Tarangire National Park
We headed out from our hotel, the Lake Duluti Serena Hotel (www.Serenahotels.com), and drove through the outskirts of Arusha. I was fascinated by the scenes of small shops with their goods displayed in front, scooters scooting everywhere, small vans loaded with people inside that were buses with carriers on top for goods. Groups of students walked, many of the girls with hijab, and the boys in suits or shirts with ties. Speed bumps seemed to be every quarter kilometer. There was no speeding. You just had to get into the rhythm of life that is Africa.
We did pull off at one point. Another Topguides Safari truck pulled in beside us. Off came the glass windows and the plastic ones were rolled down. The glass side windows went away.
As we waited for the changing of the windows, a man and two boys came up to us. The boys were all in black and had interesting white designs on their faces. (see the picture below.) For $5.00 USD we could take their picture, which many of us did. These young Maasai had been or were about to be circumcised as part of their initiation to adulthood. Apparently it is a long process. The young fellow in the picture sort of looked unsure of what was going on. Notice the man in the background in western clothes. He seemed to be managing them and actually stopped us from offering any more money.
(Note: Female circumcision is illegal in Tanzania.)
More info can be found at www.maasai-association.org
And we were off once again.
We drove by villages, brown fields with yellowed grass, and Maasai children herding cattle and donkeys along the side of the road. It looked a bit desolate but it was November and the rains wouldn't start until the end of the month.
A stop off at the entrance to Tarangire NP gave us time for a 'comfort' break and a look around the visitor center. Off to the side, Maasai women sat on blankets showing off their bead work. It was too soon in our travels to buy trinkets, and also later on we would go to a Maasai village.
Now we are in Tarangire National Park. This is the land of the elephants. The Tarangire River provides fresh water to the ecosystem. As this was near the end of the dry season there were a lot of elephants, wildebeest, cape buffalo and zebras enjoying the river and swamp areas. Tarangire is also a lion protected area.
The land is has a lot of iron oxide in it so you will see elephants that are reddish and sometimes the zebras are the same. So you add a grey elephant and it sprays itself with red dust, add a little water and to my mind you get a pink elephant, not a hallucination.
Now the adventure begins. We saw elephants, giraffes, zebras, cape buffalo, dik dik (tiny antelope--very cute). I was thrilled. So much so that you will have to look at the pictures and the video. I can't describe how much it touches you that finally you see the animals up close and just living their lives. OMG. And the trees--baobab's were just starting to bloom, sausage trees. Birds, from the very beautiful lilac-breasted roller to eagle hawks to the charmingly named superb starling.
Our camp in the Tarangire was with the Lemala Group in their Mpingo Ridge Camp (http://www.lemalacamp.com/mpingo-ridge-tented-lodge). We were greeted with a refreshing fruit drink and a cool eucalyptus infused cloth to wipe the dust off our hands and face. Our tents (haha I've camped and these were nothing like that) were assigned and, like the main area of Mpingo Ridge Camp, all are on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Tarangire. We were told we were not allowed to walk in the dark by ourselves, we always had to be accompanied by one of the Maasai men. This was not just to scare us and make it more 'Africa'. Some of the group heard the crunching of bones near them in the middle of the night. At another camp some woke up to a half-eaten zebra outside their tent. We are intruding on the animals' land.
Our tents were remarkable. Made of canvas, but able to last 20 years or more, they were extremely roomy. All windows had screens, and the 'front wall' was glass with screens. They included a sitting room with sofa and comfy chairs, an over-sized king bed with mosquito net, indoor and outdoor showers and bathtubs. One tub was on the patio deck so you could look out over the plains. The deck had a two person table and chair and a sunken lounge area. There was a box beside the door so you could order in food if you didn't want to see anyone. And it was all very private. You couldn't see into another tent from the patio. At night the sheets were turned down for you. Returning from the morning game drive the room was made up.
The food. Oh my. Gourmet all the way and, of course, all drinks were included. The best gin & tonic. I spoke with the head chef of Lemala Group at the Nunyukie Camp at the end of our trip. He personally made all the menus (he dreams menus), hundreds of them. He was able to accommodate special diets and food preferences for different groups. So while we had western Europe/American food he was able to adapt to say Indian or Chinese or Russian groups. (see Lemala Nanyukie Camp for pictures of food).
There was also a swimming pool and you could arrange for a massage. It was all very wonderful.
Check out the video of elephants and the panoramas of Mpingo Camp.