East Africa Safari: Tarangire National Park
| May 15, 2016 |
Tanzania is simply rich with nature and wildlife. I felt like everywhere I turned, there was something new to soak in and the two days our group spent on safari were surreal. After the plethora of animals seen at Ngorongoro Crater on our first day, I could only imagine what Tarangire National Park had in store. Waking up at Ngorongoro Farm House was completely blissful, and I spent a few moments meditating on our patio before beginning the day. I inhaled the serenity around me, and exhaled I was disappointed with the short time we spent at the farm house as it truly held a special charm, but was ready for our next destination.
Tarangire National Park is perhaps Tanzania’a most underrated park, being a much less popular safari destination than its neighboring game drive reserve areas (Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park). Known as the “Land of Giants,” herds of elephants and Baobab trees are hallmarks of this park. These massive spectacles of nature dot Tarangire’s landscape in both the dry and rainy seasons. During the rainy season (March-May), many animal species scatter to other regions, so it is not expected to see too much wildlife. It’s certainly preferential to visit Tarangire National Park during the dry season when animals are attracted to the Tarangire River as a guaranteed water source.
Despite visiting during the rainy season, I had high hopes for our game drive in Tarangire National Park. I had my fingers crossed that we would see a leopard to cross off all the animals in the “Big Five,” plus encounter elephants and giraffes.
I was mostly satisfied.
Driving into Tarangire National Park, I noticed the marked difference in landscape from Ngorongoro Crater. In the crater, we were surrounded by blindingly green landscapes, while Tarangire was dotted with more beiges and straw-like grass. The Tarangire landscape was seemingly endless and scattered with shrubbery, whereas the walls surrounding the floor of Ngorongoro Crater were almost visible around the entire circumference.
The horizon was trees, grass, and more trees at Tarangire National Park:
Perhaps most memorable were the massive, elderly Baobab trees. As these trees can live up to 3,000 years old, I could almost sense their wisdom. I pictured the tales they could tell of the wild inhabitants of Tarangire National Park. Their silhouettes across the landscape were peculiar, and they are often called “upside down” as their branches look more like roots when the trees are bare of leaves. They made loud exclamations across the plains, stomping on the landscape with their undeniable knowledge of all things past, present, and future.
Elephants often eat the bark from these trees – sometimes to the point where there is a hollow hole in the tree’s trunk. Surprisingly, the trees survive this damage, and can even regenerate new bark.
Within the first 20 minutes of driving past the gate of Tarangire National Park, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a herd of… ELEPHANTS!
They completely surrounded our safari vehicles and I was entranced by their calm disposition. All the elephants were flapping their ears to cool their bodies (decreasing their body temperature by 30%!), eating the grass/shrubbery, and effortlessly demonstrating their beauty. Some of the elephants had only one tusk, likely a result of inhumane poaching (allegedly, one elephant is killed every fifteen minutes. How completely disgusting), or from ramming the Boabab trees for bark.
Their skin appeared rough and dry like a tire. All of their bodies – even the young ones – looked old and wrinkled. And they ALL looked like they were smiling.
The combination of these beautiful animals and the Boabab was fulfilling, and I could have went home happy immediately.
The rest of the day was relatively uneventful, honestly. Unlike in Ngorongoro Crater where there was wildlife everywhere we turned (with the occasional extra bonus of lions or rhinos), Tarangire was sort of deserted. After a few moments completely void of animals, we stumbled upon some awkwardly tall giraffes roaming the landscape…
Like zebras, the giraffe’s geometric patterns are a result of genetic makeup, and each one’s pattern is different. The giraffes were entertaining to watch. Their long necks and boxy thorax were seriously mesmerizing. Also, the giraffes always looked confused and on high-alarm. Most of the time, I felt like they were staring directly at us asking, “Huh? Whatcha lookin’ at?”
They seemed to freeze at times, wondering if we were a threat to their safety.
Unfortunately, this is the only group of giraffes we ran into at the park. The rest of the day lacked excitement, which is not to say I didn’t enjoy the safari. I appreciated the expansive landscape and waterways, plus will never forget being in a herd of elephants. It was truly magical.
Also, sadly, the closest we got to see a leopard were these paw prints on the side of the road:
Our group began to feel the heat of the day (the sun was blaring, and I was shielding my Irish skin from the rays by sitting in the jeep) and we were losing energy fast. We were given the option to (1) continue the game drive, or (2) head to our accommodations for the night. We were told our next lodge was a nice place to relax, and the swimming pool would offer beautiful views of the sunset. The thought of jumping in a refreshing pool overtook all of our desires to continue driving, and we opted for the second choice. Even the animals needed to cool off – this elephant simply couldn’t deny the refreshing water!
And so we headed to Maramboi Tented Camp. En route to the camp, we honestly saw more animals than we had seen all day in Tarangire (of course, except for the elephants!). On the road leading to the tented camp, I was enlivened. The giraffes and zebras struck me out of my half-slumber.
When we pulled up to the camp, I had yet another African jaw-dropping moment. The “tents” were actual canvas-covered cabins scattered about an open, grassy plain filled with palm trees. Zebras and wildebeest grazed between the tents, and the golden sun beamed on the wooden deck at the lobby.
After another welcoming with cocktails (I kind of liked this pattern), we were escorted by men from the local tribe (they were carrying spears!) to our rooms. My travel buddy and I were in the literal last tent, which I honestly didn’t mind – it felt so remote.
When we stepped into our “tent,” I was befuddled. This is no TENT! This is a luxury accommodation! We had running water and a beautiful view from our back porch. All I could think was… wow, wow, wow… (If that’s even thinking at all?)
I actually scheduled a massage (they came to our room!), but bailed last-minute because I feared I would miss the sun setting over the pool. Plus, it was happy hour until 7PM, and I couldn’t deny complimentary cocktails! So, I headed to the pool with red wine on my mind.
The rest of the evening was pure bliss. The sun dipped behind the mountains, setting over Lake Manyara, and painting a sky of brilliant colors. We watched while swimming in the refreshing infinity-esque pool, completely mesmerized yet again by Africa’s beauty.
I felt immense gratitude for the entire journey in Tanzania. The breathtaking beauty of Maramboi Tented Camp in one night felt like the entire two weeks in Tanzania: nothing short of spectacular.
I am so blessed.
Thank you, Africa. Thank you for making me love you, and revealing your true self. You are incredible.
How Tanzania Changed Me
Friday, July 15, 2016 @ 10:58 PM
[…] volunteer Physical Therapy mission work to exploring Arusha to safaris in Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Park, EduTours Africa surpassed my expectations for the two-week journey. I left Tanzania feeling […]