My final safari stop in Africa was Tarangire National Park in northeast Tanzania. It is notorious for its massive baobab trees that dot the landscape, giants of the land, and also has the highest concentration of elephants in Tanzania. Our stop at the park entrance was very long, taking about an hour, a combination of seeming inefficiency and problematic systems, creating a long wait for everyone while all the guides dealt with the challenges of getting everyone through. They have a tough job in so many ways, not the least of which is juggling all the various expectations of all these tourists, and doing it on a continent where things not working is a daily way of life. The whole “make a plan”, and when that fails, “make a[nother] plan” thing is very real. They have a nice display about the park at the entrance, as well as an elevated platform built around a huge baobab tree, so there were ways to pass the time, including just relaxing a bit. Even a nearby vervet monkey took the opportunity to catch some sleep.
We ventured straight to the lodge, planning a late afternoon game drive this day, which worked out pretty well. The elephants were the highlight of this area, and primarily what we saw. Whenever we stopped and watched them for a while, it was very peaceful. It reminded me of the late afternoon walks with them when I was at Antelope Park earlier this year, the gentle sway of them, as they use their strong trunks to grab grass and branches, munching away as they slowly graze across the land. They are incredibly quiet for their size, especially when peacefully eating, and only really get loud when disturbed. We would see just a single lion, laying on the sandy shore of a dry river bed, with the occasional tail flick during her slumber. Of all three parks, I would rate this one at the bottom, at least this time of year, since it just couldn’t compete for me with the Serengeti, including the Masai Mara part of it in Kenya. I enjoyed it, nonetheless, as it has a lovely diverse landscape. The sun set over the crest of a hill, the last sun rays on the clouds looking like dancing fire, fading into the pink, purple, and blue of the sky.
The next morning was the final game drive of the trip, and my final game drive in Africa, after over eight months here, and all that I’ve seen. I put the camera away and just took it in, thinking back over all of my time here, and all that I’ve done and seen. I felt the tears come a couple of times, but kept it together, as it’s not something that is easy to explain to others.
Once we left the park, we got on the road toward Arusha, which is where I would catch my flight to Zanzibar, about an hour east out over the Indian Ocean, a little respite in paradise at the end of my time in Africa. We stopped at a local souvenir place, and I had long been shopped-out, so I waited outside and watched a pair of kittens play and box with each other, as cute as could be. My very first “wildlife” sighting was a kitten at the volunteer house in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe last December, and here it was again, ending in kittens. I found this funny — kitten bookends on an adventure filled with lions, cheetahs, and leopards. You see the same play in all of them, and it’s almost like a metaphor for humans — we’re more alike that we are unalike. We just focus on our differences too often, when it’s our similarities that unite us.
Next up: Final stop in the paradise that is Zanzibar.