- Posted February 28, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
On Safari in Tanzania
My partner and I spent 6 weeks in Tanzania in 2006. We travelled independently which allowed us to experience safaris in different parts of the country.
After spending some time in northern Tanzania, we flew south from Zanzibar to the Selous Game Reserve via Dar es Salaam. Flying over the Rufigi River on our approach to the safari camp, there seemed to be an inordinate number of refrigerator-sized boulders situated in the water. As we began our descent, we realized that the large boulders were actually hippos cooling themselves in the river. Once we got over this surprise, we looked through the plane's front window to see a couple of gazelles sprinting across the landing strip. Clearly, the boundaries between wildlife and humans were quite blurred in this part of the world .
Departing the plane, we were driven to the camp which would serve as our home base for the next 5 days. There was a briefing on our new surroundings as we sat and had lunch in the shade of an enormous baobob tree. It was emphasized that we were situated in a wilderness area so special care should be taken to keep our hut completely closed whenever possible. Also, when returning to our living quarters after sundown, we were encouraged to take advantage of an armed escort as most wildlife movement occurred under the cover of darkness.
It wasn't hard to quickly find reasons to follow the advice provided by the camp staff. The door of our spartan hut overlooked the Rufigi River where there was always a group of between 9-15 hippos in the water about 50 yards away. Black and white Colobus monkeys would swing by in the trees overhead. I had to kill a scorpion when I found the creature in front of the entrance to our hut. An inch long white frog stayed stuck to our bathroom mirror for the duration of our stay. We considered the frog to represent the African equivalent of a fridge magnet.
One night in camp, we were awakened by some commotion coming from the bush.We heard a loud noise similar to that of a hand saw cutting through wood which was rapidly followed by a series of high pitched shrieks. We were later informed that the sawing sound was likely a leopard which had prompted a troop of baboons to unleash a wave of warning cries. This interlude happened to be the least of the night's concerns as an elephant had invaded another area of the camp that evening and had to be driven off before it caused extensive damage.
During our time in the Selous, we went on safari by Land Cruiser, boat, and on foot. The boat safari brought us in close proximity to hippos and crocodiles. The hippos would suddenly emerge from beneath the water to within 30 feet of our boat while crocodiles could be seen basking along the shoreline. We were shocked to discover children swimming not far downstream from these deadly beasts.
While travelling overland in Tanzania, we saw much of the wildlife that Africa is famous for such as lions, elephants, zebras, wildebeests, cape buffaloes, and giraffes. The different animals dotted the landscape to create a vibrant tapestry across our field of vision. It was encouraging to find such a wide variety of species in fairly substantial numbers. Many animal populations fluctuate from place to place throughout the country due to seasonal migratory patterns and precipitation levels.
Some unexpected drama unfolded before us while on safari. On one particular excursion in a Land Cruiser, we encountered a large lone bull elephant that had only one intact tusk. The animal charged so our guide/driver quickly put the vehicle in reverse and drove backwards into some nearby scrub. We were fortunate when the elephant finally broke off its charge.
There was a constant undercurrent of both death and survival. We would frequently spot vultures circling in the sky which indicated a fresh kill. I saw a zebra with bloody claw marks along its hindquarters. This zebra had narrowly escaped becoming a meal for some predator. At Tarangire National Park in northern Tanzania, we watched as a herd of elephants encircled their young to prevent an attack by a pair of hyenas.
My most vivid memory of our time in Tanzania involved a conversation that we had over supper with the camp manager in the Selous. As nightfall enveloped the outdoor dining area, I described a friend who had saved his son from a cougar attack on Vancouver Island. The manager commented that his brother had not been so fortunate. The adult brother had gone into the fields to work one day but did not return home. A search revealed that the manager's brother had been eaten by a lion.
The effects of this trip continue to resonate with us . We have not lost our appreciation for the untamed nature of this part of Africa nor the people who reside amidst such magnificent and sometimes dangerous wildlife.