Our five day safari in Tanzania was a scene straight out of a Discovery Channel special. SO many animals, of such a wide variety, and SO close to the truck! I thought I knew what to expect, but it was even better. The animals were so comfortable around us humans, they rarely shied away from us, or even paid any attention to us at all. I have a silly number of pictures of what we saw, and I’m going to break it down into several blog posts so I don’t overwhelm you!
Today, we’ll start with some of our favorites - both old favorites from before the trip and the animals that surprised us and made it onto our new favorites list.
As soon as we entered Tarangire National Park, most known for its huge herd of elephants (up to 3000 of the animals call the park home), the stars of the park were on display. We knew elephants were not going to be hard to find on our safari, due to both their size and prevalence, but it was still exciting to see them almost immediately upon entering the park, and right up close.
Elephants were with us in all three parks we visited, but they took on the most picturesque appearance in the Serengeti. Set against the endless plains of the park, their hulking figures stood as majestic triumphs of vegetarian success.
While the lone elephant is a stunning sight, the groups of elephants were more entertaining. Their social and animated personalities are on display when they are together. We even had a few trumpet at us! I enjoyed watching them walk in their classic lines, with the smaller individuals clustered in the middle for safety.
One of my all time favorite animals is the giraffe. Such a perfect example of evolution - the strangely proportioned long neck, ideally suited for its diet of tasty tree leaves and pretty much nothing else.
Much like the elephant, these animals are not hard to spot on the wide open plains!
Or so we thought… Turns out when the sit in the tall grasses of the Serengeti, they can almost disappear from view!
There are giraffes in only two of the three parks we visited. As Ngorongoro crater has very few trees for them to browse on, there are no giraffes there. But they were a constant sight on the horizon in the Serengeti, and we saw several groups in Tarangire as well. My favorite was this guy, posing here with a zebra scratching his back in the dirt. It looks like they are sharing a hilarious private joke!
The other animal I was really hoping to see while on safari was the secretary bird. We’ve seen this bird at the San Diego Wild Animal Park (an enclosed zoo) and I’ve always loved their oddly tall shape and the wild feathers on their head. They are not very common, so my expectations were low. But as we drove into the Serengeti, low and behold, there was a secretary bird! It was the only one we saw, and unfortunately its head feathers were tamely laid back along its neck and not on display, but I was happy anyway!
Throughout the safari, we got to know a few new species that we had limited exposure to in the past, and grew to love them. I was surprised at how much I came to love the warthog, present in all three parks.
The curled tusks remind me of an old-timey handlebar mustache! And when they run - so cute! They prance like a dainty little girl, with their tail straight up in the air. I had a hard time getting a motion shot in proper focus, but this gets the point across.
Another animal that gained our affection during the trip was the ostrich, also present in all three parks.
I used to think of the ostrich as having long legs, a big bulbous body, and a long neck. What I never had a proper appreciation for was the wings. Part of that large body are two feathery wings. Ostrich, in the wild, are constantly fluttering their wings this way and that, exposing their naked legs, reminding us of their true bird nature. The way groups of females would congregate and flutter around together…we couldn’t help but love them!
And then there was our constant friend - the ever present Thomson’s gazelle.
Solo gazelle or in large herds, these “Tommies” were with us all over the Serengeti and Ngorongoro. The bold black stripe along the side and small size of this gazelle make it easily identifiable. In large groups, there is one dominant male and many female along with some juvenile. We even witnessed two males battling over territory late one evening in the Serengeti.
One day, while eating lunch in the dining tent in the Halisi camp in the Serengeti, we looked up to see a Tommie only a few feet from the mesh window, looking in at us as we ate. These Tommies were always with us, even when we couldn’t see them very well hiding in the tall grasses. Often finding themselves as prey for big cats like cheetahs and leopard, these guys can run and jump, and are a little more skittish than some of the other animals in the park.
They are so graceful, it was fun to watch a herd bound through the grass, with muscular leaps and vaults.
And this is just the beginning! Stay tuned for posts on the predators, prey, birds, and landscapes of our Tanzanian safari!