Tarangire - A homecoming and an all new Oliver’s Camp. October 2010.
Please click on any image for an larger version and a slideshow
I was asked to guide at Oliver’s Camp for 4 days and was very happy to do so. Asilia Africa have owed my old camp since October 2004 and I always grab the chance to see how the place is doing.
I’d heard that big changes were happening so it was with a little trepidation that I met the clients in Arusha and we drove out to a place that had been my home from 1992 to 2004. I was also excited to see the park at this time of year. Tarangire at the end of October is an extraordinary place and that time of early rains as the long dry season ends, has always been my favourite period there. Living in a Park in your own camp is a very privileged period in one’s life and as we drove South past Tarangire Hill, across the river and over to the view of Silale a sense of homecoming took hold. Silale swamp had been my spiritual home and what a place it still is. Very few locations in Africa lift me as much, few places take my breath away so completely. Is it because it used to be my home or is it because of the unique nature of this wetland teeming with wildlife? Of course it is both. And as we drove along this green paradise, this gigantic salad bowl for elephants, a thousand memories flooded back.
Scanning the horizons whilst overlooking this swamp is so rewarding and I was soon picking out the large buffalo and zebra herds on the Eastern side, making a metal note to check there for lions the next morning. Migrants bird species were present and 1000’s of zebra and elephants filled the grassland. We were lucky enough to see a young leopard driving in, a Bateleur eagle was feeding on its kill. Young ostrich ran with their guardian adults and mongoose scampered away as we drove. It was great to be back. I could see that conditions were ideal for the coming days, could visualize were the lions would be, the best spots for sunset drinks or dawn coffee or a hearty bush breakfast. It was indeed a home coming to a landscape I understood and loved. How were the reedbuck and kudu doing this year, were the young elephant doing well, how much fire damage had been caused and were the young trees doing well ? I would find out! But as the day was fading we drove on to camp.
I’d heard that a Zimbabwean style thatch roof had been added to the all new dining area, that this theme would be carried on to the guest tents during the close season of March- June 2011. My style had always been light touch and movable so a permanently built Oliver’s Camp was initially a shock upon arrival. As we moved in and I took stock of it all the realization that this was no longer Paul Oliver’s camp sunk in! But I must say that I love the style and retention of a communal dining table, of odd bit and pieces of the bush decorating the place and the little nooks and crannies to sit in. I decided quickly that I would enjoy myself for what it is and had become and not for what it was in the past. The stone floors and neat thatching was fine with me! Petra the manageress, whom I had first met in Greystoke Mahale a few seasons back, welcomed us wholeheartedly and as the dusk and night took over that magical atmosphere of Tarangire filled me with joy.
An all new Oliver’s Camp was just fine with me! It’s just a place to eat and sleep, right?
During the coming days we spent long hours with lions, leopards, elephants, did some walking and as a group we wanted a before dawn start each day, we took full advantage of the conditions. Time out of camp always equals increased chances of great wildlife experiences. And our efforts were rewarded. I found old lions I knew, saw that the greater Kudu were doing well, touched some trees I had known since 1986. I fell in love with Tarangire all over again! And that’s a special feeling of real depth for me. The homecoming was to the Silale area and not to the camp which bears my name.
Below I share some of the many scenes we witnessed and enjoyed. Tarangire and Silale Swamp in particular, is still one of Africa’s best wildlife areas.
If you have not been to Tarangire at the end of the dry season- do so! If you want to return- and experience the new Oliver’s camp with me , then you will not find me harping on about the old camp or the days gone past, you will find me as enthusiastic as ever about the whole experience.
Well done Asilia and thank you for respecting Tarangire and the Oliver’s Camp experience.