Lazy leopard and lions at lunch

Trip Start Oct 22, 2012
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Trip End Nov 12, 2012


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Where I stayed
Wild Palm Camp Site

Flag of Tanzania  ,
Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wow! So that is what a safari is like!

I really had no idea! I imagined having to spend hours peering into the distance, hoping to catch a glimpse of a zebra in the grass or a giraffe behind a bush. But Marianne and I turned out to be the luckiest bush girls in all of Tanzania, spotting three different types of cats in just one day! 

Before taking off, Marianne told me that the only animal she had never seen in the wild, was the leopard. So what do we find lying around in a tree on the very first game drive...? Exactly! A real live leopard!

Mountain and Masaai spotting
 
Our tour guide Joel picks us up from our hostel early, because we have a long drive ahead of us. In the car we meet Richard, the driver, and Boka, our cook for the week. 

The drive from Moshi to Tarangire National Park takes about 3 hours, but I'm not bored for a minute. I could look out of a car window for days on end! First, we see Mount Kili disappear from view, to be replaced by Mount Meru. Stretched out in front of the hills and mountains, we see dry and dusty savanna's, with the typical African acacia trees, and my personal favourite, the bright purple jacaranda tree, dotted all through the land scape. Every once in a while, we see a little twister blow up some sand in the distance.

Scattered around the country side are the little Masaai villages: circles of about ten little huts, with a big round cow pen in the middle. We already spot some 'wild' life, too: the typical African cows with the camel-like bump on their backs, and the goats and the sheep-that-look-an-awful-lot-like-goats.

As we pass through the busy town Arusha, Marianne and I are very happy that we chose to start our trip from the smaller and cosier Moshi. There are some interesting sights: the Arusha Declaration monument and the offices of the Rwanda tribunal, but mostly, Arusha seems like a very loud, crowded place.

Off the road, into the park

At a seemingly random place, to drive off the main road and into the dust. Suddenly, we find ourselves at the very quiet and deserted Wild Palm Camp Site, where we drop off our camping gear and cook. Richard, Joel, Marianne and I go on to the gate of Tarangire National Park, for our very first game drive!

We push open the roof and screw on the telephoto lens; ready for our safari!

Less than a hundred meters from the front gate, we spot our very first animal: a big male impala is parading around right next to the road. Soon after we spot a big black male ostrich, and almost hit a herd of zebra crossing the road. Wildebeest and giraffes are also easy to find, and I soon spot my very first big wrinkly elephant in the distance!

Tourist spotting

Although we have a lot of faith in the skills of our guide, we also rely on other tourists. In a Jurassic Park-like valley we come across a group of parked jeeps; the tourists and their guides peering towards a group of trees. It seems there's a leopard hidden in the branches! We need quite a few pointers and some borrowed binoculars, but finally I do see something that looks like a leopard-print cushion behind the leaves! We found Marianne's leopard!

Little groups of tourist land cruisers turn out to be a good indicator for cat presence! By the river we find some tourists admiring a group of lions that seems to be enjoying some prey they caught; while several scavengers such as marabou storks and vultures hang a round, hoping for some left overs. We have to squeeze our way through a traffic jam of land cruisers by a hill where two cheeta's are resting.

When the sun starts to set, we have to make our way back towards the exit. In the lovely orange glow we do see some monkeys, mongoose, and even a brave little dik dik.

Back at camp, we see that Boka has been working hard. He's put up our tents, made our beds, set the table, and prepared tea and popcorn! We enjoy his lovely zucchini soup and veggies in 'ketchup' sauce, take a nice sun-warm shower, and then crawl into our little tents.

Pre-breakfast drive

The next morning, we rise before sunset, and after a quick tea and Milo (instant hot chocolate), we set off for another game drive in Tarangire NP. This early in the morning, the animals will be much more active than during the hotter part of the day. And since we already saw quite a few different kinds of animals, seeing some animals in action might be nice!

Soon, we spot a big familiy of elephants walking in the shrubbery. They really make a lovely picture, partly hidden behind the dry branches. We also meet our first 'migration' of wildebeest, impala and zebra, trekking along the plains in a long long queue.

On a rock next to the road, a colony of funny little hiraxes is relaxing in the sun. On of them tries to turn over in its sleep and... drops off his rock!

We drive back to the river bed where we saw the lions yesterday. The lions themselves are resting somewhere out of sight after their nice meal, but we can still see plenty of scavengers walking and flying around: some vultures and even a jackall!

Close encounters!
 
On the open plains we see a herd of elephant approaching the road. They don't really seem to care that Richard stops the car right on top of the path that they're taking, they seem to assume that the stupid tourists will move out of their way in time. When the group has approached to almost 5 meters, Richard to our relief moves the car, and the herd passes us by so close that we could almost touch them! 

It's really cool to see the family structure in the way they form their group: the little ones in the middle, the big momma up front, and young male lagging behind the group, like he's saying "I'm waaay too old to be needing protection from the group!"

Marianne tells us that dik diks are really shy in Kenya where she worked. Here, we've already seen a few quite close to the road. And we even managed to take a picture before they ran off! Today, we spot not one, but two pairs of dikdiks, posing for our cameras with their cute little wigs!

Around nine we return to camp for a nice breakfast. When we've finished our eggs and toast, we break up the camp and move on towards Ngorongoro and Serengeti National Park, to see which other animals we can check off our list!
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