Yes, it’s dry, and that’s when Tarangire really performs. And boy, how it did on this safari!
We flew into the Kuro airstrip after several event less flights from Samburu, arriving in mid-afternoon with my Tanzanian crew waiting patiently. When we were flying in, I noticed a huge number of elephant at the Silale swamp, so about half of us went straight there.
No disappointment doing so. We saw about 250 elephant, and on the way back to Sopa Lodge there were a few charges, a couple hundred buffalo, untold numbers of impala, and in the fading light of the day, a mother lion with two cubs!
Tarangire is becoming a better and better park. Once thought to be extremely seasonal, good only when the dry season attracted the large number of elephant, it’s really matured into an all-year park.
Despite the guidebook remarks that it remains seasonal, I’ve seen hundreds of elephant here in the middle of the rainy season. But yes, in the dry season it’s unbelievable! We saw perhaps a total of a thousand elephant during our two days, here.
Ellery, Zancy and their mother, Joannie, and I were with my driver, Winston, for the next morning when we explored the northern half of the park. I can’t say a lot for the quality of Sopa Tarangire, but its location is the best of any lodge or tented camp in the park. It allows us to explore both the southern (Silalae) and northern halves in two days. It really isn’t possible to do so at any other lodge or tented camp.
We left at 630a with a box breakfast and headed along the eastern river road. Later, when the group visited the famous elephant researcher, Charles Foley, at his camp in the north, we’d learn that there is really a division between the elephants in the north and south, and that they rarely intermingle.
We had seen quite a few elephant before turning down the Lemiyon circuit onto the black cotton soil plains in the northeast sector. There we encountered large numbers of zebra and wildebeest, and then, 19 lion! Tarangire has only recently begun to support such large prides.
We then headed down a gully road and I saw a massive bull elephant coming down the road towards us at the top of the hill. We stopped under a tree, fully shaded. The wind was with us, off the ele. Ellery, Zancy and Joannie were terrific. There wasn’t a peep or a movement.
The ele came lumbering towards us unaware of our presence and stopped only about ten feet away. After a moment’s hesitation he drew nearer.
Zancy was standing up through the open top of the Landcruiser opposite the driver, Winston, and I was right behind him. The ele came up to the rover and put his trunk on the hood. I could no longer see the sky. All I could see was elephant.
Zancy didn’t move or utter a sound, but his eyes popped out of his head and his jaw dropped to his already very low Bermuda shorts. None of us moved. The ele scraped around the right side of the car and snorted. Ellery’s massive curls got a moment’s unexpected spa-like blow dry. Then, he went away.
Old bull elephants are always easier to encounter like this than younger ones, or females, or any in a group. But it’s not something you do casually, and it’s not something to be done without the utter discipline that my wonderful clients exuded on this terrific morning with the ele!