Tarangire National Park
Tarangire means "River of the Warthog," but that odd little creature is just one of the many animals found along the rivers and in the thick woods and grasslands of Tarangire National Park. Less well known than Kenya's Masai Mara or its sister park in Tanzania, the great Serengeti, Tarangire - the sixth largest of Tanzania's national parks - is described on The Official Site of the Tanzania National Parks as having the greatest concentration of wildlife outside of the Serengeti ecosystem, including an abundance of elephants.
|One of the many elephants of Tarangire National Park|
|Ginny and Lois join Ansi in his Land Cruiser|
|Donkeys cross the highway|
|Masai youth bring their herd to a watering hole. |
(The young man with the feathered cap has recently been circumcized - officially entering adulthood.)
|A flock of sheep graze by the highway|
|A Masai boma near the road|
|Masai youth along the highway|
|Women carrying their goods.|
|Superb starlings were brilliant - and found everywhere in large numbers.|
|White-headed buffalo weaver|
|A young monkey hopes for a hand-out|
|Black faced vervet|
|Black faced vervet in the picnic area outside of the park gates|
The Legend of the Baobab
Finally it was time to go on safari! We entered a landscape much different from Masai Mara. Instead of broad open plains, the landscape was thick with trees and tall grass. Tarangire National Park is famous for its many huge baobab trees. Cosmas told us the legend of these trees. God was enthusiastic about his newest creation and threw it down to earth so eagerly that it landed upside down with its roots in the air. As we were there in the dry season, the legend seemed even more plausible, as the leaves that cover the tops of the trees during the wet season had fallen and the huge canopies of bare branches showed clearly against the sky.
|One of the many huge and ancient baobab trees in Tarangire National Park|
|Baobab with hole through the trunk|
|Euphorbia Candelabra tree|
|The beautiful woodlands of Tarangire|
Because of the thick foliage here, the animals sightings were not as frequent as they had been in Masai Mara, and the numbers of animals in the herds were not as huge, but it was almost more exciting to suddenly spot a small herd of impalas or zebras hiding in the grass, or to turn a corner in the road and see a giraffe looking curiously at our little group.
|Small herd of impalas|
|Zebras in the woods|
|Zebra herd and warthogs|
|Mother and baby giraffe|
|That long tongue is great for pulling leaves off of the thorny acacia!|
|This giant walked right past us|
|Elephants grazing in the river valley|
|Herd of elephants below on the riverbank|
We spotted some of the smaller residents of Tarangire as well. I was fascinated by the huge termite mounds that dot the park, tall spires of dirt that create perfect "apartment buildings" for some of the burrowing animals like the dwarf mongoose, as well as lizards and snakes.
|Dwarf mongooses use an old termite mound for their home|
|A termite skyscraper|
|White-bellied Go Away bird|
|Spoonbill with Egyptian geese|
|Red and yellow barbet..isn't he gorgeous?!|
|Lilac breasted roller|
|Female Vondee Hornbill|
|Marabou stork in flight|
|Crowned plover (lapwing)|
|Male Vondee Hornbill|
|Female Vondee Hornbill|
|Three banded plover|
|Doves over Lake Burunge|
We had had a long busy day, so in spite of our love of the wildlife, we were ready to leave the park in the early evening and settle in at the Lake Burunge Tented Lodge, a lovely lodge with a large deck and pool overlooking Lake Burunge and a line of large, comfortable tents on permanent platforms. Rob and I were very happy with our room and the large deck overlooking the woods and lake beyond.
|The pool and deck of the Burunge Tented Camp Lodge|
|View of Lake Burunge from the lodge. (The pinkish mass in the lake is a flock of flamingos.)|
|Rob is happy with our room.|
|Our deck overlooking the woodlands and lake|
We organized our bags, cleaned up, and returned to the lodge for a buffet dinner where we met one more local animal, a large and gaudy praying mantis who objected to all of the unwanted attention and went into ninja attack mode!
|Praying mantis in the dining hall|
|"Don't tread on me!"|
Our tent was at the far end of the row, so we were actually escorted back by a staff member who shone a light into the thick brush all around us, keeping a watch for the eyes of any predators who might be looking for an easy meal of unwary tourist.
