Tarangire in October

October 2008

Having known Tarangire for most of my adult life I hold a fondness for the month of October simply because the wildlife is at its most concentrated and the promise of rain is in the air; migrant bird species are arriving, the baobabs are in flower (along with other tree species) and also because visitor numbers are down, you see when I lived in Tarangire I always felt that ‘we’ got the Park back in October. Game drives seem more private in October. Not that I don’t always steer away from the traffic - I do – it’s just much easier than in the July-September high visitor period.

The land I have wandered for over 23 yearsThe land I have wandered for over 23 years

This safari was with 4 visitors that love Tarangire and have been there with me on a number of occasions. Their safari included 6 nights in Tarangire based at Oliver’s Camp with 2 nights out fly camping in the middle, then a long drive down to Pangani to enjoy Emayani before a boat ride across to Zanzibar. But it can be extremely hot and humid and if out and about all day dehydration is a factor. Drinking many liters of water is the only way to deal with such heat. The wildlife is much better adapted to these conditions than a fair skinned English man is, or a burly Irish American named Terry, who fell sick one day of our visit simply because he didn’t drink enough water.

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We saw wildlife in abundance and as, with Katavi this past August, Tarangire’s river and Silale swamp had surprising amounts of water in them. This reduces the end of dry season stress for wildlife, in particular for the water dependant species such as elephant and buffalo. Watching elephants enjoy the mud and water became a daily ritual for this safari- it was just too good to miss. Since the wildebeest numbers have plummeted in the Silale/Minyonyo section of the Park (these animals were in tens of thousands when I first came to Tarangire in 1986) the buffaloes and elephants have done better I feel. You see there is just more grass around from a 12 month point of view. The wildebeest would migrate away from the wet season dispersal areas used by the elephants and buffaloes but during the periods between wet and dry seasons, when most wildlife is around the Eastern boundary of the Park, the lack of wildebeest numbers makes more grass available. Zebras are also benefiting from the drop in wildebeest numbers and their numbers are increasing somewhat.

I've known this male for over 10 yearsI've known this male for over 10 years

Tarangire's Cheetahs seem to be doing wellTarangire's Cheetahs seem to be doing well

Alex is from Zimbabwe and a great companion for a walking safariAlex is from Zimbabwe and a great companion for a walking safari

This young male may well become king of SilaleThis young male may well become king of Silale

In the North of the park the migration corridors to Manyara and Lake Natron are getting help from the Ol Tukai and Manyara Ranch conservation efforts but directly to the East of Tarangire the Simanjiro Plains have been ploughed up for farming over the past decade or so and these ancient wildebeest calving grounds are mush reduced. Lions that leave the Park during the wetter months are still getting killed by herders and because elephants in Tarangire are coming of age with larger bull numbers increasing the pro hunters around the park are eyeballing a few for trophies to sell to their hunting clients! But overall Tarangire is looking good for photographic visitors.

For October the available grass was extensiveFor October the available grass was extensive

Anyway back to this visit. Walking at Minyonyo towards the end of the dry season is such a pleasure and sometimes otherworldly. You can feel as if the world’s clock has been turned back, the land is full of large mammal species. You are definitely in the minority! It’s a glimpse of a world before humans took over, a time when we were not the most dominant, when we had to use survival skills and avoidance tactics to stay alive in a landscape where large and dangerous mammals rule. I love that feeling and a few places in Africa can feel this way. Walking in Tarangire in October is one such place! You are constantly looking over your shoulder for buffalos and elephants, lion tracks are found, their roars are heard every evening and morning. In your fly camp tent elephants passing by and arguing at night becomes an hourly occurrence and one that makes me smile and feel very glad to be there, right then.

Alex our walking guide keeps alert

Alex our walking guide keeps alertAlex our walking guide keeps alert

As camping styles get increasingly luxurious and over the top I crave a more simple camp, a closer to the land experience and thankfully many of the visitors I take out on safari these days feel the same. There is nothing wrong with spoiling ones self in a luxury camp but don’t do it all the time whilst on safari. Spend a few nights closer to the wild Africa that you crave and have traveled so far to experience. Isn’t that what attracted you in the first place? Or was it the vintage wines and linen sheets, waiters serving you cocktails around a camp fire as your 5 course meals is prepared, or the chance to photograph a lion as it walks across an endless grassland free of telegraph poles?

My fly camping tent at sunriseMy fly camping tent at sunrise

The lion ran awayThe lion ran away

You can do it all you know but the most important experience is the getting close to Africa’s bush lands and wildlife and the best way to do that is to walk some and spend a couple of nights in a small tent deep in the wilds of somewhere like Tarangire in October, or Katavi in August or quite a few other places I can think of! Be true to the safari experience and take advice from a wilderness expert not a sales person on the high street.

Best wishes
Paul.