Safari to Tarangire, into the Rift Valley and to the heart of the Serengeti

December 2009

The dry season of 2009 was harsh and both wildlife and livestock was hit badly. The Rift valley suffered and in September and October we witnessed dead and dying animals where ever we drove. Tarangire’s elephants suffered, many babies died, and with the increase in poaching these added stresses were traumatic for this population. Generally the migratory wildlife can move as can some of the wealthier cattle herders with their stock but the resident wildlife and poorest cattle herders are just not able to move or not programmed to do so. Kenyan based Maasai drove their large cattle herds into Tanzania adding more pressure to the limited natural resources available. All environments seemed stressed and almost incapable of real recovery.

As an El Nino year was predicted hopes were high of good early rains, so when the rains finally did fall in early December we looked forward to the scenes of fresh grass and recovery for our safari, Oliver’s Camp Tarangire was our first stay and the park looked green and flush. Elephants were enjoying the grass and the mud wallowing seemed to be going on all day, these scenes of wildlife regaining condition and weight were a joy. Our three day stay included two walks through short green grass and leisurely drives in a landscape determined to regain health. As the head guide Alex and the manager Simon were in camp we had a jolly time as well. One day we visited my old Oliver’s Camp site and walked the country to the East of the Park. It was a joy to see that no signs of my previous camp showed and that the area looked healthy.

Silale swamp wildlife

Silale swamp wildlife

Silale swamp was starting to recover and wildlife was busy putting on weight

Morning Hike

Camp fire

Starting out on a morning hike and Alex and Simon enjoying the camp fire

We continued on to Lake Natron and stayed at the Ngare Sero Tented Camp which is out on the open grasslands near the lakeshore. In other words, in a very hot spot! Thankfully the spring near camp provides much needed cooling during the heat of the day. Or even after a long drive. A cold beer lying in the stream with a view of the active volcano ‘Oldonyo Lengai’ or mountain of God, never tasted quite so good!

This unusual camp tries to shade the visitor from the blazing sun as Lake Natron is only 610 meters above sea level. Fortunately for us the cloud cover during our visit made it more bearable.

shade netted tents

Oldonyo Lengai

The shade netted tents and the volcano Oldonyo Lengai make for a quite unusual setting

footprints

footprints

500 meters from the camp the oldest known evidence of modern humans was recently found.
These footprints are fascinating and more were being uncovered as we watched!

After Lake Natron we spent the next 7 days exploring 3 quite different sections of the Serengeti system and stayed in 3 different camps. Wildlife was everywhere and the many lions we saw were all well fed!

Herds of migrating animals and the space out on the plains meant for a wonderful week of exploration, the mud and rain nearly got the better of us a few times but that’s the price you pay to see such scenes!

We finally caught up with leopard and cheetah and enjoyed the atmosphere in all the camps.

green plains

lion

The plains turned green in front of our eyes and all the lions seemed well fed

lion cubs

Including this bunch of cubs near Ndutu Marsh

Traveling with 5 Australians is rarely dull but this gang was such fun! We laughed a lot, we enjoyed every day with each other and as they had packed the most important thing for a safari, namely a sense of humor, we were constantly laughing out loud! It was a fine way to finish off 2009 as it had been a tough year for many, either financially or environmentally.

So long 2009, and in many ways, good riddance!