A final day on safari….
The final stop on this epic safari of ours is Tarangire National Park. We arrived here late this morning after a short 3 hours drive from Ngorongoro Farmhouse and spent the better part of our day on a game drive through the park. Famous for its large herds of elephant and ancient baobab trees, Tarangire is very different to the other parks we’ve visited in Tanzania. It’s quite a dry area and much lower in altitude than either Ngorongoro or Serengeti, which also makes it much warmer. By the end of our 6 hour game drive we were hot and sweaty and covered in dust, but blissfully happy from another day of wildlife spotting.
The landscape of Tarangire National Park is all rolling hills covered in acacia trees and palm forests, punctuated by immense baobab trees – some thousands of years old. Baobab is the common name for the Adansonia tree. These trees are huge, reahcing heights of up to 50m and with trunk diameters of upto 10m. They are also very long-lived, with trees living up to 6,000 years. In most of Africa they are considered sacred trees as they provide shelter, clothing, food and water for the animal and human inhabitants of the African savannah regions. The cork-like bark and huge stem are fire resistant and are used for making cloth and rope. The leaves are used as food and medicines. The fruit, called “monkey bread”, is edible, and full of Vitamin C. The tree is also used as a source of water as it can store hundreds of litres of water in its trunk. Humans and elephants alike often tap into the trees during the dry season to access the fresh, pure water flowing through the tree’s core. They’re very common in Tarangire and we were lucky enough to see some truly majestic specimens during our game drive today.
Located in the Rift Valley, Tarangire National Park covers almost 3,000 square kilometers and attracts many animals from surrounding areas because of the Tarangire River that flows through its centre. During the dry season especially the Tarangire River is only source of water for wild animals and thus a great place to go wildlife spotting. Even during the “short rains” (i.e. October-December) the river is a hive of activity, as we discovered today. We saw heaps of birds, giraffe, water buck, zebra, gazelles, ostrich, mongoose, lions and, of course, hundreds and hundreds of elephants.
The park is home to thousands of elephants; herds of up to 300 elephants rely on the Tarangire River for water and so live in the park. They spend their days stripping trees of their leaves for sustenance, bathing in mud pools and wallowing in the river. We got to see sooooo many elephants – including a whole host of babies that would have been just a few months old.
Tarangire National Park is also home to numerous predators, attracted to the area by the abundance of herbivores to feast on. One of the funniest parts of the day came when we came across 3 lionesses and their cubs asleep in the long grass. We watched for ages as they rolled around in the grass, stretched, yawned and played.
As the sun began to set on our final game drive we headed to our abode for the night – another tented camp built just on the outskirts of the national park. The camp was set in amongst the bush, with a wonderful restaurant and bar area that gave us views directly into Tarangire National Park. We spent our last evening on safari watching the zebra, gazelles and water buck wander through the bush, just a few hundred metres away. We watched as the sun set in the West all we could think about was how lucky we’ve been to be able to see so much of Kenya and Tanzania over the past 2 weeks. Africa is amazing!