5. Travel Escapade – An African Safari in Search of the Big Five

Chapter 5

Tarangire – Baobabs, Dik-Diks and More.

Tarangire is the sixth largest national park in Tanzania and it literally means “river of warthogs”. The origin of the name is from Tara meaning river and ngire meaning warthogs and it has the Tarangire river flowing through it. Tarangire is famous for its African elephant population and the Baobab trees. We were welcomed into Tarangire by plenty of beautiful birds on the trees nearby. Immediately our eyes fell on a handsome male ostrich with shiny black feathers with white trimmings at the edges strutting around with its long legs and pink body. The female was not far behind. The brown feathers of the female made it look like it was coming out of a dust bath. We were really excited seeing the ostriches and snapped plenty of pictures.

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Driving through Tarangire, we laid our eyes on a Baobab tree for the first time. It was a huge tree with a very wide trunk that was hollow in front resembling a cave and had few branches with leaves on top. These trees can store plenty of water that can help them survive the harsh summers. The humongous caves in the trunks of Baobab were once upon a time used by poachers to hide their kill from the park rangers.

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To have an unobstructed view of the landscape, I made full use of the lifted sunroof, even standing on my seat. My husband was still sitting down in his seat, refusing to budge yet constantly whining that he can’t see clearly through the windows. It took a bit of convincing from my side to get this lazy bones to stand up and enjoy the beauty around us and the cold wind on our faces. After experiencing this, he totally refused to sit down during the entire trip and kept  standing even when it was really chilly outside.

We saw plenty of impalas on either side of the road. Most of the herds had only one male and a number of females. James mentioned that the male impalas , sporting magnificent antlers, challenge each other for the females of a herd thus leaving only one victorious male per herd. There were also groups comprising of only male impalas, a bachelor gang of defeated impalas or the ones that ran away from confrontation.

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Our eyes fell on a water buck by the side of the road looking at our vehicle. Further away from the road we could see anther water buck grazing. The one nearer to us was a beautiful brown colored one with white beard staring intently at us. Once we got our camera ready, it retreated behind the bushes like a shy damsel.

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Noticing some commotion in the shrubs nearby, our eyes fell on two small antelopes coming out which I presumed were impala calves. It was so small, resembling a rabbit more in size but with all the impala features. James explained that they were the dik-diks, one of the smallest antelopes. Knowing that they belonged the antelope family was surprising as I had always associated antelopes with long graceful legs and majestic antlers. These mini-antelopes looked so cute with their small lithe body and doe eyes that it soon made into my list of favorite animals. Dik-diks are monogamous and pairs with the same female for even up to 17 years making James call it a “Christian marriage”.

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We saw a few giraffes that were far away. James explained to us how to distinguish between a male and female giraffe. The female giraffes have hair on their horns and the males have bald horns. Seeing a giraffe in wild was so much more stunning than seeing it in captivity! The beautiful velvety dark brown patches and their yellow skin looked so resplendent in the afternoon sun. Soon we could see zeals of zebra running all around us. Plenty of times, we had “zebra” crossing in our paths. Due to its love for mud bath they looked more brownish than their customary black and white color

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After driving for a while through muddy roads, we reached a part of the road that overlooked the dried river bed of the Tarangire River. There was a herd of elephants in the river bed searching for water by digging their trunks in the sand. And to our surprise they were able to find water in this dried river bed! An elephant herd composes of females and their calves only. Male elephants are wanderers and do not stay with any herd. Elephants needed plenty of food and spend 80 % of their day feeding. James mentioned that it was nearly impossible to tame an African elephant and was surprised knowing that in India, elephants are tamed and used for carrying out various work. While driving, James also showed us a tree called the sausage tree which had fruits in the shape of sausages. Though the fruits are not edible for humans, animals feed on it and the locals also make a brew out of the sausage fruits.

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Our radio started emitting static and we could hear bursts of Swahili flowing through it. James replied to the message using his hand held and informed us that some other tourists had spotted lions being chased around by an elephant nearby! James took us to the location as fast as he could. When we arrived all we could see were a lot of tourists standing up in their vehicles and straining through their binoculars. James spotted the lions through his binoculars and pointed us in the correct direction. It took us bespectacled folks a while to get the hang of the binoculars. Once we got it, we saw two lionesses lying down in the grass. Before long we could see another lioness lifting its head above the grasses. They seemed ill at ease hence we expected them to get up any moment . We waited in anticipation for a long time. But the lionesses outdid us in patience and we moved along. Immediately, at a short distance we could see an elephant standing and clearly understood the reason for the unrest of the queens of the jungle.

We were really excited to see warthogs when we came to know that Pumba in The Lion King movies is a warthog. One interesting aspect of warthogs was the manner in which they run. Their tails go vertically up like a flagpole with the tuft waving around at the ends when they are running. This was an indication for others running behind to follow in a single file.  We imagined a group of warthog’s running hither-thither with all of their tails up and the ensuing confusion regarding whom to follow! Hopefully that never happens.

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We spotted a herd of wildebeests grazing by the riverside alongside a zeal of zebras. Few of the wildebeests were climbing down the banks to drink water and the rest were galloping around. These are not the migratory wildebeests from Masai Mara but the resident species of Tarangire which are the blue wildebeests or the white-bearded wildebeests. The wildebeest and zebras usually graze together as zebras have sharp eyesight and wildebeests have an excellent sense of smell which helps in protecting each other from the predators.

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We crossed the river and climbed up its banks with the four wheel drive showing its true capabilities. We saw two safari vehicles had stopped further ahead and people were looking out. James drove in that direction and soon we saw a lion sleeping under the tree. The lion’s sleeping posture was hilarious. It was lying on its back with its hind legs lifted and resting on the trunk of the tree. It was deep in slumber and seemed unperturbed by all the vehicle noises around it. My husband was surprised seeing the lion not showing any response for all this commotion around. James explained to us that the lions are not scared of any animals except the elephants. They happily ignore all the other sounds when they are sleeping and only respond to what they think is danger (which for a lion is almost nil).

These kings of jungle can ideally eat around 7 to 10 kg of meat daily and sleep for around 20 hrs. In one kill, it can eat up to 35 kg of meat and then sleep for the rest of the week. What a week that is! The male lion in a pride leads a luxurious life with the females doing all the hunting. The lionesses are expert hunters and do the kill but will only feed after the lion has eaten – royal treatment indeed. The lions are generally at a disadvantage while hunting due to their mane which emits smell that can be picked up by their prey. The only function of the lion is to be the muscle of the pride. No wonder they are called the king of the jungle!

Continue reading here : Hakuna Matata

Pic courtesy:
https://www.travelblog.org/Photos/7153455
https://www.flickr.com/photos/99548464@N08/
http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/cuteness-level-of-tiny-dik-dik-antelopes-is-off-the-charts-photos
https://www.thinglink.com
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2 thoughts on “5. Travel Escapade – An African Safari in Search of the Big Five

  1. Pingback: Travel Escapade | Book Escapade

  2. Pingback: 4. Travel Escapade -An African Safari in Search of the Big Five | Book Escapade

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