July 8, 2016
Special Sightings in Tarangire
The twitters and tweets of hundreds of birds in the woods outside of our tent woke us bright and early for the morning safari drive. We entered the Sangawei Gate of the park which brought us closer to the river. The drive started as a repeat of yesterday's drive, with sights of impalas, zebras, and giraffes, but there were some special treats in store!
|The Sangaiwe Gate of Tarangire National Park|
|Those odd fingers on the horn of this skull are the chrysalises of an African butterfly.|
|Giraffes in the woods|
|Ngire - the warthog - hides in the grass|
|The baby zebra is curious about our vehicle|
|And so is this baby|
|Mama giraffe with a very young baby|
We drove down the washboard roads, enjoying our "African massage," and crossed the riverbed where we watched the elephants that come to the river to drink and saw some of the many birds that live along its banks.
|The Tarangire River is low in the dry season|
|Elephants and giraffe in the river valley|
|Tarangire supports many elephants|
|Tawny eagle in nest|
|Long tailed fiscal|
|White-browed sparrow weaver|
|Immature Imperial Eagle|
|Lilac breasted roller|
As we left the river, our sharp-eyed driver, Ansi, suddenly stopped and pointed at a tree far across the field. There, at last, we saw our first leopard! How he ever spotted it lying low on the branch I will never know, but we were grateful for his guide super-powers - and for our binoculars! We stood in our vehicle for a long time snapping photos and just gazing in wonder at the gorgeous creature.
|Can you see her? I can't believe Ansi spotted her!|
|There she is! Gorgeous! Our first leopard sighting - what a thrill.|
We finally had to move on and dropped another river crossing over a small bridge. Here were more exciting encounters including a couple of huge monitor lizards lounging on the cliffs over the river, more beautiful birds, and a family of mongooses playing in the sand on the far side of the river.
|Monitor lizard on the riverbank|
|The hamerkop looks like a cartoon bird to me.|
|The mongoose stretches out on the sandy riverbank|
|The family searches for goodies in the rocks|
I had been noticing road signs pointing to the "Poachers Tree," and that tree turned out to be the site of our snack break. Some of the giant baobab trees are so old and so big that they have great holes in their trunks. In the past, poachers had taken advantage of the deep hole in this tree to hide from the park rangers. They could actually climb up into the interior of the tree trunk to stay hidden from the rangers until the park staff finally caught on to their game. We enjoyed the chance to stretch our legs and explore the tree before moving on.
|Ginny waves from the next car|
|Cosmas and Ansi tell us about the Poachers' Tree|
|Two happy explorers|
|Poachers used to climb right up into the tree trunk to stay out of sight.|
|Cosmas, Ansi, and Richie - our wonderful guides|
|Heron landing on a tree top|
We returned to Burunge Tent Camp for lunch, a nice nap, and a bit more bird-watching of the birds in the trees around our tent.
|Burunge Tented Camp Lodge pool and deck overlooking Lake Burunge|
|A sunny afternoon on the deck|
|Lunch time in the dining room|
|I saw this bird in the woods below the lodge, but can't identify it. If anyone can help, let me know!|
|Here's another view of the same bird...|
|And one more unidentified bird by Lake Burunge|
The afternoon activity was an optional nature walk through the woods and down to Lake Burunge where we encountered a huge flock of pink flamingos wading in the shallow waters on the edge of the lake. They waddled this way and that, and every once in a while, for no apparent reason, a large number of them would take off in a beautiful whirl and then settle down again in a different area of the lake.
|The huge flock of flamingos on Lake Burunge|
|Wading near the shore...|
|...and flying to new grazing areas.|
|The blacksmith lapwing has a metallic call that sounds like a blacksmith pounding on an anvil.|
|Zebras join us on the shores of Lake Burunge|
|The nature lovers on the shores of Lake Burunge|
That evening, we stood on the deck of the main lodge building watching the many doves and other birds in the trees enjoying a bath in the cement watering holes provided by the lodge for the birds and other animals. As the sun set, the zebras came out of the woods again to drink from the troughs.
Tarangire National Park was a delight from the first moment to the last!
Stay tuned! Coming up - a visit to a Masai village and rustic tent camping in the Serengeti!