We are finally back after a whirlwind two and a half week trip around Myanmar, with stopovers in Hong Kong and Bangkok. Now it’s back to the daily grind, and of course catching up with my blogging. For the next few posts, I’ve decided to forgo the usual format and share our experience and pictures from Tanzania in a photo essay – because that’s the only way to do it justice.
Travel is all about discovering those places that make you forget about home, and the worries and woes that go along with it. Being in Africa was like being transported to another time and place. From the tribes to the animals, it feels more wild and raw out there. Time seems to have stood still for centuries and kept the environment perfectly preserved. It’s not hard to imagine a hunter lurking in the bushes, stalking their next kill.
Even in the bigger town of Arusha – with a population of over 3 million people, it still feels untouched. On the way to pick up our lunch boxes, we passed by a market where people were setting up for the day. We saw women in their colorful clothing balancing a basket on their heads, and men riding in their donkey carts, each going on with their daily routine. There were no McDonalds, Pizza Huts, or Starbucks in sight. This might be one of the few places left on Earth not saturated by fast food. On the road outside of town we saw Maasai tribesmen herding their cows and goats, like their ancestors had done for thousands of years.
On the first day of our safari, we got into our land cruzer and headed out to Tarangire, one of the smaller parks in Northern Tanzania. Tarangire is most famous for its huge elephant population, massive baobab trees, and many unique birds. Even though it’s a smaller park, it still covers an area of about 1,100 square miles, that’s about the size of Rhode Island!
Before setting foot in Tanzania, we were under the impression that wild animals would be found everywhere, but we quickly saw that is not true. Travel has certainly opened our eyes and helped eliminate some stereotypes and ignorance. So we were beyond excited when we finally entered the park and saw our first zebra! Then a little further down, we saw a few more crossing the road. Zebras are very distinctive with their striped pattern, but did you know that the print is unique to each zebra like a human finger print?
The initial excitement started to wear off, when we quickly realized that there were zebras everywhere. These herd animals often travel in groups, and when standing still, each zebra will face different directions to look out for lions and other predators.
The next animal we saw was a giraffe. This tall and awkward animal is quite beautiful in the wild. They usually move slowly across the plain stopping every so often to munch on leaves. These majestic animals often hang out in the open areas where their height advantage allows them to see far into the horizon, keeping an eye out for any incoming threats.
Everywhere we looked, there were impalas, gazelles, and dik dik leaping across the tall grass. They often move swiftly when startled by any slight noise. Our heads twisted back and forth, trying to absorb as much as we could, while the animals went about their business as if we were not even there.
We finally spotted a pair of lions sleeping in the shade. Since it can get quite hot during the day, the big predators often sleep or hide away in the shade until the sun goes down; then they are ready to hunt. We sat in the land cruzer and ate our lunch while we waited patiently for some action over in the bush area. Unfortunately after an hour of waiting, they finally got up and walked to the other side to sleep some more.
While on a safari, it was important to remember that we were not in a zoo. It required a lot more patience to spot animals like lions and leopards out during the day in the distance. A lot of time was spent driving around or waiting. Fred, our guide was constantly on the cb-radio with other drivers, sharing their locations with each other whenever they spotted something good.
We finally moved on and spotted our first elephants. These creatures are massive, as you can see from the picture of the elephant above next to the jeep.
We came across quite a few herds of elephants. They were usually found near the watering holes. These mammoth creatures often migrate slowly unless startled. Once roused, they will go roaring and stomping off, knocking down anything in their path. For an animal that size, they can move around surprisingly fast. One came charging across the road near our car and it was a little scary.
We also saw ostrich, warthogs (which made me start singing Hakuna Matata), and a few storks up in the trees.
We ended our first night at the Sopa Lodge in Tarangire, located right inside the national park. Down by the pool, I saw family of monkeys leaping from tree to tree to get down to the pool area for a drink of water. There are no fences around the lodge, so animals often wander in at night, and we needed an escort to move around the premises in case we ran into a dangerous animal. Although I am not sure what the guards can do to an elephant with a flashlight.