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 A Wild Race to Lake Manyara’s Park Gate

This was our first truly close-up look at an elephant. There would be many more before the trip ended. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“…nature has ceased to be what it always had been, what people needed protection from. Now nature tamed, endangered, mortal, needs to be protected from people.” – Susan Sontag

African Safari: The Ugly Poaching Business

There is no nighttime wildlife viewing in Tanzania’s national parks. That’s when the poachers come out, Bilal told us.

It used to be, he said, that the poachers made war on the park rangers, but now the park rangers are shooting back. And Tanzania doesn’t want tourists caught in the crossfire.

This is a Masai giraffe, the largest of the several subspecies of giraffe found in Africa. It is a bit darker than the other subspecies, has jagged spots and tuft of hair on its tail. -- Photo by Pat Bean

But despite the government’s crackdown, according to several recent news articles that I’ve read, poaching is still a major problem in Tanzania, as well as some other African countries, and in some areas is even increasing.

What Tanzania’s official crackdown on the illegal activity meant to us in 2007 was that the park closed its gates at 6:30 p.m. – and there was a big fine for not checking out of it by that time.

Perhaps because of some great last-minute sightings of an elephant dusting herself off and a mother giraffe with a young one that were too terrific to pass up, Bilal may have lost track of time. That was one of the great things about our guide. He always seemed as excited at watching wildlife as we were – well unless it was small, nondescript birds.

Anyway, all of a sudden Kim and I found ourselves being

Yellow-billed oxpeckers. We would see these on the backs of giraffes and water buffalo. -- Wikipedia photo

bounced around in the back of the Land Rover, holding on tightly but with grins on our faces, as a worried Bilal put the pedal to the metal in a race to get back to the entrance before the deadline. It was a deliciously wild ride that added a touch of adventure to our already full day.

We made it with two minutes to spare, and we could audibly hear Bilal exhale a sigh of release, and see the smile return to his face.

He slowed down for the drive back to our Lake Manyara Serena Lodge, and stopped to let us photograph our first spectacular African sunset.

Blacksmith plover: We would see many of these during our drives across Kenya and Tanzania's grasslands. -- Wikipedia photo

I’ve heard artists and photographers talk about Africa’s great light, and now I was getting to see it for myself.

What a great day.

Bird Log of New Lifers: Little egret, white stork, sulphur-breasted bush shrike, common bulbul, tawny eagle, white-rumped swift, emerald-spotted wood dove, blacksmith plover, grey-headed kingfisher, Egyptian goose,

African spoonbill -- Wikipedia photo

black-headed gull, grey-headed gull, great cormorant, lesser flamingo, great white pelican, yellow-billed egret, yellow-billed stork, black-winged stilt, African spoonbill, pied avocent, two-banded courser, southern ground hornbill, yellow-billed oxpecker, fish eagle, long-tailed fiscal, silvery-cheeked hornbill, crowned plover, marsh sandpiper, Hilderbrant’s francolin, helmeted guinea fowl, dark-capped yellow warbler, great reed warbler, cliff chat , August 22 afternoon drive in Lake Manyara State Park.

Next: Drive to Serengeti National Park

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