|Our first two days of safari were spent in Tarangire National Park, approximately 2 1/2 hours south west of Arusha. At the entrance gate, we spotted a small herd of zebras near the vistor center. I was of course ecstatic (only to later be less so as they are everywhere). Beautiful birds such as the superb starling (amber gold chest with teal feathers) and the buffalo weaver hovered around the vistor center. They are quite common but for a novice like me, I was quite fasicnated by them.
Once we arrived at the campsite, complete with a flock of sweet lovebirds, several hornbills, semi-clean (semi-smelly) long drops and cold showers, we set up our tent under a tree. Abbas told us it was incase elephants came through the camp at night, the tree might deter them from stepping on us accidentally in the dark. Once we were set at camp, we headed out, binoculars in hand, for our first afternoon game drive.
The park is mainly a savannah therefore the wildlife is often a little closer in proximity as opposed to the Serengeti plains. Lots of animals...troops of baboons (some tried to climb on top of the truck), two female elephants with a baby crossing the road about 50 feet in front of the Land Rover, a pride of about 10 lions taking a siesta around an umbrella acacia tree, warthogs running through the brush(so ugly they're cute), dik diks (think pairs of mini-bambis), wildebeests (and more wildebeests), giraffes, vervet monkeys, a cheetah, a leopard, impalas, etc. Abbas was quick to spot game, especially many species of birds Adam and I would have otherwise missed.
It was wonderful to see the big cats but certainly not a lot of action going on...just sitting lazily in the shade or napping. I was hoping to catch some national geographic-type footage of a kill...well an almost kill...didn't really want to see some poor ole wildebeest taken down. No luck...just some snoozing, a yawn or two, a shift to a new position, and back to a cat nap.
Back at the camp, following a fabulous dinner of cucumber soup and stir fry beef and rice (not sure what KIND of beef mind you...didn't ask), we headed to bed. It's amazing the sounds you hear at night, not just your typical lull of crickets and frogs. Throw in a cackling hyenna literally right outside your tent, distant grunts and howls, a screehing genet (I think) in the tree above us, and various other unidentifiable rustling sounds outside your tent, and you've got some interesting background music to sleep to or in my case, lie awake to. Of course, when one needs to use the WC in the middle of the night, it's one quick sprint to and from the long drop! Lucikly Dina Atlas & Michael Schwartz had given Adam and I some fabulous ear plugs which I promptly put in intrigued by them. I think he secretly hoped that elephants or hippos would surround the tent so we'd have a close encounter of some sort. That night I dreamed four cobras had surrounded each side of our tent and were eerily hissing threats to us. Spooky.
The next day we spent on a game drive, leaving about 8am, coming back to the tent for lunch at around noon, and back out again at 3pm. More animals...more wildebeests...more zebras. As we were driving out of the park our last morning, we found a lost baby goat near the side of the road, stumbling over rocks and making the most woeful sounds, baaying with fright. His mother or other goats nowhere to be found, granted nor should they be found in the park. Abbas speculated that the goat was separated from his mother the night before from one of the surrounding villages. It was amazing that the vulnerable creature had made it through the evening without becoming someone's dinner. Abbas was able to catch the baby which we then brought to one of the local Masai villages on the outskirts of the park. We didn't find the owner however, Abbas gave the baby goat to one of the locals who offered to find the owner. Apparently theiving animals is strictly prohibited by the Masai, so Abbas was not concerned about the local keeping the baby for himself. With a full days worth of driving to go, we headed off to the Serengeti.