Posts Tagged ‘Tarangire National Park’

 “Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind – listen to the birds. And don’t hate nobody.” – Eubie Blake

Verreaux eagle owl -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: “Stop, Stop!”

As we drove out of Arusha, leaving Bilal and Tanzania behind for Kenya, I touted up my number of new life birds. Adding the ones I had seen in Tarangire National Park yesterday afternoon and this morning’s wildlife drive, the total was 135.

Some like the more exotic hoopoe, grey-crowned herons and noisy go-away-birds had been easy to identify, and Bilal had stopped the Land Rover for closer looks automatically. But most of the time, and especially for the smaller, less flamboyant birds along the way, it was me who was always hollering “Stop, stop!”

Lilac-breasted roller -- Photo by Pat Bean

I could see I was annoying Bilal, and Kim said stopping the big Land Rover with all its gears took time. I tried, honestly I did, to curb my actions, but my enthusiasm for a potentially new lifer simply couldn’t be contained.

I truly did get as big a high from spotting a lilac-breasted roller or even a plain black sooty chat as I did from seeing an elephant or a lion, which I’m sure only another addicted birder will understand. And while Bilal never missed stopping for any big cat in our vicinity, he often seemed blind when it came to many of the birds.

White-bellied go-away-bird. They're quite noisy and everybody usually ends up telling them to go away. -- Wikipedia photo

So it was with great delight that on one of our wildlife drives it was Kim hollering to Bilal to stop – and if anything she did it more commandingly and every bit as loud as my frequent calls for halts.

Almost jumping up and down, she ordered Bilal to back up to a spot beneath a tree we had just passed. The bird she had seen, and which I had totally missed, was a magnificent Verreaux eagle owl.

Silvery-cheeked hornbill -- Wikipedia photo

Unlike most of my calls for halts, Bilal didn’t roll his eyes this time. He was as impressed as we both were.

Like so many of the owls I’ve seen sleeping high in American trees, it stayed put and simply blinked its sleepy eyes at us a few times. Slightly bigger than a great-horned owl, this African species had a ruffled white feather collar and pink eyelids.

Since it was the only one we would see during our Safari, I owed Kim big time.

Bird Log of New Lifers: White-bellied go-away-bird, ashy starling, lesser grey shrike, green-winged pytilia, hammerkop, cardinal quelea, yellow-bellied greenbul,. Tarangire National Park, August 27.

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 “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” J. Lubbock

Kim and I on the deck of our tree-house suite drinking cognac and watching the sun go down. -- Photo taken with a timer by Kim Perrin

African Safari

I’ve always dreamed of living in a tree house, and have drooled over the Swiss Family Robinson’s home up among the branches many times. . Tonight a tiny taste of that dream would come true.

After a grand afternoon of game watching in Tarangire National Park, including our scary face off with a concerned mama elephant, followed by a long ride over one of the roughest roads you can imagine, we arrived at the Tarangire Treetops Lodge about 30 kilometers away. .

One of the tree-house suites for guests at the Tarangire Treetops Lodge.

A guide escorted us to our accommodations, which we accessed by a ladder up through a trap door. He said he would be back later to escort us down to dinner.

We immediately saw that our tree house home for the night was a lot bigger and grander than the ones dads build for their children in the backyard.

Our large room was airy with a long deck on one side that overlooked a wildlife viewing area. The room came complete with a shower, fluffy white robes and a set up of cognac and glasses on a small table before two deck chairs. .

Tarangire sunset -- Photo by Kim Perrin

We took advantage of all three, in that order, the latter as we watched yet another of Africa’s colorful sunsets before being escorted back to the main lodge for dinner.

This would be our last night with Bilal, and he reluctantly joined us for one pre-dinner Coke before hurrying off. We had tried to get him to have dinner with us several times, but it seems there were rules about guides and clients associating except during our wildlife drives together.

Meanwhile, so entranced had we been with our accommodations, and perhaps the cognac, that we had dressed for dinner, forgetting that we had planned to go on a night wildlife drive.

So we raced back to change into something more appropriate for the adventure, arriving back at the lodge just as dinner was being served on an outdoor patio. As it turned out we weren’t the only ones who had forgotten the night ride was supposed to begin immediately after dinner.

I wondered if the other forgetful couple had also taken advantage of the cognac hospitality. The wait for them to change, however, was pleasantly filled by conversation with our fellow tourists who would all squeeze into an open Land Rover with us for the night’s drive.

One of the guys was an avid birder like myself. What a relief it was, for both of us, to finally have someone who appreciated the finer points of whether a bird’s supercilium was white or brown and whether it had two or three wing bars.

But finally everyone was gathered, and dressed in warm Maasai robes provided by the lodge to ward of the night chill, and we were off for our first African night safari.

Tune in tomorrow for the “rest of the story,’ as columnist Paul Harvey was always so fond of saying.

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Baobab: A Tree Worthy of Its Legends

With a top that looks like roots and a trunk that can serve as a house, the baobab trees in Tarangire National Park were worthy of our admiration. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

“The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber. The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “The Wisdom of the Sands.”

African Safari:

So often when you travel, you look around and see places and things that remind you of home. In Japan it was the same species of pigeons that commonly hang around public buildings in America. In Ecuador it was a river walk that took me to San Antonio.

But that never seemed to be the case in East Africa. From the chaotic streets of Nairobi to the tall termite mounds in the Serengeti, the landscape always seemed to hold strange, new and wonderful sights – and never anything that spoke of my native country.

It was a different world entirely, or so it seemed.

Among the more exotic African sights for Kim and I were the abundant baobab trees in Tarangire National Park.

Some call these the upside down trees because they look, especially during their long leafless period, like their roots are sticking up in the air. One African myth is that God was so displeased with the taste of its fruit that he turned the tree upside down.

