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Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

5 September 2007

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After staying at a fantastic little boutique hotel in Arusha called Onsea house (where I will stay twice over the next month) it was a short 15-minute flight south to Tarangire National Park. Greeted by my (first) guide Alex we made our way to the excellent Olivers Camp. Over the next 3 days with Alex and then Njano my Tanzania adventure began. I was immediately pleased to hear that as the camp was not so full it looked as if I could have a vehicle to myself for the duration of the stay (which proved to be true).

The main highlight was seeing a lion kill from start-to-finish. Early on the second morning we came two lions lounging in the bush. The young male began taking an interest in a small herd of zebras upwind who were heading down for an early drink. He was perfectly positioned with a lots of tall grass as cover and began to move carefully in their direction. The zebras, though understandably cautious as they approached the swamp, had absolutely no idea he was there, when to our surprise the stallion started giving out alarm calls. But not in the direction of the lion we were watching. Sudeenly a massive mature male lion wanders out of the bush tangentially to us, and not bothering with the possible prey moved towards the hunting male, who scattered in an instant. Moments later the big male was gone and were left with a herd of jittery zebra. Once again I had seen the hunt but not the expected conclusion. However, as single lions hunting during the day have a 20% average chance of success it was to be expected, but still...

So the events at 11 that morning came as quite a surprise. The day before we had seen a lioness and her nearly mature male lounging about and saw them again that morning. They appeared to be well settled and after observing for a while we moved on. As there was not much to see further on we turned back and to our excitement saw that the female was in the first stages of tracking a small herd of zebra as they skirted the Silale Swamp heading for a drink. And over the next hour we privileged to watch the complete hunt, as the zebra cautiously picked their way to a bit of open water, the lioness carefully shadowing their every step until the moment they dangerously turned their back to drink and she sprinted the final 20m to pounce. Unfortunately for the ungulates they were in plently of mud and unable to quickly escape allowing the lioness, with the eventual help of her son, to pull down and dispatch a foal. An amazing experience, though clearly also sad and disturbing. Although I captured the entire episode on camera, I was worried that the heat of the day and the fact it happened at quite a distance would cause the images to be unsharp, and I was more than correct, the heat haze obviating the clarity of the lenses. Nevertheless, a great sighting.

We also had some great elephant encounters as they entered and exited the Silale Swamp one glorious afternoon. Tarangire is currently blessed with the number of elephant who congregate around the swamp during the dry season, especially as there are an inordinate number of young and babies (in fact in some herds they outnumbered the adults). According to a biologist I met at camp this is a reaction to the end of the ivory trade in the mid-90s, with many of the females now calving every two years than the former five. One potential future worry for Tarangire and similarily affected parks like Amboselli in Kenya is that in 10-15 years they could have more elephants than the habitats can handle. Time will tell.

One afternoon we were surprised to find more than 20 Kirk’s Dik-diks within 500m of each other along the road. As Dik-diks are normally very territorial (each life-bonded pair having as its own a 1km square area) we were at a loss to explain it.

The other highlights were a Black-shouldered Kite devouring a mouse just meters from us, multitudes of Tawny and African Fish Eagles, my first encounter with Bohor Reedbcuk, and a group of Eastern White-bearded Wildebeast in the rising sun.

(show this location in Google Maps)



To view the images, click on one of the thumbnails above.
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1 comment so far (post your own)

Hi Per-Gunnar, Congratulations with the fantastic pictures you took at Tarangire National Park. We will link your site from the Onsea House blog. Success!
Dirk

Posted by Dirk Janssens on
Thursday, 11.1.07 @ 06:26am | #9875


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