Entries in Tarangire (5)
Well, today was our last full day on safari. When I say that I am tired I really mean it. I know that all of my guides do this day in and day out, and my hat is off to all of them for their hard work on my safaris. Their dedication does not go unnoticed. I feel extremely fulfilled, knowing that my past 2 safaris had great wildlife sightings with great photographic opportunities.
Today was our last full day out on safari, and we took advantage of what Tarangire is known for: elephants. The morning was overcast and cooler, and I couldn't have asked for better conditions. Cloudy days is good, because of the soft light. It is difficult to include the sky in a scene, however that is ok because you can get good shots all day.
We lost the clouds late in the morning, however we did have good elephant viewing along the Tarangire River. Very similar viewing as yesterday, in that we had much paying and sparring between the younger males. We sat and watched two lionesses stalk impala, but the hunt was over before it began. The impala were downwind of the hunting females, and they knew what was up before the lionesses could get close.
I will be going home tomorrow, and I will surely sleep on the plane without any effort. I miss Leslie, Christian and Will, and look forward to spending some time with them in a few days. I also look forward to my coming back to Africa in July! I will be in Botswana and South Africa in July, and then Tanzania next February. It isn't as much time in Africa in years past, however I am slowing down my safaris to concentrate on Gura Gear and family. Chris Gamel is also running a Tanzania safari in June, John Paul Caponigro is running a Namibia landscape workshop in September and Randy Hanna is running a Tanzania safari in February. Plenty safaris to choose from! The combination of all four of us adds up to a great selection of safaris in Africa.
It was difficult to leave our Ngorongoro camp today, as I truly believe that it is the most beautiful place to camp in all of Africa. The Thomson Safaris seasonal camp location is second to none, the accommodations very comfortable and the staff is always accommodating and fun to work with. All of the Thomson camps make my work life so much easier, and I can call all of the staff friends.
We drove around the crater's edge in the early morning light, and took some time at the overlook for some quick photos. It amazes me that God created such a beautiful place with such abundant wildlife, and it doesn't go unnoticed.
We left the Ngorongoro Conservation area and fueled up our Land Rovers in Karatu, in the heary of the Mbulu district. Karatu is primarily inhabited by the Iraqw people, who are of cushitic origin and have a language that is more similar to Maa than any bantu based language. It was nice to have tarmac roads for a few hours!
We drove down from the Ngorongoro highlands, past Mto Wa Mbu, Manyara Ranch, Makuyuni and into the the northen part of Tarangire National Park.
We entered Tarangire just after lunch, and immediately ran into large herds of elephants. We spent a few hours meandering around Tarangire River, and settled across the river from a family group that was playing in the water. The young males were sparring, and the resulting action made for good shots. I loved the spashing of water, which added an additional piece of eye candy to the scene.
We started running out of luck in the late part of the afternoon, and then all of a sudden Robert spotted a large male leopard in a sausage tree near the Sopa road. He didn't stick around for long, and he jumped down into the tall grass. Afterwards we headed for camp, as we were already commited to driving towards the camp, and the only other way to prolong the excellent elephant herd viewing was to head back towards the north.
It was a very hot day, and it was a relief to have the sun set behind the Ngorongoro highlands. It hasn't rained in a few weeks, yet there is ample amounts of tsetse flies in the area. Fun!
I added up the leopard and cheetah count in the past 7 days, and we have seen 5 leopards and a whopping 13 cheetahs!! Amazing luck. Almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the cheeath count.
We left Tarangire National Park this morning, and drove across the Maasai Steppe and up to our camp on the Ngorongoro Crater rim. The weather was windy, chilly and slightly overcast. We ate a nice lunch at camp and then headed down into the crater for the afternoon.
Afternoons in Ngorongoro are typically much less active than the mornings, however today had some nice action in store for us. We saw a lioness stalk and run after a young wildebeest, which was quite the sight. Then we watched a large female hyaena pull a zebra carcass out from the water. And the end of the afternoon can only be described as the largest concentration of large bull elephants I have ever seen. I typically see between 10 and 20 bulls in the crater, but today there must have been 50 bulls within sight of each other. And most of these guys had *huge* tusks. My 2006 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year winning image was of a bull with acacia thorns in his mouth, and on that safari I didn't see many elephants in the crater. Today was insane.
We just finished a nice meal, and we will be up at 5am tomorrow. A full day in the crater is in store, and I hope that we run into the large lion pride that works the Munge River, as they are over 20 strong.
Time to close the tent flaps, as it is getting chilly right now. I hear our Maasai guide outside tending the fire, so he should be warm and comfy tonight.
Today we woke up and left Arusha for the green grasses and flowing waters of Tarangire National Park. The park is a natural watering hole because of the winding Taangire River, which at the moment is flowing at a breakneck pace. Recent rains has caused the park to have plenty of water, and the grass here is quite tall. Wildlife sightings were quite good today, beginning with a lioness on a giraffe kill on the high plains that overlook the valley.
Tarangire is typically all about the elephants, and today did not disappoint. We ran into no less than 15 family units on our afternnon game drive, and all seemed to be moving down towards the flowing river in the afternoon heat. We even saw the very rare oryx, which is not a natural fit for this environment.
There were rain clouds surrounding us all afternnon, and signs of recent rains were abundant. Did we even have a dry season this year, or did the long rains arrive early? I think it will be interesting to drive by Lake Manyara in 2 days, as it was bone dry when I flew over the lake in October.
My guests are absolutely fantastic, and all really love our luxury camping accommodations. We were greeted by fresh juice, cold hand towels and big smiles by the Thomson Safaris camp staff. After a hot shower, I watched the sun set behind the Ngorongoro highlands to the west. Cold beer. Check. Camp fire. Check. It is great to be back in a country that I love so much.
Tomorrow will be a full day, for sure. Up a 5:30 and out of camp by 6:15. I hear a lion roaring to the north of Lake Burunge, so I know which direction I want to head in the morning.