Another legend has it that the baobab complained that it wanted to be taller, like the palm tree, and wanted flowers like the Flame tree, and then that it wanted tastier fruit like the fig tree. The constant whining soon upset the gods, and so they replanted it upside down to shut it up.

I don’t blame them. I don’t much like to listen to whiners myself.

An elephant approaches a huge old baobab tree during its brief time of leaves. -- Wikipedia photo

An elephant approaches a huge old baobab tree during its brief time of leaves. -- Wikipedia photo

In actuality, the baobab tree, which can grow to over 80 feet tall and live for thousands of years, grows and looks like it does to fit its often arid environment. It sheds its leaves quickly after they sprout to conserve water, and its huge trunk is its own water storage reservoir to help it survive the dry times.

These trees, at least to me, had a strange beauty about them, especially as we saw many different kinds of wildlife gathered beneath them for the shade they provided. And later I learned that both wildlife and humans sometimes make their homes in the tree’s hollow trunks.

What an amazing tree.

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It was peaceful watching this mom and young charges splashing in the water until ... -- Photo by Pat Bean

 ” We live in a world full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. ” – Irving Wallace

"Hey guy's! There's a hammerkop over there with the zebra." -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Holding Our Breaths

Our afternoon game drive with Bilal took place in Tarangire National Park, which is known for its elephants. The park , except during its rainy season, is mostly hot and dry. We missed the rainy season, and our August visit during Africa’s winter was made before the heat and dryness claimed the land.

The elephants, as almost all of the park’s wildlife did, made their way daily to the park’s only water source, the Tarangire River for which the park is named. Bilal knew exactly where to go and where to park for spectacular views of wildlife visiting the river.

One of the places was in the shade of a tree right next to a bank. On the far side of the river, we watched zebra and waterbuck peacefully drinking together. While we were watching a couple of giraffe joined them. It was fun to watch how they splayed their legs apart so as to be able to get low enough to drink.

Kim got this photo of a really big elephant that didn't scare us a bit. Perhaps because it was shot with her zoom lens. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

As I watched in awe, my eye was drawn to a bird at the feet of the zebras. It was a hammerkop, a strange looking bird with an elongated head. It was yet another lifer, which I excitedly pointed out to Kim and Bilal, both of whom failed to see birds when larger, more exotic, wildlife was in view.

On our side of the river were three elephants, a mom and two young ones. They were splashing in the water near were Bilal had parked the Land Rover. They looked like they were having so much fun that even I forgot to look at birds for awhile.

As we watched, the three began to climb out of the river beside our vehicle. As the young ones made their way up the bank, the mom got in front of our vehicle and engaged us in a stare off. She was close enough that she could have easily touched the hood of the vehicle with her trunk.

We could hear her snuffling as she glared intently into each of our eyes.

We can't say we weren't warned. -- Photo by kim Perrin

Kim and I, who were both standing up in the vehicle, stopped breathing we were so still. Bilal had his hand on the keys in the ignition but he didn’t move a muscle either. While this wasn’t the largest elephant we had seen, we all knew how fierce the protective mom could turn in an instant if she thought we were a danger to the young ones she had in tow.

After what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only about two or three minutes she turned and led her charges off. All three of us took a big breath.

Bilal said he had been afraid if he started the vehicle to get us away, it would have caused her to charge.

Kim and I had wanted to have an adventure when we came to Africa, and this day certainly provided one. But we were both irked that neither of us had taken a photo of the face off. I would remember that later during another close-up wildlife encounter

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 “It’s pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness. Poverty and wealth have both failed.” – Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard 

Baboons were a frequent sight on the outskirts of towns. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: Ngorongoro to Tarangire

 Our morning drive with Bilal took us on a paved road for a change. It seemed, what with no apparent traffic rules, more dangerous than driving among the lions and other wild beasts. Our destination was Tarangire National Park.

 On the way we passed an overloaded bus – I never saw one that wasn’t – with a rhino painted on its rear and the message: “More money, more problems.” It started another one of those enlightening conversations with Bilal. I mentioned that while so many of the Africans we had seen had so very little, they seemed happy.

 “Why do you say that,” he asked.

 “Because they seem so cheerful and always have big smiles on their faces,” I replied.

 “Just because they smile a lot doesn’t mean happiness,” he said. His words gave me a lot to think about, and has changed the way I look at people.

I think of bananas as coming from South America, but Tanzania, Kim and I learned, has its share, too. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

 A bit later, in one of the small towns we passed through, Bilal stopped and bought some bananas from a roadside business run by women. “I like to support the women,” he said, “because they are often mistreated by men.”

 The bananas were good, and Bilal’s words had yet again endeared him to Kim and I.

 Then our attention was drawn to a couple of baboons making it in the middle of the road. We all laughed.

As I’ve aged, I’ve begun to think of laughter as a great indicator of happiness, especially the ability to laugh at oneself. But even today, four years after my conversation with Bilal, his words about smiles and happiness not meaning the same thing still lingers with me.

A yellow-collared lovebird photographed in Tanzania. -- Wikipedia photo

We stopped for lunch at a small tented lodge, where I had time to do a bit of birdwatching. The morning turned up four new life birds, including a yellow-collared lovebird that kept us company while we ate in a rustic dining room open to the outdoors.

 Bilal then picked us up for an afternoon game drive in Tarangire National Park, where we would have our most frightening encounter with wildlife of our entire safari. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you all about it next.

Bird Log of New Lifers: White-naped raven, pygmy falcon, white-bellied canary, blue=spotted wood dove, yellow=collared lovebird, Aug. 27, 2007, drive from the Ngorongoro Crater to Tarangire National Park.

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