Apart from the numerous elephants and several exciting viewings of lions, the other animals we saw here were:
Many of these we had seen already in the Ngorongoro Crater, but the impala, oryx and mongooses were new additions to our list. I particularly liked the latter as I had grown up with the story of Riki-Tiki-Tavi – OK he was an Indian Mongoose and these were African Banded Mongooses, but it was still cool to see them in the wild!
Although the elephants were the “stars of the show” for me at Tarangire, there were plenty of other animals to see. My other favourites, as a big cat lover, were the lions. We had several encounters with these. Firstly, on a pre-breakfast game drive, we found a single lioness on her own, stalking zebra. I couldn’t decide if I wanted her to catch one or not – it would have been exciting to watch but maybe a bit gruesome too. In any case, on this occasion they got away.
Later on the same drive, we came across another lioness “baby-sitting” a group of three cubs. As you can see from the photos, these had mottled coats which help camouflage them when they hide under bushes as these were doing The rest of the pride must have been hunting in the area, but Reginald was unable to track them down. We did however see a large pride of lions on the afternoon of the same day, but a long way off – clear enough through our binoculars but too far to capture on camera.
We had already seen a lot of animals when we arrived here, and Ngorongoro was always going to be hard to beat, but in one respect Tarangire was a clear winner – elephants! The park has one of the highest population densities of elephants anywhere in Tanzania, and they really are everywhere. A particular focal point though is the Tarangire River that flows through the centre, and when we visited towards the end of the dry season (in October) its refreshing waters were attracting large herds to its banks, especially in the evenings. Herds can be as large as 300 elephants, though the largest we saw was about 40. I was also thrilled to see several youngsters in each herd, and enjoyed watching the ever-patient elders look after the young ones in their care.
African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth, larger than their Asian cousins and with larger ears that look a little like the continent of Africa itself – a good way to remember which is which if ever you’re unsure. Another difference is that African elephants have two finger-like features on the end of their trunk that they can use to grab small items, whereas Asian elephants have just the one. By the way, an elephant’s trunk contains almost 100,000 different muscles, and they can make really subtle movements with them, another source of fascination when watching them.
I couldn’t quite believe how many photos I took of these magnificent animals when I got home and processed the film, but I’m really happy to have captured my memories of them all.
Don’t come to Tarangire and the Safari Lodge if you’re in search of lively nightlife. There is no disco or night-club, and the only bar is a casual affair with a few comfortable chairs. But if you like the “great outdoors” you’ll love the evenings here. Take a late afternoon game drive to view the elephants and other animals coming down to the river for their last long drink of the day. Watch the sun set behind the baobob trees.
Then return to the lodge, grab a cold beer at the bar and settle down on the terrace to watch night fall over the park and, if you’re lucky as we were, the moon rise over it. For dinner there may be a barbeque on the terrace, or traditional African dishes in the restaurant, and if you’re not in a hurry to retire to your tent you can finish the day with more drinks, compare notes with other guests about the animals seen that day, and make plans with your guide for the next day’s game viewing.
Dress Code: Casual clothing is just fine, and you’ll want a fairly warm top once the sun goes down.
The landscape of Tarangire is dominated by large numbers of baobob trees - indeed a baobob greets you at the park entrance, and a lovely one shaded our tent at the Safari Lodge. These striking trees, also known as bottle trees or upside-down trees, store water inside their swollen trunks to endure the harsh drought conditions of this region. They can reach heights of between 5 to 30 metres and the trunk has a diameter of 7 to 11 metres. It can store up to 120,000 litres of water.
The leaves can be eaten as a leaf vegetable, and the highly nutirtious fruit (known colloquially as "sour gourd" or "monkey's bread") is eaten directly or mixed into porridge.
The name of "upside-down tree" comes from an African myth, which tells how each of the animals was given a tree to plant. The hyena, being short on intelligence, planted the baobab upside-down.