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Trip Report For Tarangire National Park Safari in Tanzania
It was an extremely exciting day as I lived my dream of visiting Africa on safari. The whole thought of experiencing National Geographic and Discovery channels live was thrilling to the core.
The first day was safari and game drive in Tarangire National Park located 120 km southwest of Arusha city. It took us 3 hours to get to the park where the last 5km had no roads, which probably made the visitors used to not having roads inside the park. The guide did all the paperwork for us to enter the park facilities.
On the way we passed Arusha Airport which looked more like a private airport due to its size and proximity to the road with flying vehicles. We also passed through a wide open area with grasslands and occasional trees. It was raining a bit, saturating the colors of the environment. The road had many steep ups and downs, but the powerful safari vehicles had no problem navigating these terrains. Arriving inside the park we were given simple instructions by our guide:
- Do not feed animals
- Do not throw rubbish
- Do not exit the vehicle at any time as walking is not permitted
At all times inside the park one must stay in the safari vehicle. We arrived at the park at 10am with packed lunches. It is a regular way of safari with picnic lunches to ensure that the whole day is spent on game without returning to lodges/camps for meals. The guide driver is a trained staff who has to take care of many things along with driving and observing animals.
Some of the details of the national park he shared were;
- Tarangire is national park gazetteer number 197.
- It is located on an area of 2580 sq.km.
- The park is named after the Tarangire River that flows through it.
- The word Tarangire means river of Warthogs because of the huge population of Warthogs in this park.
Each national park has something unique, baobab trees and tusk elephants for Tarangire. The tusks of these elephants are huge and their population is also huge inside this park.
Once the instructions and information were shared and we rushed inside, the driver opened the entire roof for the best possible view. The windows are large enough for viewing, but can sometimes limit the view of the scenery. Once the roof was up it was just beautiful with wide open meadows and eyes hunting for wildlife spotting. Driving another 500 meters and we were officially within the boundaries of Tarangire National Park. There were only mud roads, but the ride was still not bumpy. Our first sight was a termite mound. Termites and other ants are an extremely important part of the ecosystem and the best cleaners on planet Earth. They travel with armies and ensure that nothing is left after a kill to go stale or pollute the environment.
There were open grasslands along with trees including the unique Baobab tree. It is a hollow wide-trunk tree with small branches and few leaves. It is also jokingly called as if the tree has been planted upside down with its roots visible instead of the actual branches. This tree has natural holes in its trunk for poachers to hide and animals to rest. The first animal to be seen was a giraffe quietly grazing on a yellow bark acacia which is an extremely long thorn tree and also a giraffe favorite. The tongue twists in one direction to prevent any bites from the tree and then being swallowed by the animal. The female giraffe can be identified by having visible horn hairs on her head. Male species do not have hairs that expose the bare horns.
We were driving and saw bucks in the Tarangire River. They were small in number with many groups enjoying the water around them. We could see 2 of them testing the strength of their horns. The open roof gives a good wide-angle view of the park scenery and game traffic. There were also some ostriches seen on the side of the road grazing on grasses. Males are black in color while females are gray. It was very interesting to learn all these little random details from our guide about different species.
It looked like we were the only ones driving, but we spotted another safari vehicle stopped at a curve in the road. This is generally an indication of either sighting or expected wildlife activity. Our vehicle reached it and saw a huge tusk near a Baobab tree. He moved and the vehicles came closer to him to see the big tusks. I have also seen Asian elephants and could easily tell the difference of its African counterpart with larger ears and larger tusks. He was playing with a tree and making his body itch disappear. He seemed to have a mud bath of red earth shining over his large body. We stood there for quite some time shooting the animal at different angles and observing its activities. After a few moments he went into the trees with all of us losing sight of him.
The next animal we saw was the gazelle which was also beside the road grazing on fresh grass after the monsoon season. They are the ones that are hunted in abundance by carnivores. It is a deer-like animal with silky golden shiny fur and a black stripe to distinguish between female and male. One of them jumped and would easily be a few meters away.
Maneuvering through the park, we saw a family of wild boars crossing the road with the young completely safe from us. Herbivores with false tusks are for defense only. These animals are found in abundance here and give their name to the river and this national park. They have to kneel down to feed on the grass because of their long legs.
We continued driving around the game park and reached the picnic area. Each park has a dedicated safe picnic area where visitors can use the sparkling clean toilet facilities, seating arrangements for packed lunches. We got down from the vehicle and walked around to feel the surroundings with lunch being the last priority. We decided to skip lunch for the time being and explored what seemed like a hilltop area overlooking the river and larger landscape ahead. There were many lovely starlings at this site and they seemed extremely friendly. I was trying to shoot one from a distance and realized another had literally climbed into my shoe and another onto my back. It was extremely nice to see myself surrounded by such beautifully colored birds and feel the closeness to nature.
After a 20 minute stop we were back in the vehicle for more action. On the way down we saw many rock yracas. I was seeing and hearing them for the first time and they look like larger versions of the mouse. They have another species of tree hyrax that is only found in trees. We could see a complete community and many families lying on rocks. They were quick to climb the rocks and hide in them.
The driver now started driving towards the exit of the park (same as the entrance) as we had planned to cover Manyara national park also on the same day. On the way back we saw a war eagle with yellow eyes and a light crest on its head sitting on one of the leafless branches of the tree. The arrogance with which he sat at the top was palpable, giving him a great position to watch the park. Further on in a tree we saw vultures which seem to be abundant in numbers around a game. They are also environmental cleaners with their cleaning skills. The beaks of both of these birds are pointed and want to tear off any flesh attached to bone. The war eagle is also responsible for opening the skeleton.
On some trees we noticed blue cloth tied which is used either to collect or to kill the Che Che fly, whose bite can cause sleeping sickness. These flies appear like a large housefly and attack humans as well as animals. It was again so interesting to hear all this unique information and understand more closely about mother nature, which we don’t even pay attention to, leading our hectic life in the city.
We had now reached the park exit/entry checkpoint to hand in our final exit documentation. Probably 5km ahead we stopped at a local maasai market to eat our packed lunches. Lunch was full of red meat and I only had to survive on fruit which was also packed together, thankfully. By this time it had started to rain and we were experiencing all the weather in one day. The place was a small hut with goatskin chairs. I was surprised to see the full goatskin with hair still attached and interestingly used as a chair seat cushion. During our meal, many locals came to sell local bead garlands and other handicrafts. We skipped the shopping and started our journey to Manyara National Park.
At all times I felt very comfortable in the bean bags we had customized for our games. I had done a lot of searching and reading online to find the one with the right design and shape. I was very happy with the results and even happier when the usage looked perfect on these vehicles.
Photos of this national park can be found here.
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