OnSafari: Wild is Unpredictable!

OnSafari: Wild is Unpredictable!

lionintree.manyara.ckordash.648.14aprLions don’t climb, hippos aren’t in Tarangire, vervets hate thorns, and guides know it all. Just a few of the things disproved so far on my safari!

Apologies for the big delays between blogs, but Tanzania is in something of a data congestion at the moment. Reports from businesses in Dar and Arusha are all complaining of the slow internet signal.

It’s not the weather, which is beautiful and quite normal, nor nearby conflicts, because except for distant Burundi there are none. So common wisdom is probably true: there are suddenly just too many people trying to use to few satellites.

Common wisdom, though, would not hold much rank on the McGrath family safari. Today in Lake Manyara National Park we saw two near-adult lions in an acacia tortilis tree sleeping their lives away until we arrived.

They were draped over the branches like wet laundry hung out to dry. We watched them for a while until another car came up at which time one of the lions got nervous and teetered down quite ungracefully.

The last one tolerated 2 or 3 more cars before she finally took to the ground, too. So what’s all this about lions not climbing well?

The truth is that lions will climb trees everywhere, if it’s the right kind of tree: fantastic Manyara is filled with so many different kinds of trees there are plenty with the requisite low horizontal branches that will tempt this largest of the cats.

But you can tell it’s a real balancing act, because they never seem completely comfortable up there. But unlike their many cousins on the savannah, their views on the ground are obscured by Manyara’s thick vegetation, so anything that gives them height gives them comfort.

Manyara was great in several wonderful ways, today! The lake is pretty full, so the hippos are plenty. The wind was down, the morning not too cold, and we first watched for a good long time at least a couple dozen silvery-cheeked hornbills flying around and cackling madly.

This is the largest of the hornbills in Tanzania and true dinosaur looking bird!

Grandma Cindy asked if there were any malachite kingfishers, and a few minutes later as we headed to the platform overlooking the hippo pool, we saw two! Also saw lanner falcon, long-toed plover and a bunch of other stuff.

Manyara is baboon heaven, but otherwise I never expect Manyara to be a memorable animal experience. Yet we added to the lions-in-the-tree, 15 minutes literally immersed in an elephant family of 13, and the truly beautiful lake shore landscapes covered with giraffe, wildebeest and zebra.

I even glanced a klipspringer as we were leaving. Manyara was a much better animal experience today than I would expect.

The last several days in Tarangire were classic. The park is absolutely the best elephant park in all of Africa, and it gave us opportunities to learn to distinguish between healthy elephants, lone elephants, sick elephants … elephants that were agitated, and so forth.

The northern half of the park has the more docile and approachable sedentary elephants, whereas the south half of the park usually has more temperamental and transitory ones. Only this time I felt they were pretty calm in the south.

It could be that just over time the homesteaders are arriving. Or it might be that the transitory folks were just coincidentally absent, giving entry to the over crowded north. Either way it was an astounding experience for us.

That is except for Hakon and Alden on the way to their Tent #1 at Little Oliver’s, unable to do so because the elephant wouldn’t leave the path.

I think the manager, Julie, did exactly the right thing. Took a truck down the path and let the guy know he wasn’t welcome. Far too often camps try to cultivate wild animals, and it never ends up well.

We had a chance this time to visit the far southwestern side of Silale swamp, and that was a real treat. Lemala has put a semi-permanent camp down there and the tracks are being better maintained.

It gave us an opportunity to see larger numbers of Grant’s gazelle and hartebeest. If there is any drawback to Tarangire it has been the uniformity of its wildlife experience: almost exclusively elephant and giraffe. The new tracks in the south now will broaden its appeal.

Finally, too, as we were leaving we stopped at a water hole in the Serengeti Plains. We’d already spent probably hours watching elephant frolicking in water, but here they were frolicking among very angry zebra definitely not pleased with their arrival.

It was a wonderful interaction that ended when the Mommy elephants finally got the youngsters to leave the swimming pool and the zebra came down to drink. A wonderful end for us in this marvelous park.

Stay tuned! We’re on our way to the crater!