African Adventuring: Tanzania

Article and Images Karen Gifford

We were collected by our guide, Lameck, from Maramboi Lodge, after a delicious breakfast on a terrace overlooking a variety of grazers, including wildebeest and zebra, by Lake Manyara. My husband, sister, nephew and I had spent a night at this lodge, in luxurious spacious tents built on raised wooden platforms, surrounded by non-dangerous animals.

The ten-minute drive between the lodge and Tarangire National Park entrance gives opportunities to buy traditional Tanzanian crafts along the roadsides from locals dressed in typical Tanzanian-style clothing. The entrance to Tanzania’s sixth largest national park (2850m2) was neat and clean, offering good ablution facilities. The name of the park originates from the Tarangire River, which meanders through the park and provides the only source of water for animals

during dry seasons when thousands of animals migrate to the park and tourist season prevails. Our visit fell at the beginning of the rainy season.

Tarangire National Park greeted us with two pairs of large ears protruding from open grassland, which would have informed the owners long before of our arrival.

The bat-eared foxes looked intently at us as they lay in front of what was likely a den with pups. Further behind were termite mounds, which dot the park landscape and provide the bat-eared foxes with possibly their favourite food. A leopard tortoise,

although in much closer proximity to us, was not at all curious or concerned by our presence as it ambled past us.

A little further on we came across a pair of tiny delicate-looking antelope, which we would not be able to find naturally in the Zimbabwean bush, but are common residents in Tanzania. The dik-diks gave us enough time to enjoy their presence before disappearing behind a thick bush. A herd of Thomson’s gazelle grazed near the side of the road. As if to further welcome us into Tanzania, we were greeted by another antelope, not found in Zimbabwe, adding to our privilege.

As we rounded a corner, our vehicle disturbed tiny warthog piglets on the road with their mother. As they burst into activity, our delight in their size turned into despair as we watched a piglet frantically nudging its sibling lying motionlessly. Although we had not seen any other vehicles in the park, our immediate speculation was that it had just been hit by one.

Just as our hearts went out to this little piglet with its desperate attempts to revive its family member, there was a sudden ‘spring to life’ by the latter as it awakened from a deep sleep.

Just after that ordeal we set off again, and before we had had a chance to finish expressing

our relief about the sleepy little hog, a giraffe and its calf sauntered across the road. They were in close proximity to a herd of elephant which walked past our vehicle in a protective semi- circle around their two calves. In a dry river bed there were more giraffes and elephants, the latter digging holes in the sand for water. As we ventured further through herds of

wildebeest and zebra grazing together, as they commonly do, we found ourselves among elephants together with baobabs. Both of these African giants, being a distinctive features of the Gonarezhou National Park, close to our Lowveld home in Zimbabwe, gave this already familiar-looking environment more of a homely feeling for us.

We then entered a thicket and encountered a dagga boy. Lameck was tickled by the name ‘dagga boy’ which was a name we commonly used in Zimbabwe. The safety of the vehicle allowed us to spend time with this large buffalo bull. Buffaloes are one of the most dangerous and unpredictable animals in Africa.

The striking coats of zebra and their foals prettied the scenery as they stood close to each other and looked at us for a while before trotting off. In the distance we spotted waterbuck that were also with young. A little further on stood a lone waterbuck whose identity could not be mistaken with its one horn. There were herds of impala. We came across a nursery of impala fawn staring curiously at us as they lay in two groups close to each other.

Then perfect timing for us! As we were looking at a large herd of buffalo far down below us in a valley, a large pride of lion appeared from a thicket and walked right past it in a long line. They headed towards the small section of river which they drank from and crossed before flopping down to rest. We always find it a special treat to see these majestic cats.

The heavy rain which started to pelt down just before midday did not interrupt our game viewing. We closed the vehicle roof and continued on our way as we enjoyed our packed lunches. The contents of each box we individually selected from a large choice of food laid out for us at the lodge after breakfast. This late November shower did not last long, but there was enough water to create large puddles which displayed the animal and bird reflections as they drank from them. We took some time to admire the pretty zebra stripes rippling in the water.

Bird life, including a noticeable amount of different birds of prey, surrounded us on the river bed, in the sky, and the trees. With the presence of migratory birds in the rainy season, this is a haven for bird enthusiasts!

A large group of mongooses hurried alongside a stretch of water. The abundance of termite mounds possibly provides homes to many. Not far away from them, reedbuck drank. We saw eland, although not entirely, as they partially stood behind trees in a woodland. Warthogs wallowed in the recently created puddles.

Our luck was doubled when another pride of lions, on the side of road, came into view. Its members were mostly napping and did not appear to be perturbed by our close presence. A cub was the first to have had enough of resting – it strolled across to an adult, huddled close to it and indulged in a pampering of licks, with dramatic facial expressions revealing that its little mind was filled with contentment and love. Our entertainment with these cats did not stop there as our attention was diverted to a young restless lion with desires to hunt setting in. It got up and crept toward some wildebeest and zebra individually strolling past.

The lion stared intently at them from behind a bush. The only sign of it being noticed by its potential prey was a zebra which momentarily returned its stare before continuing on its way.

We thought we had seen all species we would for the day so were pleasantly surprised when we rounded a corner and saw an ostrich with just under a dozen chicks. Later, we saw another flock with adults only. The shaggy bold black and white feathers of the roosters and the light brown ones of the hen bouncing in the breeze as they scurried up a grassy hill on their long legs made a spectacular sight.

We had more in store for us! This time our sighting was ‘cheated’ but exciting as it enabled us to see four of the big five that day. Lameck’s vehicle radio informed him that a leopard had been seen, and he was given a location. We would not have found this beautiful cat lounging over a tree branch by ourselves. When we were there, it lifted its head once, looked in our direction for a few seconds, and went back to sleep. The noise of the small gathering of vehicles had disturbed it, but with dusk still being a few hours away, it was not time for it to get up.

It was not time for sundowners either but after about seven action-filled hours, filled with such an abundance of wildlife, we returned to Maramboi Lodge. The closed ‘tourist’ vehicle we had not been accustomed to doing game drives in made us realize the advantages of not getting soaked or sunburnt! There was time for us to take a short afternoon walk among the lodge’s wild residents which included a couple of mischievous-looking jackal which darted around to the edge of the lake which hosted a large flock of flamingos. As we enjoyed sundowners and snacks on the pool terrace overlooking game, we reflected on one of the best game drives we have ever had in this absolute gem of a game park.

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