MY NEW FOUND PASSION

Trip Start Dec 31, 2010
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21
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Trip End Feb 10, 2011


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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day One of Safari: Arusha to Tarangire National Park

Courteous Sam [driver], Dana & David [gorgeous couple from Chicago] and I headed off to Shoprite as that appears to be where everyone goes before heading bush. We've got a troupe with a pop up roof, a pile of bottled water and at least a ten week supply of snacks. I’m all decked out in the latest fashion, safari trekking pants complete with personalised zebra print patches and hoping that the lions on the Serengeti don’t find my butt attractive!

Tarangire is one of Tanzania’s largest national parks and sanctuary for an unusually large elephant population of six thousand. Majestic baobab trees are an interesting feature of the park. Animals concentrate along the river which provides the only permanent water supply in the area.

This national park is one of the cheapest for tourists to visit as the entry fees are only US$35/day plus camping and vehicle fees. [BTW Residents pay US$1/day entry fee]. After the first toilet break I didn’t care what the fees where because out in the wilderness they had an employee seated under a tree that would clean the bathroom after each visitor. I’m sure and certain they would have to be the cleanest and most resourced [toilet paper] toilets in all of Tanzania!

The marketing material was spot on with the description of baobab trees and elephants as I saw my fair share of both. Loved the family groups of elephants as they are so interesting in the way that they interact with each other and even though I didn’t see 6,000 elephants, I did see several hundred and I never tired with them.

I was lucky enough to also see heaps of black faced vervet [?] monkeys, dik diks, mongooses, impalas [harems and bachelor groups], giraffes, baboons, termite mounds which coincidently look very much like sleeping lions or castles or some other imaginary, desperate and hopeful thing, Pumba [wart hogs], lioness, waterbucks, etc.

I know my readers are on standby trying to figure out the meaning of this blog title and so now is the time to reveal that I discovered something about myself on safari that I’d never before given much consideration about but am ready to now reveal to one and sundry … Who would have known? My new found passion is bird watching! Put it down to not having a camera with me on safari! I can’t think of any other excuse but let me tell you how much I enjoyed spotting many different varieties and species. There are 1050 different birds in Tanzania and 500 in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area [NCA] so right at get go I thought I’d be a complete nerd and try to spot and identify as many birds as possible. So apart from doves and other common known birds, or ones that were so incredibly small they were virtually impossible to see with the naked eye, I spotted the following: hammer copes [who make nests that weigh between 50 – 100 kgs], kori bustards [who are the largest flying birds with the males weighing 38 lbs], bateleurs, eagles, quails, ostriches, superb starlings and guinea fowls. Impressive? How’s that for starters?

Out here birds pick a tree and everyone moves in to nest as it appears that there is safety in numbers leaving surrounding trees free from any nesting.

It’s gorgeous and green with luscious but thorny acacias, palm trees that look completely out of place and tsetse flies that suck your blood very possible chance they get. But never fear because Sam turned out to be Tanzania’s fly swatting record holder. I swear he could nearly reach the back of the 4WD with his guide book and squish a fly before we even were aware it was in the car.  [Tsetse flies are the buggers that cause sleeping sickness and an eventual painful death!]

From the get go I also got a bit of a reputation as being a spotter of deceased animals – yep it was me that called the 4WD to an abrupt holt calling out 'Sam, what’s that?’ only to find out it was a dead tortoise, a really dead elephant with thick leather canvases and a not so long ago dead giraffe. I also spotted the lioness sprawled out on the ground and said’ I think there’s a lion over there but it’s probably dead’, so stay tuned for the rest of this story.

A magical, big day from beginning to end that included a packed picnic lunch in the middle of nowhere and a scrumptious three course dinner [with a desert of the ‘to die for’ cashew cake] back at the Tarangire Safari Lodge. An escort waited to guide [guard] me to my room and I adhered to the rules and didn’t venture out after dark. I had the best room in the whole National Park which was a permanent tent with a thatched roof, complete with ensuite bathroom, on the top of the scarp, overlooking the river.

                                          

I was totally ruined by my stay at the Tarangire Safari Lodge.
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