12 December 2009

tarangire national park

We're back! And we have lots of catching up to do. We went on safari for my partner's 29th birthday, visiting Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. So, without further ado, here are some photos from Tarangire National Park, most famous for its baobab trees and large herds of elephants.

This is a dik dik, which, at about two feet tall, is like a miniature deer. They're usually seen in pairs and quite shy, but one of the ones we saw didn't seem shy at all.

For lunch, we had a picnic overlooking a river where lots of animals came to drink.

There were some vervet monkeys nearby:

There were also baboons just a few feet away, watching us eat.

After I took this photo and turned my back to walk back to my table, a male baboon charged right by me toward a nearby table of picnickers with incredible speed and no warning at all. This female with her baby and another female followed, also charging right past me (one on each side) towards the picnic table, and the poor people who had been eating and enjoying the lovely view were terrified and threw their packed lunches into the air to avoid any kind of direct confrontation with the baboons. The people, who had leaped off the bench and to safety a few meters away, watched as the baboons calmly ate their lunches from the ground. I was lucky I had eaten and had no food on me.

Since nothing unfortunate happened to anyone, it was rather exciting, but it was also pretty scary how quickly the baboons transformed from mellow creatures, just sitting there, to fierce attackers. Our guide told us that a baboon had recently been shot because it had gotten too aggressive.

Here's the mother and baby baboon after they'd enjoyed their stolen lunch.

It's funny. Most people who come to the national parks come to see the Big 5: hippos, lions, leopards, rhinos and buffalo (so called because they were the animals which would most likely kill the hunters). But for my partner, for a long time, his favorite animal was the little warthog. It isn't the prettiest thing, but in my partner's defense, it was one of the more animated animals.

After lunch, we passed more vervet monkeys and some impalas.

The antelopes are considered unimportant, so the guides practically run them over in their quest to find the bigger, "more exciting" animals. It's too bad, though, as I think the gazelles and impalas are really beautiful and graceful.

We saw tons of elephants, and the biggest herd we saw had over twenty mothers and babies. (The males do their own thing.)

We saw zebras (here with wildebeest, probably one of the most awkward, gangly animals I've seen, in the background).

And this one had an itch on his belly that he scratched with a twig, which we found entertaining.

Seeing giraffes was very cool, as they're so tall (about 12-15 feet!) but seem so sweet and serene.

But maybe it's just their long eyelashes.

We saw more baboons, and my partner got a kick out of the babies riding their moms like horses. You'll also notice that the roads are all dirt roads-- the Tanzanian powers-that-be decided that dirt roads would keep the parks more natural.

After our first exhilarating day of wildlife watching, we were treated to a beautiful sunset, a bright segment of rainbow and a sunset-lit Maasai warrior walking by our campsite with his cows.

Next up: Lake Manyara, my favorite of the national parks, even though it's much smaller and no one has heard of it...

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