My First Africa Safari: Tarangire National Park

August 28, 2015  •  2 Comments

Despite being in transit for over 30 hours, I was unbelievably excited to be finally reaching Africa. Exploring Africa, especially the wildlife has been a life long dream for me and it is finally coming to fruition. Just before we descended into Kilimanjaro Airport, an announcement came over the loud speaker. ‘This is your captain speaking, if you look out the windows on your left you will see Mt Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa rising above the clouds at 5985m above sea level.’  Although climbing it had to be cut from this trip’s itinerary due to time restraints, I would one day like to attempt to reach the summit. Congrats to my brother Todd for reaching the top!!!

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We were warmly greeted by the Safari company with ‘Karibu’ (meaning welcome in Swahili) and transferred to our hotel just outside the main town of Arusha.  After resting up that evening we headed off the next morning for Tarangire National Park.  After having lunch at the gate, we headed on for our first Safari!!!

Tarangire National PArk 5D3_9554-2

Tarangire National Park (named after the Tarangire river) is famous for its elephants, baobab trees and tree climbing lions.  It is also home to may other animals including zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, baboons, impala, waterbuck and hundreds of bird species.  Wow!!! Within the first few minutes of entering the park, our cameras were already out with a Vervet Monkey posing happily in a tree a couple of metres from our 4WD.

Impala

As we drove on, we saw several Zebras and of Impala in the distance, but as we approached a local waterhole, all hell broke loose. There were animals everywhere!! To our right there were dazzles of Zebras (be prepared for out of control use of collective nouns) frolicking around in the water as well as a congress of baboons relaxing under the trees along the far shore.  To our left there was a parade of elephants and a herd of impala grazing in the long grass. In the distance we could see a kaleidoscope of giraffes plucking the tastiest leaves from the tallest trees.  During the frantic mess I was in, trying to take in all the beauty while capturing the stunning scenes we were seeing, a trouble of Dwarf mongeese scurried across the road behind us from their abandoned termite mound home to disappear into the long grass. Then as if this wasn’t enough to deal with a implausibility of wildebeest made a straight line for the waterhole in search of a drink and a little bath.

Animal Mania

Zebras

At one stage, I could see elephants, impala, zebra, wildebeest, giraffes and warthogs in the one frame!  Naturally we stayed here for quite a while and just enjoyed the unbelievable experience (I’ve only been on African Safari for 30 minutes and I love it!!!).  The zebras continued to run in and out of the water while a trio of elephants cross the road 5 metres in front of the car.  A sounder of warthogs (which will now lovingly be referred to as Pumbas) and a few Red-billed hornbill (which will affectionately be called Zazu) appeared for a drink before disappearing into the scrub.
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After settling myself down, we moved on to explore some of the remaining 2,849km² of the park.  Dazzles of Zebras greeted us everywhere as did memories of elephants (yep, google it!) and herds of impala.  We were treated to several other beautiful creatures that afternoon including ostriches, and waterbuck. I feel sorry for the waterbuck whose pattern on their rear end resembled that of a target…

Waterbuck 5D3_9740-2

Ostriches & Zebra

We had to slow down (& eventually stop) to allow a troop of over 50 baboons pass by. There did not appear interested in moving to the side of the road to let us pass.  As with most of the animals, it is the youngsters that are the most entertaining and the baby baboons were no different, running around, pulling tails, climbing trees and then when they get exhausted, jumping the back of mum for a free ride… Adorably cheeky little monkeys.

Baby Baboon Hitchin A Ride

As we drove along, we saw up ahead a gathering of trucks (I’m going to give them my own collective noun – a Tourist of Trucks).  Our driver comments to us it usually means one thing… Wild Cats!!!

