October 23, 2014 (8 lions) Tarangire National Park
As we traveled through Arusha, I wanted to take photos out of the window. When I started to do this, Michael immediately asked me to stop, as we were in an unsafe part of the city. He said that is possible for boys to break our windows at the traffic light and steal the camera and possibly stab us. It was important not to show anything of value that would attract attention. I put away the camera away, and enjoyed people watching and taking in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There is a lot of poverty here. We stand out as our Toyota Land Cruiser is a tourist safari vehicle with a roof that pops open and big windows, and the company logo on the two spare tires. After we get out-of-town, I get out the small Gopro camera, as it is small enough not to attract attention. I snap pictures as we head south and then west down highway A104, and hope that I capture the photos of interesting people or sites. I won’t know until we get home as this tiny camera doesn’t have a monitor, or even a view finder, for that matter. It’s strictly point and shoot. Perhaps one of the three photos per second will turn out. I don’t believe anyone realizes that they might possibly be part of our vacation photos. We see women whom have wrapped their babies in large cloths and tied onto their lower back and a lot of people walking down the highway. We pass through Kisongo, and head out into the countryside. There are many people walking or tending to their goats or cattle. Most are Maasai, wrapped with their traditional brightly colored fabric, called a shuka. We see their simple, round houses. They are called bomas and are traditionally constructed by women. The structural framework is formed of timber poles fixed directly into the ground and interwoven with a lattice of smaller branches, which is then plastered with a mix of sticks, mud, grass, cow dung, and ash. We notice that see the people whom are tending to their cattle or goats standing near trees to stay out of the sun if possible. They use a stick to control their herds. Children wave at us as we drive by. This highway is in good shape and we cruise at a good speed, windows open. What a beautiful day. We pass through Makuyuni and turn onto Tarangire Road at Kibaoni (Kwa Kuchinia). We’re starting to see wildlife.
We ask Michael for a few common Swahili phrases: stop, please (simama, tafadhali); move on (twende); and thank you (asante). We practice as we see new animals, “Oh, Michael…Simama, Tafadhali.” We shoot some photos, and tell him, “Twende, and Asante!” He always says, “You’re welcome.” This short conversation will be repeated, over and over for the next couple of weeks.
Groups of animals are called by some interesting names. Click here for the name given to collections of animals.
We get to the ranger station at the Tarangire National Park, and Michael registers and pays our fees and we eat the box lunch that was provided by the hotel in the picnic area. The road is dirt and rutted. He drives on whatever side of the road has the best condition. Michael has popped up the top. This is an eight-individual seat Land Cruiser. I stand on the two seats behind Michael and Mark stands on the floor between the two seats behind me. We use bean bags on the edge of the roof to cushion the cameras, while we shoot photos. With the roof popped up, we have shade. We stand while Michael drives and we bounce along, feeling the breeze against our faces and looking for opportunities. It’s warm but not too warm. It can be very dusty, and as other vehicles come the opposite direction, there is a big dust cloud. We just deal with it and use a bulb air blaster with a nozzle to blow the dust off of our lenses. Occasionally, when the dust seems overly thick, I will sit until the vehicles pass and all has settled.
As we see animals and birds, we ask Michael to stop. He gets us to a good position for a photo, turns off the engine, and we shoot until we are satisfied; sometimes asking him to readjust the car. Then, I ask Michael what species it is and how it is spelled. He answers all of my questions and is very patient. I can see that he is making sure I understand when giving me the identification and spelling. No doubt, I’m testing him with my constant stream of questions. As my questions are answered, I write it down in my small, brown journal. I try to keep track of everything we see, along with date and details, so that I can keep track of our trip and all the animals and birds that we see, as we will be taking thousands of photos.
Our safari has officially begun. We take photos of waterbucks, ostriches, and warthogs. Michael pulls over; he has spotted bat-eared foxes underneath a tree. How did he see those? We also see our first elephants (they are lovingly called Ellies). Now we know we’re in Africa! We take photos of Ruppell’s vultures and helmeted guineafowl. We see a troop of black-faced vervet monkeys. Okay, how do I say this without getting embarrassed; the male has a red penis and very blue balls…pretty and funny! We see a long-tailed magpie shrike, cape buffalo, and impala. We also see superb starlings (they are so much prettier than the starlings in the US – no wonder they are called superb), a pair of little bee-eater birds, and lilac-breasted rollers. These three varieties of birds are so incredibly bright and beautiful. As we move on, we see northern white crowned shrikes, crowned lapwing plovers, and very interesting red-billed hornbills. We see a troop of banded mongoose hanging out with Masai giraffes, and then more elephants. The giraffes and elephants are wonderful. We see another herd of impalas, and then I see a couple of small animals. I ask Michael what kind of babies they are. He sees them and says that they are dik-diks and are full-grown. They are so tiny, and incredibly cute. They’re only 15 lbs. and 14-18” tall. Michael says they mate for life. We see more elephants…lots of them. Michael tells us that the dark, vertical line between the eye and the ear of the elephant is a temporal gland for marking territory. Interesting. We take more photos of waterbucks. Then, I take a photo of a tree with weaver nests in it. Michael says that the farmers hate them because of crop damage. Next, we see a family of warthogs with nice long hair. We see another lilac-breasted roller. It’s so pretty, I can’t help but want to take more photos. I even caught one in flight. Next we see a tawny eagle and a red-bill hornbill sitting on a branch. As we make our way to Tarangire Safari Lodge, Michael sees something and pulls over. Lions, at the Tarangire River! They have a Burchell’s Zebra kill. While, a lion eats on the zebra, two lions sleep on their backs on the bank. They must be full. We notice a smaller lion resting nearby, with a full belly. Then, we see four more approach from across the water; a mama with three cubs. One of the babies crawls under the chin of the young lion who was resting, perhaps an aunt or uncle? The three cubs find mom and start nursing, while the older lion snuggles up by the mama, too. Wow, eight, total! We finally decide that it’s time to move on. As we’re driving onto to our lodge, we see a tawny eagle sitting on the tree and a herd of zebra in the distance. All of this is on our first day. Wow.
We pull in to Tarangire Safari Lodge This lodge sits on a bluff overlooking the Tarangire River and lots of acacia trees and baobab trees. We are greeted with sweet iced tea, say goodnight to Michael, and are taken to tent #22. We see black-faced vervet monkeys along the way to our tent that’s almost at the end of the path with a great view of the river. This place is great. There are 35 tents, 3 bungalows, and a swimming pool… which we probably won’t use. Our tent is canvas, with a thatched roof shelter, that creates includes a verandah with chairs and table. The screened windows have large curtains. Inside, there’s furniture, lights for from 6-11 pm, a bathroom with a flush toilet, solar heated shower, and vanity with sink. We settle in and set up our Gopro on a tripod with a kitchen-timer so that we can take a 360 degree time-lapse video. We will be taking a photo, every 5 seconds, for an hour. This should give us a 24 second video when all is processed to 24 frames per second. We’re going to do this at most locations, if possible. We also set up our outside Bushnell camera that has a motion sensor. Maybe, an animal will walk by while we sleep? We head back to the main lodge to sit on the terrace overlooking the valley and have a glass of wine to celebrate being here. It’s truly magical. We go into the main lodge for dinner (lamb for Mark, vegetarian for me). We’re escorted back to our tent for our safety. After a shower we fall asleep to the sound of the animals outside. We could hear lions socializing and sounds of others, unknown. What sweet dreams we’ll have. ~ Mary & Mark
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