Tarangire National Park
We left Arusha after breakfast for the morning drive to Tarangire. We arrived at our accomodations in time for a wonderful lunch in the open-air terrace overlooking the park. We stayed several nights in a permanent tent camp, complete with an indoor bathroom. This was the only place where we thought we had indoor mice, so we made sure our snacks were secure. Masai tribesmen, armed only with a spear, escorted us to our tent after dinnertime in case any wild animals were nearby.
While the accomodations were very good, I would prefer to stay in the park if I were to return. While we could see the park from our tented camp, it was a long drive to the entrance. The restroom accomodations in the park were very nice and I especially liked the lodge, with its huge outdoor terrace, being situated on a bluff. We could look into valley below us where a large herd of elephants were roaming. However, this same lodge had seen a worker killed by a lion less than a year earlier. They moved the zebra kill (see later in this blog) which we photographed away from the lodge.
This park did not seem to have many people in it, and as it is quite large there is a lot to see without seeing other tourists. I would highly recommend visiting here and spending several days if you can. As described below, we had our best elephant sightings here. Other animals that we saw up close were cheetahs, leopard, a pride of lions, warthogs, monkeys and many hoofed species. We saw an amazing variety of birds, including ostriches, lilac-breasted rollers, hornbills and birds of prey. My friend and I both enjoy birds so we took more time watching and photographing birds than most people do.
The video above: We experienced perhaps the most memorable wildlife scene of our trip on our third and last day in the park. We had photographed a pride of lions at a zebra kill the afternoon before and we returned the next morning to see if any new activity might be seen. The lions were still feasting, but a herd of elephants showed up nearby and were having a great time in the mud. Interestingly, the lions quietly left the carcass as the elephants arrived. Suddenly, one of the elephants noticed the zebra remains and showed what appeared to be its disapproval. Immediately, all of the elephants became distressed. There was a great deal of agitation in the herd, but the exact nature of their concern was to remain a mystery. Most of the elephants filed past the zebra to huddle together on the other side of the kill.
I have no idea what was going through their minds, but it looked like they were upset and were paying respect to the zebra; perhaps they even knew this zebra? Finally they were done and wanted to leave, but at this point there was a whole line of vehicles on the road blocking the elephants; several had to leave very quickly to make room for the elephant exodus. You don’t want to mess with a herd of upset elephants! After this the scavengers moved in to the carcass.
Surprisingly, for most of this experience we were the only vehicle around. Most people don’t seem to have the patience to watch lions eat a carcass, but sometimes by waiting you see the unexpected. We had the very best location to watch this whole scene unfold, and I used both of my cameras and my point and shoot movie mode to capture it. We eventually did leave and look for other wildlife, but we came back before we left the park to see what was happening and were rewarded with vultures around the carcass. I feel like we experienced many chapters of the story of this zebra kill, but that was only because we were patient. Had we been part of a tour group we probably would not have seen all of this.
A word about African elephants: (and if they could speak, they would have a word about us) African elephants are found in the savannas and rainforests of sub-Sahara Africa and very much in Tarangire National Park. They are huge, standing up to 13 feet tall, and dwarfed our safari vehicle. Herds are matriarchal, led usually by the oldest female, and include other females and their young. The females give birth to one calf every few years, and we were quite fortunate to see one very young calf. They are vegetarian and need to eat quite a bit to maintain their large body.
Very sadly, elephants are in decline, mostly due to human activity. It is estimated that there once were 26 million elephants before Europeans arrived in Africa, and their numbers have dwindled to fewer than half a million. That’s 98% decimation. Poaching for ivory is probably their biggest threat, but loss of habitat is also playing a role. Unfortunately, Tanzania does have a poaching problem and, as Tanzania is on the coast of the Indian Ocean, it provides a major route for shipping ivory out of Africa to other nations, mostly in Asia.
This leads me to an interesting anecdote about the behavior of elephants. I had read an article a few years ago that had studied elephants and concluded that elephants now react differently (specifically, more negatively) to male voices than female voices or child’s voices. The explanation offered was that most hunters/poachers are male. It appeared the elephants were not bothered by my friend and I in any way; we were sitting in the lone safari vehicle that was present when the elephants came upon us, which to us looked very much like their scheduled “spa day” as they approached near the zebra kill.
A mention of leopards: (or the leopards will never forgive me!) We were fortunate to see three of them during our safari. They prefer savanna grasslands or woodlands but are adaptable to a habitat and can adjust their diet accordingly. While leopards are now missing from approximately 40% of their historic range in sub-Sahara Africa, they are doing reasonably well in Tanzania. Our Tanzania artwork below features a leopard.
Some Favorite Photos from Tarangire National Park
Click on any photo in the gallery below to enter a manual slideshow containing full images and descriptions and social sharing links. All photos by Barbara Swanson.