Tarangire National Park, Tanzania by Bonnie and Bill Neely

We took a September trip to Tanzania, Africa, for a wonderful week of safari in National Parks with AbrojaleyAfricaAjabu Safari Company, which we HIGHLY recommend. On our second day of safari Manase and Fulgence, our guide and cook, stopped in Arusha to buy food and water and fuel, so we got to see the town of about 400,000 people. It was a busy, colorful sight, with everyone smiling. With our Land Cruiser packed full of supplies, we headed to to Tarangire National Park, about two hours away.
We saw small villages along the way with women dressed in brightly colored kangas and men in Western style clothes. At the entrance to the park we found modern restrooms in little huts that resemble Masaai village homes. I held my breath to go in, but what a surprise: spotless, western style toilets, tissue, and soap, and no one begging for money!
We arrived at picnic time and Fulgence brought out an excellent, fresh lunch from the refrigerator built into the car. A little vervet monkey followed us into the picnic area and searched for crumbs, while we enjoyed the beautiful birds that came to drink in the puddle nearby. Manase could be an ornithologist, as he knows all the birds’ names and habits and calls, so he kept us learning throughout this meal.

We began our drive through the park and came to a field of many different kinds of animals, including wildebeests and zebras. Zebras stand side-by-side in pairs, each one facing in the opposite direction, so that they can protect each other by watching both ways. Each zebra’s stripes are unique marking from all others! The stripes act as insect repellent and sun protection. As we started our venture into the park I said, “Today I hope we see an elephant and a lion,” having no idea which animals to actually expect in this park.
We rounded a bend in the road and immediately saw four pairs of elephants in the trees very near the road. One mother was fanning her baby with her huge ears to keep him cool in the noon heat. We had expected the temperatures to be oppressively hot, but we were delighted to find that for most of the day it was only in mid eighties Farenheit, comfortably warm. A very short drive farther we stopped an an overlook of a valley where 32 elephants were drinking from the Tarangire River! Wow! Talk about wish fulfillment!
During the drive the road was fine dust but very smooth. We were at the end of the dry season, but the dust was not as bad as I had expected. Drivers are considerate and do not follow closely, and even with dust, the fresh air in the parks is much fresher than any city on any continent. Our afternoon was full of thrills at every turn: hundreds of zebras, thousands of wildebeests, over 200 elephants, groups of warthogs, many giraffes, adorable little dik-dik’s, a few waterbuck, many impalas, and on the only rocky ledge we saw a family of rock hyrax ground squirrels.
Then I remarked to our driver/guide, “Manase, you have satisfied all our wishes except cats. I hope we see a lion this week.” Unbelievable, around the next bend were two female lions asleep in two trees, right across from eight elephants! We teased Manase that since these were right on cue they must be fake, like a Disney prop! One elephant sauntered across the road right in front of our car and stopped beneath t he lion in the tree, who was just awakening. I said, “The elephant must not see the lion. I’m afraid she will pounce down on him.” But Manase assured us that we could see the fear in the lion’s eyes and her stance. Lions are afraid of elephants!
At sundown we drove to Haven nature Campground just between Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Park, where we’ll journey next. There were about 15 other campers there also. Each group had its own cook and table. We had a delicious dinner, freshly cooked by Fulgence while we took hot showers in the well-equiped bath house. Tired and happy we headed to the permanent tent of the campground and slept soundly in twin beds made up with fresh sheets and blankets and comfortable pillows. During the night we stepped out of our tent with flashlights to head for the restroom and were immediately quite frightened by a Masaii warrior who loomed what seemed to us seven feet tall in his read blanket and holding his stick, just behind us in the walkway. We were relieved to discover he was the night guard! This campsite and restrooms are clean and run very efficiently and conscientuously. The staff are friendly and warm. They understand and speak English and other languages, but when we asked a general question, they always answered in one or two words of Swahili, so we could learn basics…
Hello-sijambo; Thank you – asante; Good morning – habari za asubuhi; Good night – lala salama
and Goodbye – kwa heri

This campground was clean and comfortable with spacious tents and good beds. We recommend it for the budget traveler. The kitchen, which all the cooks shared, was clean and had several permanent staff to help. We slept well and peacefully until the whole campground started awakening with daylight about 7 a.m. Then we were off to Lake Manyara, which will be next month’s story.