Uganda Travel Series Part 4
Discover Herds Of Elephants & More In
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park is said to be drier than the Serengeti and my first impression driving in was that this is true. The water holes on the way to the lodge were all but dried mud, and the vegetation appeared to be mostly open dry woodlands. Later I discovered a more lush, and green areas where the Tarangire river runs through. There were many areas with large expanses of acacia tortillis trees, palm trees, giant baobab trees mostly stripped by elephants for water, and thorny acacia thickets that giraffe love to eat. The south circuit of the park had some amazing rolling woodlands, flat swamps where you could find elephants and other animals gathering to drink. Although Tarangire national park is quite dry, its vegetation is actually much more densely packed with large areas of mixed acacia woodlands that remind you of “Out of Africa” , along with elephant grass, and beautiful areas of riverine forest.
It is amazing how many elephants are in such a relatively small area, but it also cause the problems of poaching, and competition for resources. You can find hundreds of elephants scratching at the dry river bed for water along with zebra, impala, harebeests, buffalo, baboons, and migratory wildebeest crowding around the shrinking riverbeds. This area has one of the largest concentration of wildlife outside the Serengeti national park, and predators like lions are, leopards, and hyena have a ready-made smorgasbord. Lion are very common in Tarangire and we saw a few prides during our brief stay.
The birds are so wonderfully colorful in Africa, and with over 500 species it a birders paradise. I fell in love with the colorful yellow-collared lovebirds which are endemic to Tanzania.
Many people skin this park, or stay for only a day. I am glad we stayed for two, and actually wish we had one more day here, as this was one park where you could actually get away from the lines of vehicles and feel like you were alone on your own personal safari. I recommend this Tarangire, it provided a wonderful game viewing experience and a close up encounter with an elephant…more on that below. 🙂
Day 5 Tarangire National Park
Today we left Bougainvillea Lodge in Karatu and head on the little less bumpy road (some paved sections) back to the dusty dirt roads of Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. Each park you stop at a entrance gate and pay your fees before you can gain entrance, and if you’re lucky you have clean restrooms to use. The facilities here are very good, clean and modern. I found a few velvet/vervet monkeys outside in the trees, and one in particular seems perfectly happy to pose for some pictures. These little monkeys are very quick and are often poisoned or trapped because they become “pests” stealing, food & other things, along with raiding crops.
After our quick stop at the gate, we headed back on the dusty bumpy roads playing the I Spy game as we head to our next lodging. We are not well rewarded as it is hot and most of the wildlife has taken refuge from the mid day heat. With all the animals in hiding I am getting a little frustrated when our driver takes a track to the river. Success, looking down we can see a herd of elephants digging in the sand, drinking and bathing in the river. It is a heart warming site to witness elephants in their family units caring for their young, but quickly during this trip I also learn that Elephants are eating and pooping machines. They are also very destructive to the environment. The herd move at a quick pace eating, tearing down trees, and it’s an all day process with very little time give to sleep. It’s a big animal and it has to eat a lot!
It’s getting close to lunch and we decide to head straight to the lodge and have a real meal instead of the “picnic lunches” which are not edible half of the time. (cucumber butter sandwiches, and sugary fruit juices seem to be the staple take away lunches for vegetarians). We arrive near the entrance of the lodge and see a family of warthogs with all their babies rooting for food, and across the road a small flock of male, and female ostriches. The males are black and the females are white. We snap some pics, and keep heading to Tarangire Lodge which is a wonderful permanent tent camp with a large central lodge that sits high on a bluff overlooking the Tarangire river. It has a pool, bar, and outdoor open air massage area.
