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Tarangire National Park

September 6, 2010

About Tarangire National Park
Size: 2850 sq km (1,096 sq miles).
Location: 118 km (75 miles) southwest of Arusha.

Today we began our seven-day safari on the northern circuit in Tanzania. Our first stop in Tarangire National Park – known for its abundance of elephants. Since we were in Tanzania during the dry season (June – October) the Tarangire River has mostly dried up leaving only pockets of water. Many of the  wildlife – migratory wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, and gazelle – wander hundreds of kilometres to get to these drinking holes. The rest of the landscape however, is baked by the sun and brittle as straw.

We arrived after a short drive from our hotel in Arusha town. We have elected to do the budget-conscious “adventure camping safari” so first we had to set up camp just outside the park border. Actually workers at the campground set up our tent while we ate lunch. We even have a cook, named Osman, who will remain behind during our game drives in order to cook us a hot dinner. He will always prepare us hot breakfasts and box lunches. In comparison to camping in Northern Ontario this is luxury.

Within a short drive from the park border we came across herds of impala, zebra and an ostrich. I forgot that ostrich are a common site in Africa. They are sure a funny-looking bird. We came across a small watering hole. There were dozens of stork, not the kind that bring babies, on branches in trees. Apparently their favourite food of choice is catfish. When the water level gets too low catfish bury themselves into the mud and can live for a short time (weeks or months as I remember).

Throughout the park we saw at least a hundred elephant. Some were so close that you could reach out and touch them from the jeep. Of course we didn’t. I greatly enjoyed the safety of the jeep.  There were dozens of giraffe and too many zebra and wildebeest to count. Towards the end of the day we came across our first “cat-jam.” In the parks when 2 or more safari vehicles are seen together it is usually an indication that something rare, usually a lion, leopard or cheetah. As we pulled up to the mess of cars we saw a male lion in the distance but he was soon out of sight.  Moments later our guide who has binnoculars for eyes spotted a leopard in the grass. It soon climbed a tree in perfect view and then was out of sight. Wow 2 of the big 5 in less than 5-minutes. All in a park which is not known for its cats. I’m excited to see what the other parks hold.

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