While I was in Tanzania we took a few days to take a safari in Ruaha National Park. Ruaha is the biggest national park in Tanzania. It is more than double the size of Yellowstone National Park. The road to Ruaha goes right through Kidamali (Shepherd of the Hills’ companion congregation), so we drove through on the way there and back. The drive was an adventure in itself and I’m planning on writing about that in another post.
We arrived at Mwagusi Safari Camp at about 4 in the afternoon. We had a brief orientation with some warnings – stay on the path, don’t go out at night, what to do if an animal is blocking the path, etc. After we dropped off our bags and had a quick snack it was time to take our first safari. We took a safari that evening and two on the next day. We saw a lot of different animals and birds. In Africa, they have what is known as the “Big 5” animals – Cape buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions and rhinoceros. We saw four out of five.
Here’s a partial list of the animals we saw:
Red billed horn bill
White bellied bustard
Lilac breasted roller
It was a lot of different animals. I’m not going to write about everything we saw. I’ll try to let you know some of the highlights for me and describe them to you, so you can get a sense of what it was like.
We went out in modified pickup trucks. They had platforms added onto the back to allow people to sit. We divided into two groups to fit into the trucks. Each truck had a driver and a guide. The guide would stand up through the sun roof on the passenger’s side. We would see other groups out on safari when we were out. The guides all had cell phones and would talk to each other to let each other know what animals were where.
At one point our guide got a phone call and when he finished he asked us, “Do you want to see a leopard?” Of course, we did. Off we went in a hurry, racing over the dirt roads. We came to a spot where there were already several trucks parked and stopped. There in a tree was a leopard. It was hard to see until you knew exactly where to look. Someone in my group had binoculars and was nice enough to share them, so we could see it better. A lot of excitement to go see a leopard sleeping in a tree.
There were holes dug in the dry river bed; we came upon an elephant digging one. Even though it was the dry season and there was no water in the river they still know where there is water underneath.
We got very close to a group of elephants at one point. It was interesting to watch them wrapping their trunks around the grasses and pull them up. But then before they would eat the grass they had to give it a couple vigorous shakes to get rid of the dirt on the roots. Then they would eat it. The big leader of the group was less than 20 feet away and was eyeing us to make sure we behaved.
On the second day, we came upon a part of the river where there was some surface water. There were many different animals gathered there – giraffes, impalas, zebras, and a wart hog. One of my pictures from there is the current header for the blog. We were stopped on the river bank, so when one of the giraffes looked at us it we were almost on the same level. I really enjoyed watching giraffes. They look pretty ungainly, but when they move they seem to have a gracefulness about them.
We spent some time on our last safari on an unsuccessful attempt to find a cheetah. It would have been easy to look on that as a disappointment, but it really wasn’t. There we were in the middle of Ruaha mountains all around us in the distance and other than our truck and the road we were on the only sign of man was a cell tower way off in the distance. A feeling of awe at the wonders of the world we live on and that God created settled upon me.
After one more night at our camp we departed to return to Iringa, hoping to make it back in time to go to the marketplace for a bit of shopping before dinner. But our plans were changed. Tune in next week, I’ll be talking about our various adventures with our bus.
The Saint Paul Area Synod is putting together a trip to Tanzania for May for young adults (age 19 to29). If you know of anyone who might be interested in this here’s a link: http://www.spas-elca.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/YATrip-2017-Info-Sheet-Update.pdf. Looks like that trip will also include some time in Ruaha.
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Tim Kane's memories, musings and updates.