tanzanian_tales: (Lion)
[personal profile] tanzanian_tales
Let’s just say I’m really glad I’m short and leave it at that, because I can’t imagine being tall and taking such a long flight in such a small seat. But as with all amazing journeys – and trust me, this trip was the very definition of amazing – all the rigors of travel were forgotten when we landed at last at Kilimanjaro International Airport in Arusha, Tanzania. Just the words sound magical, and that’s another very accurate way to describe this trip, as you’ll (eventually) see.

It didn’t take P and me long to make it through Customs and head out to find our bags, where we met the first of our fellow safari-goers, D. She recognized my picture from the blog I'm doing for the African Wildlife Foundation site, wich is a shorter and (very) photo-light version of this one. She introduced herself, and like everyone in the group, she was easy to talk to and a great traveling companion. But then, we were all there for love of Africa and animals, and because we support everything AWF does, which undoubtedly helped.

Baggage collected, we headed for the main hall of the airport (which was much smaller than I ever would have expected), and there were our fearless tour leader and his equally fearless “co-captain,” AWF’s S and A. S was making his 27th (or thereabouts) trip to Africa, while A had been to Africa before but was on her first safari, and they proved to be wonderful company and excellent caretakers. For example, I live on Diet Coke but was perfectly willing to drink the high-octane regular version on safari, but S not only made sure the nyumbas (tent camps) stocked lots (and lots and lots) of Coke, I’m pretty sure that it’s thanks to him that Coke Light started showing up at the bar.

Most of our group had come in on the same flight – one woman, P2, had come in a day early, and a couple, R and D, were delayed by a lost passport – so once everyone was in the bus we were off to Rivertrees, a relaxing lodge set – surprise! – right by a river. We had a quick welcome briefing – and a snack – and then we were guided to our cottages so we could collapse. We only spent two nights total in lodges, but I have to say, they were both wonderful, really spacious and comfortable, and the settings were gorgeous.

Rivertrees has cottages set around its ten acres. Here's ours:
 photo RivertreesCottageIMG_1944Resize_zpsd26dd672.jpg

Rivertrees also has resident monkeys, so of course I had to go out looking for them when I got up the next morning. The colobus refused to appear for me and the vervets were nowhere to be seen (though we saw plenty of them later), but I did see the blue monkeys (who are not really blue, sadly) and got a couple of really, really bad photos. Here's one of them:
 photo BlueMonkeyIMG_2007Resize_zpsab3f70df.jpg

I took some other pictures as I wandered around. This first one shows why Rivertrees is called Rivertrees.
 photo RivertreesIMG_1966Resize_zps1c715567.jpg

Here's an unknown flower:
 photo RivertreesFlowerIMG_1950Resize_zpsad7211a8.jpg

And an unknown bird:
 photo RivertreesBirdIMG_1972Resize_zps1ed575e6.jpg

After breakfast we climbed into the Rovers we would come to know well over the next ten days, made a quick stop at the Cultural Center in Arusha to scope out the things we might want to come back for on the last day, and then headed for Tarangire, our first park. "Moving house" takes on a whole new meaning in this shot:
 photo Day1IMG_2012Resize_zps30767a7d.jpg

On the way we drove through several towns, one of which was having its market day. Notice the hanging goat carcass.
 photo Day1IMG_2014Resize_zps1da3038e.jpg

We got to the main gate by lunch and set up with our boxed lunches (courtesy of Rivertrees) at a concrete picnic table and prepared for two things: a conversation with Dr. Bernard Kissui, who’s in charge of AWF’s Tarangire Lion Project and two of his assistants, and an onslaught by very mischievous, very clever and very speedy vervet monkeys. One snatched half of A’s sandwich right out of her hand as she stood listening, and another actually jumped up on the table to steal a granola bar from L, another safari-goer. Here, have a couple of vervet monkeys.
 photo VervetTarangireGateIMG_2026Resize_zpsa631e938.jpg

 photo VervetTarangire2IMG_2020Resize_zps3bcc22f7.jpg

But as much fun as the monkeys were, Dr. Kissui was the real highlight. He and his staff keep track of the lion population in the park – which includes the use of both GPS and radio collars – monitoring not only the numbers and ranges of the lions but also working to minimize lion-human conflicts, since the lions frequently migrate outside the park to look for prey, and when that prey is domestic animals instead of wild ones, the lions’ survival is put at risk. One solution? Predator-proof chain link bomas to keep the local human population and their herds safe. Because the weather had been dry (which was also delaying the wildebeest calving season), he said the lions had been moving out of the park lately, so we shouldn’t count on seeing any in Tarangire. And then, lunch finished, it was time to get back in the Rovers and head into the park, looking for wildlife as we headed for the nyumba where we would be spending the next several nights.

This is as good a time as any to mention what S dubbed the “T_T luck.” (He used my real name, of course.) I think the phrase first came up on our last night in Tarangire, when he invoked it in hopes of seeing rhino when we got to the Ngorongoro Crater. But it began with me winning such a incredible prize and started showing itself right away once we entered the park. I won’t pretend to remember every animal or even species we saw every day, especially when it comes to birds, but here’s at least a partial look at our first afternoon of wildlife viewing.

