It was an extremely exciting day as I was living my dream of visiting the Africa safari. The whole thought of experiencing the National Geographic and Discovery channels live was thrilling to the core.
First day was the safari and game drive in Tarangire National park located 120 km south west of Arusha town. It took us 3 hours to reach the park wherein the last 5km had no roads, probably making visitors used to for no roads inside the park. The guide did all the documentation work for us to enter the park premises.
On the way we had crossed Arusha airport which seemed more like a private airport due to its size and proximity to the road with plying vehicles. We also passed by open large expanse of grasslands and occasional trees. It was drizzling a bit saturating the environmental colors. The road had many steep ups and downs but the powerful safari vehicles had no problems navigating through these terrains. On reaching inside the park we were given simple instructions by our guide:
Do not feed animals
Do not litter
Do not get out of the vehicle at any time as walking is not permitted
At all times inside the park one has to remain stay put in the safari vehicle. We reached the park by 10 am with packed lunches. It is a regular way of safari outing with picnic lunches to ensure the entire day is spent in game drives without returning to lodges/camps for meals. The driver cum guide is a trained personnel who has to take care of multiple things along with driving and sighting animals.
Some of the national park details he shared were:
Tarangire is national park gazette number 197.
It is in an area of 2580 sq km.
The park derives its name from the river Tarangire which flows within.
The word Tarangire means river of Warthogs due to the huge warthog population in this park.
Every national park has something unique, baobab trees and tusk elephants for Tarangire. The tusks of these elephants are massive and their population number is also huge within this park.
Once the instructions and information were shared and we were raring to go inside, the guide opened the complete roof for the best possible viewing. The windows are big enough for viewing but they can sometimes limit the landscape view. Once the roof was lifted it was simply beautiful with large open grasslands and eyes hunting for wildlife sighting. Driving another 500 meters and we were officially within the Tarangire national park limits. There were only mud roads but the ride did not still feel bumpy. Our first sight was of a termite mound. Termites and other ants are an extremely important part of the ecosystem and the best cleaners of planet earth. They travel in armies and ensure that nothing is left after a kill to stale or pollute the surroundings.
There were open grasslands along with trees which also included the unique Baobab tree. It is a hollow broad trunk tree with small branches and few leaves. Jokingly it is also termed as if the tree has been planted upside down with its roots visible instead of the actual branches. This tree has natural holes within it’s trunk deal for poachers to hide and animals to rest. The first animal visible was a giraffe that was silently grazing on yellow bark acacia which is an extremely long thorny tree and also a favorite for giraffe. The tongue twists in a direction to prevent any pricks from tree and then swallowed by the animal. Female giraffe can be identified by having visible hair on the horn at its head. Male species do not have any hair exposing the bare horns.
We were driving and sighted water bucks in the Tarangire river. They were small in number with multiple groups and enjoying the water around them. We could see 2 of them testing the strength of their horns. The open roof as giving good wide angle view of park landscape and the game drive. There were some ostriches also seem on the road side grazing on grasses. The males are black in color while the females are grey in color. It was very interesting to get to know all these minute random details from our guide about different species.
We seemed to be the only ones driving but spotted another safari vehicle stationary at a road curve. This is generally an indication of either a sighting or an expected wildlife activity. Our vehicle reached to it and saw a giant tusker near a Baobab tree. It got on the move and vehicles moved closer to it to see the big tusks. I have seen Asian elephants also and could easily make out the difference of its African counterpart with larger ears and bigger tusks. It was playing with a tree and easing out its body itchiness. It seemed to have had a mud bath with red soil shining over its complete large body. We stood there for some time shooting the animal in different angles and observing its activities. After few moments it went inside the trees with all of us losing its sight.
The next animal seen was gazelle which were also next to the road grazing fresh grass after the monsoon season. They are the ones hunted by carnivores in plenty. It is a deer like animal with silky golden shining fur and a black stripe to distinguish between a female and a male. One of them leaped and it would have been easily few meters in distance.
Maneuvering further in park we saw a family of warthogs crossing the road with the young ones completely secured from us. Herbivore animals with fake tusks meant only for defense. These animals are found in plenty here and lend their name to the river and this national park. They have to kneel down to feed on the grass due to the long legs.
We kept on driving around the game park and reached the picnic site. Each park has a dedicated secured picnic site where visitors can use sparkling clean washroom facilities, seating arrangement for the packed lunches. We got off the vehicle and walked around to feel the surroundings with lunch being the last priority. We decided to skip the lunch at the moment and explored the area which seemed like a hill top region with river views and greater landscape in front of us. There were many superb starlings in that site and they seemed extremely friendly. I was trying to shoot one at a distance and realized that another one had literally climbed onto my shoe and another one on my back. It was extremely nice to see myself surrounded by such beautifully colored birds and feel the proximity to nature.
After a 20 minutes stop we hopped back onto the vehicle for some more action. On descending down we saw many rock hyraxes. I was seeing and hearing them for the first time and appearance vise they are bigger versions of the mouse. They have another species of tree hyrax found only on trees. We could see a full community and multiple families laying on rocks. They were swift in climbing rocks and hiding within them.
The guide now started driving towards park exit(same as entrance) as we had planned to cover Manyara national park also on the same day. On the way back we saw martial eagle with its yellow eyes and a slight crest on its head sitting on one of the leafless tree branch. The arrogance with which it was sitting atop was noticeable, giving it a great position to watch the park. Further ahead on a tree we saw Griffon vultures which can be seen plenty in numbers around a hunt. They are also environment cleaners with their scavenging skills. The beaks of both these birds are pointed and needle like to rip apart any flesh attached to bones. The martial eagle is also responsible for opening up the carcass.
On a few trees we noticed blue cloth tied which is used to either collect or kill the Tse Tse fly whose bite can cause sleeping sickness. These flies appear like large housefly and attacks humans as well as animals. It was again so interesting to listen to all this unique information and understand the mother nature more closely which we do not even pay heed to, leading our hectic city life.
Now we had reached the park exit/entrance check post to hand over final exit documentation papers. Probably 5 km ahead we stopped at a local maasai market area to have our packed lunches. The lunch was full of red meat and I had to survive only on fruits which were also packed alongside thankfully. It had started to rain by this time and we were experiencing all the weathers in a day. The place was a small hut with chairs made out of goat skin. I was amazed to see the complete skin of goat with hair still attached and interestingly used as the chair seating cushion. During our meal, a lot of local people came to sell locally crafted bead garlands and other craft items. We skipped the shopping and started our journey to Manyara National park.
At all times I was feeling very comfortable with the bean bags we had customized for our game drives. I had done a lot of search and reading on web to find the one with right design and shape. I was quite pleased with the results and even happier when the usage seemed perfect in those vehicles.