Small individual traditional canvas tents awaited us. Annette Simonson whose family has owned the lodge since its beginnings could have not been more helpful, and pleasant. We were given a prime location overlooking the river with amazing views of the elephants below, but my husband was having trouble with his knees so we choose a tent closer to the main lodge. The rooms have a sleeping area, and another smaller area with a sink, toilet and shower. I also noticed some stone bungalows, but all rooms having a great view. The restaurant was buffet style not one bad thing there, and many vegetarian options. The bar had reasonable priced drinks both non alcoholic and alcoholic. If you need to buy a souvenir they had many nice things in the gift shop as well. The WiFi worked really well, but is only available in the main lodge, but there are many large comfy overstuffed chairs and sofas to sit on while you catch up with friends and family back home.
The lodge is really beautiful during the day and you are free to walk around the camp and enjoy the views, but at night the staff will walk you back to bed at night after it gets dark. They provide torches, but we brought our own power LED from home that hooked on our clothing. I found this far more convenient than the larger lights that I kept laying down and forgetting. We slept really well on the firm beds, but did wake up once in the night when a herd of elephants decided to break into some parked cars to get the water bottles. The staff chased them away, but it is good to remember that this is the home of wild animal, and we were just visitors.
Day 6 Tarangire Gaming Viewing
Herds of Elephants
Tarangire National Park Home of Elephants and boy did we see a lot of elephants. At different points in time we saw lines of elephants as far as the eye could see as they made their way to and from the water source. We saw young juvenile male elephants with too much testosterone making a lot of noise, running around and causing a ruckus bellowing and blaring. That was a little scary to me, but not as scary as when I was standing up taking pictures out the pop up of a herd of elephants by the side of the road, when a younger female elephant came up to the car and put her trunk right up to my face. I was pretty freaked, but the driver said not to move she was smelling me and she moved on pretty quickly. It was probably one my most tense and exciting moments in Tanzania. I enjoyed sitting back and watching the elephants bellowing and blaring in greeting at the river, and the bond of a mother and baby was quite amazing. The mother is constantly touching the baby and if it strays too far, she will go and fetch it. I saw many, many times during our travels the mother pushing it under her to product it, or to nurse it. I loved watching one mother bath her baby in the river with water, spraying and scrubbing it with her trunk. In smaller groups I notice the mother elephant steering the baby elephant by grasping its tail with her trunk, or if the herd was moving fast the baby would follow holding its mother’s tail. The groups as a whole are very protective of the babies.
Baobab trees are massive even compared to the size of an elephant. Almost every tree in the park had large pieces of bark stripped off by the elephants. In the wet season the trees store water in the thick spongy trunk, and in the dry season the elephants strip the tree for the water. Some trees have been so damaged that there are holes going almost straight through. Elephants also topple smaller trees to get to their leaves.
There is an art to finding lions, and they are more of a challenge to find than other big game. It becomes a game to try to find them during our entire stay in Africa. After a while I started thinking numerous termite mounds were the heads of lions, but I was always wrong. I never found a lion on my own. Our guide in Tanzania was not the best lion spotter, we usually found them via the radio that the drivers have in their vehicles to chat with each other. Which is a good reason to use a guide and not do a self drive your self. As for spotting lions we personally saw a set of 2 females with 4 cubs, and another group of 2 young females and a young male.
We were also lucky to see a few pairs of petite little Dik Diks who mate for life. We happened upon a few small groups and few lone male giraffes. I saw one of the largest male giraffes of my entire trip in this park, and he was very impressive to gaze upon. At the river troops of baboons, impalas, and elephants drank, ate and hung out peacefully. One of the funniest moments at the river was a troop of baboons who were going through the elephant dung (elephants poop a lot) and since it is not digested well they pick through it. Two baboons decided to have a poop fight, and it was all out war with baboons grabbing handfuls of elephant dung and winging it at each other, while squealing loudly and rolling around as if they were laughing and having the time of their lives. It was quite an entertaining show.
We only had 2 days in Tarangire national park, and truthfully I could have stayed one more. The lodging was lovely, the setting amazing and the wildlife abundant. I thoroughly enjoyed our short time in Tanzania, and I hope to make it back one day after I tick off a few more places from my travel list.
Next Post ……….Heading to Uganda for a 19 day Journey
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