P made the first sighting, a pair of bat-eared foxes, which tend to be nocturnal, so that was actually a really cool animal to see right off the, er, bat. (I know, I know, different kind of bat, but I couldn’t resist.)
 photo BatEaredFoxCropTightResizeIMG_2037_zps39100117.jpg

After that, it was an embarrassment of riches (although, to be honest, I could say that about every day), with, among others, Masai giraffes, impala, Grant's gazelle, dwarf mongoose (one of the three species of mongoose we saw in the course of the trip), olive baboons, a lone elephant (our first, and you know what they say: a girl’s first time is always special *g*) and then an entire herd by the river, and warthogs. Herewith, photographic proof.

A note: Some of my photos came out decently and others...well, you know what you're seeing but the light sucks or the contrast could be better or whatever. That's just the result of shooting out in the wild and being happy to see the animals at all, even if they were standing far away or in the shadows or with their backs to the sun. Not to mention that I pushed my poor telephoto way further than I had any right to. So enjoy these and all my photos for what they are, which isn't anything you're going to see in National Geographic. Also, I won't swear that I'll get everything on the right day, but I should at least be able to assign things to the right park.

 photo GiraffeTarangireDay1IMG_5357_zps84960e14.jpg

Check out the blue tongue.
 photo GiraffeTarangireDay1IMG_5350_zps16a23b6c.jpg

 photo GiraffeTarangireDay1IMG_5365_zps886365c8.jpg

 photo ImpalaTarangireDay1IMG_5134Resize_zps40b3a0cd.jpg

See the McDonald's M on their butts? That's how you know they're impala.
 photo ImpalaTarangireDay1IMG_5334_zpsdb4553ce.jpg

 photo ImpalaTarangireDay1IMG_2469Resize_zps799aaadb.jpg

Dwarf Mongoose:
 photo DwarfMongooseTarangireDay1IMG_5389_zps5352af1a.jpg

There are two in this shot.
 photo DwarfMongooseTarangireDay1IMG_5381_zpsa1f57607.jpg

Peekaboo #2:
 photo DwarfMongooseTarangireDay1IMG_5387_zpsbed2c0a4.jpg

 photo BaboonTarangireDay1IMG_5184Resize_zpsa7c6c0e8.jpg

 photo BaboonTarangireDay1IMG_5170Resize_zps39a90bec.jpg

This is a small herd, but it gives you a sense of what we got to see.
 photo ElephantsTarangireDay1IMG_5231_zpsc091bea3.jpg

This little guy kept flapping his ears back and forth.
 photo ElephantsTarangireDay1IMG_5248_zps22ecd6d4.jpg

 photo ElephantsTarangireDay1IMG_5235_zps5ad3cfc8.jpg

One of the amazing things about this trip wasn’t just that we saw so many species and so many individuals, but that we saw all kinds of fascinating behaviors. One of the warthogs we saw was backing into his burrow. And the reason he backed in was so if a predator came in after him, he would be facing forward and could use his formidable tusks to fight back. One other fun fact about warthogs: When they run they hold their skinny tails straight up in the air as a signal to other members of the group, and it looks so funny that it does a lot to counter the scary look of the tusks at the other end.

Backing in:
 photo WarthogTarangireDay11IMG_5149Resize_zpsd7ff3ddb.jpg

Almost all the way in:
 photo WarthogTarangireDay12IMG_5154Resize_zps5a7e3a43.jpg

 photo WarthogRunningTarangireDay1IMG_5191Resize_zps754312a3.jpg

And now I'm going to break this post into two parts, because it's already ridiculously long.

Date: 2013-03-23 04:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bubblebobble.livejournal.com
1)I never thought I'd say this but that warthog is adorable
2)I would totally want to do a safari if there were no monkeys involved. They are too damn smart lol

Date: 2013-03-23 04:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] silsbee329.livejournal.com
Beautiful giraffe! :)

Date: 2013-03-23 05:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hamsterwoman.livejournal.com
So cool! The giraffe and impalas are beautiful (didn't know that about the M on their butts, heh) and the elephants are majestic, and the dwarf mongoose looks different than I imagined but still quite cute. And the warthog is hilarious! XD

Date: 2013-03-23 01:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jenlev.livejournal.com
These are magnificent! And the first dwarf mongoose...just perfect. Love the rivertree shot too. :)

Date: 2013-03-23 01:12 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-03-23 02:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] resonant.livejournal.com
So pretty!

Date: 2013-03-23 03:45 pm (UTC)
nverland: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nverland
Loving reading, and the photos are wonderful. The elephants, of course, caused squee's

Date: 2013-03-23 07:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] curiouswombat.livejournal.com
Oh wow! I can't even begin to choose a favourite! (Or perhaps the mongoose... of the fox... or...)

Date: 2013-03-24 04:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] frivol.livejournal.com
Thank you for posting this- the photos are wonderful! And what a fantastic experience.

Date: 2013-03-25 02:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] re-vised.livejournal.com
Uh, so amazing! I love the mongoose!

Date: 2013-04-02 10:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deeplyunhip.livejournal.com
Looks amazing! Love the action shots of the warthog and the adorable elephants and giraffes!
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