Kilimanjaro was shrouded in a thick fog as we said farewell to Amboseli (with the top down, as our mission today was traveling, not game driving). We had time to stop and look at a couple of hyenas taking a snooze after a long night of scavenging. We drove through the Ghost Camp (a.k.a.
We passed through the park gate, where brightly-dressed Maasai women called out, “Hi!” repeatedly and tried to thrust beaded necklaces and bracelets through our open windows. We proceeded through a series of ramshackle towns on our way to the Tanzanian border, stopping at a large curio shop to use the bathroom and fill out our Kenyan immigration forms. At the border we stopped to go through passport control on the Kenyan side (I was really tempted to take a picture of the sign that said, “Do not take photographs around here”), then drove about a hundred yards across the border and went through passport control again on the Tanzanian side. The souvenir vendors were pretty obnoxious, but they are forbidden from coming within a certain distance of the immigration buildings. We had to wait in line for quite some time inside the crowded, sweltering building. Then we said farewell to Tonnie (who we will see again in
As we drove out of Arusha, we passed numerous coffee plantations; they grow a local variety of coffee called Robusta. Renny told us a bit about
We passed through a beautiful lush landscape en route to Tarangire. Renny pointed out a long, straight, paved road disappearing into the hazy hills and explained that it had been build by the Japanese to provide a smooth tourism route between Tarangire and Ngorongoro. He jokingly called it “the best road in
Game viewing would prove to be difficult in Tarangire because the recent heavy rains had resulted in an explosion of thick, chest-high grass. Renny warned us that we wouldn’t be seeing many of the short-grass grazers like zebra, wildebeest, and gazelles and it would be harder to spot predators and snakes. Our first new sighting was a young male Dik-dik, one of the smallest of the gazelle species, looking decidely cartoonish as it stood wide-eyed and watchful in the middle of the road. We also saw our first impalas - several bachelor males hanging out with a warthog.
We watched several elephants browsing in the marshy grasses along the
My bird list grew rapidly as we continued into the park: Ring-necked dove, Speckled Mousebird, White-headed Buffalo Weaver, Magpie Shrike, Gray Hornbill, Woodland Kingfisher, Ashy Starling. The road was almost impassable in spots, which made jotting down bird names quite a difficult task!
Tarangire National Park covers 1,000 square miles and is home to a laundry list of Africa's most dangerous snakes - Black Adders, Green Mambas, Tree Pythons, Cobras, Black Mambas (which will "kill you in seven steps" and are the most dangerous because they move so fast), and the dreaded Boomslang, whose venom is the most deadly, but is fortunately quite shy.
We crossed several dry riverbeds, driving through deep sand, and finally had our sighting of the day – two pairs of black-backed jackals, which trotted right up to our trucks. They were gorgeous animals, their coats gleaming in the late afternoon sun. They looked at us curiously for several minutes before continuing on down the riverbed. We saw a tree laden with weaver-bird nests, a large harem of impala watched over by a regal-looking male, and two more warthogs (the official comedians of the African plains).
Finally, after nearly ten hours on the road, we arrived at Tarangire Sopa Lodge. The cavernous main building resembles an elephant’s head and the rooms are built to look like large Maasai huts. Our room was not nearly as nice as at Amboseli Serena lodge. For one thing we had two double beds instead of a single king, and the bathroom was aged and a bit on the grimy side. We did have a nice balcony overlooking the pool and surrounding woodlands – I figured a leopard was probably out there somewhere, watching us. We saw a funny small rodent-like animal crouching on the roof and later determined that it was a Rock Hyrax, which is the closest living relative of elephants. We had seen something jumping around in the trees at night at Amboseli (not a monkey) and Renny figured that it was probably a Tree Hyrax or a Bushbaby. The hyrax are quite cute – they look like a cross between a squirrel and a koala bear.
We had forty-five minutes to clean up before our safari briefing at 7:15. It had been a long, hot drive so I was very happy to take a refreshing shower. We met the group for drinks (courtesy of Micato) in a private room in the main building and after downing two large vodka tonics I felt much better. Renny gave an overview of the