Tarangire and Oliver’s Camp Revisited

January 2008

My love of Tarangire goes back to the mid eighties but my relationship with this beautiful park has changed since I sold a controlling interest in Oliver’s Camp Limited to Asilia back in October 2004. I am a visitor these days, albeit a well informed one. I have been back a number of times with guests but recently I have been asked by Asilia to give my opinions on a few matters and I feel a strong pull to get involved again with this very special landscape that changed the direction of my life over 20 years ago.

Oliver’s Camp has moved for the third time in its history and is now located at South 04-13140 degrees and East 36-07292 degrees. This new site is within the same walking/wilderness Zone as the previous one but much closer to the Tarangire River being just south and east of the Minyonyo Pools. It is a controversial move and quite honestly not popular with other operators as it almost monopolizes the central waking zone near Minyonyo. In the past any operator wanting to walk this central zone –which had no permanent or seasonal camps in it-would do so knowing that no other operator would be there. Operators did try to coordinate walks here as not to collide with each other when conducting a walk with their guests. My previous site monopolized the east of Silale swamp as a walking zone and no one objected to it back in 2001 when I moved there from outside the park. But this new site has raised objection from a couple of operators. Is this just jealousy? I don’t think so.

The Oliver’s Camp of today is a bulky camp of 8 well appointed and generous sized tents with a new an invigorated push to return to the operating options I had developed when I owned the camp. Asilia have just appointed new managers and have asked them to get that Oliver’s Camp tradition of fine walking safaris up and running again. Most marketing people are not ‘bush’ people and really don’t appreciate what it takes to operate fine wilderness walks in big game country. The last few years at Oliver’s Camp prove that. Without someone at the helm that has walking safari experience – it just doesn’t work and standards drop.

Tarangire's giantsTarangire's giants

Off on a walk near the Oliver's Camp new siteOff on a walk near the Oliver's Camp new site

Studying a treeStudying a tree

So firstly, back in October of 2007, I was asked to give my views on just where the camp should move to and I showed Asilia’s operations manager Mike the areas of choice by joining him out in Tarangire for a few days. We drove all over the wilderness zone talking ourselves silly on how to resurrect the old ‘Oliver’s Camp Culture’. Mike was with the National Park’s team when the site was picked It seems that TANAPA choose the new site but I suspect that Mike and Asilia saw the beauty of Minyonyo – accepted the site - but didn’t think about the other operators and their views. A pity really but there you are. A kilometer back from Minyonyo would have worked.

Secondly as I was visiting with guests that wanted to walk this past week and as the new managers would be there, I was asked to help a little to get them settled in and discuss that ‘Oliver’s Culture of Wilderness walking in Tarangire” with them. During the past year or so the walks had been short of well run and when chatting with the new head guide I could see that things will improve at once. His wife Helen also seemed keen to get things sorted out in camp so I tried to paint a picture of where Tarangire had come from since the mid eighties and up to the present. Helen and Roelof were very keen to learn and as I departed I felt confident that Oliver’s Camp and Tarangire would be better off. This pleases me and as I return with guests in early February I look forward to the improvements that will certainly happen. Albert Lucas the guide that worked with me before was there to help the new managers and Julius, my favourite Tarangire Park Ranger, was also in camp - so I caught up on all the gossip as well!

Albert LucasAlbert Lucas

An old serval maleAn old serval male

Ground Hornbill at SilaleGround Hornbill at Silale

The ears of a Serval catThe ears of a Serval cat

Cheers
Paul

A few bush notes from my diary.

Tarangire has received more rain south of Kuro than north of, so the birding near the new Oliver’s camp site 04-13140 / 036-07292 was interesting.

100’s of Euro Rollers at all these places and throughout the southern square also plenty of woodland kingfishers.

Silale birds- not that many ducks etc but open bills and cattle egrets in good numbers – 100’s

Very few marabous, Ostrich with 8 x 1 ft high young south sq.2000 + Abdim’s Storks along a wet Western Silale edge- both North and South squares much less White storks.

Also two goliath herons on a nest just into north sq near the River at Kuro. At Engelhard Bridge – nice painted snipe group of males and females 4 or each.

We saw just a few lions, one leopard and a few herds of elephant and Oryx -the wildlife was very spaced out - two Servals within 300 yards was fun.

The north of the park needs rain.

A few Ashy Starling GPS points

04-13140 / 036-07292 and a Euro Hoopoe! (This is also the new camp ref)

04-11203 / 036-07666 Also nice Grasshopper buzzard (new for the park?) here and saddle billed storks X 3

04-17489 / 036-07853

04-17924 / 036-07853 Also Vulturine Guinea fowl at this one and Gerenuk x 6/7

04-20110 / 036-07308 Also African Hobby at this point

A full list of the 200+ bird species seen will be sent to the Tanzanian Bird Atlas(external link)