced around, up and down, left and right, and all sorts of combinations. Most of the time it was very hard to get a good photograph when the vehicle was moving. This scenario would get repeated over the duration of our travel.

One thing we recommend you not try to do in Tarangire is to count elephants. The giants, medium ones and little ones are just about everywhere. One can only gaze in awe as the gentle giants walk by barely paying any attention. Most of the time, that is.

This Ellie looked back almost shyly to check our moves. At least, I hoped it was a shy look.

Occasionally, groups of Ellies passed by very close. Sometimes they were ahead of us. Sometimes they came up from behind as we waited in silence. This group was actually within trunk-shaking distance. The leader kept sniffing and appeared not to be too comfortable. I froze for about a minute. The group decided to take pity on us, ignored us and passed by, going along their busy way. Hup.. two.. three.. four....

Very often, elders seemed to herd the babies as soon as we came in sight.

A large Baobab tree with the Weaver bird nests.

As we went along our game drives, we got panoramic views of the River and Valley from way high. We often saw groups of Ellies and Giraffes by the water, as well.

Time for a quick lunch at a Picnic spot overlooking the Tarangire River. This Vervet Monkey crouched, all set for a quick attack.

The targets of the attack were the Picnic boxes that we had left unguarded. I needed to shout, jump and run towards the bench in my attempt to scare him off.

This is the bug cleaning ritual.

View of the River below.

Yet another type of Gentle Giant, the GIraffe, certainly gentler. They keep a close look from up there.

And generally run away, their strides are long and graceful.

A look back, to make sure that the humans are not following them.

Some clouds remain in May, there was very little rain, though, maybe 5 minutes or so.

A Waterbuck looks back suspiciously.

A male Impala keeps an eye on the rest of the herd.

While the herd keeps a close watch on our movements.

The Tarangire River winds through sections of Tarangire Park.

Junior made effective use of the 70mm - 300mm zoom lens.

The slanting rays of the setting sun catch an anthill surrounded by grass.

Baobab trees are beautifully lit up in the late afternoon.

A little Ellie tries to catch up with rest of the herd. We heard trumpeting a few times, very shrill, an indication to just stay quiet.

It's been a very full day. And it's time to head to the small Campsite that would be our home that night.

Let me mention an interesting conversation with Amos, our driver-guide. We had told the Safari Multiways team that we had been on a 6-day safari in Kenya the previous year, and this had inspired us to plan a trip to Tanzania. Amos asked us just as we had entered Tarangire: "So how many Lions did you see in Kenya?". We thought a bit, counted, then told him, wondering what his response would be. To which Amos' response was: "You mean you could count?".

Junior and I looked at each other and wondered what we were in for!


Please click below for posts in this series:

Namanga Border Crossing

The Gentle Giants of Tarangire

Tarangire revisited

Endless Serengeti Plains

Migrating herds, Crocodiles and Vultures at Kirawira

Big Cats of Central Serengeti

Camping under African skies

Flamingos at Empakai Crater Lake

Ngorongoro Crater - Wildlife, Maasais and Flowers

Campsite food and Nyama Choma in Mto Wa Mbu

From green to gray, the stark beauty of Lake Natron

Videos - Tarangire, Central Serengeti

Videos - Central Serengeti, Western Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Natron

Two nights in Arusha


1 comment:

  1. How beatifull pictures Jyoti

    I come from Tripadvisor forum (Tanzania topic)


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