Safari Scenes: Tarangire National Park

To see photos of our visit to Tarangire , click here or go to:

“Dad, wake up!!” Sasha hisses from the front of the tent.

I roll over and ignore, seeking more sleep after many awakenings during the night. We are in Tarangire National Park, 250 km southwest of Kilema and I slept horribly but couldn’t be happier: lion roars, hyena calls, a symphonic array of birdsong and the grinding of cicadas. A joy to be awake to those sounds and be bathed in full moon blue light.

“Seriously, you won’t believe it!” Sasha’s voice low and hushed — both highly irregular for him as most readers will acknowledge.

I sit and wonder if I am dreaming as, even in the predawn reddish light, there is a tree in front of the tent opening that certainly wasn’t there the night before. I remember enjoying the South African red with dinner but feel that cognition and memory should have been left intact. Rubbing my eyes, I alertly note that the tree , over a foot in diameter, is now moving!! What the…

“There are five of them”, Sasha reports, face pinned against the tent meshing.

Elephants!! Surounding the tent, contentedly munching on fresh acacia leaves , their ultimate treat, for which they will deforest a field faster than any industrial operation on the BC coast.

The “tree” has multiplied to a clump of four and, joining Sasha, I now look up to see an attached belly, head, waving ears, tusks and trunk. A baby elephant certainly sees the belly and slides forward to suckle at its mother’s breast, within arm’s reach of us. We hear the loud glugging down of milk and stare at each other grinning.

“Disgusting”, Sasha frowns predictably.

The large mother swings around the side of the tent and we move to a walled area of the structure, open to the outside beneath a thatched roof. The baby moves by and I feel an urge to stroke its fuzzy head, but am restrained by the four foot long maternal tusk gliding by within my reach. The baby looks up directly at us, long lashed and huge eyed, but does not react or communicate with its mother, perhaps looking at Sasha and entering into a silent contract of secrecy; two children agreeing yet again that it is best not to let the adults in on what’s really going on.

The lone wildebeest gallops at a good pace as the sun scatters long morning shadows across the fragrant grasslands. Not a casual canter this, and no herd in sight. We wonder if it is ill or lost or even frightened by its own morning shadow.

None of the above. The wildebeest’s purpose is much more practical: it is running for its life. Soon into view are six young lions, females in the lead, low to the ground, menacing focussed expressions, tails snapping hungrily and irritably at the air. The lead lioness charges rapidly toward the wildebeest, which in turn accelerates.

We all watch, breath held, caught in a mix of horror and fascination at this mini drama, somehow empathizing with both sides of the struggle, predator and prey.

The wildebeest reaches a gentle hill 300 metres past us and, through binoculars now, we see it steadily pulling away, its rangy muscles winning over the sprinters bulk of the lioness. Free to live another day, off to find its kin.

Soon fellow lionesses have reached the leader and, as if in consolation for the missed kill, begin wrestling and chasing games. This is reminiscent of what we sighted at close range the morning prior when, clearly well fed and post prandial, the lions lazed on their backs and wrestled in a kitten-like fashion, wearing gentle expressions that almost tempted one to come close and pet them.

Almost, until a closer look revealed fresh blood on forearms and bellies, not yet licked clean after the morning feed.

As accessible as those brown eyes appear at close range, we are nothing but prey to this ultimate hunter.

2 thoughts on “Safari Scenes: Tarangire National Park

  1. Brent Iverson

    You realize that you now must roam the planet and create blogs so that the rest of us can live thru your eyes. I look forward to each new adventure. We will hold the fort for you here. All the best.

  2. The Kochs in Tanzania

    Great pics and stories.
    They reminded me of seeing them with you at your house at Kilema, especially the video of the bull elephant charging your van while Stephanie screams. Sacha, Amy and Locky each must have replayed the video 3 times, despite Mom’s protestations!
    It certainly tops most entries in America’s Funniest Home Videos!!
    We also shared great stories of elephants visiting our tents at Tarangire.

Leave a Reply