Getting over to the trucks could not come fast enough. As we approached the Tourist, we were trying to spot what they were all looking at, looking in the distance but couldn’t see anything. Then in a shock to all of us, we noticed right under the tree less than 10m away from us were two beautiful male lions.  We were informed that they must be brothers as mature male lions do not generally tolerate another mature male nearby.  Their manes were still maturing indicating they were still relatively young and thus will need to wait until they become stronger and more powerful before challenging for the right to breed and command a pride

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What an amazing afternoon of Safari! As the sun began to set, we headed to our accommodation.  The place that we had booked to stay at for some reason was not available, so our company had organised an alternative accommodation for us.  Finding this place was an adventure in itself!!!  With no road signs and driving along scarcely used roads we didn’t see another truck, road or in fact any sign of civilisation for the next 45 minutes.  Where were we going?!? We briefly passed a couple of Masai herding their cows before our guide pointed to the hill in the distance saying that is where we were staying.  Our accommodation was built on the edge of a cliff with a magnificent view of the savannah below. Incredible!!!

We entered the lodge through a stone doorway and were taken to our rooms. The rooms were enormous and the toilets were downstairs. Yes the accommodation had 2 levels!!! What made it even more incredible was that the downstairs bathroom also had its own private view.  Loo with a View. My favourite!!! My brother room was even better. In addition to what our room had to offer, he had an enormous balcony with 180 degree views of the savannah and.. Wait for it… A Bathtub on his balcony!!! Insane!  As it was in the middle of nowhere, the hotel is primarily run off solar power so there is only limited electricity/hot water, but that didn’t bother us one bit

Now here comes a bit of entertainment.  As the lodge is quite spaced out, we were asked to stay in our rooms until dinner was ready then we would be escorted to dinner. Why you say? Firstly we would probably get lost finding the place, but mainly because there is no fence around the lodge so wild animals could wander in at anytime. Yikes. Okay we will wait for the escort. Right on time, our escort rocked up. There is just one thing… For protection against the wild cats and wild animals he had… a Bow and Arrow. Similar to the ones you probably handmade as a child. Hahaha!!! Fortunately we survived :)  The beautiful candlelight dinner was made even more spectacular by being outside under a cloudless sky with no light pollution for miles. Perfect for enjoying the constellations before being treated to a Moonrise!!!

Night Sky

Moonrise

With the cliff facing east, it would have been a crime not to get up early and enjoy the sunrise.  Some little Rock Hyraxes came out and settled on the rocks below the balcony to enjoy the morning sun with us.  I had never seen them before.  They look similar to giant guinea pigs, but are in no way related. In fact they are so unique that their closest cousins are the manatee, dugong and elephant!!!

Sunrise

Bathtub Hyrax

We drove along the river in search of wildlife and we were not disappointed. We were casually driving along enjoying the scenery, when suddenly stop the Truck!!! A beautiful leopard leaped out of the tree just in front of us and headed into the long grass, presumably had spotted something tasty from the tree. Unlike the other national parks, Tarangire has a lot more hills and was also a lot greener.

Leopard

You have to be very careful/weary when driving around the parks as animals come out of nowhere and run across the road. Here is an impala on a rush to get somewhere (or get away from something)

Leaping Impala

Known for elephants, Tarangire did not disappoint. We would have seen over 300 wild elephants that day. From teeny tiny baby Ellies to large tusked aggressive bulls to beautifully aged Matriarchs.

Happy Baby Elephant Elephant Wrestle

Zebras. Black with White Stripes or White with Black Stripes?

Zebra

Beautiful Towering Giraffes

Giraffes & Elephants Masai Giraffe

My first African Safari was amazing, I can’t wait to show you the rest of my trip



Comments

2.Colin Davis Photography
Hey John,

Thank you very much. You will love Africa, it is simply amazing. I used a 5D III and pretty much had the 100-400 II attached to it the entire time on safari and only every now and then attached something wider. Obviously big zoom is great, but honestly there weren't too many times when I wished for more reach than the 100-400. I'm not too familiar with the 100-400 from Sony, but if it is a good lens then that should be fine. The only thought was if you are going to see the gorillas or chimpanzees in Uganda/Rwanda, I would recommend a faster lens such as 70-200 F2.8 as the light in the jungle is much lower. Hope this helps. Cheers
Colin
1.John Hunt(non-registered)
Just come across your website via Instagram. Great blog and photography. Question. I'm off to Africa in March and was wondering what lens / lenses you used. I have a Sony full frame and crop camera. I have a 70-210 & a 100-400 was looking at the Tamron 150-600 (very expensive) Do you think I'll need the longer reach?
Cheers John
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